A Travellerspoint blog

Back in the Theatre! Oh How I've Missed you!

And a little bit more of Lyon


I have been helping out with a theatre project which my advisor has been organizing for the past year. The Comenius theatre project is a type of exchange between high schools so students can interact with other students from different countries. In this case, students from Turkey and German arrived in Roanne on Saturday to put together a play with the French students. They have all worked on their own improve plays and they are now going to put all of the little plays together into one big play which they will perform this Friday. Let me translate this for you in case you missed the craziness of this: Three groups of students, all speaking different languages have 4 days to put together a play which they will perform at the theatre in Roanne. Four days!! Having participated in many plays during high school I could not even begin to imagine putting this whole thing together. I would be stressed beyond belief and wouldn’t even know where to begin! Yet despite being busy, all of the teachers involved seem very happy to be working on this project.

I really was excited to have the chance to be a part of the theatre again, and therefore I have been helping out with the play practices (for the French students) for the past couple of weeks. Today I had the opportunity to meet the German and Turkish students and help out a bit! Instead of teaching English classes like I usually do here, I helped teach a beginning French class today which is what the foreign students study while the French students are in class. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to do it because there were some native French speaking students sitting in the back of the room, but it all ended up going very smoothly. The foreign students and the Turkish teachers who were sitting in on the class picked up the language quickly and didn’t seem to have any problems playing the little language games we used during the class. It seemed so odd to me to actually be teaching a French class while I was in France! After the class was finished, I went with the students to a theatre workshop class which was held at the school. For this workshop we all played theatre games together which definitely made me think back to high school! While we were playing games, a select group of teachers and students went to a classroom to work on the play for Friday… this meant that I was French/English translator for the rest of the group! The French teacher would explain what we were going to do in French and I would translate it for the group in English. I did much better with this task then I first though I would. I think I was really just nervous about speaking French in front of a group of 50 plus, but I did a decent job when I had to!

Ok now the coolest thing about this theater work shop was half way through, the Turkish teachers and students taught us some Turkish dances! (Did I mention that they also brought us Turkish Delight to try? It was pretty good!) We all got into a huge circle and tried to follow them as they showed us the steps. As a group we kicked our feet and snapped our fingers along to the pulsing rhythm of the music. I was really impressed that all of the students were interested in learning the dance, even though it was quite difficult for some. All of the students intermingled and danced together, helping one another out if they got lost. Eventually we all broke from our big circle and started dancing around the room. Students were talking and dancing around each other and even the teachers were swaying to the Turkish beat. Eventually the dancing changed its course. First it was Turkish dancing, and then the French students started some group dances like the Macarena which was followed up by some of the French guys being super suave and showing the girls how to waltz! Not gonna lie, I was totally impressed that these high school French guys knew how to waltz properly! They were all super polite and gentlemanly as they showed the girls how to dance in the square and how to keep the beat. It seemed like everyone was really enjoying themselves and despite the language differences, everyone was laughing and having a good time.(I wish I could post pics, but I probably shouldn’t put pictures of my students online! Sorry guys! I even took some videos of everyone dancing, but those will be for another time.)

I can’t believe that I have this opportunity to help out with an international theatre group (did I mention that the exchange is going to continue? Meaning that the French students are going to be going to Germany and Turkey this upcoming year as well!) I have truly missed being a part of theatre productions and it feels so good to be back amongst fellow actors once again. It makes me want to see if I can join any theatre groups in Roanne but I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try real French theatre….

In other news, this past Saturday the roomies and I went to Lyon for the day. We met up with some more of Paty’s friends and went on a picture taking extravaganza. Cecile, One of Paty’s French friends works at a University and is friends with many international students. She is a huge photography buff and she puts together a lot of exhibitions using pictures she takes of her international friends. Can you guess where this is leading? We met up with Cecile, and a bunch of international students in front of a church in vieux Lyon. After meeting everyone we went walking around the charming streets of Lyon while Cecile took pictures of us all. Seriously, I felt like I was a model or a movie star or something. She positioned us and took a million pictures of us with all of these amazing backgrounds of Lyon. I intend to inquire and see if I can get some copies of those pics!

