Thursday, 2 December 2010

Maximum temperature -4 degrees? Bah oui.

Yes, the title to this post does not lie. According to BBC weather, the maximum temperature where I am today has been -4 degress celcius. In other words...very bloody cold! Bugt apparently the maximum tomorrow will be 0 degrees, so things are looking up right?

I woke up to considerably more snow this morning. But it would appear that snow days don't exist in french schools. Britain would have shut up shops days ago, merely at the threat of the fluffy white stuff. But not the french. We struggle on. I haven't fallen over again though since my first slip incident, thank god.

I only had to go into school for one lesson today, which only 3 students turned up for. All of whom had already experienced the lesson I had planned. This is becoming somewhat of a pattern! So I kept them for only half an hour, and they insisted they wanted to do the same lesson again. Very bizarre children!

I have only ventured out once since this. I went to the commonwealth war cemetery which is literally about 2 mins away from my road. I wanted to lay my poppy cross (which for one reason or another I didn't have a chance to do during the commeration) and also though it might make for some snowy photos. I realise that's a bit morbid and not exactly a 'pretty snow scene' but I thought it would be interesting. was even colder than it was this afternoon!

I have decided this weekend I am going to buy a new coat. I also think coats are horrendously expensive and always seem very thin for the money you're paying for them (unless you buy one of these seemingly popular ugly shiney padded things that french woman favour). However, I need a coat which buttons up all the way and I have my eye on a paddington-esque design in Lille, so I think I may bite the bullet and part with some cash! I also need proper gloves, as mine don't have any fingers.

You will all be ecstatic to learn that I managed to buy a replacement bulb for my lamp yesterday. It was even cheap. As opposed to the 10 euro price tag for which I have been choosign to live in semi-darkness instead! Aaaand in even more exciting landlady turned on the central heating yesterday! Woohoo I may perhaps no longer freeze in my appartment. (I'm still not sure why it took until december, with snow and -5 temperatures for her to make this decision!).

Tomorrow (Friday = no teaching) we are probably going to check out Bethune's Christmas market. They even have an outdoor ice skating rink to offer. Tres exciting! Hopefully it won't be actively snowing. I also need to write an article (in english, thank god) this wekend for my school's newletter about my time/experience in France. I can only assume they would like me to censor my honesty to some extent?

That's all for now.
A demain!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Un weekend fantastique!

As you can guess by the title, I had a very good weekend!

For a start, Harry Potter was really good! Well...if you hadn't read the books then actually I can imagine it's a bit boring and confusing. But, being an avid HP reader I suffered from none of this confusion! I was surprised at just how busy the screen was as it was the english version. But clearly the frenchies are more up for 'sous-titre' reading than we had first thought! I LOVED some of the subtitles. Wand is 'la baguette' in french...who's have thought eh?! 'Hermione, give me your baguette'. Was just a bit too chilidishly funny for me to cope.

Hannah and I also indulged in a little retail therapy which was rather good. Lille was actually pretty quiet in the morning. The same could not be said from the afternoon onwards. It was absoultey manic! We were also surrounded by many british people. Whilst I was slightly comforted with that 'I am amongst friends' feeling, I also didn't want to be mistaken for an obnoxious british tourist! I'll have you know I am an employee of the state!

Due to this horrendous busy-ness we couldn't actually find the Christmas Market. Ridiculous, I know. We were drawn to a massive ferris wheel that we'd seen earlier though. It was all very pretty and lit up. So we queued for the ferris wheel. It was a lovely christmassy atmosphere, with festive songs playing and appropriate street decorations. I shall insert a photo of the aforementioned ferris wheel now. It was dreadful.

As you see, it's huge. 50 metres high apparently. I was assured, from a distance, that it wouldn't possibly be open-air due to its height and the fact that it spins quite fast! I was mistaken. No british health and safety standards here. Well, I think it's safe to say we were fairly terrified by the height. The spinning was fine it was the continuous stopping which we did not enjoy. And we were very much shown up by a young child who was loving life. How embarrassing for us. HOWEVER, one good thing did come of this wheel... we spotted the market from up high! It looked lovely, but unfortunately we had to go and get our train home so didn't have time to perhaps next weekend!

As for my working week so far...I still have not managed to get hold of my 'responsable' to inform her just how dreaful her class was last week. These students requested to join my class yesterday too. I politely declined. Yesterday's lessons went quite well though. And a very sweet girl waited behind at the end of her class to come up to me and say (in english) 'I love your clothes. Where do you go shopping?'. She is now my favourite student.

No 8am lesson today! Always a good thing.  However I left my house to discover that a considerable amount more of snow had appeared overnight. I then promptly slipped over in the snow about a minute later. Tres embarrassing. Luckily I don't think anyone saw. How horrendous. I then continued my walk to school very carefully and very slowly. How mortifying would it be to fall over in front of the students? I might actually cry from shame.

I must return to school at 2pm. Although the teacher I spoke to is unsure if I will have classes or not. Brilliant. I bloody well hope I am not trekking there again for no reason! I also have a class I haven't had before at all. Hmmm. I sort of hope they don't turn up, as I am unsure of what to actually do with them!

Well this is all. Au revoir for now. xxx

Friday, 26 November 2010

Welcome to my 4 day weekend!

Once again it's the end of the working week for me. It's only Friday afternoon as I write this, but it already feels like the weekend's come and gone for me! I finished work at 1pm on Wednesday this week, which means 4 days off. My weekend is actually longer than my working week!

Don't get me wrong, 4 days off is definitely a good thing...but possibly a little boring when you live in a small place and only know 2 other people! My friends were both otherwise engaged yesterday and today which leaves me to occupy myself. So far I have managed to watch the 5th and 6th Harry Potter films (essential preparation for HP 7, I'm sure you'll understand) and also Snow White. There are definitely more important things that I should be doing!

