Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 28, 2009

Well I survived the move. After and intense night of vomiting and little sleep I managed to get myself to the school early enough to get the key to the apartment. While every one has been great in respect to my possession (or lack there of –I’ll explain later) of the apartment, I still feel a little weird about it. When I got to the school in the morning the lady in charge of money for the school (and the apt) told me she didn’t have the keys as the guys were still moving things in and out and doing work but we could see the apartment if I wanted. Did I want to see the apartment? HELL NO. I wanted my, pardon my french, fucking keys. So a bunch of the other secretaries wanted to see it so I went with them dragging my crabby and hungry ass up 5 flights of stairs. When we got there a guy was coming out and he had the set of keys!!! Thank god, Mme Lefevre gave me a key so I could finally move in. I hurried back to the hotel and grabbed an apple on the way to settle my stomach. Praise the lord for apples. I was starting to feel better already! What I really wanted was a pain au chocolat but the boulangerie was closed today. I ended up having Mme Lefevre’s “men” help me carry my suitcases up the stairs. WOOHOO! After the three trips from the hotel I wrote a note in the guestbook thanking the couple for everything. If my family comes or anyone I know, they are definitely staying there!

After getting my luggage delt with, I went downstairs to the school to give the secretariat my RIB (releve d’identité bancaire- a piece of paper with your bank account info for electronic deposits) and paperwork I finished for her. I also had some questions regarding my visa papers and secu. I was there for a while but everything is settled for now. After that I went to ask Mme Lefevre if I could borrow a comforter from the dorms for the year. This ensued a whole debate about what I was “allowed” to buy for the apartment. I just assumed I would be buying the things I needed and leaving them for the others or other assistants after me. I guess not. Everything for the place is to be paid for by the school. She wouldn’t even let me get a pot to eat in today! So I was like, if I can’t buy things for the place when will I have these things provided for me? I need to eat tonight and I don’t have tickets for the SELF yet. (This is the cafeteria). So basically Mme Lefevre and I went to Carrefour Market today to buy the necessary things I needed. I bought sheets earlier in the afternoon so I wouldn’t have to deal with borrowing them and she didn’t know if they would have any for me anyways. While at Carrefour we got pots and pans and mugs and knives and lots more. I even convinced her to get an iron and board! What luck I have that I don’t have to pay for any of this!!!!!! It’s so great that I’m also worried. There are two concerning things about this situation.

1.) Mme Lefevre keeps telling me that I’ll “have only one of the rooms and I have to share the apartment”. Uhhh what about the rest of the apartment? Am I not allowed to use it? I’m so confused/concerned. I think this has to do with the fact that the french value their privacy. I’m American so I don’t really. LOL.

2.) The rent. The conseille’s meeting is tonight to discuss a monthly rent for the apartment. As of right now, it is 10 euros/day. That’s pretty hefty considering I might not be allowed to have internet. (It’s up to the proviseur to “allow” me-I know you’re thinking wtf a basic privilege!) So 300 euros/month and I could get an apartment in town, internet possibilities and the CAF( French low income housing reimbursement).

Asside from these two things the apartment is great! Some gifts from the people who donate to the school included: a wok, a chocolate fondue maker (weird I know, I’ll never use it), a juicer (also never use), an electric kettle (necessity!!!!) and of course there is a microwave, hot plates (traditionally french) and a fridge. Perfect!

I can’t wait to start this Thursday. Sandrine called me tonight to see how I was doing since she didn’t see me today at school. She’s great!

Random things I’ve been meeting to comment about:

Sandrine said once in the car On va chercher le pain. Which means We’ll go get the bread. I find this curious because the is used instead of some. Anthropologically I think this comes from the fact that bread is a necessity in daily meals here. Neat that I’m able to make inferences regarding speech already!

One of the ladies today mentioned in passing (I don’t remember what we were talking about) that “Mais elle est ici pour apprendre le francais”. (But she is here to learn french). WOW. So not the case. It’s why I am here but not why they want me here. I’m actually here to teach English so it would be to there benefit to practice English with me. Tant pis, their loss! I’ll take any help/improvement I can while I’m here. I’m already noticing my lack of fear for trying new tenses. I try to stay in the present, use words I know well but lately I’ve been using the future, imperfect and passé composé. Next I hope to start using the subjunctive more often. I’m going to “re” buy a book on french grammar for practice since someone (I won’t name names) still has my reprise book!!! I’ll wait to buy it till I get paid. It’s not something I need and I’m trying to conserve funds to go somewhere for la Toussaint.

I miss Oli mostly here. At least when I was bored in Toronto I got to see Oli at night. I also miss talking to him. It’s different for us both since we both don’t have good Internet possibilities where we are. Hopefully that will be remedied soon. I don’t think I can go months without hearing his voice.

