Monday, September 29, 2008

Settling In

I'm waiting for classes to start. I'm quite bored. Last summer when I was this bored, after school ended, I spent a ton of money because I had nothing to do every day except go shopping. Well, that didn't end very well because my account is now pretty low, so unfortunately shopping away my troubles isn't the answer. So I am forced to wait, bored, until I start teaching again. Vivement la semaine prochaine!

The White Bean of Soissons is quite the legendary food around here. It's a very large white bean, like a big lima bean (see the image above, couldn't paste it in here). It is very rich in nutrients and according to legend saved the city from famine during the Hundred Years' War. Several years ago the city made an effort to revive this bean and since then they've had a festival in September to celebrate it. There was a large tent area with different gourmet vendors from all over France, three performance spaces (featuring my favorite country line dancing group, Chey'Aisne), a parade, stuff for the kids... all in all quite the thing to do! I kept running into other instits on Sunday so unfortunately I didn't have a chance to taste this famous white bean. It seems like it's used mostly in soups, but can also be cooked with differnt ingrediants to eat as a side with your dinner or a little appetizer or whatever. And the site of the cooperative that grows the bean even lists a cake recipe! So go buy some and support local agriculture! And then tell me what it tastes like! Or I guess I could go buy some myself and see what kind of magic I can whip up with my one electric burner (that doesn't even boil water!) and a microwave.

In other news, Ben gave me my first, and probably only, manual driving lesson. After four tries where the car jumped around and turned off, I finally got the thing to go! And then of course once we were finally rolling I yelled "oh my gosh, it's moving, now what do I do!?" Because clearly I don't know how to drive a car once it starts moving. I was quite impressed by the fact that I finally coordinated pushing doucement on the clutch, gas, and brake, but he seemed less impressed and not totally convinced that I would ever learn. When we ended the lesson he said "okay, we'll get you an automatic car."

Manual cars: 1 Soleil: 0

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back in France

Although I'm still having trouble adjusting to the time change, I have safely arrived back in France! It's a little weird to be starting the same routine over again, only slightly different, if you know what I mean. I blame the time change.

I went to the sous prefecture today to get the list of documents for my carte de sejour and was not pleased to find that our super nice prefecture lady has been replaced by a nazi! In addition to my birth certificate, passport, arreté, attestation de logement (proof that I have housing) I also have to give them my last three pay slips, last year's tax return, and proof of having sécurité sociale. What is up with that? I didn't tell her that I was renewing or that I had been here last year, she just threw all this stuff at me. I guess if I were a newbie I could have told her I don't have any of those things, but isn't that weird? And I have to bring originals and a gazillion copies. I know that the foot-high stack of documents and ridiculous fonctionnaires aren't news to most assistants/anyone who lives in France, but since it was so easy last year it's a little bit of a shock now. At least it happened this year and not last year!

I went to visit my four schools yesterday with my conseillere pedagogique and I've set my teaching schedule. It was really nice to see my coworkers and some of the kids again! I'm excited for this year. I have four classes of CE1, the second graders, my favorite class because they're just starting off in English and all you have to do is play games and sing fun songs. They're cute. I have a class of CE2 for the first time (last year I had my monster class of CE2/CM1 and since I only taught the CE2 about half the time it didn't seem like a real class). And I have two CM1/CM2 split classes, which will also be new for me (last year they were all separate). And one of the CM1/CM2 is my monster class from last year. Oy. That class will be exhausting and frustrating. I have all three of my schools from last year plus I was given a new one. At one of my schools from last year though I only have the CE1 now, they gave the older kids to the Crazy Intervenant. At least I still have one class there and can see my old students.

Other than that I spend a lot of my time waiting for Ben to stop working so that we can see each other. He's very busy and very important, and apparently also very popular with lots and lots of friends. It's really nice to be together again after two months apart. He gets one day off during the work week so he came to pick me up at the airport and then we spent the day together (which means that he pushed a shopping cart around after me as I slowly made my way through the Cora). It was kind of weird that first day to all of a sudden be together after being apart for so long and having spent not much time face to face before I left, but now it feels very normal and comfortable.