For example, I promised Nathalie (one of the english teachers) that I would speak only french with her as of next week. You may read this and think (quite understandably) 'oh but you live in France and you are doing a degree in french, surely this is simple?'. In theory yes. In practice no. Therefore my intention was to revise  verb conjugations during my weeked. Wild plans, I know! I obviously need to lesson-plan this weekend too, for my busy Monday and Tuesdau. 'Winging it' doesn't quite cut it. And my bedroom is rather a mess at the moment (for those who have seen it, I am aware it is quite a small space to become so disorganised!).

An absolutely ESSENTIAL task for the day is to change my duvet. When I moved in the landlady showed me the spare blankets in my apartment and also handed me a second duvet. I exchanged puzzled looks with my parents and pondered as to why I would need a second duvet. Well...I now know why! The duvet currently on my bed is definitely a summer duvet. I'm no tog expert...but I would hazard a guess of around 7! Seeing as snow set in yesterday, it is now definitely too cold for a tog 7! The spare duvet looks around the same thickness, but I'm hoping that if I combine them then I will be as snug as a bug. Might actually put my own duvet cover on whilst I'm at it. The one provided for me is...a bit weird. Whilst I talking about warmth and all that... My radiator in my bedroom still does not work. It is connected to the main house's heating. Therefore this means that my landlady is yet to turn on her central heating. It's snowing! How are they functioning?!

Teaching this week has been...interesting. Generally okay, but I think the students are becoming used to me and are definitely less well behaved than they were before! I am going to have to start getting strict!

My classes on Wednesday definitely provided anecdotal material. I knew that the half of the terminale class I had first thing were the less well behaved half of the class. Nathalie wanrs me of this and always tells them they must behave or I won't have them back. They are always very sweet to me though and well-behaved in class. I fear this may perhaps not be for the right reasons though. When I asked if they like english the boys joked that they do now. Not necessarily appropriate. I was given a list of questions to discuss with them, and I was warned that the last one might have some slightly odd answers, but I thought nothing of it. However, when I asked 'what do you do at the weekend?' one boy replied 'I drink alcohol and I play sex'. Quite frankly, I was taken aback! The class laughed and I had to laugh. I did also have to point out to him that we cannot say that we 'play' sex. But I left it at that.

Then later the terminale euro class I had was also rather unruly! I do enjoy them as a class, because their english is very good and they actually want to be in the lesson and take part in a discussion. However, they just would not shut up! I feel like I can't be too strict with them because they're never rude to me or anything and they do speak in english but they also argue with each other and go off-topic an awful lot. This time I had to move 2 of the boys...they're 17 for goodness sake! When I asked one if he could move his response was 'yes of course, for you, of course'. This is the same boy who told me I look like an actress. And also this lesson said I was 'so cute' when I was getting angry with them. Again, not entirely appropriate. I had to tell them off several time for saying 'fuck you' to each other in jest and calling each other assholes! Their response...'but it is english', like therefore it's fine. They also find the fact that I say 'shhh' and 'shush' to them A LOT incredibly hilarious. (It would appear that they say 'chut' in french when they want a class to shut up). Aaaand obviously on top of that the find the way I pronounce their names funny and kept trying to make me say them! But still...for some reason I like the class! Despite all the laughing at me, I never feel like they're actually making fun of me or being mean. They just get carried away and over-excited. I only have them every 2 weeks though, thank god. I don't know if I could cope with more! Next lesson I am determined to have more structure! I don't want to be boring and strict with them, but I need them to realise I am there to teach them something.

I have discovered there is a student teacher at my school. I have seen him several times before and thought that, like me, he could also easily pass for a student! I didn't realise that he was a student teacher though. I get the impression that he speaks at least some english, as he was participating in the conversation I was having in english with Nathalie on wednesday. I left school thinking he was quite good looking (albeit a bit short), but in reflection I feel I should reassess this. I think being in France changes one's perceptions, and standards definitely slip! As Hannah so perfectly put it, in a text which actually made me laugh out loud, 'if they're not spitting on the floor or they don't have a fag behind their ear they seem acceptable'. This is very true. In northern France anyway. I'm really not sure where this romantic vision that British women have of French men comes from! It certainly isn't from Nord-pas-de-Calais, that's for sure! (Sorry to break this devastating news to you mother. Perhaps they exist in Paris?!)

Well, I am going to go and (at least pretend to) do something productive! I had considered venturing to Arras to sample the delights of their Christmas market. Buuuut the snow, the coldness and the fact that I would be doing so alone makes me want to stay in my nice artificially heated apartment instead. I have food and the internet, what more could I need! Plus I shall be braving the elements for my fun-filled day in Lille tomorrow with Hannah anyway, so I shall get out at some point!


Monday, 22 November 2010

You win some you lose some

The start of the teaching week again, with Mondays being my busiest day at school. And today has been a mixed bag really. The good with the ...less good (the word bad just seems too negative!).

For once I wasn't dashing to school in order to make it on time, I actually arrived 20 mins early today! (Particularly impressive being that my first class was at 8am) and even had time for a quick cuppa before I left! Obviously had to wait for the world and its sister to be done printing and photocopying things in the staff room before I could actually materialise anything for my lesson. France must be behind the times in the technology department. Maybe I've never seen my school's hi-tech computer lab, but there are 2 PCs in the staff room which seem to be the only source of any kind of word processing or internet research. Seems bizarre to me. The first lesson was...fine. You can't expect too much of teenagers at 8am! But they were talkative enough when they actually understood and it didn't drag painfully. I later received an email from this class' teacher telling me I must have done a fantastic job and how thrilled the kids were with the lesson! Talk about being 'discreet with their enjoyment' (as another teaching of mine keeps phrasing it)! But it does make me happy to hear that some of the kids actually enjoy the hour they are forced to spend with me!

