The Camp Diaries: Weeks 2-3

Bonjour from camp land!

Where to begin? Unfortunately I fell a bit short on the blog updating front as I got pretty sick (still have yet to regain my voice to its full potential), and as a result have far too many stories to tell from the past two weeks. BUT I shall use my notes in an effort to convey the gist of camp craziness.

End of Week 1- The Weekend Adventure:

Saturday marked the first venturing beyond the walls of the chateau with fellow counselor, Olive. It felt strange to leave the premises and see a space outside of a camp-covered chateau. At first sight only Normandy countryside-a.k.a. flat farmland as far as the eye could see- surrounded us. But 30 minutes later Olive and I arrived in a tiny town filled with old people gambling, smoking and sipping on coffees at a miniscule cafe, and bored teenagers hanging out in front of the small highschool. We walked back and forth searching for a semblance of food and sticking out like bright, awkward tourists. Finally the boulangerie opened and we feasted on bread, cheese, and cider in the shade of a chapel as Frenchies walked past with smiles or stares plastered to their faces. We didn’t care. We were content with our picinic….and tipsy off cider.

Week 2- Monday Madness:

Change is the theme of this week. Two new counselors arrived last night full of energy and excitmement.

The day started with a relatively calm atmosphere- we were efficient and even finished the set up with extra time on our hands. We had a week under our belts and figured we had it in the bag. Bring on the kids! …That is until a storm of 50 tiny kids poured off the bus. Not teenagers, not adolescents- kids. At first I thought the perspective was making them tinier than expected. But it was actually their age. Not 10 and 11 year olds but tiny, hyper, first-time-away-from-home 8 year olds.

The rest of the day was chaos. The teachers came over-prepared and messed with the money system (which I was conveniently in charge of) and the kids were confused, hyper, scared, shy, and unable to comprehend the situation (aka English). Olive and I’s window was apparently not fully shut and our room flooded with the afternoon rain that decided to contribute to the chaos. Our evening campfire was canceled and dividing up ESL classes was quite the confusing effort. This week is already so different.

Bank of America time

Bank of America time

Tuesday and Wednesday It’s a love/hate game I’m playing: 

We divided the ESL classes and I got the lower level hyperactive kids, as well as the one student with autism who is not taking kindly to our new camp names. So now he has two names- French+ American Camp name. So far, so good.

Well, I faced my fear of teaching elementary frenchies. I first faced my fear of highschool students in Montbeliard, and now the part of me perpetually terrified of teaching such small non-native speakers is calm. All things considered, the class went really well today and they kids are pretty damn cute with their tiny French voices. I miss working with little kids. It’s nice to be reminded of the work I love.

Wed…
The days are getting longer. And more chaotic. Last night a kid peed himself and another one cried for home. Today several cried from dodgeball. And yelled. So. Much. Yelling. What a horrible game. I only have one more full day, but it seems like an eternity. My throat is sore from all the yelling over excited voices. All. The. Time.

I find it funny that instead of yelling “you can’t do that” to one another, the kids say, “tu n’as pas le droite” (aka ‘you don’t have the right!’). I’m glad I understand French.

All in all I’ve enjoyed this week- which is a testament to how much I love working with elementary kids. True they’re hyperactive little shits for a large portion of the time, but they’re also adorable little beings with giant smiles, and a genuine curiosity for learning about this world they’re in.

The day is done and all I want is silence. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Even laughing feels like effort. My throat hurts. My ears are buzzing. I fall asleep with tiny French voices in my head.

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ESL madness

Thursday- New Theme Day- Hit Music:

What am I supposed to do with this theme? These are kids not teenagers! We’ve been reviewing colors, shapes, and the alphabet. Oy vey this week is long.

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I’ve been working general store for the week- the place where we sell kid crack (candy and soda) and souvenirs for mom and dad. First thought- this is tedious and horrible and I really don’t see the point. But two days later and I see the benefit. It’s a good experience for the kids to be in charge of money, and have a real life situation of making transactions in another language. Well done AMVIL.

