A Travellerspoint blog


I'm waiting..... still waiting......


Every time I introduce myself to a new group of students they have the chance to ask me questions about myself, the United States ect. In general I get the same questions over and over again; “Have you ever met a celebrity?”, “Have you been to L.A?”, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “Do you like French guys?”, “Do you like MacDonalds?”, “What do American people think of French people?”, and the most difficult one to answer, “what are the differences between The United States and France?” This last question causes me the most difficultly because there have been books written on this subject. To summarize all of the differences, even the main differences are quite difficult to explain. Of course the food is different, the language, the landscape, the government, the schools… and the list goes on. But it really makes me stop and think; Why is France (or maybe Europe in general) so different then the United States? I mean thanks to colombus most of our ancestors are from European decent, so why are the two contents so different?

One of the biggest differences I have noticed so far is the aspect of patience. In France it is absolutely necessary to be patient for a multitude of things. In the U.S we take often forget how nice it is to be able to go to the supermarket on a Sunday afternoon to get milk, peanut butter or any other random thing we can think of. Here, everything is closed on Sunday. So if you forget to buy toothpaste then you either need to hit up your neighbor for some or pray that you have some mouth wash hidden in your house. If you happen to want internet in your apartment you go and apply for it then wait a week to get a confirmation number in the mail. Then wait another couple of days for the company to accept the fact that you are paying them for internet, and they will send you another code you need to set up the internet. If the internet happens to not work, you need to walk to the store and talk to someone about it. They will probably tell you to try it again and come back in a couple of days. (And yes, this was an actually experience. We have had so many problems with the internet/phone/TV that the people at the store recognize us when we come in. we have been to the store ATLEAST 10 times in the past two weeks. I’m not exaggerating).

Although I have had to wait for things like internet, heat in my apartment, papers from the school, clothing to dry on the clothes line (no dryers here!) , and my correct schedule from the teachers, I believe I have dealt with it all pretty well. I feel like in America, if things are not the way we want them to right away, everyone freaks out. We don’t know what to do when the internet doesn’t work. We call the school and ask what is taking them so long if we don’t get the papers we need within a couple of days. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that I can go get a new pair of shoes last minute on a Sunday in the US, but in other ways, it is nice not to be stress out about the little unimportant things all the time.

Mindsets are a bit different here as well. The strenuous 35 hour work week in France is eased by the fact that many people have Wednesday afternoons off. This includes students. On Wednesday after the 12pm bell rings, everyone leaves the schools for the rest of the afternoon to do whatever they please. Why not have a break in the middle of the week? And why on earth would you give away free shopping bags at a grocery store? People can either pay 10 euro cents to buy one, or you can just help the environment and bring your own bag. Instead of coming home with 12 bags of groceries which end up taking up space in the back of your cabinet for the next 3 years, you buy what you are going to eat that week so it can all fit in your bag! I’m glad that the U.S is starting to adapt the “bring your own shopping bag” idea.It‘s much better for our environment and our wallets!

Aside from the insightful thoughts I’ve been having, things are starting to slow down a bit in Roanne. Most of the beginning paperwork hassle is done and I’m starting to feel more at home here. The other assistants and I are now trying to discover what there is to do in our little town of Roanne. This will be our goal for the weekend. Try to find something interesting to do in town, without running into our students… this will surely be a challenge!

Posted by jauntypag 13:22 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

An American,Two Mexicans and a French Guy Walk into a Bar...

My Weekend in Lyon


Lyon, one of the biggest cities in France which is known for it’s restaurants, beauty and constant events, is only an hour’s train ride away from my little town of Roanne. So instead of staying in Roanne for the weekend, my roommate Paty invited me to go to Lyon with her to stay with some of her friends for the weekend. Paty studied in Lyon for a year so she knows the city like a Michigander knows the snow and she has a ton of friends there which means free lodging! After our classes on Friday, we packed our bags, said goodbye to Siliva who had to stay in Roanne for meetings and ran to the train station to catch the next train.

