Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday 10/21: MONTH ONE IN FRANCE!

Yep, today marks one month since I arrived in France! In some ways it seems like it’s flown by, and in some ways it seems like it’s been forever…

I taught four classes today and three of them went really smoothly. One of them (the 9-10 yr olds) was really rowdy and I just couldn’t get them to stop talking, moving, etc. It was exhausting!! And rather frustrating. Luckily my classes are only 45 minutes, so I only have to deal with them for that long. Then I get to give them back to their teacher! bwahaha!

Photo: A class of 7-8 year olds!

I was really tired today (I took two 30 minute naps between teaching), but I did manage to walk to the market to buy veggies and fruits for my host mom. I also stopped at the crêpe stand and got myself a crêpe with caramel! Delicious! My first crêpe since I arrived! :)

Photo: My crêpe!

When I got home from teaching, I found a big package had arrived for me from my Aunt Barbara and Grandma!! I was so excited! They sent me homemade Halloween cookies and jars of cranberry sauce! I (of course) devoured a bunch of cookies immediately, but I’m going to save the cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving dinner I plan to make for my host family! THANK YOU GRANDMA AND AUNT BARBARA!! You really made my day!

During lunch, I was invited to go out to dinner with a bunch of the teachers. One of them, Laureline, offered to give me a ride to the restaurant (in Capbreton) and she picked me up outside the school at 7:45pm. It turned out that a lot of the teachers canceled, so it ended up being three of us: Laureline, Emmanuelle, and me. But, we had a lovely time! The restaurant was packed (there’s a bar outside as well) and the later it got, the more people arrived. Someone started singing rather loudly (and off-key) and I was informed that he’s a regular at the café and when he gets drunk, he sings. For dinner I had a lovely salad with some warm goat cheese on toast (really delicious!) and for dessert I had mousse au chocolat! I forget the name of the drink I had, but it was rum with fruit juice and fresh fruit—not too bad! Around 11pm, Emmanuelle drove me home. It was so fun going out and I’m sure it will happen again after vacation!

Tomorrow I leave for the UK until Nov. 2nd…I’m not sure if I will be posting on the blog, but I will be checking my email. So, if you need to get ahold of me, email!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday 10/20: Just an average day.

This morning I woke up early (7:45am) when Alison’s alarm went off. I was so tired! We didn’t get to sleep until 2am last night! Even though I didn’t have class until 10:45am, I got up and had breakfast with Alison before she left to teach. Then I did some last preparations for my classes today and just hung out before I had to leave for my class. Jessie happened to still be up (in the middle of the night…), so I chatted with her for a bit online!

I stopped in the staff room to make some copies and drop off the cookies I’d made yesterday. The few teachers in the room were thrilled to try them and everyone liked them (most went back for a second). I headed to my class of CE2s (8-9 yr olds) and today we sang a song, learned a few new words, and did some more coloring. It was the director of the school’s class (he is also a teacher) and apparently it was just what he wanted me to do! Thank goodness… Everything went really smoothly and I tried to speak a little more English this time.

I had lunch at home (some leftovers) before biking over to the other school. By noon it was beautifully sunny, but still pretty crisp. It was a lovely ride and I gave myself plenty of time, so I could really enjoy it.

The classes were much better today. I used the name cards they made last time to decide where they would sit before they came into the classroom—brilliant. Basically I mixed up the girls and boys and made sure to fill up the room from the front, so that no one was sitting in the back tables. It worked a lot better! And I was stricter if they started to get rowdy. Since we hadn’t talked about Halloween, I had them practice saying: “ghost” “witch” “skeleton” “cat” etc. and do some coloring. I made the older kids write down all the words that I gave them before they could start their coloring. And, at the end of each of the classes, I gave them some Halloween stickers, which they really liked.

My second class (the 10-11 yr olds) brought scraps of paper this time and over half of them wanted autographs. One of them even brought three extra papers for his friends and sister. I did my best to explain to them that I was hardly in the movie and no one would care about my autograph, but they kept crowding, so I just signed the papers as fast as possible and sent them on to their next class. Hopefully after the vacation they’ll be over it!

After class, I biked to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies I needed for keeping my school stuff organized and a few things for the people I’m going to visit in the UK (I’m not saying what because they might be reading this!!!). I had a leisurely bike ride home and didn’t really do much for the rest of the afternoon (by then it was 3:30pm).

I helped Catherine make dinner and then watched the news (which was mostly about the death of Gaddafi). But, apparently, Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy have named their daughter Giulia. It’s not really hyped here, though…more like, casually mentioned.

This evening, Catherine was planning to watch a US TV show called “Desperate Housewives.” I’d heard the name, but didn’t know anything about it. Well, after searching for a while online for a way to watch it, we found the two episodes she was planning to watch. It ended up stopping a lot to load, which was somewhat annoying, but it gave us plenty of time to chat! It’s fun lying in bed, watching movies (or, in this case, a TV show) with my host mom. :)

Wednesday 10/19: A relaxing day at home

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof and the lovely smell of fall coming through the window. I spent a while just cozied up under my covers, enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to get up. Eventually I headed downstairs to eat breakfast with Margot. We always have such random conversations when we’re hanging out together—it’s great! I recently shared some jam that I’d brought from Oregon (Bandon Cranberry Jam—my favorite!!!) with my host family. They all really like it…and within 2 days it’s already half gone!

