Tuesday, October 20, 2009

En France

I just wanted to provide some snippets of life here. This isn't a set theme or anything, I just kind of wanted to write about some funny/frustrating/interesting tidbits.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 *cough* (7:09)... in order to catch the 8:11 bus to my school. The bus takes about 17 minutes, and I had to make some copies of the Halloween worksheet.
At 8:00 when I arrived at the bus stop, it was still dark out. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky, but it was actually really nice. It made the morning a little more calm. The Jardin du Mail, which I've only taken a million pictures of, was right across the street, and the fountain was still lit. It was just kind of beautiful.
I listened to The Black Keys, Rubber Factory, which Carolyn bought for me as a going-away present. Just fyi, the album is fabulous. Listen to 10A.M. Automatic: here

I also want to talk about the bus driver's. It is amazing to me how friendly they are. Probably 8 out of 10 happily say, "Bonjour" when you board the train. Now, that might not seem strange to Americans, but for the French, I'd say it's one greeting short of asking you to dinner. Let me clarify: Everyone says, "Bonjour." All the time. It's pretty much rude not to. But usually it's a kind of "bnjr," quickly and without expression.
The bus drivers are just happy. I'm not kidding. They smile (this is unheard of) at you. If you ask them in very poor French if the bus passes by a certain stop, they will tell you. They even offer to tell you when you've arrived at the stop.
They seem to change drivers often on the buses, so you'll often see multiple bus drivers standing at a stop, chatting, smoking, waiting for their next bus. They exchange spots seamlessly and the bus almost always leaves on time.
I really love bus drivers.

The kids at my schools are something else. At Marcel Pagnol, all of my students learned some English last year. When I played the "Hello Song," they all joined in cheerfully. The teachers at this school are really really helpful. They basically help me teach the class even though neither really speaks English. M. Beauvais did say "no worries*" to me once. But they realize I am not a certified teacher, and I am there to introduce my language. They help the kids understand my instructions
At Jules Verne, the kids are, as the teachers say "plus agités." They are kind of bad. They talk a lot. They don't listen. Games become free-for-alls. One of the teachers is pretty helpful, she's young, and she knows I haven't really taught before. The other teacher does nothing. He sits in the back and grades papers and ignores me. Yesterday, he did bother to tell me that the thingy I printed off (it looked like a "Hello My name is" name badge, they had to glue them on the front of their notebooks) would be better if it had lines, because, effectively, in his mind, the kids CANNOT write without lines to guide them. But yesterday, I also received a bouquet of kind of smelly leaves from some of the girls in CE1.
At Jacques Prévert, the teachers help me out a ton, and one speaks English. He is nice because he checks on me from time to time, and today, after my bank worries (explained in a moment), he offered to go with me to the bank. That's true kindness. He lived in the US for a couple years, and he just said, "I dealt with this in a foreign country, it's hard."
Additionally, the kids at Jacques Prévert love me. I mean really. I haven't even done anything that exciting. I've received about 20 drawings, and everyone wants to hug me and say " 'Ehlo." It's just so funny. I'm swarmed if I arrive during recreation.

Here's something bizarre. Another assistant here works in Saumur, which is a tiny town, maybe 30 minutes away. She decided to live in Angers because, well, there's nothing in Saumur besides vineyards. Great for a day trip and wine tasting, not so good if you want to keep yourself busy. Anyway, she takes the local train into Saumur.
Twice last week, people committed suicide on the train tracks and her train was delayed and/or cancelled. It was totally bizarre. One of the teachers that she works with said, "oh, it happens a lot." A lot!? It seems like they'd try to take care of something like that.
Anyway, as luck would have it, there was a train strike yesterday and today. So I think she had to stay in Saumur last night. I can't imagine having to deal with that.

The bank: still no bank card. I went today, and the lady just said, "it's not ready yet." And I said, "It's been over 2 weeks." So she made me an appointment to talk to my bank person tomorrow, no explanation. Je ne comprends pas! I do not understand. Also, I checked my online account, and there's a mysterious €50 charge. Of course, I haven't been paid yet, so my account is a -€50.
(I just figured out how to make the euro sign! € shift+option+2).
So, with the bank stuff... I do not know. I'm going to make someone come with me tomorrow, and if that is not fruitful, Christophe, that teacher, offered to go with me Thursday.

*The French love to say "no worries" to me. Both in French and English. In French, it is "pas de soucis." This is the first phrase that I think I really learned here. They like to use the phrase in reference to due dates and the like. For instance, my rent is due today. I haven't actually been paid yet, so I told one of the women who works here. She was like, "no problem, pas de soucis." Just like that. I guess they assume that I will pay eventually, and I will. I don't want to come back to changed locks and my stuff in the courtyard. But the French seem to treat everything this way. It will work out, no need to worry right now.

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