30 October 2009

22eme anniversaire

I had a really great 22nd birthday!

In the morning Ryan, Mel, J-C, and I went to see the new Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates (or as the French call it, Clones). It was a decent enough movie to hold my attention. You really can’t go wrong with a Bruce Willis movie… in my opinion. When we got home we all played a rousing game of McDonald’s Happy Meal version of French Trivial Pursuit. The questions were things like “Where is the Great Wall?” I won!

In the afternoon Ryan and I went on a little touristy adventure to tahe Opera district. I wanted to get out of the apartment, but I also didn’t want to spend any money so we went to the Galleries Lafayette (a huge French department store… and I mean HUGE). We didn’t do any high-end shopping, though. Instead, we made our way up to the rooftop viewing deck on the “8th floor” (yeah, you only have to go up 8 floors to get a view of the whole city). Despite the sun being directly behind the Eiffel Tower, and the fact that you could only see from one side of the roof, the view was fantastic.

Once back on ground level, we walked around the district and eventually ended up in the Jardin des Tuileries. Fall is so pretty! The leaves have all become a gorgeous shade of orange and red, and I love crunching the fallen leaves while I walk. It reminds me of walking to school when I was a kid. Awww…

When we got back to the apartment Ryan and I watched an episode or two of Arrested Development. Ryan downloaded the entire series, and we happened to finish the last episode yesterday. I’m pretty bummed about this, not only because I think the show is absolutely genius, but also because both our cable and internet are currently en panne so there’s not much else to watch. Seriously, French TV has limited enough options when you DO have cable. Now the only thing on is “Mon incroyable anniversaire” (My Super Sweet 16 dubbed in French). Though the people on the show somehow seem less idiotic when you can’t understand everything they say…

ANYWAY, for dinner Ryan and I went to a restaurant in my neighborhood called Inédit that Mel had recommended. It was grrrreat! I had grilled salmon with green beans and curry sauce (this was quite adventurous for me), and Ryan had rognons de veau. We knew that veau, meant “veal”, but he didn’t want to know what rognon meant until after he had finished his plate. When we got home we learned that rognon means kidney. Ryan ate kidneys for dinner.

At home a cake was waiting for me! So we ate some cake and I received a much needed, European friendly curling iron and some Sudoku books, which will be excellent for my commute to work and back.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! Our internet is back on now (I wrote this blog entry on Microsoft Word while it was down).

27 October 2009


Yay, vacances! Too bad I'm completely broke so I can't travel, but here are the positives: (1) I live in Paris, (2) Ryan is broke, too so we have each other! (3) I live in Paris, and (4) I live in PARIS.

Today I think we're going to meet up with another assistant in Chinatown, since chinatowns all over the world are known for being CHEAP!

It would be fun to have a scavanger hunt in Paris. All it would cost is the price for a daily metro ticket (or free for most assistants who already have a monthly pass... free being a word I use loosely since it cost me 111 euros).

So this past weekend Ryan and I treked over to the west side of the city to find the Statue of Liberty's much smaller twin sister.

A boucherie, poissonnerie, fromagerie, and boulangerie (I think) all in a row!

Didn't mean to cut out Ryan, I swear!

There she is! Ryan has better pictures from when we walked up to the statue (my camera died).

Practice with the self timer!

Taking Bosley for a walk... she saw a pidgin and was no longer interested in having her picture taken.

This is a picture of my bedroom.

22 October 2009

Lunchtime at JM

Start time: between 11:45 and noon

  • First comes some sort of salad dish.

  • Lunch consists of some sort of meat, egg, pasta, or other main dish with vegetables and is eaten with a piece of bread (always a baguette). The bread is always set on the table rather than on the plate.

  • Fork in the left hand, knife in the right. No switching!

  • Water is the only beverage consumed while eating and is poured into tiny glasses.

  • Constant chatter-- complaints about parents scheduling doctors appointments during school and the like.

  • Finish up that bread with a piece of cheese and wipe up your plate.

  • Done with food? Time for one out of two daily yogurt servings. Natural with a packet of sugar tossed in or vanilla flavored. Activia is the most popular. Go digestive system!

