August 3, 2010

New directions

Posted in travel tagged , , , , at 9:53 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Watch this space — this blog is going in a slightly new direction!

Waking up


Breakfast and treats


Last-minute packing


Hiding, prepping


Truck loaded, stomachs loaded


Internetting, ipodding


Run away! Snacks for the road.


Help arrives. Puppy pee pads.


Last-minute errand. Trapped.


Preparing, sulking.


Still packing.


Kitties loaded.


Our merry band of travelers.


Truck ahead, car behind.


Kentucky, Louisville


Ohio River, Indiana


Break for gas and stuff.


I fade, Dad drives


Cool cloud, Wabash River (near Illinois border)


Sun’s too bright, it sets (at Illinois state line)


A very late arrival


Settling in


Good night

July 5, 2010

Coming home

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , at 8:31 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

After 10 months in France, it’s time to return to the United States.
I woke up eaaarly in my hostel in Paris. I’d actually been up since about 5am because it started pouring rain, and I had the windows open. I finally had to face getting all my things from the last 10 months into three suitcases.


Quick run to the bathroom down the hall, and then get myself ready for the long journey.


I was on the 5th floor of the hostel, so I had to lug all my suitcases down the winding stairs.


I took a shuttle to the airport. It’s cheaper than a cab, but you’re sharing a ride with other tourists on their way to the airport. As we left the city center, I began to cry.


I pushed, shoved, and dragged my suitcases into the airport and immediately grabbed a luggage cart. It took a bit of wandering to find the Aer Lingus terminal. Fortunately I was early enough that the line wasn’t too bad, although I did discover that my “carry-on” suitcase was too heavy and I’d have to check it (and pay for it).


My first flight was from Paris to Dublin. I discovered there was another assistant from Bordeaux on two of the same flights with me, so we kept each other company.


I’ve never been to Ireland, and I didn’t even get a chance to explore the airport. The time between our connecting flight to Chicago was so brief that we rushed to get our new boarding passes and make it through customs in time.


I cried when they stamped me out of France, but at least I got a new Dublin stamp. US immigrations barely looked at my claims form before waving me through.


Giant airbus from Dublin to Chicago.


First we got a snack, and then I pretty much passed out from my tranquilizers (I hate flying). I remember hearing the attendant say “When she wakes up, ask her if she wants beef or chicken,” and I bolted up, “I’m awake! I’m awake!” (but very groggy)


Still a long way to go. We did fly close enough to see some of Greenland out the window. I was too tranq’d to pay attention to a movie, so I listened to the Glee soundtrack.


Scone snack. I hate raisins.


Two of my bags came out right away, but the third one didn’t come out until almost everyone else had left. I hate that, it leaves you thinking, “What if….?” Welcome back to the United States of America.


Welcome to (what was supposed to be) a six-hour layover. I only have Euros, so I need some cash (it looks so weird!), and then I hit Johnny Rockets for my first official meal in the US.


At this point, it’s around 11pm to my body, and I’m fading fast.


I officially take the adapter off my computer cord and watch some Mozart l’opéra rock videos.


7pm Chicago time – 2am to my body.


So excited! Finally almost going home!! And then, 5 minutes before boarding, they announce that the flight has been delayed 2 hours. I burst into tears. It would make over 24 hours since I woke up and left Paris.


Finally, finally, at 11:30pm in Chicago – 6:30am the next day to my body, we take off for Cincinnati. I’m so sad the adventure is over, but so happy to see my parents again.


And Mom and Dad were happy to see me too. ❤

March 14, 2010

Playing catch-up (part 1)

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , at 12:41 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Guess I should finally update, then!  Since my last post, we’ve had our winter break here in the French school system.  Only one more vacation period left….I know, no one really feels very sorry for me, but those last two months without a break are going to be tough!  They’re helpful not only for the children, but also for the teacher’s sanity!

My winter vacation was fantastic, but it passed way too quickly.  The first week I did absolutely nothing, and it was glorious.  After a long, cold and rainy winter, moving, and school stress, I spent the week sleeping, hanging out with people who were still in town, and organizing my room to my liking.  The week just flew by.

Saturday, February 27, I set off for Paris to be ready to meet my mom and my cousin who were flying in the next day!  I hadn’t seen my mom since I left on September 15, so I was terribly excited to finally see her again. The weather was absolutely gorgeous in Paris on Saturday, and I remembered why I was so in love with the city — it had also been since September since I’d been there.