After breakfast, Margot showed me a ton of pictures on their computer (from birthday parties, family holidays, etc.)—it’s funny to see them all so much younger!

Around noon, I met Alison downtown and we walked back to my house. Catherine was still at work, so Alison and I made scones to surprise her! Catherine has been craving scones and had mentioned several times recently that we should make some. When she got home, she was very excited to see them in the oven!

We all ate lunch and then Margot wanted to play a game on the TV where two people compete at a certain dance routine. Each person has to hold this electronic remote thingy in one hand and follow along with the movements that the figure on the TV is doing and somehow it monitors how well you follow along. I watched Margot and Alison compete and found it highly entertaining. They were so intense about it! Alison picked the first song and she won, then Margot picked the next and she won. At that time, Margot had to leave for her handball practice, so Catherine said I had to try it. I told her if I had to do it, she had to do it. So, we danced to some song that I didn’t know and I ended up beating her! Then Alison and I danced to a song that I recognized, but I’ve already forgotten the name—and, somehow, I barely managed to beat her as well. It felt pretty silly to be dancing “with” someone while both of us were staring at a screen!

When Margot returned home from handball, we all had a snack of scones with butter and cranberry jam! Mmm! And, I checked the mail and discovered a letter from Sophia (thank you!! I’ve already started a letter to you!) and a big orange envelope addressed to Margot, but with the return address of my house in Corvallis! I was very surprised, but not as much as Margot! She tore it open and discovered a Halloween card from my mom! It even included stickers to decorate the haunted house on the card. She immediately sat down and decorated the card. She informed me that it was the third thing she’d ever received in the mail. And she told me to say “MERCI” to my mother! :)

Then Alison and I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies so I can bring them to school tomorrow for the other teachers. While waiting for each tray to cook, Alison and I listened to classic kids’ songs that I could potentially use in my classes. Eventually Catherine came in to make dinner and she enjoyed hearing some of the classic songs she’d learned while she was in England as a small child. We also watched some hilarious videos of Hugh Laurie singing. Catherine is a huge fan of Hugh Laurie!

Alison stayed for dinner and we all watched France Has Incredible Talent on TV. There were some fairly talented people (one guy broke 40 slabs of granite with his forehead…) and some extremely non-talented people (some atrocious singers). Once the show was over, Margot and Lucas went to bed and Catherine, Alison, and I stayed up until 1:15am talking. We spent a lot of time talking about the pros and cons of adoption. Thank goodness our conversation was in English—if not, there’s no way I would have made it that long!! Alison is spending the night here because she has to teach at the high school at 9am tomorrow, so there’s no point of her going all the way back to Capbreton, just to get up and come back to Tyrosse!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday 10/18: Another day of teaching…

Another busy day! Today I didn’t have class until 10:45am, but I got up at 9am so I could prepare some things and get to the school a little bit early. My first class was with the CE2 students (8-9 years old). Claire, Margot’s cousin, was in the class—she’s adorable. As are the other students, of course! We did the same things that I did yesterday with the other classes (Greetings, Oregon, Halloween) and it went really smoothly. The teacher stayed in the room and worked in the back (grading papers, or something), which I think might have made the students behave better. They were very interested in everything and eager to participate. One of them asked about US money, so I showed them the bills I had brought. The only times I had to scold them were when they all started talking at once because they all wanted to answer a question. It was very different from the other school, where half the class didn’t really pay attention. Two boys gave me super-hero drawings —they’re pretty cool.

I headed home for lunch (Catherine and I had soup today…with croutons!) and rested a bit before going back for the whole afternoon. I had class with a group of 10 students (7-8 yr olds) in the library. That went really well—they listened to me and were probably the best at pronouncing “Trick-or-Treat!” I ran 10 minutes over my ending time because I got confused and thought the class ran until 2:30pm instead of 2:15pm! No real problem, though.

I hurried up to the CM2s (10-11 yr olds), where I talked mostly about Oregon and Halloween because they have already done a lot of the basic questions with their teacher—because she’s the English teacher for the upper grades. Claude (the teacher) stayed in the room, which was good since there are 23 students in her class! After the class she said that I did a good job, but should speak more English.

Photo: The candy bags for the CM2s

I had 15 minutes between classes, so I had my photo taken for a poster they’re going to make of all the teachers at the school. When I arrived at my last class, I realized that I had messed up again—I was 15 minutes early! Turns out I actually have a half-hour between those classes! Oops! It worked out ok, though, because the teacher said we could just start a bit early.

My last class was with the CE1s (7-8 yrs old) and they were amazing. Really. So well behaved! I could not believe how quiet they stayed the ENTIRE TIME! They all paid attention and even when I had them color (for probably 10-15 mins), they were silent with maybe a few whispers. And boy, were they cute! I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take any pictures, but these kids are so sweet. They were really nervous when they had to come up and trick-or-treat all by themselves, but they were very excited to get their candy and sticker. It was so lovely to have such a respectful class—especially at that age! Their teacher was in the room, but she didn’t even have to do anything while I was there—she trained them well! ;)

The funniest thing that happened in that class, though, was when I told them they needed to write their first name "prénom" on their paper. Then I said they should also copy "Happy Halloween" as well. So, I wrote "prénom" on the upper left side of the board and "Happy Halloween" in the middle of the board. For some reason, some of the kids thought I wanted them to just write the word, "prénom" on their paper. Hmm. I had to explain it a few times before they caught on and changed it to their own names. You'll notice that some of the drawings say "prénom"....

