Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday 11/29: An Overall Good Day!

Teaching today went a lot better than yesterday. I had a great class in the morning with the 8-9 year olds. We were working on numbers 1-10 and we played a few games on the board and did a lot of speaking practice (“How old are you?” “I’m 8!”). I had a 2 hour break for lunch and I came home to eat with Catherine, who was working later today. We had some delicious asparagus soup with cheese and croutons! :)

My afternoon classes consisted of two groups of 7-8 year olds and one class of 10-11 year olds. They all went really well, although the best was the last class (of 7-8 yr olds) where I used finger puppets (sent by my lovely mother) to have a conversation with myself. Then I chose a student to come up and take one, and “we” (meaning the turtle and monkey) had a conversation. It worked really well and I know that I will be using them again!!

After class, I had tea with Margot and then we took Dunja for a walk in the woods. It was such a beautiful, sunny day (probably about 60ºF) today and the sunset was gorgeous. We stopped at the monkey bars in the woods and gave them a shot—we both did well.

Photo: Monkey Bars! (Or perhaps a balance beam?...)

Margot took a charming video of me playing on the monkey bars the way I like best! ;) You can see it here: http://youtu.be/SXRbkFPcEBo We continued our walk and when we made it to the open part near the fields, we played catch with Margot's football (American football...) for a while. When it started to get dark, we headed home, kicking the football along the road the whole way.

Ralf had made a fire, so I brought down my sewing and sat next to the fireplace enjoying its warmth. I love the sound of it crackling—it makes me think of winter evenings at 840 Alexander Ave…

Photo: Beautiful clouds!

Before dinner, Margot and I watched the first half of the Dr. Quinn episode (Catherine was here tonight and she likes to watch the news, which starts at 8pm…) and then it was time for dinner. We had pasta with blue cheese sauce—I was so full after dinner!

Margot wanted to watch “Demandez la permission aux enfants” (“Ask the Kids For Permission”), which was about parents who were trying to get their kids to obey. They use some interesting tactics… In any case, Catherine was watching a show on TV, so we watched the film in my bed on Lucas’ laptop. It was pretty funny…nothing brilliant, but okay.

Tomorrow we’re decorating the house for Christmas!!

Today I got a letter from Mark!!! <3

Monday 11/28: Oof.

Today was a hard day. I got up early and my first class went really well. I was working on numbers (1-50) with Margot’s class, so I had them play a game. I split the class into two teams and then had one student from each team come to the board. I would say a number, for example: “thirty-seven” and then the first student to write “37” would win a point for his/her team. It really depended on the student how fast they would get it. It was great because they really got into the game and it was really good practice for them. We also did an exercise where I read a text (given to me by the other English teacher) that gave info about 4 people (where they live, their ages, their telephone numbers, etc.) and they had to listen and fill in a chart about the people. That was hard for them, but good practice.

I had a break after my first class and I was really tired, so I went home and took a 2 hour nap. I couldn’t get to sleep last night, so I was glad to have a break.

After preparing a bit and having some lunch (leftover gratin—yum!!), I biked over to the other school. Unfortunately the bike I normally use had a flat tire, so I grabbed another one and headed out. Bad plan. The seat was super, super hard and was tilted up. Ow. And it was too big for me as well. So, needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable ride!

My classes were EXHAUSTING at the other school. Really. I literally waste so much time trying to get them to listen. I handed back the test that the older class took last week…the grades really varied…there was a 1/20 and a 20/20. Most were around 14-16 (which is good here…a B) and it was generally the kids who don’t pay attention in class that received the bad grades. Typical.

I rode home (ow.) and then I had one more class at the school next door. Unfortunately it was with the worst class: the 9-10 year olds. Their teacher was still absent (without a sub again), so the kids were spread out all over the school. I ended up with 10/23 again. But, they were awful. I tried to play the same number game that I had played that morning with Margot’s class, but they just talked through me, kept switching seats (because there were so many empty spots in the classroom), and doing dumb things. Finally, after fighting through this for 20 minutes, I yelled at them and told them we were finished with playing games and they were to get out their English notebooks and I made them copy the numbers 1-15 (written out). Grrr. It’s ridiculous that I was trying to make the class fun for them and they wouldn’t even just play a game! :(

When I got home from class, I had tea with Catherine and Margot. Catherine had bought a traditional German Christmas bread (mildly sweet with raisins and almond paste inside and lots of powdered sugar on the outside), which was pretty good!

Margot and I walked downtown so I could buy some more postcards at the little store. When we got home, I wrote some postcards and then went downstairs to make dinner.

Photo: Sunset...seen from my bedroom window

Catherine had to work and then go to a City Council meeting (she’s on it) until late. So, she asked if I could make dinner—very simple: quiche (just put frozen ones in the oven) and salad with tomatoes. While the quiche was cooking, Margot and I watched Dr. Quinn and I sewed. Since Catherine wasn’t there this evening to tell Margot to turn on the news at 8pm, we got to watch the whole episode! Haha, I find its sincerity so hilarious…

After dinner, I sneakily shut off the TV and sat myself next to the fire with my sewing. Margot headed to bed and Ralf went into the office to use the computer, so I enjoyed the peacefulness of sitting by a crackling fire and sewing. It was so nice to not have the TV on!! I know that most people are used to it, but I am exhausted of watching it. Sometimes, when it’s an interesting film, it’s okay…but most of the time the programs aren’t even that good! Anyways, I had a nice evening by the fire!