As we were walking and talking on the cobblestone streets, we suddenly heard music coming from nearby. We followed the sound and stumbled upon a group of musicians playing in a square in Lyon. All of the musicians were dressed in capes, crazy hats, big sunglasses and other noticeable accessories (like a neon green tuba). Our photo taking group took a break from modeling and sung along to the crazy trumpet players as they played songs like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and Britney Spears “Toxic”. As it began to rain, we took out our black umbrellas (we all have lived in France long enough to know you NEVER go anywhere without an umbrella, preferably a black one.) and continued dancing and singing along. The group of musicians started to run around in the rain and one of the guys slipped and fell. Instead of getting up and walking back to his spot in the line of musicians with a clear look of embarrassment, the guy just lay on the ground and continued playing. Two other musicians joined him and played their saxophones, lying on the ground in the rain. As we walked away from the group to locate a place out of the rain where we could get a drink and warm up, I thought about the group of musicians. All of them dressed up in crazy costumes, playing random songs for petty from tourist and slipping and sliding along on the slick stones of the street. They weren’t making a lot of money, they were cold and wet, but they continued to play, looking like they were having the time of their lives. The people in the crowd bopped along under their umbrellas while the people in the apartments in the background sat on their balconies to take in the scene. Just goes to show you, some people dance, sing and play music in the rain while others just get wet….

Street Music

Street Music

Posted by jauntypag 11:16 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Using my Retainer


Learning a language is just like wearing a retainer. The first time you try to use it everything goes wrong. It is painful, you gag, you make sounds you’ve never made before, your teeth don’t come together properly and you suddenly don’t want to talk for fear of sounding ridiculous. When you try to speak, people always notice that something is different and tend to point it out to you, which inturn only frustrates you more. The envy you feel towards your friends with their perfectly straight teeth is exacerbated every time you talk to them and they giggle at your slurred words. Yet, as time goes by, you grow accustom to this new element in your life. You begin to forget about the foreign object and can speak as if nothing was there at all. Eventually you sound normal, no matter if you are wearing the retainer or not. It may seem crazy, but I often forget I am speaking French and it startles me when someone speaks to me in English. Although I make mistakes and constantly stumble over my words, I can communicate much better than I could in the past. I was even told by a French friend that I sound French when I am speaking (although I believe that she was just being nice). During my classes with my high school and middle school students, I try to remember what it was like my first couple of years learning French. I remember thinking it was crazy that sounds existed in French that I have never used before in English and I felt frustrated when I could not understand what my teachers were saying. I can tell that my students feel the same way when they stumble over words and look at me with that deer in the headlights stare. Empathy is definitely a big help when trying to create lessons which the students will learn from but also enjoy!

To continue with my study of languages, my roommates are both teaching me their native languages (German and Spanish). I am again back to square one since I have never studied either of these languages, but luckily, both of my roommates are extremely patient, kind teachers. They repeat the words for me and go slowly as I attempt to pronounce the words correctly (although the trill of the Spanish “R” is killing me! I am doing much better with it, but I still really have to focus to even attempt to make it sound correct!) I am proud to say that I can now count to 10 in German, tell people to hurry up, and I can introduce myself in Spanish. In return, I am helping them with English, although both of them can understand and speak it pretty well. It amazes me that most people here can atleast speak a little bit of English, however at the same time I think that everyone should take at least 1 langauge class during their lifetime. This includes Americans who say "I have no use for learning another language". The American narrowminded stereotype continues...

Being surrounded by so many people from so many different backgrounds is truly a rare opportunity which I am highly enjoying. Last weekend for example, we had a soirée at another assistant’s apartment. Gulia, the Italian assistant, spent the entire day making homemade pasta sauce and lasagna for the event and I got to help her make the dessert; tiramisu! All of the assistants in Roanne came to eat, talk and relax in the tiny apartment. At the end of the meal, we surprised Paty with a birthday cake to celebrate her belated birthday. Now what do you do before you eat birthday cake? Well you sing “Happy Birthday” of course, everyone knows that. Yet that night we heard “Happy Birthday” sung in Spanish, Italian, English, French, German and Chinese as each person took a turn singing in their native language. As I was listening to everybody, I thought about how I am not only learning how to teach English and French better but I also have the opportunity to have first hand insight on different cultural aspects from a multitude of countries. Living in a foreign country and interacting with people from different backgrounds truly makes you reflective. I’ve never taken pancakes for granted until I met someone who never had them. (Don’t worry we quickly remedied this by whipping up the pancake mix that Laura brought me!) I had no idea that in Germany Santa Clause does not bring presents for Christmas, baby Jesus does instead. I never thought of using a hot water bottle to warm up my blankets at night and could not imagine choosing my career at the beginning of high school like they do here! People say it’s the little things which count, and living here shows me how true that is. It’s the little differences that you notice which make you stop and think about your life and what you are accustomed to.