Photo: PrénomHappyHalloween!

After tea, I went running with Dunja. The weather here is changing, but it hasn’t started raining…yet. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. So, when I got home, I jumped in the pool for a few minutes. It was chilly, but after I swam around for a while, it was fine. I feel silly that I live in a house with a pool, yet I’ve only gone swimming in it twice! Too bad I’m not here during the summer!

I helped make the salad for dinner and we had quiche as well. Lucas is home this week because he’s job shadowing at a business in Tyrosse. Apparently all students at his school are required to do a job shadow in 3ième (9th grade). Hugo did his last year because he is one grade ahead (Lucas was held back one year).

After dinner we all (except Lucas) watched “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” in English. Margot did her best to understand (sometimes we explained)—it’s not too hard to figure out the general idea of what’s going on. They all liked it.

Tomorrow there’s no school, so I’m planning to do some cooking. Since the high school has morning classes, Alison is coming over afterwards to hang out. We were planning to go to the beach with Catherine and Margot, but it’s supposed to rain…

I feel a lot better about teaching, now that I’ve had all (except one) of my classes. At least I know somewhat to expect from them! Overall, it’s not too bad!

Monday 10/17: My first day of classes!

Today I started teaching! I had trouble sleeping last night because, for some reason, I was feeling a little bit nervous about getting up in front of a bunch of kids and trying to get them to listen to me. Also, just as I would start to fall asleep, I would think of something that I should remember to do in class—and then my brain would be awake again… sigh.

I got up extra early so I would be ready to go to the school at 8:00am. I wanted to be set up before the kids arrived. My first class was from 8:30-9:15, their first class of the day. I started by introducing myself in English and then had them practice saying “What’s your name?” “My name is ____.” with me and then with a partner. We also practiced questions like: “How old are you?” “Where do you come from?” and “Where do you live?” It went pretty smoothly, actually. Then I talked about Oregon, showed them a US map with Oregon all colored in, and showed different Oregon postcards. I used the postcards to show them how diverse Oregon is: mountains, ocean, forests, rivers, cities, desert, animals, etc. They were pretty interested and asked a bunch of questions. And, finally, we talked about Halloween. I put up pictures on the board of a ghost, a witch, and a skeleton—and some trick-or-treaters. We practiced saying the words in English, then I told them what kids in the US do on Halloween. We practiced saying “Trick-or-Treat!” but for some reason it is really hard for them. I sat at the teacher’s desk and had each child come up and knock on the desk and say “Trick-or-Treat” (or, more like, “Twik-or-Twik”) and then I gave them a little bag with candy and a sticker. Then they said “Thank you”—which they had an easier time pronouncing. It was pretty cute and they were thrilled to get the candy and stickers. (Thank you to everyone at home who donated money for supplies!!!)

After that class was finished, I had a break before I had to go to the other school to teach. I just went home and vegged. I packed a lunch and Bruno drove me to École de la Lande at 11:30am. Turns out the teachers there don’t eat lunch until 12:30pm, so I spent my time waiting in the staff room, folding paper into name cards for my classes. I ate lunch with the other teachers, which mostly involved me listening to their conversations, and then waited another 20 minutes after they all scurried off to prepare their classes. It was very curious—when the teachers arrived in the staff room for lunch, one of them immediately said, “Is it true you were in a film?” I was extremely startled and said, “um, yes?” I asked how on earth she knew that (since I don’t know ANYONE at that school) and she said one of her students had told her. I have no idea how a student knew, because I haven’t even met any of the students at that school! Insane.

At 1:30pm, I was shown to an empty classroom and a group of about 13 students came in (aged 7-8). They were a handful. Really. For one, they didn’t even understand “What’s your name?” “My name is _______.” After I had them repeat it about a million times, they still didn’t know what to say when I asked them individually “What’s your name?” I tried to talk (in French, obviously) about Oregon, but they were not very good at staying even slightly focused. When I had them make name tags, none of them had any supplies (because this isn’t their normal classroom), so we had to go into their home classroom to get their pencil cases. Sigh. The class was only 30 minutes long, so we didn’t really get much done…

At 2:00pm, the older students (10-11yrs) came in for their class. As soon as they’d sat down, all of them wanted to know if it was true that I’d been in Twilight. WHAT THE HECK??? How did all these people find out?? Seriously. I MENTIONED it to my host mother and sister one evening while we were looking through dvds in our LIVING ROOM! I guess it’s a small town……

The older students were a bit better behaved and they definitely understood more. I had a lot better time with them. We practiced the same questions I did with the morning CM2 class and then I talked about Oregon. They made name cards and I had them choose an English name and write it on the backside of their name cards. That was fun because they all wanted to practice saying their names with an American accent. ;)

At the end of the class, the girls mobbed me and two of them had pieces of paper they wanted autographed. I tried to explain to them that no one would ever pay money for it, since I was a stinkin EXTRA, but they informed me they were going to hang them in their room. Well, as long as they’re happy! It’s definitely better having them like me than having them think I’m stupid.

Franck (the director of the school) gave me a ride home. In the future I’m going to ride my bike because it’s not very far (2 miles) and then I don’t have to bother people to drive me around.

