December 9, 2009

Homeless in France

Posted in la vie bordelaise, planning tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s been a busy month so far.  I’ve been settling into my temporary home here with another assistant, trying to maintain a balance between living out of my suitcases and unpacking everything when I know I’ll just have to repack it again.  Fortunately I’m able to stay here until at least the beginning of February, so I’ve got some time.  I’ve been keeping up with the apartment search, but it’s so much more difficult here than it is in the States!

I’m primarily searching for roommates, and everyone I apply to has dozens of applicants, so they’re free to pick whom they choose…and it’s not me.  If I were to try for a small studio, I’d most likely find it not furnished — not even with a fridge or a stove! — and I’d need a guarantor, someone here in France willing to put up their last three months paystubs and credit to vouch for me.

I went to change my address, because I still haven’t received my very important CARTE VITALE, and found it was 34 euro just to change my address with the post!  That is one area where the USA definitely wins.  So much for socialism!

France is hard.  I’m not going to lie, in the last few weeks, there were times when I thought about how much easier it would be to give up and just go home.  Yesterday I bought a ticket to see Christophe Maé in concert in June 2010 in La Rochelle, and I’ve got a ticket to see the Mozart musical in April.  I can’t leave, I have concert tickets!

Christophe and Mozart!

Last week I visited the Christmas Market in downtown Bordeaux with a few assistants.  We went Tuesday and Wednesday night.  It’s a beautiful village marketplace set up on the town square with lights and craft shops and HOT SPICED WINE.  It was wonderful the first night, but it started pouring the second night and kind of put and end to the whole evening.  I still haven’t properly shopped through the whole market, since we really just took a fast browse through each store.

Vin chaud

Last Friday I went out to dinner with some French people to the Quebec Music Cafe.  It was way down in Pessac, so I got a ride with someone, which was very nice.  It’s so cool seeing Bordeaux from a car, I see parts of the city I never notice because I’m always on pedestrian or tram streets.  You must go look at their menu, I loved it.  I wanted to eat everything.  I ended up with the “Menu Bistro” which gave me a burger, a poutine, a beer, and a crumble dessert.  I had the three-cheese cheeseburger, the classic poutine, maple syrup beer, and the chocolate-pear crumble.  It was all SOOO GOOD.

Quebec Cafe

OM NOM NOM

One of the guys sitting next to me was excited to try and practice his English, and kept speaking English to me, and then speaking English to the other French people around him.  Eventually one of the women said to him, “She’s here to improve her French, so speak French!”  I didn’t mind him speaking a little English, but I thought it was weird that he would speak English to everyone else.

It’s been quite warm here the last few days — in the low 60s and upper 50s, but we’re about due for a cold snap, in the 40s!  Oh no! 😦

Holidays in Bordeaux

Holidays in Bordeaux

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October 26, 2009

Chez médecin

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 5:29 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

I woke up rather early, on this, my first real day of vacation, to call the doctor I’d selected from the “Pages Jaune” (Yellow Pages).  I asked for an appointment, and a rather abrupt voice told me that the doctor had open office hours today beginning at 2pm.

I was nervous about having to go see a doctor, and I would have put it off if at all possible.  I don’t have my Carte Vitale (health insurance card) yet, and I specifically decided I would NOT. GET. SICK this year!  Clearly, my body was not listening.

The cause of all this distress? A urinary tract infection.  Normally I’d spare you all such intimate details of my life, but in this case it does happen to relate directly to how I experience France and French culture.  So we continue.

I began noticing the first symptoms Saturday night.  I tried to deny them, but they haunted my dreams.  Sunday I made up my mind that I would call the doctor.  To put it off any more would only make my vacation miserable and put my body in more danger.  I’m prone to UTIs and have been having them with greater and greater frequency over the last few years.  Don’t get older, kids.

Around 1:30pm I set off for the doctor’s office.  It ended up taking me much longer to find it than I’d thought, due to some bad directions from the online map, but I found her office.  And five other people waiting outside to be seen.  By that point, I already had to pee again.   I asked a nice, elderly lady if we were all waiting for the doctor, to verify I was in the right place, and she said yes.  And then started talking to me for the next hour, complaining about the wait.