  • Now for the fruit. It's October so I see a lot of clementines, pears, and apples... bananas too.

  • Everyone has a yogurt and then fruit. I ate my banana before my yogurt and received weird looks.

  • Lunch is done, time for some coffee or tea! Oh and a piece of chocolate... hooray!!!

End time: 12:30... still an hour left of lunchtime!

20 October 2009

Today a grève: Welcome to France

There are some very wonderful things about socialism in France. For instance, I have had health care from the beginning of my official residency. Downside? I have not the slightest idea how to access it because I do not have my social security number nor my carte vitale (the French « credit card » of medical information that you take with you to the doctor). It's no big deal though because the pharmacists here have much more freedom to prescribe medications than in good ol' USA, so if I need something I can more than likely get it regardless.

I will not bore you with the details of how many hours I have wasted trying to figure out how to get my social security information. The best advice I've received on how to deal with any sort of stressful situation in France? Sit back, have a glass of wine and some delicious chocolate and don't worry about it. I'm trying!(Another great thing about France is that you can buy a delicious bottle of wine for only €2 (about 3 USD)-- probably the least expensive thing in the whole country). Apparently the government will send me everything I need to know via snail mail...eventually.

Example number two of socialism at its best: the attitude towards work in France. We French work because it allows us to live a comfortable life and contributes to society... oh and it helps us to finance our luxury items (like dog grooming which costs upwards of €60 in Paris). This laissez faire attitude is great when you are the employee. Hardly anyone ever gets fired from their jobs and most people pick a job and stick with it for life (the French take this so seriously that when France telecom recently started going capitalist and telling their employees that they could relocate or lose their jobs they took it as life or death. Seriously. So far 25 have committed suicide and it is all over the news).

The downside? How about when you go to a café and ask for a coffee and the waiter says « non ». He's not working for tips so what does he care? But as long as you can master that whole sit back and relax thing you really can't go wrong in la belle France!

This brings me to my original point. This week is apperantly some type of socialism week in France, so the train companies decided that they would celebrate by doing what the French do best: faire la grève (go on strike). What tickles me about this strike is that they publicly announced the start and stop times. Oh France, you're so cute with your grèves.In preparation for a horrific commute to work I gave myself 2 ½ hours to get to work. It only took me 1 hour (it usually takes over an hour). What?! Oui.

So I arrive at 9:15 and have class with Monsieur Lelong at 10h:15, the directrice tells me that Monsieur Lelong is out sick today so I need to prepare the whole gym lesson in English. No problem. I have a whole « Head, shoulders, knees, and toes » lesson planned out including a game of « Simon says » at the end of the class if the kids are good. I walk up to the classroom at 10:30 and the directrice appears. « You wont be working with the kids today because you are not allowed to work with a substitute teacher » she tells me, « you can use this time for preparation. Preparation for what exactly?So now its 11:45 and here I am « preparing » for class that I don't have until 3:00.

Am I stressed about this? Nah. I'm trying on this whole relaxed attitude thing. In fact, I've taken a nap almost every day that I've been here. I've hardly ever purposefully taken a nap in my life.

Vive la France!!!!!

19 October 2009

Lille: take one

This past weekend I rendered a visit to Ryan in Lille, France! I left Paris by train on Friday at 4:30pm and arrived in Lille at 5:45. I was welcomed by Ryan and a sea of black pea coats.

Here are some pictures from the city on Saturday:

Ryan's chicken and curry sandwich

My chicken sandwich! The first time I've eaten chicken in over a year. SO GOOD!

Sitting by the fountain in Lille

Walkin' around town

A cute flower shop

At an international organic farming market

Drinking tea and cappuccino at an adorable salon du thé in Lille

More to come later about dinner in Belgium!

14 October 2009

Officially left 1 month ago!

When asked the question What did you do in France? I will reply "I got caught up on all episodes of Sex and the City and became obsessed with the show Gossip Girl." Oh well, I love these shows so I'll forgive myself.

