понедельник, 8 октября 2007 г.

ionoharenni: En France - First two weeks

Well here I am using Livejournal again. I'm not even sure if anyone I know even uses this anymore, it seems so high schoolish (even though I didn't get an account until I was a sophomore in college, but it still has that feel). But anyway, I'm once again abroad like when I first started this up over three years ago (already!), and I'm using again mostly for myself: my own journal, but also so I don't have to write the same stuff over and over again to different friends when I want to update people about my trip. So here anyone can check on my whereabouts and what I've been up to at their own leisure and I can also have a record for myself of my adventures. So anyone else reading this please keep in mind that this is my journal, and I will treat it as such, so if descriptions get too lengthy or I'm talking about stuff you're not interested in all, skim or something, you know? And comments are certainly more than welcome! Here goes: Monday September 24th I was debating on starting further back than this but that's all just really emotional, or errands and packing really. Well, and the really rather touching moments I had with certain people but I gotta start somewhere and I think my actual departure makes more sense. The airport was exciting as always, but not nearly as much as it had been in the past. This time I just felt differently about this trip. Really rather torn between being overly excited about going and desperately wanting to stay. Of course since being in Montreal I was bombarded by French right away, but not necessarily a French I understand and I also wasn't ready to give up speaking English. Mallyn and Mom came with me to see me off which was really nice, and surprisingly easy and hard. In the end Mom and I decided not to cry, right when we were both ready to burst into tears. Good display of willpower on both our parts. I think I'd really gotten all the crying I could possibly do the days previous with Christopher. I knew I would miss my Mom, Mallyn and all my friends ( and believe me, I do) but it's so different with them because I know that when I come back they will feel the same for me as they did when I left. I don't have that certainty with Christopher which made it so hard to leave him because I could lose all that I had with him which absolutely petrifies me. My outlook is simply to remain positive and confident in my feelings regardless of what they are. I suppose my heart will always find a way to keep beating. The plane ride was actually really decent. As soon as the plane lifted off the ground, I got that surge of excitement that only happens at that precise moment. Being physically disconnected from the ground certainly gives me the realization that I'm on my way to somewhere completely different and rather far away. That surge of excitement gave me enough energy to stay awake until after the on flight meal was served. I was so exhausted from all my emotions, the physical running around, and the lack of sleep I'd been getting all week. I passed out before the meal was even cleared from my pull-down tray. I was immensely lucky, for there was no one in the seat next to me, so I could actually lay down (a little). I curled up with my Batman squishy and didn't waken until there was an announcement about breakfast. September 25th Carting all of my luggage (including my bike, which I brought with me) across the airport to the train station (which, luckily is located in the airport) should have been the most difficult part of landing. However, instead it was dealing with being hit on, helped by, and checked on my some random black French airport employee. I was standing under a sign where I believed a shuttle would arrive to take me to the train station when he walked by and commented on my shirt. I, of course, wasn't really sure what he was talking about, but being French, and thus way more forward than American guys, he decided to lag behind his friends and find out what I was up to. Well, it was good in certain ways since he helped me cart all my stuff across the airport, was really nice, and showed me exactly where to go (well almost), but on the other hand, he only spoke French, which I did pretty well with, however, he was asking me whether or not I had a husband? fiance? boyfriend? any man at all that I was meeting up with? no? ok, would I like to go home with him and spend the night at his place? no? you sure? No, strange man I've never met before, I do NOT want to go home with you, uh, thanks. So I took his number to make him happy and figured he was just going to leave me at my stop and be out of my life forever. Well, he came to check on me an hour later. CREEPY!! Needless to say, I didn't call and never will. It was really rather difficult, but I did manage to get all my luggage on the train, transfer to another train in Rennes and arrive in Vannes with everything. Yey! But it wasn't until I was on the train from Rennes on the way to Vannes that it finally hit me that I was in France. And do you know why? The people on the train smell French. I know what everyone who isn't me is thinking... French people must stink. No, not quite (of course some do, but that's not what I'm getting at here). French people use different soaps and body washes, eat different food which in turn affects the way their sweat smells, and certainly other factors. I realized I was in France at that moment because it was a familiar smell which I haven't encountered in six years! I got a sudden rush of memories I had experienced in so long, both good and bad. It really does make a lot of sense when you realize that scent is the sense closest related to memory. It was a rather odd moment in my life that I doubt I'll ever forget. Once in Vannes I met up with Christine (the head of the english dept at the lycee I'm assigned to), her husband, Phillipe, and Rachel (the other English assistant at Lycee Lesage, who is from England). We both spent the night at the Joucla's, where we discussed the days to