Today I received a package from Aunt An!!! Thank you for the amazing (and very necessary) passport and kitkats!! :)

Sunday 11/27: Thinking of Home…

I definitely slept in this morning! After breakfast, I spent a few hours preparing classes for this coming week. It’s good to know exactly what I’ll be teaching, although I will have to wait until tomorrow at school to make all my photocopies.

When I was done, I turned on Christmas carols in my room and sewed… listening to my Christmas music makes me think of home and how much I am going to miss celebrating with my family and neighborhood this year. I have a feeling that it’s going to be the hardest part of this whole experience. There are so many holiday traditions I love being part of…Christmas caroling, the Winter Ball, the New Years party, playing board games (or having a leaf fight…) on Christmas day, Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s house, baking cookies, Dutch Babies and hanging out on Christmas morning, walks through Willamette Park, sometimes a dusting of snow (and the dressing up that ensues), neighborhood pancake breakfasts, and so so so so so much more!!! However, I have no choice in the matter, so I will have to do my best to enjoy my holidays here. (Although I would be very much okay with skyping frequently…)

Since I had spent a lot of time inside today and yesterday, I decided to take Dunja for a walk in the woods. It was the first time I’ve worn my winter coat—today was cold and the air smelled of wintertime. I love that smell!

Photo: Walking in the woods...

Photo: Enjoying the Fall colors...

We had leftovers for dinner and afterwards we watched a tennis match (between a French guy and Swiss guy…the Swiss guy won) and I sewed.

Tomorrow…back to classes. I cannot believe there are only 3 more weeks left of school before Christmas break! Crazy.

Saturday 11/26: A Not-So-Restful Night, A Very Restful Day….

Last night I didn’t end up going to sleep until 1:30am and then my alarm went off at 3:45am to wake up so I could celebrate Sinterklaas via skype. It was 6:45pm back in Corvallis where the Hommeses had just finished opening presents and reading poems for an early celebration of the Dutch holiday, Sinterklaas. It was great to talk with the whole family (including Oma, visiting from Maine!!), even though I was rather sleepy… I said goodbye at 5:00am and slept until 11am.

After breakfast, I returned to bed where I went on my laptop until about 1:00pm…at which point I took a two-hour nap! Yes, I was still tired…

This afternoon, I cleaned my room, sewed a bit, and then helped Catherine make dinner. We made a gratin (like a casserole) with potatoes and broccoli. Mmm!

Tonight I played another game of Scrabble online with my mom and Mark. This time, though, Catherine played on my team. She was appalled to discover that we play words without even knowing what they mean! She had fun anyways and she and Mark have already started teasing each other without even meeting for real! Can’t wait til he comes here to visit… haha!

My mom was the Scrabble winner tonight with Mark in second and Catherine & I in last place…

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday 11/25: Teaching, Eating, and More Folk Dancing!

Oof, it was hard to get up this morning. I would have given just about anything to have been able to sleep for a few more hours. I think all the cooking yesterday really tired me out. Perhaps it’s because I spent pretty much the entire day on my feet…

In any case, I got up and headed off to my 8:30am class (saying bye to Alison, who was catching the train this morning for Paris), where I squashed US history/US anthem/the history of Thanksgiving/making Thanksgiving cards into a 45 minute lesson! Whew! I’m glad it was the last time I had to do that!

I’m not sure why, but they decided to change my Friday schedule, so now instead of having two classes back-to-back in the early morning and then a nice long break until after lunch, I now have an annoying 1 1/2 hour break between them. My Friday schedule now goes like this: 8:30am-9:15am, 10:45am-11:30am, 1:30pm-2:15pm, 3:45pm-4:30pm. Ugh. It makes it impossible to do anything all day because all the classes are so spread out! Sigh.

Anyway, I came home for a little rest and some class preparation during my first break, returning to teach the 9-10 year olds. But, their teacher wasn’t there today. When a teacher is absent, they do one of two things. If they have enough advance notice, there’s a substitute teacher (like in the US). If not, they split up the students into groups of 2-3 and stick them in the back of all the other classrooms in the school. So, they just spend the day doing worksheets or coloring or something. Not particularly interesting, but they have to be monitored. So, when I arrived to teach, the room was dark and empty. One of the other teachers informed me of the situation and sent two of her students to go around the school collecting my students from the other classes. Unfortunately, they didn’t actually go to ALL of the classes. In any case, 15 minutes after my class was supposed to start, I finally decided to begin…I only had 10 students out of 23. Oh well! Nothing I could do about it. I really preferred it, though—much calmer!

Then I went home for lunch (leftovers from last night!!) and returned to the school at 12:30pm with an apple pie. I made two and we ended up eating most of one, but the other was untouched. So, I brought it in to share with the other teachers. Pretty much everyone loved it and they asked for the recipe. They commented that I’m always bringing in food to share and they want to make me some food that is specific to this region. I had to remind them that I’m vegetarian, which made things a bit more difficult because most of there specialties here involve meat. But, hopefully they’ll actually make some food because I’d absolutely love to try it!!

After lunch I had the younger students and we made Thanksgiving cards and I told them the story of Thanksgiving. They are all so adorable. It’s really cute how much care they put into their coloring.