I feel like a goblin counting gold. I was locked away in General Store for over an hour on a beautiful day counting inventory and doing far too much math. I regret working General Store this week. Who knew little kids would buy so much more than teenagers?

Dancing with kids is golden. I love their energy and excitement (some of the times), but most of all their smiles. Compared to the teenagers last week, it was refreshing to open the doors and have the kids not awkwardly stand in corners, but descend on the dance floor in a sea of spastic and enthusiastic movement. One little elf (no really, that was her camp name), all round and ‘typically nerdy looking’, broke out of her shell and boldly asked the boys to dance. At the end of the night she gave me an impish smile as she held up her count of four fingers (four boys).

Friday-

We said goodbye to one of our new counselors today and it felt oddly sad. He was only here for a week, but you bond quickly in the trenches.

The sentiment was different for the departure of the kids. Some counselors literally did cartwheels as the bus full of kids pulled away.

Two more weeks.

End of Week 2- Weekend Adventure:

I hate the world. I’m sick. At least it took effect when the kids left. But I wish I could just not be sick at all! Going into town for some meds.

We stopped at bakery where Olive got a macaroon. It was quite the process as the baker walked around the counter and used little tongs to carefully pull the bright yellow pastry out of the fridge and place it on silver platter. Then she instructed us in French that we needed to wait 10 min for it too cool down in order for the flavor to be ‘top’. I love France.

At least sick meds, sun, swans, and tiny dogs that think they’re the swan commander, help with sickness.

Week 3- “Santa brought condoms to camp”

I had to work customs this week (confiscating snacks and electronics) and I was not a fan. Neither were the kids. They were pretty good sports, but it’s not the ideal first impression I’d like to make on kids.

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Also an 11-year-old camper, Santa Claus, brought condoms to camp. According to the teachers they’re probably his dad’s, but still…Santa brought condoms to camp.

The difference in their level is like night and day. This age is so interesting as they are on the precipice of teenagedom- but not too cool yet. 

As we sat around the campfire singing songs and roasting marshmallows, I realized how funny it is to teach almost teenagers how to roast marshmallows. Sharing my childhood past time of s’mores, something so normalized for me, and so bizarre to them was amusing as they quizzically looked at eachother and whispered, “c’est trop bon!” 

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Tuesday-Thursday: Activities

This is my first week working on Activities instead of ESL. It’s a lot of physical work but maybe beats lesson planning at 11 at night.

First time in two weeks getting a break- 40 glorious minutes and all I could do was try to sleep. My sickness wants me to sleep, but my brain is too wired from my internal camp clock. Eff. 

survival essentials

survival essentials

Being on activities means teaching a bunch of frenchies how to play baseball. Objectively this sport is pretty weird. Fortunately these kids were really excited about learning and got pretty invested in the game. Only one student cried- great success! 

Two camp essentials- hot water and health. When you don’t have either things get dicey. I’m getting real tired of Normandy. 

Spectacle
This is the worst thing ever. Being sick and in charge of the same kids all day is brutal. How can I get them to focus, write a script, memorize lines and block out a scene if I don’t have a voice? I want this day to end. 

Ok so spectacle felt brutal, but was ultimately worth it to see the smiles at the end of the night. My kids were so proud of their performances and said goodnight with giant, beaming, smiles. I’m such a sucker. 

It also didn’t hurt to have amusing counselor interludes. Laughing at your coworkers as they try to do tricks as an awkward caterpillar, and smashing shaving cream into your coworker’s faces as you imitate their arms and laugh cry into their backs is really quite wonderful. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. 

Friday-Saturday: “Day Release”

The kids left crying (some even sobbing). I guess that means we’ve done our job well. It’s always a mixed feeling saying goodbye. We want them to go, so we can have some quiet and enjoy our one day off, but it’s strange to think that we’ll never see them again.