Paty’s friends were working when we arrived in Lyon, thus we walked around a bit so Paty could show me the city. Simply put, Lyon is beautiful. It has the big city feeling (probably because it is a big city) but has an old style charm to it. The buildings are not new and have that European style façade which I adore. Balconys and brightly colored shutters with random clothes articles dot the sides of the Rhone which runs through the city. People are running around, busy with their lives, but still somehow find time to sit down for a café au lait on a little side street with a friend. In some ways I wish I had been an assistant there. Then I remember how little I am paying for my apartment, how friendly everyone is in Roanne and how amazing my roomies are which changes my opinion and makes me happy to be here! Anyway we walked around town a bit and took some pictures. We ended up wandering into this comic book shop that had the most amazing ceiling. The owner of the shop was a fabulous artist and covered the ceiling with characters which he drew. I asked him if I could take pictures, so I could share them with you all of course!

We also did a little bit of shopping in Lyon. We went to a mall to get hair straighteners and cheap towels which were impossible to find in Roanne. We also went to some of the small shops near La Place de Bellecoeur. The problem was ever time we walked into a store we would set off an alarm. We were immediately approached by security guards who checked our purses and bags. When they found nothing, they let us go. However one guard insisted that we take out everything in our bags. He was very friendly, but I had to dump out the entire contents of my overnight bag onto a table in the store. This was much more amusing then embarrassing because although we took out everything (my contact solution, underwear, makeup ect..) we could not find anything that would set off the alarm. He put everything through the alarm thing that you walk through and NOTHING set it off! So we put everything bag into my bag, laughed at the craziness of it all, did a bit of shopping and left. We never figured out what the heck set off the alarm… I guess it will always be a mystery.

After shopping and going over to Paty’s friend Ceclie’s house for dinner and a bit of a rest, we went over to another one of Paty’s friend’s house for a “soiree”. The soiree (aka party) was interesting because out of everyone there, I was the only one who did not speak Spanish. Of course most of the time everyone would speak English to me, but once in a while they would all switch back to Spanish. Of course I didn’t have a problem with this. I just sipped on my margarita and listened to the Mexican music playing in the background. Everyone there was incredibly friendly and nice to me. They spoke to me in French and helped me out if I stumbled over a word. I tried to speak a little bit of Spanish which Paty taught me on the train, but it’s a bit difficult to carry on a conversation when all you can say is “I am 23 years old” and “ my name is Amanda”. :)

At 12:15ish, Paty, me, Martin (the host of the party) and Sab (one of Martin’s friends who is an English teacher in Nice) headed out to go to a Latin bar that Martin really liked. This bar was pretty cool because it was a boat. Literally, the bar was a boat that was docked on the Rhone river. There were two dance floors playing different types of music and a LOT of people. You could look out the windows and see the water all around you and the glow of lights from the other side of the bank. We stayed for a bit and chatted. Sab told me how he studied Spanish in Mexico for two years (hence the reason he spoke it like a pro according to Paty) and how he liked being an English teacher in Nice. Turns out he knows exactly where I studied French in Nice! Go figure. We all hung out and after a while headed back to Martin’s place. Being in France, of course it was raining when we left. So we walked along the Rhone and stopped under a massive bridge to get out of the rain for a bit. You would think that the city would be deserted at night, but really it was the contrary. There were tons of people walking around, sitting by the river talking and waiting for the rain to stop under the bridge. The four of us chatted for a bit and eventually got on the subject of dancing. The guys really loved salsa and Sab ended up teaching me how to do this Salsa partner dance (forgot the name, I’ll have to ask Paty. ) Kind of like the cha cha but not exactly. I must say, it was kind of amusing to dance under a bridge, by the Rhone in the wee hours of the morning with a trilingual French guy! Martin taught Paty the dance and of course she picked it up immediately (She’s from Mexico, the rhythm is in her blood!) After the rain calmed down we went back to Martin’s place, had some interesting conversation about French, Spanish and English words/ idioms, and went to bed. (um p.s I love being around people who study languages. GREAT conversation!!)