The doctor didn’t show up until 2:30 (despite telling me to come at 2pm!) and after she unlocked the door to her office, we all filed into her tiny, closet-sized waiting room.  After another 15 minutes of waiting with no patients being called, the elderly woman gave up and left, wishing me good luck.  Only 4 people ahead of me!

I HAD TO PEE.  There was a small bathroom, but I didn’t use it in case she needed a sample.  I mean, at home my doctor always takes a sample and analyzes it in the same building.  I wasn’t sure if this was the same.  So I held it.  And held it.  And held it.  For nearly two hours.

Finally it was my turn.  The doctor was very nice.  We sat at her desk first, while she listened to my symptoms.  I told her, “It seems I have a UTI.” I mean, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’ve been through this and I know what it feels like. If you’ll just give me some drugs, we can all go home.  I managed to explain all my symptoms and answer her questions in French.  She had me hop up on the examining table while she poked at my kidneys  (and I tried not to pee on her table), and then she took my blood pressure.

She complimented my French skills and accent, which pleased me.  She said she had a neighbor who was American who had lived in France for years whose accent wasn’t as good as mine.  I need to send that in an email to my former professors!

The doctor told me I would need to go to a lab to get a urinalysis done, but she was going to give me antibiotics now anyway. PHEW.  She wrote the order for the lab test and the prescriptions, I paid her (22 euros) and thanked her, and then I USED THE BATHROOM.  There was no way I could wait until I got to the lab.  This proved to be a mistake.

Receipts and reimbursement form in hand (not having my Carte Vitale, I paid the full amount and will be reimbursed later…much later), I set off to find the lab.  The doctor had been vague…”It’s on the street with the tram.”  Yeah, that’s a really long street.  I found a pharmacy on that street first, and got my prescriptions filled.  Even using a generic antibiotic, it was still 23 euros for three boxes of pills! That’s expensive for France.  The pharmacist also gave me a reimbursement slip, and then gave me more precise directions to the lab.

French drugs!

I was seen quickly at the lab, and I knew the drill.  One problem: now I was empty!  I sneaked back out to the sink and swallowed some water quickly.  That did the trick.  What an ordeal!  I rewarded myself with Cadbury Chocolate Chip cookies from the market across the street.

I’m learning the ropes! Socialized medicine can definitely have it’s pluses and minuses.  It seems that Mondays are the only “open office” days — if I’d gone another day I might have gotten a real appointment and not had to wait so long.  But time was not on my side, since I leave on vacation Wednesday morning.  It’s definitely not convenient to have to go all the way to a lab just for a urinalysis.  But the doctor’s office was very intimate, and she was exceptionally nice and caring.  Which I appreciated, being sick and scared in a foreign country!

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 15, 2009

French drugs taste like caramel

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , at 11:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

I slept terribly last night, thanks to breathing problems and a bad cough.  Needless to say, morning was a very unpleasant thing.  I don’t really remember much of it.

I tried to take a nap when I got home from classes only to have the same problem.  So it was time to get myself down to the pharmacy!

All medications are behind the counter in France and require an interview with the pharmacist.  That’s great for the personal touch, but not so great if you have problems interacting with people in general and especially in French.  So I had been putting it off.

I went in and asked the pharmacist if he had anything for a cough.  He asked me a few questions which I think I answered correctly, and he selected a cough medicine for me.  He told me to take it three times a day.  A 200ml bottle cost me 3 euros — less if I’d had my medical card, but it hasn’t come yet.  It’s caramel flavored.

Last night I went to my second outing of the Bordeaux BlaBlabylone group — basically a language exchange group.  For an hour and a half people come to practice speaking in another language, have some appetizers and drinks, and meet new friends.  Everyone I’ve met there has been incredibly nice, and I’m hoping to keep going and keep meeting people.

Last night it was just me, a guy from North London, and a girl from Dublin leading the English table with a group of French people.  There was discussion about who’s accent was easier to follow — one man said the Dublin girl was easier to understand, while another woman said she found my American accent more clear.

I also saw the last few songs of an acoustic concert by Da Silva at the FNAC.  It was pretty good, and I was tempted to buy a CD and get it autographed, but I decided against it.  I’m running low on funds until my pay advance comes in at the end of the month.