This evening I went to folk dancing again. I didn’t get a chance to try the stilts (maybe next time…), but I did dance a lot! I remembered all the dances from last time and then I stayed an extra hour to dance with the intermediate group. Those dances were much harder, but I kept up! The last dance was really hard and the leader told me I should probably go sit down because it was too hard for me. So, I went to the side and just learned it by myself (even faster than some of the people who stayed with the group). When she saw that I had figured it out, she told me to come back and dance with everyone else. Sweet! I officially signed up (and paid my €18), so I am a member of Lous Crabots de Semisens! (That’s the name of the folkdance group)

When I got home (at 9:45pm), I had some pizza, salad, and leftover pumpkin bread, and then headed upstairs to skype with Brigid!! Afterwards, I called my Grandma and was very happy to get to talk with her for a while. It’s so good to catch up and hear her voice!! I was sad to miss out on Thanksgiving, so it was nice to at least get to talk a bit.

I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend…so far I have no plans!

Today I received a package from my mom!!!


I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for having found such a wonderful family here in France (who allow me to cook crazy American food, walk around barefoot, and who have taken me in as a member of the family), thankful for having a job (which is both challenging and rewarding), thankful for this wonderful exposure to a different culture, thankful for my amazing friends at home (most of whom continue to keep in touch with me, despite the distance), my boyfriend (who writes me lovely long letters), and my wonderful family (which, of course, expands to my neighborhood… yes, I have a big family!)—THANK YOU ALL!

Today I had a morning class (we made Thanksgiving cards…the kind with the hand-outline turkeys on the front!) and as soon as that was over, I rushed home to make nutloaf. I had it in the oven at noon and then hurried to prepare for my afternoon classes. I removed my nutloaf just as I was leaving for my classes at the other school.

Photo: Happy Thanksgiving!

Once again it wasn’t raining while I biked, for which I am very thankful!! I made Thanksgiving cards (and told the story of Thanksgiving) with the younger kids, but the older kids had a test. Yep, I was informed by the director (of the other school) that I’m supposed to test the 10-11 yr olds. It’s odd because I don’t test any of the kids at the main school… Anyways, they took their test and then made Thanksgiving cards. I didn’t have time to correct the tests today, so I don’t know how well they did…

As soon as I got home (at 3pm), I headed into the kitchen. Catherine made filets of turkey, mushrooms, and gravy. I worked on another apple pie. And, of course, we had music! Today it was Gaelic Storm! Alison arrived around 3:45pm and started peeling potatoes. Catherine had to head to work around 4:30pm, so Alison and I kept on working!

Photo: Guess who opened the cornstarch a little too vigorously?

After the pie, we made pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes, rolls, peas (just the frozen kind), and vegetarian gravy! I also opened my two cans of cranberry sauce (sent to my by my Grandma!), which definitely doesn’t exist here in France.

Photo: Alison and Margot decorate the name cards while Alexandre tries to eat them...

We worked non-stop until 7:30pm (including making place cards and setting and decorating the table), when people started arriving. There was a total of 14 people at tonight’s Thanksgiving feast: Catherine, Ralf, Margot, Chantal (Catherine’s sister), Philippe (Chantal’s long-term boyfriend), Jeanne, Phillipe, and Claire (Chantal’s kids), Manu (Philippe’s son), Isabelle (a friend of Catherine and Chantal), Alexandre (Isabelle’s 15-month old son), Pablo, Alison, and me! Whew!

We all sat around the huge dining room table (made a bit longer for tonight’s dinner) and ate and ate and ate! Everyone enjoyed the food (not everyone liked everything, but they all at least tried it)!

Photo: A Thanksgiving Feast

My nutloaf turned out really dry because I couldn’t find wheat germ, so I put in wheat bran instead…fail. Luckily I was the only one eating it, so no one needed to know! The desserts were a real success—no one had tasted pumpkin pie before and almost everyone liked it! We spent hours around the table talking and Manu kept eating and eating (I think he had 4 pieces of pie!!)—that’s teenage boys for you!

Photo: Pablo keeps Alexandre entertained...

By 11:00pm it was just Catherine and Isabelle talking, Ralf doing dishes (I wasn’t allowed to help wash up), and Alison, Pablo, Margot, and I entertaining baby Alexandre and playing catch with pairs of socks rolled into balls. Everyone (except Alison, who is spending the night) headed home around 11:30pm and I crawled, exhausted, into bed to briefly skype with my family before heading to sleep! I’m sad to be missing Thanksgiving at home, but I’m so glad I could share it with everyone here!!

Today I got a letter from Mark!!! :)

Wednesday 11/23: Pies, Pies, Everywhere!

Yes, I slept in late today. I love having no school on Wednesdays! After breakfast, I did several loads of laundry (for the family) and then made a shopping list for all the things I’ll need for the Thanksgiving dinner. Catherine, Margot, and I headed to the supermarket to pick up all the items. We ended up finding almost everything—including cornstarch, soymilk, and allspice!

When we got home, I made four pie crusts and put them in the freezer to chill. Then I started working on the apple pie. Catherine helped me peel and cut the apples and then we put it together and popped it in the oven to bake for a lot longer than normal (due to the bottom of the oven not working very well). During that time, I worked on class preparations for tomorrow and Friday.

When the pie was finally finished, Catherine and I put together the pumpkin pie. It seemed so watery and Catherine was rather worried that it was going to seep through the bottom crust. I figured it’d be okay because I remembered that most of the time pumpkin pies are super watery, but turn out okay. We ended up baking it for over 1 1/2 hours, but it solidified nicely! I just love opening the refrigerator and seeing two yummy pies sitting there…

For dinner tonight, we had green beans with tomato sauce, bread, cheese, and grapes. Catherine thought we should eat light since tomorrow we’ll be stuffing ourselves…good plan!

