February 4, 2010

Forever a nomad

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , at 9:00 am by Fat Girl Dancing

*this entry is made most difficult by the fact that my “h” key has stopped working and every “h” must be copied and pasted :-\

I’m coming to you live from my third (and what had better be my last!) residence here in Bordeaux!  It took me three days to move, and I still have a few small things at the old place — including my bike!

I seem to have grown into the larger living space while I was living with my roommate and acquired a ton more junk, because what took me just two trips to move last time (one by tram and one by taxi) took me nine trips and three days!  Did I mention I’m living on the fourth floor?  My everything hurts, from my shoulders and arms from carrying all the bags to my hips and legs from climbing all the stairs!  Such a good workout!

I’m still getting settled in my room — it’s impossible not to think of it as a dorm room, because essentially that’s what it’s like.  I got my bed set up on Tuesday, and I’m still unpacking and finding a place for everything, so right now I still have suitcases and bags covering most of the floor.  I’ll show pictures once everything is put away and it looks nicer.

The walls here are super-thin, so you can pretty much hear everything anyone does in their room, but fortunately my neighbors seem to be pretty good about sticking to the quiet hours *knock on wood*  Last night I got home at 11pm and my neighbor had her TV up, but turned it down when I asked.  The biggest problem is the girl across the hall gets up at 5:30am every day.  I need to learn to filter out the sounds of her getting up and leaving so I can sleep through that and not get up at 5:30am every day myself :-\

This morning I had breakfast for the first time here in the new place.  Breakfast is included in the rent and is offered Monday-Friday.  It’s a typical French-style breakfast, and it was very yummy!  I had granola with fromage blanc (sweet and creamy like yogurt, but it’s a cheese), baguette with butter and jelly, and grabbed a banana for later.  I’ll probably eat breakfast Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, because I know I won’t be able to wake up early enough on Mondays and Wednesdays!  Still, it’s nice to not have to buy so much breakfast food anymore.

Things are moving along at school…my little kids are getting sick of learning about numbers, and I’m sick of counting with them.  But they still don’t know all the numbers, even 1-10, and so we drill!  They can count from 1-10 just fine, but when I ask them “How old are you?” they can’t just respond with the correct number in English, but instead must count up to the right number.

I’ve tried playing Bingo with my classes a few times, and I tell you, after this last round I just will not do it again.  They simply do not understand the rules!  I explained, several times, in French even, that in order to have Bingo they needed to mark off four numbers in a line across, down, or diagonal.  I then said the first number, and four or five kids shouted, “Bingo!”  After three or four classes of this, I was exasperated.  “No, you do not have Bingo!” I shouted by the last class.  “You cannot have Bingo after just one number!  I said, you need four in a line!”

“Mais, je ne comprends pas du tout!” they whined.

At least they like story time, which I’ve started implementing at the last 5-10 minutes of each period.  We read half a book per class in English, and even though they can’t understand the words, they like the pictures and they can generally keep up.  So far we’ve read “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “Hop on Pop,” “The Shy Little Kitten,” and “Barry, the Fish with Fingers.”


November 7, 2009

Toussaint vacances – Part One

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , , at 7:07 am by Fat Girl Dancing

My vacation was so AMAZINGLY AWESOME it cannot be contained in one post. I have an idea it might be that way for all my vacations here.

I left Bordeaux early on Wednesday morning, October 28. I stopped to buy half a dozen Cannelés as a thank-you gift for my couchsurfing host.

Normally I love riding on trains, so I didn’t mind that the train from Bordeaux to Nantes was four hours. I had movies, books, music, and a travel pillow. Oh, and a screaming baby two rows behind me. The child screamed without ceasing for THREE HOURS of the trip. I was about to throw the kid off the train myself.

I was so happy to be off the train and in Nantes right on time (normally French trains are very punctual). I left the train station and went across the street to the tram stop to look at a map. I had vague plans for my day: I wanted to see the castle and the Jules Verne museum, and of course I wanted to see downtown Nantes! I studied the map for a few minutes and then promptly began walking the wrong way. Oops ^^;; Bad moment for Direction Man. I took the tram back the two stops to the castle.


