Saturday, March 28, 2009

Almost forgot....

... to say that I saw a movie this week in my little town IN VO!!! Yes, that's right, my tiny town in Aisne had a movie in VO (voix originale, aka ENGLISH) at the movie theater this week. Since it was the printemps du cinéma, when all movie tickets are 3.50€, I decided to take advantage of it. It was 'Last Chance for Love,' with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who were really great in the movie, but it was a kind of sad story. I thought it was going to be more of a comedy, but it was mostly dramatic. Still a good show though, and I was so happy to see it in English!


Sometimes weird things happen at the laundry mat.

One time these guys came in, drank a couple of beers, were generally loud and disruptive, and then left. Clearly the laundry mat doubles as a bar.

There are eight washing machines at the laundry mat. Five small machines (normal sized, really), one medium, and two industrial sized washers. Sometime before December vacation I was using the medium and one of the small washers. I was the only person in there. A couple came in with a baby and a few suitcases full of laundry when my loads were about halfway done. They sat down, and they just sat there and didn't do anything. I kind of looked over at them, they looked over at me, it was awkward, and they just kept sitting there and occasionally looking at the machines and then me. I eventually thought that maybe they were waiting for the medium sized washer to be available, but as I already said, the other washers were totally free and they could easily have used one of the six available washers. My laundry eventually finished, I emptied my washer and took my stuff over to the dryer. The woman started filling up the medium sized washer. Not all of their clothes fit in it. Did she put them in another washer? No. She took the rest of the laundry back to her chair and sat down again. Apparently the only acceptable washer was the medium sized washer, and she refused to use any of the other ones. Talk about a waste of an afternoon!

Then today when I got back to the laundry mat to transfer my clothes from the washer to the dryer there was another woman in there eating take out from Quick Burger. I was about to say 'bonjour' but she turned her back to me really quickly and refused to look at me while she was eating her burger. Was she embarrassed to be eating in public? Did she think I was going to think badly of her for eating a Quick Burger at the laundry mat? I kind of wanted to say 'there's no need to be embarrassed Madame, I'm an American, I don't care if you are eating standing up at the laundry mat outside of normal lunch hours. I don't judge people for offenses like that.' But I didn't, because I decided that would be super weird and she would probably judge me for not judging her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I got my first reply from the first round of applications to be a lectrice that I sent out. It was from Paris III. Apparently they only accept lecteur applicants who are currently living in anglophone countries. I thought that was kind of weird. Do they think I've forgotten how to speak English while living in France? I actually think having already spent two years in France is a positive thing for a lectrice, because I've learned a lot about the differences between French and American culture (well, in my letters I said anglophone cultures, shhhhh), and if I'm working with students who are planning to use English in their future careers they will need to know that kind of stuff. Although I guess most of what I would be doing is drilling them in pronounciation of the short "i" and "r" and "th." Oh well. No news yet from the other universities, so I guess I'll take that as a good sign? No news is good news!

Interestingly enough, when I was calling around to find out where to send my letters and asking if they had already looked at applications every place I called said that they haven't started looking through dossiers and probably wouldn't until April or May, or maybe even June! Lucky for me, since I got my act together very late in the game.

I had a good laugh at myself when I was making my phone calls. I had decided that I really wanted a spot at Paris 6, which is a big, prestigious medical and science university, partly because that's my chosen future career and partly because they offer night classes in physics and chemistry that I could have taken for free if I were working there. I was all nervous about calling because I really wanted to make a good impression and not make any silly mistakes on the phone, so I put off calling them until I had "warmed up" on other universities. Then when I finally did call what is the first thing the woman said? They never employ lecteurs or maitres de langue! I hung up and burst out laughing. So much for that one!

My new obsession is planning my vacations for all the upcoming holiday weekends. I'm still up in the air about Easter weekend but thinking about Honfleur, Deauville, and Trouville. For the weekend of May 8 it looks like I'll be heading to Bruges. We have Thursday May 21 off for some reason, and since I don't teach Tuesday afternoons and there's no school on Wednesday I'll probably go to La Rochelle for a few days. I'd prefer to go for longer than that but train tickets are majorly expensive on the weekends. Then for the last weekend in May I am thinking about going to Stockholm. This summer I'm going to do a big British Isles tour and perhaps rent a car and drive around Bretagne depending on when/if a friend from home comes. I really want to see Bretagne, but it seems like it's best to do with a car, which is expensive, especially since I can't drive shift!

Any travel ideas, places to go, stay, or travel buddies welcome!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jobs Update

So I called most of the universities I intend to apply for lecteur posts at, and everyone I spoke to was super nice and helpful. I think I made some people think that I'm charming and should recieve a lecteur post, so that will be helpful.