October 13, 2009: Marché

Mel, Baba, and I went to the marché yesterday. I finally found some brown boots (only €15 or about $20 ) and some delicous strawberries.

October 14, 2009: Promenade plantée

12 October 2009

What do you want to know about?

The 3-and-a-half day weekend has made my brain turn to mush. In this blog entry I'm probably going to do a lot of babbling. The thing is, I have been studying French language and culture for many years, and so there are certain things about France that do not shock/amaze me like they would someone who did not spend their college years as the president of French club. I want to know what YOU, my readers, would like to know about life here. Please write me some comments with your questions about my life in France! This blog is a 2-way street-- I want to keep in touch with you all.


Though I wouldn't say that I came to France because I was dying to teach English to children, that is what I am being paid to do, so I might as well discuss my job here. I've been in Europe for about a month now and I have barely started working. In two weeks we have
the vacances de Toussaint and I won't have to work for a week and a half. Excellent!

As far as I can tell, I will be working Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (remember, a maximum of 12 hours a week). As far as the job itself is concerned, the children love to talk to me. I'm not sure how long this will last. Right now I am the new and exciting maitresse d'angalis, but I fear that they will eventually begin to treat me as they treat their other teachers-- with disrespect. The teachers are all great, and now that they know my level of French, they are not afraid to talk to me.

Luckily, being placed in Versailles and living in Paris, there is no shortage of assistants to meet. I feel that I have made some really great friends. Yay me! On top of that, it's nice to have people around at home. I know a few assistants who live alone or with strangers, and they don't seem to be having the same stress-free experience as me. Alexis, Julie, and I even made some French friends. They are guys, but don't fret, they are not creepy... thank God! I enjoy hanging out in a group of people. Also, Alexis lives very close to me (a 10 minute walk), so we have *attempted* to run errands together. Today we're going to the social security office and then to see a movie!

Visiting Ryan!
I haven't seen Ryan since he left Paris 2 weeks ago. It wasn't really possible before he found an apartment. Now that he has somewhere to live, I plan on visiting him in Lille this coming weekend. I'm excited to see him and to visit a new city :) Train tickets between Lille and Paris aren't too expensive, and I hope that we can see each other every 2 or 3 weeks. We are having very different experiences so it will be fun to share stories!

Other things I've been doing:
  • grocery shopping
  • graduate school research/ studying for the gre in paris
  • going to the market
  • watching tv
  • cooking delicous food/eating Melanie's delicious food
  • trying desperately to improve my French
  • eventually I would like to make a list of the ridiculous bureaucratic nightmares that I encounter
  • on Wednesday I am going to the coiffeur
All in all life is pretty... normal.

07 October 2009

Bon Anniversaire Maman!

Today is my mom's 50th birthday! Happy Birthday Momma!

I didn't feel completely out of my comfort zone until Monday. On Monday I got to wake up at 6:00am and take the métro to Corbeil-- the town in which I will be teaching-- for the first time. It was a dark and rainy day. "That's Paris," you say, but it had been sunny and beautiful every single day until this Monday. What a strange day it was, and it absolutely must be documented. I must warn you now that I found it difficult to stay focused while writing this story and as a result I have inserted many digressions. I hope it is not too hard to follow...

First of all, I completely screwed-up what should have been a very simple commute by getting on the métro going the wrong way... twice. Somehow, though, I managed to make it to the Corbeil train station on time.

(Side note: as I was typing just now my computer decided it wanted to become a French keyboard and typed the previous sentence as such: So,ehoz; though; I ,qnqged to ,qke it to the trqin stqtion on ti,e:... I digress. I didn't know my computer was smart enough to become French, but why would it choose to do this while I am clearly writing in English?!)

Anyway! At the train station I met Alana (another English language assistant from Toronto who is very nice) and my Conseilleuse pédagogique, Françoise, (the woman in charge of making sure I am well integrated into the school). We hopped into François's very French car and drove around the medieval town while Françoise blabbed on and on about the town's history in French (mind you, it is before 9:00 in the morning and I had only had a cup of instant coffee in the morning so my brain was not ready to focus on computing a foreign language).

