Thursday, 14 April 2011

Wave au revoir to ma petite vie francaise

Well, we have come to the final week of my contract and, in fact, my final week in France (well...I actually have only 2 days left here as I am writing this...but I will catch you up on the week!).

So...since the last my internet had actually been broken for 5 days. I can assure you that 5 days (when you live alone) without the internet/ a tv/ means of talking to people can be preeeetty boring! I managed to read 3 entire books though. And watched the series 1 DVD of Gavin and Stacey about 3 times too. Luckily my internet is now fixed though! (Obviously...otherwise you wouldn't be reading this...)

My last week has passed really quickly. My final lessons with the kids went really well. We just listened to music, played some vocab games and I basically bought their enthusiasm with lots and lots of sweets. Must have a spent a fortune on over-processed sugar, but it worked! The students were generally very sweet and it's been actually quite sad to say goodbye to them, particularly the ones who I have in small groups and they really take an interest. I received a couple of very sweet notes, thanking me for my lessons and giving me their email addresses. I also got given a picture/wall hanging from one of my students whose mother made it! It's lovely and obviously a souvenir I can keep forever! It's going to be so very weird not being a teacher any more and not having those sort of responsibilities or duties.

I could go on and on about how i feels like only yesterday that my parents dropped me off and then buggered off back to England or how I am going to really miss living here... But I don't want to bore your socks off. It is all true though!

Yesterday afternoon I met Luisiadh in Bethune (obvs we went to La Halle...for old times sakes!). Are you ready for this?... I actually handed in my social security paperwork successfully. Yes that's write, 3 days before I leave. But better late than never! And I HAVE been trying to obtain my carte vitale since November. I am assured it will arrive in 3 weeks. Unfortunately I won't be here to judge them on their punctuality. Before leaving Luisiadh (for the last time!) I assured her I would be venturing to Glasgow to visit her in the summer. After all, Stansted - Glasgow is one of ryanair's cheapo deals! I will obviously have to keep my newly acquired scottish slang on the down-low though. Don't want to get beaten up for being an English twat.

Last lessons were yesterday but I was asked to go into school today for a proper farewell, which I did. Thanks god I did as well, as I forgot I had some paperwork to get signed or otherwise have to pay back my erasmus grant!

The english teachers had clubbed together and book me two lovely books on the local area and its history and the things to see in the region. I am assured that one of them in basically the classier version of Bienvenue chez les ch'tis but on paper rather than film. I had a quick look and, low and behold, there are photos of the slag-heap-come-ski-slope-with-quarry-now-lake in all its glory! Gotta love northern France! They had all signed a card for me too and some of the messages were really lovely.

(At this point I'd like to point out that, whilst bitch-teacher did apparently contribute for the present and card, all she wrote was the equivalent of 'have a safe return' and she left school 5 minutes before the farewell thing so as to not have to be present. So that definitely clarifies her position!)

Nathalie also gave me a cookbook with typical french dishes that I can make for my family and friends, as we joke that I just eat cheese, bread and cakes here. I don't know how successful these dishes will be, but I'll give it a go!

I gave 3 of the teachers cards and gifts of english chocolate and goodies (all of which were well-received) and was invited to stay with them if I ever want to come back and visit. It was lovely and I really appreciate the gifts and the kind words they've written. It seems very odd to have made a little life for myself here and then to just be up and leaving it all 7 months later! I want to stay in touch with everyone and hopefully come back to visit again.

Well I suppose that's it up to date! It's now Thursday afternoon and I am leaving on Saturday. So I have precisely one and a half days to ram in anything I want to do! I don't much fancy moping around my apartment in a 'woe is me' fashion, so tomorrow shall be heading to Lille to spend some hard-earned euros and hopefully fill my stomach with all food that is uniquely french.

After that all I have in my mind is this blank that is labelled 'packing'. This is not an area I want to visit. I don't know how much stuff I have acquired whilst here, but I remember thinking I travelled light when I came. And I definitely won't be travelling light to go back. (Myself included!....helloooo extra half stone!). Thank god my parents are driving to get me and I don't have to grapple with public transport.

So now all that remains to be done is to tie up some loose ends, buy my landlady some flowers and then bugger off back to England as if I was never here!

I am going to both enjoy and miss no longer being 'l'assistante anglaise'!

I don't think this will be the last post in the blog. God knows I do love to talk! Shall probably update you again.


P.S. This post has not been even a little bit funny, so i apologise for that guys! Just a drone about the end of my trip! However 2 small anecdotes I did just remember to include....
1) Walking home through my small town today I noticed the window of a shop said 'we sell men's clothes up to 6XL'. Only in northern France would it be necessary for a small town to cater for that level of obesity!
2) Yesterday morning on my way to school and random man (who I do not know and who was lingering on the corner outside a school) said to me 'Good morning!' .... in English. I definitely have never met this man. How does he know I am english?! I must just ooze non-frenchness. I joked about this with a teacher and said that I didn't look english as I wasn't wearing a mixture of different brightly coloured clothes. And he laughed for about a year. Seriously, where did we get this stereotype from?!

