Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday 2/15: Curry!

I was woken up around 9:30am by someone ringing the doorbell and Dunja barking like crazy. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to sign for a package that was being delivered. I think I was still somewhat asleep! Then I headed back to bed and slept for 2 more hours! I slipped downstairs to have breakfast and Alison didn’t wake up until a little past noon! We stayed up late last night and we were both (clearly) tired!

This afternoon we hung out and I finally received the pen pal letters from the second school that was supposed to send them back in Jan! Unfortunately now we won’t have enough time to write back before the Feb break. Oh well, that’s life! But Alison and I had fun reading all the letters. It’s hilarious how the kids write and what they choose to write about!

Later this afternoon I made curry and naan while Alison showed me songs on youtube. She was picked up by Emmanuelle because Alison is now tutoring Emmanuelle’s daughter! It’s nice because they both live in Capbreton.

This evening I went to the gym again with Catherine. We had a good chat with a woman there who told us she had hosted two American students a long time ago and had really enjoyed it.

When we got home, we had an Indian dinner!! It was really funny, though, because they were all really confused how we could possibly be eating curry (that contained potatoes), rice, AND naan! Too many carbs! In my opinion it’s no worse than having just a big bowl full of pasta with cheese sauce for dinner! It’s just that we were eating three different kinds of carbs instead of just a lot of pasta! I really enjoyed the dinner, but I think they weren’t so keen on having the rice AND naan with the curry. Oh well!

Tomorrow is my last day of teaching until March 6th!!

Tuesday 2/14: Happy Valentine’s Day!

In my classes today we sang “Skidamarink” (and with the younger kids we also re-sang “BINGO”) and just reviewed everything we’ve worked on lately.

At school today the teachers decided to have a strike on Friday to protest the huge cuts in the “RASED” program, which helps students with difficulties. The government is cutting a lot of the counselors and a lot of funding, which is going to make it very difficult for the students who need the extra help. So, all the teachers are going on strike and the school is closed on Friday (because there won’t be any teachers there to teach!). Which means—I only have one more day of teaching! Sweeeet!

Tonight we made crêpes in the conversation class! Mmmm! Everyone brought a filling (and someone brought the batter and an electric griddle) and we talked and ate. Alison was dropped off at my house right before the class, so she came too!

Photo: Two people are missing, but here's my conversation class!

Catherine was at her city council meeting tonight, so we had dinner without her. We were planning to watch the Tuesday night TV show (the foster family one), but apparently the “season” is finished. Whatever that means. So, no more of that until after I’m long gone from here! Go figure… I don’t understand TV shows. Finally I actually follow one and they get rid of it! Lame.

So, Alison and I watched a really long French historical drama called “La Princess de Montpensier.” It was ok. At least we learned something about the Catholic-Protestant wars that went on in France in the 16th century!

Monday 2/13: Abs of Steel…

My early morning class went fine—uneventful. The afternoon classes at the other school consisted of making Valentine cards and eating cookies. We didn’t have much time, so we just rushed through it. Then I quickly biked home to teach the 9 year olds (I read them “The Three Billy-Goats”). It’s amazing how much easier it is to teach that class without the really disruptive boy! It was pretty challenging to read the book because it was one of those extra-large books meant for reading to a whole class...and they're kinda hard to hold and read at the same time. But, I managed. :p

This evening I went to the gym again with Catherine. Whew! We did over 400 sit-ups (different ways, but all working the abs), so I’m pretty tired now! It feels good, though, to have really worked out my abs!

Tonight I made Valentine cards for Catherine, Ralf, and Margot and then after they were all in bed, I snuck down and put them on the table with a chocolate for each. Catherine heard me sneaking back up the stairs, but she didn’t find out why I had come downstairs! Heehee!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday 2/12: Feeling Good!

Another relaxing morning…oh, I love weekends! After chatting with Catherine looking for flights back to the US in May, and doing some lesson planning, I went to play basketball with Margot. It was only 31ºF, so our hands got pretty cold! After we’d played a game of 21 (Margot won) and a game of HORSE (I won), it got a bit warmer because the wind died down and it was sunny.

Photo: Margot goes for a lay-up!

Photo: Yes, I made the shot.

So, we scrimmaged a little bit one-on-one and then shot 3-pointers for a while. We’re training for when Mark gets here, but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to beat him…lately our shooting percentages haven’t been stellar. I blame it on the cold…

Photo: Happy!!

When we got home, we discovered a layer of ice on the pool! So, of course, we had to try snapping pieces off and throwing them so the ice would shatter everywhere!

Ralf and Catherine had friends over for tea, so Margot and I joined them and had tea and apple tart. Then Chantal arrived to go through the kids’ outgrown clothes so she could take them for her kids. It was incredible how many clothes there were! I wish I’d had cousins just a bit older than me to give me their outgrown clothes… It was like going to a store there were so many!

I spent the evening talking with people on skype (Mark and then Eric & Allie!!!) and then after dinner, I played scrabble with my mom online!

Only one more week of school until vacation and Mark’s visit!! :)

Saturday 2/11: I’m Going to Tanzania!!!!!!!

