Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts from places

(title stolen shamelessly from John Green)

Every time I try to write a blog entry, I always feel like I need to make it some big, moving, completely recapitulative project, but then I just wind up listing things in my life that are going well. I think that's okay, too.

So, for anyone who knows me, I generally multi-task EVERYTHING. The other reason why it takes me so long to write blog entries is because I start one, but then I have a million other things going on in other windows, and I get lost in them for awhile. Right now, I've got pandora, youtube, my bank account, and my Excel spreadsheet of my budget until I leave.

I think this multi-tasking is also a pretty good representation of how I deal with things in my life, too. Namely, I have so many things going on that some of those things might not be super pleasant things, but with all of the Things, there are bound to be good things, too! Right now, I just found out that France finally reimbursed me for my bloodwork in January, and although it's a bit less than I thought it would be, it's currently taking my bank account out of the negative numbers, for which I'm grateful.

We're getting down to the wire in terms of finishing up this year, and although I update my French budget nearly daily, counting down the euros until I'm gone, it still hasn't quite set in that I'll be leaving France in a month and a half. I've actually already had my last class with some of my students, since they're leaving for their internships soon, but I didn't even say a proper goodbye, promising that I would try to see them before I officially leave (my contract ends in April, but I'll be sticking around until May 16th).

I think it's also the same philosophy that I had the first time around when I was leaving France, reinforced by my frisbee team in Paris: "On se dit pas "adieu"; c'est "à plus tard"!"

We won't say goodbye; just see you later! That's definitely been my outlook on things for awhile now. With all the places life has taken me so far, I won't let myself believe that this will be the last time I'll be seeing these places, these people. I always need to believe that I'll be back because it would be too heart-breaking otherwise... which is why I know that I've got to make it back one day!

In other random good news (since I'm checking out my other windows), looks like I'll be getting some money to help me along with my rent while I'm finishing out my year here! I'm either super lucky or things just really do always work out for the best.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What I've learned this week:

New Housemate Franck uses Axe deodorant.

There's a town in Normandy called "Sassey". (Population: 163)

Afternoon bowling in Evreux on a Wednesday is absolutely hopping with teenagers. I've never seen a full bowling alley in my life, and even though this one only had 8 lanes, I'm pretty sure it still counts, since it was only 3:00 p.m.

Also, in this bowling alley, they give you a print-out of your scores at the end AND it's only 5.50 euros for two games AND shoe rental! Katie wound up beating me by 2 points, and I'm pretty sure our cumulative scores after two games were 127 and 129.

The boys in one of my classes, even though they are loud and obnoxious, really do want to learn English (well, most of them). One kid told me that he spent all summer translating Eminem lyrics into English, and the other wanted to stop learning about Bob Dylan and start listening to Earth Wind and Fire's "September".

No matter how hard you try to get kids interested in something that is not inherently related to them in some way, the majority of them will not find it interesting. The modern art museum and Bob Dylan expo was a bust, even though it got them out of school and into Paris for a full day.

Remembering events is a lot less important than thinking back on how I was feeling around them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things working out.

When I woke up earlier than I anticipated this morning, I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to FINALLY write the real blog entry that I promised I would. Little did I know it would turn out being exactly a month from when I originally promised I would.

And, of course, 2 seconds after I wound up finishing typing those sentences up there, Juliette came in, and I had to continue passing on my American childhood to her.

I can see already that this will need more explanation.

So, way back when, I was living with David (the Spanish cook) and Daniel (the Martiniquais car expert). A month ago though, David decided that he would move back to Spain before he anticipated, and Daniel and I were stuck thinking that we were going to have to split his part of the rent. We both didn't have the funds to cover his half of the rent, so we sought out another person to fill his room (but not his room in our hearts). This is how we got Franck.

Franck is a super good guy, and he also happens to have Juliette, his recently-turned-three year-old. She is a goofy goober. She also has never experienced such staples of an American childhood as Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba, so I'm quite enjoying showing her youtube clips and watching her giggle with glee. Of course there are also moments where she is unhappy and/or yelling, but thankfully, those moments are far fewer than the giggly happy ones.

That's the big thing that happened most recently, but the other big thing that happened was going to Berlin and Sevilla for spring break! France gets two whole weeks for nearly every vacation, which means lots of exploring time. Katie and I decided to go to Berlin to see Melissa Etheridge (in fact, that's how we first met on the Asssistants in France forum when she randomly asked who wanted to go see Melissa in Berlin). It was perfect because I always wanted to see Berlin, and she always wanted to see Melissa, so it was a pretty amazing week. We did all of the obligatory and important monument sightings, but we also did several less well known gay sights, which were equally important.

Also, we can't forget the amazing aid of Kathleen, Katie's (and now, my) friend from college, who served as cultural liaison, German interpreter, photographer, good conversation, and lovely company. I'm glad that I get to know her more when we get back to the US.

Right after Berlin, we flew to Sevilla, where we were greeted by Chloe and David. We stayed in David's house with his girlfriend and his girlfriend's sister, and David had made beds that pulled out like drawers in a dresser

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This is a promise

That soon, I will write a blog post. And I will update you on my travels, seeing the world through the eyes of a best friend and newcomer to European travel, how to deal with high schoolers who only want to talk about drugs and sex, going on adventures with a lot of wonderful people, and how long France shuts down for when more than 4 inches of snow falls (hint: less than a week, but longer than a day).

