Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday 1/26: “Je ne veux pas travailler”

I was able to sleep in this morning and, after a nice, hot shower, I felt a bit better. I took my time having breakfast and getting ready, then headed over to school. Pablo and I spent the five minutes before class discussing the fact that there are songs in pretty much every language called “I don’t want to work” …for example, the Pink Martini song, “Je ne veux pas travailler.” Apparently Pablo knows one in Spanish and one in Portuguese as well… In any case, we both sat there not wanting to get up and head to the classroom, but finally the clock hit 10:45am and we had to move. But, when we knocked on the classroom door, no one answered. It was locked! We eventually deduced that the CE2 classes were on a field trip and no one had bothered to tell us! Well, great. It was fine for me because I just went home and rested, but Pablo lives about 15 mins away by bike, so there was no point in him going back home because he had a class at 1pm at the middle school. He was a bit peeved because he could have slept in. :(

By the time I was walking back home, I wasn’t feeling so wonderful, so I returned to bed and read for a while until I fell asleep. When I woke up (to go teach at the other school), I was feeling icky again. If I moved to quickly, I felt kinda woozy and my head was all stuffed up again. Catherine suggested that I take the Volvo, so I drove to the other school.

My first class is supposed to start at 1:30pm (although they don’t ever get into the classroom before 1:35pm), but today I waited until 1:48pm before the kids showed up. Apparently they were having some sort of assembly that no one told me about. So, that class went by really fast because we only had 20 minutes of class time! Overall it was pretty successful though, because I found the book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” in the cupboard (while I was waiting around for my class to arrive) and I read that to them. After I read it once, we went through and translated each page. I had planned some other things to do, but we didn’t have time.

The second class arrived and I had those who had already finished their pen pal letters (about 3/4 of the kids) copy down a short list of useful questions from the board and then color. I went around helping the remaining students finish up their letters… and (miraculously) we managed to get them all done in time! And although the other students were far from silent, they didn’t get in any fights, so that was an improvement!

On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store to buy some big envelopes to send the pen pal letters. Once home (after I’d eaten some cereal for lunch… my stomach hasn’t been feeling so great either), I packaged up the letters and then went to the post office to mail them. So glad to be done with that! …Except that I’m about to start it at the school near me and, unlike the class of 14 at the other school that just finished their letters, there will be 60 kids writing letters! eep!

After tea with Margot, I read and rested in my bed. My stomach is all queasy now, which is rather unpleasant. I managed to haul myself up around 7:30pm so I could go down and make the salad for dinner. Catherine arrived soon afterwards and she made the omelet. Margot and I watched Dr. Quinn…who finally had her baby—out in the woods (of course). Ah, quel drame!

This weekend I’m going to Spain with Alison (leaving Sat morning and returning Sun afternoon), but I wish that I didn’t feel so crummy. I want to go have an adventure, but mostly I just feel like staying in bed. Phooey.

I got a letter from Aunt Ellen today! That definitely cheered me up!!! :D

Wednesday 1/25: Y.M.C.A. and Housework

Finally, a beautiful, sunny day! And warm! It’s amazing how much that helps! I’m still sick, but getting some good sleep and doing some cleaning and laundry made me feel a bit better. I realize how much I prefer doing housework to teaching… I feel like I’m good at it and I am efficient and I enjoy it. So, today felt pretty productive.

I also spent a lot of time working on lesson plans. Catherine was talking about how she uses the song “YMCA” to get her students (adults) to remember how to say the letter “Y.” Since my students have a problem remembering it as well, I thought… why not teach them the song?! So, I worked today on finding some good songs to make another CD for my classes. I ended up with a bunch of good tunes (for varying levels) such as: We Are Family, B-I-N-G-O, Hello Goodbye (the Beatles), and I’m A Little Teapot!

This evening I hung out a bit with Margot (we had a good time dancing to YMCA) and headed up to bed early.

Tuesday 1/24: School Lunch and Long Talks

For some reason I couldn’t sleep last night…I think I might have been feverish? So it was lucky that I didn’t have an early class today. I headed over to teach at 10:45am and the class was really talkative, which is just tiring. We talked about feelings today (with the 8 yr olds) and learned “How are you?” “I’m ____.” It’s funny because they are so used to saying “How OLD are you?” that they often mistakenly say that instead! I had made them a feelings wordsearch, so they spent the last 15 minutes of class doing that, which was a good break for me.

Two of the teachers who normally eat lunch from the cafeteria were leaving for lunch today, so they invited Pablo and I to have their lunch. So, I ate “school lunch” for the first time. Hmm. Well, it’s definitely healthier than in the US, but it wasn’t very good. The entrée was a bizarre bean/egg/mayo salad that I only just tasted, then the main course was balls of meat and a squash puree that was way too salty, and then there was bread (not amazing) and cheese, and a choice of either an apple or clementine. I only ate a little puree and then had bread, cheese, and two apples. Oh well, at least not all the food went to waste!

After lunch I taught the little kids in the library and that went well! We briefly reviewed the colors and then started learning the days of the week. I had printed out the names of the days of the week and I had 7 students each take one and go to the front of the class. Then the remaining students had to put the days in the correct order. They have the most difficulty with Tuesday and Thursday because they can’t really see a difference…perhaps because in French, “th” is pronounced like “t” so they seem to be basically the same word!

From there I went up to the class of 10 year olds, where we reviewed the animals and sang “Old MacDonald Had A Farm.” I didn’t try the dance this time, though, because there’s not enough room in their classroom. :p

I had a little break (during which I went home and lied in bed for 30 minutes) then I taught the other class of 7 year olds. We worked on the days of the week as well and then they had time to start a color-by-letter. I had to go around correcting those that thought “R” (red) was for some reason…the color green. Most of them got it right, though!

When I came home, I had tea with Margot and *finally got to skype with Maria (I’ve been wondering what was going on with her because I hadn’t heard from her since last Thursday night…and normally she’s online every day. Apparently she ran out of internet and hadn’t been able to get more) before I had to leave for my conversation class.