This morning I slept in and after breakfast I went back to bed to read… Catherine lent me the book “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich (an author that’s been recommended many times), so I started it this morning. And I read half the book today!! It’s crazy, but I’m enjoying it! :)

It was really sunny today, but super cold! After deep-cleaning my room (which really needed it… I finally threw away all the Christmas wrapping paper I’d saved…), I decided to go on a run with Dunja. I wore leggings under my shorts, but just had a t-shirt on top….brrrr! It was only 33ºF, so it was pretty chilly! The run felt good, though, and I spent a lot of the time thinking about how it’s already the middle of February and I’m heading into the home stretch of this adventure. I realized that I haven’t felt homesick in a while! Not that I don’t miss home and everyone there, it’s just that it doesn’t ache like it did at the beginning. I think that part of it is that I know I only have 3 months left and then I won’t be seeing the people here, who I love so much! As I was running, I was looking around and thinking how much I enjoy living here and how I’m going to miss it. I know that I wouldn’t actually want to move here permanently (and I still think of Corvallis as home and where I want to settle down), but I am happy here for now.

I hung out with Catherine for a while this afternoon, just chatting and drinking tea. And then I went upstairs to do some research on plane tickets to go to Tanzania. I had looked at them before and every flight that left from Paris to Tz had a layover in Amsterdam. The issue was that either the layover was for 50 minutes (way too short) or for 12 hours (way too long)!! Frustrating! So, I tried going through London and I thought that would be a good idea, but then I found a ticket from Milan, Italy to Tanzania—ROUND TRIP—for $656.25! All the tickets I’d seen before were about $900-$1,200!! So, I decided to act quickly and buy the ticket before the price went up. So, (thanks to Maria, who fronted the money until I can transfer more into my US account…) I’m officially going to Tanzania from May 1st to May 15th! Yippee!!!!!

Friday 2/10: Valentine-ing

This morning I got up early and headed off to my 8:30am class with the 10 year olds. We talked about Valentine’s Day, learned the vocab, sang “L.O.V.E.” (and they actually got into singing it, which was nice), made Valentine cards, and then I handed out the heart cookies! They were all really excited and kids kept coming up to ask me what the messages meant on their heart candies (which was sometimes fine…“Sweet” and sometimes awkward “Marry Me!”).

I went home during my break to get the cookies for my next class and the ones for the other two classes of 10 year olds (because I only have class with them on Mon/Tues, so they hadn’t gotten any cookies). After their recess, I stopped in on the classes and gave out the cookies, wishing them all a “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Then I headed to the crazy class of 9 year olds…but, the disruptive kid has been taken out of my class for a month because he was being so disrespectful! YES!!! He has to go sit in the back of a different class during the time that I’m teaching English. It was SO nice without him! They took a quick quiz on the days of the week and then we talked about Valentine’s Day, learned vocab, did a crossword puzzle, made cards, and ate cookies! Much better than usual!

The teachers liked the cookies I brought in for them as well, and several asked for the recipe. I really need to translate all the recipes I’ve made here and give them out because so many people have asked me for them!

After lunch I had a Valentine’s party with the 7 year olds in the library. That was really fun!! I taught them the song “Skidamarink” and we sang that a bunch before making really cute heart valentines (I decided that the secret message ones I’d made with the older kids would be too complicated for them) and eating the cookies.

Photo: They're so adorable!

Our little party...

They were really adorable and at the end I got a picture of them all with their valentines and cookies! They even made a little video for my mom, who sent the candy hearts and Valentine stickers!

Photo: Thelma shows off her card and cookie

Saying "THANK YOU" to my mom!

Afterwards I hung out in the staff room with Pablo, just waiting for our next class (1 1/2 hours later). We pretty much just goofed off, me coloring random pictures and him trying to design masks to make with his students for the Carnaval celebration (which is being postponed at the school until after the vacation because it’s supposed to rain on Tuesday and the kids are having a parade in their costumes).

With my last class of the day (the 7 yr olds), I did pretty much the same Valentine’s Day things. And Duyen (the teacher) took some pictures for me during the class…so now I have proof that I’m teaching! That class is always the sweetest and I love teaching them!

Photo: Passing out song lyrics...

Photo: Duyen's class

After class I rested for a bit (I didn’t get much sleep last night) and then went to folk dance. It was really, really cold tonight (about 28ºF) and the building where we dance isn’t really heated. There’s a heater in the corner (where I hung out quite a bit), but not much else! After dancing for 3 hours, I had a headache (I think it might be my sinuses and the cold…I’m planning to go to the doctor on Monday) and I caught a ride with a lady who was going out to get dinner at McDonalds. She dropped me off at home (she knows where I live because she’s the mail delivery person!) and I ate some dinner and watched TV with the family. Hugo and Lucas are home from Germany where they spent 10 days living with host families. In March we will be hosting the two German boys here for 10 days! That’ll be exciting—four adolescent boys in the house!

On TV tonight was the show where the contestants have to sing a song (karaoke) and when the words stop showing up, they have to know the following lyrics. We’ve watched it before (and I like it because that way I learn more well-known French songs!), but this time I actually knew one of the contestants: Emmanuel Moire, the lead from the musical “Le Roi Soleil.” He has a great voice!

I’m so so tired and really happy that it’s the weekend!!!

Thursday 2/9: Cookies, Cookies, Everywhere!