After dinner, I had to work some more on class preparations (including cutting out autumn stickers to give to the students to decorate their Thanksgiving cards) and I ended up skyping with Kenzie at the same time. It was so great to hear from her as it’s been about 6 months since we’ve actually talked!

Tomorrow’s the big day! Hopefully I can get it all done in time and I really hope that everyone likes the food!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday 11/22: Pumpkin Bread and a Trip to the Cinema!

My first class was at 10:45am today, so I slept in until 9—and then prepared for my classes. I worked on numbers with my CE2s (8-9yrs) and we sang “1 2 3 4 5, Once I caught a fish alive…” and then they did a fish color-by-number! It worked pretty well. I came home to have lunch with Catherine (beans and cheese with applesauce for dessert) and then headed back to teach for the rest of the afternoon.

My first class this afternoon was with the 7-8 year olds…and we sang a song practicing “How old are you?” about 10 times. Or perhaps more. It takes them a long time to get it and I wanted them to really practice saying that question because it’s hard for them to pronounce. We also played a number game and did a little bit of coloring. In the middle of the class, we had a fire drill! That was fun… Actually, I managed just fine getting the students to line up two-by-two and head out to the playground where all the classes met.

Next I had the 10-11 year olds and I had to do the History/Anthem/Thanksgiving class…but this time I tried to hurry even more and I made the cards a lot simpler. They almost got them finished—just a little bit of coloring to be done at home!

My last class (of 7-8yr olds) was much the same as the one earlier in the day. We sang the “How old are you” way too many times and then did some coloring—in complete silence because they were on their best behavior, in order to receive a sticker from me. The teacher and I were laughing about how quiet they were in order to merit a sticker!

After school, I had tea with Margot and then I chopped up the other half of the pumpkin and cooked it. While it was cooking, Margot and I played cards and then, when the pumpkin was done, we made pumpkin bread! It was really fun—we were the only ones home and we put on some music and mixed up the batter. The only problem was when we discovered that there weren’t any eggs in the house! So, Margot ended up running over to her aunt Chantal’s house (they didn’t have any either) and then to the little store down the street. Whew! In the end, the bread turned out really amazing. Everyone was a bit skeptical, but they all loved it. Yes! Another success!

Today when I checked the mail, I found 3 letters for me! So exciting! Chelsea, Tasha, and Jessie…THANK YOU!! :) So, this evening (before dinner), I sat at the table writing letters and Margot sat with me, coloring. When Dr. Quinn came on, we watched that while continuing our work…

Photo: MY LETTERS!! :)

Tonight we went to the movies! Well, we left earlier than last time (in case there were a lot of people again) and got there at about 8:40pm for a 9pm show. There was a long line again.

A guy from the cinema was making a video of how long the line was because it’s definitely not normal for Tyrosse to have that many people! We waited and waited—hoping that we’d get in…and when the guy came down the line counting, we just made it in! Only 5 people behind us got in—they sent everyone else away!

Photo: Standing in line... Margot is in pink, Ralf and Catherine are next to her

The theatre holds 250 people and it’s owned by the city, which is beyond awesome because it only costs €5 to get in and—the best part—there are NO ADS OR PREVIEWS! Yep, at 9:00pm the movie started—just like that! And what a great movie it was! “Intouchables” is the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. The story (which is based on a guy’s life) was hilarious, but done in a French way, which means they don’t beat you over the head with the humor, they show you just enough so you get the idea and let you imagine the rest. I loved it so much—I would go back and see it in a heartbeat, but it was the last showing. Hopefully it’ll play in Corvallis at the Darkside! I know it is a huge hit here in France! See trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otpJgjrJ0ig
When we got home, I stayed up way too late skyping with Maria and Theresa… excellent. :D

Monday 11/21: Anthems, Stickers, and Amazing Grace

My first class this morning went by way too fast. It was with Margot’s class and I had to finish teaching US History, have them listen to the US National Anthem, tell them about Thanksgiving, and then have them make awesome Thanksgiving cards. Yeah, all in 45 minutes (which was more like 50 mins, but still not enough time). I whizzed through US History (pretty much only talking about slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement), played the Anthem twice (and tried to explain the words, but found that super difficult), and then gave a super brief explanation of how we celebrate Thanksgiving. As for the cards, we only had the time to write “I’m thankful for… my family, my friends” etc. inside, when the teacher returned. So, I told them to finish making the cards at home—they have to make a hand outline turkey on the front and a pop-out “HAPPY THANKSGIVING” on the inside. Hopefully they’ll have fun doing that at home!

After my class, I came home to prepare a bit before Alison came over to hang out. She had a break from classes, so I invited her to come eat lunch with me. We had leftover zucchini and potato gratin, a salad, and then some leftover applesauce and pudding for dessert! Not too shabby.

Next I had my two classes at the other school. I was lucky again today and it wasn’t raining! I really enjoy my bike ride over there—it’s just the perfect distance, I find. Not too far, but long enough that I can appreciate the fresh air and sun! The younger kids were slightly better today because I told them I’d brought autumn stickers from the US and only those who were quiet and worked would get them. That really helped. Ah, bribes! My older students were rowdy today—about halfway through the class (we were reviewing for their test on Thursday) two dogs outside the window in the parking lot started messing around and trying to hump each other. Of course, for 10 year olds, that is the most hilarious thing in the world. It was pretty much impossible to get anything done with over half the class staring out the window and laughing hysterically. Sigh. The funniest part of the class, though, was after I let them listen to two national anthems (they chose Australia and Scotland) and they said, “Our national anthem is La Marseillaise.” I said, “Yes, I know.” They said, “Can we sing it for you???????” I had to agree and they immediately broke into song—it was rather off-key, but super enthusiastic! I did my very best to keep from laughing!

