Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

What do Eminem and I have in common?

Um, well…we’re back. And, I suppose, that at times I can be a bit shady, and that once upon a time, I was slim.

These last few weeks have been incredibly crazy. Between having the Brit over for Christmas, heading up for some gallivanting in London, and then having more friends than I have fingers bustling about for a week or so after, I barely had time to finish my scholarship applications, much less blog! But…all that is now a safe distance away, and after a cozy Saturday curled up in bed with a few movies as the rain tapped on my (still-paper-snowflake-covered) window, I was ready to hit the town.  And so I did, in a manner of speaking.

Jim Haynes is the type of person with whom you feel immediately comfortable. And it’s not just the twinkle in his eye and his rosy cheeks that lend him a Santa Clause-y air: the evening he offers is a veritable gift for those able to attend. An apron wrapped around his torso, seated on a wooden stool and notebook in hand, he shook our hands with smile peeking out from below his mustache.

A bit of background info: Aussie called me with some info on an underground dining adventure, one of those “best kept secret” deals, dinner chez Jim. Every Sunday for the last 30 years, Jim has hosted thousands of strangers, people unknown to him, and to the rest of his guests. Over glasses of wine, bottles of beer and a delicious three-course meal prepared by Jim and his friends, strangers become acquaintances, and in some cases, much more.

Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to meet (among others): an architect from Sydney, an interior designer from Charlotte, NC, a communications consultant from Mexico, a geo-physicist from Italy, and an immunology student from China. Dinner consisted of a potato salad appetizer, followed by boeuf bourguignon, green beans and mashed potatoes, and an apple crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert. If you wanted seconds, they were up for grabs – in both the food and the alcohol department.  Plenty of interesting conversation and delicious food, all for a small donation (small by Parisian standards, that is).

The evening was a great way to break out of my hermit-ing (understandable, after three weeks of continuous travel), and I can’t wait to go back!

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Filed under: All things French, Around the world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Big weekend: a multi-national play in four parts.

The last few days have set a wonderful tone to what promises to be a memorable holiday season, in spite of the weather-related train and plane frustrations.  It all started Friday evening, when an Italian student of mine asked me to join him and his friends on an excursion to a Jazz concert…

Act I: The Italian Lesson

Technically, there were two Americans, one French woman, and five Italians present, but since the latter outnumber the former two, we’re giving them Act I.  In any case, it was truly a lesson in the differences between French, Italian and American ways of life.

First, tempo.  Tempo when walking, that is. Americans, I find, tend to be the speediest bipeds I’ve met, especially those from NYC. But even Virginian walkers will lap a Frenchman every so often.  Parisians come second in the speed-walking contest and Italians…well, they’re so leisurely in their pace the tortoise lapped them not once, but thrice.

Second, expatriates. I asked one of the Italians his thoughts on living in Paris, versus his time in Italy. One thing he noted, that many texts on French culture will support, is that the French aren’t exactly friendly.  It takes a while to squeeze yourself into a French friend-circle, and even then, things like swinging by the Jones’ on your way home aren’t done: you really should call and schedule that visit.

Third, jazz! The band was apparently part Italian, and the concert was in the 10th (right around the corner from the Indian district) and we ate Turkish food right before, so it was a right multi-cultural experience. The guitar player looked like Bret (from Flight of the Conchords) and the other American and I couldn’t help but snicker every time we caught a glimpse of his shaggy hair. The music itself was smooth, enjoyable, a bit of flute, some sax, percussion, and a mellow bass.

We ended the night with a stop at Rue Mouffetard, for some mulled wine and late night conversation at La Contrescarpe, whose cozy decor didn’t quite match the thumping techno music played over the speakers.

Act II: The French Lesson

On Saturday I took some time to visit another museum, le Petit Palais, which was built for the 1900 world fair and is the little sibling of the better-known Grand Palais. The latter gets to host big events like the Paris Fashion Week.  The former houses a small but nice collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts, has impressive architecture itself, and is free, to everyone.

After wandering through the collection for an hour or so, I took some time to sketch (as I promised I would try and do more often).

Detail from the entry dome at the Petit Palais.

View of its famous spiral stair from below.