This morning I got up a little early to make worksheets for my classes, but ended up getting to skype with my whole family (who just happened to be up at 1am!). It was so good to see them all together—I miss them!

Marie-Pierre was here this morning to clean the house, so I chatted with her a bit before my class and gave her some heart cookies to take home with her.

My first class was a success—we reviewed “How are you?” and then had a Valentine’s Party! I taught them some vocabulary (love, heart, etc.) and then I taught them how to make the secret message cards and one of the little girls had an older brother in one of my classes, who had already made one. So, I let her show the others how to find the secret message.

Photo: Showing off their cards and cookies

They were really excited by the cards and even more excited by the Valentine stickers and so much more excited by the heart cookies! I made sure to give cookies to the kids who are learning Spanish, because I didn’t want them to come back into the classroom and feel bad that everyone else had treats.

I prepared for my afternoon lessons during lunch and then right as I was about to leave for the other school, I couldn’t find the key to the shed where the bikes are kept! I looked all around, but ended up taking the Volvo because I didn’t have enough time to walk.

My first class at the other school involved a lot of review of the two questions we’ve been working on since pretty much day 1. It’s amazing how slow they are at getting it! They were adorable having conversations using the little finger puppets, though! Here's a video of the kids using the finger puppets!

The older kids took a test today on some verbs we learned and I like/I don’t like, He/She likes, He/She doesn’t like. Some did better than others, but for the most part they got it! Yay!

When I got home, Ralf and Catherine were having tea. Apparently Ralf had forgotten to put the key back and had had it in his pocket! But they said it was totally fine for me to use the Volvo whenever I needed to. I’m glad it worked out!

I hadn’t made enough cookies yesterday for all my classes, so I immediately started work on a few more batches. I made three more (5 total, including yesterday) and when Margot got home from school, she helped me out. I was a MACHINE! I had to take a little pause to drive Margot over to tennis practice (it’s inside at the high school because it’s so frickin cold right now!), but I spent the rest of the evening baking. I had planned to make Indian food for dinner, but we ended up just having something quick because I was really busy with the cookies. It’s fine—I’ll make curry next week!

After dinner I finished the last of the decorating and packaged them all up into containers with the right number of cookies for each class. It was hilarious because there were trays of cookies all over the house! I kept thinking I would forget one and we’d come across it in a few days! :P In the end, I’m pretty sure I made about 200 cookies! Phew!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday 2/9: Hearts All Around!

My plan for today was to make Valentine heart cookies for all my students…that’s roughly 165 cookies, plus some for teachers and my host family. So, I needed to go to the supermarket to get ingredients! Since Catherine said she’d be home around 11:30am (and then I could use the car to get all the groceries), I spent the morning relaxing and sorting the candy hearts that my mom had sent me to use as decorations on the cookies!

Photo: Candy hearts from the US!

Catherine briefly skyped me to say that she was running late and wouldn’t be home until 12:30pm, so I ended up skyping with Maria for a while. At 1pm, Margot finally woke up! She’s been sick, so she obviously needed it, but she was really surprised to have slept so late!

I had lunch with Ralf (who had an appointment today, so he wasn’t at work) and Margot, then walked to the bank (and I thought my head was going to explode, it was so cold! 23ºF) to get some money. Since Ralf had returned home, I could use that car to go to the store…unfortunately it was the stick shift. Urgh. Margot wanted to come too, so I had the pleasure of displaying my not-so-spectacular stick shift driving skills. I stalled twice on the way there (luckily not in the middle of the street), but managed to make it home without stalling! She was really cute and supportive, giving me a high five when we got home without me killing anyone.

We spent the afternoon making two batches of sugar cookies, rolling them, cutting them out into hearts, baking them, and then frosting them with pink frosting (powdered sugar mixed with cranberry juice!!) and adding two candy hearts to each.

Photo: Making the dough

Photo: Margot and her heart

It was really fun hanging out, listening to music, and baking together. She really enjoys it and I don’t think she’d done much cooking/baking before I arrived here. Hopefully she’ll stay interested even after I leave!

This evening I went to the gym again with Catherine (and brought a tin of cookies for the teacher, who is letting me attend without paying). This gym is just an empty room and there are yoga mats provided. We spend one hour there, warming up and then doing various forms of sit-ups and other ab workouts. On Wednesdays there is more stretching than crunches, so it felt a bit like yoga! It seems like the hour goes by really fast!

When we got home we ate dinner and then I finished up frosting the last of the cookies that we’d baked. Unfortunately I’m not even halfway there, so I’ll need to do a lot of baking tomorrow so that I can finish for Friday!

Photo: Lots and lots of hearts!

I’m doing my lessons on Valentine’s Day a bit early because next week they are celebrating Carnaval on Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and some of my classes are canceled. It’s okay, though, no one will complain about having heart cookies a few days early! :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday 2/8: Finally It SNOWS!!

