Packing: What to bring, what to leave at home, what I’d wish I’d known.

So, I’ve been in CF (as the cool kids call it) coming up a week now.  I’ve definitely managed to settle in get to know the city pretty well.  I also haven’t stepped inside a vehicle since the train ride in and have been walking everywhere.  However, that will change when I go to the schools I’m teaching at and when the weather gets colder.  The tram and bus system seems pretty good here, so I’m not too worried.

For the primary school assistants in our académie, we have a couple of weeks of formation before we start in the classroom.  We’ve been guided through some confusing administrative stuff, received advice as to how to best introduce new vocab, grammar, and concepts to different age groups, and have done a couple of practice activities/lessons.  This upcoming week, we’ll continue with training, visit classrooms, and participate in a stage with all of the assistants in the académie (some of whom are pretty far away from the city– I feel lucky)

During the past week, I’ve begun to realize that there were a few things I didn’t quite think all the way through while packing.  I’ve got plenty of clothes for the different seasons and a good amount of supplies, but, in retrospect I would have prioritized things a bit differently.

What I should have brought:

  1. Boots!: I’d originally planned on wearing my Payless cowgirl boots to the airport and to my classroom, but then decided not to, thinking, no there I need to save space, I don’t need that many shoes.  Besides, I don’t want to look like a tacky American tourist! But, they are also my only pair of boots, which can be easily be paired with different socks depending on the weather (the same can’t always be said for my tennis shoes), they can go with almost any outfit, and, you know what, they would have been cute to wear in a French primary school English class.
  2. More books: I’m talking about teaching books, song books, books to read, etc.  That could have helped a lot with having material and more ways to curb boredom during freetime
  3. A backpack:  Yes, my elephant bag is big and lovely, but it doesn’t allow things to lay flat.  It also would have allowed me to lug more stuff around and would have made sense for hiking/ walks in the surrounding mountains (should I choose to do so).
  4. A sweatshirt or two!!:  Again, my reasoning of not bringing something because it wasn’t “French enough” got in the way of me rationally thinking through the reality of colder temperatures, one light  jacket not being enough (mine’s chic, but also quite smelly after several wears), having some lazy-time cuddle-duds, and, again, potentially, hiking.  Yes, they do wear sweatshirts in France.  Jeez!
  5. More pens and other supplies: Not a total necessity, but would have made things a tad easier

And on the other hand…

What I did leave at home that I’m glad I left:

  1. Laundry stuff (detergent, etc.) : Just buy it when you get there
  2. Several pairs of shorts: Honestly, I’m not gonna be here for that much when it’s legit “short weather.”
  3. My lovely ceramic piggies: They wouldn’t have travelled well. I think they’ll still recognize me when I’m back in May

Honestly, you don’t need a lot to be happy.  Most countries are pretty minimal in comparison to the United States, and I’ve definitely learned to be grateful for what I have and use the most out of what I have and what I can reasonably afford.  As long as you’ve got the basics, some good food, drink (with or without alcohol, but, let’s face it, wine’s where it’s at in this part of the world) and good company, life is good.

Till next time!

What to bring:

  1.  Boots!! I had originally planned on wearing my cowgirl boots to the airport and to class

Clermont-Ferrand, at last!

On Monday, after a breezy train ride and a not-so-breezy time of carrying multiple items of luggage, I arrived in Clermont-Ferrand! I’m staying in a residence hall for young workers (on the same street as the train station- yay!) in a surprisingly airy and spacious unit (it even has a living room and balcony- more yay!). I did quickly notice, however, that there aren’t that many people living here, and that a lot of people only seem to stay here for a few weeks before finding an apartment elsewhere in the city. The rooms are nice, there are some decent amenities, and the adorable, twentysomething directrice is very helpful, but it does feel a little sterile. Also, since Clermont-Ferrand, unlike, say, Paris, is a relatively affordable and small city, so young workers have more options for housing.

Regardless, I have a place to stay and I am graceful. Having a place to stay also means that I could get an attestation de domicile which means that I can open a French bank account, which means I can have more access to things like phone plans, getting internet in my room, if I choose, and, most importantly, getting paid! I went to the local Société Générale and it seems everything went smoothly! I also went grocery shopping—success!

All in all, Clermont-Ferrand is a pretty cool city. There are volcanoes all around, looking down on the streets like gentle green stone giants. There are a couple of major universities in town, which makes for a lot of young people. It’s also pretty diverse, with more recent immigrants and/or people of color than I originally anticipated. So far, Jardin Lecoq and Place de Jaude seem to be places of particular interest. A good city for tottering around! I’m really excited to explore the sights, check out more of the nightlife, and meet new people!

Room with a view-- *le sigh*

Room with a view– *le sigh*

Bisous!