That evening, I went to see a movie with one of my French students, in French.  I’d been complaining about how little French I actually spoke, since most of my courses were English courses and my friends were all Americans…and that I wanted to go see a French film but was worried I wouldn’t understand a thing! So she suggested we go together and discuss the movie over a drink, which is exactly what we did.  After a bit of window shopping along the Champs-Elysées  (window shopping because I’m not sure I can afford to spend €200, also known as 1/4 my paycheck, on a 3″x4″ LV wallet), I met her at the UGC Charles V. We then wandered through the Christmas markets, grabbed a cup of vin chaud (to keep both our insides and our shivering fingers warm), and caught a glimpse of the light show at the Eiffel tower.

The film is about a young boy, Oscar, who has terminal cancer. The "dame rose" is the only woman with whom he agrees to speak during his last week. Yes, it's a sad movie. Yes, I teared up (more than once). And yes, I understood most of it, even without subtitles (though when they spoke really fast, it was from visual clues, and a slowed-down replay in my own mind).

Act III: The American Lesson

Yesterday, a Tech classmate of mine who’s doing the same program as I am, but teaching near Bordeaux, came up to Paris. She had a flight back to the US this morning, so last evening the two of us met up with another American friend of hers, wandered around the Latin Quarter, did some window shopping, and had a generally good time comparing notes on living in France, being American (i.e. not French) and general sillyness. I had my first fondue in France, both cheese and meat, and my first raclette, and chased that down with a delicious crêpe nutella banane and a mug of caramel tea.  We dropped my friend back at her hotel which was a bit closer to the airport – and that meant taking the RER B. Like usual, there were issues with the train, we had a random train-change because of technical errors, but made it to the hotel and back just fine.

Encore: The French Lesson, Reprised.

This afternoon I had an incredible pasta lunch at Pizza Positano, near Odéon, with a French girl I know from studying at Fontainebleau.  We then wandered around the Marais, catching up on our adventures and ducking into an architectural exhibition or two, and making me faire travailler (work on) my French.  It turned out to be a 4-hour French-only conversation, the most French I’ve spoken in one-go since getting here.  I was pretty tired by the end of it all.

As a side note, we were tempted by a free taster at Starbucks, and wound up going in and ordering the real thing – whoever comes up with their lattes is an incredible genius: drinking a noisette caramel (hazelnut caramel) latte is getting pretty close to heaven.

Filed under: All things French, Close to home, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m renting from Kanye West.

The French are very protective of their language. Discussing the phonetic nuances of u versus ou seems to be a Parisian sport. Strangers have no qualms about correcting your incorrect grammar, and waiters refuse to serve you une café, because it’s un café. All this I knew.  But my dear landlady takes correction to a Kanye West extreme. Cases in point:

1. “That’s a good lookin’ sandwich an’ all, but y’all know that Beyoncé’s sandwich skills is better.” This one takes place barely a week into my French experience. I had been running errands all day and got home, starving. So I pulled out my demi baguette and proceeded to make myself a delicious foot-long cucumber and brie sandwich.  Which, apparently, included far too many carbs. I was instructed to remove all the sandwich filling ingredients, place them in a bowl, return one half of my baguette to the fridge and eat the bread and salad separately. She stayed to watch me do it.

2. “Hey, you makin’ your bed? Dontchu know Beyoncé can make it better?” Yes, I was making my bed, and apparently doing it incorrectly.  So sometimes, when it’s not too cold, I sleep on top of the comforter and only use the light cover. Because, you know, I don’t want to die of sweat in the middle of the night (ew, what a way to go).  But apparently, one must always use the flat sheet.  Moreover, there is a proper way to make the bed, so that entering it and placing yourself under said flat sheet at night is easy.  Never would I have known…

3. “Is 50 degrees ou’side: Beyoncé would wear a sweater.” Little did I know that moving to France meant losing the ability to dress myself.  Not only was I treated to a lecture on it “no longer being summer” and that if I continued to dress so skimpily (skimpily, as in leggings, jeans, shirt, scarf and jacket) I would catch a cold, but when I returned from my room (after putting on a sweater), she checked to make sure I really had put one on.  I felt like I was three again. But Mommy, I really did brush my teeth!

Filed under: All things French, Close to home, , , , , , ,

Chuck Norris doesn’t fear Death. Death fears Chuck Norris.