Today I didn’t have class until 10:45am, but I had arranged to skype with Brigid at 7:30am, so I woke up early. After an hour-long chat with Brigid and Ivy, I was planning to go back to sleep for a few hours, but I happened to check my email… I had a message from one of the teachers who is in my conversation class. She said that she wouldn’t be able to make it to class tonight and she mentioned that she wasn’t sure if we would be having class due to the snow….wait...WHAT!? SNOW?!!?I immediately jumped out of bed to open my shutters—yep, it had snowed! Of course it was the first night in about 4 days that I hadn’t woken up several times to check outside and see if it had snowed.
So, I went down to look outside, take a few pictures and eat my breakfast. It was pretty, but was only about a 1/2 inch of snow… By lunchtime it had all melted. Still, it’s exciting!

Photo: Margot's snowman is still alive, even though the rest of the snow has melted...

All my classes went fairly smoothly today and I brought my lunch to school so I could hang out with the teachers. After my last class of the day, I had a really good talk with the teacher, Duyen. Her class is my favorite class (a group of absolutely adorable 7 year olds who are respectful, interested, and really well-behaved) and she’s an excellent teacher. She is big on discipline, but she’s really sweet as well—every day there are scores of her past students who come to say hi and faire les bises (the kiss on either cheek). Anyways, Duyen was really encouraging and said she has had many people come in and work with her students, but only one time before has she had someone who taught as well as I do. It was really awesome to have positive feedback, especially as I normally feel like there’s very little point to me even being there. Not in her class, of course, because we actually have fun and they learn lots of things, but in the older classes. She said that she hoped I was going to continue teaching…I informed her that I wasn’t so sure, but perhaps I would do daycare or preschool (where you’re not in front of a class, but teach things informally). Duyen told me that she would never teach the older kids (3-5 graders) because they are generally too snarky and insolent. And, often, it’s true. I guess I would consider being a first grade teacher…or kindergarden. It’s so much better when they’re affectionate and curious!

I didn’t get home until 5:10pm (having stayed for a while talking with Duyen), so I had just enough time to have tea and a snack with Margot before departing for my conversation class. Two people were absent today, so it was a small group. We discussed food and the differences between the US and France.

Obviously they don’t eat big breakfasts like we do, but also a major difference was that they consider fruit and yogurts to be for dessert, while we generally go for sweeter things. Of course they sometimes have cake or ice cream or something fancier, but on a day-to-day basis, they mostly just have a fruit or yogurt after their meal. Much healthier!

And there’s a national campaign that everyone should eat at least 5 fruits and veggies each day. In any commercial that advertises food, they must put a message at the bottom that reminds people to eat “at least 5 servings of fruits or veggies each day!”

We’ve decided that since next Tuesday is Mardi Gras, we’re going to make crêpes during our conversation class! Mmm! I’m looking forward to that!

This evening I watched “Famille d’Accueil” (the foster family show) with Margot and Catherine. I think might be the first time I have watched a current TV show with regularity! (Dr. Quinn doesn’t count because it’s dubbed re-runs from the 90s…)

PS: Check out the new video I put up on last Saturday’s blog… sorry the link to my youtube video wasn’t working…it refused to upload.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday 2/6: Not So Sure About This Teaching Thing…

Margot has a bad cough and it got worse last night, so she stayed home from school today. I walked over by myself and taught a lesson on Valentine’s Day to her class. I gave them some vocab words (heart, love, kiss, hug, friendship, etc.), then we listened to/attempted to sing “L.O.V.E.” by Nat King Cole. That wasn’t a huge hit, but too bad. It’s a classic! And then I taught them how to make really cool Valentine cards that have a hidden message. They were duly impressed with its coolness.

After lunch (during which I watched some Dr. Quinn with Margot, who was taking full advantage of her sick day to get a start on the dvds that Marie-Pierre dropped of for her to borrow of all the episodes of Dr. Quinn), I biked over to the other school. Of course there were occasional snowflakes drifting down, just like last time I biked! It’s like the weather gods are taunting me…

Both classes were exhausting. The problem is that I can’t just kick one problem kid out of the class because it’s most of the kids who all talk, simultaneously, while I am trying to teach. And that makes it tricky because I can’t exactly send 12/14 students out of the room to go see the teacher. I did go talk with the director afterward and he said he would talk to me on Thursday about a possible solution. I hope it actually works!

I biked home, spent about 15 mins watching Dr. Quinn with Margot, and then went over to teach the difficult class. Yeah, not good. And the teacher is even in the room! And she can’t even keep them under control! I just kept looking at my watch and thinking “40 minutes…38 minutes…34 minutes……” until it was over. I was so frustrated and ready to just strangle one of them (luckily I restrained myself).

After tea and a few games of cards with Margot, I taught her how to make the Valentine card that we made in class this morning. Today we both received beautiful Valentines from my mom!! :)

This evening I went to the gym with Catherine! She goes to a 1-hour class on Mondays and Wednesdays and she invited me to come along and see how it goes. So, I was happy to join her and I had a lot of fun. It was mostly older women (we were definitely the youngest ones there), but they were friendly and made me feel welcome. The teacher said I was welcome back whenever I want! And the work out wasn’t too painful or complicated, but it was good for me. And I feel good now! I’m planning to go on Wednesday because they do some different things (tonight we did mostly abs).

Only 7 more days of class until our February vacation!! :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday 2/5: Relaxing in SNOWLESS Tyrosse.

Still no snow. And now there’s little hope that we’ll be getting any. Saaaad!!! And they were so sure that we’d get some today….

