Archive for December, 2011

I always said I didn’t want to be a teacher


  • At 11 or 12, I made a study guide of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my brother, complete with questions. I’d originally started reading it to him and asking the questions to see if he actually listened. Why? I have no idea. Because I wanted to share the awesomeness of Harry Potter? Fun, maybe?
  • When all 3 of my siblings had to make a calendar of their birth month for 8th grade French, I helped them find holidays. (Our middle school had half a year Spanish in 6th grade, half a year Latin in 7th, and half a year French in 8th. This is because the majority of kids fed directly into the same high school which taught- take a guess- Spanish, Latin, and French. The other half of every year was Literature. And yes, this was all normal for us/required.)
  • When I was writing/researching for my final paper for Multicultural American Lit two years ago, I realized I had never properly learned which Native American tribes got into which battles with which white people. Because my US history teacher sucked and I learned nothing from him. (Seriously. I’m not whining; I’m telling the truth.) The first thing that popped in my head was a plan to teach this to kids simply. Have them make a chart.
  • I tutored French and Italian last year. It started as an idea for money, but I ended up enjoying it.
  • I interned at the Alliance Française de Louisville (The Louisville chapter of the French Alliance), which primarily gets their money from teaching. Granted, I did office work, but I was still surrounded by the teaching.
  • I presented a research poster at the Academic Achievement or whatever week at Bellarmine. The same place where all the Science majors present their original research. What was my subject? It started as random information about bilingualism, then ended up being all about bilingual education.
  • I am now [assistant] teaching English in France to 5-11 year olds.
  • Apparently in general I explain things passionately, like a teacher who wants to give knowledge to children.
  • Once you get to a mid-upper belt level in TKD you end up teaching. This is just part of the way of things. And while it’s not the same as seeking out other opportunities, I keep going back to class. It’s a different kind of teaching, especially since I have no hand-eye coordination, but it’s teaching just the same.
  • I’ve helped people with a lot of papers, but I’m not sure that counts…
  • There are probably tons of embarrassing things my mother could tell you about me trying to heard my siblings and teach them stuff.

I may end up working in education.


And more adventures just trying to get places

So. The plane from Lyon didn’t leave when it was supposed to. I think it was because of strikes, but no one ever explained it. Ten minutes before it was supposed to leave the gates weren’t even open for boarding. No personnel were to be found anywhere.

Eventually, it left. Eventually, I got from the airport to the city and from the city to Brandon Kenney’s flat. I ate dinner and drank some tea and fell asleep really quickly.

On to real adventures!


A list of what’s happened every time I’ve tried to leave France. Starting with February of study abroad.

  1. Ireland- We’d booked a ferry and were going to go around and visit the country for a week. I got a phone call saying the ferry was broken. So we took a plane to Dublin and took a day trip to farther away. It was a four day trip.
  2. Italy- Volcano erupted, blocking all airways in Northern Europe. Trains were on strike. No Italy.
  3. Home- Volcano was spitting again. The flight got delayed and re-delayed for at least 5 hours, then it was a 9.5 hour flight because they were trying to go around ash clouds or something. I spent the night in Chicago and got back to Louisville the next day.
  4. UK- read above and previous post.

Apparently, France just wants to keep me there. Which is fine and all, but I prefer calmer.

I’m never making solid plans again.

Quelle aventure!

That’s what the guy working the train ticket place said. And literally, I’ve gotten no farther than 10 minutes by foot away from my apartment place.

Itenarary for a great UK trip:

  1. 8:50 am- Bus, Tulle-Limoges
  2. 10am- taxi, Limoges gare-Limoges aeroport
  3. 2:30pm- plane, Limoges-London
  4. 3:30-4ish- train/bus London Stansed airport-London
  5. 2 weeks of London, taking the tube, trains, and buses to get around the city and to cool places that aren’t in a giant city.

The bus never came. No biggie. Trains leave for Brive every 30ish minutes, and usually for Limoges from there a few minutes after. So I”d get there at 11 or maybe 12ish, which would still leave time to get to the airport between 12:30 and 1.

The next train didn’t leave for a few hours. Arrival in Limoges: 2pm. Boarding gate closes: 2pm.