Classes are going, going, going.  I’m already ready for the two week break we’ve got in a week!  By now all of my classes can solidly say “My name is ___,” and we’re working on being confident with “How are you,” “I’m (insert emotion).”

My birthday is in two days!!  My friend Wes is coming from La Rochelle to see me!!

October 2, 2009

First day of working in France

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:00 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Will someone please explain to me why I packed a 100% cashmere sweater?  There’s no “delicate” setting on French washers.  I’m gonna have to handwash it, and hope I never get a stain.  UGH.

I received my second package today — the important one, since it had my winter clothes, my jewelry and my PEANUT BUTTER.  I picked it up at the post office in Talence and walked it 2/3 of the way home singing “Peanut butter jelly time” to myself before ma mère et mon père drove by, stopped the car, and ordered me to put the box in the car.  It was mega heavy, but I nearly got it home myself!  Still, I was grateful they came by and helped me out.

Giant heavy box

Giant heavy box

Yesterday I went to my main school for lunch.  I missed the bus I needed to get down there, so I took the next one I thought was going the right way.  When the driver pulled into the terminus and looked at me, I knew I was in trouble.  It turned out I had gotten on the 21 instead of the 21bis.  Who knew?  The driver was incredibly nice, getting me bus schedules and a map and making sure I was ok and talking to me for awhile as I waited for the 21bis.

I ended up being 30 minutes late, but no one was upset.  The teachers were still friendly and helpful.  We ironed out my schedule, and it’s such a mess.  I told them I would see them Tuesday since I had orientation the next day.

I had wasted two bus passes on getting there, so I decided to walk home.  It was a nice four mile walk, although towards the end I was very tired and sore!  It was also quite hot, and I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible.  Still, I was proud of myself for making it all the way home!

When my alarm went off at 6:55am this morning, my first thought was “Are you kidding? It’s not 8:30 yet,” which is when I’ve generally been getting up.  Ugh, it was not pretty.  I tried to keep my morning crankiness to myself as everyone else was up and about as well.

I did have a little skip in my step as I walked to the tram station thinking, “Here I go to work in France!”  The tram during rush hour is packed, as many bodies as can be jammed into a tiny tube.  You get friendly with your neighbors, ifyouknowwhatimean.  I switched lines at the Hotel de Ville and headed north.  Just as I was wondering if I’d see any other assistants on the tram, I heard “Hey Penny!”  It was one of the assistants I’d met last week at our get-together dinner.  We talked a bit, and some people nearby heard us and asked if we were assistants.  They were Spanish assistants from Mexico and Spain!  I listened to them speak to each other a bit, but living in France has destroyed my Spanish *sigh*

We arrived at the high school serving as our orientation site and crammed into a small room for juice and coffee.   I met a really nice girl, C., who told me that I had missed a meeting of primary school teachers yesterday, and that the primary school teachers had more training next week!  I was shocked…I don’t know why I didn’t get the email about the meeting, and what’s more, my schools were expecting me to come teach, or at least observe, on Monday and Tuesday!  C. introduced me to the woman in charge of primary teachers, who told me “C’n’est pas grave,” (it’s not a big deal) and that we’d figure everything out in the afternoon session.

During the morning session all 253 of us sat in a lecture hall room while two different teachers went over largely bureaucratic matters that are really important and also really dull.  It turns out there’s assistants for not only English, Spanish and German, but also Italian, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Slavic!

During a break I chatted with D., a friend I’d made last week and a cute guy from Wales came up and chatted with us.  His accent was amazing.  I just wanted him to keep talking.

Lunch was pretty impressive for a public school cafeteria.  Romaine lettuce salad, assorted cheeses, different kinds of vegetable entrees, meatloaf with lentils, bread (of course) and banana pudding.  I sat with C., D., and another primary school teacher who’s engaged to a French guy in Bordeaux, so this is pretty much her move to France.

After lunch we split into our separate groups, primary teachers going to a room of our own.  We filled out a lot of paperwork and talked about what we were doing at the training on Tuesday.  I told one of the teachers that I’d already talked to my school and worked out my schedule and they were expecting me, and she said “Oh no they’re not!  You are NOT teaching Monday or Tuesday!” She’s going to call the schools for me to let them know I won’t be there until Thursday.  I’m relieved that we’re going to get additional training!  I was worried about being thrown right into it.