This afternoon I taught a class of 9-10 year olds. They were fun—very interested in what I was saying and not overly rowdy. There’s always one student (generally a boy…) who doesn’t want to listen and makes lots of annoying comments. Oh well, the rest of them were super cute. And they were very excited to Trick-or-Treat (although they also had difficulties actually saying the words…). It’s kind-of a bummer for the kids who take Spanish, because they leave the room to go to their class with Pablo, and when they come back, everyone else has candy. I would give some to them, too, but I hardly have enough for all my English students! Too bad.

I was really tired when I got back from my last class. Perhaps it’s because I am finally DOING something during the day! Or, maybe it’s because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep…

After tea, I spent a few hours relaxing in my room. I wasn’t feeling depressed, I just needed a break from thinking and didn’t feel like speaking French. I had pesto pasta for dinner (they had a meat sauce) and then watched the news for a little bit. The Occupy Wall Street has made it on our news several times and I so wish I could be in the US to Occupy!! But, for now, I will content myself with watching videos from the protests and encouraging my friends and family to participate.

I headed to bed early tonight, but ended up Skyping with Maria for a while. It’s so odd how Skype makes you feel like you’re really sitting in the room with someone! Maybe one day teleportation will exist….that’d be nice.

I showed my classes this photo of Halloween Trick-or-Treaters! :)
Southtown Halloween: Paul, Yang-Yang, Ivy, Natalie, Connor, Sophia, Gabrielle, Maria
I think it was 1997 or 98?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday 10/16: Frisbee, Waves, and a Giant Jellyfish

I slept in late today and then spent the morning re-figuring out my trip to the UK. It turns out there’s a small airport near Manchester that I didn’t know existed! And, it ended up being cheaper for me to fly from there to Limoges (in France) and take the train to Tyrosse! So, I am going to cancel my flight from Glasgow to Paris (I don’t get money back) and stay in the UK until Nov 2nd, which gives me time to spend a few days visiting Grace! I’m excited!

After lunch, Margot, Ralf, Catherine, and I headed to the beach! It was glorious! Not extremely hot, but definitely warm and sunny. The water was perfect—and there were plenty of waves to ride! We spent about 45 minutes in the water before returning to our towels to relax in the sun. After resting for a while, the four of us played catch with the frisbee I’d brought—yay! I haven’t played frisbee in so long!

Photo: Frisbee!!

During our game of catch, Margot noticed that an enormous jellyfish had washed up on the beach! We went over to check it out and, of course, we all had to touch it to see if it would sting us—it didn’t. I’ve never seen a jellyfish that big! Once we’d tired of prodding it, we returned to the water (hoping that its family wasn’t out there swimming around). We rode waves for another hour (eventually it was just Margot and I) and the tide was coming in, so some of them were really powerful. When we were completely tired out, we headed back to the car.

Photo: Margot and the GIANT jellyfish

On the way home, we stopped at a farm stand to pick up fresh fruits and veggies. They also sold miscellaneous dried fruits, so we got some to try. The strawberries were so delicious! Catherine said we could go back to get more sometime, so I’ll have to stock up then!

Tonight I helped Catherine made a casserole of white beans, carrots, onions, and cheese. I loved it—the flavors were excellent and it was very filling. We had fresh pears for dessert, which were at the perfect ripeness. Mmmm!

Tomorrow I start teaching bright and early! My first class will be with a class of CM2 (10-11 yr olds)—Margot’s class! I’m definitely feeling a little bit nervous, but I’m also very excited to finally get started!

Just an October day at the beach.....

French School Grades

CP= 1st grade 5ième= 7th grade

CE1= 2nd grade 4ième= 8th grade

CE2= 3rd grade 3ième= 9th grade

CM1= 4th grade Seconde= 10th grade

CM2= 5th grade Première= 11th grade

6ième= 6th grade Terminale= 12th grade

Saturday 10/15: The Name Game à la française!

This morning I watched the end of the rugby semi-finals on TV (France vs. Wales) while eating my croissant with nutella. Ralf buys croissants for everyone on the weekends, which is a delicious treat! It was really close, but France ended up winning 9-8!

I helped Catherine with the laundry, then she invited me to come along on a shopping trip with the kids. They were headed to a different town where there was a big sports and outdoors store. I didn’t have plans, so I figured I would go with them. The kids needed different sorts of athletic wear (padded rugby shirts/cleats/jogging suits/etc.) and it ended up taking a long time for everyone to get what they needed. I spent a little time looking for a raincoat because I didn’t bring one and I realized that if I want to keep biking around during the winter, I should probably have one! When we all got to the register, most of the other shoppers seemed to be paying with credit cards. My rain jacket cost €13.95—and I had exactly €13.83… So, when I got up to the register, I had to borrow €0.12 from my host mother and then I gave the poor lady all these stacks of coins. She had trouble counting them (by the third time through I gave her a hand), but in the end I got my jacket!

After lunch, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. I found a recipe online that didn’t use baking soda (because it doesn’t exist here) and I had brought some brown sugar from home (because it’s not commonly used here). The cookies turned out all right!! Catherine adored them and Ralf and the kids liked them, too. Even Margot (who already told me several times “I hate cookies. I’ll try yours, but just because I’m polite.”) liked them, so that’s a big success!