Continuing in the tradition of class cancellations, six of my twelve hours of teaching this week never took place, either because teachers needed the students to take tests, or because the teachers were sick.  This means I spent a lot of time sitting at a computer typing away at my graduate application essays: 3 out of 5 essays are nearing completion, and my deadline is a month away! I’ve never been so far ahead of schedule.

None of my seconde classes were canceled, however.  That meant I could still go ahead with my carefully planned out class schedule.  This week we went over another idiomatic expression (“thick as thieves,” or “copains comme cochons“).  But the pièce de résistance was my social-networking experiment: the Facebook Classroom.

I had been getting several of those chain emails with attachments like “What if God had Twitter?” and “Isaac Newton’s Facebook Page,” which is where this all started. But we’d been told to stay away from religious themes in class, and I wasn’t sure how many of my kids were nerdy enough to be entertained by Newton’s hypothetical profile (unlike my friends, who I’m sure would be ROTFL.  Please note that the last word in that sentence was written with only sarcastic intentions). So I found something I was sure they’d all find funny:

Luke, Vader wants to add you as a son on "Family Connections." Accept? Ignore?

Some of the classes thought it was funny.  That’s better than nothing.  One class, when asked if they thought it was a funny joke, said, “No, because it’s childish.” I retorted, “Too bad! ‘Cuz we’re doing one just like it!” And in the end, it was the doing that brought them to the dark side…

So here’s what I asked them to do:

  • Pick a well-known Anglophone figure: celebrity / politician / actor / musician / fictional character / etc.
  • Pretend to be the character and fill out a Facebook profile.
  • Make friends: requests are made in person.  If you accept, leave your new friend a message on the wall. If you decline, let the asker know why.
  • Share your profile with the class.

The writing, they didn’t like so much. But making fun of the guy that didn’t understand the “pretending to be the character” bit of the instructions, and wound up playing Eva Longoria because “she’s so sexy” – with another dude playing Tony Parker? That, they liked.  I’m now going to share with you the fruits of this labor: excerpts from my students’ Facebook profiles that had me laughing out loud while riding home on the metro.  Also, note: all errors are my students’ doing…I actually do know how to speak English.

Numero uno: Chuck Norris. Sex? Male God. Relationship Status? He don’t need it. Hometown? The world is mine.

"Chuck Norris don't need music, he create the music. You can't hit Chuck Norris. He is the champion of Karaté. Chuck Norris is Walker Texas Ranger and he hit peoples with his feet. No one can write on the wall of Chuck Norris, or he will kill you. The friends of Chuck Norris are who he want. Chuck Norris decide your life."

This charming student, when asked to describe Chuck Norris and share his profile responded with: “If I said who Chuck Norris is, Chuck Norris will kill you.” If this had been a competition, this kid wins.

The rest:

"I am a Rich Man and a Popular Person, I have a wife but I forgot her name. I live in America, everywhere because I'm RICH."

David Beckham. Relationship Status? "Married with Victoria, it's complicated because David go playin Milan AC in Italian, in January."

"My name is Wentworth Miller and I have 34 years old. I'm just registered in Facebook and I want to be your friend :D. I'm the celebrate characters in the serie Prison Break: Michael Scofield. I hope to find love in Facebook or other because I'm alone :("

"Queen Elizabeth II. She likes Jazz and classical music. Movies / TV? Inspecteur Derrick and Barnaby. Activities: she sleeps."

As for Eva Longoria and Tony Parker? Well, Tony wrote on Eva’s wall. “I love you Babe. XD”

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Like two piece in an iPod.

Before I left for England a few weeks ago, I decided to ambitiously quasi-plan the remaining 19 weeks of teaching to which I would have to return in early November.  Those of you counting, that means I only teach for a total of 21 weeks in 7 months. One of the pros of working for the French is, in fact, not working. Anyway, my planning had me scheduled to play a few ‘getting to know you’ games with my secondes (sophomores), since they knew a bit of my past and interests, and I knew nothing of theirs.  In my usual super-planner way, I wrote everything out, divided the class into minutes and then discovered that I can, in fact, think on my feet in class.