The rest of my classes did not really follow suit though. In one, the students just honestly did not understand a word I was saying. I had to break down the sentences for them. They were sweet enough, but so quiet. I must have just spoken at them for about 90% of the lesson. In another couple of lessons the students were not well-behaved. This is not really something I've encountered in my school before! Just continuous chatting from a minority, but neither me nor the students who are actually interested can hear a thing. Aaaand it's really irritating! Two girls laughed into their scarved throughout one lesson. And I'm pretty aware they were laughing at me. Apparently my teacher kept these students back for this week so as not to shock me in my first week teaching! However, I'm not sure they will all be coming again. I feel I need to improve my french if only for classroom management. They don't understand when you tell them off in English and if you were to make an error when reprimanding in French then I feel your statement loses all authority! A catch 22, if you will! These unruly classes were not helped by the fact that i had only tiny stumps of chalk left to write with and forgot to bring mine. Schoolboy error! And one which I will not be repeating tomorrow!

So, on my journey home from school after my worst lesson of the day I was feeling a little deflated. (And it is now dark at 5.30pm! When did this happen?!). I did a bit of food shopping (compulsory) and popped in to the bakers to buy my favourite bread and a yummy cake to cheer myself up. I'm glad I did now, as I bumped into one of my teachers in there who offered to give me a lift to school tomorrow! I am very grateful of this, being that it's another 8am start for me.

As well as this, I also got my confused mess of a timetable sorted our today, finally! Last night I was trying to sort the pupils for my 2de classes. Unsuccessfully. I explained this to Nathalie today, who seemed confused. Until she discovered that none of the teachers have bothered to give me a list of who I should be expecting in my classes and when. Which they have now (nearly) all done! Thank god. Clearly this confusion was not my doing then!

I have also bought an advent calendar, yippee! A bit premature, I know. But you can never be too early with an advert calendar! Years of experience has told me this, with my mother walking past Cadbury ones for weeks to find that, come November 30th, there's only Thomas the Tank ones to be had! (Not that us kiddies don't LOVE Kraft chocolate though Mum...). To be fair, this one isn't Cadbury either, but I worked with what I had!

Aaaand on top of these delights....A) Today I received my Erasmus money! Yayyyyy. Okay okay, so most some of it will be paying off my overdraft but still, it's free money! B) I skyped the mother today, which is always delightful and C) I am very excited to start Christmas shopping (if anyone will give me their list....). Even if it is online Christmas shopping. And even if that does involve adding a few things for myself to the 'virtual basket'. (Read the above points A and C. For reference, I see no link between large overdraft and shopping for myself. I don't know what you're talking about.). This excitement over Christmas is not really in my nature...look what France has done to me! Excited for potentially visiting Lille Christmas market on Saturday though! And I am determined to visit Vimy at some point soon. I have just been informed it may snow this weekend though, which will scupper that. My main concern over this snow is that I am not footwear-prepared for such inclement weather.

That is all.
Love and all that fuss,

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Another quiet Sunday in France

As the title suggests, Sundays are very quiet in France. Shops don't really open here. So if you've forgotten to do any food shopping on Saturday then you're screwed for lunch! Pair that with the fact that there's lesson planning etc to do for the coming week and it's the last day in a 3 or 4 day weekend for us assistants...Sunday's are generally pretty quiet at the moment.

I feel like I've become incredibly lazy in France, as I never feel like I've had enough sleep and always wait to stay in my cosy duvet. But I dragged myself out of bed at a reasonable hour this morning because it makes me feel much more productive that way, and I knew I had some stuff to do. So far I have only conquered washing my make up brushes, but such is life!

Yesterday Hannah, Luisaidh and myself went to a little shopping centre place in Bruay, not too far away. It had erm...a limited selection of shops, but we were fairly entertained by the supermarket so this was alright! I found a birthday card to send to my Nan. Which is quite an accomplishment in France! Clearly birthday cards are not popular. The one I have sent is a bit ridiculous and comes in a pink floral envelope, but the sentiment's there! I also bought some hideously over-priced makeup in the supermarket. I never would have paid that much for it in the UK, but I wanted it! Aaand they're things which aren't available in the UK, so that's acceptable right? We obviously had two visits to our local favourite cafe, La Halle, but that sort of goes without saying.

When i got home I watched the X Factor. That and The Apprentice are the highlight of my week! Haha. I desperately want to see the new Harry Potter film right now! Haha. I keep seeing other people commenting on how great it is! I refuse to watch a shitty dubbed version with french voices for my favourite wizards! However, I seem to have found a few cinemas which will be showing it in all of its original english glory. Will definitely have to view this at least twice, being as there is little else to do in Nord-pas-de-Calais!

I am rather excited about the opening of the Christmas markets. I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my last post, but oh well! It means there will be something to dooooo! I am hoping they will sell some cute little gifts for the family. I feel like I should turn up at Christmas with at least a few french things! Luisaidh also pointed out to me today the reeeeally cheap flights we can get from Brussels airport, which looks exciting! At the moment I really feel like I should be doing more things with my time in France! Visiting more places, seeing more sights, absorbing more culture and all that jazz. I am conscious that after Christmas the time here will probably fly by! I am definitely up for another (longer) visit to Paris. So Darvill if you are reading this, that is me inviting myself to sleep on your sofa in the near future!

I suppose that is all for now. Should really go and do something productive. Perhaps planning my (inevitably dreadful) lessons for tomorrow. And I also need to find some food for lunch and dinner. Being that I made this faux-pas of needing to buy bread today and being unable to.
P.S. Most exciting purchase of yesterday = Baked Beans. Actual baked beans. From the Brit section of the supermarket. They're not Heinz (and what does Heinz mean Luisaidh?), they're Branston, but swings and roundabouts eh?!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

End of my week

Once again I have reached the end of my teaching week! (Thursday 1pm on 'odd' weeks, Wednesday 12pm on 'even' weeks). I am fairly relieved about this as I could do with a couple of days off. I have things that I need to catch up on and my uni project to make a start on. Aaaand of course I want to fit in watching the Snow White DVD I brought back with me!