I have one last relaxing weekend ahead of me before the real work begins!

September 27, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 10:00 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Written on Wednesday, September 23 – 10:34pm

Last night I was feeling so overwhelmed from a full day of speaking and hearing French, after finding my school, spending several hours with my new colleagues and then driving back to my house and trying to give directions to a place I wasn’t familiar with, and then coming home and having dinner and a discussion with my family. I was feeling Frenched out. After dinner I escaped up to my room, shut the door, and pulled up Google chat on my phone and began chatting with Carlette while watching an episode of one of my favorite TV shows ever, Psych, on my computer. It worked. By the end of the episode I was sleepy, and I nearly forgot I was still in France. I almost called out for my parents, forgetting that they were across the ocean and that the people downstairs, while very friendly, would still have been very surprised if I suddenly started speaking English to them.

Several times the last few nights I’ve woken up disoriented. This room is very cozy, and I’ll wake up feeling like I’m still at home. “Wait, what? Oh, I’m in France.” Last night I had a nightmare, and I’m glad the person it was about is all the way across the ocean.

Today I slept in until around nine and then went downstairs to have breakfast. I’d just missed M., she had shortened school hours today, but she still had to leave shortly after I came down. With the house empty and my belly full, I decided to lie back down. I’ve been terribly exhausted lately. I’m not sure if I’m still jet lagged one week later or if it’s the lack of any set schedule or if it’s just the overwhelming effects of trying to understand and speak a foreign language, but I just cannot get enough sleep.

I dozed for about an hour, took a leisurely shower, and then began studying my French grammar review book. I’ve decided I need to study about four pages a day, and when I finish my French word a day book, I’m going to start studying the idioms in there as well. Just speaking it isn’t enough, I need to drill and refresh the grammar. If I’m going to be here, I’d better be serious about it and make the most of my time.

The plan today was to try to get a bank account. I was terrified. I knew I needed to show a lot of paperwork, and I wasn’t sure that I had it. I have a residence, but the only thing I have showing proof of that is a print-out from my Gmail account that F. sent me telling me what my address would be.

I walked around the long way to explore a different street and found two sandwich shops, one that sells pizza in the evenings. Hooray! I had a chicken panini, though I prefer tuna paninis. As I walked toward the center of town, I saw there was an open air market in the town square! It was 12:30 by this point and several vendors were starting to tear down. Now I know that Wednesday is market day, and I should get there earlier.

I was thirsty, so I found a patisserie and bought a chocolatine (pain au chocolat) and an Orangina. I’m becoming addicted to Oranginas. I went to the bank only to discover they were closed for lunch until 1:30. With nothing else to do, I sat on some stairs and people-watched and read a bit in my French translation of Eclipse.

Finally at 1:30 I went back into the bank. I told the teller that called me forward that I wanted to open a checking account. She said something in rapid French, and I gave her a blank look. She said something else, and I was too flustered to say “Look, can you slow down, please?” She said “Vous parlez français? Ou anglais?” (Do you speak French or English). I said that I spoke English, and tried to add that I could understand her in French if she’d slow down, but she cut me off saying I should speak to the other woman. “Allez-y!” (Go over there!)

The other woman was much more helpful. We spoke in French the entire time. There were times when I didn’t understand what she said, but she was willing to repeat herself. The short story is: I didn’t get a bank account. I have an appointment tomorrow with a banker to see if I have all the correct paperwork to get a bank account, but since I can’t produce an electric bill with my name on it, I’m not sure how it will go.

If this bank rejects me, I suppose I’ll just try another one. That’s what’s recommended by the Assistants in France forum. I need a checking account or I can’t get paid!

I have been doing a lot of reading. I’m reading a wonderful book and a terrible book. The wonderful book is based on a blog by a woman who moved to France to marry a Frenchman and had two bilingual kids. Her entries are about new words she encounters and how they relate to her life, but mostly it’s about how grand an adventure her life is and how grateful she is to be in France. It’s pretty much the perfect book for me to be reading right now, and I’m glad I bought it. The terrible book is See Jane Date, and I bought it for my trip last year because I thought it would be a quick plane read.  Yes, I miss my family and my friends and I miss talking with certain people that I’ve recently met, but I am so glad I have the opportunity and freedom to go where I want. I never want to feel like I have to depend on anyone else in order to be a success, which is literally what this book has said at points. The only reason I’m continuing to read it is because there’s no internet and I didn’t bring that many books. I gotta keep myself entertained somehow.