I also miss my friends and family. I hope you guys are reading this! Please comment!

Here is my new Address :

Lycée Polyvalent Th. Roussel

C/O Elizabeth DuShaw

15, Rue du docteur Yves Dalle

48200 St. Chély d’Apcher


[Note: Posted by Oli since Liz can't access Blogger]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 26, 2009

Sleep in day! Yay!!!! The weather was sort of grey today as you’ll see from the few photos I managed to take today of St. Chély. I woke up late to the cleaning lady complaining that she couldn’t get into my room because I was still sleeping. Whatever- I’m not on vacation so it’s not like I have anywhere to go. I went to the post office right away this morning so I could get stamps to send my post cards. Expect postcards people!!! I’ll mail them Monday once I’ve finished with them. After the post office, I walked down to Carrefour market. I wanted to get some fruit to eat and see if they had any prepared meals for me to eat today. I also wanted to get an organizer for all the paperwork I’ve started accumulating here. I didn’t see sheets there but they have clothes so I should be able to buy sheets there on Monday. Mostly I’ll need a heavy comforter or blanket right away since I brought one sheet with me. I’m so glad I have my pillow too. One less thing I’ll have to buy.

My mom called this afternoon, which was great. I’ve heard from my mom, Oli, Geraldine and Henry so far. I’m not homesick yet but it is nice to talk to something familiar. I was talking to Andrea online last night about why I chose this academie. It’s something familiar but something completely different. For example, I’m in the south where people generally take things slow, slower than normal french slowness. This is something I know how to deal with. However I’m in a small town where things are truly closed by 7 at night and not everything is open on the weekend, especially Sunday. I’m not sure what people do to occupy themselves.

It rained tonight for the first time since I came here. The streets were flooded with rainwater and since it is hilly here the water rushes down the street very fast.

September 27, 2009

Today was a lovely day. I went out in the morning and took some cute photos which I’ll post later. I read in the little park below the high school for a while too. There isn’t much to do here on Sundays or anywhere in france for that matter. I also took some good pictures of the high school where I’ll live. After I got back in the afternoon I wasn’t feeling good so I thought I’d eat some bread and cheese and also some nuts. Bad idea. I’ve not felt better yet. Hopefully this is just a passing thing and not a flare up. I’m praying I get better tomorrow. Also, as of tomorrow I won’t have regular internet for a while so my posts will become infrequent.

A la prochaine mes amis…

Friday, September 25, 2009

As the things start to roule...

September 25, 2009

I ate tongue for dinner last night. It wasn’t intentional but I had to eat it anyway since I ordered it. To be honest it wasn’t that bad. It was chewy like mussels are only it looks like a tongue sliced into pieces. I also had isle flottante. This is the most amazing dessert ever. Meringue and crème anglaise is the best combination of sweet and light.

Today was probably the longest day so far. I had to be the high school at 9 to go with Sandrine down to the middle school to meet the other English teachers. There is a total of four English teachers at the high school level and 3 at the middle school. I’m “to be shared” between them all. Since I’m administratively attached to the high school most of the things I’ll have to do will be at the high school instead of the middle school.

After I met the middle school teachers I went to Sandrine’s class with her to introduce myself. These students were younger and they have two years before they take their English exam. I liked them and they asked very interesting questions so I think this class will keep me on my toes!

I ate lunch at the cantine again. The food isn’t bad but I think I’ll reserve eating there for during lunch. I’m not sure how much the tickets are going to cost me to eat there so it may not be worth my while to eat there at all. After the cantine Sandrine drove me around the town to show me where important things are. I found out that St chely has two major groceries, Carrefour and ED; a cinima, la poste, a computer store and crafts store among other little stores. I’m glad that st chely isn’t as small as I thought.

Beatrice and I met with the proviseur this afternoon. He’s very nice. Everyone seems to tip toe around him though like he’s some powerful guy. It wasn’t like that with the middle school principal. I wonder what makes him so important?

After the meeting with the proviseur I went to the bank to sign my papers for the account. I'm so glad that was easy. I got the big thing done within two days! Now on to the apartment...

I also got to see the apartment in the school. I’ll have one of the three bedrooms there. The apartment is huge though! There is a very large cooking area with a small fridge, hot plates and a microwave. The secretary told me that all will be furnished including plates and the like. Since it’s the first year everything will be new!!! I’m so glad this is working out because I’ll be able to leave st. chely occasionally to have some fun. Not that St chely isn’t fun, its just there isn’t much to do here at all. Especially at night.