One of the teachers at our orientation mentioned she went over an idiomatic expression every week with her students. One of my teachers at school mentioned playing pictionary with idiomatic expressions in class.  I decided to combine the two: every week, I’ll go over a new expression, and in April I will hand them out a list which we’ll use to play a Idiomatic Expression Pictionary game.  Last week’s expression was “like two peas in a pod.”  In an effort to get them to speak English, I had the class devine (guess) what the expression could possibly mean. And, boy, was that entertaining:

  • “Madame, ees eet becos oo are alone becos zere are only two?”
  • “Madame, whot ees a pod? Ees like iPod?”
  • “Madame, ees peas half?”
  • “Madame, ees becos oo are a lot of peepol in a smol place?”
  • And finally, “Madame, ees becos oo are same?”

For your reference, the French equivalent, which my kids were quick to offer up, is “Ils se ressemblent comme deux gouttes d’eau.” They’re like two drops of water.  Oh, and a pod is une cosse.

That was supposed to be a five minute exercise, but 15 minutes later we arrived at the translation, and had to move on to the next jeu: I know someone who…

This is the game where everyone stands in a circle, one person gets in the middle and says something like, “I know someone who is wearing red shoes,” and then everyone wearing red shoes has to change places. Well, it took forever to explain the game, but once it got going, I think they enjoyed the opportunity to horse around a bit.  Getting them to sit back down became the hard part. Having a sentence structure already given to them didn’t seem to help them construct a sentence correctly, though.  After several “I know someone who is shoes/brown hair/sister” statements, I made them repeat and get help until they got the sentence structure right, by which point everyone was itching to switch places and chaos ensued.

But the last game was definitely a favorite with the classes: Who am I? I asked the students to write down one or two names of celebrities on a piece of paper and collected them all. Then a volunteer came up, picked a name at random and covered his or her eyes. I wrote the name on the board so the other students could see, and then erased it.  The volunteer had to ask questions to discover their “identity.”  Once they did, they picked the next victim, er, volunteer.

I was quite impressed with the range of celebrity names I got from the students…everything from Beyoncé to JFK.  Here are  a few names for your entertainment:

  • Characters: Hulk, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Iron man, James Bond
  • Actors: Brad Pitte (sic), Tom Cruise, Eva Longoria, Georges (sic) Clooney, Orlando Bloom, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Vin Diesel
  • Musicians: Janis Joplin, Beyoncé,  Billie Joe Armstrong
  • Politicians: George W. Bush, JFK
  • Authors: J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer
  • Other: E.T.

One of the more entertaining question-answer sessions came with Billie Joe Armstrong, which resulted in the class not really knowing who it was and offering suggestions like, “The jazz guy,” then, “No, the man on the moon,” followed by, “You’re wrong, it’s the Tour de France winner.”  Turns out, he’s the lead singer from Green Day. Even I didn’t know that, and I like Green Day.

One thing I learned after my first week of teaching in October was to plan more than you think you’ll need, because sometimes an exercise goes faster than planned.  That didn’t really happen this past week, but having extra things to do meant I could skip over bits if I felt the kids were being too rowdy or if it looked like it was boring them.  Three 15 minute activities, or four-five 10 minute activities seem to get the best response.  American doctors might take a look at some of my classes and shout ADD.  I think that kids today are so used to getting immediate response and cycling through multiple sources of entertainment thanks to the internet (for example, going through 40 YouTube videos in an hour, each with a different topic), that as a teacher you have to be on your toes.  Youreally are competing against internet-based instant-information in an entertaining presentation.  If you want to win, you’ve got to be more fun.

This week’s theme is Facebook, and today’s 3PM class is my first set of guinea pigs.  Let’s see how Darth Vader fares.  That last sentence will make more sense later this week, so I guess you’ll just have to come back for the punch line!

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Who chases after a convict?

Granted, The Tall One isn’t really a convict, and also, granted, the fellow couldn’t know that, but do you seriously think, as a drunk/high, short, black dude, that you’re going to get three American ladies to your “very big house” in Paris at 11PM on a Monday night?

Ok, rewind.