I had a nice, relaxing day involving lesson planning, some reading, watching some videos online, and a good 2-hour nap! It wasn’t snowing outside, but it was cold, rainy, and really really windy! I had signed up to volunteer at the school’s garage sale fundraiser today, but they called me on Friday to say that they had to postpone it because of the weather. Kind-of a bummer since we never did get any snow today! And I was really looking forward to helping out there and meeting more people! They might do it on March 25th, but that’s pretty far from now…

I spent some time chatting with Catherine by the fire and then there was a break in the rain, so Margot and I went out to play basketball. There was a game of soccer going on already (there are soccer goals on the opposite sides of the basketball court), but we just shot around at one of the hoops and the game continued around us. Unfortunately we were both lousy shots today and, as it was also really cold, we gave up after about 30 minutes.

This evening I helped Catherine make dinner: mashed potatoes, gravy, peas & carrots, and meat for them. I brought down my last can of cranberry sauce and we ate most of that! It was delicious and I was so hungry as I hadn’t eaten much today.

It is supposed to be cold and sunny all week, which is better than rain, but not as good as snow!

Photo: Another beautiful view from my bedroom window...

Saturday 2/4: Lots of Crêpes and Dancing!

Whew! I slept in until 11:30am today! I was so awake last night that I didn’t end up going to sleep until 2am, so I was very glad that I didn’t have any plans for today.

After breakfast, I took Dunja for a walk in the woods. I was hoping that we’d have snow (they had predicted it for this weekend), but we didn’t get any today. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get some, though….so I’ll keep hoping for that!

This afternoon, Ralf received a huge load of firewood that he had purchased, so I went out and stacked it while he brought it over in wheelbarrows from the truck. It was really nice to be outside working in the cold, fresh air!

Thursday (February 2nd) was “Chandeleur”—crêpe day! In France everyone makes crêpes that day, but Catherine was working late and she decided we would postpone it until today.

So, around 5pm Catherine, Margot, LouAnn (Margot’s friend), and I headed into the kitchen to start cooking the crêpes. Catherine had already made the batter, so we just had to cook them. But, that takes a while to make dozens of them!

Photo: Margot and LouAnn making crêpes

The girls made about 30 crêpes (some of which they tossed...most of which landed back in the pan and not on the floor...) and then Catherine and I made about 20 galettes, which are crêpes made with buckwheat. Normally you use crêpes for dessert and galettes for dinner.

Dinner was delicious! We finished making the crêpes/galettes around 8:30pm (so, yes, they’re labor-intensive) and then sat down to enjoy them! Isabelle and her son Alexandre came for dinner as well, so it was pretty lively!

Photo: My galette...notice it's darker because it's made with buckwheat flour

We filled the galettes with a tomato/onion spread, cheese/herb spread, ham (for the meat eaters) and mixed veggies (for me). Mmmm! And for the dessert crêpes we had nutella (of course), jams, and sugar. Quite a feast!

Photo: Dessert time! (Notice the huge stack of crêpes)

To work off all we’d eaten, Margot and LouAnn convinced me to play Just Dance with them. It was actually really fun—we danced for hours and took turns taking care of Alexandre because Catherine and Isabelle were hanging out in the other room.

Photo: The Dancers!!

Photo: Those white thingies we are holding track your movements and you get points for how well you follow the little dancer on the screen. Yes, it's bizarre.

Eventually we got so hot we had to go change into t-shirts and the fire no longer felt cozy, but rather sweltering!

Towards the end we started karaoke-ing, too, which was hilarious when the songs were in English and the girls were trying to sing them!

Photo: Margot karaoke-ing while LouAnn dances!

I had a really fun time tonight—completely different from last night’s outing, but just as fun!

Check out a video from tonight:

Friday 2/3: Nightlife…aka Finally Acting Like A “Normal” 22-Year-Old

This morning I got to sleep in because my 8:30am class was moved to 10:45am because the class I normally have during that time was supposedly on a field trip today. Unfortunately when I got to school, I discovered that I had been misinformed and it was the other “4th grade” classes that were on a field trip and I was supposed to teach. Oh well! Not my fault!

I taught the 10 year olds some food vocab and “I like/I don’t like.” All went smoothly. They were pretty excited about the predicted snow for the weekend. I’m terribly excited, too!!!!!!!!!!

After lunch, I had my little kid classes and we sang BINGO many times, reviewed the days of the week, colors, and I read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” to the class that hadn’t heard it yet. Man, those kids are so adorable!

After class, I came home and had tea with Margot and we re-took our European Countries quizzes!

This evening, I actually went out. Like, out to a bar. With friends. WHOA! Well, Emmanuelle (one of the teachers) picked up Pablo and I and we headed to Capbreton (where she lives). After stopping briefly at her house to drop off some stuff, we went to pick up Alison! The four of us went out to dinner at a pizzaria (which was a pretty nice place) where we chatted, ate, and shared a bottle of wine. I really like Emmanuelle and it was fun getting to hang out with her more! After we’d finished our dinner, we went to the bar called “Café de la gare,” which is a very popular spot in Capbreton. It was packed! Most of the time there are loads of people outside, but because it was about 25ºF, everyone who wasn’t taking a smoke break stayed inside. We all got mojitos, which is a drink with rum, lime, mint, and slivered ice. I liked it—and even managed to resist the urge to fish out the ice cubes and crunch them. We got glow sticks in our drinks as well!! (Which, as Emmanuelle discovered, don’t work as straws…)

It was really crowded, but we managed to talk (mostly Emmanuelle and I) about some really interesting things, including politics. Since it’s the election year in France as well, I was interested to find out who she supported as candidate. Turns out that she is far-left and I’d never heard of the person she’s planning to vote for. But, she told me that she had voted for José Bové, so she and I have similar views.