The Following Post is Not for the Faint of Heart

Coucou!
I leave for Clermont-Ferrand tomorrow!  These past few bread-crepe-hummus-and-wine-filled days, I’ve been to Musée de l’Orangerie (impressionists mostly–lotsa Monet), the Catacombs (spoopy!), Giverny (Monet’s house and garden– so pretty!– and the perfect complient to Musée de l’Orangerie), the tea house at the Grand Mosquée (8 euros for three pastries and a mint tea were definitely worth the sugar rush), and l’Hopital Robert Debré.
And, yes, “hopital” is French for hospital.  And, yes, dear reader, I had to go to the hospital.
TMI time:
I had my period about two and a half weeks ago, so was a little surprised when I saw spotting.  Then I realized (and Googled :P) that it’s just a sign of ovulation that happens for some.  For the first two days, there was very little, no pain, no heaviness, nothing to worry about.
Then Friday morning it started getting heavier and I got cramps. I knew something was wrong.  It felt like a period but not.
So, after getting advice from a gyno’s office that I called, I went to the hospital with the girl I’ve been staying with.
After several hours of waiting and an inside look with the dildo-cam, (the intern seemed to know more than the adorable, cow-licked, young, but somewhat clueless male doctor, which made me a bit concerned, but, ok) I got diagnosed with an ovarian cyst.
Which apparently, I just have to wait out and let a doctor know if it hasn’t gotten better in a week.
So for now, I’ll mostly just be taking it easy, padding up, and doing the cowboy walk.  Thank God this happened now and not on the plane :/.   Also, thank God France has universal health care!  If there’s ever a place to have some sort of random malheur  or douleur, it’s France.
Well, I won’t let this obnoxious curveball get in the way, it’s full steam ahead to the next adventure. *waddles in pain as the crimson chariot passes through the Labian Gates.*
Today, I’ll be heading to Musée de Quai Blanly and hanging with my lovelies one last time before we meet again.
A bientot!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Sooooo….

My baggage just got delivered!!  Phew!  I also dropped in for a surprise visit at the nonprofit at interned at during my semester abroad, then went to Le Quartier Latin where I visited the Panthéon then got ice cream!

But, I was also painfully reminded that I can be an asshole.

First off, I’m afraid I’m not always the best guest.  Sure, I keep things fairly tidy (or at least messy on my side, then clean it up before I leave) and give my host family presents (after someone reminds me to do so) but sometimes, I’m afraid I get either a. too self-centered b. too dependent on what the host has to spell out for me that should have been obvious from the get go. Half the time I feel like I’m mooching off of my host.

Second of all, I feel like I can get either a. too lazy b. too impatient.  I just had to go to the store even though I already didn’t arrive back at the house till after 5 (ETA of luggage was 5-9, it came about a quarter after 6) cause of some weird compulsion and ironic fear of not having enough time to go shopping later. I had my roommate’s phone on me and had been checking  (again–because I’m a self-centered asshole) but didn’t hear the calls when I was in line.  I came to the apartment in the nick of time and the delivery guy was definitely pissed off.  I would have been too.

Of course, this is now high time to reminisce about the friendships I’ve ruined and the bad taste I’ve left in people’s mouths.  Why can’t I just stop being so frustrating?

En France!!

Aujourd’hui, je suis à Paris!!!!  After a cramped puddle jumper from BWI to Toronto that came in late, waiting for the next available flight to Paris, riding that flight, finding out my checked luggage (48 kg– just made the weight limit!) didn’t make it to the new flight, and giving the airport my info to get luggage delivered, I finally met up with Léa and made it to her apartment in one piece!!

I found myself feeling a pleasant mix of nostalgia and tourist-y-ness when I got off the RER and was re-introduced to the eggshell-colored stone streets and buildings, slanted roofs, cafés and bakeries on every corner.  I also found myself exhausted and more than willing to rest up in preparation for the week.  I also put together my new fancy camera (A worthy investment, I’d say!)

My stomping grounds for the next week and the first picture taken with my new camera!

My stomping grounds for the next week and the first picture taken with my new camera!

What’s your itinerary for the week? You ask.  Well, dear reader, there is not one!  I’ll mostly be winging it, but, so far, it sounds like catching up with other friend(s) in the city for dinner tonight, Chateau de Vincennes tomorrow, and Giverny Friday. I’d also love to check out the restaurant and hammam side of La Grande Mosquée.

Oh la France!  Comme vous m’avez manquée!

Bisous!

Demain

Alors,

Tonight’s my last night in the states till May.  Being pretty occupied these past couple of weeks, it still hasn’t fully hit me that I’ll be away from my friends and family for nearly an entire year!!  (Tip: If you have the means NOT to work the last week before going abroad, I would highly suggest  not working cause I’m pretty burned out and didn’t get as much done as I wanted to but, hey, money’s really important)

Of course I’ll always be a tad worried.  What if my grammar sucks? What if I look like a moron?  What if I don’t understand/do necessary paperwork?  What if I get super lost?  What if I miss my connecting flight?  What if I’m stuck at the airport for hours?  What if I forget something important now that my mom can’t just drive over and drop it off?

Mais bon. Ca va aller. It always does.

Can’t wait for my week in Paris!  It’ll be such fun to see my other hometown again.  Le sigh.

Finally…

I know the names and addresses of the schools I’m going to be at!  I’ll be at 3 different écolees– doing 3 “scéances” (approx. 1 hour-long sessions) at 2 of them and 6 scéances at the third one.  If you’re going to do TAPIF at the niveau primaire, be prepared to wait a looooooootttt longer to find out your placement than those teaching at the secondary level.

Also, also, and, and ,and…

I got muh hurr did today.  I went ahead and splurged on the deep conditioning mask that they sell at the salon that the stylist recommended, cause, despite having the largest North and West African population on continental Europe, France can be pretty limited to us kinky-haired folks.  Ya gotta get the good stuff where and when ya can!

A bientot!