At 6:30pm I got to skype with my parents! Catherine was excited to “meet” them, so, of course, while I was downstairs telling her to come say hi, my father popped in his fake teeth. Charming. The first few minutes of their conversation involved the “billybobs”—I think Catherine was relieved when he took them out. :) It was good to have them finally meet each other! At the end of my chat, my Aunt Barbara and Grandma stopped by my house and I got to see them as well! Skype is such an awesome thing. It was very comforting to see them all sitting in my living room!

I headed downstairs aroung 8pm when I’d finished my skype call and discovered that Catherine’s sister and her family were coming over for apératifs. We ended up sitting around in the living room while Lucas used a program on Margot’s iPod that asks questions to discover which famous person you’re thinking of. It was actually pretty incredible—Chantal (Catherine’s sister) was thinking of Santa Claus and by asking all sorts of questions, it figured it out! I asked if anyone had heard of “The Name Game,” which is sort of like a mix of Taboo and Charades. Basically, everyone participating writes the names of 5 different famous people on 5 slips of paper and all of them are put in a bowl. Then the group is split into two teams. There are three rounds:

#1—Each group takes turns having one of their players stand up and pick up slips of paper out of the bowl. They can describe the person, but cannot use the words written on the slip of paper. Example: SANTA CLAUS “He’s jolly, he gives presents at Christmas, he lives at the North Pole…” Each person gets 1 minute to try to describe as many of the people as possible. Once all the slips have been described, they are counted (and put on the score sheet), then returned to the bowl.

#2—This time, the “describer” is only allowed to say one word. Example: SANTA CLAUS “Christmas” Each person still gets only 1 minute and everyone on the team takes a turn until all the slips are used up. They are counted, recorded, and returned to the bowl.

#3—For the final round, it’s charades! Since everyone has already heard all the words two times, they should know what to expect. So, the “describer” has to use miming to make their team understand who to guess. Example: SANTA CLAUS Mime having a big belly, put a sack on your back, look jolly, etc.

In the end, all three of the scores are added up to find out the winner. It’s an absolutely hilarious game (taught to my by my Aunt Ellen!!) that has been a big hit every time I’ve shared it with others. This time was no less hilarious.

We ended up playing the game with all 11 of us (with a small break in the middle for pizza, which we ordered in—and the rest of my chocolate chip cookies) and it got pretty exciting! Some of them are really competitive and there was lots of objections if anyone tried to do anything that was against the rules (like miming during the first two rounds, heaven forbid!). I had such a great evening! It didn’t matter that I didn’t know some of the famous people, it wasn’t too hard to make it work. Plus, thanks to the fact that his name was in there three times, I now know “Vincent Clerc,” who is the star rugby player for Tyrosse!

Today was a great day: talking with my family made me feel a lot happier, and then a marvelous evening with my host family made me feel right at home. Hopefully we’ll get to have more game nights!

Plus, I got a letter from my parents today!!

Here are some videos from Round 3 of our game! :)

Chantal acts out many people, including Christopher Colombus on a little row boat!
Hugo IS Sherlock Holmes, Ronald McDonald, Nicolas Sarkozy, Michael Jackson, and more!

Ralf finishes off the game with a brilliant Will Smith and leads our team to a win!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday 10/14: A Walk in the Woods

I woke up this morning feeling a lot better than yesterday. When I headed downstairs for breakfast, I found a note from Catherine asking if I could go to the farmers’ market to pick up some fruits and veggies. After I finished eating, I walked over (it’s only 5 minutes away at the most) and managed to find everything she’d requested. I enjoy walking through the market—today I discovered a stand that sells different sorts of sewing supplies…good to know!

When I got home, I put away my purchases and headed off on my bike for l’École de la Lande (the second elementary school where I will teach). The director had told me I could pick up more materials this week, so I wanted to arrive during lunchtime so that he would be available. I had a bit of trouble finding the school (it’s about 2 miles away) because the little map I’d drawn from googlemaps wasn’t exactly clear. Eventually I arrived and Franck gave me the packet and made some copies for me to take. He’s such a genuinely nice and smiley guy.

On my way home, the sun finally broke through the dense fog and I stopped to take some pictures of the church. It’s not a cathedral or anything, but it’s nice.

Photo: L'Église de Tyrosse

I waited to eat lunch with Catherine (I had white beans and fresh tomatoes! With some bread and cheese, of course! And grapes for dessert.) and we watched a health show on TV while we ate. It’s so different for me to watch so much TV here! However, there are rarely commercials and we watch more intellectual shows (or the news), so I don’t feel so bad about it. Today they were discussing eggs and their health benefits. Apparently the country that consumes the most eggs annually is…….. Mexico! Who would have guessed?!

After lunch I decided to take Dunja on a walk because it was so sunny and warm. I wanted to make sure I got out and didn’t just sit in my room and get depressed again. We walked by the school (so I could get a picture!) and then took our usual route through the woods. They are so beautiful—the pictures don’t do them justice.

Photo: The front of l'École des Arènes

During our walk, I came across an elderly couple sitting on a bench resting. We struck up a conversation and ended up talking for about 20 minutes. The man was more talkative than the woman and he told me I should work hard so I could have a nice retirement like him and his wife.

Photo: The path leading into the woods...