We had a good time speaking in English and discussing the differences between American schools, British schools, and French schools. They asked a bunch of questions and some I could answer, others I couldn’t…like, who pays for the schools? The city? The county? The state? And who pays the teachers? In France the town pays for the elementary school, the county pays for the middle school, and the region pays for the high school (I think)… It seems a bit confusing.

After dinner tonight, Margot, Catherine, and I watched the TV show about a foster family. It plays every Tuesday night, so I watch it with them. I’ve been watching a lot less TV lately because I just come upstairs after dinner and either hang out a little bit with Margot, or read/lesson plan/go on my computer in my room. It’s been nice, though, because lately we haven’t been watching the news during dinner, which I LOVE!! Hopefully this’ll last! I much prefer talking about whatever subject just happens to come up!

After the TV program tonight, Margot headed to bed and Catherine and I started chatting. We had a really good talk about several different subjects and when we happened to glance at the time, it was 2:15am! Holy cow! I had no idea it was that late!! Neither of us thought it was even past midnight. But, it was great to have a long talk and luckily we both can sleep in tomorrow morning!

Monday 1/23: Teaching = Acting

Still sick.

My first class of the day was in Margot’s class and we were reviewing animals. Since I forgot to make flashcards for all the animals, I ended up drawing some on the board…yeah, some were better than others. The dolphin was particularly bizarre looking, although I do sheep fairly well (they kinda look like clouds)… It was a pretty hilarious class because I taught them “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” and after singing it through a few times (they really get the E-I-E-I-O part), I made them all get up and try doing a do-si-do like “real American country dancing.” It was hysterical watching them try to figure it out!! And, of course, that was the moment that the teacher walked back into the room… she cracked up.

Luckily I had a break next, so I headed home and crawled back into bed. Sometimes when I’m teaching, it feels like I’m acting. I feel sick and grumpy and tired, but I pretend that I’m a cheery, interesting teacher and then act it out…but as soon as the class is over, I want to go back to bed.

After lunch, I biked over to the other school and had a halfway decent class with the little kids. We kept working on colors and they’re finally remembering them. They still get red and white mixed up (the words sound fairly similar to them), but overall they’re getting it. In the older kids class, we tried to finish the pen pal letters. Fail. Well, some kids managed to finish, but others…not so much. It’s amazing how it has a lot less to do with knowing English and a lot more to do with actually trying to work. With some of the students, if I’m not standing next to them, they’re talking and goofing off with whoever’s sitting near them. It’s exhausting because I explain something to one of them, then move on to the next kid, and the first kid just starts goofing off and hasn’t done anything when I check in on him later. Grr! And, to top it all, there’s a boy in the class who doesn’t seem to get along with most of the other boys and despite me trying to seat him as far away from most of the boys as possible (without making it obvious), things go wrong. The other boys provoke him and he clearly has a temper issue…so, today there were glue sticks and pens thrown across the room at each other and pushing/shoving… I would have sent them out of the room, but we were trying to send out the letters and I just wanted them to get done! In the end we didn’t finish all the letters, but most of the class is done. It was exhausting.

I biked home and went directly to teach the really difficult class. We worked on school supply vocabulary and the difference between “a” and “an.” I’m not sure if they really got it. But, we’ll work more on it next class.

After school I had tea with Margot and then went upstairs to rest until dinnertime. I just want to be well again, darn it!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday 1/22: More Resting.

Today was pretty much a repeat of yesterday…resting all day in bed. It was sunny for a while during the afternoon, so I opened my windows wide and napped in the fresh air and sunlight.

I managed to plan my classes for tomorrow, so that’s good. And I am feeling a bit better…hopefully I’ll be even better tomorrow!!

That’s about it for today…

Saturday 1/21: Another Sick Day.

I spent a lot of time in bed today. Meaning: I spent all day in bed. I got up in the morning to eat some breakfast, I got up in the afternoon to make some tea, I got up in the evening to eat some dinner…and other than going pee a million times because of all the water I was drinking, I basically laid in bed.

It’s so frustrating being sick again! I have no energy and my whole body just feels weak and exhausted.

At least I got a lovely letter from Jessie and some really awesome drawings from her, Claire, and Eva!! Definitely brightened my day! (And Margot loved the piranha drawing Jessie drew for her…)

Friday 1/20: Not AGAIN!

I woke up sick this morning. Noooo! Runny nose, stuffed up head, feeling weak… I really didn’t want to get up and go teach classes all day! But, I hauled myself over to school for the first class (which went fine, despite me being somewhat out of it) and then returned home, where I just lied on my bed for an hour and a half. Then I went to my most difficult class, which (thank God) wasn’t as bad as normal. It was then my 2 hour lunch break, so I came home and lied in bed watching the movie “Paul.” I didn’t have any appetite, but I made myself a big cup of tea and rested until the very last minute, when I had to go teach the little kids in the library. I could tell at this point that I wasn’t in a good mood and I stopped the class every single time I saw someone talking and glared at them. Ugh. Then I had another break, during which I came home and talked to Catherine for a while and then went to bed for a bit. At 3:45pm I had my last class, which went okay… I read them a book about a chameleon that wanted to have his own color. I think they understood the basic idea of it!

When I got home, I had some more tea with Margot and then came upstairs and tucked myself back into bed. I stayed there until Catherine called me to see if I would help make dinner. I didn’t really want to move, but I went down and helped peel the potatoes. Then I went back to bed until dinnertime. I had already contacted Aurélie to inform her that I wasn’t going to folk dancing tonight.

Tonight was Catherine and Ralf’s anniversary, so they went out to dinner and the kids all ate at home. After dinner, Margot and I watched “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (in French). I like that movie better when you have Jim Carrey’s voices… but they did a pretty good job anyways.

I cannot believe I’m sick again. I have only been well for about 3 days! This time it better not last a full month like the last one. I don’t think I’m meant to work with children…

Thursday 1/19: X-RAY!

This morning I took the 10am train to Bordeaux for my appointment and the Office of Immigration and Integration. Eek!

During the few minutes I was waiting in Dax for the connecting train, I noticed two girls on the platform and for some reason, I just knew they weren’t French. I made a pretty good assumption that they were headed to Bordeaux for the same reason I was!

