When I tell people I moved to France for a year, they tend to think that that means my life is full of adventure and crazy stories and constant travel. True, moving abroad is an exciting adventure in itself, but in all honesty, my day-to-day life is pretty ordinary. I plan lessons, I go to work, I buy food, I eat food, I buy more food. That being said, I do meet up with other assistants regularly enough. A few weeks ago we went to a chocolate festival (where I ate my weight in chocolate), last weekend we went on a hike up the trails behind the Bastille. We celebrated one assistant's birthday by going out to Tex Mex. (Side note: I don't think you understand the significance of this, so I'm going to explain. France wins at certain things, and it fails absolutely at others. Providing me with Mexican food? That falls in the latter category. So I was very excited that this place (El Tex Mex, it's called...very original guys) existed. The food, though, was kind of a disappointment. Not awful, but not what I was hoping for. Hey, they tried. But France, in the future, just stick to crepes.)
|La Bastille, another beautiful view|
|The car I watched burn outside my window|
But besides that...
On my week:
Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I teach at my schools. Besides my regular job, I've been lucky enough to find babysitting/tutoring gigs: Tuesday evenings I have one private student not far from where I live, and Wednesdays I go to Crolles, which is a really nice, rich neighborhood about an hour north of me. I babysit one girl for 3 hours, then I walk over to their neighbor's house where I teach her three kids, one after another, for two hours, then I go one house over to her friend's house and teach her son for an hour. Apparently they've worked out a system that they've already been using for a few years: the first family finds an assistant willing to babysit, and they they sort of "share" her among themselves. I like it, it lets me see how other French families live, they feed me free lunch that I don't have to cook for myself, and it makes it worth my while to go all the way up to Crolles.
Ever since Toussaints I've been downing the stuff like it's finals week all the time. I give France a lot of crap for its sub-par coffee, but even so I think it's safe to say I'm officially addicted. "Okay, I'm just going to finish this box since I've already paid for it, and then no more." Guess what I buy at the store the very next day?
This has been a constant issue ever since I started teaching. In France all the kids learn cursive, and for the most part their handwriting is impeccable. Mine looks like that of a ten-year old boy who has partially lost control of his extremities... and I don't write cursive. Probably 50% of the time I write something on the board, at least one kid isn't able to read all of it. And apostrophes, they do those differently here, which has caused some confusion. Last week I went into one of my kindergarten classes while they were doing handwriting exercises and I legitimately took notes.
The first few weeks of teaching were actually a lot harder than I had expected. I had no clue what I was doing and most of the teachers weren't helping much. But the last few weeks it's gotten a lot better; I see what works, what doesn't work. I've gotten better at adjusting on the spot if what I prepare doesn't fill the time or doesn't seem to be working. At the same time a handful of the teachers actually started doing their jobs and preparing things as well. There are still a few that don't do anything though, they don't seem to understand that the time I'm there isn't another coffee break for them. Yesterday I was having some trouble explaining a game to them so I asked to teacher to explain it better "oh...what? Sorry I wasn't listening." Really dude?
On the kids:
I've been there for two months, and still, every time I walk through school grounds, hoards of kids shout my name, "Ola! Regarde, c'est le prof d'anglais!" It's cute, but I don't think I'm meant for stardom. I'm not going to lie, sometimes I try to hide a bit to avoid being mobbed by little humans.
The younger ones are funny. I was doing a game which required them to first learn some food words, and I made the mistake of adding brussel sprouts to the list. Half of them didn't even know what it was when I said it in French, and I actually felt bad watching them struggle to pronounce it. One kid never got it:
"No, it's: bru-sel sp-rout."
"...yeah okay, good job kid."
I tried to teach some of the youngest ones "ice cream." I don't think they quite understand that English isn't just French pronounced differently. I showed them a picture of ice cream, "what's this?" (Ice cream in French is glace, just by the way).
"GLEES! GLOOS! GLASE! GALOOS! GLEES!" I couldn't correct them I was laughing so hard, it was like something Dr. Seuss would name his characters.
Still slightly awkward. In order to get from my room to anywhere else in the apartment I have to walk through the living room, between the TV and the couch, and the people I live with always seem to be watching TV. I can't get used to basically announcing every time I have to go pee or get a snack. I can't complain too much though, the rent isn't high, I live really close to work, and the city isn't too far away either.
For a couple of weeks I was feeling kind of crappy. It wasn't homesickness, and it wasn't really loneliness. It was two things: I felt very isolated, for one. I'm an awkward person as it is and it takes me a long time to feel comfortable around others, it doesn't help much when they all speak French. At home, at work, even going out with assistants, I constantly felt... closed off. At the same time, a few weeks ago I made the mistake of realizing how quickly this is going by, and that I needed to start thinking of some sort of a post-TAPIF, big-girl, real-life plan, which is always a dangerous road for me to go down. Long story short, I had something of a quarter-life crisis. And I dealt with all of this by sitting in my room and binge watching Suits on Netflix. It all peaked on Thanksgiving. It was the second year in a row I wasn't home for it and I was feeling a little down. We didn't do anything to celebrate it here, so it passed quietly.
Looking back, I feel unappreciative. I'm living abroad, fully supporting myself working half-time, I was able to find side jobs, I can travel. Feeling isolated... quite frankly that's my own fault, personal demons I have to deal with that have nothing to do with France. As for my future, I'll give myself a few weeks before I open that box up again (so basically sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting "la la la, I can't hear you.")
Alright, there you go mom and the odd person or two who find themselves reading this. Consider yourself updated.