He also told me about a friend’s grandchild who was 23 and had recently gotten sick and ended up in the hospital. His girlfriend dumped him when she found out he was really sick, and now he’s depressed. I was informed that I should never do something like that. The man then asked if I’d ever had any tragic experiences with love… can’t say that I have. He said it’ll happen one day—his wife scolded him for saying so. They were an adorable couple and they wished me luck in France and in my future. We continued on our ways.

Photo: Deep in the woods

Photo: Dunja and the mysterious monkey bars in the middle of the woods...

Tonight I helped Catherine make pudding for dessert (it was actually vanilla pudding with whipped cream mixed in) and she made rice, spinach, and fish (I made myself one of the veggie burgers) for dinner. I wasn’t the hugest fan of the pudding (not enough vanilla taste, or something like that), but it was okay. Tomorrow I’m hoping to make my chocolate chip cookies!!

After dinner, Hugo and Lucas wanted to watch something on TV, so Catherine and I watched a movie upstairs in my room on my laptop.

We looked through the films I brought (region 1—the kind that work on my computer) and she ended up choosing Ever After. I apologized before it even started for the fact that the film takes place in France, but everyone has English accents… Luckily Catherine loves English accents and she ended up really enjoying the film. I paid better attention to the scenery and definitely recognized some of the places it was filmed (Beynac & Sarlat). France is so beautiful!

We’re supposed to have sunny and hot weather until Tuesday, so I’m hoping to go to the beach tomorrow with Catherine and Margot!!

Walking in the woods with Dunja!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday 10/13: Homesickness Descends

Today was a hard day. For some reason, homesickness came on really strong this morning and I couldn’t shake it off. I got up, had some granola, then worked on consolidating all the things I needed to print for my classes next week. At 11:30am, I headed to the school to try to find someone who could show me how to print from one of the school computers (I had emailed the documents to myself from my laptop). After I had printed all the pages I needed (and made copies of the Halloween coloring pages—I need 133 total!), I hung out in the staff room while all the teachers ate lunch. Pablo was there as well, just to be sociable and get to know the teachers better. They are all really nice and super helpful.

When I came home after lunchtime was over, I just lied on my bed doing nothing for a while. It was as though all the energy had been sucked out of me. I felt an overwhelming sadness—and I have no idea why. I started thinking about how it’s only been 3 weeks that I’ve been here…April is ages away. I don’t know why I started feeling so homesick. Everyone here is very kind and my host family is so good to me. I guess it’s just different being around people who don’t REALLY know you—and I always have to think carefully before I speak because, unfortunately, I’m not fluent in French. It gets exhausting after a while.

Eventually I got up and headed downstairs to make myself some lunch. I figured that maybe my lack of energy had to do with being hungry. I had one of the veggie burgers on baguette with tomato—delicious. And an apple, which was excellent as well. I ate outside on the patio, in the sun, while reading Ramona Forever. That cheered me up a bit, but when I finished the book and returned to my room, loneliness descended. I ended up feeling so depressed that I decided to take a nap so I would stop thinking. That helped a bit—I slept for about 45 minutes, then hauled myself up at 4:30pm to go downstairs for tea. Instead, Catherine suggested we just have juice today, but we sat outside and talked as usual. She had a really hard day at work today, so she asked if we could have “comfort food” and a “comfort film” tonight. We planned to have pizza and watch the French movie, L’Arnacoeur (in English: Heartbreaker).

I moped around in my room for another hour or so before deciding to go for a run. That helped a lot. It was the perfect time of evening and the lighting was gorgeous. Dunja (the dog—I finally asked how her name is spelled! It’s pronounced “dune-yuh") came with me and we ran for 30 minutes all around the woods. She’s really a great dog to go running with! When we get to the woods, I take the leash off and she stays near me the whole time (occasionally stopping to sniff something, but she always comes hurrying back to me).

We had a delicious pizza dinner (with a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers) with lemon yogurt for dessert. The typical dessert in France is either yogurt (just the normal fruit kind) or fresh fruit. Sometimes we have something more sweet (once we had a popsicle, once we had a local kind of cake with ice cream, once we had cookies), but generally we don’t even eat dessert.

After dinner, Ralf, Catherine, and I watched Heartbreaker. I’m such a fan of that movie. It’s one of my very favorite French films of all time (I think I watched it five times last Spring…). After the film, Catherine explained to me the French name: Arnacoeur. It turns out that the word “arnaqueur” means “con artist”—and the word “coeur” means “heart.” So, since the main character in the film is a professional con artist who rescues women from bad relationships (without them knowing), they chose the name “arnacoeur”—which is pronounced exactly the same as the word for con artist!

As I head to bed, I am feeling better. Yes, there’s still that feeling of homesickness there, but it’s not as strong as it was most of the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier.
Missing home... and those who are pictured here... and those who are not... (JESSIE!!!)