And, sure enough, when I got off in Bordeaux, there they were—headed into the Tourist Office! When I walked in, the guy at the desk was saying “You’re the 4th group that’s come in today asking where that office is! Is there a party? Where are you from?” One girl said “Argentina” and the other said “the US.” I chimed in that I was from the US and that I would just ask them for directions! They invited me to hang out with them until our appointments (the train schedule forced us to get there way early). We walked all the way into town and then wandered for a bit. Around noon, we stopped at a pasta place to have some lunch. It was fun hanging out with Paige (US) and Fernanda (Argentina), who are working in Dax! Perhaps I’ll get to see them again sometime, since that’s not far away!

Fernanda’s meeting was at 1:30pm, so we walked her to the office and then Paige and I headed to an English-language bookstore that we’d seen earlier. Our meetings weren’t until 3pm. After checking out the bookstore (which was really great, but—not surprisingly—expensive), we stopped at a little café to have coffee/tea. I was shocked with how much tea cost! 2.50 euros!! For a pot of hot water and a tea bag! I guess that’s why I never go out!!

Then we headed to the appointment. It wasn’t too bad…just a lot of waiting. I checked in, then waited. I went into a room where a nurse measured me, weighed me, and checked my vision. Then I waited. Then I went into a tiny room where I was told to take off all the clothes on my top half, and wait for the nurse. When she arrived, she led me into a big room with a giant X-ray machine…I had to stand inside of it and press my chest against the wall of it while they took an X-ray of my lungs. Then I could go back and put my clothes on. It was weird just walking around top-less, normally (in the US) they give you a little paper covering or something! But they let me have the X-ray, so that’s a pretty epic souvenir! Then I waited for a while. Then I was called into the doctor’s office and he looked at the X-ray (apparently I don’t have tuberculosis) and then did a check-up (also requiring me to be shirt-less) on my breathing, heart rate, teeth, throat, etc. And he asked when my last tetanus shot was…I said it was around 2009…in reality, I have no clue, but he’ll never know that! Ah, jumping through hoops…

Then I waited some more and finally went in to hand in my paperwork and have the necessary stamp put in my passport. YAY! I was glad that there were a bunch of us there at the same time because we got to chat during all the waiting time!

I had about 1 1/4 hours before my train left, so I wandered around, taking my time getting to the station. I stopped to look in the cathedral (it’s immense!), looked in a few shops, and stopped to buy a flan! I spent the last bit of time waiting in the station, enjoying my flan and reading.

I got back to Tyrosse around 7:45pm and had dinner at home. Then Catherine came up to watch a movie…but we ended up skyping with Maria first! Her internet died at some point, and then we watched the AAA Theatre version of “The Odd Couple: Female Version.” Ah, such good times! I loved doing that show!!

Wednesday 1/18: Sun! Basketball!

Today was lots of fun! I slept in, had breakfast, wrote some letters, and then had lunch with Catherine and Margot. This afternoon, Margot and I walked to the post office to mail my letters (where we were invaded by the mail carriers, who were protesting job cuts and were walking around with a huge banner, asking people to sign their petition). Then we headed over to the basketball court behind the middle school and shot around for a bit. It was fun taking turns practicing different kinds of shots. And I taught her the lay-up drill that I learned when I was on the CHS basketball team. It was sunny and warm and it felt great to be out running around! Plus, we have to train for when Mark gets here—we don’t want to embarrass ourselves and I know that he’s been practicing…

When we got home, we had some tea and had a great time going through one of Catherine’s clothing catalogues, looking at the pictures and giving our opinions on which ones were cool and which ones definitely weren’t!!

Then we played cards for a while—Margot is actually really good! She beats me a lot of the time!

This evening I got all of my paperwork ready for the VISA appointment I have tomorrow afternoon in Bordeaux. I won’t be teaching tomorrow because I have to take the train up to my meeting and it’ll take all day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday 1/17: Jambo!

I don’t know why I was so out of it when I woke up this morning, but I ended up just lying in bed for about 20 minutes, staring out the window. Luckily I didn’t have to teach until 10:45am, so I had some extra time.

My first class went well. I had them finish interviewing each other and then they presented their partner in front of the class (like yesterday). It’s so cute how nervous they get when they’re in front of everyone! But they did really well!

During lunch, I hurried home to make a dessert for Catherine’s dinner party tonight with the neighbors across the street. However, when Catherine came home for lunch, she informed me that Ralf wasn’t feeling too well today and they were changing the dinner to Thursday. Oh. Good thing the dessert will keep until then!

After lunch I had class with the 7 year olds in the library and I discovered that having the whole class take three deep breaths at the start of the class really helped them calm down. Their class is right after recess, so they are normally pretty hyped up. Today went really well, though, and we got a lot of work done with the colors.

Then I headed upstairs to the class of 10 year olds, where I announced that they would be having pen pals and we discussed how they could actually write a letter. They are always super intimidated with the idea of writing a whole letter in English, when really they know plenty for a basic letter! I also gave them the same survey I gave to Margot’s class yesterday.

Before my last class, Pablo and I went up to Margot’s class to be interviewed for the school newspaper. Margot’s class chose us as their topic, so apparently they’re writing an article about us. They asked us each about 12 questions varying from “Were you scared to teach your first class here” (I said: “YES!! I didn’t get much sleep the night before!”) to “What is your passion?” (“Theatre!”) to “Do you have any brothers or sisters? What are their names?" (to which I replied: “I have a sister named Jessie. I also have some ‘almost’ siblings named Maria—who you all know—Theresa, Gabrielle, Phillip, and Paul.”) I didn’t feel bad about having lots of siblings because Pablo has a bunch of half-siblings who he listed off and he says that he hardly ever sees them. So I’m MUCH closer to my ‘siblings’!

Pablo and I were late to our last class with the 7 year olds. Oops. The interview took longer than they had told us it would take. In any case, I had them review the alphabet and count backwards from 10-1. And then we worked some more on the colors and caught everyone up with the worksheets.