I don't really want to stay in ALL weekend though, so I am toying with the idea of venturing furhter afield tomorrow (as there is better public transport on Fridays than at weekends), but who knows.

Not much to report from these last few days if I'm honest. Just the usual. Dinner on Monday night for my birthday was lovely (thanks girls!). Then I received the various things that people had sent me in the post. I greatly appreciated my weekly trashy magazines that my mummy sent me! Lessons have been so-so. My timetable is now clearer, but I am still getting a bit frustrated about not being told an awful lot. I never know if I'm getting the same students as last time or how many are going to turn up. This week this resulted in me turning up with my lesson plan on school uniform to find that 1 of the 3 students had already done this. Brilliant. So I had to just plan games with them! If there's around 30 students in a class then what's the logic in sending me the same selection every week?! It's frustrating because I am never sure of what to plan. And most of my lessons are extra hours for the students instead of just being during their normal english lesson, so half of them 'forget' to turn up anyway. Grrr.

But aside from this irritation the week has been good! For once there is nothing particularly amusing to report. I feel like maybe I'm starting to blend in because locals have started to ask me things on the street! Clearly disappointed when I reply in my franglais accent though! As if my information MUST be incorrect because I am English. Despite the fact that I have answered their question adequately in french.

I am glad Prince Wills has decided to get engaged this week as it inspired a lesson plan on the Royal Family! I did it today and it seemed to go well. I even had activities left over that there wasn't time for! This is generally unheard of, as usually I have to make something up for the last 10 mins. I had to improvise an entire hour yesterday as I was asked to teach an extra hour as a favour. But I had no lesson plans or handouts with me. And I ended up with students from 2 different school years. It seemed to go ok though. I attempted to just chat with them. I discovered that they were all supporting England in the England v France football game last night (which we lost...). And one of the boys told me I look like an actress. But he doesn't know which one. Fantastic haha.

I got an email to tell me I should receive my erasmus money on Monday yay!! Very exciting indeed, as I had feared it might not come in til after December. There are a few things I have my eye on at the moment (online UK shopping obvs, not french merchandise!) and the boots I've wanted for aaages are finally in stock. BUT i'm going to restrain myself. At least for a little while anyway. Anyone that knows me will be shocked to find out that I even purchased my first Christmas gift the other day! Oh yes. AND I'm quite excited about the Christmas markets that are slowly popping up in Nord-pas-de-Calais.

Wellllllll this is all for now! However, I am going to insert my first photo of the blog and leave you with this lovely photo I took in Paris on Sunday, of the Eiffel Tower. (YES okay, the beautiful sunset was hardly my doing, AND the tower itself is a tad blurry, but shut up, it's pretty anyway!!). You can click it for a slightly bigger version.

Love xxx

Monday, 15 November 2010

Today is my 'anniversaire'!

As the title is my 21st birthday!!!

As some of you may know, this is a day that I have not been looking forward to spending in France. far it's not too bad! I got up this morning and got ready etc as normal and hot-footed off to school for my 8am lesson (after leaving Hannah at the station, as she stayed here last night). I was meant to have 5 hours of lessons in a row today, 8am - 1pm. My first 3 lessons went fine. A bit quiet but generally pretty good. It's very bizarre though spending the day with no one knowing that it's your birthday. And I'm not the sort of person who would go around reminding people! It hasn't felt like my birthday at all, but I say that every year regardless of where I am.

Anyway, I had my last 2 lessons sort of cancelled in favour of some turkish presentation at here I am at school! I went and bought lunch and cakes on my way home and then came back and opened my cards and presents on my lonesome. All very low-key! Obviously my parents didn't want to send any valuable gifts in the post, so I will be celebrating my birthday properly with them when I go home for the Christmas holidays. My nan did send me a £50 cheque though, so that's pretty good! My mum claims to have sent me a padded brown envelope which I am yet to receive.And my friend Laura said she sent me something and wrote the address but forgot to put my name on the I hope that will turn up too! I had presents from ivo and Paul to open, which they gave me yesterday in Paris. They bought me some lovely-looking champagne bless them! And also a few cute little random gifts. (The sausage-dog pen is my personal fave!).

It's just as well that I will be getting gifts from my parents when I'm back for Christmas, as I still haven't decided what I would actually like! Although when I get my next french pay-cheque I think I may treat myself to something nice. What with it being my 21st and me being in France for it, something to remember it by and all that malarky. (Incidentally, 21 is not a significant birthday in France. Who'd have known eh?)

It is odd not having a birthday cake and the such-like, but the day has been fine (much better than I had feared!). I tend to find birthdays a bit awkward anyway. However, this shall not be a sign of birthdays to come and I will be taking full advantage of being at home next year.

Tonight Hannah, Luisiadh and myself and actually venturing further than Bethune for once and are heading to Arras for dinner! I am looking forward to this muchly. (Although I have an 8am lesson tomorrow which I am looking forward to considerably less). We even get to stay out until 10pm tonight as the train timetable is being particularly kind. Get a load of us eh?!

Well I guess that is all for now then! I am off to potter around, skype my parents and possibly even have a little nap! (Who says I'm getting old?)

Love Hannah xxx

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Rememebrance Day, horrendous weather and Paris

I'm sorry I haven't been able to update the blog in the last 5 days. I've actually been really busy (as opposed to just lazy!) so haven't had much of a chance. But I'm here now, and that's what counts!

I'll give you a 'quick' rundown of my whereabouts and goings on.

