Archive for November, 2011

It is time

(The image that comes to mind with this is Rafiki from The Lion King making this solid declaration.)

Anyway, it’s probably way past time I stop being jealous of other people’s lives.  I’m jealous of simultaneous bilinguals, those people who are exposed to two languages before the age of three and have two first languages. I’m jealous of Europeans, specifically European assistants, because it’s easier for them to do paperwork if they are citizens of the EU, they aren’t so far from home, and they always live so close to countries I want to visit. I’m jealous of the assistants in Limoges, because there are so many of them and a lot of them live in the same building. And they have the convenience of mid-sized city life. I’m jealous of Kaitie because she lives with the Spanish and German assistants (Maria and Elli) and her French is so much better than mine. (Sorry for the awkwardness, Kaitie, if you end up reading this.) I’m jealous of a high school friend who just got engaged in Ireland. (It’s the Ireland part I’m jealous of.) I’m jealous of Irish Laura because she lives in Ireland. I’m jealous of the guy who lives on the first floor with a giant window, because he can escape out it if he needs to.

So basically, I’m a normal human who wants whatever they don’t have. Which, when you think about it, it gets ridiculous. Some people never stop wishing for what they don’t have, and they’re never satisfied.

There will always be something else I want, because I will never have enough time to read all the books in the world or pet every cat. The giant cats may even try to eat me if I get close enough to pet them. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to cuddle with one. I’m assuming everyone is like this.

However, we shouldn’t waste our lives on these things. My life is mine. I have my own set of experiences that no one else does. Other people have other experiences. From the outside, parts of other people’s lives are always more alluring. But there is nothing wrong with my life, or anyone else’s.

There was more rambling, but it didn’t automatically save it, so now it’s lost.

I am thankful for the life I have. I’m lucky to have a family who adopted me. While I struggle against the human instinct to want the shining qualities of others, I appreciate what I have and recognize if there’s something about my life I want to change, I should change it. Everyone should be judged by their own progress, not by the standards of someone else. I suppose this is a little different in the classroom, but classroom skills are often different that life skills.

So, I’m grateful for all my talkative, introverted quirks and life experiences. I wouldn’t be me without them.

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Before: “Nah. I won’t need that.” Now:”I wish I would have brought that…”

  • Coloured pencils (I forgot I was teaching small children)
  • Some form of painkillers
  • Tennis shoes (Yes, me of all people.)
  • Thumbtacks
  • An extra shirt or two
  • Post its/a notepad
  • A green hi-lighter
No, none of these things are really important or expensive. I bought everything except for the last three, and my friend Keebee sent me good coloured pencils in her package with Sun Chips and peanut butter. She also drew a faery on her note for me to colour. It was one of the best presents ever. I thought about packing these things, and decided against it. But I guess If I had, I wouldn’t have gotten away without an overweight/ extra baggage charge.
EDIT: I got a notepad for free on Wednesday.

Maps

I decided I keep talking about all these places and no one knows where they are. So, while everyone looking up things on google maps is helpful, there are prettier maps.

France with all its colorful regions:

You have to click to get a great picture, but at least the region of Limousin is circled. It’s South-Central-Western… Brittany, where I studied abroad, is the green region jutting out in the North between the English channel and the Atlantic Ocean. The city, Rennes, is the red dot close to the orange-ish region Pays-de-la-Loire. You can also see the red dot of Limoges in Limousin in this map.

Limousin:

You can see all the departements with their capitals.

Corrèze:

This is the only map I could find that shows both Bar (where Emilie lives) and Laguenne (where I work 3 hours a week.) You have to click on the map and zoom in to find them… Bar is North of Tulle before the city/commune of Corrèze, and Laguenne is South of it with some of the letters cut off by the name of a river or something. Both are represented by an outline of a black circle.

I tried finding a map of Tulle also, but I couldn’t find one specific enough.

My writing is not spectacular in these posts; partially because I’m writing so much, and partially because I have a blob of Franglais in my head. So I apologize for grammatical errors that I shouldn’t make after studying English for so long, but I think everyone understands what I mean.