I had a little break after school (during which time I had tea with Margot, and then we chatted with Maria and her Tanzanian friend, Happy. It was hilarious speaking English, French, AND Swahili.....well, not much Swahili... just “hello” or “jambo!”!) and then I headed to my conversation class with the teachers. That went really well! Most people brought pictures to talk about and the ones who didn’t just told about trips they had taken. It was brilliant to just chat about funny travel stories and different customs that we’d encountered during trips. There was lots of laughing, which is always good!

After dinner tonight, Margot and I played cards for a while and watched some funny videos online. We compared the Lion King song “Hakuna Matata” in its English version and French version. Then I watched a TV show with Margot and Catherine.

Also, tonight I ordered on Amazon.fr the French version of the book “The Bridge to Terabithia” for Margot. It makes me sad that she doesn’t read (except for school), so perhaps she would actually read it because I know she enjoyed the story... And, I’d really like to read it again! I also found a really cheap, used dvd of “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I think she’ll enjoy that movie!

Tonight I watched a few “learning Swahili” videos. It’s such a fun language! There’s a possibility that I will visit Maria in Tanzania in May, and I want to know some Swahili before I go! And, if it doesn’t work out, there’s nothing wrong with knowing more languages! :)

Tomorrow I can sleep in! Oh, how I love having Wednesdays off…..

Monday 1/16: Day 118 of My Adventure. ;)

Today I taught in Margot’s class at 8:30am and that went really well! We had a lot of fun briefly reviewing the seasons and weather before talking more about “What is your favorite _____?” After having them practice asking each other questions, I had them do a questionnaire about their interests so I could pair them up with their future pen pals. I haven’t received all the letters from the US students yet, but I’d like to know more about the kids here so that I can match them up with kids that have some similar interests.

I was incredibly exhausted for some reason, so when I got home after Margot’s class, I slept for 2 hours! I really needed it, so I was glad that I have a big break on Monday mornings! After lunch I biked over to the other school and taught my two classes there. The first one, with the little kids, went by quickly (as always) and was pretty successful. They are *finally starting to catch on to the colors! I did one activity where I would say, “Who is wearing blue?” and if they were wearing blue, they would stand up. Then I would continue with the next color. At one point, a little girl in the front leaned toward me and whispered, “But, what if I have blue on my undies??” I informed her that it surely counted and she could stand up. I love little kids!! However, they seem to be significantly slower at learning English than the students at the school next to me. Each thing takes longer to teach and they have a lot more trouble remembering it the next time. I wonder why…

My second class was spent trying to write letters to the pen pals. Talk about exhausting for me! There were 14 students who all wanted my help, but I could only talk with one at a time. And we only had 25 minutes for the class because today was their swimming day and the class is only 30 mins, but they are always late! Well, we didn’t get them all written (sigh) and I won’t be there on Thursday because I have to go to my visa meeting in Bordeaux. Hopefully we can get them done next Monday!

I hurried back to teach a class at the school next to me—ah, my favorite class. NOT. It wasn’t too awful today, it’s just a constant effort to keep them somewhat engaged and not chatting amongst themselves. They did pretty well with presenting the person they’d interviewed (a fellow student in the class) in front of everyone. There are sometimes mix-ups between “HER favorite _____” and “HIS favorite _____,” but overall it was pretty good. One problem is that last week they were practicing the questions by interviewing me and someone asked “What is your favorite song?” I just threw out one at random, “Piano Man,” and now they want me to bring in a cd so they can hear my “favorite song.” Greeeat. I’m not saying that I don’t really like “Piano Man,” but you can imagine how a whole class full of skeptical 9 year olds is going to react to Billy Joel. Oh well! Maybe they’ll forget that they asked me…

Margot and I had planned to watch the movie “The Bridge to Terabithia” and since she has to go to bed pretty soon after dinner, we decided to watch it before dinner. I had forgotten that I had seen it a long time ago, but I remember the book being one of my very favorites in elementary school! The movie is good, but I’d really like to read it again.

After dinner I skyped with Maria for 2 1/2 hours! Her skype was actually working really well and we got to just hang out and I watched her massacre mosquitoes. It’s so weird how cold it is here (and how it’s snowing at home) while Maria is sweating like crazy in 80ºF weather!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday 1/15: Nothing Much Going On Around Here…

Today I spent quite a bit of time lesson planning, writing letters, and skyping with Brigid and Maria. I also patched the holes in my jeans and mended a pair of Catherine’s jeans as well. She doesn’t know how to sew, so I’m glad I can be useful!

This afternoon I made soup with Catherine so that it’d be finished in time for the rugby match. I drove Ralf, Catherine, and Margot to the match and dropped them off so that they wouldn’t have to find a parking spot (and so they could have a few beers and not have to worry about driving home). The parking is absolutely mad outside the stadium—there are cars absolutely everywhere!

When I got home, Chantal, Pierre, and Claire were playing ping-pong in our backyard. I watched Chantal and Pierre finish their game and then played a game with Claire. I got her to say the scores in English, to practice. ;)

This evening I skyped with Brigid (with a pause to do the pick up at the stadium) and then Maria joined us as well! It’s hard to be so far from each other…I know we’re all really looking forward to living in Corvallis at the same time for a while!

Bonne Nuit!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday 1/14: I AM A GALETTE.

I spent the morning lazing about and then went grocery shopping with Catherine and Margot. We managed to get it all done in 20 minutes (each of us had our own cart) and were back in time to head to Capbreton at 2pm for Margot’s handball game. The Capbreton team is number one in their league, so we were expecting a hard game. But, it was atrocious! Margot’s team played really well…the Capbreton team fouled constantly and was pushing people down. Unfortunately the refs were just high school age kids from Capbreton, so they pretty much just let it continue the whole game and didn’t kick the girls off the court (in handball they have to sit out for 2 mins and the team plays down one player) when they kept fouling. I was disgusted with the Capbreton coach for encouraging 10-yr-olds to play that way! In any case, Margot’s team ended up losing 14-12, but they had nothing to be ashamed of.

When we got home, Chantal and family were at our house to have Kings’ Cake (“Galette des Rois”) and hard cider. It’s traditionally what you have on January 6th, to celebrate the day that the 3 Kings arrived in Bethlehem. But, here they eat it during pretty much all of January! We had both kinds—the “brioche” kind and the almond paste kind.