Posted by jauntypag 14:11 Archived in France Tagged educational Comments (0)

Vacation Part Two: Germany and England

The rest of what could not fit into the first blog!


Vacation contiuned...

Munich, Germany
Bright and early the next morning (and I mean EARLY, our train left at 6:10am!) we departed for Munich. Since Munich is so big and there is so much to do there, we decided to stay there for two days. Our first goal after dropping off our bags was to locate the famous Hofbrauhaus, which is one of the most famous breweries in Munich. This took us approximately two hours to locate thanks to the awful map we were given and the streets which constantly changed names. It was well worth the wait however, you cannot go wrong with a meal of sausage, sauerkraut and beer! Did I also mention that there was a band, completely dressed in lederhosen, playing music while we ate? After filling our stomachs, we walked to the English Gardens and later made our way back into town to see some other sites.

My favorite part of Munich was my birthday gift from Laura. We spent the day on a tour to see the castle which I have been dying to see ever since I first saw Cinderella. Neushwanstien castle was built by King Ludwig the second, who sadly only got to live there for a couple of months before his “mysterious death”. The castle was incredible. Nestled in the mountains of the Germany country side, it looks like someone plucked it out of a fairy tale and strategically placed it there. The atmosphere of my surroundings made me think I might suddenly sprout wigs or see two children run into the forest leaving a trail of bread crumbs behind them. On the tour we visited another smaller castle along with the town of Obergammau. This little town has a Passion play (aka recreates bible scenes as well as the crucifixion scene) every 10 years to ward off the plague. Sounds crazy? Well back in the days when the plague was killing of this tiny town’s residents, the distraught townspeople went up to the top of the mountains and prayed to God to stop the plague. They promised if he did they would perform this play every 10 years. And guess what? The plague stopped and they have continued to perform the play every 10 years since then! The next passion play is next year and is already sold out for the months of August and September. Pretty crazy!! Our tour was made 10 times better by our rotund tour guide who told us all this information and whose large belly protruded from his tiny shirt throughout the entire trip. He also enjoyed calling the different people on the tour by their place of residence instead of their names. We heard a lot of “Hey Brazil! We are waiting for you!” or “Thailand, you ready to go?”


With the amazing day trips, cool people we met in our hostel, and awesome meals it was difficult to say good bye to Germany…. But we knew that London was calling….

London, England
Our last leg of the journey was visiting our friend Vanessa who is currently working in London! We made our way to her lovely apartment in a very posh area of London and spent the next couple of days exploring. Telling you all of the details would take far too long, so let me highlight some of the best events for you:

Seeing “Mousetrap”, a play that has been showing in London for over 50 years.

Going to the British Library and seeing the Magna Carta, original handwritten copies of the Beatles songs, the Gutenberg Bible and Handel’s orginal compositions.

Running into other tourists who were taking pictures by Platform 9 ¾ from Harry Potter (Yes we are dorks…)

Discovering that the British museum had not lost its charm, as Micahel Buble said it did! (haha)

Organ concert at Westminster Abby. So beautiful!

Dressing up and celebrating Halloween at a pub as well as seeing all the Londoners dress up and walk around Leicester square!

Visiting Greenwich and standing on the prime meridian (two hemispheres at once!). Also going to Greenwich market and eating amazing chocolate covered strawberries, walking in a tunnel under the Thames, and listening to music students practice as we walked around the old Navy Hospital (which is now part of Trinity college of Music).
Standing between the Hemispheres

Standing between the Hemispheres

Visiting Oxford and wondering if I was walking down the same street that my Great Grandfather lived on when he was a student there and standing in front of the theatre which my Great Grandmother might have acted in. We also saw the hall where “Harry Potter” was filmed during our amazing tour of the colleges of Oxford. (Oxford was incredible!!! I wonder if I can go to gradschool there….)

Surprising Vanessa for her birthday by sneakily decorating her apartment!

Laura and I returned to Roanne exhausted, weary, and yet incredibly happy. I absolutely loved this trip and am already itching to get back out and travel some more!

