Life Update in France

Salut!

It’s been over two weeks since I’d arrived in France and so far, things have been pretty good. I haven’t written a single post since I left Los Angeles (but you probably didn’t notice because I had scheduled posts while I was away), and frankly, I’ve been missing it. There’s still no Internet at my flat (currently using the school’s computers right now), but I hope that it’ll get resolved soon!

Any case, what’s been going on since I landed in France?  Because I’m under a time crunch (school’s only open until noon today, as I’m writing this) and the fact that I’m just, well, a bit lazy, I will just list away:

  • Took Norwegian airlines to Paris; it was my first time flying on a budget overseas, considering that I’d taken big airline companies (Air France, United Airlines, etc.) in the past. A one-way only cost 350 USD, which was an incredible deal, since it was also a direct flight! Service was actually really nice on board and overall was a pleasant, albeit long journey to France.
  • Arrived in my town in the evening, where one of my school’s colleagues picked me up from the train station, aka “la gare.” Had dinner with her chez elle and afterwards she took me over to my flat, with keys and all. We spoke French together, and it was actually nice to pick the language back up again, considering that I barely practiced at all (orally, that is) over the summer. I was surprised that I was managing it so well!
  • Call me spoiled, but this year’s flat is definitely smaller than that last year. Essentially, it’s a studio and while I’m fortunate enough to have a kitchen and bathroom to myself (the assistants upstairs have to share them, dorm-style), there’s definitely limited space for my stuff. Plus, it’s on the rez-de-chaussée (ground level), so I can’t open my blinds all the way, for the risk of a peep show; I need to have my lights constantly on as a result. But in any case, I’m getting used to it!
  • Met most of my English colleagues at the lycée I’ll be teaching at this year; met my prof référant as well, who’s super nice and while a busy man, gave me all of the information about stage, the paperwork to process, and also how to get an Internet box for the flat. Ate lunch with some of the colleagues à la canteen, making an effort to break out of my shy, introverted self and also practicing my French. So far, so good!
  • Met my flatmates, aka other assistant(e)s who work in the same town or surrounding ones. In total, there are nine of us– three Americans, one Canadian, one British, two Mexicans, one Spanish, and one German–and we make an effort to speak French with each other since we’re not all English assistant(e)s and to make it fair for everyone, French will be the “neutral language” when everyone’s together. Of course, I speak English with the English assistant(e)s, which makes me comfortable, but I wish sometimes we could make an effort to speak French, because I feel that the more that I speak English, the harder it is for me to switch back to French when needed. But we’ll see!
  • Hung out with the German assistante quite a bit so far, since we live on the same floor (the majority of the other assistant(e)s live above). Before we met in-person, we’d corresponded on Facebook, getting to know each other and whatnot. She’s super nice and initiates a lot of outings (e.g. lunch at the canteen, visits around town, etc.), which I appreciate. We speak French with each other, again for being “neutral” and it’s great to help each other improve in the language.
  • Opened my bank account in town; at first, I wanted to open with BNP Paribas since I had it last year and enjoyed the service. However, there were some inconveniences opening an account at the particular branch in my new town, so in the end, I went with le Crédit Lyonnais (LCL) which my colleague, who had accompanied me for the appointment, said that most assistant(e)s in previous years opened with. I didn’t really care, since most French banks operated the same way and it was simply a way for me to get paid for teaching. The banker with whom I opened my account was super gentil and he bore a striking resemblance to Taylor Lautner (albeit with a beard). Definitely not bad-looking and I’ve joked with the other assistant(e)s (who funny enough also had him for their bank appointments) that he’s “Jacob” from Twilight!
  • Went grocery shopping at E-Leclerc with my colleague and just bought as much as I could to sustain me for a few weeks. E-Leclerc is my absolute-favorite store, since things are more “in-bulk” there and cheaper than other places. Unfortunately, it’s located in the outskirts of town, so I probably won’t be going there very often (unless I ask my colleague for a ride again), but until then, Carrefour it is! P.S. I also found a chariot (wheel cart) in my flat, left over from the previous assistante, and I was so happy; no more painful lugging around of groceries!
  • Visited a few places in and around town with the assistant(e)s; while it’s definitely a bigger town from mine last year, there are still limited things going on (and in true small-town French fashion, things are closed by 20h00!). From Vernon, a couple of us walked over and spent an afternoon in Giverny where we saw the Monet House and Gardens. There was a wedding photo shoot going on that day, which was interesting as well!
  • Started my Master in Education program online. Because of the frustrating lack of Internet in the flat building, I’ve been heading over to my lycée to print out the readings, take the quizzes, and submit my weekly essays. So far, I’m managing it well, but it’s definitely not sustainable in the long term, especially when the school will be closed for the holidays!
  • Attended the first two stages in Rouen. What greatly surprised me was the small number of assistant(e)s this year, including very few British ones. But I guess we’ll all get to know each other very well, and so far I’ve met a ton of great people in the program. Many of us have returned for a second, third year, which was also very surprising!
  • Started observations at my school; it’s definitely a different experience from last year’s, for this time around, I’m actually, well, observing! Last year, my “observation period” consisted of me making a Powerpoint on myself, getting bombarded with random questions, and just sitting in class like a bump on a log for two weeks. This time, I’m still sitting like a bump on a log, but it’s more interesting as I’m actually shadowing random students of all levels, fields, and English mastery throughout the day, sitting in on class that aren’t necessarily English courses and also getting to know them a bit. Also sat in on administrative and librarian work, which I didn’t do at all last year. I don’t start teaching until after this upcoming first vacation break, so until then, I’m good with observing!
  • Had two house parties with the assistant(e)s in which we just drank a ton of alcohol, played games, and bitched and moaned about our Internet situation and troubles at school. When something goes wrong, we grimly joke, “c’est la France!” It’s been fun and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well; I enjoy meeting different people from all over and sharing a part of themselves. Considering that there are Spanish and German assistant(e)s, I’m actually quite interested in learning a bit of their respective languages (although I’ve yet to ask them for lessons!).
  • Voted absentee! Really, all of this news about Trump and Clinton is freakin’ ridiculous and I just hope that, after next month, the nation (let alone the world) will be done with this debacle once and for all.

…and that’s about it for now! So far, I’ve been well, trying to put myself out there more so than last year; it helps that there are actually other assistant(e)s to talk to. We’ll see how things go when winter comes, but for now I’m feeling quite happy with myself: speaking French (and actually better than I’d thought!), making an effort to socialize more (with assistant(e)s and colleagues alike), and just trying to be more outgoing. Still working on it, and I think it’ll be my year-long project this time around.

I’m thinking of posting updates from time to time on this blog, as a way to check in with you (as well as myself) besides the other posts that I write about travel, French administration, and so forth. With the first holiday coming up, les vacances de la Toussaint, I’ll be posting some of my travels then, so look out for them. Until then, bonne journée!

 

— Rebecca

 

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