Then I started emailing out my letter and CV. Guess who can't remember to attach the stupid CV and letter to the actual email? Oh yeah, that would be me.

Hopefully that adds to my charm.


Arles is a quick 20 minute train ride from Avignon, but unfortunately the train times were kind of annoying, so I still had to get up kind of early for a 9:45 train. Blah.

And even more blah was the fact that I arrived to a major rain storm, North of France style. This majorly messed up my plans to walk everywhere. Stupidly enough I decided to tough it out and walk to the Ancient Arles Museum, which is a good 30 minute walk from th center of town. I could have just taken the bus, but for whatever reason decided that getting totally drenched in torential rains would be a better idea.

Some days I don't get high points for logical decisions.

Arles contained one of the highlights of my trip, seeing the church of Saint Trophime and its cloister. St Trophime is actually the first purely Romanesque architectural style church that I've visited, and I was just fascinated by how different it is to be in a church that has almost no windows, how dark it is, and how your eyes are consistently drawn down the long, narrow nave to the choir, where all the action would be taking place. I'll spare you all the nerdy art history details, but basically it's totally different than being in Notre Dame in Paris, or the cathedrals in Reims, Strasbourg, and Amiens.

Here's the façcade of St Trophime:

Arles is one of those adorable towns that people dream about visiting in Provence: brightly colored houses and shutters, tiny, romantic cobblestone streets that time seems to have forgotten:

Of course what the tourists don't think about is that those tiny little streets are impossible to follow. Arles is not set out on anything that might even remotely resemble a grid, streets go every which way, and it is very easy to get lost, as I did several times. I very much enjoyed getting lost on purpose when I was just wandering around the streets to admire the town, but when I was trying to find my way back to a restaurant at night, I did not appreciate the fact that straight lines apparently don't exist in the magical Provence. The streets are all tiny and crammed together, there isn't really a major commercial thoroughfare, it's all just kind of jammed together. Cute for wandering, not cute if you have a specific destination in mind.
Arles also has a bunch of Roman ruins, which are fun, but nothing compared to the real thing in Rome. I love ancient Rome, I ADORED Rome, but I found the Arles stuff to be a poor substitute for the real thing. Oh well. Fun to visit anyway.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Awkward Yogurt Stealing Prof is staying at the lycée for the weekend. Not sure why, but he's not in the lycée right now. If he comes back with a date I'm going to scream. How can an awkward yogurt stealer get a date and not me??

This week was ridiculous. More tales of vacation to come tomorrow after I've reposed myself a bit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

To interrupt my vacation tales with some ramblings ...

I'm driving myself nuts over this lectrice d'anglais thing. No, I have not yet submitted a single lettre de motivation. I kept asking different people to look at my lettre, and I was going to send them out today, but then I started revising my letter again, and so now I have to ask people to look at it again. I'm convinced that my letter is crap crap crap and they will take one look at it and hit "delete." I am applying almost exclusively to universities in the Paris area. While I had renewed hope that I might actually get a post there after reading Petite Anglaise (she got a lectrice post and was able to renew it because no one else wanted it), I have to be honest with myself here that Paris is the city the most in demand in France, and especially since my letters are going out late, I have very, very little chance of actually getting a post there. But I would really love to have a post in Paris. My new plan is to call all of the English departments I'm applying to before I send out the letter, ostensibly to ask who I should email it to but really to convince them that I'm charming and adorable and would be a great asset to their department.

Fat chance of that, right? :)

The street right across from the Gare du Nord has gotten a major face lift since the last time I happened to look at it. It used to be filled with mediocre brasseries catering to the people stuck there waiting for trains, but now it's really something! Of course there are still some mediocre brasseries, but there is also a kebab/pizza/crêpe place, an Asian traiteur, a Quick Burger, and even a McDonald's! It's almost becoming a real train station! I am always jealous of the other train stations in Paris that have so many restaurants and stores right around them. Gare du Nord is pretty bleak in comparison. Now we have a McDo!

Not that I ever eat there. But I take it as a good sign of better things to come. If only one of those great Indian places from down the road would open up a take-out stand, now that would be really great. Hot samosas while you wait for your train, yum-o!

P.S. I was a little disappointed that no one commented on the Goy store. Did no one else find that funny? Or are there just no other Jews reading my blog?

Friday, March 13, 2009


After my parents left I hopped on the TGV at a ridiculously early hour of the morning and headed down to the south. First stop: Avignon, with tiny little windy streets that are fun to explore:

Avignon is of course famous for its bridge, le Pont Saint Benezet, and even more famous for the song about the bridge: sur le pont d'Avignon l'on y danse, l'on y danse... The bridge itself actually collapsed during a flood back in the 17th century and is no longer terribly useful for more than attracting tourism. Still makes for a fun visit and a fun place to do a little dance in very high winds.

