Saturday, October 4, 2014


Ah le stage, the official beginning of our time as language assistants. It was essentially a two-day training session which was both mentally exhausting and incredibly fun. 

The exhausting part: 

Day one we sat in a big room for nearly three hours where nicely-dressed French people talked at us about aaaaaaall the administrative stuff we had to do. They explained the French education system, our job as assistants, the importance of a RIB (bank-related crap), housing, the paperwork needed for non-EU assistants to send in to make an appointment for our obligatory medical exam so we don't get deported, the paperwork we need to bring to said medical exam, the paperwork needed to sign up for the mandatory French s├ęcu (insurance), how to send in said paperwork, what kind of proof of housing we need if we live alone, rent a room, or live with a family... geez, just writing this list is exhausting. Honestly France...I swear you are responsible for half of the world's deforestation. But it was to be expected, France is notorious for its bureaucracy. I think all our brains melted a little bit after that. Last year when I was in Montpellier, we had a similar meeting, three hours in a boiling hot room listening to a language I then only half-understood talking about paperwork and photocopies and signatures, ack. That was the one time in my life I legitimately felt I needed a drink. This reminded me of that.

After all this we took a bus to Autrans, a little village/camp place in the mountains. We hadn't been fed lunch, as we had expected (we were told they would provide housing and food for free, considering they asked us to be there before 10:00 we expected lunch. Fooled by the French!) so we were starving and we didn't get dinner until 8:00 pm, where we had chips, bread, and potatoes au gratin. I just wish there had been more carbs, it just didn't quite feel French enough. They should have put it all on some pasta or something.

Day two we had more specific training. We were split up into groups by region and what level we were teaching. There we met our main dude, he has a title of some sort but I can't quite remember what it is, he's responsible for our administrative stuff. In any case, he was a really fantastic guy, very open and helpful. We filled out some paperwork with him (surprise surprise) and he explained some of it a little more clearly. Then after lunch we had a practice class, where he "taught us French" as you would a classroom of 6-11 year-olds, and we learned a French song about dipping a mouse in oil and it coming out as a snail, apparently a classic learned by all French children (listen to is here) ... I don't know. In all I think we were in "class" for like five hours that day.

The incredibly fun part: 

Meeting all the other assistants from all around the globe! Put a bunch of lonely polyglots who love to travel together in the same area and it's bound to be fun. Honestly they're all fantastic, and although I had already had a chance to meet a handful of them before, it was great to meet the whole gang. I had been worried that TAPIF would be a relatively lonely adventure, but it's turning out to be quite the opposite.

Before our first torture session on day one we had a group scavenger hunt around Grenoble. After the first torture session, as I said, we drove up to Autrans. The drive up was beautiful, and once we got there we were free to do as we pleased until dinner, so we wandered around for a few hours, found a little store (thank God) and ate (because the French don't know how to feed people), and then had dinner (see above). (I'm still trying to figure out how the French still have hair, they never seem to eat protein. Or vegetables. And only rarely fruit). Afterwords a few assistants and I sat around a talked for hours, mostly about all the things that want to kill you in Australia, and about koalas who apparently all have chlamydia or something, how Canadians have milk in bags, and a lot of "wait, what do you call this in Australia/the UK/Canada/the US? That's so weird, we call it such-and-such."

The next day we had breakfast at 7:30 (bread...bread...jam...cereal. Really France?) BUT! Big news! I finally tried Vegemite. One of the other assistants is Australian and, like a proper Aussie, brought her own tubes of the stuff. It was...confusing. I chewed it, I thought about it. I chewed it some more. Hmm... Salty, but more than that. In the end I decided that I don't really like it. I could get used to it I suppose, but... meh, not my thing. I'm glad I had it though.

For lunch they gave us hunks of bread the size of our heads with some tuna straight from the can. And then just in case a pound of bread wasn't enough they gave us an extra hunk of it with cheese. Sigh...oh France *shakes head*. When I got home I ate like half a can of lentils, I was craving protein/anything that wasn't sugar or wouldn't turn into sugar in five minutes.

Then after the second class we hung out for a few hours. The bus was late, so we waited an extra hour.

So like I said, exhausting, but really, really fun. Mostly fun. Some of the other regions only have a one-day stage, I'm glad ours was two, it gave us a chance to spread out the information a little bit, and more time to sit around and talk among ourselves.
Scavenger hunt

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Ma ville :) Elle est jolie, non?

The presentation that wouldn't end


Diner: bread, bread, chips, potatoes. Consider this a warning America, let's just say the plane will be carrying a little more weight on the way back

Proper Aussie, spreading the good word. And the word is Vegemite. 

Day 2

View during the drive back

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