Photo: (top) Brioche galette

(bottom) Frangipane (almond paste) galette

The trick is, there’s a little “feve” (a tiny figurine) hidden in the cake and whoever finds it is king (or queen) for a day. Claire and Hugo found the ones today.

After we hung out at talked for a bit, I left to go to a get-together with the folk dance group. They were having a meeting for all participants to announce some important things and then have a little party. Of course they served galettes and cider! Since I hadn’t eaten much previously (a croissant for breakfast and a piece of apple for lunch), I had three large pieces of galette and a glass of cider! I literally felt like I was becoming a galette.

It was pretty awkward actually, because everyone there knows each other so well and they all stand around chatting in their little groups and I stand by the wall, watching. Sometimes I stand next to a group and listen and laugh, but it’s pretty awkward. Oh well, at least I’m making an appearance! And tonight one lady came over and we talked for about 5-10 minutes, which was really nice! I’m not so bad at continuing conversations, but I don’t really feel comfortable walking up to a group of people and just asking something randomly. So, by 8pm I was ready to head home. An elderly man gave me a ride back to my house, which was on his way.

Tonight we had dinner without Catherine because she was at a friend’s house. I had made contact very briefly with Maria on skype right before dinner, so I mentioned that her internet doesn’t work well there. Lucas and Hugo actually asked a bunch of questions about where Maria is and what she’s doing there. Normally they don’t talk very much and if they do, it’s typically a sarcastic comeback at their mom. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t there… But, we had a nice dinner and then I went back upstairs to try to talk with Maria. Unfortunately her internet is really weak and blippy, so when we tried to skype it would only last for 20-30 seconds. We ended up instant messaging instead, which was better than nothing! If you want to hear about her experiences so far in Tanzania, check out her blog: http://mariahommes.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday 1/13: Eeeep! It’s Friday the Thirteenth!

This morning I had a really fun class with the 10 year olds—we were working on “What/Who is your favorite ___?” and picked certain students to come up in front of the class to answer 5 questions each that were asked by their classmates. It worked really well because they all wanted to come up and answer questions, but they were willing to ask them as well! At the very end of class, I whipped out the gingerbread cookies and gave one to each kid (even the ones who take Spanish…they had come back into the room after their lesson with Pablo). Then I went into the two other CM2 classes (the same age) to give them cookies. I think they were a big hit! :) All the teachers liked them as well (except for the one who doesn’t like cinnamon…she claims I put cinnamon in everything just to spite her!).

My second class was exhausting, as usual, because it was with my most difficult class. Oh well. I just try to get through it and move on. Today I had the unpleasant experience of getting very annoyed with their constant chatting during the class that I demanded “LA SILENCE! LA SILENCE!” …well, it turns out that it’s le silence, not la… of course they all started laughing. Sigh. I guess I won’t be forgetting that anytime soon! :p

After lunch I had the little kids in the library. I started teaching them how to write the names of the colors and we also worked on comprehension (I said some sentences in English and then we worked out what I had said), which was really difficult for them.

At the end of class, I gave them each a Christmas pencil and sticker (that were sent to me by Maria and Anne). I told them that it was a present from Maria, who was now in Tanzania. When I reminded them how hard it is to be so far away from your family, we decided to take a picture (with the presents, of course) with a little message for Maria, to cheer her up. They are so cute!!

Photo: "Thank You, Maria!"

I had a break between classes (in which I just relaxed and read…and ended up falling asleep for a few mins), then I returned to teach more about colors!

After classes, I came home and had tea with Margot. We had received a note yesterday saying that there was a package to pick up at the post office, so today I went down to pick it up….and it was for me!! It was a box from Aunt Sally—with homemade cookies and a jar of my favorite kind of jam (Bandon cranberry)!!! How exciting! I was so thrilled—Christmas continues! :)

Tonight I went to folk dancing at 7pm and started off on stilts (actually doing the two easiest dances). Then I took them off and joined the girls dancing normally, where we danced (partner dances—some with the “guys” on the floor with us, sometimes on stilts!) until 11pm! The last dance we did involved the guys jumping OVER us four times! Eek! The first few times I was freaked out—they come towards you really fast, then jump up, whipping the stilts around your body. I cringed and closed my eyes! But after a while I was able to just walk straight while they leapt. Tonight was cool because a lot of the old stilt dancers were there (who I haven’t seen before) and they have been dancing since they were kids—and they’re now in their 30s-40s. It was pretty awesome to see 20 people up on stilts all at once!

After we finished dancing at 11pm (it was supposed to finish at 10:30pm, but it went late), about 15 of the grown-ups got out some drinks and snacks and started hanging out. They invited me to stay and, partly because Aurélie (the lady who gives me a ride) wanted to stay, but partly because I wanted to actually DO something other than stay home every night, I agreed. It was kind-of awkward at first because they were all talking and joking with their friends and I was just watching, but eventually I found a group and was able to listen without feeling like I was an outsider. They eventually asked me a few questions (which helped me feel less like I was creeping and more like I was actually a part of the group) and I relaxed and had fun! Perhaps it also had to do with the fact that I drank a glass of “punch” (a mix of something alcoholic and something fruity) and I had only eaten a granola bar since lunch…

I got home tonight at 12:20am—that’s a record for me here! My pizza was waiting for me, but I could only manage to eat a little bit because I’m just tired now instead of being hungry! Luckily it’s the weekend tomorrow!!

If you'd like to see more pictures from Maria's visit, check out this link!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday 1/12: Lots and Lots of Gingerbread Cookies!

Today I taught three classes. The first one was at the school next to me with Bruno’s class of 8 year olds. We were working on interviewing people, so I let the students take turns interviewing me and writing the answers up on the board. Then they finished asking the questions to their partners and we discussed how they would present them to the class next time (“HER favorite…” “HIS favorite…”).

During lunchtime I ended up skyping with Jessie (who was up waaaay past her bedtime!) and then I biked over to the other school.

My first class there was with the little kids and it went okay—we are still working on colors. The classes always go so quickly there because the class is directly after lunch and the students always come in about 8 minutes after we’re supposedly supposed to start. But, I do my best!

