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

January 29, 2010

Just try and make me leave

Posted in Application, la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 7:12 am by Fat Girl Dancing

You can’t!  I got my official long-stay visa today!  I can officially stay here until October 1st, although I’m really leaving sometime in July.

All the Bordeaux assistants are being scheduled in groups, so when I arrived at the OFII office for my 10am appointment, there were still some assistants waiting from the 8:30 group.  I got to see some assistants that I hadn’t seen in several months, and it was nice to catch up with them!

The immigration/visa process included a medical visit, which is good because I’ve been sick for going on three weeks now.  I was called in to one room where I was weighed and measured and then given an eye exam.  Hooray, my eyes are still fine!  Reading the letters in French was fun ^_^   I was sent back to the waiting room for several minutes, and then called into the radiology room for my chest x-ray.  The x-ray is apparently mine to keep — yipee?  Quite a souvenir.

The wait for the third and final room was a bit longer — this was to see the actual doctor.  I told her how I’d been sick for three weeks, and she said I had a sinus infection.  She looked at my x-ray, took my blood pressure, listened to my heart and my lungs, and pronounced me well enough to stay in the country.  Phew!

I waited a little longer in a different waiting room with my tiny picture of my face (a common requirement in France) and my proof of residency for my new lodgings until I was called back to the final room.  She deemed my paperwork acceptable and gave me my official long-stay visa in my passport!  Hooray!  Now I can go anywhere and do anything (including get a second job!)

It’s cold and raining miserabley here, and I feel so terrible from being sick for so long, so I’m just eating lunch, taking antibiotics and going back to bed for the rest of the day.  I’ve made homemade mac and cheese so often here, I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to EZ Mac once I return home!

Tuesday I went to see Amanda Palmer in concert here in Bordeaux.  I was so excited that someone I really liked was going to be playing in my new hometown!  I found out about the concert from her Twitter.  The show was fantastic — a really intimate performance, with her interacting with the audience, taking questions and requests.  I had a great night.

And I got my picture with her and her autograph!

Me and AFP!

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!

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

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.

October 25, 2009

Sunday morning musings

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travel tagged , , , , , , , at 5:42 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s hard to wake up from a dream where I’m home and holding my kittens again and snuggling them after so long.  I like it here, but it’s so hard to believe I have to be away from them for another 9 months : (  Last night I dreamt I was holding Sabrina, and I was so happy to have her in my arms again, but she didn’t really remember me. : (

It's hard not to miss her!

It's hard not to miss her!

I remember when I could just throw some clothes in the laundry two hours before going to work, and have them washed and dried by the time I needed to leave.  No longer.  The cleaning process is at least a two-day operation here.  Hope you didn’t need that for tomorrow!

Absolutely no hope of throwing something in the dryer for a minute or two on a cold morning to warm it up.  What a luxury!

I find it weird that my US phone and my US-based laptop computer both automatically updated themselves for Europe Daylight Saving Time, but my French phone didn’t.  For the next week, I’m only 5 hours ahead of everyone on EST!

I was thinking of going out to the Jardin Public for a pique-nique today, but it’s been rainy, so the ground will be wet… And I’m not sure if I feel like going all the way into Bordeaux.  Maybe I’ll just have a lazy day here in Talence.  I have bread, cheese, and smoked salmon, anyway.  What more do I need? (maybe some wine…)

I’ll be heading up north on Wednesday!  I’m doing a whirlwind tour in a week.  Bordeaux to Nantes to Vitré (with a day to visit Rennes) and then from Vitré to La Rochelle and then back down to 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 😦