come, our backgrounds, and had a typically French dinner. Where afterwards I bathed and went soundly to sleep. Sept 26th Thankfully we were expected to sleep in Wednesday. Wednesdays in France are usually only half days for students (and teachers, like Christine) so I got up just in time to eat lunch. Once again, deliciously French. Christine took Rachel and I to the lycee to our free boarding there. We were amazingly surprised to discover that the free accommodations provided by the school were rather large, modern, and clean. Hey, not so bad. At that point I was seriously convinced I would just get along the best I could at the lycee for the year. This would soon change, actually the very next day I would have decided to move off ASAP. However, with the thought of staying currently in my head, I set to the task of unpacking and setting up a living situation for the first time in about 5 months. After several hours of unpacking and random errands, Rachel and I decided to have a bit of a stroll around town. We found the downtown and I was immediately struck by the beauty of the old section of the city. The buildings are all so old and French in the centre. The style is so French and Celtic and Medieval. The roads are all mostly cobblestone, and the whole area just emanates a richness of culture and history. Fantastique! The Gulf of Morbihan is rather large, and the port that comes right into the city is actually pretty far away from the sea. I will definitely be figuring out how to get to the sea and biking there when I can in the future... Sept 27th In the afternoon we met Christine in the teacher's lounge at the school to become acquainted with the other English teachers we'd be working with (and some of the other teachers who are interested in meeting us). I still don't know many of their names, but they were all very nice. I had my first lunch at the lycee cantine, and is it ever leaps and bounds ahead of high school lunches in the states. Incredible! There was no way I could eat it all, so I tend to steal anything that will keep for later. The rest of the afternoon was a hunt for the internet. Turns out that we can't check our emails, bank accounts, facebook or anything like that on the computers at school. How incredibly lame! And even lamer still, the only internet cafe we found cost 2 Euros for half an hour!! That's like $3.50. So nutz. Thus, I don't get much time on the internet, and that's the reason I haven't really been in contact since I've left. In fact, I'm writing this at home on my computer and then loading it onto a computer when I get to the cafe later... At the internet cafe I confirmed the get together that was occurring in Rennes and decided to get on the move so I could get there at a reasonable time. Rachel couldn't go because she had a meeting the next morning at 9, so I had to wander around looking for the trainstation on my own. It wasn't too hard, and I made it to Rennes around 9pm. However, I got a bit lost once in Rennes and didn't meet up with the other assistants until around 10. haha A really nice former assistant who stayed in France w/ her boyfriend came to meet me when I got lost and she ended up being really cool. I had a lot of fun that night. There are about 15 assistants in Rennes, so I got a bit jealous, but I know I could totally have it worse, so I'm still thankful to be in Vannes. I went out to eat at a Creperie (delicious) and then out dancing at a club. We danced until 3am, and I got along really well with those who stayed out, namely Colleen (American), Dave(English/French), Davey, Helena and Claire(all English). French boys also enjoy dancing, however, they're a lot like Quebequois boys, and try to grind all over you. Thankfully Dave is a big enough guy to discourage anyone who was getting a bit too close. Claire and I ended up spending the night at Colleen and Dave's appartment, where I absolutely froze the whole night. O well, free bed! Sept 28 The next morning we didn't all get up until around 2 or so. After a shower and some tea, Claire and I were off. She was heading home, and I downtown to find the FNAC (an electronics, books, music, movies store) to buy an adapter. I wandered around FNAC and downtown Rennes for several hours (really I just got lost a bit) and finally made my way back to the trainstation around 7. I have never walked around so much, well, not since the last time I was abroad in Australia. Hopefully with all this walking, I won't be gaining the typical 20 lbs that I have in the past in foreign countries (but as it stands now, I've actually lost a few lbs)! Yuri and Aurelien came to visit later that evening and took Rachel and I out for drinks and a tour around Vannes. She had been helping me along the whole time, and this was the first time I actually met her. She reminds me soooo much of someone, but I just can't figure out who. Her and Aurelien are just as nice as I expected, probably more. They showed us some really useful stuff around Vannes, unfortunately I can't for the life of me remember where most of it was since I didn't know where I even was at the time. Sept 29th Yuri and Aurelien came to fetch us in the afternoon to take us to the market in downtown which happens every Wednesday and Saturday. This market truly sprawls! It was a lot of fun wandering around, but I must admit a little difficult with a couple. I kinda forgot how attached people get to each other when they're a couple and then I began to get sad because I missed Christopher. I miss him all the time... Afterwards Yuri, Rachel and I went to eat at creperie while we waited for Yuri's old landlord to come meet us. Rachel and I decided to take a look at the appartment that Yuri lived in last year bc we become more and more convinced that we would be better off not living at the lycee. The reasons being mostly that 1. We're not allowed to have anyone over, EVER. 2. No internet or telephone line in our rooms 3. Shoddy kitchen set up, and 4. Mostly an overall better experience would be available to us if we lived downtown. PLUS, Yuri reminded us