School

Wednesday was Anouk’s birthday. Apparently, she decided on Tuesday that for her birthday, what she really wanted was shorter hair. And instead of mentioning this to someone, she figured school was a good place to start practicing hair-cutting skills. Not surprisingly, an almost 5 year old’s first attempts at being a coiffeuse didn’t turn out so well. The surprising part is that the teacher somehow missed this and chunks of hair wherever Anouk hid them. So, on her birthday, Emilie took Anouk to the real coiffeuse, who had to chop off almost all her hair to make it even and have it in a way that it would grow back evenly. She looks like Peter Pan when he used to be played by girls for singing/easier flying purposes.

Sorta like this, except 5 and brunette.

    

So, more like this, except a tiny bit shorter hair.

Apart from having the rest of her pretty curls chopped off (and still being absolutely adorable), the rest of her birthday was good. I ate a lot.

And this bring me to my title topic, school. I don’t understand how the teacher missed the entirety of the hair-cutting incident, but I do understand how he/she could have missed it happening. It’s difficult to keep all the kids in sight all the time. Often, I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out or not explain it well enough for them but never know because kids on the other side of the classroom are arguing or asking me how to say such-and-such in English.

I had orientation in Limoges in the beginning of October. It was about a 2 hour train ride away because there was a layover in Brive. Anyway, it was interesting to try to find the building where we had orientation, because I don’t think they communicated the address to everyone. We filled out bazillions of pieces of paperwork, but at least the people talking to us were funny. The actual trying to teach us about teaching part  wasn’t very helpful to me, except that I got to meet all the other elementary assistants in the academie. There are only 6 of us, and 4 of them live in Limoges proper. All of us are girls. Nicola is from England, and she’s in the city (town?) of Guéret in the departement of Creuse. She’s the only other one not in Limoges. There’s Therese from St. Louis, who has already done this program for 2 years, and Nina from NYC, who has done this program already for a year. Their French is really good. (Obviously…) Laura is from Ireland, and Adrienne (I was really excited when I remembered she was also with elementary kids) is from Louisville.

There are tons more assistants in Limoges with the middle schools and the high schools. They have a nice little community. Anyway, the best part about the orientation were the other assistants. I also finally got to meet the other assistants in Tulle. We’re also all girls. There’s Meg in the middle schools, Kaitie in the high school, and Maria from Spain in both the middle and high schools, I believe. (Elli from Germany got there later.)

So, I was supposed to teach in Laguenne the day after orientation. There are no early buses to get there, so I had to call Marie to give me the number of one of the teachers who passes through Tulle on his way to work. I called him, and it took awhile for us to understand one another, with my American accent and his Southern accent. It was the first time I’d ever heard a Southern French accent, although I was sure that a lot of the French I had been hearing was different than what I had heard in the North. Anyway, he passes by the train station every day, which is like 5 minutes from where I live, so I waited in front of the train station for him. It was sorta awkward, since I was standing in front of the train station waiting for someone I wasn’t sure I’d recognize in a car I knew I wouldn’t recognize at 7:45 in the morning.

Nothing interesting happened in the class I was supposed to teach that day. In fact, I just answered a couple of questions about the US then sat in the back of the class and watched. *shrugs* I guess she just wanted me to observe the first time. I didn’t teach at Turgot that day because they were having an orientation/class thing on sign language, since there is a deaf student. And I didn’t teach at Juliot Curie that week because I’m there all day Monday, and that Monday was spent in Limoges. So all I had left that week was the older kids at Laguenne on Thursday.

I showed up there on Thursday, and they were like “Oh, we didn’t tell you? there isn’t class today because there’s a ‘conference’ on communication. But you can stay for it!” Typical. Turns out, it was an assembly presentation sort of thing with multimedia support, called “Communication: from oral to written.” It was actually fascinating, and well worth watching the two times that I did. (Once for the younger kids and once for the older ones, since I was stuck there until the bus got there anyway. They weren’t the exact same presentation, anyway.) It reminded me of how much I missed learning cool things. I learned about the history of the alphabet. And since the presentation was for kids, I understood all of it . 🙂 I wish I knew the company who made the video sorta thing… The music was cool.