Paty and I had a lot to do the next day so after about 5ish hours of sleep we got up and got going. Paty took me to see the basilica in Lyon which is AMAZING. Definitely the most amazing church I’ve ever been to. The detail in the ceiling and the mosaics around the church are incredible. And the church is the very first thing you see when you get off the metro stop which makes it even more breath taking. We also had a great view of Lyon from the church, which you can see at the begining of this post!

After forcing myself to stop staring at the magnificent view of Lyon we went back to Cecile’s place, had an AMAZING Moroccan chicken dish with fruit and rice and hung out for a bit. We spent the day there just talking and eating and talking some more and made it back to Roanne at about 8pm. It was pouring when we got back, but this gave Paty and me a chance to use our awesome umbrellas we bought in Lyon! Both of the umbrellas have French sayings on them. Mine says “les pieds dans l’eau , la tête dans les nuages” , which means « feet in the water, head in the clouds. » I think that fits me to a tee! Although our wonderful umbrella’s helped a bit we still got drenched from the 20 min walk. So once we got back we unpacked, took showers, ate dinner and went to bed.

Great weekend in Lyon, followed by a peaceful Sunday of hanging out with the other assistants. Looking forwards to another interesting week with my students!

Posted by jauntypag 15:00 Archived in France Comments (3)

Staccato Points

Just because i'm tired.

all seasons in one day

Soo tired after a long yet eventfull day, so I am going to do this blog in little bullet points.

~We finally got the internet at my place! So happy about it. Now i can use the net when ever i'd like, i can call home and as soon as Silvia's boyfriend brings the television, we can watch T.V! I'm kind of excited to watch some French shows!

~Our amazing weather disapeared yesterday and was replaced by a sudden down pour of rain. Apparently this is common here. I was of course out in the middle of town and got caught. So I had to run back to my apartment, change quickly out of my drenched clothes and run to my 5pm class!

~Yes, they sometimes have class here at 5 or 6 o'clock. It depends on the day and it depends on the student. I only have to teach one class at 5, one day a week so its not bad. My students were stunned when i said that most U.S schools get out by 3.

~ My schedule is pretty good. I mostly begin teaching at 9, have an average of 3ish classes a day, and have Weds off.

~Went to another of Olivier's classes the other day. He had me explain who I was and the students took notes. Then he said he was going to go get is brother from Wales, who was out in the hall way, and they had to tell his brother about me. So Olivier left and came back speaking with a Welsh accent. I was dying with laugher! and the students LOVED it, they were all raising their hands to tell him about me. The students are also going to create a news article about me and put it up on the schools website! I'll be sure to post that when it appears there!

~Paty made us "Mole" (pronounced Mole-eh) yesterday for dinner! She brought the Mole spices with her from Mexico and prepared food for us! So it was chicken, with rice and veggies and a spicy sauce poured on the top.

~ I need to think of an american meal to make for my roomies, suggestions? And don't you dare even begin to say hamburgers....

~I had a big meeting with all of the English assistants today in St. Etienne, a near by city. It was really cool to meet people from England, Ireland and other people from the states! It was an all day thing and they talked about teaching, things not to do, things to do ect. Also got to talk/have coffee with some BTS students. BTS students have received their diploma but are still going to school to finish some things up. So I wound up having coffee with 3 French guys and talking about the U.S and France. Kind of interesting.

~ Met some really nice people, gave them my email address then realized on the train back that it was the wrong addy. Good job Amanda!

~ Saw Blandine on the train so the 6 of us ( I went back to Roanne with 6 guys who are assistants there/ they are assistants in little towns by Roanne) so all of us sat on the train and talked a bit. LIstened to the New Zeland guys rap... kinda funny with their accent.

~Tottaly exhausted and apologize for the brevity of each point.

~ Most likely going to Lyon with Paty tommorow to go to a little Soiree her friend is having on Friday night. Then She is going to show me around town on Saturday!

Bonne Nuit tout le monde!

Posted by jauntypag 13:43 Archived in France Tagged educational Comments (1)

First day as an assistant!

the good, the bad and the akwards....