It was a calm and totally un-stormy night.  There are whispers – no, ardent shouts – of a grève tomorrow, and even though that means I have to be  up at 5:30AM tomorrow, I decided to join The Tall One and The Accomplice on a night on the town.  Well, when our attempts to go to a Scottish pub and watch a game over a pint were thwarted, we wandered down Rue St. Denis and ended up at a very nice café by the Pompidou Center (whose plaza, incidentally, is where I was almost peed-on by a drunkard two summers ago…).

This was a good decision, at first. The waiter was very nice, we shared a pot (not quite a bottle) of Brouilly, a nice, smooth red that is slightly swishy and has a bit of a tang (like my fancy wine vocab, there?), une carafe d’eau (order this at a French restaurant if you want free water, not the pricey Evian stuff) and some jaunty conversation.  An hour or so later, the waiter comes around asking us to pay the addition he had so kindly left at our table and not so subtly attempting to usher us out the door.  Well, The Accomplice still had half a glass to drink, and we weren’t done talking about song playing in the background, so we lingered.

Bad decision.

Cue: drunk dude who speaks “a small” English.  Who plops himself down in the empty chair beside me, and proceeds to tell us about his “big house” that he shares with his sister, and how we’re welcome to accompany him back to stay in his four bedrooms.  At first, we entertained ourselves by listening to The Tall One regale him with tales of her convict life in America, where she killed a man and now has no choice but to stay in Paris.  And then we decided to get lost.

But we couldn’t. Because this Don Juan was a persistent little bugger.

We exited the café and turned the corner, with our friend in pursuit.  For a drunk guy, he sure was quick. I thought, at first, he was several meters behind us, but before we knew it, he was grabbing The Accomplice’s bum and The Tall One was sprinting off ahead with my stumpy legs in pursuit. The whole time, this guy is blathering on in broken English.  By this point, we’re running (well, run-walking, that awkward skip-step you take, when you’re not sure if you want to be sprinting just yet) down a relatively-major street, I’m wondering how much Karate I remember from my 3rd-grade classes and why I don’t carry pepper spray, when The Accomplice yelps, “Get into a bar!”

We duck into the first one we find, and good thing – it turned out to house some really swell guys.  Slamming the door in our pursuer’s face (as well as a swinging glass door can be slammed), we huddled by the bar, our hearts thumping and our awkward entrance gathering curious looks from the locals we seem to have interrupted.  The drunk fellow leaned on the swinging door and promptly fell to the floor, face-down, on what was probably marble. It would have been funny if I wasn’t so scared.

One gentleman took a look out the door. “Is he with you?” he asked in French.  “Non.” We shook our heads vehemently. He stepped outside with his friend and I assume had a bit of a talking to with the dude, but I was a bit too terrified to notice what he was saying.  In any case, he bought us some time and we slipped out a side-door, shouting our “Merci beaucoup!” as we sprinted to the nearest Metro stop.

In the relative safety of the underground (relative because there are definitely some creeps wandering the Metro at night), we had a giggle about our near-something experience. I know city-living is something to get used to, and man was this something. Lest I have scared you potential Paris visitors, I’ll have you know that I still absolutely adore this city, and I suppose you must take these shenanigans in stride. At the very least, it makes for an entertaining blog entry.

Speaking of, I, for one, am curious to see how this eventful night appears on The Tall One’s blog. I also find it interesting that this occurs the week I choose to discuss Halloween with my kids at school.  Now I have a real-life creepy story to share…

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bitches and beaches, ohms and homes.

Now, for something a bit more lighthearted.

Today was my first day at the Lycée Charles le Chauve in Roissy-en-Brie.  I met, for the first time, the instructor with whom I have been corresponding via email all summer. He introduced me to several of the English faculty, and they were all very inviting, très gentils. Many of them are quite young, and the dress code seems fairly casual – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a school where teachers wore baggy jeans and sweaters but the students wore leggings and leather vests, as is à la mode these days.  I suppose it’s because we’re living on a teacher’s salary…and they’re living on Mom and Dad’s.

I sat in on two courses to observe student-teacher interaction and the students’ level of English. My first course was a group of secondes (sophomores), who were a bit shy only because they weren’t sure about their English.  Once we got talking about places they wanted to visit and the current image of Barack Obama, there were several raised hands in class.  It’s a good thing I voted Democrat, as I think I might have been boo’ed out the room had I not!  After an interesting experience with lunch in the cantine (um, I think those were potatoes?), I sat in on a group of premières (juniors), who were better in terms of English-level, but more hesitant to ask questions.  They went around introducing themselves…and as the professor laughingly mentioned, we gathered that they were all between 15 and 17, lived in one of three neighboring towns, and liked sports.