Wednesday 10/12: The pursuit of tofu and other adventures

I slept in until 10am today, then spent the rest of the morning calculating out exactly how much Halloween candy I’d brought and how it could be divided up between the classes. It’s fairly complicated because I don’t have enough of every kind to give to every student… I’m figuring it out. For the three older classes (60 students total) I am putting together little bags (leftover from Tasha’s wedding!) with three pieces of candy and a Halloween sticker, tied with orange and black ribbon. They look pretty awesome, but my room is a bit of a mess at the moment…

Around noon, Alison finished teaching at the high school and walked over to meet up with me in front of the church. We walked through town and then headed to my house for lunch with Margot and Catherine. It was fun—sometimes we spoke in French, sometimes in English. Alison brought her epic dvd collection (around 50, I think!), so Catherine and I picked out some to borrow. Catherine also lent some to Alison, since Scotland and France are both in region 2 (US is, unfortunately, region 1). After lunch, Catherine, Alison, and I went to the grocery store. I wanted to get ingredients for chocolate chip cookies, scones, and my family’s spaghetti sauce. I’m hoping to do some cooking this weekend! During the time we were at the store, I am proud to say that I recognized 3 songs on the radio! Not too bad!

I was also interested in getting some tofu (it’s been waaay too long since I’ve eaten any!), so I asked Catherine where I could find it. She had no idea what I was talking about and apparently they don’t carry it at the supermarket! Bummer. I did find some good looking veggie burgers, so I’ll have to be happy with that. When we got home, Ralf suggested a different store that might have tofu, so we’ll check there at some point.

We all had tea (except Alison, who doesn’t drink tea) and Ralf came home from work soon after. When he found out that Alison was planning to take a train from Tyrosse to Bayonne (half an hour) and then a bus from Bayonne to Capbreton (20 mins, I think), he said that he could take her back to Capbreton in his car. It only takes 15-20 mins to drive there, so it would be much faster to do that. Catherine then invited Alison to stay for dinner, since she didn’t have to hurry to catch a train. It was extremely kind of them to offer dinner and a ride home—I was so glad she could stay for the evening!

Alison and I helped Catherine make dinner (omlette and salad) and we had a good talk about parenting styles. Catherine’s parents were very strict and would never let her go out, which forced her to lie to her parents if she wanted to ever go out. She doesn’t want her kids to do that, so she allows them a little more freedom, but makes sure they are being safe.

After dinner, Catherine, Alison, and I watched The Princess Bride! We watched it online, so we had to use my laptop and we all lounged on my bed. It was fun sharing it with them (neither had seen it before) and I was happy that they both liked it! Of course, I really enjoyed watching it for the millionth time!!

Catherine and I took Alison back to Capbreton at 11pm, so I didn’t get to bed until almost midnight… luckily I don’t have to get up early in the morning!!

Today…a letter from Mark! :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday 10/11: Lesson Planning

I spent the morning reading a book that was lent to me by one of the English teachers (Claude) at the school. It has lots of ideas for teaching English to kids (games, activities, etc.), so I took notes and added some to my lesson plan for next week. At 11:30am, I went over to the school for the meeting with Claude and Virginie (the two English teachers). We spent about an hour or so discussing how to teach certain things, looking at materials, and finally deciding to follow the same order of lessons as the “Speak & Play” program that was lent to me by the other primary school. Since I am only teaching for one week before vacation, I will just practice “Hello! What is your name?” “My name is ___”—and I’ll teach a bit about Halloween and Oregon! Shouldn’t be too hard…

Today there was a strike in the schools (I’m not sure who exactly was striking), so there was no school lunch for the students. That meant that every single student had to go home to eat lunch. Yep, they all were either picked up (there were oodles of parents outside when I arrived at lunchtime) or they walked/biked home. Margot was at home for lunch, so when I came home from my meeting I hung out with her for a little while (until she had to go back to school at 1:30pm).

In the afternoon I prepared more for my classes (including cutting up the sheets of Halloween stickers into individual stickers). Online I searched for coloring pages for both Halloween and Oregon. I was very excited to find a site that had an Oregon coloring book—with a picture of the Benton County Courthouse to color!!

I went back over to the school to pick up the class lists, so I could know how many students I would have. After typing them all into my computer, I find that I have 133 students at École des Arènes. I have another 32 or so at the other primary school. Luckily I brought 200 Halloween stickers…we’ll see how far the Halloween candy I brought will go…

Before dinner I was reading one of my favorite children’s book (I had originally brought it for my students, but it is so far beyond their language abilities!), “Ramona Forever.” I decided to go downstairs and be somewhat sociable by at least curling up in the living room to read. When I went down, I discovered Margot watching the TV show “Dr. Quinn”—a story about a woman doctor in a pioneer town. It was so funny to see all these pioneers talking in dubbed over French! I watched it with her until the news came on, then I went back to my book.

Dinner was a nice big salad and a tomato and cheese quiche. After dinner we all (including Margot—she was allowed to stay up late because there’s no school on Wednesdays) watched a French film called “LOL.” A lot of the movie is about a teenager, so—not surprisingly—there is plenty of slang used between the highschoolers. That was hard for me to understand, but I did pretty well overall!

Here's a link to more pictures:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday 10/10: A sunny day off!

No observing today!! Since I don’t start teaching until next week, I am just preparing classes this week. The school never gave me directions (other than attending a meeting tomorrow afternoon for lesson planning with the other English teachers) on what I was supposed to do, so I am just working on planning at home.

This morning I worked on the plans for my October break and I discovered that airline ticket prices were going up. Not good. And, one of the flights I was hoping to take was sold out. Not good. So, I went ahead and bought a ticket to London and a return ticket from Glasgow—at least I know I’ll get there and get back! Now we’ll see what happens while I’m in the UK…

It’s really lovely working in my room because I have a large window (no screen—no one has screens here) and today the sun was pouring in all day! There’s plenty of fresh air and I can hear the kids playing whenever they’re on recess at school. I spent a while trying on iTunes going through “150 Favorite Children’s Songs”…ah, so many classics. But, it’s amazing how many are too complicated for the language level of my student here. There are a few, though, that should work out!