Avignon was so windy; the Mistral I guess? Very different from all of the weather patterns that I'm used to! And really great for my hair, let me tell you. That wind-swept pile of crap look is really in this year.

Avignon is also famous for the fact that it was the hometown of the Popes for nearly 100 years, leading to a major schism in the church during the period from 1378 to 1417 when there were actually two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon. Avignon was the property of the Vatican from the mid 14th century until the French Revolution. If you look closely in the picture above of the bridge you can see a big sand colored tower (le Tour de Philippe le Bel). That was at one point the opposite side of the bridge and marked the beginning of France and the end of the Pope's possessions.

The popes came to Avignon because Rome was constantly under threat of attack and capture during the Middle Ages. Avignon was more secure, and to ensure their security the Popes built a "palace" that actually looks more like a fortress ready to repel a barbarian attack:

Not so pretty right? I had really been looking forward to visiting the Palais des Papes, and I wasn't disappointed about the hugeness of the building and the rooms (note: picture above is only about half of the palace, it was too big to get all of it in the picture!). Unfortunately it is quite bare on the inside, although there are very nice informative displays. You have to use your own imagination to see what it might have been like when the Popes lived there. After the Revolution it was used as both a military base and a prison, so some of the frescoes and woodwork and carvings are rather damaged, but there are still some beautiful parts, such as the two small chapels and the Pope's bedroom and antechamber (picture taken from the web), and the fact that the palace itself is built in ginormous dimensions is still very apparent, even without all the gold and tapestries and paintings and whatnot.

Of course I do not have my own pictures of the inside of the Palais because I'm apparently the only person who listens when they say not to take any pictures. Does the rest of the world not know that taking pictures with flash damages the painting?

I had plans to go see all kinds of things in Avignon but I soon realized that what I really needed to do was take it easy and rest to recharge myself for teaching. I felt like a chicken running around with its head cut off, just very unfocused and disorganized, so I spent the better part of one of my afternoons there reading in the Rocher des Doms park overlooking the city of Avignon.

I also did a lot of walking around the city just looking and exploring things, and came across this very interesting shop:

He's advertising it like he's proud of it or something!

I ate really well in Avignon. There was this great boulangerie right around the corner from my hotel with all kinds of different flavored breads (like orange chocolate!), so I would go and get a little baby baguette in the morning. I got regional cookie specialties from the market that were delish, too bad I can't get them up here! I'd bake them myself if I had an oven, but no such luck. The sun was warm and always shining, which was a major break with Picardie! Overall I enjoyed Avignon a lot and recommend it as a stop if you're travelling in the south, especially if you like cute towns and if learning something is an important component of your travels (yes, I am a nerd, I like to go places and learn things. If you don't like it, don't travel with me).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm Back!

And I have a lot to share! Lots of things have happened on break and not on break. Let's start with the most recent and dramatic events:

The yogurt stealer is at it again!!!!! WTF, just go buy your own *#&$ food! It was Tuesday morning that I noticed the yogurt theft and I was so pissed off I was shaking. So I pasted a note on the refrigerator door that says roughly "thank you for not eating food that you haven't bought yourself. All the food in this kitchen is private property, not for public consumption. This is not the first time that someone has eaten my yogurts, please stop! If you want to eat, buy your own food!"

I was pissed.

I think I scared the wimpy Awkward Yogurt Stealing Prof because there were two yogurts on my shelf this morning. And not even the stuff he gets from the cafeteria, real yogurts that he must have bought himself! But I don't want these yogurts. One of them is pear, and I do not like pear. I've never seen pear yogurt before, who would want to eat that? It sounds awful. Anyway, the point is not that he make up for what he took but that he stop taking my food!
I can't actually proove that it was him this most recent time. Someone new was on the hall Monday evening and left Tuesday after school. He said he was a remplaçant (substitute) so I have no idea if he'll be coming back or not. It could have been him or the Awkward Yogurt Stealing Prof. Weirdly enough he looks just like one of my uncles but much skinnier and wears only black.

Other than the yogurt drama that just won't end (!!!) things are fine since I've been back. I did a big review session with all of my classes and was very pleased with everything they remembered, except for one class that just made me scratch my head. I'm going to have to reteach them half of what we've already done. They're only CE1 so it's not a big deal.
So I was on vacation for two weeks and had a great time. I could have used another couple of days in Nice at the end though, it was so peaceful and relaxing to be near the Mediterranean, and the setting is just breathtaking. It would have been nice to have a couple more days to just read on the beach, looking out over the water.

More to come from the Loire Valley, Avignon, and Arles!