Sunday France and other parts of Europe were hit hard by tempete Xynthia, and I got a text from Mom saying that their flight was being redirected to Brussels instead of Paris. As Mom put it, “The flight was fine until about an hour before we were supposed to land. The pilot came on, and I thought he was going to say we were about to start making our descent, but he said Charles de Gaulle airport was closed and we were being rerouted to Brussels!”

The winds in Paris were about 60mph, and there was no way they could have landed that early in the morning. I tried to take a walk around the neighborhood, and couldn’t make it down the street. I saw motorcycles and fruitstands blown over, but all I was thinking was “I WANT MY MOMMY!!!!” I went back to the hotel and cried and watched French music videos and waited for updates.

They waited in Brussels for 2 hours, then the winds shifted and they tried again, landing safely in Paris. Unfortunately, there was no gate for them, so they sat on the tarmac for another hour or so (having now been stuck on that plane a good 11 hours!). The later it got, the more plans we kept having to cancel, until they finally showed up around 4:30pm and everything was scrapped except Hard Rock Cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and dinner. (We’d bought tickets online for a bus tour that we never got to use :-() I was just so happy to see them!!!!

We started off at the Hard Rock Cafe with appetizers and drinks so Mom could get her souvenir Hurricane glass.  Going back to the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower, we discovered that mom’s 3-day metro pass wasn’t working, so I went to the cashier and explained the problem (in French). Mom and Jenny were terribly impressed. I began planting the seeds that I was helpful and they’d be lost without me when they returned next weekend, so they should bring me back with them, to make up for the day we lost.

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower just as it was sparkling, and they were very impressed. We could only go to the second level and not the top (see above re: windstorm and 60mph winds), but it was still a great view and a good time was had by all. We took a taxi back to the hotel and then picked a small brasserie on Place Maubert for dinner.

Jenny and Mom in front of the Eiffel Tower

December 2, 2009

Let me explain…

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler, travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:26 am by Fat Girl Dancing

No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

I’ve not abandoned this blog!  I just got behind and then stressed about catching up and then life went CRAZYGONUTS.

Here’s your November update in a nutshell, and then we can move on to December ^_^

  • Things started getting awkward with my host family when I returned from the Toussaint vacation
  • I came right back to my first bus strike!  I was late and missed my first class, then it took me two hours to get home.
  • I went on my first outing with OnVaSortir, a socializing website for meeting French people.  We went out for cafés.  It was good to get out and meet real French people, but very exhausting to try and keep up with the conversation for several hours!
  • I BOUGHT A BIKE!!  I love my bike.
  • Riding on the streets of Bordeaux is terrifying.
  • I started hanging out more with the other English assistants, which I’ve really enjoyed.
  • I got my hair redyed and trimmed, and it wasn’t a disaster!
  • I spent a beautiful Saturday biking all over Bordeaux and along the river, and then came upon a Pro-choice rally and joined it.
  • I saw “New Moon” in French, and it was still hysterically funny.
  • I picked up a tutoring gig (starts today, actually!)
  • I went out to a bar with some French people, and a French guy bought me a drink!
  • I went to a potluck dinner with other assistants.
  • Things went from awkward to REALLY BAD with my host family really fast 😦
  • I Skyped with my parents on Thanksgiving and watched the Macy’s parade from their kitchen via the internets.  Then I called back around midnight my time to “sit” at the dinner table with everyone.
  • I went to La Rochelle for Thanksgiving weekend with my friends Wes and David.  We made a great feast and had a lot of laughs.
  • I moved out of my host family’s house and into a temporary situation with another assistant.  I’m currently looking for a permanent place to live.
  • And we end November with another transportation strike!  Ahhh, France.

French bike!

Banana creme pie

Banana creme pie

Thanksgiving - French style

Banana creme pie - YUM!Thanksgiving - French style

November 6, 2009

They can’t all be good days

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , at 1:18 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

+ There was cold milk this morning

– Because I bought it myself — we’ve gone to I-buy-everything-I-use-except-dinners here

– The 8:27 bus never showed up

– I missed my first class

+ One of my students gave me a hug and a kiss

– Now I probably have the grippe

+ One of the teachers said she wanted to get together and practice French and English with me and visit museums and stuff, and we exchanged contact info

– It won’t start till she’s back from having surgery

– Another teacher had to come in and yell at one of my classes twice for being too disturbing because I couldn’t control them.

+ Bonding over A Fine Frenzy with one of my teachers at lunch

+ Hey, I like cauliflower! (with enough cream and cheese, sure)

– The sad looks from the class I missed as I walked out for the day without teaching their class

– WAITING AN TWO HOURS FOR A FRICKIN’ BUS

– Surprise strikes

+ Didn’t have to walk ALL the way home, just some of it.