So, I started teaching a week later than I should have. But I did get to go to a cool assembly I understood for free. Monday I went to Juliot Curie, not really knowing what I was doing. (I still don’t really know.) My first class was an absolute disaster. The teacher was just like- “Oh, yeah, here’s the class. What do you want to teach? It’s up to you.” I hadn’t prepared to actually teach the whole class… But I took her flashcards on weather and did it anyway. The kids knew I wasn’t prepared. And they sat and stared at me. So did the teacher, mostly.

But the other classes weren’t nearly that bad. All of the other teachers had me assisting, or just answering questions. I helped one teacher explain the story of the US flag and another brought in Halloween objects and had me help explain about Halloween. With the little little kids, I tried to teach them “Frere Jacques en anglais,” you know the kid’s song “Brother John.”

The next day was fine, but exhausting. Tuesdays are always exhausting, going to Laguenne early in the morning and taking buses back to Turgot and working the rest of the day… It was interesting to see how Emilie taught though. Her endless energy and quick sense of humor makes her perfect to work with kids.

I remember, I stayed at her house for the next two nights, and Anouk asked me if I wanted to play some game or another. I said no, and Emilie was said, “She’s cooked. Like a sausage.” That’s an amusing way to put it…

That Thursday was good. I taught my lesson on the history of the Union Jack. I like the story. But it is hard to explain to kids about the UK and how it is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and, Northern Ireland and how The Republic of Ireland is now separate and that flag has a different story… I didn’t have to do any research on the Irish flag, cuz I’m a dork and already knew. Well, that and they explained it in Ireland at the same time as I was taking an Irish Poetry and Politics class in Rennes… (And it’s really hard for me to not explain this because it’s cool… so I’ll just post the link for anyone who cares. I’d suggest at least skimming to the part about why Wales isn’t included in the flag. http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/geography/unionjack.html   And for all you people who love Irish culture and don’t already know about the flag:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Ireland )

I didn’t feel like I did a very good job, especially since the kids finished coloring before the end of my 45 minutes and I had no idea what to do. One of the kids thanked me or something on the way out (the kid who asked about the UK flag weeks before so was the reason the teacher asked me to teach about it), and I said something about not being a good teacher yet. His, “Mais si!” made the whole week worth it.

The next week was… interesting. It just so happens that it was the week before Toussaint (All (tous) Saints Day) vacations began, and a lot of classes were doing fun things. But the classes that were there I talked a bit about Halloween and went over a bit of vocab. In the class where the teacher brought in objects to demonstrate, her broom gave me a giant splinter in the middle of class. That was fun. Half the classes at Juliot Curie went to the Jacques Chirac museum instead of having class. The kids at Turgot all had a field trip/day sort of thing to the stadium where they played rugby against other schools middle school kids coaching. It took me a long while to figure out this is what I’d been dragged along for… At first I thought we were watching people play rugby. The kids from Juliot Curie were there, and they all kept looking at and waving to me. It was nice of them, but I sort of felt like an exotic flower.

It turns out I was in charge of 8 kids while they weren’t playing. All by myself. I had no idea where the nearest teacher was, and I only had a very vague idea of what was going on, because nobody bothered to explain it to me. Emilie just texted me and said we were going to the stadium and to bring lunch. She didn’t really explain who, when, or why, and no one else realized I was lost, I guess. To me, it’s not normal to take the the whole of lots of nearby schools and bus them to the stadium to play rugby… So it wasn’t immediately apparent. Luckily I’m just used to being confused. (Just ask Hunter Bruce from TKD).

The kids were horrible. It was hot, they were fighting with each other over everything, they wouldn’t share, this one girl was super bossy, the boys were running up a nearby hill that wasn’t even part of the stadium and losing water bottle tops… I lacked the linguistic fluency to hold them together. Oh yeah, we also ran around the entire place  looking for drinking water. But. The earthworm comment (see This if you don’t know what I’m talking about) was hilarious.

Thursday that week one of the classes was on a field trip… somewhere. In the other one, I just taught the other half of them about the Union Jack.