But tonight we’re actually going to a real city! The counselors are trekking to Rouen for a night on the town. I’m excited to speak French again. Being surrounded by French every day, but not being allowed to speak it has been a bit torturous. I never thought I’d say this, but my mouth misses French.

Rouen is a really cool city. It was so strange to see night life, and restaurants, and so many people. The counselors didn’t know what to do with themselves. So they got drunk. 

As my fellow coworker Buzz said of the night, “it’s like day release from prison”. 

I think that about sums it up.

One more week.

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One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Palais Idéal

Last weekend I was transported to another land- one where stone rose and entwined to create the history of the world molded and meshed into a fantastic structure. Or as I less eloquently told my dad, “it was a clusterfuck of the world in stone, and concrete, and shells”. Bienvenue to the Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval.

 

Building with stone is a common quality of the Drôme region. So it’s not surprising that an impressive stone structure could be built by a man from Drôme. But an entire palace built from a dream is something worth noting. Even artists like Picasso and Gaudi drew inspiration from this one man’s vision.

While I must admit that the palais was smaller than expected, it was no less impressive.

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Especially when you have the history. The history of one lone man with a vision, a dream, (maybe even a slight unraveling of the mind) who dedicated thirty-three years to build his ideal palace.. Continue reading

Briançon and Hiking in a Winter Wonderland

Welcome to Briançon, a unique little city of medieval fortifications, strong history, hearty people, and stunning views, nestled in the French Alps. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it is apparently the highest city in the EU, and definitely one worth visiting if you have time in France.

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Getting there is a bit of a trek, especially in the winter time as the windy, icy roads, threaten to slide you off the side of the mountain. Just hold back any fear of heights or car sickness, and you’ll be fine.

But the destination is always worth the journey. Picturesque views don’t hurt either…

This was my third visit to the city, and I have to admit that the stressful drive was well worth the worry when I experienced the beautiful snow and sun on a special hike. Continue reading

The Portugal Diaries

Since I didn’t have wifi for the majority of the trip, I took to writing notes on my iPhone (starting to understand the beauty of these devices). So here are The Portugal diaries:

Day 1: Getting There (Grenoble-Munich-Lisbon-Faro)

Is this a day? It feels like 5 rolled into one. We’ve been traveling since 3am this morning. Bike to bus to airport, to another airport, to another bus, to a train we missed because our flight was delayed, to finally waiting in the dark streets for our airbnb host to let us in. We’ve feasted like hobbits having a meal or snack every few hours because our internal clocks are askew and as a hobbit might think, eating helps pass the time. 18 hours of travel. Antoine and I have been through something like the seven stages of grieving- denial of how long this day would actually feel, anger, and then guilt, from being grumpy with each other, and ultimately acceptance and hope that in spite of missing our train we might actually make it to our destination. Reminder- if possible avoid insanity-inducing long travel days like these.

Too early

Too early

Although I must admit- seeing the sun rise over the Swiss alps is pretty stunning.

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Day 2: Exploring Faro

Good news- we didn’t sleep on the streets! Even better, we met our German host who let us in to our cute little Faro apartment, and informed us that there’s a fall fair starting tonight in our honor! Well…there’s a fall fair on the day of our arrival. Coincidence? I think not. But it’s a gorgeous day- there’s a semblance of summer lingering just outside of my window! How can this much sun and warmth exist in October? I won’t waste my time asking questions- time to explore the old town, take a boat ride around the lagoon and go enjoy the beach. Finally a real vacation with Frenchie!! Continue reading

“We’re deep in Chartreuse now”

I was lost in green. As the green grass whizzed by rolling green hills, I secured the Chartreuse in my lap. Feeling content in the passenger seat of Antoine’s loud campervan, I surveyed the scenery as green turned to grey and we slowly ascended into the mountains. I was pretty sure we were lost, but I didn’t care. As if to read my mind, Antoine smiled at me, “We’re deep in Chartreuse now”.

With past weekends filled with house projects, Ikea runs and general post-week recoveries, we were well overdue for a day trip. And the idea of a small visit to the Chartreuse cave seemed ideal- it would be short and simple…and delicious.