Thursday was November 11th Remembrance Day, and in France this signals a national holiday so there was no school. (Although this would have made more of an impact on me if I didn't already have that day with no lessons). Hannah and I wanted to go to a memorial service or something of the such-like in order to pay our respects (as I would usually do on Remembrance Sunday in England) and also thought it would be a good idea as we are both writing our year-abroad projects related to the war.
Thursday was also the day that France decided to display the worst weather I have experienced this year. It was absolutely horrendous but, like good citizens, we followed the parade around Lillers in the pouring rain and hurricane-esque winds, up to the commonwealth graves and back to the memorial in the town centre. We got a bit excited upon hearing 'God save the queen' played by the band and we got to drink celebratory champagne in the town hall! Amazingly we understood the speeches given by the town officials and even managed to conduct a half-intelligent conversation. However I was at a loss when a french veteran with no teeth tried to converse with us. I think we played it cool; ignoring whatever he had asked us and instead telling him we liked his flag. It was a very nice ceremony though and something that I am glad I was a part of. I thought people might wonder why we were there sharing in their commemoration, but instead we were told many times that the french owe the British a great gratitude for their help. Amongst many more important things that day, I also learnt that my shoes are not in the least bit waterproof.

Having stood out in the cold and rain all day I returned home to discover that my kitchen ceiling had sprung a leak. Most exciting. Having looked up and rehearsed the appropriate vocab I went to my landlady to explain that 'il y a une fuite dans la plafond dans ma cuisine', to which she replied 'oui', in a most unconcerned manner. Obviously I assumed I had (again) grossly butchered the french language so I repeated myself. And she replied 'oui'. I gestured that the problem was quite a big one so she came to look. Once she saw the water steadily dripping from the ceiling she changed her answer to 'uh-oh'. I could only assume that this is ch'ti northern french for 'don't panic, you've done a fine job stemming the flow and I shall have my husband around soon enough to fix the problem'. It clearly is not. Her husband popped round the next day to give me my post and explained that the problem was because of the abnormal amount of wind and rain (I believe a roof slate has moved) and that he would fix it the next day. Which he has not. Well, there has been no more dripping, but this is because the weather has pacified, not because he has replastered the ceiling and replaced the roof tile. But such is life in northern France!

Friday I went to Bethune for a little while and Hannah and I looked around the shops and paid our usual visit to our fave cafe 'La Halle'. (Luisaidh was in Paris/Lille for a few days last week, in case anyone is panicking and wondering what has happened to my friend #2!). Bethune seems to be preapring itself for its Christmas market, so am I looking forward to that when it's open! I assume though that, much like in England, it will be full of over-priced homemade goods that you would be hard-pushed to find an actual use for.

I feel like I should mention Saturday just so people don't think I removed it from my week. But nothing much happened. Hannah did stay with me overnight though in preparation for...

Sunday! Hannah and I accompanied my school on a trip to Paris for the day! We went with some of the teachers, some pupils and also the turkish students and their teachers visiting from the partner-school in Turkey. It was a very brief overview of the city but it was also a really nice day. I definitely want to go back for longer and spend some more time exploring the touristy bits and also discovering the parts of Paris that aren't so over-run with tour groups. I loved the city, but on top of this I got to see Paul and Ivo for a little while. (For those of you unaware, Paul and Ivo are 2 of my course-mates from university who are studying at a uni in Paris for the year). It was really nice seeing them and I think I shall be inviting myself to go and stay with them at some point in the future!

As a side-note from all of these points, I have been trying to make a concerted effort to speak more french on a daily basis, and so far it is not going to horrifically! Bon effort!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Failure as a blogger. Success as a teacher. Sort of.

Soooooo...the idea of this blog was to write a post every couple of days or near there abouts. Clearly that has been a massive fail on my part, as I haven't updated it for a month! I am jumping firmly back onto the blogging bandwagon today though! I enjoy writing these posts so I don't know why I have slacked so much, as there has certainly been enough amusing material for them! I just got a little backlogged with them and then there was just too much to catch up on in a post so I just put it off. A combination of busy-ness and laziness.

I'm not going to bore you to death with a epically long post detailing all of my comings and goings in the past month. Instead I shall just say that it has been eventful! The usual really: administrative nightmares, some confused students, a very confused me, and the usual hilarities to seem to ensue whilst I'm in France. Nothing monumental to report. I did also go back to good old Angleterre for the 10 day holiday at the end of november. This was lovely! I don't really get homesick, but it really did make me appreciate England and all of its familiarity. The journey-ing around with a very heavy suitcase was a part of the trip that is best left forgotten though.

So...let's spring forward into the present and continue with the blogging!

Today and yesterday have been pretty good days! The only down side is that I have been absolutely knackered (and nearly fell asleep twice in the staff room yesterday) but other than that I have felt good about things! Several things have contributed to this good mood:
  • I actually had food which I would consider palatable in the school canteen!
  • Had a few successful and nice conversations with people in french (this has been a bit of a rarity for me recently and it was starting to get a bit depressing never being understood!) My favourite was with the bakery lady who I love a little bit.
  • I had an enquiry for some private english lessons with a boy who is going to be a french assistant in England next year! This is something I think I would really enjoy.
  • My timetable is now a bit clearer and I have a better understanding of what I'm actually doing.
  • Some of the pupils have been really lovely and quite funny. One girl even told her teacher she'd really enjoyed the lesson with me!
  • The lessons which I feared might be very difficult this week were actually successful and the students were chatty and interested.
  • I get a 4.5 day weekend every other week, and the other weeks it's 3 days.
  • Aaaaaand the most exciting of all...I'm going to Paris with the school on Sunday!
So that kind of sums it up. Very excited about the Paris trip. It costs 25 euros and we are taking a coach there and we get a boat-ride down the Seine as well. I should be able to meet up with Darvill briefly too which will be nice, as I haven't seen him since the summer! Aaaand now Hannah gets to come too, so it's even better!

Tomorrow is November 11th which is a national holiday in France. I am attending Lillers memorial procession which should be interesting. I believe I am attending as a school/British representative but it may also be useful for the project I have to write.

Friday, as a favour, I have 2 lessons to teach. But not just any old lessons...I am teaching our visiting Turkish students from the partner-school! Should be interesting, seeing as english is the only common language between us all, and obviously they won't be fluent!