5 October 2009

I swear, once I get WiFi at my place, I never want to step foot in a MacDonald’s again. (Accept maybe for a McFlurry) This is the 4th time I’ve been here and I’m already sick of it! The things you must do to keep in touch!
Today was my first day of classes! The classes were pretty good; however the day did not start off very well. I completely forgot that one of the teachers asked me to come in and talk to her class today. Normally, I work with this teacher on Thursdays, however this Thursday I have a big meeting with the other English Assistants in a nearby town. So this teacher asked me to come in today instead of Thursday. The problem was she wrote this down on an old schedule. She later revised the schedule because she had made a mistake with the start times of some of the classes and she gave me a new copy. Not wanting to go to the wrong class at the wrong time, I saved the new schedule and tossed the old one. Simply put, I missed the class for a stupid reason. I went to the class for the last ten minutes and explained what happened. The teacher seemed to understand, but I still wrote her a little note apologizing to her. My roomie said that it isn’t a big deal, and that the teacher should have called me. Oh well, the past is the past. I just figure I’ll make it up by doing a lot of good stuff with her class!

I had two classes today. Both were “terminale”, which is the equivalent of 12th grade in the U.S. My first class was spilt up so I had a small group of about 12 girls. I talked to them a bit about me and told them about Michigan. They thought it was pretty cool that there was a huge bridge connecting the two parts of it and that we get so much snow in the winter that sometimes they have to close down the schools. I also played “two truths and a lie” with them. In case you’ve never played, this is how it goes. Each person thinks of three things about themselves. Two things are true, one is false. They then share the three things with the rest of the class and the class has to guess which is true and which is not. This game was a perfect way to 1) get the class talking since they were a bit shy and 2) check their level of English. The game worked really well and I think the students liked it. The one thing I had problems with was their names. Some of them have an English equivalent, but others are purely French and therefore difficult to pronounce. It is going to be difficult to remember their names since I will only see them every 2 weeks (next week I’ll have the other half of the class).

My second class was also terminale, but this group was way different. There were about 18 guys and 4 girls. Most of the guys were the rowdy, loud and talkative types who enjoy being the center of attention. This is both good and bad. Good because when their teacher told them to ask me questions about the United States and about me it took about 40 minutes to get through all of the questions. This is GREAT in a language classroom, because it forced them to speak English. Their teacher was thrilled that they were speaking so much and said that they are usually afraid to speak in English. I really hope that they will continue to speak with me! The bad part of this is that even when they were not asking questions they were still speaking to each other. I had to talk over the chit chatting sometimes. Other bad thing, being high school boys, of course they had to ask lots of personal questions like “how old are you?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “What do you think of French guys?” And “Will you go out and have a drink with me?” (Relax people, I said no of course!) Also understanding French, I could hear their reactions to each question, which again was both good and bad. I think I will like this group, however. If my goal is to get them to speak English, and they are a naturally talkative group then hopefully all will go well!
I also had the chance to help out with the school’s theatre class today! It was really nice to be back in a theatre class since I have not really participated in theatre since high school. Instead of simply choosing a play and having the students try out, the school hired a comedian to write a play for them! This way everyone who tries out gets a part. I think this is a great idea and I am interested to see how it works out. Today the comedian had them play some simple theatre games. I could understand most of what they said, but they all spoke so quickly that it was difficult sometimes. They played one improve game where two people had to go to the front of the room and sit in two chairs. One person had to point out something they had on (shoes, bracelet, scarf) and make up a story about it. Then the person next to them would ask them questions about it and soon after the rest of the class would join in.
Example: When it was her turn, one girl said, “Do you see these shoes? Michael Jackson gave them to me.” When asked why he gave them to her she said that Michael Jackson was her dad and that he gave them to her for her birthday. Of course when they said MJ’s name everyone turned to me. I guess since he was an American and I am an American that means we have something in common!
So day one went over pretty well in my opinion except for the very beginning.