After a stop at the administrative building, Françoise took us to the Picasso elementary school where Alana will teach. When we arrived the directrice (equivalent to an American principal) of the school offered us coffee and cookies and we chatted about assistant life for what seemed like a couple of hours. During this time as well as the rest of the day I started to realize that Françoise is the type of person who likes to (a) make comparisons between people, (b) talk about people after they have left the room, and (c) appear as though she is much more nurturing and caring than either of the previously mentioned characteristics permit. Otherwise, everyone at Picasso seemed nice enough, but it was not my school, so I was a bit anxious to see what JM would be like!

JM elementary school. It's a "temporary" building next to the lot where they plan to build the real Jean Macé elementary school. This temporary structure has served as the school's primary building for many years, I learned when Françoise pointed this out when we arrived. She kept saying things like "This school is not as innovative as Picasso!" in a sarcastic tone, suggesting that it was JM's fault that they didn't receive the funding for video conferencing. I had a feeling we wouldn't be sipping café with the directrice for 2 hours at my school...

I met the directrice, and she is very excited to have me at the school. Françoise and the directrice, Monique, took me to the teacher's lounge for lunch. The teachers were sitting at rectangular tables arranged in a circle, and they looked stressed as they tried to eat lunch and prepare lesson plans during their 2 hour lunch break! When they saw Françoise walk into the room with me and the directrice they did not look pleased. In fact, they had no idea that I was coming. WELCOME TO FRANCE!

So the teachers and Françoise proceed to have a 20 minute spat about why I was there and how frustrated they are that they have to fit me into their already hectic schedules. Don't worry though, I could tell that it wasn't a personal attack, but seriously... I came all the way to France and they have no idea what to do with me.

The teachers gossiped with me during recess (they are all very very nice AND funny) and told me why they detest my conseilleuse. They made me feel very welcome in the school, though I'm still not sure exactly what I'll be doing there. I read the story "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?" to the students (7-9 years old) during one of the classes and they found me absolutely fascinating. Their English is very basic, but the brave ones like to come up to me and say "Hello!", which sounds more like "ello!" and ask me what my name is. It's amazing how something so easy for me can be so interesting to them!

I feel that there is so much more going on, but I can't possibly write about all of it. I have met so many interesting people this past week!

04 October 2009

Dear friends,

Show me some love and write me some comments.

03 October 2009

Orientation and French TV

I suppose on this Saturday morning I could take some time to make a record of what I actually *officially* came here to do... and that is teach English to Frenchies.

Though I have not yet taught a class or even been to my school, I did have orientation on Thursday and Friday which went well except for the whole getting ridiculously lost in the suburb of Evry thing. No big deal... I was with 2 other girls (because getting lost in a group is somehow more comforting than getting lost alone), and we eventually made it to our orientation.

At orientation we filled out a ton of paperwork, took a long lunch break, and then learned some more about our job. On the second day of orientation we basically did the same thing. I met lots of other assistants and they are all quite nice!

Last night Francois and I watched the French version of Next-- you know, that horrible dating show on MTV? Yeah, they have a French version. I realized that if I can grow to understand what people are saying on that show I will be very impressed with my French comprehension skills. Then we watched the French version of Survivor, which is actually called something else but is JUST LIKE SURVIVOR. Unfortuantely my man Freddy was voted off the island.

01 October 2009

V_ LT_ _R_

Yesterday I learned that only the rejects of the French population play "La Roue de la fortune!"... the French translation of "Wheel of Fortune". There's a Vanna-like woman and everything.

When I turned it on I figured it was just another French tv game show that I wouldn't understand. And considering the fact that I fail miserably at the American version, I wasn't really expecting to understand any of it.

So the clue for the first round is "écrivain" (author), and the board says "V_LT_ _R_". Everyone playing the game seems completely distressed. Seriously? Now I would never claim to be a French literature guru, but seriously?

"It's VOLTAIRE, you fools!" I shouted at the screen.

On the next round the contestants all failed to remember the first name of the artist Monet. "Is it Jean?" one of the girls asked in French.

I think I'll be watching this show more often.

Oh, and today I had my first day of work.