When I got home, Catherine and I had a good discussion about the difficulties of disciplining students. I have problems with the 9-10yr olds (in particular one student who is notorious at the school for causing problems in class) and it’s really frustrating to me. She encouraged me to find a way to deal with it instead of asking the teacher to stay in the room. I was all set to try that, but when I got to the school this afternoon, the teacher offered to stay in the classroom with me! Since that seriously makes them behave so much better, I said yes. I know she will only be able to stay with me once a week because she teaches the Spanish class the other day I teach. But, at least once a week I will get something done with them!

Although, today went really well—I had them take turns coming up to the board to write the months on the board. We practiced the question “How do you spell that?” and I had them write their names as well, and then say them out loud. They have a lot of trouble pronouncing “E” and “I” because the pronunciation is switched in French. Also “G” and “J” are switched. But overall, it went well!

After school, Margot and I had tea and Madelines (a kind of little cake) and talked. I wanted to get some sewing done, so I ended up watching some TED talks while doing so. I was about halfway though a talk by Christopher McDougall about running (he’s the author of the excellent book: “Born to Run”), when Margot came in to take her geography quiz. We both did the online quiz of all the countries in the world and I ended up with 194/196 (I missed Poland and El Salvador…oops!) and she got 51 this time!! Much better (last time it was 36) and pretty good for a 10 year old! Afterwards we watched funny videos and had a fun time hanging out!

We had a potato and cheese omelet for dinner with salad and a mandarin orange for dessert! After dinner, Catherine and I watched “Amazing Grace” on my laptop! It’s fun watching movies up in my bedroom with Catherine—often (since we’re watching online) it takes time to load and we just hang out and talk. She really liked the movie (her cell phone ring is Amazing Grace played on bagpipes) and I was happy to see it again. It’s so powerful—I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet!

Sunday 11/20: Pumpkin, Applesauce, and Scrabble

I enjoyed sleeping late this morning and had a delicious breakfast of lemon curd on croissant. Excellent.

Then I hacked up the pumpkin I’d bought on Friday at the market—pulling out its guts and chopping it into good sized chunks. I popped it in the oven for almost 2 hours (the oven doesn’t work so well…), where it baked until mostly soft. Then I grilled the pumpkin seeds (which I’d washed and salted), so we could have them for a snack. Mmm!

Photo: My pumpkin!

This afternoon we (Ralf, Catherine, Margot, & I) planned to go to the cinema in town. However, upon arriving, there was a huge line! They were surprised because apparently that never happens here. Anyways, we waited for about 15 minutes before someone came out and said they’d just sold out. Unfortunately there was only one showing today, so we have to wait until Tuesday night to see the film. We were going to see “Intouchables”—a film which is apparently a big hit in France right now. I don’t know much about it, except that it’s about a disabled man and his caretaker, but that it’s hilarious and based on a true story. Sounds good…

Since we couldn’t watch the movie, Catherine, Margot, and I played Scrabble! It was a close game, but at the very last minute, Catherine whipped out a 50 point word (by adding a Y on a double word square) and won the game!

This evening, Catherine, Margot, and I headed into the kitchen to prepare dinner and dessert. We made soup, applesauce, and vanilla pudding. So, it took us a few hours to chop all the vegetables (and apples) and cook them. It was really fun because we turned on Simon and Garfunkel and just hung out. I was really happy—it felt like home! :)

Photo: Cooking dinner!

Photo: Applesauce! mmmm!

After dinner tonight (which turned out great—we ate the applesauce and vanilla pudding together for dessert…I was a little worried at first, but it wasn’t too bad), I hurried upstairs to play Scrabble with my mom and Mark. We played online and just took our turns like normal! It was really fun and I’m hoping we’ll get to play again soon!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday 11/19: Bayonne, Biarritz, and Lemon Curd!

This morning I got up early and was at the train station at 8:50am. I met Pablo there and we took the train to Bayonne (only about 20 mins), where we met up with Alison! Since we were planning to visit the Basque Museum, we headed that direction, but it didn’t open until 10:30am on Saturdays. So, we spent about an hour and a half wandering around the market and then through the town.

Photo: The river in Bayonne

I bought Harry Potter #4 (in French) at the market for only €3 from a used book seller! We visited the cathedral (again) and listened to a man playing beautiful piano music in the street. I really like the old part of Bayonne—the streets are really narrow and the buildings have so much character!

When it opened, we headed to the Basque Museum. The Basque Country is an area in the south-west of France and north-west of Spain that has it’s own language, traditions, and culture. They are very proud of their region and its uniqueness.

Photos: Basque region and flag

The museum was really interesting—and big! There were paintings, videos, and exhibits that all showed some aspect of Basque culture.

Photo: An old wine press

Photo: A painting of a game of pelote

We spent about 1 1/2 hours in the museum, before finding some lunch. It wasn’t a particularly exciting place, but it was inexpensive and I got a slice of pizza, Pablo got a massive baguette sandwich, and Alison had a Caesar salad.