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Deliciousness

We entered into a space covered in Chartreuse (both the color and liqueur). I was surprised to learn that not only was the tour gratuit, but with that lack of ticket payment, you got to survey the distillery, watch a unique 3D film of Chartreuse history, tour the longest liqueur cellar in the world (you heard that right folks!), and sample a Chartreuse flavor of your choosing. Impressionnant, non? Continue reading

I’ve Missed The Wildflowers

Bike riding down dusty paths, exploring cobblestone tops of old castles, seeking warmth under the sand with my bare feet, and stopping to smell the wildflowers. Amazingly enough these are not memories from my childhood, but rather the foundation of my quarter century start.

I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 25th birthday in the South of France. The remaining assistants and I stayed in a big local house (thanks to airbnb) in the quaint, but difficult to pronounce, town of Villeneuve les Maguelone. Situated close to protected beaches and accessible to Montpellier, it was the perfect introduction to summer in the South (hoping to have a whole Southern France section of this blog later).

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The tiny town was quiet and not accustomed to seeing non-French tourists, which made for authentic experiences. The roads were bikeable and the old church by the beach was intimate with it’s vineyard, medical services, and sweet scents of jasmine wafting from the botanical garden. The beaches were not overcrowded, and the inhabitants moved slower through the small, interwoven streets and smiled more often than the non verbal Montbeliardans I’d become familiar with. It was a welcome change.

The area made it convenient for day trips to France’s 8th largest city and an old Medieval town- Montpellier and Aigues-Mortes. Though my time in Montpellier was short, it took only a small sliver time to make a big impression. I will definitely be returning.

Containing an old Medieval town within its walls and a colorful salt marsh just outside, Aigues-Mortes was unique to say the least. Winding through the old streets, observing with intrigue at the Medieval festival, and climbing through the castle brought back a rush of delightful freedom and a sense of wonder.

Wonderfully enough this trip entering adulthood sent me back to memories from my childhood. The warm weather, the smells of spring, and the simple pleasures of hearing waves rolling, or tasting hard-boiled eggs in a homemade sandwich were refreshing. And then there were the wildflowers. Oh how I missed the wildflowers. As we drove away from the Alps of Grenoble and the terrain became increasingly more flat and dry (reminding me more and more of Austin), I was surprised to feel my heart swell with childlike glee at the sight of wildflowers. I can’t believe it’s been years since I’ve seen them like that. Years since I’ve seen them in full bloom, taking over masses of earth, and tangling with each other in bursts of colorful confusion. No wonder the painters headed down South. Oh I’ve seen flowers. I might have been deprived of Spring in the spastic Boston weather, but I’ve still seen flowers. But there was something particularly breath taking about seeing the wildflowers- to see their color dominating fields, sides of roads, and cracks of walls. Or maybe it was because encapsulated in their passionate forms, they held pieces of home, of familiarity, of a time filled with innocence and memories of simple pleasures.

Or maybe they were just on my mind because of my Grandma’s quirkiness. During one phone conversation prior to the beach, she blurted, “The bluebonnets are blooming.” To which I responded, “Oh. That’s so nice. I miss the bluebonnets.” As images of their blue bodies floated through my mind and I realized just how much I missed them, my grandma interrupted with West Texan urgency, “No, no, no! That’s our code word.” “Our what?!” “Our code word. If anything happens. You say ‘The bluebonnets are blooming,’ and you’ll have a ticket home!” “Grandma. What would I need a code word for?” “I don’t know if something were to happen. If Antoine were to go bad or you were in a situation that required a code word.” As if I’m living in some hostile territory or dating some operative that could turn on me at any moment.

Needless to say that took the innocence out of the moment. My grandma is worth a blog post of her own- several for that matter. She is a character, a force to be reckoned with, and a whole lot of crazy who I completely admire.

Code words aside, it was nice to be reminded of simple things. It was nice to recharge with spring, with sun and especially with the wildflowers.