Chateau Nantes

The castle was really impressive — not as big as other castles in France, but the first one I’ve seen on this visit to France! I did the self-guided tour and took lots of pictures which can all be seen on my Flickr

I took the tram to the stop for the Jules Verne museum and then walked up a GIANT HILL to get to the museum. I was mostly exploring it to see if my dad might like it when he comes to visit at the end of my stay in France, but it ended up being pretty cool and mostly about astronomy, which I love.


Musée Jules Verne

I still had time to kill, so I took the tram back to downtown Nantes and wandered in and out of the shops for awhile. They had a long pedestrian-only shopping street with the same stores as Bordeaux, so I was a little disappointed that the commercialism layout was the same as my own town.

A little before 8pm I made my way by tram to my host’s apartment. I got a little turned around, but thanks to my GPS and GoogleMaps App I found it! The other couchsurfer from Bordeaux was already there, and both she and the host were very nice. The host made us (vegetarian!) dinner of lentils and rice that was delicious, and we played a weird game that she’d invented. She gave up her bed to the two of us surfers, so I slept comfortably and soundly!

I woke up early, tried not to disturb the other two who were still sleeping, took a quick shower, got dressed and left for the train station. I had two more trains to ride today before I would be in Vitré. They were both fairly uneventful, though I did finish one of my books.

The last train pulled into Vitré (a small town in the Brittany region) right on time, and as soon as I stepped off I saw my friend David holding a welcome sign (and a baguette)!


Welcome to Vitré!

I was so happy to see him! I hadn’t seen him since we’d parted ways in Paris in September! His German roommate had come along too, so the three of us walked back through the town to their apartment. I met his other roommate, from Spain. I was too nervous to speak much Spanish to him yet — all this intensive French has erased a lot of my Spanish.




Chicken curry

The boys put together a great apero and lunch spread — wine, cheese, bread and olives first and then chicken curry. It was my first time having chicken curry, and it was actually pretty good! Not too spicy.


Downtown Vitré


Downtown Vitré

After lunch David and I walked back downtown to show me the castle and the shops. Vitré is an absolutely gorgeous little town. Definitely in the northern part of France…I noticed immediately the lack of palm trees (and I already missed them) and the different styles of architecture.

We walked back to his apartment (I cannot adequately express to you what a hike it was from his apartment to downtown and vice versa….up a major hill each way, and a good 15-20 walk. We DEFINITELY exercised, which is good, because we definitely ATE) and hung out talking until his roommates were ready to go into Rennes — the major town about 45 minutes away by car. His roommate from Germany had driven (wouldn’t that have been easier? Someone build a bridge) so we piled into his car. It was definitely weird being in a car and on a highway. As we were coming into Rennes, David and I started pretending that we were coming into Dayton:
“Look, we’re just leaving Oakwood.”

“I know, can you see the Crowne Plaza up ahead?”

“Oh yeah! And look, there’s the Denny’s right there.”

“Yup.” We’re weird.

We wandered around downtown Rennes for a bit before deciding to have a traditional Brittany meal of gallettes for dinner. I had a gallette with spinach, crème fraiche and a fried egg. And of course, cidre. We had a lot of cidre. It was all really good!


Gallette and cidre

After eating, his roommates left to go to their heavy metal concert and David and I continued wandering around looking for cool bars. He texted a friend of his to find a fun bar, and we spent nearly an hour walking AROUND it, asking strangers on the street, getting close to it but never finding it until finally we stumbled upon it. It was nice with good techno music. We stayed there for awhile and met his friend. Then we went wandering and found another bar, had more drinks. I was freezing, and David kindly lent me his coat, since I’d decided not to pack my heavy coat and just had a hoodie.

We were about to sit at yet another place with his friends when his roommates texted him that the concert was over and they were coming to pick us up. Which of course said to us that it was the perfect time to get paninis. David had to repeat his order about 20 times, to the amusement of the other French people in line, but we finally got our order…mmmmm, tuna panini! We ate them as we rode back to Vitré.

My first two awesome days of vacation…I miss them already! All this stupid work is getting in the way of my having fun ;-p

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!