So this week was only my second full week of classes. It went okay. My first class Monday has a new teacher. She was in training until the vacation, so that’s why the other lady didn’t care much. She was only a replacement teacher. The new teacher is nice, but she told the kids to pronounce Ireland “Hierlend.” I understand how a kid would say this trying to say “Ireland,” but… I kind of died a little on the inside. With younger kids, I messed up the “Where is Thumbkin?” (just starting with the first verse) song I was trying to teach… But they won’t remember by this monday anyway. And I’ll teach it to the little little kids this week…

French schools aren’t in session for Armistice day. Which meant that yesterday, they were all crazy. “Agité,” as the teachers put it. It took the whole 45 minute session to colour a map of the US. In the other class, one of the kids pretended I was Spanish and said my name “Rrrrbecca.” I thought it was funny, but I couldn’t tell him that or he would just shout it the entire class instead of listening. They went over numbers, and the teacher tried to explain the suffix “teen” gives them another word in French that comes from English. She asked if they knew what it was. One guy in the back said, “Hamburger?”  It was really hard not to laugh. (In case you didn’t guess, the word was “teenager.”)

Again, I wrote more than I meant while trying to explain some school experiences and am just now getting to what I meant to be the focus: the school system. I think it’s because there are a lot of things that happen that I want to share, and I start writing… And writing is something that’s so deep-rooted with me for some reason.

Anyway, the school system:

  • There are three years of preschool. It’s not obligatory, but almost all kids go to it. And they learn a lot, or so it would seem from what Anouk can do. But that could just be that her mother is a teacher.
  • Elementary school starts at age 6. Conveniently, with the numbering you can see the American grade equivalent. The grades are called:
  1. CP
  2. CE1
  3. CE2
  4. CM1
  5. CM2         I have a document explaining what all the letters stand for, but I don’t know where exactly it is.  It’ll have to suffice right now that CP is the smallest because the P has something to do with “petit” and the older kids have an M because… I dunno. I remember it by them mastering more material.
  • There are 4 years of middle school. By what I understood, they’ve pretty much sorted the kids out into ones who will study after the obligatory point (16 years) and ones who will do apprenticeships in trades instead by the end of this.
  • There are 3 years of high school. You already study what you’re going to do as a job. There’s a big exam to get your degree, which sucks, from what I understand.
  • Then- university! (I stopped reading the document after this point because I don’t need to know this.) But there are 3 years to get a license, a bachelor’s.

All this is just what I understood from that document and what Emilie told me. I’ll correct anything if I realized I got it wrong.

And yeah. I only work 12 hours, and only as an assistant (most of the time- I do still have to plan lessons and for some of the classes), but it’s not easy. It’s 14 different classes in 3 different schools with 12 different teachers. I’ve been saying 13 classes, but I just realized there’s one teacher who takes another teacher’s class every other week and teaches hers ever other week= 2 classes. Each teacher wants me to do something different, and each class is at a different level. Most of the classes are French to English, but some of them are only in English. Then there’s the language barrier. It gets easier, but it doesn’t just magically disappear. At least, it hasn’t yet. I’ve found it’s actually worse when I’m with other anglophones or right after an all-English class. The switch takes time (and it makes me feel dumb often).

Life is interesting. It’s never what it seems, but it usually works out better than you could have planned it. I just keep this in mind.

In the past week

Problems sorta resolved-

1) turns out I misread the letter from the OFII. I don’t owe them any more paperwork. Just for some reason they need more time before sending me the letter with my doctor’s appointment date and everything. May have something to do with all the language assistants here. :p

2) I don’t have to pay my whole room fee! They just put the full amount on the bill.

Halloween was interesting. I went to a party at Emilie’s last Friday. I met her brother, Alban’s sister and stayed up long after I wanted to go to bed. I’m turning old. It was so funny, because no one had ever celbrated Halloween, so most of them went crazy with the disguises. Then on Halloween day, I went to Limoges and stayed with Adrienne, the other girl from Louisville. While I’m a bit jealous that there are so many English assistants there, I felt like I was losing my French in my 2 days there.