+ Family left for the lake house!!

+ Solace!

More – than +, so I get to say it was a BAD DAY.

 

(posts and pictures about my WONDERFUL vacation are coming!)

October 22, 2009

Impractical boots

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:32 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Woot, Bordeaux won the football match last night!  It’s nice to be in a town that actually wins sporting events.  Yeah, I’m totally looking at you, Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.  And Dayton Dragons, while we’re at it.

Yesterday I went into Bordeaux and spent a good chunk of my savings (that I hadn’t already spent on tickets to London or Wicked tickets).  First I bought some ridiculously impractical and expensive new boots.  But I wanted them.  I wanted them more than any of the other practical or cheap boots.  Plus they were warm (the only impractical aspect is that they have 2-inch heels! Well, it doesn’t snow here…)

Impractical (but warm!) boots

Impractical (but warm!) boots

I also bought a set of hand weights, so I can continue my workouts here.  I’m getting in a lot of good walking, but my arm muscles are turning to jelly from lack of use!

I continued walking up rue Ste. Catherine, the major shopping street in Bordeaux, and entered the SNCF office.  It was still an hour before they closed and the place was packed.  Moments after I took a number, the manager locked the door and removed the number tickets so no one else could come in and get in line.  I just made it!  I waited nearly 45 minutes to buy train tickets from a very nice woman.

I needed lots of different tickets because I’m city-hopping instead of going directly from Bordeaux to Vitré.  I needed a ticket from Bordeaux to Nantes and then from Nantes to Vitré, and on the way back I needed to go from Vitré to La Rochelle and then from La Rochelle to Bordeaux.  She printed the tickets, I paid for them, and then she asked me if I planned to make a lot of trips around France.  I said yes, and she asked me why I wasn’t using a discount card.  I explained I was too old for the 12-25 discount card, and she told me about the Carte Escapades, which was only good on weekends.  Which would normally be when I’d be traveling in France — when I’d want to make trips down to Pays-Basque or other close towns.  She re-ran all my tickets with the new discount — even though they weren’t on weekend days.  She was incredibly helpful, and I thanked her profusely as I was leaving.

I bought a croque-chevre from a patisserie for dinner and ate it in the square near where my language group meets.  It was pretty much a chevre pizza on toast, but it was delicious.  As I was eating, a little girl about 5 years old entered the square, pushing her family’s garbage can out so it could be emptied; it was taller than she was.  She came over to talk to me.  She told me about taking the garbage out and about her mother, and then she asked what I was eating.  She asked if she could have it, and I laughed and said no, it was mine.  She said, “Please, just a little?” So I relented and tore off a corner for her.  She ate it and scampered off.  She came back out several more times to talk to me, in-between running in to other places on the square.  At one point I saw her run into a bar and come out with bread and cheese!  I don’t think she was homeless, judging from the trash can and good coat she had on.  She just wanted food!

I declined going out to the bar with the folks from the language group because I didn’t want to stay out too late and disturb my host family, plus I had to get up really early this morning.  I got home a little before 10:30pm to find they were all already in bed with the shutters drawn and all lights off!  Very odd, since sometimes we’ve only just barely finished dinner by that time!  I climbed the stairs in complete darkness, not wanting to wake anyone.

Today was my last day with my secondary school until after the vacation!  We worked on Halloween words, and I gave the two older classes a conversation to practice reading.  They have real trouble reading English words right now, but that’s to be understood, since they’re completely unfamiliar with them.  My older class (around 8 years old) did the best, and I was able to have two groups stand before the class and read the scenes in front of everyone.

They were very basic, but incorporated everything we’d learned:

“1: Hello.

2: Good morning.

1: What is your name?

2: My name is Dracula.  I am a vampire.

1: Nice to meet you.  I am a witch.

2: We are very scary!”

I showed several videos at the end of class; since it’s right before vacation, I can’t expect them to work too hard.  They loved the video for the Monster Mash and also The Skeleton Dance; my youngest class wanted to watch the Skeleton Dance again instead of something new!  And I’ve now heard the Monster Mash so many times it’s like I was home hearing it on the radio.

One more day of classes!  And it may not even be a full day, since it’s at clusterfuck school, and I heard they’re planning a Halloween event in the afternoon, so I may not teach my afternoon classes!  But of course no one’s told me anything yet!

October 20, 2009

Stickermania

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , at 12:30 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Plans, they are being made!  I just booked two tickets to see Wicked in London on December 21st, and I also booked a flight for myself from the Bordeaux airport to London from December 18 through the 22nd.  As much as I’d really rather not fly again, it ended up being cheaper round trip to fly than to take trains.