If you Michigan people have nothing better to do, I would really appreciate it if you could send me some Michigan pictures! I do have some of them here, but it is difficult to explain what the landscape of MI is really like!
Four new classes tomorrow so we shall see how it goes.

p.s I can't wait until I can actually post pictures for you all! I got one to work though, here is a picture of my bedroom for you all!


Posted by jauntypag 11:43 Comments (3)

Our first weekend

04 October 2009

It’s official. I’ve been in Roanne for one full week! After all which has occurred, it is hard to believe that I have only been here one week. I just now have had time to sit down and realize the significance of this event. As most of you know, I’ve been planning this trip for a while now. I applied last winter, was accepted in the spring and spent the summer nervously preparing and anticipating the start of this trip. And now, here I am. Living, working and learning in France. Sometimes it still feels like I am going turn around and see someone I know from home, or hear someone shout something out in English, but that has yet to happen. It’s a very good feeling to know that I am actually doing this. Instead of just saying that I would like to, I really am. For me, this is a major accomplishment already.
Enough reflection; I know you are dying to know what an American girl does her first weekend in a little French city. Since all of us (Paty, Silvia and me) were a bit exhausted from adjusting to life in France and running around trying to do the half a million things we have to do to be assistants, we decided to sleep in on Saturday. After slowly waking up and eating breakfast we grabbed our cameras and walked around town. We have been extremely lucky and have had gorgeous weather here recently, so we decided to take advantage of that. We walked around town a bit and went down to the port to lie in the sun. We also went down to the banks of the Loire river, which runs through Roanne, to get a better look. It is crazy to me that I can be in the center of Roanne with tons of shops and restaurants and 10 minutes later I can be practically in the country side, dipping my fingers in the Loire. It is way better to actually see the Loire then just read about it in all of those French classes. We returned back to our place and made a HUGE meal of pasta with ham and corn, and a side dish which consisted of about 7 kinds of veggies. Really good meal with good company!

That evening, after Paty went off to see her boyfriend in a nearby town, a group of us went to see “Le Petit Nikolas” at the movie theater in town. Apparently going to the movies on a Saturday night is just as popular in France as it is in the U.S. Accept here you can buy beer and coffee to drink before the movie and it seems that most people dress up a bit more. But then again I always feel underdressed here. The French are just ingrained with this sense of fashion that I do not have. It kind of makes me feel like a schmuck walking around town next to them sometimes. Perhaps by the end of my stay here I will have acquired a bit of their style…. I hope. Anyways the movie was really good and I could understand more of it then I thought I could. The theatre was PACKED, and it was really interesting to me to listen to all of the French people around me. Parents telling their children to be quiet, couples whispering to each other, and watching people “faire la bise” when they ran into someone they knew. Not as many people had popcorn as in the states, but you can buy ice cream at movie theatres here which is pretty cool!

The sun again made a glorious appearance Sunday so Silvia and I decided to walk around to explore the parks and things since all of the stores are closed. In the U.S, if all of the stores, restaurants, pharmacies and supermarkets shut down for an entire day I believe everyone would go into hysterics and not know what to do with themselves. I can just hear it now “WHAT? I can’t get orange juice right now? None of the restaurants are open? What are we going to do? What am I suppose to do with myself??” Or perhaps they would just plunk themselves down in front of the T.V and watch reruns all day. In France, everyone goes to the parks or the pool or goes out to play sports. Much better in my opinon. Silvia and I walked all around Roanne and ended up walking to the city of Rigores to see the Chateau there. If I did not lose at least 2 pounds today from all the walking we did, I would be shocked. It seriously felt like my thighs were melting away or perhaps like I was a robot programmed to keep moving. We were both exhausted by the end of our day (we figured out that we walked around for about 4 hours straight). So we came home, ate left over’s and immediately both went to our rooms and fell asleep. We then spent the rest of the evening worrying about our first classes and preparing lessons because……

Tomorrow is our first official day as assistances! I’m just praying that all goes well and that my first lesson is a success. But then again it would be pretty hard to screw up introducing myself and telling the students about Michigan.

Posted by jauntypag 11:41 Comments (0)

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