With the older kids, we just worked on reading the pen pal letters and then started writing drafts of their replies. I wish the classes were longer!! Hopefully we can get the letters written next class!

When I got home, I checked the mail and found an envelope of letters from a different class—this one is in San Jose, CA and the teacher is a friend of Hollye Chapman’s. I will be pairing up these kids with the 5th graders at the school near me, but I have to wait until I receive letters from a class in Arizona (another friend of Hollye’s) because there are 60 students here that need pen pals! Should be fun! :)

This afternoon I started to make gingerbread cookies (I found a recipe without molasses, because I can’t find any here), but realized I didn’t have any butter. Pretty much every time I start to bake something, I realize (halfway through) that I am missing an ingredient. But, it only takes 5 minutes to bike to and from the little grocery store on the main street, so no big deal!

Photo: Piles of gingerbread cookies!

Photo: Margot made one with sunglasses...

In any case, I made over 100 mini gingerbread cookies!! Most of them are gingerbread men, but there are some other shapes as well! I was busy decorating them (using a toothpick to put on the frosting) when Margot got home from tennis and she joined me. We had a lot of fun decorating the cookies—she made some really interesting ones!


After dinner, I finished decorating and then packaged them all up so I can take them into school tomorrow. I am bringing them for the 3 classes of CM2 (5th grade) students because we read “The Gingerbread Man” in those classes. And I have some extras for the teachers, of course!


I got to chat briefly online with Maria today and she has made it to Arusha and is settling in (grocery shopping, sorting out internet, etc.). I’m not surprised that she’s homesick—I can definitely identify. Although it is even harder for her because she doesn’t speak Swahili and no one there really speaks English (that she’s met). Hopefully she can pick up Swahili really fast!! I think she’ll do just fine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday 1/11: Getting Some Much-Needed Rest

I really needed a day like today. I slept in until 11:30am and then fell back asleep until 12:45pm. I think all those late nights with Maria caught up with me! It felt good to have no plans and to just rest.

Margot had a friend over today, so we all ate lunch together and then they accompanied me on a walk with Dunja. We went exploring in the woods, played catch with the basketball (while running down the road…it’s tricky), climbed all over the monkey bars in the woods, and tested our balancing skills by walking across a pipe that went over a stream. It felt good to be out in the sun and cold air.

I spent the rest of the afternoon/evening preparing for classes and writing thank you letters (which I’m very late at writing). But, they will be very well decorated, thanks to my sweet marker set!

After dinner tonight I got to talk with my parents, which was really nice because it’s been ages! I’m feeling pretty good (despite wishing Maria was still here) and my sickness is nearly better…and the pink eye isn’t very bad, so that’s a pro!

Tuesday 1/10: Saying Goodbye Is Sad.

Oof. Well, Maria and I didn’t get much sleep last night… Since it was her last night here, we figured we would rather spend our time talking than sleeping. So, after the movie, we ended up talking until 3:30am. And then the alarm went off at 7am. So, needless to say, we were a bit tired.

After a quick breakfast, Maria said goodbye to Catherine and Margot and then we walked to the train station. The train arrived fairly soon after and we quickly hugged goodbye and she departed. Sniffle. It felt like the week went by SO quickly! Of course I wish she could have stayed longer, but I’m excited for all the adventures she’s about to have! I just hope her travels today went smoothly!

I walked back home and prepared my classes for a bit. I managed to slip in a 45-minute nap before I had to teach class. It went okay and then I came home for lunch. I wanted to get some more sleep, but I had to do more class prep (because I didn’t want to waste time when Maria was here, so I didn’t do any over the weekend).

The afternoon classes all went really well! I worked on colors with the little kids and they are catching on really fast! I also had them work on responding to the directions: “stand up!” “sit down” “hands up!” “hands down!” It did feel a little bit bizarre to be telling a bunch of seven-year-olds: “HANDS UP!”

When I finished my last class, I ended up talking with one of the English teachers who gave me some more lesson ideas and websites. We also discussed the issue of the trouble-child in my CM1 class. They are trying to deal with him and hopefully this week there will be a big meeting about what they’re going to do with him. And it’s definitely not just me—the teacher has been out sick for a month now and her sub just left because she couldn’t deal with this student! He’s a demon-child. I don’t know what the issue is, but he deliberately tries to mess up any learning and is really awful to all the teachers. He needs help and I’m glad the issue is finally being addressed.

I got home around 5pm and, after a quick tea and a short skype chat with Mark (who was nice enough to listen to my sleep-deprived and depressed self talk about how sad I was that Maria had to leave), I headed over to lead a conversation class. It was organized by the lady who is part of the assistant program (and was my contact person) and it’s free for any teachers in the area. Tonight there were 6 teachers (I know 2 of them) and we just introduced ourselves and chatted in English. Some of them are considerably better than others (and talk considerably more than others), but I think when they relax a bit, it will go just fine! I had fun and it’s nice because we are just talking—I don’t have to prepare lessons!

When I got home, I made dinner for Ralf, Margot, and I because Catherine was taking care of Chantal’s kids tonight. After dinner, Margot wanted me to watch a TV show with her and it was okay…I only fell asleep for 10 minutes of it!

It’s a bit sad to be going to bed with no roommate—it was nice getting to talk before going to sleep. Now it feels kind-of lonely. But, I am really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!

Monday 1/9: A Long Day of Teaching…and Maria’s Last Day

We really did try to go to sleep early last night, but (of course) we got talking… It was hard to get up for the 8:30am class today, but it was Margot’s class, so we had fun! Mostly I just had them ask Maria lots of questions (and I taught them “What is your favorite ____?”) and I read them the story of the Gingerbread Man. We really did have a good time—they were interested and well-behaved, which makes all the difference!

After class, we came home and Maria skyped with a friend from home while I typed up the pen pal letters that were written by students from Keizer Elementary School in Oregon. Their handwriting is sometimes hard to read and I wanted to correct some confusing spelling as well. And take out the questions that were meant for the original pen pals… The class had thought they were writing to elderly folks in Oregon, so some of the letters contained questions like “Do you have any kids?” or “Did you fight in World War II?” and I figured that would be a bit confusing to my 10-yr old students!