Monday Musings

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Vintage Santa

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since my last post. Oh how time is flying. Maybe it’s just the time of the year, but I can’t believe it’s already December and I’m reaching the half way point of my time here. I want to pull the emergency breaks and slow everything down, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re enjoying your time. It really does fly when you’re having fun.

In the past few weeks I’ve visited Strasbourg, Paris and Lyon for fun, friends, and fete des lumieres. I’ve also spent much of my time at the noel marche, searching for christmas presents but ultimately warming myself in the food hut with vin chaud and good company….and of course seeing bizarre daily spectacles including a family of singing clowns, French Texas two-steppin line dancers, Pere Noel or Saint Nicolas himself and my personal favorite, Père Fouettard, or the Whipping Father. We are luckily far enough North that we have privilege of the German influence of not one, but two Santa figures. In the U.S. if you are naughty, you are threatened with coal and a lack of presents. Here, children get the Père Fouettard, a man dressed in black who not only carries a whip but uses it freely to scare naughty children nice. Unfortunately my enthusiasm to witness the Whipping Father did not go unnoticed as he beelined it over to my table. Luckily for me, he couldn’t squeeze over to my spot, but Maribel was not so fortunate. We got a good laugh out of it all, while the table full of children next to us cringed in anticipation and fear. Who knew the holidays could be so horrifying?

Vin Chaud Tower...I had help!

Vin Chaud Tower…I had help!

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Pere Noel

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Maribel was not spared the wrath of Père Fouettard

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Texas in France??

In other news, I had quite the Frenchventure when I decided to get a hair trim with Maggy. I realized there are many things you say when cutting your hair- things I did not have the French vocabulary for. Trim, thin hair, fuller, trying to grow it out, want to keep the length, but get rid of the bob- are among the words and phrases I wanted to say. I worked up a good bit of butterflies, wondering how I would communicate something I had never prepared for. However, we came equipped with pictures and a print out of french vocabulary words. We were nervous, but happy we had a safety net of pictures and words. But nothing is ever quite that simple. As the woman spoke quickly and gestured at my hair in swift movements, suddenly all of my practice phrases previously memorized vanished from my mind. It soon became a Me Talk Pretty One Day scenario as I pointed at pictures and brokenly tried to express what I wanted. “I try for the long hairs. This was a bob but I don’t want. I like the fringe of her. But I want more long. My hairs are tiny. Will that work?” She kindly laughed and nodded in some sort of sign of comprehension. Thankfully it was successful and I left happy. Thank god for patient stylists and pictures.

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Happy Haircut!

Besancon

So as my father so deliberately pointed out, it has almost been a week since my last post. Correction. I think today marks the week point. So in order to combat the risk of this blog becoming yet another thing that should be a source of enjoyment, but instead turns into a source of stress, I figured it’s about time I recounted my Besancon trip.

Beautiful Besancon at the golden hour (Or as I often say to Ella “money light”)

A basic summation of the trip is best described by my facebook post “One citadelle complete with baboon soap operas and lion/tiger rivalries, 10 euros for 10 shots, a night full of gagnam style dancing in the streets, lots of spanglish, frenglish, and other mixes of languages, 1 strange dancing german toast, much delirium and even more laughter later, I have returned from Besancon. Time to catch up on 4 days of sleep. But oh what a great trip it was.” ….is it weird that I just quoted my own facebook post??

Besancon was a wonderful first excursion to have for many reasons (most of which are noted above). Venturing outside of Montbeliard, exploring an old city, learning more about the region, bonding with assistants, speaking with native frenchies somewhere around my age, finally dancing, completing one more paperwork hurdle, commiserating with other assistants about orientation boredom, and feeling the satisfaction of a four course french meal cooked by a quirky french host woman, are among the pros of the trip. After buying my Carte 17-25 (which gives me half off train tickets), me and four other assistants, Diego, Maggy, Maribel and Jose (two Americans, one Mexican and one Panamen(?) hopped on the train. It was nice to see that even the seemingly rundown looking trains not only functioned, but provided a quick, smooth and surprisingly pleasant trip. I’d gotten all too familiar with the underground world of the T where surprise stops, unrelenting creepers, crying babies, loud incomprehensible announcements, and increasingly more agitated people were commonplace. I welcomed the beautiful country side, the good company, the audible announcements and realization that in fact we had arrived early. Qu’est-ce que c’est ca?