Maria, the Spanish assistant, was in the train station, on her way to Lyon. Going to spend the night there with her French boyfriend, then leaving tomorrow (I think) for Spain. Her solution- go to the library, cancel old ticket, go to Lyon with her, then if I wanted, go to London from the bigger Lyon airport.

Library closed. Went back to my room, researched plane tickets from Lyon. Called the ryanair, the airline I had originally booked with. Unfortunately, since they are a dirt cheap airline, they have all these crazy rules. Like: you have to check in online 15 days-4 hours before your flight or you get charged 40 euros. So, I had already done this. But. Once that’s done, you can’t cancel it. So there’s money wasted.

I look up trains for Lyon. Turns out, the one that Maria was leaving on in 15 minutes was the cheapest one all day. By like, 50 euros. I rush to the train station. It left in 2 minutes, but there were people in line in front of me. So, whatever, I’ll take the next one even though it’s way more expensive.

I go back to my room, make lunch, buy a plane ticket for tomorrow afternoon. It wouldn’t take my American card (which obviously has more money on it), so I used my French one… Hopefully that doesn’t mean my American card is locked. I’ll call them.

New itenarary:

  1. 1:23- train, Tulle-Brive
  2. 2- train, Brive-Toulouse
  3. 4:50- train, Toulouse-Lyon
  4. tomorrow 4:20- plane Lyon- London

Hopefully that goes okay. At least I get to see a pretty city! And everything will be fine. A day late is fine. Not a big deal. Just complicated!

What are you asking Father Christmas for? What do you want?

I’ve been getting this question a lot. Perhaps because I work around children. Truthfully, I haven’t really thought of anything I wanted because I wasn’t expecting to get anything. Life is funny like that. So, the last time Emilie asked me this I just said “to be able to pass a good vacation in London.” Although I suppose getting a new mac charger a few weeks ago (for my laptop that just turned a year old Dec. 12th) is more than enough present-wise.

It struck me for the first time last week what it actually meant, not going home for Christmas. I didn’t really think it would be a big deal. Which really, it isn’t. I’ll be going somewhere I’ve always wanted to, see a familiar face, and speak my mother tongue without feeling bad. But it hit me with the fresh scent of pine indoors that I really was about to spend my first Christmas away from home. That amazing smell carried with it the feel of Christmas… Smell is the closest of the senses to memory.

And even though this has nothing to do with France, I’m going to tell two stories. My favourite part of Christmas has become the getting a tree on the last day of school for JCPS then going to eat at Cunningham’s on 4th street. Then, of course, we spend the next day decorating. But over the years fewer and fewer of us decorate the tree. The boys are lame and do other stuff.

Anyway, the past two years, the eating part was interesting. It’s been one of the few times when the six of us have been together without big fights. Two years ago, I was a few weeks away from leaving to study in Northern France. Robert brought his (now ex) girlfriend with him. It was the first time someone else came with us. Luckily Cunnigham’s has private rooms that we usually sit in. They’re designed like horse stalls because in the original restaurant, they were redone horse stalls.

So, it was the 7 of us: my parents, me, Robert, Ryann, Rachel, and Madison. (Figure out which name doesn’t belong and you know which one is the old girlfriend.) As far as I remember, we were just eating and talking normally.

Ryann, who would have been 16 then, asked something like,”Why is Daddy the only one out of his brothers that got married and had kids?”

My mom: I think it has something to do with me. (sitting up very straight and proud, obviously meaning that my dad liked her enough to break through to his distant emotions)

Ryann: (blankly) What… you mean they all wanted you?

Mom: Yes, that’s it. They drew straws, and-

Dad: And I got the short one.

Robert, my mom, and I started laughing really hard. My mom threw her straw paper at him. She missed.

Ryann: I don’t get it.

Rachel was sitting at the end of the table. She said “What just happened?”

Every time I tried to explain it to my dear sisters (yes, Ryann is a girl) I got lost in laughing.  I thought about how accurate of a representation of my family that was. Ryann asking random questions, not understanding the answer, asking questions that might be dumb, and then sitting there in complete incomprehension. Both of my parents being sarcastic, my dad saying obnoxious teasing things to my mom. Although usually Rachel says, “Oh my God, Ryann! You’re so dumb!” They are only 16 months apart, after all. You can’t expect them to be nice to each other.