The only blemish on my time in France at the moment will be Monday. Monday happens to be my 21st birthday. A cause for celebration, I know, but I am a little depressed about having to spend my 21st here in France, without any of my family or friends from home. I will also be pretty much card-less and gift-less on the day too, as obviously it is not practical to send presents over to me! (Therefore I have felt justified in being some presents to myself this year! haha). I am celebrating it with my parents when I go back for Christmas which will be nice, but obviously not quite the same. Especially as I have to work from 8am on the actual day! But...fear not! Hannah, Luisiadh and myself are heading to Arras for dindins on Monday which should be lovely!

That is all for now! Sorry about the temporary blockade in my blog. I am back on form now...promise!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

I should have posted this on Friday.

Today is the last day of the working week, of which I am pleased. Not that I have been working countless hours or anything; I didn't even go into the school on Tuesday or Wednesday. I am assured by my colleagues that this weekend is going to bring lovely weather in 'le nord'. I'll believe it when I see it. So far I have witnessed a general theme of rain and fog. I fear this will set the mood for a long and typical winter in Northern France. But, being British, I am hardened to such a climate. I pity any of those American girls coming over from the west coast to be assistants.

I'm not actually sure of my plans for the weekend yet, but I do know that I will be leaving Lillers. I would like to take advantage of the shops in Lille, but this will have to wait until I've actually been paid. There are lots of places that I want visit, so it's good that I have so much free time. I feel like I should take ip a hobby or something. Particularly as I am quizzed daily by french students on what my 'obbies are, and they always seem a little disappointed with my answer! I think hobbies are more difficult to acquire in France though. I would probably need my birth certificate (officially translated of course), social security number and a RIB from the bank just to use the local pool.

I have been pondering my 'Toussaints' 10 day holiday in 2 weeks times. I wasn't planning on returning home, but maybe I'll take a little excursion to England and visit some friends that I haven't seen for a while. If nothing else, I can stock up on the items that cost a small fortune here. I can only assume that feminine products are infused with gold during the export process.

As am added note, I am getting very little sleep in France. I appear to wake up every 90 minutes throughout the night. Something which, as you can imagine, I thoroughly enjoy. Industrial under-eye concealer has become essential.

Well...that is all. Short and sweet for once!

P.S. I am not convinced I have actually spoken any French yet today. This is not bon.

Highlight of the day: Buying my '6 cereales' bread from the boulangerie. It's actually delicious! I love the baker a little bit. AND i managed to collect my carte bleue (debit card) from the bank succesfully all on my own!

Low-point of the day: A German man wandered into my apartment by accident. Amusing....but odd.


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Bethune, Lille...and thank god I have some British friends!

I have now officially been in France for a week. And time has gone quickly! But then at the same time, quite a lot has happened in a short space of time. I feel a bit more settled now, although every third word that comes out of my mouth is 'pardon?'. I fear this will be a long post, and I apologise in advance. (I don't expect everyone to last the distance. Although Mum and Dad, as my parents I feel that you're sort of morally obliged to be interested in the whole thing. Sorry)

So on Tuesday I decided to venture out of my little factory-centered town and head to Bethune. Not the liveliest of towns either, but definitely a bit more going on than in Lillers. I pottered around my apartment for a bit then left at about 3pm. I thought maybe I should have gone earlier, but I needn't have worried, as it appears that it doesn't take long to exhaust what Bethune has to offer in the 'casual wandering' department either. It wasn't massively exciting. Although I did nearly get run over on a zebra crossing (as is expected in France. I shall almost be disappointed if I leave this country unscathed!). However I'm not going to complain, there is more to do than in Lillers! The more people that ask where I live, the funnier it seems to be to them. As if I have been placed here as a joke. When my landlady asks what I've been up to in the town I try not to jest about it too much. I fear that, as she lives here permanently, it may not be a well-received joke. I feel that the ch'ti people know their town's shit, but as an outsider, especially as an 'anglaise', it is not my place to say.

After spending some money in Pimkie (on some boots which caused me much pain the next day! I fear I may need my big toe amputated. However, I have failed to take out any insurance. So I should wait til I'm back in England for any sort of medical procedure. Or say that I did it at school and make the french government pay for my poor choice in footwear)....anyway, after that I met up with another assistant called Hannah in a cafe. We chatted for a few hours (longer than originally planned as I failed at correctly reading a train timetable. Not the french bit...the numbers.) and got on really well. So I now have at least 1 friend in France! It was nice to speak english and to chat to someone who is having the same sort of experience as me. The train journey to Bethune was really quick (8 mins!) and I even worked out how to 'composter' my ticket. I have finally worked out the french rail system. Although, rest assured, it's shit. What's that you say? The ticket office is closed so I must buy my ticket from a machine, but the machines only accept payment via mastercard and visa card? Marvellous! Let's introduce it at the next European Commission!
This trip to Bethune, and the success with which I have used the train, has made me think about maybe moving to Bethune. More going on, easy commute (although given, not as easy as walking to the school), friends nearby. I may consider it.

Yesterday I went to Lille for the meeting for all the assistants in the region. I met Luisaidh at Bethune station (Mum I can see you screwing up your face trying to process that. Just read it as 'LUCY'. Luisaidh if you're reading this...I can only apologise). We dithered for a few minutes. In hindsight, these were very valuable minutes in which we should have contemplated queuing. We then met Hannah as well and attempted to buy tickets. We had the aforementioned problem with the ticket machine, so had to queue to be served by an actual person. This is something I try to avoid early-morning in France, and I may need to engage in some actual conversation. In french. We would have had time to get tickets and get on our train if the ticket lady wasn't working at the slowest pace humanly possible. I'd like to point out that in England I probably would have had time to get my ticket, buy a coffee and do a little dance on the platform before my train rolled in. As it happens, we missed the train. Bugger. So we waited for the next one, got on the metro and found the Lycee (after asking for directions and clinging on to the GCSE-level french words that we recognised ('escaliers? We need to look for stairs!'). We also walked in about half an hour later. But appears that all we missed was some incredibly dull information in french.