Tourists

Mas Tourists

We greeted Besancon in full fledged tourist attire- dragging bags and pulling out cameras as we wandered around until we eventually found the cobblestone streets leading to our hotel. Besancon is old and beautiful but is also unfortunately under a ridiculous amount of construction because of the addition of a new tramway. But even through the construction, we were able to experience the beauty of this enchantingly old city (not quite sure how old but apparently during the 4th century it’s name was changed to Besontio, which later led to the transformation of Besancon…so it’s pretty darn old).

After checking into our conveniently located hotel (what? we don’t need to put down a deposit and our keys are already in the door??), we explored the area and stumbled upon an old flea market. It took everything in my artist/hoarder power not to purchase a multitude of chachkies. I saw so much potential in the old frames, worn text books, a rusting owl brooch- but as a survivor of a recent painful purge-o-stuff process, I kept on walking. Some how we were led to an environmental fair where rows of tiny huts promoted and sold fair trade, organic, and local items. And some how we managed to purchase the last crepe of the evening, relishing in the savory goodness of our prize.

He even put on his apron specially for us

Fast forward to 4 bottles of wine, 3 baguettes, 2 cheeses, and one dance lesson including dougie, cupid shuffle, superman, and most importantly gangnam style, and we were ready to check out the Besancon night life. In short, the night was a blast and I learned that french people love to speak English to you even if you answer in French, that 10 is definitely too early to arrive at the bar but if you don’t give a damn, they won’t either, and having Latin men as dance partners is fun, educational, and actually quite painful (legs and hip flexors suffered the next day…or maybe I’m just that out of shape…). Surprisingly enough we managed to get up by 8:30 the next day, which actually wasn’t that difficult considering we had five people crammed in one room.

Citadelle Monkeys

With several museums, an insectarium, an aquarium, a noctarium, and a zoo all within it’s 17th century walls, the Citadelle was quite the cite to see. Apparently by the early 1700s, it was one of the strongest fortifications in France during that period, but let’s be honest- the animals made it pretty damn cool too. It was by far one of the most unique zoo experience I’ve had. Normally, zoos depress me, but watching weird assed lion monkeys roam around ruins and climb on ancient citadel steps was too interesting to feel sad. Besides, they weren’t even in cages. During the day I communicated with strange piglets, entered a bird cage, witnessed a lion challenging a tiger (each within their own respective cages) followed by a strong tiger roar, and watched the baboon equivalent of an intoxicating reality tv show- monkey hierarchy, fights amongst the females, struggles to protect the newborn and teenage antics- Who needs the discovery channel when you have this?? We left the citadelle feeling both thoroughly exhausted and entertained as well as completely unprepared for the next two days of orientation and mandatory medical visits.

Luckily I survived both- though the medical visit was quite awkward as a tiny french doctor asked me rapid questions, while taping on various parts of my back and then pushed me against an x-ray machine, because apparently I didn’t understand how close one needs to get to be registered by said machine. But I FINALLY received my official documents from the France side and am one step closer to being done with paperwork hell! Social security, reimbursement and bank card, here I come!

There is much more I would like to recount or discuss- the lovely dinner (spoken entirely in french!) with the quirky divorcee who houses foreign students or visitors and who hosted me and an Australian assistant before our Dr’s appointment, the historical and cultural differences between Catholic Besancon and Protestant Montbeliard, the weirdness that is English language (or so I’m learning) and of course my first week of teaching. But for now I must say adieu and enjoy the pictures!

Enfin! C’est un blog!