I had lunch with Catherine (when she came home from work) and afterwards we looked at some ESL sites online. We found some that used songs to teach English (Three Blind Mice, Mary Had A Little Lamb, etc.) and others that allowed you to print off free worksheets. I’ll definitely need to spend more time exploring those tomorrow before my meeting.

This afternoon I biked to the post office to pick up a package for Catherine and also check the prices for boxes to the US. The cheapest (500g) is €9.60, then there’s one for €14.20 that’s 1kg, and the bigger size (6kg) is €36.50…I didn’t even bother asking about the biggest box! Man, it’s expensive to ship things overseas!! Ugh. Hopefully I can figure out a way to send food without them asking what’s in the box! The last time I tried (in 2009) they informed me that it was illegal to send food into the US. Ugh.

My friend, Candice, is also a teaching assistant—but she’s living on the other side of France, near Switzerland. She’s in a town called Besançon, which (from the pictures I’ve seen) is very beautiful. We’re hoping to meet up in Paris after my trip to the UK at the end of this month, so we had a quick skype chat this evening to figure out potential Paris hostels. It’s so difficult because one has to take into consideration the price, the location, and the reviews. We thought we’d found a good one: not to expensive, in the center of Paris…..but then we read the reviews and discovered that a majority of them mentioned having had a problem with bedbugs. Nope! Not staying there! We (hopefully) have found a good hotel and I will soon be reserving us a room (her roommate is coming, too…and possibly a few other friends).

Dinner tonight was green beans cooked in a light tomato sauce with raclette cheese melted on top—delicious! And, of course, bread. That’s an essential for every meal and we always have a baguette or two around the house! After dinner, Catherine, Ralf, and I watched the film, “Juno.” I’d forgotten how much I like that movie. Neither of them had seen it, so it was fun to hear their reactions. They both liked it a lot.

Today was very exciting…..I received a letter from Chelsea!! :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Enjoying the beach (9/27)

Sunday 10/9: My first Rugby match!

After I had digested my breakfast (a croissant with nutella), I took the dog for a run. Today I woke up to sun, which was marvelous after the last few days of grey skies and rain. So, I figured it would be the perfect time to explore more of the woods! I took (more or less) the same route, but went a little farther on the path that runs along the highway. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention and tripped over a root that was sticking up in the path. Boom! I was down and face-to-face with a very surprised dog. I just scraped my knee, but I made sure to pay better attention to the path after that! We ran for 35 minutes (with two stops at the chin-up bar), then headed home.

When I got home, I cooled off and then cleaned my room. I spent a little time working on plans for my trip to the UK over Oct break, then went downstairs to eat lunch with Catherine and Margot.

Catherine mentioned that she and Ralf were planning to go to Tyrosse’s first home rugby game of the season. She asked if I’d like to accompany them—of course! I’ve never been to a game (even though they had both men’s and women’s rugby at WOU), so I was interested to experience it live. Especially since it’s so popular in this part of France.

Photo: Tyrosse's colors: Blue and Red!

The game was at the stadium (about 3 mins by car from our house) and it cost 10€ to get in. The actual seats cost more, but we just went to where people stand next to the field. It was really interesting—most people weren’t actually there to watch the game. Yes, they occasionally checked the score, but mostly they just hung out and talked, smoked, and drank beer. It was excellent! Everyone knew each other and the rugby was just a good excuse for them to get out and see their neighbors and friends.

I met a lot of people and also spent some time actually watching the game. A lot of it went over my head (rule-wise), but overall I enjoyed it. It seemed more interesting than American Football—I appreciate that they’re only allowed to tackle the guy with the ball. It’s less violent that way. ;)

My favorite part was when a group of subs for our team—all wearing bright orange vests (like road construction workers)—jogged down to one end of the field to warm up while the game was going. They were warming up for a minute or so when three of them ran to the edge of the field, jumped the fence, and started peeing on the bushes. Just like that. In front of the entire crowd. There was absolutely nothing subtle about it—and no one cared! Yep, I had a good laugh trying to imagine that happening at an OSU Beavers game…

After the game, we hung around chatting for an hour and a half. By then we had headed into the bar (located under the stands), which was really, really loud and smoky. Yes, smoky. Technically people are no longer allowed to smoke in public places (restaurants, train stations, bars, etc.) in France, but sometimes they just do it anyway.

So, since it was now 6:10pm and I had planned a skype date with my parents for 6:30pm, I decided to just walk home. I was starting to get a headache from the smoke and noise, so it was a good time to head out. I had a nice walk home (only about 10 minutes) and a good chat with my parents. It was the first time we’ve skyped since I arrived in Tyrosse and it was good to catch up!

We had pasta for dinner (Ralf and I had pesto, the other four had meat and tomato sauce) while watching the news. Tonight we saw some footage of the Occupy Wall Street protests. They showed some other cities (Chicago, Houston), but not Portland. I told my host family that my neighbor, Gregg, had attended Occupy Portland and that the movement was spreading all over the country. I don’t know if they realize how unusual it is to have this kind of a widespread protest in the US—it happens weekly in France!