London at Night

London at Night

Posted by jauntypag 15:02 Archived in Germany Comments (4)

Vacation Part One: Switzerland

Too much to fit into one entry.


I really love the idea of having seven weeks of vacation. I think that the U.S should adopted this policy and see how it goes. As most of you know, I just had a 10 day vacation from school. After asking various people, I discovered that this vacation was for “All Saints Day” however it seems like it is not a big celebration here. So really, it is just a break from work! As luck might have it, my dear friend and travel buddy Laura decided to come and travel with me during this vacation. Since this was a 10 day whirl wind trip within three countries, I will try to give you a synopsis of what we did. I even broke down the trip by destination in case you only want to know what we did in certain places! The first stop:

Geneva, Switzerland
Laura and I took an early train from Roanne to Lyon, and then made our way to our first destination; the pretty yet extremely expensive town of Geneva. Our hostel was awesome and gave us free transportation passes throughout the city so the trams, buses and boats were free for us to use! We walked down to Lake Geneva and took tons of pictures by the Jet d’eau which is a HUGE jet of water in Lake Geneva. It is really quite amazing that there is a jet of water 98 feet high in the lake! We took a boat across Lake Geneva and explored the shops and buildings on the other side.
Attempting to find a decent meal under 20 bucks was impossible. We even attempted to go to McDonalds as a last resort yet we discovered that a burger, fries and drink would cost well over 10 US dollars! We quickly nixed that plan, went to the supermarket and bought some roti (which is like big tater tots) and some roasted chicken for dinner. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip because the chicken was GREAT! It was coated in herbs and went really well with the roti! Not to mention that the whole meal, for both of us cost about 8-9 US dollars; much more practical!

Jet d'eau

Jet d'eau

Grindelwald, Switzerland
The next day we moved on to Grindelwald which is a tiny, picturesque town in Switzerland which is litteraly in a valley between bunchesof mountains. (On the way there, Laura and I could not help staring out the window of our train and acting like complete tourists by taking pictures every 2 seconds. I think the Swiss people on the train found us amusing.) I am pretty sure that Grindelwald is the most beautiful place I have been to. It is impossible not to be in complete awe when you arrive there since you are face to face with enormous mountains and our hostel had the most beautiful view of them. There is just something about looking out your window and seeing a mountain surrounded by little fields of sheep and cows that make you smile. We took a cable car part way up the mountain and did a bit of hiking. Our hike was cut short because the path was blocked off because of avalanche possibilities. We therefore took some pictures and began our 2 hour hike down the mountain. (It’s not like we were climbing over boulders to get down, there was a little path).The memory of walking down the mountain will forever stick with me. We walked down the little path, talking and listening to the wind chime like ping of the cow and sheep bells in the hills around us. The sun illuminated the houses and the other mountains facing us as we walked down and you could see in the distance paragliders gently floating down amidst the clouds.


Luzern, Switzerland
With aching legs from continuous hiking, we bid Au Revoir to Grindelwald (we were still in French speaking Switzerland) and took our next train to the city of Luzern. They did not speak French here and I was worried about not speaking much Germany, yet I think we only met one person who did not speak English. Luzern has an old style charm to it, yet it is a busy bustling city. We walked around Luzern for a while, taking pictures of the beautiful bridges and buildings, and then took a train to a nearby city to go up another mountain. Laura had heard that Mt. Pilatus had an amazing view of the cities below and was well worth the 30 minute train ride it took to get up the mountain. The problem was the day we decided to go, it happened to be extremely cloudy, so cloudy in fact that when we reached the top you could barely see the gift shop and hotel which sat atop the mountain. We were both really disappointed by this and the fact that it looked like we were in Antarctica instead of Switzerland. However we made the best of it by making a tiny snow man on top of the mountain and watching a man feed birds out of his hand when we were eating lunch.

Top of Mt. Pilatus

Top of Mt. Pilatus

Dying to know what happened in Germany and England? Take a look at Vacation blog 2!

Posted by jauntypag 14:56 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Veni, Vidi, Vichy

A Weekend Trip

sunny 4 °C

I thought this picture was quite funny.