There was much confusion during this info session. I'm sure I've had all this information several times before (although granted, that still doesn't mean I understand how to apply for 'securite sociale'). And then there was much that we either a) didn't understand or b) tried not to listen to. From what I gather, if you need a visa then don't bother coming, it's too complicated. And if you still feel you need to come, then ask questions about your visa another time, when there isn't a room of 400 hungry people waiting for you to finish so they can eat lunch. I shan't describe lunch. It was horrible. All 4 courses. When a coffe yoghurt is the highlight of a meal, you know you've made poor choices.

We then had a bit of a gander round Lille. It seems very nice from what I saw of it. Definitely somewhere to return one weekend. I did notice there's a Sephora there though, so that could probably do some damage to my debit card if I visit too often! Luisaidh then had to go back and Hannah and I got something to eat (and a cup of Tetley tea!) at Eurolille, and then buggered off back home. I had to board the train back to Lillers ticket-less due to the aforementioned shit-ness of the ticket system, but no one checked so I was fine. It was really nice meeting other assistants, I saw Suzie (who I did my A level french with) and Luisaidh and Hannah are really lovely. I think it's lucky to get on so well with people that you have randomly met and grouped together with. I do find it odd calling someone else Hannah though. Apparently it was a popular name that year.

Today I sat in on 3 lessons. One was fairlyyyyy boring. I sat there and watched the class painfully answering questions, but the other's were fine. My 'seconde' class was quite lively, and the teacher told me she had forewarned the boys that I was 'absolutely charming' so they wouldn't get too over-excited! All a bit akward at times really. The other day I was asked 'do you like Asia?'. I thought the student had made a mistake. It appeared not, so I just answered to the best of my ability. And earlier I got 'do you smoke?' Also odd. And they laughed when I said no.

Well I feel I should leave this post there as it is HUGE. I was going to add in the oh-so-exciting photos I took, but that will only add to the size of the post. So maybe tomorrow! I'm also going to attempt to succesfully use the post office tomorrow. I have no doubt that it will be an horrific experience.

A demain!
Low-point of the day: I did my laundry in my landlady's washing machine today (I have never seen a washing machine like it before) and clearly made a laundry faux-pas. Everything I own is now blue. Brilliant. I shall forever look like a smurf-sympathiser.

Highlight of the day: Purchasing heart-shaped sugar cubes.

Monday, 4 October 2010

'Do you 'ave fesssbook?'

So, I officially started my job in the school on Friday. I am teaching in a lycee with students aged about 15-20. However, for the first 2 weeks I am just observing lessons, maybe participating in them a little, but not taking any groups on my own just yet.

Friday was very brief though, and today was my first proper day. I sat in on 5 lessons today, with 3 different teachers. The teachers are all very nice to me, but I definitely feel more comfortable with some than with other. There was one teacher today who just made me feel a bit uncomfortable in her class, and didn't seem to confirm anything that was unclear. But then I have been told that some of the teachers were perhaps less keen to have an english assistant, as they don't want anyone to be judging their lessons. However, I haven't experienced any negativity first hand, so i can't really comment on whether this seems to be true or not.

All of the classes I had today were fairly good. The students seem very well behaved at this school, which is good, as I'm not sure that discipline would be my strong point. The level of english varies between the students. But I think at the moment they're just nervous to speak it in front of me.

There have been a few funny and a few awkward moments. Especially when the students are told they can ask me 'anything'. The younger groups just ask about England and about your hobbies etc. Although I was asked if I have any children earlier. I know it's possible at 20. But no.

I had an older class today where the students were around 16-19 years old. I think I'll prefer teaching these groups, as it will be more interesting for me and their language should be better. Their questions to me were less innocent though! 'Do you 'ave fesssbook?' was one which I quickly changed topic after! There were quite entertaining though, as groups go.

I have no lessons tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday is the meeting that all assistants have to go to in Lille. Luckily I'm meeting another couple of girls at Bethune station and getting the train with them. I am relieved because a) it means I have some friends and won't be alone! and b) I won't get lost!

Yesterday I attempted to get on a train and failed fairly epically. I bought the ticket, stood at the right platform, but.....just didn't get on the train for some reason. I was on my way to a teacher's house to have tea with her, which was very nice. A little bit awkward I suppose, but you have to say yes to things like this, especially when your town is as small as the one I am in. I am beginning to find this a little frustrating. Not just because it means I have to travel further afield to do anything. But also, it means that I don't know anyone in the town and there are no other assistants here. Can be a bit lonely at time. But nevermind. I am looking forward to meeting the other girls on Wednesday.

That's all for now I suppose. I promise I will upload my apartment photos soon!