Last year, Robert and Ryann got into a “who can do the weirdest thing with their tongue” war. Of course, the two middle children. That wasn’t the weird part. The weird part is when the waitress came in, My dad or someone said they should show her their bizarre talents. I don’t remember which of them can do which thing, but I’m pretty sure it’s that Robert can put the tip on his bottom teeth and move his tongue so that it does waves and Ryann can turn hers sideways so that it looks like it’s flipping around. Robert’s is also long enough to touch his nose. I missed out these tongue tricks… The only thing I can do is curl mine.

Robert showed off to the waitress. She was freaked out. Ryann got shy and didn’t want to show hers, but she eventually did. The waitress was freaked out.

Oh, and Robert also shared his great philosophical thought that hit him during his first semester of college. His “pondering,” I think he called it. Or “ponder-ment.”  And it took him forever to get it all out.

Here it is in a semi-coherrent form: Let’s assume that aliens are real. Which most people do, but whatever. [wasn’t aware that most people believed in aliens…] So. There are blue aliens and green aliens. But the blue aliens see the green aliens as blue, and the green aliens see the blue aliens as green. The blue aliens observe Earth, and report that humans are the dominant life form. So the green aliens observe Earth to see if they’re right. Now. Do you think that when the green aliens see the humans walking their dogs and picking up their poop that they’ll still say humans are the dominant life form?

Interesting point, but I’m not sure what it has to do with the green aliens and blue aliens and them having weird colour perceptions. I come from an interesting family.

Okay, I lied. Three stories. My dad and the four of us (usually) go to Hadley Potter company to get my mom’s Christmas present. The most interesting things they make are farm animal wall plaques. But they also have the same images on dishes and household things like… Salt shakers. They also have ornaments,  personalized things, Louisville-themed stuff, and doorknobs. Spoon rests and butter dishes are things we’ve gone through more than one of. I’m going to stop sounding like an advertsement and just show pictures to explain what I mean.

So, cute stuff. We’ve kinda run out of animals to get her, even with their extension of water animals. Oh, and they also have big and little versions of the wall plaque animals. When I insisted that my dad put the babies with their mums, he of course didn’t. And we have multiple baby rabbits.

Anyway, the pottery place is downtown or at least close. On the car ride there, Rachel told my dad she was irritated because he promised to show her the projects and he never did. We passed some sort of slaughterhouse/ meat delivery place… And Robert told about how he visited the Purnell’s slaughterhouse for school and detailed how he watched them kill pigs. It’s mostly humane, at least there in Shelby County.

I’m so glad I’m not an Ag major.

Ryann was protesting how mean that was and how she hated meat. Except chicken.

On the way home, instead of heading back home, my dad turned the truck the other direction. Rachel asked, “Where are we going?”

My dad: To the projects.

Rachel: Really?!

So we drove through the poor part of town. It was interesting, because as far as government subsidized housing goes, there were some complexes that my dad helped build once upon a time. And on some streets, there were falling apart boarded up houses but the other side looked nice. Everyone stared at my dad’s truck, because it’s big for pulling around a trailer full of water pipes.We saw someone get arrested. Rachel was thrilled.

Ryann: What did he do? Why is he being arrested? Who is he?

Rachel: I don’t know, Ryann! God, you’re so dumb!

Yep, I have an interesting family.

Tree from two years ago, I think, all decorated and lit up.

Very Victorian staircase. I believe I did them that year.

Fire! I could have used this a couple of days ago…

I baked 90something cookies. I showed all of the above photos to one of my classes in teaching about Christmas. So they’re going to think all Americans live in 100 year old Victorian-style farmhouses that their dads keep from falling apart.

Rachel being goofy. She looks so much like Ryann in this picture that when I showed it to my dad, he thought it was Ryann. She might kill me if she knew I was posting this.

Relating this back to France: it’s really weird how strict they are about no religion in schools but they have Christmas trees in classrooms and don’t have a problem talking about the commercialized aspect of the holiday. An Asian girl in one of my classes said she celebrates it even though her family is Buddhist, as I suspect many people in the US do… But the teachers got  nervous any time a kid asked if we had nativity scenes in the US. Cultures are different.

Beaucoup de bruit pour Rien

Literally: A lot of noise for nothing. More eloquently: the French title for Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” In real life: I don’t need my immunization records for my doctor’s appointment. Which I figured might happen.

