Archive for October, 2009

This past week I have been in agony. I’m pretty much incapable of walking anywhere as my right foot is pretty douloureux.

After trying to rest for most of the week, which happens to be the week of half-term – GREAT :/,  I decided to go to the doctors. Yesterday I rang a number which I presumed to be the doctors only to find out I’d made an appointment for health insurance cue “puis j’annuler la rendez-vous s’il vous plait, j’ai fait une erreur”. Okay. Appointment cancelled. So I rang the correct place and asked if I could have an appointment with an English speaking doctor. Sorted. 10h45, vendredi matin.

I turned up to the doctors and after checking in at reception I sat in the waiting room for what didn’t seem all that long. The doctor came out a few times calling for, what I  thought sounded like, “madame wyse” – she just wasn’t there. Fancy that! Making an appointment and not turning up without cancelling! Then a few minutes later the receptionist came over and asked what my surname was, I told her and then spelt it out for her too and she explained that she’d taken it down wrong and the “madame wyse” that the doctor was calling for was actually me. O dear. What an error. I could hear mutters of “elle est anglais” from across the waiting room. YES I MIGHT BE ANGLAIS BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN I DON’T UNDERSTAND YOUR FRANÇAIS RAMBLINGS ABOUT FOREIGNERS.

Eventually I got seen by the doctor who was very nice and without even realising it I was describing my foot pain and explaining what I thought was the cause, all in French!!! I felt so proud of myself. I hadn’t prepared myself for this French speaking extravaganza – I simply imagined I’d stroll in and tell the doctor what was wrong with my foot in English and he would say “ee by gum that sounds reet bad, ‘ave some tablets” – but no. Fully French appointment; French explanation, French diagnosis, French prescription, French everything! I hobbled out of the doctors room feeling smug that the “fille anglais” just had a successful, fully French speaking doctors appointment. Paid at the receptions desk and then headed to the pharmacie.

Now I’m sat in bed, doing just as the doctor orderd. Resting my foot. “REPOSE” is what he said to me as I left his room, and that is what I shall do. I’m sad that I will be missing out on the Halloween weekend. I shan’t be going to Toulouse with people from my foyer like originally planned and I shan’t be going to the bar down the road for a Halloween knees up. I shall be sat in bed, with my foot on a pillow watching American and English films dubbed in French on my new little French television and making lesson plans.

Not the Toussaint that I imagined I’d be having but hey ho life goes on.


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Today started off really productive. Despite being the first weekday of the Toussaint holidays and the fact I was out last night, I was up and out by 11am. Finished my essay, filled out my erasmus forms and sent them all off. I received a knock on the door at about 2pm inviting me to Place Carnot for a coffee with some others and whilst we were sat a man strolled over and asked “Do you speak English?” We replied “yes” waiting for him to perhaps ask us a question, instead he said “You are bastards!” and strolled off again glaring at us over his shoulder.  If anyone has any ideas on why we may be bastards for being English in France then feel free to let me know!

This week I’m feeling a little bit more at home in my French surroundings. I’m feeling lucky to be able to stroll down to the bakery to get a fresh baguette or to nip into Marché plus for a bottle of €2 wine and some yummy cheese. It leads me to believe that it is when I’m put into situations where I feel under pressure or judged that I feel weak and that I need to leave the country asap.

On another note we get paid sometime soon. It may well be the most financially stable I’ve been in a long time. No overdraft in my French or English account, minimal money needed to pay rent, thanks to the amazing CAF. I’m looking forward to seeing the nice numbers on my online banking!

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How could I forget!? 15th October – 17th October. Fête du vin in Place Carnot, Carcassonne. Whilst being tiring, it was an amazing three nights. Live music, dancing dans les rues, talking to many people, feeling like a community and of course tasting lots of lovely French wine. It was all so nice and I’m glad that I went to each of the three nights.

A few of us at the Fête du Vin

A few of us at the Fête du Vin

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It’s been a while.

I had another meltdown. Yes, another, they’re unpredictable, unforeseen and unbelievably horrible. Feeling rubbish is one thing, but feeling rubbish in an unfamiliar surrounding is worse. Okay it could be argued that Carcassonne is no longer unfamiliar, I no longer need my maps to get around, I know the cool places to go and I am now, I’m sure you’re all pleased to know, fully aware of how the roads work. So why the meltdown? The answer is, I’ve no freaking clue.  Overwhelmed? Daunted? Stressed? Or just simply tired? Maybe all of the above. I find it hard to talk to people and tell them my true feelings, always have. However, in the early hours of the other morning, I managed to muster up the courage to send my mum a text telling her I was sad and unsure why. She rang me first thing the next day to help and together we figured out what was potentially bothering me. There’s a lot to do here, I’m not just an assistant who has only assistantly duties to attend to. I have university work and erasmus grant forms to try to do – on top of lesson plans and trying to keep my own little room clean, tidy and organised. My mum calmed me, organised me and sent me on my way – of course still feeling rubbish, it doesn’t just go away like that.