I’m still in the process of confirming my plans for the upcoming break next week.  I had really wanted to visit a couple of different cities, but my secondary plans keep falling through.  Right now it looks like I’ll just be going to Vitré over Halloween weekend, with a stop in La Rochelle on the way back.  I’m so excited to be traveling and seeing new sights!

I taught my kids a little about Halloween today.  I showed them pictures from a few years ago of my uncle, my cousins and me on our annual voyage to Shaw Pumpkin Farm, and they LOVED IT.  They loved seeing the giant pumpkins all over the place, they loved seeing me in America, they loved seeing my family.  “Who’s that?” they asked over and over again, wanting to know every last detail.  I showed them pictures I had of Jack O’Lanterns outside my old apartment in Centerville, and they had more questions.  “Is that your house?  Do you live there? It’s huge!”

Little kids also love stickers.  I gave away stickers as a prize to bingo winners in a class today, and I thought the non-winners were going to start a riot.  “Can we have stickers too?” they begged.

“Not today,” I said.  “There will be plenty of chances to win stickers throughout the year.”

“Can we play another game now so we can get stickers?”

“No, the class is over.”

“Can’t you just give us a sticker?”

They were going crazy.  HELP.  SEND MOAR STICKERS.

I only have two more days of teaching before the break.  I’m thinking the last days of class will be fun days, where we watch a bunch of videos and learn the words for Halloween terms like “witch,” “ghost,” and “spider.”

October 18, 2009

Happy French birthday!

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , , at 2:58 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

So I had a birthday yesterday.  In France.  Happy French birthday to me!  Thank you to everyone who wished me well ^_^  It really made me feel loved and helped me not feel so far away from home.

I’d been very worried about my birthday, since it was so soon after my arrival in France.  I was worried I wouldn’t have made friends quickly enough to be able to spend day with anyone.  I was worried I’d be all alone in a foreign country.  And birthdays are a BIG DEAL to me…I feel like people should be treated special on their birthday and fussed over, and I was afraid I’d have no one to do that for me.

Several weeks ago my host family suggested that I invite some friends over, just for a soiree, and I suggested that I have them over for my birthday.  I invited a few English assistants that I’d gotten to know and liked and my friend from Wright State, Wesley, who lives in La Rochelle, was going be coming down for the weekend.

Generally my host family leaves Talence around 6pm on Friday evenings for their lake house about 30 miles away, and they spend the whole weekend there.  So I thought it was a great sacrifice they were making to spend the weekend in Talence for me.  My host father once told me their real house is the lake house, and they’re just in Talence during the week for work and school.

On Saturday I woke up around 9am, showered, and went downstairs to see how I could help my host mother with the preparations.  She told me she was already almost done!  So I went back upstairs and puttered around on the computer, which was generally dull because everyone I wanted to talk to was still asleep.  I had that excited “People are coming over!” feeling, which was nice to have; it made this place feel more like my house.

People were supposed to show up around 1pm.  Around 11 I realized that my host family wasn’t going to be staying for the party — they were still going to the lake house!  Around noon I wandered downstairs, and they were like “Well, have a great party, happy birthday, see you Sunday night!” and got the heck out of there.  So…yay for having the house to myself right now.

My friends found the place with little trouble, and we mostly chatted about life as an assistant in France.  People stayed several hours, and there was SO MUCH GOOD FOOD, so I think everyone had a good time! ^_^

French birthday party!

French birthday party!

French birthday party!

French birthday party!

Happy French birthday!

Happy French birthday!

Happy French birthday!

Happy French birthday!

After everyone else left, I took Wesley in to Bordeaux to show him around.  We walked up the Rue Ste. Catherine, the major shopping street in town.  We each got something at H&M — Wesley got a new French scarf and I got a new French hat.

New French hat

New French hat

While we were wandering around downtown Bordeaux, I ran into a few people I knew.  It’s really nice to start seeing people I know on the street, it really makes the town feel more like my home.

I introduced him to FNAC (giant book, music, movie, and computer store) and we spent a lot of time browsing French DVD titles.  We walked out to the Place de la Bourse and the mirror lake and then began looking for dinner.  I wanted both a salade de chevre chaude AND gateau basque, and it seemed that every prix fixe had one or the other, but then we found a great restaurant that had BOTH for only €12,90!  I also had vegetarian penne pasta.  It was all SOOOO good.  I don’t think I’ve eaten this much food in weeks.

I walked Wesley down to his hostel and then took the tram back home, where I Skyped with my parents for a little bit and then went to bed.