This week is the Festival of the White Bean in my town. Can't wait!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's like magic!

I'm leaving for France Monday evening. Yay! My visa is all in order, and I think I'll be able to fit things in my suitcases, hopefully my shoes won't take up too much room. Unfortunately I don't have the option of buying them in France because my size doesn't exist. I think I should find all of the other clown-footed girls out there and strike for my rights. SNCF does it all the time, why can't I?

When I first got home from France I was still using French all the time - thinking in French, having trouble using English, writing emails back to France very easily. Then for the past few weeks I'd really gotten out of that and I was starting to think that I'd have a hard time when I finally headed back to the land of strikes. Then, all of a sudden, for some magical reason I automatically started thinking and using French again this week. It's like I somehow subconsciously told my brain that it was time to get back into French mode. I'm sure there will still be a small adjustment period while I accustom myself to hearing and speaking French all the time, but I know I'm in a much better spot with my French this time than I was last year. Of course I still have lots to learn (especially genders, as Ben tells me rather often), but how many Frenchies can speak English as well as I speak French? Yeah, didn't think so!

It seemed like my time in the US was interminable and all of a sudden it's time to leave again.

This is probably the last post I'll make from the US for the year. See you in France!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Packing up

I've started packing now, and it seems so much easier than it did last year! I really stocked up on toiletries last year, so I have a lot of things like sunscreen left there, so I'm not bringing as much of that kind of thing as I did. Of course in return I am bringing a ton of teaching stuff and American food and size 11 shoes!

I feel very relaxed about heading back next week. I'm sure that my relaxed attitude means that I will forget things, but if I do, c'est pas trop grave! I can either plead with my mom to send it to me or ask someone I know (because I know people there now!) where I can find it. I really would like to find the adaptor plug I brought home with me and seem to have lost though. Don't really feel like buying another one of those. I feel like I'm going back to where I'm supposed to be.

Let's keep that last sentance between us and not tell my mom, okay? ;)

Leaving tomorrow (finally!) for Chicago to get my visa. I know I'm going to shop. I really have to stop spending money! I keep thinking "I brought back euros, I can spend them now!" If I keep doing this I will have 0 euros left and live off of pasta for the next month.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's been a while!

I just don't have anything that intreresting in my life in the US to write about, so I haven't been writing much. It feels like I've been here forever, but of course I've done amazingly little to get ready to come back to France and so now that I will be on a plane at this time in 13 days I have to scramble to get everything done! It's mostly little, annoying things, like calling the bank and making photocopies, nothing too intense, but still stuff that I could have done earlier!

Oh yeah, and there's that little trip I have to take to Chicago to get my visa. My arrete FINALLY got here yesterday. I have no idea what took so long, since it had been signed on July 8 before the inspection closed for the summer! Ahhh, France, how I have missed your bureaucratic ridiculousness. I'm glad it happened this year though and not last year. I would have majorly freaked out if I still didn't know where I'd be two weeks before departure. So I'll be heading to Chicago on the train next week, just in and out really quickly unfortunately. I'm so glad I live close enough to go by train, and that it's a cheap trip!

Last weekend I was in Boston and Providence visiting my friends from college. We had a really awesome weekend together, just lots of talking and catching up. I had forgotten how much I miss being with them. It's so great to hang out with friends who you can be totally honest with, who always understand you, and are always there for you. And who there's no language barrier with! I think the hardest part of going back to an "all French all the time" life style will be losing that ease of communication that I have in English. My French has really improved, but I'm still not fluent and I still have to reexplain myself more frequently than I care to admit! And it makes me wonder if I'll ever be as close with anyone in France as I am with my friends and family here in the US. There will always be a communication barrier of some sort. It will lessen as time goes on of course, but even so, will I ever really be able to tell someone exactly what I want to say?