Before coming to France I perused several ex-pat blogs and the online writings of assistants who had completed this program before. One of the more entertaining bits of these shared experiences is the funny way French students of English tend to pronounce our language. They have a habit, for example, of adding “h” where there isn’t one, and dropping “h” where there is. One of the girls today asked about ‘omes in America.

By far, the most funny (for us Anglophones, certainly, but perhaps not for the teacher in the course) is the difficulty students face in pronouncing the long “i” sound, as in “pieces” or, as it happened in class today, “beaches.” We were talking about reasons the kids liked their favorite country and one boy spoke up, “Well, it has good music and girls.” Another nodded in agreement, “Yes, ze girls and ze bitches.” That led to an entertaining discussion about the difference between “bitches” and “beaches,” where the teacher tactfully avoided stating the explicit meaning of the former word (offering up “female dog” instead) and a brief lesson on prononciation.

A last anecdote, one that shocked me more than the events on the RER this morning, actually. We were discussing detective novels in one of the courses, as the students are reading an excerpt from an Agatha Christie book.  The professor asked, “What’s the one detective story you’ve all read?”

The class answered in chorus, “Ten Little Niggers.”

Now, I use that word only because it’s in the actual title of the book, but let me tell you, to hear it come from the mouths of twenty-some teenagers all at once was quite a shock.  Apparently, it’s the original British title to the Agatha Christie book, And Then There Were None – a book that popularized the rhyme we normally refer to as “10 Little Indians” and a book the kids all read (in French) because their former principal insisted upon it. As an aside, the actual rhyme seems to be titled “10 Little Injuns” in its original form, reworked to the Christie title by Frank Green in 1869, then back to the form we know in the 1940s when the Christie book was published in the United States.

All in a day’s work, I suppose. I should be getting my actual schedule soon – the teacher coordinating it actually asked if I wanted a four-day weekend. I said that would be ideal.

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , ,

LDAH: Long distance apartment-hunting.

It’s harder than a long distance relationship, let me tell ya.

The very second I found out I was going to be teaching right outside of Paris I started scouring the internets for places to stay in the city.  Last summer, when I interned in DC, my only regret was not staying closer to the city.  I stayed in Reston with some family friends, which was fantastic, but it meant that I had to be home by a certain time so that I didn’t miss the last bus (yay public transportation!).  So this time, I’m going to do the reverse.  I’m teaching in a small town outside of Paris, and since I’m only teaching 12 hours a week, I figure I’ll want to spend most of my time in the city anyway, so I’m going to try to look for a place in the city that’s within my budget.

So that’s the first problem: budget.  As my maternal unit can attest to (and as she more often than not mentions) I’ve led a rather cushy life.  My parents have paid for pretty much everything so far when it came to my education, which included tuition, supplies, room and board, etc.  I’ve spent my pocket money (comprised of the random cash I’ve earned from freelancing and savings from summer jobs) on travel and fun stuff (i.e. movies, dinners out with friends, etc.).  Now, not only am I out on my own for the first time, I’m out on my own in a foreign country!

Anyone can tell you that a teacher’s salary is nothing to brag about.  I’m not even going to be a full-time teacher: so I guess you could say that my salary is something to shove under the couch cushions and never mention. But I’m going to say it anyway – I’ll barely be making enough to sustain myself.  We get paid €950 per month, which after taxes is €750 a month.  A small studette in Paris (a tiny room 9 m2 with a mini-kitchen, a sink and a shower – not necessarily a WC) costs between €350 and €550 on average.  The nice thing is, because I get paid such a paltry sum, the government wants to help me! If I fill out a whole bunch of paperwork (here’s that word again), I can apply for an aide du logement through CAF, basically, welfare.  But the amount of money I get back is based on the type of place I’m renting (size, furnished/not, etc.), its cost, my income and the income of my roommates, if any.  And the predictor online is a) hard to understand and b) not very accurate.