Today I met Wes at Place Victoire and we walked to the flea market in front of St. Michel.  Wes found two DVDs he’d been wanting yesterday at FNAC for only €2 each, and I found the Kyosphere DVD for only €2!  YAY KYO!

We wandered around for awhile looking for a cafe, and then sat and enjoyed an espresso (him) and a hot chocolate (me).  We sat by the river for awhile just laughing and talking and making plans to get together again.  It was so good to see someone from home, someone that knows me and gets me.  I dropped him off at the train station and we said goodbye 😦

It was a great French birthday!!

Wes and me in Bordeaux

Wes and me in Bordeaux

October 16, 2009

Mute

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , at 7:47 am by Fat Girl Dancing

I have completely lost my voice from yelling at French children for the last week. Today in one class I tried to yell “Hey!” and all that came out was a squeak. I sure hope my voice comes back by Monday afternoon, when the yelling resumes.

Today was supposed to be a long day, but my primary school has some German students visiting, so my last two classes were cancelled for some festivities. So I got to leave at 11:30! YAY! I told the director it was like an early birthday present, since my birthday is tomorrow. And if you think I didn’t make my classes sing “Happy Birthday” to me, we clearly haven’t been properly introduced.

It has been cold here the last two days. It came on very suddenly, so suddenly that I saw two dead birds on my walk to and from the bus stop today. 😦 One minute it was 70 degrees and then we’re waking up to 30 degree mornings. I got out my winter coat today! I need to buy gloves and a hat. It’s supposed to warm back up into the 70s and upper 60s next week, thankfully.

Tomorrow my host family is throwing a little fete for me for my birthday, and my friend Wes is coming to visit from La Rochelle. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but it sounds like it could potentially be a really wonderful day tomorrow ^_^ Still, I will miss seeing all my friends and family back home on my birthday 😦

October 14, 2009

Still Tuesday?

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:58 am by Fat Girl Dancing

I’m getting better, but I’m still so very tired. I’ve been tired ever since I got here…at first I attributed it to having no schedule and TOO much free time, and now I’m sick, but I wonder if I’ll ever have enough energy again?

Yesterday I taught five classes at my primary school, or as I like to call it, my “clusterfuck” school. The teachers are definitely nicer here and everyone is more welcoming, but they were still figuring out my schedule at the last minute on Friday, compared to my secondary school who knew exactly where I was supposed to be and when.

I was out of cereal for breakfast, so I stopped at the patisserie near the bus stop for a chocolatine and a can of Orangina.

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

I still need to adjust my lesson plans for time. Half the time I finish too early and half the time I have to leave while they’re still doing the worksheet. My second class finished everything with 15 minutes still to go, so I was glad that I had prepared some “filler” videos for them to watch.

Everyone crowded around my laptop, and I showed them The Yip Yips Meet the Telephone and Clap Your Hands from Here Come the ABCs.  They LOVED the martians, but who doesn’t?  I’m nearly 31, and they still crack me up.

I have one class at this school that is just awful.  Nearly every other student is adorable — example, as I was leaving for the day, some of my students saw me and called me over to talk to me and ask me questions about myself and how to say things in English.  They didn’t want me to leave! But this class is dreadful.  They laugh at my French, they don’t respect me at all, and there’s one little girl with a GIANT chip on her shoulder.  She asked if we were going to have to sing the song with the movements again, and I said “Of course!” and she rolled her eyes and said “But it’s ridiculous!”  She’s an 8-year-old with the attitude of a 15-year-old.  UGH.

Surprisingly, my French is improving in my classrooms.  I thought I’d be speaking mostly English, but I need to use French to explain game directions and worksheet instructions and to facilitate conversations.  I’m being forced to speak to these children, and that’s giving me the confidence to speak to other adults.

After work yesterday, I went to the post office in Talence to mail my OFII papers, which starts the process for my social security/medical card.  I also picked up my ticket to the musical Mozart l’Opéra Rock which was being held there.  Yay!

I went across the street to the bank to see if I could finally get my atm card and checks.  It’s only been 2 weeks!  The banker started to say my account hadn’t been verified yet, but then he double-checked, and it had been verified just that afternoon!  What luck!  So I now have complete access to my bank account.

I went outside to the ATM to deposit some money, and quickly learned that there are different ATMS for depositing and withdrawing!  I found the right ATM, deposited my 50 euro, and now my French bank account actually has money in it!

My host mother made a delicious seafood paella last night.  It was the first time I’d ever had paella.  We also had a little goat cheese (chevre) and then some apple sherbert and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

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