I find that when I’m frustrated about something, the solution/resolution is usually just around the corner. And I have no idea how frustrated I sounded in the last post, but honestly I was handling it better than I’ve handled anything like it in the past two months. (There may also have been certain hormones giving me a shorter fuse…) I just want to make sure anyone who reads this knows that, because two and a half years ago I got long, critical lectures from people who thought I was acting like I was going through a crisis when I just wanted to get things out of my head. Writing makes me feel good. Unless it’s for school.

Anyway, problem solved. Now, I just need to go to Limoges for those appointments to be legal after the 22nd so I can come back after my England Christmas!

No matter what country they’re in, administrative people are difficult

(And in general not understanding, because they deal with dumb people all day every day)

I mentioned awhile back, I have to do paperwork-y things with the Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) to validate my visa. You can stay 3 months in France legally without doing this, but after 3 months you need a long-stay visa. And if you’re going to stay in a country for a long period of time, they’re going to want you to go through bureaucratic things to make sure you’re healthy and not an alien, you know, important stuff.

Step one was get a stamp on a peice of paper from your local French consulate in the US when you apply for your visa. Done.

Step two- Once you have a permanent place to stay, fill out the rest of that paper and send it to the OFII in the capital of your region along with copies of your passport, visa, and the stamp the customs officer gave you upon arriving in the country. Done.

Step three (normally)- They mail you a time and day to go to their recommended doctor and then their office. This step took some time, since they mailed me a paper first that said they received everything but were waiting to farther process things on their end before sending out this vital piece of mail. Last time I was in France, I didn’t get this letter until I was already home. So I was illegally in Rennes for a month. Oops. But I got it… last week, I believe. My appointment is Dec. 16th, next friday.

Step four- Go to the capital city of your region, take off clothes to get an x-ray of your lungs at the doctor’s, go to the OFII office, get more stamps/paperwork stuff, and Yay! You’re legal after the 3 month point!

Last Friday, I showed my letter to Marie, because they mentioned something about needing to buy a stamp and pay a tax… But she said I didn’t have to pay it because I don’t make enough money. If only I’d turned the page, I would have seen that for myself… She pointed out something I missed, though, which was a “carnet de vaccination.” Vaccination records. Yeah, I don’t have those with me. Although, I’m not sure how important these are, because I reread that section in the Assistant’s handbook, and nowhere does it say anything about needing to bring a copy of your vaccination records. That and I’ve not heard anyone else breathe a word about needing them. (Except Adrienne, because I knew she’d already had her lungs x-rayed and so I asked her.)

I forgot to email my Mom to ask about this until Monday evening. (Part of that was because I left town for the weekend, but I should have done it earlier.) She said we didn’t have those copies. So I decided I would call doctors and contact Adrienne.

I was in Bar Tuesday night until this morning. My phone doesn’t get service there, and I didn’t think it would be a huuuuuuge deal if I waited until this afternoon to contact the doctor. Remember, I’m 6 hours ahead.


The conversation went something like:

Me: Hello, I’m Rebecca Ball, and I’m a patient of Dr. Villaroman. [it’s creepy that on a French computer I can type in her name and google automatically fills in the “Louisville” part and the first result is the Norton something Dr’s office] I’m in France teaching English right now, and the Office of Immigration and Integration said they need copies of my immunization records. Is there any way those could be scanned and emailed to me? (yes, I knew it was an unlikely, crazy request.)

Lady: No. It’d be better to have us fax them directly.

Me: Okay. (knowing it was probably too late to call them today) I’ll call them tomorrow and work it out.

Lady: Yeah, go ahead and call them then have them call us and we’ll fax over the records.

Me: Okay… I don’t know if they speak English though.

Lady: I’m sure they do. If they told you they needed it.

Me: … Alright. Thank you!


Am I the only person that doesn’t understand the connection between them asking for my immunization records and their ability to speak English? I mean, logically, there probably is someone at either the OFII or the doctor’s office who speaks decent English, now that I think about it. But either I didn’t explain my situation clearly enough, she wasn’t listening well, or a combination of both. I feel like she didn’t understand that these were international phone calls we were talking about. She sounded like she thought I was in Indiana and it was completely normal to make calls back and forth.