 

Other interesting things (to me):

(Emilie, Alban, and I were getting ready for their party)

Alban:Why do you want to make my hair stand up like that? (Rebecca stops listening)

Emilie: afkaefij eghdgjakfj  paroles, paroles, paroles (words, words, words)

Alban: Fortunately, Rebecca doesn’t understand everything.

Certain I’d just missed an innuendo, I just smiled and nodded, but Emilie proceeds to recount her vulgar comment about raising… things.

 
Emilie: (giving a tour to guests) And this is my office.

Laurent: Your office?

Emilie: Well, we share it. We’re a modern married couple. We share a bed together. We fixed the house together. We share the office. We had two children- together.

 

 

Emilie: Have you seen the film Scream?

Me: No.

Emilie: You’re smart. Stay with the Disney movies.

 

 

Anouk: And this is the diet cheese for fat people. Like Papa.

Alban: Merci, ma lute…

Emilie: You’re not fat. Just a tout petit bit overweight. So you just have to pay attention.

 

 

(In Limoges)

Adrienne and I realized we’d lived 5 minutes away from each other our entire lives. Also, she knows Dave Elesser and hung out at/around the legendary Richmond house when he and Seth were roommates. Even though she’s never met Seth, she knew his name. We both were super excited when we realized this.

 

Halloween-themed tourist guide of the crypts: We have to find my cat before the evil sorcerer turns him into stone! (I adore cats, and I’d just met an affectionate one- I got to pet a cat for the first time in a few weeks!)

Me: Is it bad that I’m worried about a fictional cat?

Kaitie: How do you know it’s fictional?

 

Kaitie: Hey, Cambray, you could just take these feathers and use them in your costume.

Cambray: But wouldn’t that be-

Kaitie: It’d be pretty gross, yeah.

 

Martin Paris, an assistant from New Zealand, was in a commercial for… I don’t remember what but becasue he looked Mexican. Also, if you type “Martin Paris” into youtube, the first video that comes up is him singing on TV. (I would post the video, but I don’t know him that well. So I’m just giving anyone instructions to see it, like that’s better… I’m weird.)

 

(Outside tables at a bar)

Me: *belch* Sorry.

Tanner: I don’t care; I’m a guy.

(Walking home, I burp again)

John: Such a loud sound coming from such a tiny person.

(later on- yup. I burp again.)

John: I would be surprised, if that weren’t the fifth time tonight you’ve done that.

Me: Sorry. It’s just that I’m used to it

Someone else (Cambray? Kaitie?) : That’s how those Kentuckians are…

(Adrienne makes a face) Me: No, Adrienne’s a lot classier/more elegant than me…

Adrienne: I didn’t say that.

John: It’s sort of endearing.         (Ha! Told you it wasn’t a big deal, Mom!)

 

 

Right as all the wine was gone, I realized my empty glass was kind of translucent and I wanted to see what the world looked like through it.  So I looked through it. Both John and Miguel poured some of their wine in my glass. Awesome.  But oops at the same time. I didn’t really need more wine.

 

 

Patrick: What were they smoking when they made this?
From Asterix & Cleopatre
then this came later: 
I don’t expect anyone to actually watch these in their entirety.

 

Dan (Irish Laura’s boyfriend(There’s an English Laura too)): I don’t see how you can be with me and teach little kids at the same time.

Laura: You must be doing something right. I don’t know what it is…

 

Kid in class: Are there sharks in the ocean in the US? Have you ever been to a basketball game in Chicago? Why are,”beef,” “milk,” and cotton written on the map? What do you eat for breakfast? (he had a lot of questions…)

NOTE: Dialogue is often paraphrased, because my memory isn’t perfect, neither are my translating abilities.

I guess I should explain my life (Part II)

First of all, let me explain something, in case it wasn’t clear. There are 22 regions of France (27 if you include all the overseas territoires). This is similar to there being 50 states in the US. Each region is broken down into departements, which is kind of like how there are counties in states. It can get more complicated, but let’s just say after this there are cities. (Actually the next level is cantons, but I only sort of understand it, and it’s not important to anything else I have to explain. Look it up if you want.)