After a quick lunch at home (we attempted to go out for pizza, but the restaurants are closed on Monday as well here…), Maria and I biked to the other school. Class with the younger kids actually went really well today! They were more engaged than normal—and better behaved! I discovered something that worked really well: when having them repeat vocab (such as colors), change your voice from a normal tone, to whisper, to half-shouting. It really kept them paying attention! Always good to find new ways to do things!

The older kids were beyond excited to receive the letters from their pen pals! After passing out the letters, Maria and I went around trying to help them understand them. That wasn’t always easy—some of the American kids wrote rather complicated stuff in their letters! But, we did our best to help them understand. I gave them the typed up copy of their letter, but also the handwritten original. They commented on the rather lousy handwriting of many of the American students. It’s true, though—here they make a point of spending a lot of time on having good handwriting. We don’t really do that in the US…

After class finished, Maria and I biked over to the store so she could get some food for her long days of travel tomorrow/Weds. We had to hurry, though, because I had to teach again at 3:45pm. I let Maria stay home to just relax, while I went to teach the CM1 class. I was hoping that the kid who is really badly behaved would be absent again, but no such luck. He was there and within minutes I was ready to pull my hair out. The teacher (well, long-term substitute) was in the room, but apparently the kid was being observed by the school psychologist (who was standing outside the door), so she didn’t want to interfere. He wanted to see how the kid normally acts in class. Well, it was awful. Finally, I actually YELLED at him and the class got quiet for a minute or two, but then he started right back up again. The teacher hauled him out of class—literally hauled—and I did my best to finish teaching. At the end of the class, I gave them all a lecture (and the obnoxious kid was brought back in) and compared how well they behaved when Maria was there…and how fun that class was…whereas today it was awful. I told them that if they were well-behaved, then I would be in a good mood and we could have more fun. We’ll see if they act any better during Friday’s class… I think if that one student were removed, it would go pretty well. SIGH.

When I got home, we had tea with Margot and then did the online geography quiz. It’s been a while since we’ve done it, so we all did worse than our best scores… oh well! Then we played some cards with Margot and played with photobooth for a bit.

Photo: Yeah, we're cool.

During dinner tonight, Catherine noticed that my eyes were really pink…and I had thought they were watering a lot… yep, I have pink-eye again. I really don’t understand why I always get it?!!?! But Catherine doesn’t seem to be worried about it, so I don’t think it’s a big deal here—I guess I will be going to work anyways. And she’s going to pick up some eye drops for me tomorrow. Sigh.

After dinner, Maria said goodbye to Ralf (because he will leave for work before we get up tomorrow) and then we went upstairs to hang out. We ended up watching the movie, “Bridesmaids,” which was okay. We mostly liked it because the main characters were best friends and they seemed kinda like us!

I cannot believe Maria is leaving already. It feels like she just got here yesterday! I hope that I can visit her in Tanzania in May…we’ll see…

Sunday 1/8: More Driving, Coloring, and a Trip to the Cinema

I drove (the automatic) to Capbreton this morning with Maria to pick up Alison. We stopped at the beach to walk around, despite the fact that it was raining…

Photo: Maria in Capbreton

After showing Maria the beach, we drove back towards Tyrosse, planning to stop at the shop that sells dried fruits…but apparently we took a different road (I find roundabouts rather confusing), so we didn’t pass it. We ended up getting back to Tyrosse and immediately driving ten minutes back to the fruit stand. It was worth it—the dried strawberries and orange strips are like heaven. We tried to find a pizza place for lunch, but all the ones in Tyrosse were closed and I didn’t want to do any more driving. So, we just had lunch at home and made an English Apple Crumble for dessert tonight.

This afternoon, Maria, Alison, and I went to the cinema here to see “Intouchables.” It was such a big hit that they brought it back (even though it played here back in November) and I loved it so much that I wanted them to see it. We all enjoyed the movie and the cinema was pretty full considering that the movie has been out for several months now!

Photo: At the Tyrosse cinema


We spent some time coloring with the epic markers (now Alison is hooked…) and then taught Margot a new card game. I helped Catherine make dinner while Alison and Maria continued playing with Margot.

After dinner (and apple crumble with custard from Scotland—Catherine’s dream dessert), I drove Alison home and successfully made it back without getting lost in the dark! Hurrah!

Saturday 1/7: Fun!

Ah, sleeeep! We woke up to my phone ringing at 11:27am and I answered it to find Isabelle (the lady from folk dancing) inviting me to go to Spain with her tomorrow. However, I had already invited Alison to come over so we could go see “Intouchables” at the cinema, so I had to decline Isabelle’s offer.

Maria and I lounged around and didn’t end up going down for breakfast until noon. How lovely to be so lazy! ;) Catherine showed Maria her incredible English book collection and lent us each a Janet Evanovitch book, which she says (and I’ve previously heard) is hilarious!

This afternoon we played cards with Margot and then made some scones for tea. Isabelle (the friend who came to the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners) and Alexandre (her baby) came over this afternoon and we all had tea with scones and clotted cream and jam! They’re all hooked on clotted cream now… just like me!

Photo: Maria and Margot playing cards


Afterwards, Maria, Margot, and I goofed off with Maria’s camera, making slow-motion videos and taking funny pictures. Then we moved to “photo booth” on Maria’s computer, which lets you take funny pictures of yourself and has different features, which mess up your face! It was hilarious—Margot loved it!



Photos: Some examples of our photobooth fun!


Tonight we all squashed into the kitchen to make one of my favorite dinners: a potato/broccoli/ cauliflower gratin.


It’s so fun cooking together—all of us working and joking around! I’m so glad Maria’s here to get to know my host family…and for them to get to know her!


Photo: Cooking together!




Photo: I love my host family!!

After dinner (which Maria loved), we skyped with the Hommeses for a bit. Then we watched “Return to Me” with Catherine (while nibbling on a Swiss chocolate bar…thanks to Uncle Jim and Aunt Heidi!), who loved the film!

I can’t believe Maria will only be here for two more days… it’s going to be so hard to have her leave!!