Actually, she sounded like she didn’t care. Which, probably, she didn’t. From what I understand about that medical center, there are lots of doctors working there, lots of patients, and not very many administrative people to help. Their file room always looks like a disaster, but I’m sure that’s just because they’re always in the process of taking them off the shelves.

I understand about the faxing thing being easier for them. I don’t mind that part. I think it’s more logical for me to do all the phone calls, since I don’t know the English level of OFII/French doctor people in Limoges (It’s not Paris… It’s a small city in the middle of “La France profonde”- deep France) and I’m pretty sure the French level of the administrative doctor people in Louisville, KY is non-existant… Just, the lady’s nonchalant attitude bothers me. I’m not sure if written words without the tone conveys it well enough, but…

You never know what’s happening on the other end of the telephone. Being quick to judge will not help anyone.

I miss my pediatrician. All the doctors there knew their patients by name. Or, at least, my family. Why did I have to get old? When did I agree to grow up?

I’m just frustrated. And since I can’t do anything else about it at the moment, I’m writing. For any guys who may read this (or anyone with this speech pattern), I’m not looking for suggestions on how to fix it. I’m explaining why I’m frustrated. Venting to get over being annoyed. I know how to fix it, and will do so as soon as time allows.

Foods I’ve tried

  • Mushrooms (that we picked in the woods)
  • Chestnuts (also that we got from the woods, and I think this is what Elli gave me to try in Bordeaux)
  • Mushrooms and egg on pizza
  • weird pâte- some sort of spreadable meat. I don’t want to know what it came from.
  • Sausage from “our pig last year” … Who’s pig? This meat is a year old? I didn’t really understand, I just ate.
  • Fresh eggs, when boiled, you can take off the top of the shell, mix salt with the egg and eat it from the shell.
  • “These are mashed potatoes with épinards.”  “Okay…” I knew I knew this one, but I just ate it. When Emilie said Jean was going to grow up strong like Popeye, I was like ohhhhhhhhhh.
  • Weird pastry thing just called “cake.” Yes, the English word.
  • Cherry “gâteau,”  the French word for “cake.” It was something between a cake and a pie. I had no idea they didn’t get the pits out of the cherries, so I choked on a seed. Yum.
  • 9023148139571283464813957 different kinds of cheese. Okay, probably only 10ish.I couldn’t tell you which is which still. Of course, the kind I like best is “kid cheese.”
  • Rabbit
  • Duck
  • Salty Corsican.. some kind of cold, sliced meat
  • Mashed potatoes with sweet potatoes snuck in… I thought it tasted weird. (What’s up with the messing with the potatoes? Also, they mostly just purée the potatoes without adding the tons of butter and cream… At least in my experience. Sad, but probably better for you. This is why I bought a potato masher.)
  • Something horrible at the Halloween party Emilie and Alban had for me- something weird and figgy.
  • I think I’d already eaten salmon before, but I’m not sure. In any case I’ve had salmon and fish that I had to peel the scales off of.
  • Truffade- a Corrézien dish with cheese and potatoes
  • A tiny bit of crab
  • Potato tortilla made by the Spanish assistant
  • Juice from whatever meat and vegetables we had on the pasta we’re having
  • A “soup” of  pasta with creme fraiche in it (sorta like sour cream)
  • Couldn’t even begin to tell you what kind of flowers are in the different kinds of tea/infusions I’ve had. I think the night time blend at Emilie’s has thyme in it. Tea isn’t food, but whatever.
  • Local honey tastes different. (hm.. It’s like I’m halfway around the world with different plant varieties or something.) And yes, honey is a food.
  • Rice pudding sorta thing
  • Ham on pizza

I know there are others I’m forgetting. A lot of these things I just tasted, I didn’t really eat. But I discovered that while I don’t care for mushrooms, if I were lost in the forest I could (probably) find the edible mushrooms and eat them.

This won’t come as a shock to anyone, probably, but I feel amazing after a long treck in the wild, rugged forest. Even if we all end up walking out covered in mud, it’s great. Funny, how I go so far away from home and still the most striking things are the trees, hills, and the river- none of which are new things to me. The hills are a bit steeper, perhaps, but that’s not the point. Point is, I’ve seen some cool things but feel more comfortable tripping over my own feet in the middle of the woods.