I am in the region of Limousin, which is broken down into 3 departements: Haute-Vienne, Creuse, and Corrèze. As I mentioned, I’m in Corrèze, in the city of Tulle. Limoges is the capital of Limousin, as I also mentioned previously, and for some reason the “school district” is called by the main city of the area. Hence, L’Academie de Limoges. Tulle is the capital of Corrèze, even though Brive is bigger.

Now, what can get confusing is that, since this is a “country” region, people travel from city/village to city/village in the departement as easily as people live in the suburbs and work and go to school downtown in US cities. But I’ll get to more about this later.

The plane ride was uneventful. I read a little, ate a little, and took my new prescription allergy meds that make me drowsy.

Going through customs, the guy behind the window thought I was French. But just because I can say “Bonjour” without a screaming American accent. The confidence this brought was lost about 5 minutes later. I watched all the suitcases circulate. Mine wasn’t there. I wasn’t really upset by this; in fact, I figured it was going to happen. I had to run to make my transfer, and while I was packing I realized my suitcase had always made it on and off the plane with me. I went to talk to a guy behind a desk in this little room about it. We spoke in broken Franglais. It was horrible, and I was super-embarrassed that he was trying to use his English and that my French was a train wreck.

But we got the job done. The only address I had to give him was that of the school, the only phone number I had was Marie-Christine Renson’s. It could have been worse. So, I walked out of there with my suitcase to be sent to Ecole Elementaire Turgot and a “toilet kit” with a few Q-tips, some weird shampoo, and an extra large white T-shirt in it. It was awfully thoughtful of Air France, though.

I took the RER “train into the city,” as it is marked on the Airport Charles de Gaulle signs. It’s basically just an extension of the metro, except it’s connected to the airport. Because the train station I needed is one of the few (I think) not connected to that RER line, I got off at a stop (something that has to do with St. Michel and/or Notre Dame) and got on a metro to the Paris Austerlitz train station.

It was actually a good thing my suitcase was delayed. That way, I didn’t have to lug it through the crowded metro stations and squeeze it on the metro. I’m a lot stronger than I look, but the suitcase is big and bulky. On the train ride, I listened to the CD Seth made me and almost cried when I heard  “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.” I read and tried to sleep.

When I arrived in Brive, I realized I had no idea what Marie-Christine looked like. I wandered around the mostly empty train station and scanned the people that were there for someone who looked like a Madame Marie-Christine Renson. I have no idea what I thought that was supposed to look like. Anyway, a short lady comes up to me and asks if I am Rebecca. She didn’t ask earlier because I didn’t have a suitcase. I explained to her in my barely functional French that it got lost along the way.

Marie (she asked to just be called that) explained in the car that I was going to spend the weekend at a family’s house in a little town called Bar. If I didn’t have a place to stay  by then, then I would stay with a different family. The mother would take me to Turgot with her  the next morning, so I could meet Marie to work on my emploi du temps, my timetable. Along with this was some discussion that they hoped I didn’t mind the country. Marie also explained that I would actually work in three different schools, and she seemed surprised that I didn’t already know that.

She also explained to me that Limousin was known for (at least by its habitants) their good beef, chestnuts, and mushrooms. Let’s see… Me and my picky eating habits. I like one out of those three things. Go me. But Marie also told me that I would find things to eat, that it wasn’t a big deal. If I liked cheese, I was fine.

She couldn’t find the house. We got out of the car and walked up and down the street looking at the names on mailboxes. We even tried yelling into a house whose side door was open. There were people inside, but they never came to see who was outside asking, “Personne?”  Oh, and by we, I mean Marie.

Eventually we got back in the car and Marie figured out that the “grange” that the family lived in was off of this little hidden road.