After I saw the apartment I went with Sandrine to her house for some tea. She is really very nice! She helped me call the mutuelle/la secu which is the health care system. I have to enroll in it when I start working October 1st. It’s a complicated system but hopefully after I send in the right paperwork all will be well. Sandrine’s house is about 3km from St. Chely. She lives in the country in this cool huge house. She says in the winter they can’t even use their cars to leave but a 4 by 4. What have I got myself into??? In any case Sandrine invited me back for dinner later that night. She is just soo great! She’s really helped me adjust to life here and feel welcome. Even though Beatrice is the person in charge of me, I don’t think she likes me very much. She seemed mad at me or something for the fact that Sandrine was helping me. Uh hello?? I’m alone-I’ll take any help I can at this point! I sincerely hope that Sandrine and I become friends. She is really a great person to talk to and I think she understands a lot of what I am going through. Whatever her motives are for helping me, I’ll take it!!!

I think tomorrow I am going to go take a walk down to Carrefour and the other part of town. I’m so ready for Saturday. Maybe if it is nice I’ll be able to read in the park by the little lake.

A la prochaine mes amis…..

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to get to the middle of nowhere

September 23, 2009

I feel like this is a sharp contrast to my first year abroad in France -the exact opposite in fact. I am alone, like before but everything is completely different. I don’t know if it’s because I’m different, france is different or because I’m going to a different area in France. To say the least, I AM SO HAPPY. Everyone has been so great with helping me and speaking in french to me. After talking to Oli, he suggested that the French speaking to me in french isn’t exactly nice but I’ll take it however they want to dish it out. I LOVE IT!

Getting to the train station with all my gear was so annoying. The guy at the hotel told me to go the train station and grab a “chariot” (cart) and bring it back to the hotel to take me suitcases there. I thought, well then I could get my tickets a sorted and not have to worry about my luggage. Unfortunately I wasn’t that smart and I didn’t want to make two trips. I slowly struggled through the 200m to the station. Once I got there I was covered in sweat and hungry again. (The hotel breakfast consisted of coffee and a croissant) In favor or saving my euros for the taxi in St Chely, I forgoed getting food and grabbed a water instead. This is where I meat Moha. He works at the Gare de Lyon welcome center. He was the nicest guy ever! He helped me with my luggage to the billet counter and then to my quai. At this point he asked for my number, which I felt bad not giving it to him so I just gave it to him. It’s not like I’m going to see him ever again and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings after he helped me so much. I consider it a win-win situation.

The train was interesting. A woman behind me started talking on her cell phone very loudly and the lady facing me kept rolling her eyes. I couldn’t help but laugh inside. There are signs posted everywhere about cell phone usage. Literally every two feet there is a sign that points to the area between cars where you can talk. The french even installed little rails where you can hold onto while in there. That’s where I put my luggage since there wasn’t any room in my car for it. That always worries me and Moha told me that at every stop I had to come back and check on it till be leave again. Thank god there were only three!

At this point, I’ve taken plane, train and bus to my destination. I got off the bus and literally wanted to cry. I was in the middle of nowhere literally. I saw houses and buildings clustered together but that was at least half a mile across the highway. There were no taxis, or anything in sight except for the small train/bus station. I left my bags outside and went inside the station. (There wasn’t anyone around to steal them.) I waited in line behind this girl buying something and finally got up to the counter where the guy called me a taxi. It cost me ten euros to get the hotel which was .7 miles away. I know, because I mapped it before I left in case I couldn’t get a taxi. What a rip off.

The hotel is nice. The owner is great, very welcoming and helpful. That’s one thing I can say for this trip. Everyone seems to be very nice. Maybe my french is just better. I CAN ONLY HOPE! I’m having dinner by myself downstairs tonight. This is a first for me among lots of firsts this time around. I never know what people do while eating alone. For me, eating has and will always be a social experience and I don’t like to do it alone. When I do have to eat alone, I usually eat something fast or quick in my own place.

I’m meeting Beatrice tomorrow morning. I’m nervous and excited at the same time for I don’t know what to expect. I hope the kids like me, I hope the school is nice (I won’t hold out for that one), I hope that my french doesn’t suck and most of all I hope they have internet and a place for me to live.

A la prochaine mes amis….

September 24, 2009

Wow. I didn’t realize how small of a town I was placed until I couldn’t get lost in it today. I thought I would need at least 30 minutes to find the office du tourisme and then acquire a map to get to the school for my meeting with Beatrice. What a joke. All that took me a maximum of ten minutes. I tried to wander a bit further down the main street but I’m just not that good at wandering. I have yet to find a real grocery store but there is an 8 à 8 across from my hotel. I think I may have to go into Mende (1 hour away) to get the other things I’ll eventually need.