Everyone ordered a second mojito, so I did as well… by the end of it I was definitely feeling the alcohol! For someone who rarely drinks, two mojitos and wine with dinner is A LOT! When it started getting really, really crowded we headed outside and chatted for a little bit before getting really cold and deciding to head home. We dropped off Alison and I hope that she and Emmanuelle will get together sometimes (Alison really doesn’t know many people in Capbreton, so she has no one to do things with there)!

I had an excellent evening and I hope to go out again sometime soon!

Today I got a lovely Valentine’s card from LaDonna! Merci! :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thursday 2/2: A Few Little Snowflakes…

I woke up hoping for snow, but no such luck. However, it was really, really cold outside (28ºF)! I had class with the 8 year olds this morning and we are still working on feelings… so we sang the song “Hello, how are you?” and played the tic-tac-toe game using my excellent drawings of smiley/frowny/etc-y faces. The teacher (who is subbing this Spring while the real teacher is out on maternity leave) helped out and while I was setting up the game, she quizzed them on the vocab. That was good because it gave them less time to start getting squirmy and noisy!

After lunch I bundled up and biked over to the other school. In 28ºF weather. Yeah, it was reeeeally cold. There were occasional snowflakes drifting down (you know the kind that look like they might just be accidents because they come at a rate of about 1/minute), which caused me to grin because it was SNOWING!!!

Both my classes were pretty exhausting today (especially the older kids who are seriously “bavards” …talkers… they just cannot shut up!) and I was so happy to be done at 3pm. I biked over to the cooking store nearby to see if they had any food coloring (so I can make pink frosting for my Valentine cookies), but they didn’t have any. They said that the organic food store would have some, so I risked heading out onto the highway and biked over there…they didn’t have any, but the lady suggested beet juice. I might go with strawberry juice instead… Then I took the long way home, biking slowly because the wind on my face made it feel like my nose might just fall off. I stopped at the post office and then came home and thawed out.

After tea with Margot and Catherine (and lots of chatting), Margot and I played cards until she had to go to tennis. Everyone was gone, so Ralf had informed me that a guy would be stopping by to possibly purchase a mat for the back of his car (that Ralf was selling online) and I was to show it to him and take the money if he did want to buy it. When the guy arrived, I did exactly as I was supposed to and I discovered that he was very chatty. It turned out that he was a horse dentist and before that he had been an airline steward, so he could speak English. We talked for a little bit while he tried out the mat and then ended up buying it. Success!

This evening I talked with my dad before dinner and then my grandma and aunt after dinner. Then I also got to skype with my mom and Jessie late this evening! Lots of good talking with family!!! :)

Wednesday 2/1: Pancakes and “Just Dance”

I woke up around 10:45am today (after having woke up several times during the night to look out the window to see if it had snowed…it didn’t), but just read in bed until Alison woke up at 11:30am. It was so nice to just lie in bed and not have to think about class prep or hurrying anywhere. This 4 day work week is just so brilliant…it’s going to be depressing to go back to the US! :p

When we got up, I made pancakes and Margot, Catherine, Alison and I sat down and devoured them for brunch! I was hoping that making pancakes would encourage the snow to arrive, but no such luck. At least the pancakes were yummy!

Then Alison and I headed back up to bed where we watched the movie, “Paul.” I loved it just as much seeing it for the second time and Alison seemed to know (and love) every actor in the movie! She’s now a fan.

This afternoon I drove Margot and Alison to the store where we got all the groceries for the week. Catherine isn’t feeling too well, so I didn’t want her to have to think about grocery shopping. When we got home, Margot and Alison played “Just Dance 3” (a game involving dancing along to a person on the TV with a remote in your hand that tracks your moves) while I went upstairs to skype with Mark. When I came back downstairs, Claire and Maïtena (a girl in Claire’s class at school) were over playing “Just Dance 3” as well. I joined them and was even convinced to dance 3 times—and somehow I managed to win all three times! Crazy.

After we all had tea, madeleines, and chocolate, Catherine and I made soup for dinner. She left for the gym and I finished it up before hanging out with Alison and comparing American candies to British candies.

We had alphabet pasta in our soup tonight…I don’t think I’ve ever had that before! It was purchased especially for Alison because one of the first times she ever came over, she mentioned that she liked alphabet soup and then Catherine has been waiting for the right time to make it!

I drove Alison home tonight and once again listened to classical music…it really makes the drive seem more epic.

Today I got packages from my parents with all the Valentine’s Day supplies I requested for my classes! And the good kind of toothpaste from home… ;)

Tuesday 1/31: “And Bingo Was His Name-O!”