By the time we pull in, a woman and her daughter are outside. The introduction goes by too fast for me to remember any names. But the mother asked me if I’d ever read the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I was surprised that she knew it. Of course, that’s not the best reason for someone to be able to remember your name… I told her I had read it. (Although I probably should re-read it, because I’m not sure my 8th grade self understood everything on the same level that my adult self would…)

Marie explained about my suitcase. And the mother explained to me that a “grange” was where animals live, and I would be sleeping where some farm animal used to sleep. Light bulb. I was thinking they lived in a garage turned into a house, but a barn makes more sense. So, for all you people who sorta know Kentucky, you can add another city to your list of French and/or European name cities. Makes LaGrange sound much less fancy, doesn’t it?

Marie left. I explained about my picky eating, and it was fine. I ate spaghetti with beef in it (spaghetti bolonaise? I also can’t spell.), and oddly, even though I was starving, my hunger evaporated. The daughter was excited to have a guest and she chattered away really fast and loud. I felt like Marlin in Finding Nemo. “Look, you’re really cute, but I can’t understand what you’re saying.” She kept getting shushed, because it was obvious I didn’t understand (which I think was a hard concept for her to grasp) and because her brother, Jean, was asleep. His name was easy to catch.

After we ate, we sat on the couch and they showed me a photo album. The father was at work. (Because I eventually figured out their names, I’m going to just go ahead and use them). Emilie, the mum, pointed him out in a photo. The next photo was of a llama or a camel or something and she said, “That’s not the dad.” It’s difficult to explain her sense of humour without actually experiencing it… I also got to see pictures of Jean.

Anouk,the girl, went to bed soon. Emilie made me an infusion; I’m not sure what the English word is, but it’s like tea except somehow different… The only thing I can think of is that there aren’t any actual tea leaves in it, so it’s a tisane or herbal tea (see in English we still use the word “tea” because it tastes just like flavoured tea). We talked for a bit, and I went to bed. I was overwhelmed then, and it made me really sad that there was a double bed all to myself.

In the morning I got to meet Alban, who is a musician with long hair, and Jean, who definitely has those same percussionist genes. If it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have woken up at 7am the morning after my flight, but it wasn’t up to me. I put on clothes that Emilie lent me, and was surprised that they fit. I think French people are a little shorter, and they’re tiny… But still, she’s birthed two children.

That day was a crazy blur. I met almost all of Emilie’s colleagues in the morning and then played around on the school internet while waiting for Marie. When she got there, she talked to teachers about what times they would want me to intervene in their classes. It was complicated. It turns out that Emilie, who didn’t know much English, would have to teach it. Her second language is German… One of the other teachers there, Laurent, has no interest in English, so I get to lead the whole class. Fun.

Then we went to Marie’s office, in the only really tall building in Tulle, ate lunch, then looked at apartment adds. Then, we went to one of my other schools, in the town of Laguenne. Luckily, Laguenne is so close to Tulle it’s included in their bus routes. Marie did the same thing all over again as far as finding out when I should work there. The whole thing is more complicated than I can explain. Then, she took me to the supermarket in Laguenne to buy underwear before dropping me back off to Emilie. I had no idea what size to get, because European sizes are way different.

Emilie and I picked up the kids at Alban’s mom’s house. So I got to meet Alban’s mom. Then Emilie stopped by the bank, since I needed to open a bank account, and her mom worked there. You need an address to open a bank account. So I’d go back later. We went to a bakery to get bread. Anouk held my hand crossing the street, which was adorable.

The weekend was interesting. We went to the library on Saturday and I borrowed a Samuel Beckett play on Emilie’s card. I finished my book in English. We went to Emilie’s friend/ another teachers house farther in the country. She had horses. We went into the nearby woods to search for girolles, a type of mushroom, and chestnuts. We ate them with dinner. Or rather, everyone else ate them, I tasted them. I was never hungry but always eating, and always eating “different” things.

Oh, and Saturday, I got my suitcase. The story is actually quite funny. I figured I wouldn’t get it until Monday, since they would deliver it to the school and nobody would be there on Saturday. But. They called Marie. She asked if they were going to pass through Brive. They said yes. So they delivered the suitcase to her. Alban just happened to be doing an outdoor concert in Brive that day. The two of them had never, ever met, but somehow they figured out who the other was. Probably, Alban’s name was on a program or something and if Marie didn’t know his name, she recognized the last name. Anyway, I got my suitcase back. This is the great thing about small towns. 🙂

Monday morning, Emilie asked me if it was okay if I stayed with them the rest of the time until I found a place instead of going to another family. Of course, this was fine by me. It made me happy that they’d adopted me. I met Marie at the the school again, and she took me to my third school, Juliot Curie. We did the whole confusing making a timetable thing.