I'll be back!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

(re-)Bienvenue aux Etats-Unis !

I am on a plane on the way back to the US to spend about 2 weeks with my friends and family, and I decided that maybe it’s about time to write a blog post! I can’t remember where I left off, but I think it was just before Thanksgiving. As I’ve still got 2.5 more hours left in my journey that started at 4:30 a.m. when Hannah and Alexis drove me to the airport from their apartment (it’s currently 7:00 p.m. France-time, which means I’ve been in transit for the past 14.5 hours. Eep.), I think I’ve got plenty of time to wrack my brain and remember the important details.

1. Thanksgiving

One of my friends Emily invited me and some other friends to spend Thanksgiving weekend at her house in Doudeville (lovingly referred to as “Dude-ville”). We had such a fantastic feast! Also, as we had a Brit in our midst, we got to share all of our holiday traditions and stories, such as how Thanksgiving is obligatorily an awkward family event. We had chicken with garlic butter, stuffing, gravy, baked macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, chocolate-covered pretzels, peanut butter cookies, pumpkin pie, and chocolate cheesecake. So good!

2. School
My teachers continue to be pretty wonderful. They are consistently open to my ideas and helpful in terms of giving me feedback as to what they would like me to focus on with their classes, and I don’t think I could ask for a better group of co-teachers.

I’ve also been constantly evaluating my skills as a teacher, since I’ve never really had full reign over a classroom before (though my “classes” are really just groups of 3 – 12 students and I’m always next door to the actual English teacher). There have definitely been moments that could have gone better, but there have also been moments where I’ve surprised myself with how I handled the situation on my own. One example comes to mind: during my session, one of my students flat-out refused to participate –she told me that she hated all of the English teaching assistants and that she would not talk at all, no matter what. After trying to no avail to get her to talk about anything, including why she hated English class so much, I decided that it would be better for her this session if she went back to the other English teacher.

I debated whether or not this was the right decision for a while afterward, and I’ve come to the conclusion that though I would not send a student out of my classroom for not participating in a Real English Class, I think that it was necessary for the dynamic of our session together that this student stayed in the very much less oral communication-based Real English Class in the classroom next door. Being able to participate in these pull-out English lessons with me is supposed to be a privilege, and the other students who were in the classroom truly were interested (if not completely confident in their oral English skills) to communicate with me.

I’m hoping to keep finding a balance, and I think it’s already good that I know that I will have lessons that are going to totally bomb, no matter how well I prepare for them. I feel blessed with two important skills that I’ve discovered about myself in a classroom: one, my ability to adjust at the drop of a dime (as evidenced by my worksheet on “Happy New Year” that turned into a cultural discussion about the myths behind “the end of the world” and 2012); and two, my increased willingness to just shut my mouth and not over-explain everything so that my students are forced to fill the silences themselves. I am impressed by them more and more every day – not only just in terms of their English skills but in their ideas of moral/social/political issues and the way that their ideas are already so clearly formed and developed.

3. Home Life

David (the Spaniard) and Daniel (the Martiniquais) are consistently the best guys ever. I always forget sometimes that they’re 10 and 13 years older than me because we joke around like teenagers and are constantly playing jokes on each other or poking fun in all good ways. David still spoils us with his cooking (and I’m doing my best to return the favor by baking lots of delicious goodies for dessert), and Daniel is forever scatterbrained but would do anything for either of us if we needed it. I feel so lucky to have found these guys and am so happy that I get to spend the rest of the school year getting to know them and goof around with them.

4. Love
I am so happy! I have a wonderful girlfriend, lots of loving friends, and little reminders all over that I’ve got so much love in my life right now, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who shows me love. And also, I feel solid and content in all of the best ways, and I haven’t had that in a relationship in so long, and I am so happy.

5. Upcoming Adventures

- Heading to the US RIGHT THIS MINUTE!
- Hanging out with Katie and friends in Paris for New Year’s Eve
- Berlin with Katie to see Melissa Etheridge and explore Germany for a week!
- …then off to Sevilla for a week to meet up with Daniel, David, and Chloe for an Andalusian road trip
So, that’s about it! I’m wishing everyone a loving and beautiful next couple weeks (oh, and for all of the new year, too). Joyeuses fêtes!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 [More] Things

Since I'm not fully motivated to write a long post this time, I've decided to make another list.

10 Things That I've Done Since My Last Post:
1. Baked chocolate chip cookies (and discovered that for chewier cookies, I shouldn't put so much baking soda in)
2. Tried to see a free concert at the Bibliothèque d'Evreux but wound up being too late and also horribly lost.
3. Decided to get pizza and visit the free museum instead, which was wonderful.
4. Sort of planned my first real lesson that wasn't purely conversation-based.
5. Had a date with a French girl.
6. Spent the night with friends in Sotteville, talking life and learning how to play Euchre.
7. Watched Sound and Fury with a friend who had never seen it before.
8. Made little pumpkin pies in muffin tins.
9. Cleaned my room.
10. Started watching South of Nowhere again.

So, some exciting things, and some less-exciting things. But I'm definitely keeping busy!

Also, about 3 weeks til I'm back in the States for a little while, which is pretty exciting!