Briefly back to England we go

(I actually wrote this post on Friday 8th but my internet died from then until yesterday so I couldn;t publish it!)

The rest of the time has just sort of passed.

Last  weekend, after Mum left, the weather was absolutely beautiful. I met Luisaidh in town and, after doing our usual rounds of H&M and Zara (and buying matching sunglasses, natch), we went further into Lille, Luisaidh assuring me that she knew the vague direction of a lovely wee place we could enjoy the sunshine. And low and behold, she was not wrong. All of the bars and cafes in the glorious sunshine were absolutely heaving (no surprise there) so we cut down our cafe requirements to ‘we just want to sit outside’ and found a slightly strangely set-up free table on the street. Alas there was no cold cider to be had (this was the beverage that was calling to me!) but the waiter did assure us the wine, or champagne if we preferred, would be absolutely better. Whilst sipping our oh-so-sophisticated afternoon glass of white we noticed the bakery opposite had a constant queue that we into the street, so obviously took this as a sign of an excellent bakery.

This was our next stop. Cakes to take and eat on the grass in the 25 degree sunshine (Yes, that’s 25 degrees celcius. In nord-pas-de-calais! This is probably just an early-onset summer and it’ll now piss it down for the next 6 weeks). Now if you’re thinking that a hugely in-demand bakery with a queue out the door was a sign of variety and decadence well,’d be wrong. (At this point Luisaidh would make her strange Glaswegian cake joke about being wrong or a meringue...but with my home counties accent, it just doesn’t marche). Inside the bakery the choice seemed to be between many merveilleuses. Which we don’t enjoy.  Later realised the bakery is called ‘Les Merveilleuses’. Really that should have been a sign of the nature of cake inside. I can’t remember the name of what I ordered. Well, what I pointed to, what with being blind as a mole without my glasses on.  Luisaidh panic-ordered a Royale, which didn’t disappoint.

I’m sure we were surrounded by more English speakers than frenchies when we went and sat on the nice grassy area. Made the mistake of approaching a frenchie to take our photo though. Obviously she couldn’t possibly just yet, as she had a gauffre prepped for the eating. She did offer for us to wait until she was finished though. I am still not sure why the (gauffre-free) woman with her didn’t step in instead. She looked sceptical of the whole situation, like it was a ploy on our part to get our hands on the woman’s waffle.

All in all it was a lovely day. AND we didn’t even have to wait the standard 3 hours to get home. Result.

Fast forward a little and I actually went back to England on Monday for the interview. The deputy head okayed it all (as I was obvs going to miss lessons) and I just had to do 3 replacement lessons today (Friday) to catch up a little. I am still not sure why it is the deputy head who seems to deal with everything that needs dealing with. What exactly does the actual head do? Apart from come round and shake everyone’s hand in the staffroom, obviously.
I taught all my lessons on Friday and then rushed straight off to get my first train of the trip in the afternoon. The interview was actually at UWE in Bristol so I drove down to Bath on Tuesday and stayed with Kim overnight, so I wouldn’t have to leave at ridiculous o’clock to get to the interview on Wednesday.

The interview was fine. I think it went quite well, but obviously I have to wait to hear, so fingers crossed. The other 5 people in my interview group all actually went to UWE, which I thought was odd. I guess the job must have been advertised on campus or something?
I am majorly impressed that, sans sat nav, I didn’t get lost at all driving to the campus. Who needs a voice telling them to ‘make a u-turn as soon as possible’ when you can have AA’s route plan instructions faffing about the steering wheel whilst you’re negotiating a junction. (On another driving note...I did almost have an accident on Monday driving through Bath when a spider fell from my car ceiling and landed on my face. The less said about that the better.) Also, UWE definitely have their parking situation sorted. Students pay £3 for 4 whole days parking. It’s £1/hour at Bath!

Aaaand that’s pretty much us up to speed then. I eurostar-ed back yesterday and spent the rest of the evening watching catch up tv. I did also have a rather successful conversation with my landlady, who was very sweet. We actually chatted. And not just in the usual ‘we’ll both squint confusedly at each other and answer with ‘oui’ because we don’t really understand’ way. An actual conversation. And she only wanted half rent for this month as I’m leaving in 8 days. Result.

Taught 3 lessons today to make up for a few I missed whilst away and now have the (sunny) weekend to soak up as much nord pas de calais-ness as possible before I have to leave in 8 days. Yes, 8 days. I don’t want to go. So let’s not mention it again, okay?