This was my first real weekend in Roanne which was not filled with 5 hundred thousand errands! Friday night a group of assistants and some of the younger teachers from school all went out for a drink. Although it was quite a cold, rainy trip into the center of town to find the bar, it was nice once we got to it. When we sat down, the bartender gave us CD holders complete with CD’s. It turns out that the drink menu was printed on the CD and the CD cover. Kind of a cool idea. We stayed for a while just chatting about different things and enjoying the loud but good Latin music playing around us. I found it slightly odd that there were some children in the bar along with their parents. A little girl about 4 years old was dancing in the aisle of the bar as her dad sipped on his beer and teetered along with her. We decided to leave after a drunken French man in a rain coat came up to us and started babbling for about 10 minutes. After he left, I asked the three native French speakers whom I was with if they could tell me what he was saying. They had no idea. Apparently he was just babbling about nonsense and the music was too loud to understand what he was jabbering about. So we called it a night and went home.

Saturday night I went to a free play at the Theatre in Roanne with my roomie Siliva. The play was called “L’odyssee de l’espoir” or “the odyssey of hope”. Like most French theatre productions, the play was very deep and had a ton of symbolism, secretive meanings ect. I was proud that I could understand most of it. One of the cool things which they did is they did not have a normal backdrop for the play. Instead they somehow projected different kinds of paintings on to a blank white back drop. So as the actors were on stage, someone was actually painting the backdrop behind them. If they actors were in a park, there would be a bench on the stage and behind the bench you could see a projection of someone painting trees, bushes, birds ect. It was very interesting and considering it was free, the play was decently good. The theatre itself is great. It’s very old and has a ton of sculptures carved into the friezes of the balconies. It can only fit probably about 200 people max, but it has a very close, friendly type of feeling. Next time I go I will try to sneak in a camera and take some pictures.

Sunday I went to Vichy with Nastaja, the German assistant. We had heard that this town, which is about an hour from Roanne by train, had stores that were actually open on Sunday! When we first got off the train in Vichy we decided to find the office of tourism so we could get a map of the town. Now the smart thing to do would be to put the office of tourism by the train station, where the tourists actually arrive in Vichy. Yet instead, there are a bunch of signs saying “office de tourisme” pointing you, as we found out, in the wrong direction. We walked around for at least an hour trying to find it, but we got to see the town as we did. Vichy is quite pretty and has an amazing park smack dab in the middle of it. We eventually found the secret location of the office of toursime however it was closed. Very helpful to us tourists. So we wandered around town until the stores opened up at three. We did a bit of shopping along with the billions of other people there and I tried my best not to buy everything that I saw. After a couple of hours of shopping we bought sandwiches and ate them in the park. It was great to just sit and talk in the park on a slightly cold but lovely fall day! I definitely think I’ll be going back there at some point to do some more Sunday shopping.

Isn't it pretty?

And on to today…
Sad news: When I started teaching last week, one of the teachers told me that one of the students had cancer and was rarely in school. I found out today that she passed away last week. I was so startled when he told me this I think my mouth literally fell open. I never knew this girl, I never had the chance to meet her but I felt devastated for her family and classmates. The students I had in class never mentioned it and I avoided the girls name when I called roll. The teacher told me to avoid the subject of death that day in class…. And of course I had already prepared a lesson on Halloween. So I used that wonderful skill of improvisation, which I think is absolutely necessary to be a teacher, and I edited the lesson to exclude anything involving death and tombstones and such. To end this sad point on a happy note, the students LOVED the Halloween candy I gave them! I gave these students the chocolate candy that looks like eyeballs and are filled with peanut butter! They also were totally shocked by some of the Halloween pictures I used, so thanks to everyone for sending those pics to me!

I see my students absolutely everywhere which is kind of funny. They never know whether to say “hello” or “bonjour” to me, so they usually end up saying something like “bon… umm hello!” I think they find me kind of amusing like something you don’t see every day. I was in the lunch room today eating with another assistant when I heard someone call out my name. It was a group of guys from one of my classes all smiling and waving to me. I waved back and then noticed that I happened to recognize a ton of students at the table near mine! Most of them waved and said hi… then promptly turned to their friends and pointed me out as the English assistant. I now kind of understand how the lions at the circus feel. Everyone is excited to see them, but then they point them out to all of their other friends who ogle at them. Yet I think I need to get used to this experiences. Americans are not that common here, so for now I get to be the lion in the cage. Interesting experience….

More classes tomorrow, then makes crepes for dinner with the roomies! Can you smell the nutella? :)

One last picture of me in Vichy

Posted by jauntypag 13:02 Archived in France Tagged shopping Comments (0)

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