My morning class with the 8 year olds was spent talking about feelings: “I’m happy!” “I’m sad.” etc. I had them sing a song called “Hello, how are you?” which is fairly catchy and asks the question lots of times and then gives all the various useful responses.

After lunch I taught the younger kids in the library (we’re still doing days of the week and we also sang BINGO) and then headed upstairs to teach the 10 year olds. It was basically a repeat of yesterday’s class on “I like” and all the verbs. And food. Except that this class was a lot more chatty and had more trouble paying attention… Even though their teacher stayed in the room with me, they really didn’t focus very well.

Afterwards I had the 7 year olds and we sang BINGO quite a few times (their really catching on), reviewed the days of the week, and then they colored a bit.

When classes were over, I went home and had tea with Margot and then had to hurry off to my conversation class with the teachers. Tonight we continued talking about the differences between schools in the US and France. Several of us brought children’s books in English to share, so each person chose one and read it to the group…Dr. Seuss was a big hit. Amazingly, no one had heard of him! I read Shel Silverstein’s “A Giraffe and A Half.”

After class, I returned home and Alison had already arrived! She had taken the bus and train after her last class and came for dinner and to spend the night. We watched “Famille d’Accueil” (the foster family show) with Margot and Catherine after dinner. Tomorrow it’s supposed to snow…and it’s REALLY cold, so it just might!! We’re going to leave the shutters open tonight so that we can easily see if it snows! :)

Monday 1/30: European Countries and 3-Pointers!

This morning I taught in Margot’s class and we worked on how to write a letter in English and then we talked about “I like”/“I don’t like” and food vocab. And we re-sang “Old MacDonald!” Most of them did the dance, which was hilarious. It’s always more fun when they’re willing to make fools out of themselves!

During my break, I came home and worked on lesson plans. Lots to do!!

My classes at the other school went decently. With the younger kids we started the days of the week and they are sort-of getting it. There are always some kids who get it much faster than others… In the older class we started the “I like”/“I don’t like” + verb. “I like to play rugby.” The have some difficulties realizing that the infinitive of the verb is “TO dance” and often they say “I like dance” when they are meaning to say “I like to dance.” We’re working on it…

In the afternoon class with the 9 year olds I taught them animal vocab. They had to ask me “What is it?” and I would reply “It’s a giraffe”…or whatever the picture was. And then they would copy down how to spell it. Then I gave them some coloring to do and they stayed relatively quiet. And it helped that the crazy child was sent home early and didn’t attend my class. I’m not sure if it was because he is always so disruptive during my class so he’s not allowed to be there anymore or if it was for another reason? I was happy, though! Unfortunately two other boys got really obnoxious and I sent them out of the room at different points because they were so annoying.

After classes were finished and Margot and I had tea, we both sat down and quizzed ourselves on the countries of Europe. I printed out map quizzes and I try to get them all labeled in the right locations, she just tries to write a list of as many European country names as she can think of. It’s fun because she is getting better—and you can tell she’s starting to think more about where things are located in the world. Afterwards we walked over to the basketball court and shot some hoops. We were both really stoked when I made a 3-pointer during our game of HORSE and then she made it, too! Normally neither of us can make 3-pointers! We played for about an hour and then headed home at dusk.

Sunday 1/29: Tortillas, Homeless Men, and Classical Music

Whew! Well, I’m really glad that I didn’t go out with the hostel group last night! Matt (the Australian) and Sean (the American) came in (drunk) at 5am and promptly started snoring… yep. I managed to get back to sleep, but apparently Alison was kept up for a while. Lovely! Anyways, we ended up sleeping in until 11am (guess we needed it!) and ended up chatting with Matt, Sean, and a few of the other guests (all of whom were hungover). They were all in need of some strong coffee and some breakfast, so we all headed over to a café across the street for tortillas (basically a vegetarian omelet) and coffee or, in my case, orange juice. It was fun chatting and watching tennis on the TV with a bunch of people from different countries. After about an hour, everyone headed in their separate directions.

Alison and I were heading to the train station, but since we had some time to kill, we stopped at a bakery and had some fresh squeezed orange juice and a pastry. Of course when it was time to leave, it was raining.

Photo: Mountains surrounding Sanse

Somehow we got mixed up on timing and we arrived back at the French boarder an hour early…we meant to get there 30 minutes early (so we could be sure to have time to get our train tickets), but we got confused. While we were waiting in the station, just hanging out talking, a homeless guy (who we had never seen before) suddenly came up and started yelling at Alison. He was getting right in her face and then he tried to kick her back and kind-of got her leg as well. He grabbed her can of fanta and threw it at her feet (which promptly spilled everywhere). The people sitting around us quickly came over and two guys pushed the homeless guy away (who was still shouting) and yelled at him. A man who works in the train station came and made the homeless guy leave, but we were absolutely confused why he chose Alison to attack! We had never even seen him before! In any case, she’s totally fine (except for her shoes are sticky from lemon fanta…) and now has quite the story to tell!

We got back to Tyrosse around 5pm and Alison stayed for dinner. It’s been a while since she’s been here, so my host family was happy to see her! After dinner, I drove her home (using the Volvo, of course) and the radio station was playing some epic classical music. On the way back it felt really cool to be zooming down these little roads, through the woods, in the dark with practically no cars around…all to the soundtrack of intense symphonies.