According to F., we should have internet here within 15 days!

September 23, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 1:38 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

My life has been turned so completely upside down in the last week that I hardly even know where to begin!

I left the United States on Tuesday, September 15 and arrived in France with my friend Wesley on the morning of Wednesday, September 16. Customs was a breeze, even for Wesley and his cat, and after collecting our baggage we met up with our other two friends David and Lauren.

The four of us spent five incredible days (four nights) in Paris. The entire time I was in Paris, I had a sense of belonging – because the area was so familiar to me from my stay last summer – but also the sense that it was “just a vacation.” The real work was still to come.

On Sunday morning, one by one, we all went our separate ways. Lauren had an early train to catch to Nancy in the northeast. David, Wesley and I dragged our luggage through the metro (David was invaluable here, helping me get my 50-pound suitcase up and down the stairs AND carrying his own luggage) and then spent the morning sitting at a café outside the train station. Wes’s train left first, then David’s. It was down to me. I tried not to cry as David waved goodbye, but I knew that this was it. Playtime was over and my new life was about to begin. I was getting on a train to Bordeaux to meet my new family for the next nine months.

I stepped off the train in Bordeaux and looked around. People were walking everywhere, left and right, with bags and without, conversing in many different languages. How was I going to find my family? Perhaps we should have picked a meeting spot. I slowly dragged my luggage down the stairs from our track to the exit and looked around. A river of people passed me as if I were a pebble in their path. I started to haul my things towards the exit when I saw a woman carrying a cardboard sign saying “PENNY.”

With a sigh of relief, I waved at her and said “Voila!” I’m here! She kissed my cheeks and introduced me to her daughter, M., who also kissed my cheeks – the standard form of greeting in France. M. took one of my suitcases and we walked to the car where F., the father, was waiting. He loaded my things into the car and we set off for Talence. They were all very excited, asking me questions, explaining things we were passing, joking around – all in French.

They showed me the house, we had a quick but relaxing break for beverages on the terrace, and then they let me go off to my room to get settled. After living out of a suitcase for five days in Paris, it felt good to finally unpack! The room is more than I could have hoped for, especially for the price. Bordeaux is fairly expensive, and Talence especially because of the proximity to the university. My room is small but comfortable, with a bed, closet, desk, and filing cabinet. AND my own balcony! The rest of the house is small but comfortable, and all recently renovated – that’s what F. does for a living. They have told me that this is just the house where they crash during the week for work and school, but their real house is in Sanguinet, where they go every weekend. I won’t be able to join them this weekend because the other English assistants are getting together for dinner on Friday evening, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to make some friends, especially English-speaking ones!

My host family has been extremely kind to me. The first night, they took me on a walk around the center of town and showed me the tram system. E., the mother, made chicken and potatoes for dinner that night, and they were delicious. They eat quite late here, generally at about 9pm. I’m learning to have a snack around 5pm, but I’m still generally very ready for dinner by 9! The father, F., speaks English very well, and he knows that I want to improve my French, so he does speak in French to me, but every now and then he’ll speak in English to make sure I understand a point. They don’t have internet at their house yet, since they just moved here a few weeks before I did, but they took me to their son’s house to use his internet, and said I could go back there when I wanted.

Oh, and E. did my laundry the first night! I felt uncomfortable giving her my dirty underwear, but she just picked it up and through it in the laundry, which is quite complicated and I’m not sure if I could figure it out. It took me a good five minutes to figure out how to lock the front door and the better part of Monday to figure out how to make the kitchen sink give me water. Once the clothes were done washing, she put them on a rack outside, and they sun-dried all day. I’ve no idea what they do in the winter or rain.

Monday morning I was sleeping late because of the exhaustion from Sunday when E. knocked on my door, came right in, and opened my balcony door. They leave doors open throughout the day in France to cool their houses. E. said I should go downstairs and have breakfast with M., so I did. Originally the plan had been that meals were not included, so I decided that day to go out and buy my own breakfast cereal. That evening E. asked me what I wanted to do about meals, and I said I could provide my own breakfast and lunch, but I would like to share dinner with the family. It’s nice to eat à table.