Of course, after lunch, Alison and I stopped to get a dessert at the pâtisserie down the street! I had a lemon tart (what Alison got last time) and she had a raspberry square. We exchanged bites, of course. It’s always so hard to choose—everything looks so amazing!!

Photo: My lemon tart

After lunch, we took the bus to Biarritz. It’s only 15-20 minutes away and it’s on the coast. There is a beautiful beach, plenty of lovely buildings (at the beach front), a lighthouse, and many rocky outlooks. We spent hours walking along the little path on the coast.

Photo: View from a rock out in the ocean!

There are two huge rocks out in the ocean that are connected to the coast by bridges—very cool! It’s great because being out on the rocks gives you a totally different view of the coast.

Photo: Out on one of the rocks

Photo: Those mountains are in Spain.

We watched the huge waves splashing up on the rocks and spent some time just sitting in the sun, looking at the view. I had fun climbing way out on the rocks—making Pablo extremely nervous. He is afraid of heights (apparently even when it’s other people who are leaning over the edge…) When it started to get cloudy, we headed back towards the bus station (stopping to pick up some postcards).

Once we made it back to Bayonne, we still had 1 hour and 45 minutes before our train to Tyrosse. It’s a bit annoying that on Saturday there is a train at around 1:30pm and one at 6:10pm, but none in between! Since we had some time to kill, we visited an Irish shop! Aaaand, they had lemon curd!!! Yay! No clotted cream, but I was very happy to buy a jar of curd! Alison got some as well. I don’t think Pablo was very interested…

We then visited the cloister (which Pablo had never seen) and walked around the same part of town for a little while longer. Alison took the bus back to Capbreton (where she lives) at 5:15pm, but Pablo and I still had to wait for almost an hour.

We walked really slowly towards the train station, enjoying the beautiful view as we walked across the bridge. We stopped at a small movie theater and read movie reviews. Then we sat on a bridge along the river and watched the sun go down and the lights on the bridge come on (very beautiful!!).

Photo: Dusk in Bayonne

Eventually we wandered slowly to the train station and I got my ticket. And we waited a little more… and finally our train came! It seems like there’s always one extra hour, which is hard when you’re tired from walking all day!

Tonight we had a pasta dinner together and then I headed up to my bedroom. I’m pretty tired and I don’t feel like watching TV. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and having a relaxing day! :)

To see more photos from today, check out this link:

A video of a video of people playing PELOTE (a traditional ball game)--barehanded!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday 11/18: Folk Dancing on Stilts!

Today was a long (but great) day! I started off with a class at 8:30am that went excellently. It was with the 10-11 yr olds who are extremely well-behaved. They listened to me talk about US History and they asked good questions, and then worked quietly on answering the questions they had on the worksheet. I gave the ones who finished early the coloring page of a school bus—they liked that.

From there, I went directly to my hardest class. The most difficult student had returned, so it was more exhausting. I wish the teacher would stay in the classroom—22 students is a BIG class!! We worked on the names of the months and some know them better than others… I tried using a song about the months, but it didn’t go over that brilliantly. There are always some that really try and others who just ignore me unless I’m yelling at them or asking them a direct question (which they can’t respond to because they weren’t paying attention).

I had a few hour break then, so I headed to the bank to take out some money. It’s brilliant because the lady at the desk always knows who I am and she just asks “How much would you like?”—no ID check, no account number…it’s great! I do have to sign, of course, but it’s super fast and simple! Then I walked over to the market to pick up produce. In addition to what Catherine requested, I bought a medium-sized pumpkin. I will attempt to make it into pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving next week! Hopefully it turns out well!

Today I packed a lunch and brought it to school, so I could eat with the other teachers. I also brought a pan of my (somewhat failed) pecan fingers. They taste good and, since no one here knows what they’re supposed to be like, everyone liked them! I will definitely have to make them again—but normal ones. During lunch, one of the English teachers, Virginie, showed me some of her notebooks of English worksheets and a CD of listening exercises. I borrowed them to copy later during my break.

I had class with the 7-8 yr olds in the library. Today it went a little bit better. We worked on numbers the whole time and practiced saying “I’m 7!” or whatever number was on the flashcard I gave them. And, of course, a bit of coloring at the end of the class.

Since I had a break from 2:15pm-3:45pm, I spent the time in the staff room looking through the English notebook. I made a bunch of copies and also took some of the songs from the CD. Those will be very helpful!!

My last class of the day was with the calm and attentive class of 7-8 yr olds. It was a great class today! I tried to speak more in English and we played a few games. I started with us counting to 10 a few times, then I gave flashcards with a different number on each to half of the class. They had to stand up and say the number that was on their card. Then the other half of the class did the same thing. Next I asked each one: “How old are you?” and they responded with whatever number they had on their card: “I’m 2,” or whatever! It went really well! Next we played a game using numbers on a tic-tac-toe board and they had to split into two teams: girls vs. boys. It ended up in a tie, 2-2. Thank goodness! And, at the end, they worked on finishing their coloring pages from before. Excellent class!!

Afterwards I asked Hélène (one of the CM2 teachers…10-11 yr olds) for some colored paper so I can have the classes make Thanksgiving cards next week. I want them to make pop-up turkeys (using a tracing of their hand), so I needed brown construction paper. I also spent about 20 minutes in the staff room, cutting huge pieces of white construction paper (for the cards). Pablo was hanging out as well, so he was nice enough to help me manage the paper cutter (I swear, you seriously need 3 hands!).