that after the CAF (a subsidization for low income individuals), we'd only be paying around 80-90 euros a month ($120-140), Utilities Included!! After seeing the appartment it was pretty much a "HELL YES!!" from Rachel and I and we signed the lease immediately. It's the first lease I've ever signed. I'm so adult. I'm not sure, but I think this means I'm officially grown-up now. CRAZY. So, the appartment is fully furnished with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a toilet closet and a kitchen. There's no living room area, but our bedrooms are HUGE. I've got the smaller one since Rachel will be here for a month longer than I plan on being, so he room is REALLY big, and thus doubles as the livingroom. We even have a futon, a chair that becomes a bed, and a washing machine! I love this little place! When I go out into the street I can look left and see one of the original old doors from the Medival walls that surrounded the city and look onto the port. I can't believe the luck! The lycee is only a 15 minute walk from here (5-10 minutes on a bike, I imagine even shorter if I knew the shortest route...) and well, I'm downtown, so that's minutes from everything. However, Vannes is a bourgeois city, so there isn't much of a night life, but there are a few bars and clubs here and there. Aurelien came to fetch us for a hike around a nearby pennisula called Concleau. We went on a rather extensive little hike that I didn't realize I would have to muster up the energy for. SO MUCH WALKING. We all meet back up at the Joucla's for dinner, and well, that was the last time I had access to the internet. It sucks. Everything is so expensive to set up and takes a million years to get going! Someday I'll be on the internet again... Anyway, dinner was absolutely amazing, as French dinner almost always is. I was so full I didn't really know what to do with myself. Afterwards us "kids" went out to meet up with another assistant who was friends with Yuri, Samantha (she also has a French boyfriend and has lived in the area for four years now). We didn't stay out long though, bc Yuri was sick, and honestly I was glad to go back bc I was really tired from a long day. Sept 30th Later in the afternoon Yuri and Aurelien came once again to fetch us at the lycee, but this would be the last time, for they offered to help us move our stuff to our new appartment! How exciting! They left pretty much straight afterwards, but we were sooo grateful for their help, bc otherwise it would have taken like three trips each, carting our stuff downtown. The rest of our day was spent discovering the appartment (there was a lot of really helpful things left behind here and there) and setting up our rooms. We went out for a nice little dinner at a fancy little pizza place and, of course, watched Heroes (OMG I'm so addicted to this show now!) October 1st First day of classes! I had two classes, the first one right away at 8am!!!!!! All I did was introduce myself to the class by briefly describing my background, studies, travels, etc which would have only lasted about 5-8 mins if I talked like I usually do, but I had to seriously slow down for these kids since they aren't used to listening to English and need to also get used to my accent. Afterwards they made up some questions in groups to ask, and once every group had asked me one question and I had answered, the hour was up! I did that for both classes, and it was really a lot of fun! October 2nd The classes I had today where remarkably more difficult than the day previous. My first class was a group of Terminale (Seniors) who were rather rowdy, but not too bad. It was the next two hours of classes that really wore me down and made me worried about this job: Seconde (sophomores). I only had about 8 in each class, but it was like pulling teeth with these kids. Plus these classes were the first ones I conducted entirely by myself! I figured I'd go with the original pattern of introductions and questions, but they're level of English is very basic. They understand practically nothing of what I said! I had to repeat and write almost every other word on the board. So when I finally got through introducing myself (which by that point was getting really boring and repetitive for me) I tried to give them some time to think of questions to ask. Instead they just stared at me wide eyed and confused. No questions. So instead I asked them questions. No responses. I was in trouble. I had nothing else planned. After getting a few words out of them, and even giving them the opportunity to speak to me in French, and I respond in English, they still had nothing to offer. I finally gave up and let them talk among themselves for the last few minutes will I quickly tried to figure out how to avoid this in the future. Luckily the next group (same class) was a lot more responsive and I actually didn't have those problems. They were still dumbfounded most of the time by what I was telling them, but they certainly seemed to try harder. Or maybe I was getting better at making them try, who knows? Anyway, I'm a bit worried about that class, but I can repeat the same lesson two weeks (four times) since I only get half the group every other week which gives me a few tries each time to work out the kinks and get to know which groups respond better to different stuff. I think I'll mostly try to play as many games as possible with these guys.... October 3rd Happy birthday Mom!! Well, already a day off! hahaha, I have every Wednesday off! Weee, not only do I only have 12 hrs of class a week, but I only work four days! Awesome. Plus paid vacations and health care! I actually got a lot done on my day off. Cleaned up my room, but away my laundry (which took THREE days to dry... I didn't really know how to work the washing machine yet...) went to the market ( I got free onions! I love being a cute girl, so many random free things!) and assemled my bike. Rachel met up with some other assistants who were in Vannes for their orientation training and they planned their first lesson together. After