M. and E. left after breakfast, and I decided to take a walk around town. I followed nearly the same route they’d taken me the day before, tracking on my GPS so I could get acquainted with the layout of the area. I had lunch at a boulangerie on the main square – a cheese quiche and an Orangina, which I ate while reading on a park bench and listening to my iPod. Then I continued to walk down to the Casino, the large supermarket.

The big supermarkets here are so amusing, because even though they are modeled after the American system, they are still very French. I can’t really explain the differences…except to say I bought an apple and handed it to the cashier who asked me something in rapid French and I just gave her a look of “quoi?” so she got up, went back to the produce, weighed the apple, got a sticker, put the sticker on the bag carrying the apple (produce MUST BE in a bag) and then scanned the sticker. It’s the little things.

Yesterday  I had originally planned to try and open a bank account, but then I started panicking because I hadn’t contacted my schools yet. I woke up a little earlier and had some of the cereal I’d bought for breakfast. One of the cats stared at me the entire time, as if to say “I NO U HAZ MILK IN DERES,” but with a French-cat accent. The other cat is terrified of me and runs away every time I come close.

Thanks to the Google Maps application and GPS on my phone, I was able to figure out exactly how to get to my main school. It told me the route to walk to the bus stop, what bus line to take, and what time the bus would get there! The bus driver yelled at me because I incorrectly signaled to him that I wanted on, so he almost missed stopping for me, but I brushed it off. It’s only my second day in town! I’m still learning! I managed to find my stop, but then I couldn’t get the door to open, so the driver just pulled off. I hit the stop button again and got off at the next stop and walked back up. He thinks he’s so funny, but he’ll have to deal with me for the next nine months!

I could hear children playing outside as I approached the school Jules Michelet. I asked the attendant where I could find the director, and as soon as I walked into his office he said (in French) “You must be Mademoiselle Morris!” Monsieur le Directeur was terribly nice, copying all the paperwork I would need, getting me a map to my other school, introducing me to the teachers I would be working with, and giving me an official school t-shirt. He spoke very little English, so the entire day was spent listening to rapid-fire French.

I stayed to have lunch in the teachers’ office with the other language teachers. One English teacher said she would help me with my French if I would help her with her English, and I said “It’s a deal.” She was also looking for someone to sit for her children a few nights a week and teach them English, so I volunteered. More money is good!

A substitute teacher drove me to my second school, where I met Madame la Directrice. She was nice, but not as self-deprecating and goofy as the Directeur. She took my information and said she would email me, because none of her teachers were available, so she couldn’t set up my schedule. If everything works out, I will hopefully be working Monday afternoons at Jules Ferry, Tuesdays at Jules Michelet, Friday mornings at Jules Ferry and Friday afternoons at Jules Michelet. That would be a great schedule, for although it would mean I couldn’t take off early on Fridays for an early weekend, I would have a late start on Mondays and two days off in the middle of the week.

Oh yeah, and I actually have to teach! That’s pretty scary.

The substitute drove me home, which was terribly kind of her and also a bit of a folly, because all I know is the name of my suburb and my street name. I don’t really know how to get there yet. But we figured it out, and I came home and decompressed for the rest of the day!

September 8, 2009

Countdown: One week

Posted in planning tagged , , , , , at 9:03 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

One week left in the United States with my family and friends.  As my time here dwindles I find myself more and more hesitant to leave, whereas months ago I couldn’t wait to be in France.  Now all I can think of is everyone and everything I will miss and everything that could possibly go wrong.

My host family has been nothing but kind to me in emails.  François, the father, has begun emailing with me in French in accordance with my wishes to practice French as much as possible.  They seem eager to get to know me and will be picking me up at the train station when I arrive in Bordeaux on September 20.  They’ve also offered to take me along to their vacation house on the weekends.

I’ve been in contact with several other assistants who are going to be in Bordeaux, and I think we’re all going to be meeting up for café somtime around the 23rd.

First day of work is le 1 octobre!

My bags are all packed…

All I need to pack

All I need to pack