While walking around this morning, I was shocked by the sound of music coming from speakers all around in the street. Then all of a sudden a voice came on and being announcing different activities going on for that day and the weekend. WEIRD. I thought I was crazy until I realized that other people went on doing what they were doing.

The teachers are amazing here! They are so welcoming and one even offered to let me stay with her in Mende whenever I want a break from St. Chely. The school is surprisingly very nice and up to date. They have internet- a big bonus for me if I live there. They also have marker boards, a brand new cafeteria and restaurant for the cooking students. Beatrice told me that in a few weeks the teachers will be able to eat in the restaurant. The high school is sort of split in two. There is a general high school with a bac prep and the other half is professional preparation.

Everything seems to be going smoothly here and I’m about to head down for another meal alone tonight. It’s kinda sad but I haven’t seen any places where younger people hang out. Looks like this is going to be my soberest year yet!

A la prochaine mes amis...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The last few memories in the U.S. + Paris

September 21, 2009

The late flight out is the best idea anyone ever had. I get to sleep, eat and get used to another life as I fly towards my new destination. I made it to the airport with hours to spare so I’ve decided to write and catch up my last few days in America.

Packing in Toronto was exhausting but I managed to get most of it done for Oli to take to storage. Oli leaves for Dubai this Friday so we’ll both be embarking on our new lives this week.

When we got home from Birch run on Saturday, we all relaxed and had a Thai dinner since neither Oli or myself will be able to have American – insert country name food. It was amazing but I can’t wait to have baguette again. That’s the first thing on my list eat when I arrive- un sandwhich au fromage.

Since coming back home this weekend, I experienced many things that I would describe as “only in America you can…” Oli would say this every time my parents or I would do something so typically American. I’d like to say that I’d miss these things but I won’t because quite frankly I’m a little embarrassed that they happened at all. For example, On Saturday night the cable television went out in our house. Within minutes my mom had called Comcast to see what the deal was with our cable. The guy had us check our Internet and then proceeded to schedule an appointment for the service man to come out and check the lines again. Then my mom called the neighbor to see if his cable eas working but he wasn’t home. Instead of just hanging up my mom left the longest message for him to call her back regarding the cable. I thought at this point our t.v addiction was severe but no, it gets worse. My dad gets home just as my mom is finishing her voicemail. Instead of my dad changing, eating his dinner and relaxing after work, the t.v must be fixed as soon as possible. So my in work clothes, starving is putting the bunny ears on the TV so we can at least watch tv. Low and behold guess what show pops up on the screen first? Wrestling. Of all the shows and stations that had to come on first it just had to be wrestling! At this point I can’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. I’m only hoping that the next time this occurs we take it as a sign that we should stop watching t.v. and spend some quality time together.

I hope the flight remains calm and I can make it to St. Chély in one piece with all my gear. My cooler already ripped on the side but I think the ice packs will keep everything cool enough till Paris.

A la prochaine mes amis…

September 22, 2009

I made it to Paris! I was/am still very tired from the flight because I couldn’t really sleep. I tried to take the shuttle bus downtown to the gare de lyon but after putting my huge load on a airport cart I realized a taxi is the better way to go. I tried to negotiate a fixed price with the cab driver but he didn’t wasn’t going for it. He told me since I requested a van and I didn’t have enough cash that he couldn’t do that. In the end it was so worth it though because he pulled right up to my hotel and there is no way I would have found the tiny street on my own.

The hotel was amazing! The receptionist was very helpful. He showed me the fridge and allowed me to refreeze my ice packets. I’m so glad this worked out because the ice was starting to thaw a bit. The receptionist also helped me find a monoprix and phone store to buy a new sim card. I got orange mostly because I was desperate to have a working phone for tomorrow. I hope I don’t come to regret my impulse decision. After I got my new sim card, I grabbed un sandwich au fromage jambon. YUMMMMMM. I missed that so much! At this point I feel completely delirious and tired. I had to take a nap.

Maybe tomorrow will bring a restful day and possibilities to go out and enjoy Paris!

A la prochaine mes amis….

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm about to embark upon yet again another séjour in France. This time the French are throwing me a whole different basket of flowers. I'll be teaching english...yes...english. I'll be in St. Chély d'Apcher which is a small town north of Montpellier. Very, very, very north. I'm excited and nervous because this time around I'll be on my own, and away from everyone I know.

There are a few things I hope to accomplish or experience before the end of April:
1.) Finally be fluent in French.
2.) Make at least one lasting friendship with a French person
3.) Read 5 classic french novels
4.) See Normandy finally!
5.) Learn at least five new classic french dishes from my area!

17 more days!