calling my mom, we met up with them later that evening for drinks and they ended up being really cool. Too bad, though, since they both live rather far away in towns in the middle of the country. Poor girls. It's assignments like theirs that make me so glad to be in Vannes. I wish them the best of luck, and told them they were welcome to come stay weekends w/ us whenever. We hopefully going to go Bar Golfing in Rennes over the Toussaint holidays at the end of the month. October 4th This was another day off from lessons, but instead I spent the whole day at an orientation for all the language assistants in the Morbihan area. Before going I thought it was going to be fun day of mingling with the other assistants and making friends in the area. No such luck. Instead I spent the whole day in lectures. The morning lecture was completely worthless and made everyone angry because it was so early and we all felt we could have been doing better things than sitting there struggling to stay awake. The second lecture was actually really helpful because it was all about the forms and running around we need to do in order to become French citizens and stay longer than three months. I really gotta get to work on all that because I'm not allowed to travel outside of France before that's all settled. Not that I plan on it since I'm not really sure how much money I have left and I don't get paid until the end of October. After lunch we did some stuff that was actually worth our time as well. We were all sectioned off based on the language we were assistants in, and taught different games and techniques to make us good assistants. I was really thankful for that because I'm worried about my Secondes since they are so difficult and have such little English to work with. We did, of course, meet some people, which was good. I meet a woman originally from Canada, Tonya, who came over with Rotary the year after she graduated and ended up marrying her host brother years later! So crazy. So she has two kids and is working on a third so I offered to babysit, and was she every happy! So hopefully I'll get to hang out with some cute kids sometimes and get paid a little extra money! There are two other English assistants in Vannes, as well as a Spanish and German assistant (those two are actually at Lesage too!), which is really good to know, but I really want to have some people to hang out with. October 5th Back to classes. Sort of. I only had two, but one wasn't ready for me yet, and the other is a free period for anyone to come and speak english with me, and only two girls showed up! haha, we had a good time, and even ended up chatting the whole time even though we could have left after 20 minutes! I think I'll really like Friday classes, they're all upper level students who WANT to improve their English. The box I sent myself before leaving came in (really quickly, actually) so Christine drove me home so I could take it out of her car. Samantha invited Rachel and I to see an English movie at the local theater called Death at a Funeral. Typically English, but actually really funny! And Wash from Firefly was in it, and he had a really hysterical part. lol Afterwards we met up with the other assistants for a few drinks at the bar near the port. Sitting there looking around and drinking a few glasses of wine made me really happy to be in France. I felt then that I was really lucky to be here. Sometimes it's really hard to feel that way, but I know that it's still early and I'm still adjusting. It's really just kinda hard to be practically alone all the time when I was so used to having so many friends around me. October 6th Rachel and I went to meet one of our English teachers for some tea and cakes. We talked about what she wants us to do with our lessons and she asked us about ourselves. Let me tell you, I can recite my personal information without even thinking about it anymore! The really great thing was that she took us to a big supermarket for our first food shopping. What a crazy experience. We bought so much because we needed all the simple things like mayonnaise, oil, butter, etc that you don't usually buy every time. I actually did a good job of staying in budget because I haven't been able to get to the internet in over a week so I have no idea how much money I have. Booo. Going to the grocery store finally and cooking our first French dinner was really quite a highlight, even if it seems pretty mundane. October 7th Kind of a hard day. Sundays always are in my opinion. There's never really anything exciting to do, and your always expected to just sit around or do work. I did a combination of both. I did finally get out jogging and it was really rather pleasant so I think I really will keep it up. I got a lot of my work done, and even drew Shorty's tattoo! All I did was draw the outline of the lady, so I still have to draw a few outfits and have her choose one before I color it and whatnot, but at least I finally did it!! Since I don't really have much else to say about the day, I'll take a minute to say a few words about Rachel. I'm really really lucky to have her. If it weren't for her, I really would be alone all the time, and although it gets kind of hard sometimes to be around the same person all the time, we get along very well. We've been watching Heroes, which we unfortunately finished tonight, so sad! She from lower London and keeps chastising herself for picking up the way I talk. haha However, I have noticed that I say stuff the way she does sometimes, which is pretty weird. Well, I think I'm off to call Christopher. I won't be dissecting my entries down into daily excerpts in the future, it's just that the first week or so is usually full of different occurrences enough to do so. I imagine that life will settle into being less eventful, and I'll just comment on the more interesting stuff in the future. If anyone actually is reading, Congratulations for getting through all that! Please leave me comments, I miss everyone soooo much! <3

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