April 20, 2010

Classroom update

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , at 8:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

For the last six weeks, my 6th grade honors class has been working on a group presentation on the United States. Each group chose a state to present on (in the midwest) and they’ve been studying different aspects of the state each week.

We spent the last two class periods working on tying everything together and making posters, and on Friday they’ll present their projects for their classmates (it’s a combined 5th/6th grade class, but I only have the 6th graders; they’ll present for the 5th graders).

They act like little monsters (this is a class that’s had their game privileges permanently revoked because they get too out of control), but I’m really proud of how well they’ve done with this project. They were really nervous to present in front of their peers, and a lot of them reverted back to French, but most of them were able to recite what they’d learned in English and did fine.¬† I was especially impressed that they could say the population of each state, since we’d only spent two class periods learning large numbers!







The Tennessee group didn’t get finished in time the day I took pictures, so I never got a picture of them with their poster ūüė¶


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.”

January 11, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , at 5:51 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Snowing in Bordeaux

This was the scene last Wednesday in Bordeaux.¬† I had just woken up as my roommate was returning from seeing her guest from the US off to the train station.¬† “Have you looked outside?” she exlaimed. “It’s snowing!!”¬† Bleary-eyed, I grabbed my camera and stumbled to the windows to capture a few pictures of the soft, fat snowflakes.¬† It snowed heavily for almost an hour and left nearly two inches of snow on top of ice.

Snow day in Bordeaux

It brought the city to a standstill for the entire morning.¬† The trams stopped running — I could see one at a dead stop about two stations down from our station, and the buses were called back to their stations.¬† I called my tutorees mother to tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it that afternoon.¬† She was disappointed, but without the buses, there was no way I could make it down there!

Later that day, everything melted away except the ice.¬† By Thursday every trace of snow was gone, but the playground at my secondary school was a big ice skating rink.¬† I tried to teach the kids the phrase “It’s icy” as a part of our standard “How is the weather today?” questions.¬† One student made a great connection.¬† One Monday I had taught them “I see a pen.¬† The pen is green.”¬† I emphasized the new verb “to see” by pointing to my eyes and then pointing to the pen.¬† So when I asked them what they thought “It’s icy” meant, this girl raised her hand and pointed to her eyes and said “I see?”

I had to write the two phrases on the board to point out how they might sound alike but were different, and they had to listen to hear the differences between “icy” and “I see.”¬† But I was really impressed that she made that connection!¬† They’re learning something!

January 5, 2010

La rentrée

Posted in travailler tagged , , at 4:20 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

After two delightful weeks off, it’s back to work week.¬† I had three classes yesterday and a full five classes today.¬† I was surprised at how agitated the kids are!¬† You’d think, after such a long vacation, they’d have it all out of their system.¬† One teacher told me “They got used to talking during the vacation and now they can’t stop.”

It’s our normal classroom routine to sing one song at the very beginning of class, one active song after we go through our daily questions (how are you, how’s the weather, what day is it), and one closing song.¬† I decided to change the beginning song and active song, because I assumed the kids were getting sick of the old ones.¬† I know I was.¬† After six or seven weeks of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” I was no longer happy, and I knew it.

My classes yesterday were so disappointed not to be doing “If You’re Happy and You Know It!”¬† They told me it was very ‘not cool’ that I’d switched the songs out.¬† I’m going to make them do the new song for a few more weeks until they know it, but then I might bring IYHaYKI back, or at least pull it out if we’re running long on time.

They’re all begging me to do the Reindeer Hokey Pokey again, even though I explained that we only played that as a Christmas game.

I began reading my classes “Where the Wild Things Are,” which they all call Max et les maximonstres, since that’s how it was translated here.¬† They will not be quiet, even when I’m reading to them!¬† Some of them are aw-ing about how cool the pictures are, some of them are trying to figure out what’s going on, some of them are complaining they don’t understand, and some of them are giving a running translation because they’ve memorized the book.

It’s a never-ending challenge, but it’s still worth it to hear them say “Coucou, Penny!” and come running up to me to give me a hug and a picture they’ve drawn for me.

November 10, 2009

The rain in Spain falls mainly on France

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , at 1:10 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

If I could sum up Bordeaux in one word, that word would be: RAIN.  Rain rain rain rain rain.  Rain.

Bordeaux lured me in when I first arrived with 20 or so days of warmth and sunshine and not a drop from the sky.

“This isn’t bad at all!” I thought, as I walked around in tank tops and admired the bright blue skies.

And then….everything changed.


It has been raining nearly every day for over a week.¬† Rain is forecasted for every day into the foreseeable future.¬† Sometimes I’ll refresh the forecast and they’ll tease me and take the rain out for one day, but then I refresh again five minutes later and it’s back in.¬† Rain.¬† Every day.¬† For the rest. of. my. life.


In school news, my students are already eager to talk about Christmas.¬† I told them there’s another American holiday in between Halloween and Christmas that we’re going to start talking about beginning on Thursday.

I have sung “Where is Thumbkin” 16 times this week, and I’ll sing it 16 more before the end of the week.¬† They love it.

Yesterday I asked one of my students, in English, “Have you glued it in your notebook already?” and he nodded and showed me, and I smiled and said to him in French “You understood a sentence in English!” and he looked so proud of himself.

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


– 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 Vitr√©.¬† I needed a ticket from Bordeaux to Nantes and then from Nantes to Vitr√©, and on the way back I needed to go from Vitr√© 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


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 Vitr√© 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 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 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’Op√©ra 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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