Friday 1/6: And We Folk Dance!

This morning we headed to a class at 8:30am and that went really smoothly. During our break, we headed to the market, which was unfortunately smaller than normal. It didn’t take very long to walk around and grab some fruit for Catherine. The second class I had went extremely well—the terrible kid wasn’t there!! It was so easy! And we actually had fun because I didn’t have to constantly try to get them to shut up! Maria got to answer loads of questions, including “What is your favorite friend?”—what kind of a question is that?? :p

For lunch we just ate at home, but I had just enough time to give Maria a quick demo of my stilt walking! Then we had to head back to teach two classes this afternoon. I had a lot of fun with the little kids because I started teaching them the colors! We played games and they also got to practice asking Maria questions. The best question was “What did you get for Christmas” (I helped them say the questions in English)—they wanted to know what I got as well, so I had fun telling them about my 3d Butterfly coloring book. I think the 7-yr-olds were impressed. However the expression on the teacher in the back of the room was priceless!

This afternoon we skyped with Mark—yay! All the roommates “back together”!

Maria and I went to folk dancing tonight! They didn’t have the rope up for people to practice on the stilts, so Maria didn’t get to try them. She’ll just have to wait until we get back to Corvallis and I build a bunch of pairs! But, we did get to dance a lot of new dances that were really fun! It was fun introducing Maria to the group here—and I think they were impressed with how fast she picked up on the dances!


When we got home, there was pizza still in the oven from when my host family ate dinner. So, after a late dinner, we went upstairs and watched “The Beginners.” It’s an excellent film that I saw last summer at the Darkside and really enjoyed.

So excited to sleep in tomorrow morning!!



Here's a video of one of the new dances we learned tonight!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thursday 1/5: Coloring and Lemon Fanta.

Maria and hauled ourselves out of bed in time for my first class of the day…at 10:45am. We ended up talking until late last night, so we were really tired this morning…not to mention that Maria still has a lot of jetlag!

The first class (with the 8-9yr olds) went really well! I had them practice asking Maria lots of “What’s your favorite ____?” questions. Some of them got really funny: “What is your least favorite letter?” or “What is your least favorite name?” I enjoyed watching her try to come up with answers…

We took a nap during lunch break and, since it was really windy and rainy, we borrowed the Volvo to drive to the other school. Automatic cars are so much easier!

Both classes went okay, but the students forgot a lot over the break. It’s exhausting to think that all I’ve worked on with the little kids so far is “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” and the numbers…and they still have trouble replying! Frustrating for me.

It’s been interesting that every class so far has been pretty much certain that Maria is my sister. I probably should have just said that she is, but they were rather impressed that we have been friends since I was 3 years old.

After we’d finished the classes, we stopped at the supermarket to pick up some food for lunch (goat cheese to go on our baguette, rice pudding, and lemon fanta… our classic snack from the last time we were in France!) and some things that Catherine needed.

This afternoon we just hung out, doing a lot of coloring with a new set of epic markers that we bought at the store. They are so cool—first you color with one of the dark markers and then you can draw over the top of it with the lighter colors and they SHOW UP! We may have spent several hours working on pictures…

Photo: The colors are even cooler with 3D glasses!!!

Tonight Maria and I chatted with Catherine and helped her make dinner. It’s so fun hanging out with the two of them—I hope someday Catherine (and family) will be able to visit Corvallis!

Wednesday 1/4: Gaufre-it!!

Today we took the train to St. Jean de Luz (Alison got on in Bayonne), where we wandered and enjoyed the beautiful weather! It hasn't been very nice lately, so we were grateful for the sun and blue skies. When we arrived, we toured the church (Maria had actually been to St. Jean de Luz during our trip 2 1/2 years ago) and then strolled down the little cobblestone streets.

Photo: COOKIE!!







Photo: The beautiful coastline!

We headed to the beach and walked on the path that follows the coastline. It led all the way up a hill to a beautiful lookout over the ocean. It was a nice walk and once we’d made it to the top of the hill, we had a great view looking back at the town.

For lunch we tried to find a pizzeria, but they all seemed to be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays…bizarre! So, we ended up getting sandwiches instead! Cheap and yummy! Of course Maria and I gave into temptation and split a “gaufre” (waffle) that was covered in chocolate and piles of whipped cream. We tried valiantly to finish it, but ended up throwing away the last little bit as we were both too full! (And, not surprisingly, Maria managed to do exactly what Candice did…plop a big drop of whipped cream on the ground, making it look like a giant bird had just passed over)

Photos: Gaufre eating...





Photo: And we couldn't finish it... what failures. :(

We wandered some more and then sat on the wall looking out at the beach. It was a bit chilly, but sitting in the sun was lovely. We got to the train station about a half an hour too early because I mis-read the train schedule. So, Maria and I entertained ourselves by playing catch with two bouncy balls and Alison entertained herself by watching us try not to lose the bouncy balls or hit anyone with them…

The train stopped in Bayonne (where Alison had to get off to catch her bus to Capbreton), so I decided to show Maria the town. However, we only had 29 minutes until the train left for Tyrosse. So, we booked it across the bridge, quickly stopped to pick up a “gâteau Basque” to take home for later, spent one minute in the cathedral, walked down a few of the cute streets, then hurried back across the bridge, saying goodbye to Alison (who was waiting for her bus).

Photo: Lightening-quick visit of Bayonne!

We hurried up to the ticket machine and it was the SLOWEST THING EVER! As we were stuffing the money in to pay for the tickets, the train pulled out of the station…leaving us behind. Bummer.

So, we had to wait an hour and 20 minutes until the next train…since we were tired of walking around and there wasn’t really anything in particular that I wanted Maria to see in Bayonne, we decided to just stay at the station. We ended up buying a can of orange Fanta and a can of Orangina, which we split and compared. The Orangina was better than the orange Fanta, but not better than lemon Fanta. Because that is the top. ;) We played cards and talked until our train arrived and we headed home.

Tonight we rested until it was time for dinner and then watched “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in my room after dinner. I’m pretty exhausted, but it was such a fun day!

(Photos courtesy of Alison!)