By the time I got home from school, I was really tired. I spent some time just hanging out in my room and then I got ready to go to folk dance class! Yes, those same kind people who helped me out when I arrived in Tyrosse for the first time (and was absolutely lost)! One lady gave me her email that first night and I contacted her about joining their group. Once I had the info, I invited Margot and Pablo to come as well!

Around 7pm, Aurélie (the lady I contacted by email) picked up Margot and I to head to folk dance class. It’s on the opposite side of town (about 3 miles from our house) and it’s not particularly safe to ride bikes at night here (no streetlights on some streets, no bike lanes, no helmets, no bike lights, etc… Pablo lives nearer to where they meet, so he walked over.

When we first entered the room, I was so surprised to see about 20 people (mostly kids) on stilts! Yes, apparently the traditional dance for this area is done on stilts! Some people dance on the ground, but others (I think traditionally it’s the guys) do the dances while on stilts! Incredible! Margot got to try out the stilts (maybe I will next time…) and she did pretty well!

Photo: Margot practices walking on stilts

We discovered that the dances they were doing tonight were only for girls, so Pablo just watched (and very kindly made some videos for me!). I felt kind-of bad for having invited him to dance, but he seemed okay with just watching.

Photo: Stilt-Dancers!

I, on the other hand, jumped right in! It wasn’t too hard (especially having danced with Dana for so many years!) and it was really fun! I especially liked that there was an accordionist there to play some of the songs! Very cool! I met a girl named Morgan, who was also there for her first time. They seem like a nice group (the only awkward part being that some of my students were there—including the most difficult one who is suuuuper annoying…) and I am looking forward to going next Friday! They meet every Friday and it costs €18 for the whole year (until June)! I think Margot might join as well, which would be fun!

Aurélie gave us a ride home at 8:45pm and we arrived just in time for dinner! It was a delicious potato, zucchini, egg, and cheese casserole with a kiwi for dessert. I don’t normally like kiwis, but since they’re grown around this area, I decided to try it. And it wasn’t so bad!

After dinner the twins headed to a friend’s house and the rest of us watched “Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief”—in French, bien sûr! I realized tonight that I understand movies in French quite well now (most of the time). Excellent!!

Right now I’m not feeling homesick at all and I’m really happy. Hopefully it’ll last—maybe I’m getting over it? Or maybe it’s a phase? We’ll see! :)

Check out my videos from tonight's FOLK DANCE!





Thursday 11/17: And I’ve been here for 8 WEEKS!

I got up at 9am, so I could prepare for my 10:45am class. I decided to review the days of the week (sing the song from last class), teach them “How old are you?” and then practice conversations. Overall it went pretty well, although they have a lot of trouble pronouncing “How old are you?” Next time we’ll have to review numbers as well! At the end I let them work on the coloring project from last class. Of course there were those who finished really quickly, so I had prepared a coloring page of an American school bus. They don’t exist here, so it’s kinda cool for them. They were excited because it was for them to keep, not to glue in their English books. ;)

I had lunch (soup and a sandwich) with Catherine at home, before heading to the other school on my bike. I’ve been really, really lucky with the weather! Today it was sunny and about 60ºF—perfect for biking!

Both classes went okay…not amazing, but not too awful. The older class is going to have a test on nationalities and talking about where they come from next Thursday, so we tried to review for that. There are a few who totally get it, some that kinda get it, and a few who don’t get it at all…yep, that’s normal! But, frustrating all the same!

After class, I was done with teaching for the day! I stopped at the supermarket to pick up the ingredients for Pecan Fingers (a classic family cookie!), so I could make them this afternoon. When I got home, I made the first part (it has a shortbread bottom, with a pecan mixture on top) and popped it in the oven. Unfortunately the oven doesn’t work that well (especially on the bottom), so I had to wait a long time… I was about to start mixing the top part when I realized that we only had one egg, so I quickly shut off the oven and hopped on my bike. It’s so nice to have a little grocery store within 2 mins biking distance! In the end, my pecan fingers had to cook for a really long time and they were very gooey. I eventually gave up cooking them and they taste just great—it’s the texture that’s not normal.

Margot and I had tea when she got home from school and then I worked on planning tomorrow’s classes for a while. Around 7pm, I went down to start dinner. It was really simple—pizza (frozen) and salad. The frozen pizzas here are actually really good (unlike most that I’ve had in the US) and Catherine gets the kind with pesto goat cheese on top. YUM! Margot helped me get dinner ready and we even had about 15 mins to watch “Dr. Quinn” before it was time to eat!

After dinner I watched “Un bébé noir dans un couffin blanc”—rough translation: “A black baby in a white bassinette.” It was about a white couple who had a black baby (due to the mom having some ancestor who was black). Of course when the baby was born, the mom was accused of cheating (duh) and everyone in their town was talking about it. The movie was pretty good and the baby was adorable. :)

I’m really tired, so I’m going to try to head to bed early-ish tonight!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday 11/16: Raviolis, Scrabble, and A Twisted Ankle

I slept in late today and after a small breakfast, I cleaned my room and the upstairs bathroom. It was sunny and breezy, so we opened the windows to air out the house. I guess Fall hasn’t arrived quite yet…

Catherine suggested that we play Scrabble, so we got most of the way through a game before it was time for lunch. Last time we went shopping, Catherine suggested we try raviolis, so we got two different kinds. We tried them at lunch and both were great!! It was a little weird to eat them without sauce, though, but Catherine said the sauce was on the inside. Oh well, they were still yummy!