A demain,

Friday, 1 October 2010

French Red Tape

I am glad I have my internet connection now, I feel so cut-off without internet access! Just had to get the wireless password from the landlord.
I am going to TRY to make this slightly brief. If I write an essay every time I blog them I am less likely to do it as often! Plus I don’t to bore any potential readers to tears. I had also intended to add some photos to this post, but I haven’t uploaded them yet and wanted to get a post written tonight. There’s always tomorrow!
So...yesterday was a day of sorting admin out with my head of department’s husband, Pierre. Pierre and Christelle (head of the English dept at the Lycee) have been so helpful and welcoming to me. I also find Pierre very amusing, which helps with the slightly stressful tasks!
To cut a long story short...I managed to get a french SIM card for my phone, made an appointment at the bank, sorted out some school admin and met the headteacher etc. Nothing is simple in France. Which I find very frustrating. Ugh. Everything simple task is shrouded in a heap of paperwork. Obviously even less helpful when you don’t really understand the aforementioned paperwork.
Today I opened my bank account (not that it is actually available to be used for a while yet...) and had my first day at the school. I only met the youngest pupils today (aged 15) and sat in and observed their classes. The pupils seem to be generally well-mannered and polite at the Lycee which is good. I am curious to meet the older students though and see how they are in class and what their English is like.
I wandered into Lillers town for the first time today to visit the supermarket. It was bleak. Although I imagine this was partially down to the fact that it was raining. My colleagues appear to have no issues with telling me that it’s a boring town I’m living in though. I have generally found the French to be honest in ways that us English folk just wouldn’t! I don’t know if this is their intention or if maybe there is a touch of confusion amongst the translation. It amuses me though.
Something else I cannot get used to is the French custom of eating a massive, hot meal at lunch. My poor stomach is expecting a sandwich, but I force a starter, main and dessert upon it. And then promptly feel too full to move. Supposedly I would then have something light for dinner. But my stomach doesn’t know it is in France and would like a proper dinner as well please.
It’s Friday night and I am not sure what to do with myself this weekend. I don’t actually know anyone to go anywhere with. I might explore one of the larger nearby towns. If I can catch Liller station when it’s actually open... Oh and I have to avoid places such as Lille as there are mass demonstrations scheduled for tomorrow. Obviously. I met a lovely teacher today, closer to my age, who did say to phone or email her if I want someone to look round with, so perhaps I’ll take up her offer.
Finally, I have found myself saying a lot of ‘pardon?’ today. After a while I just get tired of it and nod along. I find it very difficult to understand when there are lots of people talking. I have to hone in on the person and really concentrate on the conversation. And if I get distracted for a moment then I am lost. I can already envisage a permanent headache. However, every day I am making a list of new words I’ve heard and not understood, or words that I have wanted to use but didn’t know them. I am hoping this will help.

Well, that’s the end of my not-so-brief post. I promise tomorrow will be shorter!
Bon weekend!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Last post before I hop across the channel

Today is Monday 27th September. I am leaving on Wednesday 29th September. Early in the morning. Therefore I am beginning to feel slightly panicked about things that I need to do. (And obviously blogging about it is going to help tackle my to-do list...).

I haven't started packing yet. Which wasn't really a massive concern to me until everyone started asking if I had packed. I have, however, made a list! So I may tackle the actual gathering of all my worldly possessions today. Ordinarily, I don't travel THAT light. But I am going to have to try to this time. At least I'm travelling by car, so I can take more than I would be able to lugg around the train. I seem to have bought a 'back-up' product for many of the things that I use on a daily basis (like face cleanser etc). Probably a waste of packing space. I have to remind myself that I'm not moving to a third world country, and I will be able to buy things in France! Although I have been told before that things like that can be quite expensive in France.

One of things on my list of items to pack is teaching material. Christ knows what it is that I'm actually going to take though. I know that we're recommended to take magazines etc, but I don't know that my weekly copies of Heat magazine will be of much interest (or appropriate) for my students! I am glad that my first 1 or 2 weeks are just spent obsserving classes and I don't actually have to teach straight away. I think this is a good idea. Hopefully I'll be able to get a feel of the students' level of English and how they're used to being taught.

I re-read my last post and thought that I should probably mention that I do now have somewhere to live! I will be renting an apartment which seems to be converted from my landlady's rather large garage. A bit bizarre really. In a very french way. There are 2 apartments and I believe I am having the larger of the 2. My 'responsable' (the teacher who I have had contact with) and her husband sorted this all out for me. They suggested it, as it is where last year's assistant stayed for the year, and they phoned and everything to arrange it for me. In fact, they have been massively helpful, of which I am very grateful.

My parents and I will be driving to my their house from Calais on Wednesday morning. Then, as far as I am aware, we'll have lunch then they'll drive me to my apartment to unload the car etc. Then my parents shall leave and I am having dinner at my 'responsable's' house. Apparently the next day her husband is taking me into town to sort out a bank account etc. All in all, massively helpful.

I am quite excited about going now. If you'd told me 6 months ago that I had to move to France in 2 days I would have been terrified. But I actually feel like I'm ready to go now. I am obviously still a bit scared, but I know I'll be fine. And having had such a long summer back at home I definitely am ready to just go and do something, whatever it is! It isn't the teaching part that I'm apprehensive about really, it's the language and the prospect of not being able to express myself successfully. But I know this will come with time and practice.

Well...I suppose that's it for now! I should go and start minimising my wardrobe to take to France. (Although I have been told the dress-code as school is that I can wear what I like, so this should be fairly easy!).
So the next time I blog I will be in France. Ahhhh!


Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Beginning Is A Very Good Place To Start

Hello everyone!

I feel like my first post should be a little bit of an explanation, so here we go...

I've set up this blog for several reason.
First and foremost, I think it's the easiest way to let my family and friends know what I'm up to and the not-exciting-enough-for-a-phonecall details of my day-to-day life whilst I'm in France. I don't know how often I will be phoning/skyping/that sort of thing. And I have a tendency to forget the things I have been doing when someone asks. Several birds, one stone.

Secondly, it was suggested by my uni that we do this in order to help out the year below and give them an idea of their coming year. I know that I looked at a couple of year abroad blogs last year and found it kind of helpful, so I want to be of as much help as possible to anyone who was as terrified as myself!

Finally, I think it will be a nice little reminder for myself at the end of the year, to look back at things I've done and see how my year has progressed.

As it stands, I will be leaving for France in about 3 weeks or so. I have chosen to work as an english language assistant through the British Council. I will be working in a Lycee in Lillers (in the region of Lille) and teaching 16-20 year olds. (Specifically, it is the Lycee Anatole case anyone was wondering...)

I also currently have nowhere to live when I get there and don't know the exact date I'll be leaving. But theses are things I am only minimally stressed about at the moment. I have, at least, had reasonable contact with a teacher at my school, which is more than others have apparently had!

Well, I think I'll leave the first post there. There are many other things I could include in a post at the moment, but I'll leave them for a few days time. I plan on keeping this blog updated very regularly. For those of you who know me personally, I'm sure you are already anticipating being sick of reading my musings!

Love Hannah xxx