Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Five Days

Success! I have heard from my conseiller pedagogique, Marie-Therese. She's brand new to the circonscription so I think she didn't realize that I was part of her job, and it sounds like as soon as she was told that she had to take care of me, she got on the ball. I have housing at Lycee Camille Claudel, know exactly which schools I'll be teaching in, and Marie-Therese herself will be picking me up from the Soissons train station and taking me to the lycee to check out my housing. The lycee is right downtown, so I hope that means I will easily be able to find food and linens and things when I get there. I hope stores will still be open, since I'm not getting in until almost 5 PM.

Final word on the schools is Ecole Elementaire Leo Lagrange in Belleu, and Ecole Courmelles in Courmelles. Both of them are accessible by bus from my house, and get this, Courmelles is only 1600 people! How adorable. I'm sure it would be a lot less adorable if I had to live there for the whole year. I have this dream that because the town is so small all the families of the kids I'll be teaching will adopt me and I'll integrate into French life and culture. Or maybe they'll just stare and make fun of the strange American girl. Either way, it'll be interesting.

I've started saying goodbye to my friends and family. As excited as I am to get to France I'm also sad to be leaving so many people I care about. I know that with the internet it's a lot easier to keep in touch, but when you just want to watch a chick flick with your friends while gorging on Hint of Lime Tostitos, the internet doesn't quite cut it. I'm going to miss my mom a lot. We're really close, and it's going to be so hard not having her around all the time. I did go to college out of state, but at least we were in the same time zone and could talk on the phone every night. Six hours is a big time difference! When I'm ready to talk she'll still be at work. And I'll have a lot to talk to her about too, it won't be a simple 5 minute phone conversation. Well, I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Next on my list of tasks to conquer after the education system: packing to live in a foreign country for nine months! I still have five days before I leave, plenty of time right?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Which Soleil is Shown Major Love by Various Employees of the French Educational System

So far it's been a super fun France week.

I got up the nerve Monday morning to call my circonscription, Soissons II, which administers elementary education for the rural area around Soissons, to ask them about my housing. This is what my directrice had told me to do when she responded to my introduction email back in August. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello, my name is soleil and I will be the English assistant in Belleu this year. Mme le Directrice told me to contact you about housing.
Them: Who are you? There is no assistant in Belleu this year.
Me: (internally: AHHHH! WHAT!!!???) uuuuuuhhhhhhh.......but I have my arrete......
Them: What does it say?
Me: It's signed by X people and says I'm teaching in Belleu!
Them: Well, I have no idea. Contact the departemental conseiller pedagogique for langues vivantes.

Which of course was all I could do. I hurriedly cobbled together an email for Pascale (the CP) asking about my assignment, but by the time I was able to compose something somewaht comprehensible it was too late in the day in France (stupid 6 hour time difference) to expect to hear back from her. I was freaking out a little for a couple of hours, but I calmed down when I finally thought about it rationally. I have my arrete, so there is a position for me there. According to the assistants forum this happens all the time, apparently because they don't decide the primary placements until mid-September. Also, because there are sooooo many different layers of bureaucracy in the educational system, it's so easy to imagine that communication between them just sucks.

Luckily I heard from Pascale on Tuesday! Or rather, all the assistants and all the circonscriptional CPs heard from her. Basically she said that they've sent out the arretes and that the assistants are coming. It sounds like everyone gets the cheapy internat housing, which is awesome.....

..... except that they haven't set it up for people near Soissons yet, and this other woman at the academie level is now in charge of procuring my housing at a lycee. So I sent out another email requesting help with my housing to Veronique, who hasn't gotten back to me yet. And Pascale never really answered my question about where exactly I'm teaching. But, I feel like the problem has been solved. Pascale laid the smackdown on the circonscriptions, I'm assuming that my arrete is still correct, Veronique will get me housing, and I will be in France in 13 days. Thumbs up all around.

Tonight involves quality TV time with Bush's speech (I'll be furious the entire time but I feel like I have to watch) and then I'll follow that up with some Top Chef action. I have to say, I've been pretty disappointed with the chefs this season. It seems like every week the food either isn't that great or is just plain bad, there are rarely knockout dishes, and no one chef has been consistently excellent. To me that does not make a top chef. We'll see what happens over the next few weeks as we move towards the finale. Hopefully someone will step up their game. Probably a better way to be spending my time tonight would be packing, because I haven't started that yet, but whatever. I always do my best work when I'm under the gun.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The First Post

Okay, here goes my attempt at a blog about my upcoming experiences in France! First, a question: I would really like a white page background with this template. Is that possible?

I've been hired by the French government to teach English to elementary school kids, 12 hours a week, for 9 months. I was placed in the academie d'Amiens and the departement de l'Aisne in the north of France. More specifically I'll be teaching in two elementary schools in Belleu, which is a tiny town of about 4000 people but right next door to Soissons, "the big city" as I've been describing it to my friends and family, of about 30,000. Through the grapevine (ie the former assistants from Belleu and Soissons that I've hunted down through the internet) I learned that I'll actually be living in a dorm right in the centre ville of Soissons. I'm planning to call the nspection Academique on Monday to double check this, but I'm pretty sure it should be all set up. So I think I have the best of both worlds: I'll have the opportunity to integrate into a really small community but also be in a larger town with more things to do (clubs, bars, people, etc). And I'll only be an hour or an hour and a half away from Paris by train! I'm sure Paris will call me often, especially since my housing is going to be ridiculously cheap.

In exactly 16 days I will be in the car on my way to the airport to catch my flight to France. I can't believe it's coming up so quickly! I haven't started packing yet - that will be next week's adventure. For the past couple of days I've been thinking about the food I'll miss while I'm in France. I love spicy food, I can't get enough of it, and I'm planning to overload on it before I go because I don't think I'll get much of it in France. I plan to have my favorite Indian buffet at least a few times before I leave and lots of Mexican. There's a new Thai restaurant and a new Middle Eastern place, both of which I want to try. And I have to eat at one of my favorite restaurants ever, Seva, which is a wonderful vegetarian restaurant here.

As you may be able to guess, I like food, I like to eat, and I think and talk about food a lot. There will probably be a lot written about food here. Eating Mission One: Do not eat so much French cheese that I turn into a giant round of Brie. Actually, that should be way down the list. The real Eating Mission One should be to try everything once. I'm expecting escargot to be disgusting, but hey, you only live once!

My philosophy while in France will be to take every opportunity to enjoy myself, try new things, and push my boundaries. That is what my blog title, au soleil levant, refers to. The rising sun is a symbol of new beginnings and new opportunities. I have waited a very long time for this opportunity, and I intend to enjoy it completely!