Afterwards, Catherine took Margot to a friend’s house and I decided to go running with Dunja. My foot was feeling a lot better, so I figured I’d give it a try. It still hurt a bit while I was running, but not too bad. Unfortunately about 15 minutes into the run, I twisted my ankle. Bummer. I walked for a while, but when I tried to run again, it hurt too much. So, I just walked home. I guess I’ll be resting both feet for a while… So typical.

Later we had tea and finished our game of Scrabble (and I actually won!!) before Catherine had to head to work and I went upstairs to prepare my lessons for the rest of the week.

Around 7pm, I started dinner (Catherine gave me instructions before she left) and then watched a little bit of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” with Margot. It’s on nearly every night before dinner and I find it pretty amusing…especially as it’s translated into French!

Tonight we had green beans with marinara sauce (and meat for them, a veggie burger for me), bread and cheese, and a mandarin orange for dessert! Mmm! After dinner I worked a little more on lesson plans and then watched a French TV show called “Fais Pas Ci, Fais Pas Ça” with Catherine and Ralf.

I really like having Wednesdays off. It makes the whole week so manageable! Two days of work, a day off, two days of work, two days off… excellent!!

Tuesday 11/15: The Last Orchard Bar.

Today I woke up to rain and wind. Ugh. Seems Fall has finally arrived here. I grabbed a bowl of cereal before heading to my first class with the 8-9 yr olds. The teacher wasn’t there today, so there was a substitute…but she was doing something else outside of the classroom while I taught. So, the students weren’t as well behaved. It wasn’t too bad, but I tend to spend more time trying to get them to be quiet and listen. We worked on the days of the week, so I had them sing a song (one that I found online) and they did an art project as well. Not too bad.

I came home for lunch, but never ended up eating as I had a skype date with Crystal (to discuss her potential visit during Christmas break) and then I had to prepare some things for my afternoon lessons. I completely forgot to eat lunch until it was too late. So, I was rather hungry during my classes this afternoon. Luckily I had my last Orchard Bar (that I brought from the US) in my bag, so I had a little snack halfway through. Those things are so delicious! Too bad they don’t exist here.

I taught three more classes in the afternoon and two of them went fine, the other one was exhausting. It’s 11 students and we have class in the little school library… They really don’t understand English at all (they’re 6-8yrs old) and they aren’t good at listening. Today they were having trouble sitting still and most of them wouldn’t stop talking! Argh! It really doesn’t help that their class is directly after lunch recess…

I made a sandwich when I got home because I was terribly hungry. When Catherine got home from work, we had tea and chatted for a while.

We had an omelet for dinner and I made a green salad. Hugo is still home from school sick, but I think he’s heading back tomorrow morning. Tonight I came downstairs and noticed that Catherine and Margot were watching “Billy Elliot” on TV! I haven’t seen it in ages, so I watched it with them. Such a great film. Afterwards I showed them a clip from the musical (“Electricity”)—the story is even better with music. In my opinion…

Tonight I got to skype with Mark! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday 11/14: Native Americans, God Save the Queen, and Gorgonzola

This morning I had class at 8:30am, so I quietly snuck out of the room and left Alison sleeping. Her morning class had been cancelled (the class was on a trip to London), so she didn’t have to teach until 12:55pm!

Today I taught my first class (10-11 yr olds) some American history. It was really basic and really quick (we only spent 25 mins), but I gave them an overview from the Native Americans living there before the Europeans arrived until just after the American Revolution. I made sure to clarify that Christopher Colombus was not as great as he’s made out to be… It was actually fairly difficult to explain everything in a very simple manner—and in French! Oof. I think they understood…

I had a long break this morning, so I came back and slept for about 45mins, then Alison and I hung out while I prepared a bit more for my afternoon classes. We ate lunch together, and then she had to leave. I finished preparing and then biked over to the other school.

Both classes were rowdy today (I told the younger ones that if they didn’t settle down, they wouldn’t get to do any coloring…they kept talking, so they didn’t get to color!) and that was, of course, tough. It’s hard enough that I only have 30 minutes!

After my classes at the other school, I returned home to quickly make up a page with the lyrics to “God Save the Queen” (the English national anthem). Then I headed to my last class of the day—the really difficult 9-10 yr olds! But, today the teacher stayed in the room AND the most obnoxious student wasn’t there! Excellent! It was a million times better! I explained about the UK and how it’s a country that is made up of 4 smaller “countries” and they had to color a map (one color for the UK, a different color for Ireland) and the flags of the UK and Ireland. Then we listened to “God Save the Queen.” Next time we might listen to the Scottish or Irish national anthem—we’ll see.

When I got home, I had tea with Catherine and we talked about plans for Thanksgiving. I invited Alison yesterday and Pablo (the assistant from Argentina) today—I think both of them can come! Chantal & family will be there as well, so it should be quite the party!

I went grocery shopping with Catherine tonight (we found cheddar!!! Hopefully it's decent...) and then helped her make pasta with gorgonzola sauce for dinner. After dinner (and after the news) Twilight #1 was showing on TV. Margot and Hugo (who stayed home from school today because he’s sick) suggested we watch it, so we all saw the film. It was dubbed over in French, which was better—at least I was practicing French!! They were all thrilled to see me onscreen and I enjoyed seeing the Colombia Gorge and reliving some of the memories from filming.