Eventually, I think it was tuesday, Marie and I visited the Foyer du Jeune Travilleur. If you can translate at all, yes, it is a place where young workers live. It’s basically a dorm. The guy in charge, George, showed me their three open rooms. They were all more than I wanted to pay, and not really worth that much, but electricity and water is included.  And I can apply for CAF, which is government aid. All I had to do was prove that I didn’t make money in 2009. This was weird to me, but  I didn’t make that much money in 2009, so I went with it.

After we looked at the rooms, we went back to Marie’s office and ate lunch. She asked what I thought, and I told her if she was sure I would get CAF, the rooms were fine. So, she called George back and we visited the bank. We asked specifically for Emilie’s mom, but she was on her way out. The recptionist/teller lady ran out and got her for us… :/

Emilie’s mum told me I needed a paper as proof of address, and we set an appointment to set up an account Thursday. Marie and I went back to FJT, where they explained a lot of money stuff. While I was waiting for the CAF, which took a few months, I would only have to pay the amount they expected I would have to pay. We also started the long process of paperwork… Everything is paperwork. I would move in Thursday morning.

Emilie and the kids and I went to a lake that afternoon. It was almost October, and we were in our swimsuits in the sun. I played in the water a bit. I found a rock that looked like half a heart and decided to keep it. Anouk kept wanting to throw it back in the water because that’s what she was doing with all the rocks she picked up… I had to hide it from her. She can be a little terror when she wants.

So, I moved in Thursday morning. Anouk sulked on the stairs. “Pourqoui est-elle s’en va, Rebecca?” 😦 Something like that. It made me feel bad. I promised to return, or tried to. Emilie said I could come whenever, for tuesday and wednesday nights since there is no class in elementary schools Wednesday, or for weekends… For Christmas… This week is the first one I haven’t spent at least 2 days with them. It feels weird.

Anyway, Emilie lent me a toaster oven, her friend/fellow teacher Isabelle lent me a microwave. Marie helped me get my suitcase to the third floor, which is fourth floor American style. I was so happy to get all my stuff out of my suitcase…

I walked to Orange and bought a sim card for my old French phone. I had a bit of a freak out, because I was frustrated that I’d been there a week and I was still sorting out the basics of my life and I couldn’t get internet without a phone number. Yay wifirst. All because I really wanted to send an email. I’m really silly sometimes. So, I wandered around until I found an Orange.

Got a bank account later that day. Emilie’s mom certainly knows her way around bank stuff… She seems all formal and serious, but she’s really really nice. I remember sitting there and seeing some of Anouk’s personality in her. And then I think about how Anouk is just like Emilie… So basically it’s three generations of a very similar personality, except Mme Mas is the only one that seems so  somber at first.

The next day, Emilie and I had a mini-orientation led by Marie on how to teach English. Emilie was terrified because she doesn’t know English. While Marie was trying to find something in a different room or something, Emilie was looking through a book and asking me how to pronounce things.

She got to the “Can I go to the toilets, please?” part, my sarcasm struck. Emile read the answers in the book “Yes, you can,” and “No, not right now,” before, without even thinking, I said, “No. You have to pee in your pants.”

She thought it was hilarious. (Such is the amazing thing about languages; we can understand so much more than we think we can…) Apparently she told all of the other teachers at Turgot about that… And their response was,”Rebecca said that?! But she’s so serious!” “Pas de tout!” was Emilie’s response… Not at all, not at all… Maybe a bit shy and way introverted.

I could continue telling my life like a story, but I have a feeling it’s boring. So I’m going to stop. I’ll just mention things as time passes. 🙂 There’s so much I can’t get it all, anyway.

Oh, and sorry for the abundance of parenthetical phrases, if I didn’t already apologize for it…