And then there’s the whole bit about looking for a place that’s a couple thousand miles away.  I may not have apartment-hunted before, but even I know that you shouldn’t sign on for a place if you haven’t seen it.  And odds are, the French landlord won’t rent it out unless they’ve got proof I’m paying: I’ve been told I’ll need a garant, or co-signer, on some places (but not on others…which ones don’t need one I have no idea).

And if that’s not enough, I have to decide what kind of place I want to stay in: a studette? a studio (slightly larger than the former)? an apartment with a couple of roommates? rent a room from a family? a foyer (dorm-room-esque)?  One of my friends who did the whole teach-English-in-France gig a while back said I should make a decision quick, so that I can narrow my search.  I’m thinking my order of preference is as follows:

  1. A room with a family. This will hopefully allow me to better my French.  And I’d be happy to give English lessons to the kids or baby-sit for a night or two in exchange for a reduced rental rate.
  2. An apartment with roommates.  If they’re French roommates, it’d be nice to improve my French.  However, there are a couple of American assistant(e)s that will be living in Paris, so that would work as well.
  3. A room in a foyer.  I hear it’s the cheapest, and gets you the most money back on your aide du logement. And ideally, I won’t be spending much time in my room that isn’t spent on sleeping or cooking a quick meal, because I’ll be out exploring!

I suppose the best I can do from the US is ask around if anyone is renting a room, and work via references (that way I don’t get a super sketch landlord and a shoddy apartment that I’m sharing with Ratatouille and his family – though come to think of it, if the critter wants to cook me a pasta dinner, I wouldn’t protest) – and maybe check out the foyer.  But I’m hesitant to book an apartment without seeing it, or meeting my potential roomates.

Filed under: All things French, Close to home, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roissy-en-Brie and gay Par-ee

Mairie de Roissy-en-Brie

Mairie de Roissy-en-Brie

After a long drought of communication (read, since April), my inbox is now filled with emails from the French Embassy and their compatriots on the other side of the pond.  This is a good thing.

I now know that I will be teaching 15-18 year-olds at the Lycée Charles le Chauve in Roissy-en-Brie, a town 30 minutes from Gare du Nord in Paris, from October 1st until April 30th.

I, of course, as an information-searching nut, went online and scoured the internet for any dirt I could gather on Roissy-en-Brie and the lycée, as soon as I received the email.  And here’s what I learnt learned:  Roissy-en-Brie is a lot like Fontainebleau, minus the château. So it’s pretty, and close to Paris, and has outdoorsy things to do like hunt in the woods by following dirt trails and trees marked with street names, and quaint downtown streets with cafés that charge an arm for 3 boules de glace.

The lycée‘s website gave a bit of insight into the titular Charles, but was not as forthcoming with information about the English program.  It seems, however, that they have a fantastic music program, and it might be nice to get back into some piano playing – perhaps I can learn some contemporary American pop pieces to share with the class.

Speaking of the class, I’m slightly terrified of teaching 15-18 year olds. I mean, I’m turning 22 in October, so that makes me what…4 years older than the oldest and 7 years older than the youngest of the bunch? How much did I respect the young-ish teachers when I was in high school? Well, I do recall wondering if they knew what they were doing (*cough* and harboring crushes on the younger male teachers *cough*)…do *I* know what I’m doing?

I’ve tutored kids before, and TA’d 2 university-level courses, even come up with lectures for both and led discussions…I suppose it shouldn’t be too difficult to translate that for a high-school audience, since the students I was working with at uni were 18-20-year-olds. I read (in my pursuit of all things France-and-teaching-related) that it helps to set your foot down at the beginning of class: only English in the classroom, no disrespect, strict grader, etc., etc. Which makes sense – once a push-over, always a push-over.  And that shouldn’t be too difficult for me anyway, as I tend to expect a lot of other people, mostly because I expect a lot of myself.  I think deep down I want to be that tough professor that everyone hates and loves at the same time.  Some of my best professors have really made me work for their approval (hmm, there might be some psychology to this worth exploring), and didn’t Colton say that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery?

Anyway, it seems the easy part is over: I got the gig.  Now I just have to get my visa, book my flight, figure out health insurance, get travelers insurance, find a second job, get a French bank account, fill out more paperwork, get a French cellphone and find some place to stay.  Oh, and breathe.

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