Unfortunately I didn’t do any lesson planning this weekend… dang. Guess I’ll have to catch up tomorrow!

Saturday 1/28: Spain…Wet and Cold

I caught the train this morning around 9am and then Alison got on when it stopped in Bayonne. I hadn’t seen her in so long! It was nice to catch up during our hour ride down to the border town, Hendeye. When we arrived, we had a half an hour before the next shuttle train left to go into Spain, so we located a pâtisserie and got a snack: un jésuit (flaky pastry with cream inside and almonds on top…mmmm!). The train to San Sebastian, Spain only took about 40 minutes and it cost 1.60 euros.

Photo: Alison enjoys her snack

When we arrived in San Sebastian (or Sanse, as the people around here call it), it was raining, cold, and windy. Not exactly how I imagined it would be.

Photo: Beautiful, but very WET.

By about five minutes into our walk towards the hostel, my shoes and socks were already soaked and my feet were super cold. We had to stop and take shelter in a train station on the way because our umbrellas were being blown inside out and the rain was coming at us sideways… When there was finally a break, we headed back out to continue to the hostel. The town is surrounded by mountains and has a nice river that flows into the ocean. Beautiful!

Finally we located the hostel and discovered that it was just an apartment on the third floor of a building. We rang the appropriate buzzer and a Spanish guy came down to meet us. As we were trying to explain who we were (in terrible Spanish), an Australian guy showed up and introduced himself as Matt. He also worked at the hostel and he took us upstairs and showed us around the hostel. Everyone was really friendly and it seemed like all the different guests were hanging out together. Matt informed us that he was getting a big group together to go to a cider house about 20 minutes outside of town where they served a big dinner (two kinds of fish and enormous steaks) and hard cider that streamed out of huge barrels. It sounded tempting, except for the dinner being entirely meat and the fact that after the cider house, they were planning on going out to drink beers and play darts and then after that, dancing! We decided to pass on it because we knew that in Spain, people stay out most of the night… and I’m just starting to get over being sick.

We left all our stuff and headed out to explore Sanse. The beach nearby to our hostel was really nice and I imagine that during the summer it’s absolutely packed with people.

Photo: A teeny little bit of sun...

We had a little break from the rain and the sun came out long enough for us to think that it would be a good idea to hike up the hill that has a huge statue of Jesus on top. Unfortunately we had to stop halfway because it was raining so dang hard and we knew that the wind would just get stronger the closer we got to the top.

So, after standing under a tree for about 10 minutes, hoping that the rain would calm, we walked back down and ran for the church to take cover from the downpour…it was closed. So, we just kept walking in search of a certain tapas bar that Alison had went to the last time she was in Sanse.

Photo: Alison ordering at the tapas bar

Once we’d found it, our shoes, socks, and a good part of our pants were soaked. Mmm, lovely.

Luckily the food there was delicious! The tapas are just little appetizer things…we had tiny bowls of tomato risotto, a fried cheese ball, a fried pistachio (and cheese) ball…which was an interesting color green…and Alison got a seafood crêpe.

Photo: The risotto

Photo: The cheese and pistachio balls

We sat there, eating and drinking cider, trying to warm up a bit. When we noticed that it had stopped raining outside, we went back out to wander around. Unfortunately, our feet were still rather frozen.

We wandered for hours, looking at the beautiful buildings, stopping for a pastry (they are very different from French pastries), and watching some kids’ soccer leagues playing on the beach! I found that pretty amusing…why have soccer fields when you can just set up goals and play on the beach for free? Brilliant.

Photo: Beach soccer

Photo: A square in Sanse

When it started raining really hard again, we ducked into a café where Alison had a coffee and I just tried to thaw a bit. We chatted and made fun of the absurd songs that were playing (mostly in English).

Around 5:30pm, we went back to the hostel where I immediately took off my shoes and socks (unfortunately I hadn’t brought an extra pair of pants) and tried to thaw my feet. Brrr! I stayed curled up in bed while we chatted with an American guy who was in the bunk under me. He has been staying in the hostel for three weeks now and he’s looking for work (as a cook) in Sanse. We had a lively discussion about vegetarianism and the realities of factory farming in the US.

When everyone else left for their evening adventure, Alison and I decided to go out and find some dinner. My socks had dried, but my shoes were still, unfortunately, quite damp. Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining this evening!

It was great walking through town—everyone was out! Kids, parents, couples, old people, young people…the city was very much alive! Quite unlike Tyrosse… Well, it is much much bigger and in Spain people tend to eat dinner around 10-11pm, so it was pretty normal for a Saturday night. We decided to try a Mexican restaurant that we had found earlier. Well, it wasn’t exactly Mexican. They did try, and the food was good, it just wasn’t Mexican. I got a bunch of side orders (beans, rice, tortilla, & guacamole) and the beans were more like baked beans (white beans that were somewhat sweet), the rice was not Mexican, the guacamole had no spice at all (and was a bit sweet), and I suppose the tortilla was pretty normal. I was kinda disappointed because I had hoped to finally have a Mexican meal! It’s been soooo long! (Well, I have made myself burritos a few times, but the tortillas at the store are really odd…)

On the way home it started raining (of course), so my shoes are now quite wet again…