So this is my first time writing a blog, and so far learning how it works is as easy as learning how to communicate in French. Needless to say- bare with me. I have FINALLY arrived in France after months of submitting paper work, writing french essays, squirreling away money like a greedy pre-hibernation rodent, convincing new teachers to vouch for me, having moments of France bound panic, taking night classes in Cambridge and oh and let’s not forget 12 years of dreaming…and I can’t believe that it’s all real. A dream of mine has actually become a reality! I’d like to take a moment here to thank all the little people- haha no- all of the really important people in my life who have helped me get here with their constant support and love. As cliché as it may be, I really would not be here without my friends and family.

Je suis arrivee

So France. I don’t know how to quite sum up the past 2 1/2 weeks. It’s been a whirlwind of traveling, paperwork, french, excitement, panic, awe, some more excitement and lots more French. Antoine and I traveled 24 hours from Austin to New York to London to Lyon and then from there a bus to Grenoble and a car ride from a dedicated friend of Antoine’s to our final destination, Braincon. I never want to do that again. I was too delirious and sleep deprived to take in the initial wonder of finally arriving in France. All I wanted was a bed.

Too much stuff

But I survived and we spent another whirlwind of a day in his home (Briancon) only to wake our asses up at dawn, pack up his car and drive 6 hours to Montbeliard. After projectile vomiting on the side of a mountain (TMI? I think we had food poisoning or really bad jet lag or a combination of both in addition to the constant winding roads that you must take to exit his mountain town), and braving torrential down pours, I made it to Montbeliard like a little rat dog- shaky and soaking. But I met my coordinator, Veronique, who was instantly warm and helpful. She showed me a little bit of the school but most importantly la salle des profs (teacher’s room) and then showed me to my room. Aside from the strong pickle smell coming from my pipes, the tiny shared fridge in our kitchen and the semi broken tiny shower, it’s really quite nice. I have a decently sized room to myself, a kitchen and bathroom just for me and two other assistants- Ilka, from Germany and Diego, from Mexico, a great location for my job (the school is a courtyard away), and close proxemitiy to le centre ville. And I only pay 80 euros a month! Tough to beat. Every time that I get irritated with the pickle stench that greets me as I enter my room, I remind myself that this room is helping me with a trip to Prague, a weekend in Besancon and many more adventures to come.

Bienvenue a Montbeliard

In an effort to not rant too much more (I have French paperwork calling my name), I will try to summarize my experiences here. Montbeliard is beautiful. It’s bigger than I expected but the ‘night life’ is smaller than I expected, as in non-existent…..as in not even restaurants are open on a Friday night. Ok there are a few, but it’s scarce. Maybe I have yet to explore the right areas of Montbeliard…but it’s not that big. We have a beautiful chateau, an old city center, a plethora of vibrant flowers (we’re a four flower city…apparently that’s the highest flower rating a city can get- it’s a weird French thing), beautiful rolling hills and lots of fog and rain. I have returned to New England. There are a few key differences though. It seems as though you can have multiple seasons all in one day. The morning usually starts off foggy and cold and turns into a full fledged summer or spring day by the late afternoon. And supposedly the seasons don’t last forever. Fall exists until early November and snow stays only for a month or two- not SIX!! Sorry. Still a little bitter about being robbed of spring for the last 6 years. I hope it’s different here….

Well of course it’s different here and so far I’m loving it. There are times when it can be overwhelming  not to know the language, but I’ve been surprised at my abilities to carry on a conversation or accomplish important tasks entirely in French. Living with roomies who communicate in French is also very helpful. Working in a highschool and speaking French with the teachers is beneficial as well. I’m working at two different schools- with 9 English professors in one and 3 in another. So far, I’ve only been observing the classes for the past 2 weeks. I start the teaching process next week which is both scary and exciting. I will have to write a different post entirely on the french school system, the teachers and the students because there is far too much to say. In so many words- France = relaxed and high school students aren’t scary but hilarious and adorable.

For now, that’s it. But this is only the beginning….