So now I’m still organised, feeling a tad happier and determined. Today was a journée d’entraînment (training day) so I had no school. Instead me, the other 4 Carcassonne primary assistants and the primary assistants from Narbonne sifted through teaching resources at the Inspection Academique and searched the web for useful lesson plans. Whilst I feel the day was useful I am still very much daunted by the teaching, maybe it will get better and give me more confidence? Or maybe it will remain the bane of my life for the next 6 and a half months? I guess we’ll see.

Ce soir we went to the cinema encore. This time the film (36 vues de pic Saint-Loup), whilst having a more bizarre storyline, was easier to understand. Okay the gist of the story was lost in some places but the French was much easier to understand and I felt a greater sense of achievement.

I also feel that, whilst I’m not necessarily showing it through the medium of my oral capacity, I’m getting better at French. I can form sentences perfectly in my head, it’s just the pressure of needing to answer quickly and also fear of being judged that makes my words come out not as they are in my head. Before the words come out of my mouth I can see them in my head, I can see the correct verb endings, the correct tenses, the correct words and idioms… but as soon as my mouth is open in even the slightest pressurised environment, it comes out a great big jumble of wrong. I think I need to work on that.

One last thing before I go and essayer de dormir; someone has been smoking in my little corridor thing. I noticed the smoke smell in other places in this building but never anywhere near my room.. now all I can smell in my room is smoke. If I can still smell it tomorrow I’m telling the landlady. I know I sound like a tattle but I’m finding it hard enough to live in France already without having second hand smoke pumped through my lungs unwillingly.

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I started writing the first of my 6 assignments, for the year abroad, the other day. The idea of this blog was to help me write my assignments but it just isn’t doing. I’m no good at reflection really, well, not in the way university wants me to reflect anyway. They are asking me to look back on my experiences so far, describe them and then how I overcame problems or came about having a good time. The thing is, I can’t write “well the way I overcame my problem was by having a complete mental breakdown, searching the Ryanair website for flights home and then being made to stay here as a result of no flights back.” That just is not what they’re looking for, and whilst I am enjoying myself right now I do feel that the only way, so far, I have found to overcome my problems is to meltdown and try to get out of the country. Failing to do that is what is keeping me here during hard times.

Anyway, the other day we had a nice evening out, which, in England it would have seemed relatively mundane. We headed for a pizza at a restaurant and then to the cinema. The fact that the cinema was a French cinema, with French films was what brings the excitement, rather than being an easy-to-do evening it was a cultural explosion. We watched a film called “Rien de personnel”, on leaving the cinema we appeared to have the gist of the film but would, in no way, be able to explain it in any depth, let alone to any cinematographic extent. A company was being evaluated, a rumour was stared, people tried to save their own skins – that’s it. When I got in and searched for the film on imdb it was summarised as this;

“A pharmaceutical company throws a gala party where all the employees from the top to the bottom are invited. Asked to participate in a role playing game which is actually a massive training simulation for the management team, rumors begin to circulate the the company may be acquired and everyone begins vying to save his or her own skin.”

Not far off with my gist thus encouraging thirst for more French films at the French cinema. I’m pretty sure Tuesday could become cinema night… especially with the acti-card(?) that we’re going to get – €1 movie tickets? Yes please!

Tomorrow I have the school that I dread the most. I’m prepared for the class that I take alone, this week. Halloween wordsearches, Halloween flashcards and a Halloween poem. I also intend on rewarding exceptional behaviour with British 1p and 2p coins. In theory, they should love me after tomorrow’s lesson. We’ll see! I have wine and a bottle opener just in case it goes not dissimilarly to last week!

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I only have 3 things to say and none of them are of any great importance, but I’m still going  to blog them, I’ll bullet point them I think.

I feel like I’m slowly becoming French. I’m being greeted with “coucou” and kisses on the cheeks are becoming more frequent (even despite the huge panic about grippe A (swine flu) in France), I’m hanging out at the same places as some of the teachers and I’m beginning to think of words in French before the English word comes to me!

I’m giving everything, but I’m not giving up! I can’t remember where I heard this phrase but I love it, very inspirational and motivational. I’ve wanted to pack this thing in so many times but I’m pushing myself, I will not give up, I’ll give everything but up!

Flashcards and classroom props. Making them is more fun than it should be, really.

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Yesterday, the first day at my third school. I wrote on my Twitter status previously “Should be good je pense.” How wrong one person can be!? Never have I ever been as stressed as I was yesterday. The first two lessons were a breeze, I was used as a sort of pronunciation prop and the children appeared to love me, one little girl in my youngest class told me I was “très jolie et anglais”, which, for all you none francophones, means “very lovely and English”.

As it slowly became time for the third class I was instilled with confidence and the teacher seemed lovely, greeting me with “coucou” rather than the traditional, and more formal “bonjour”. I was introduced to the class and then the teacher promptly told me she was talking half of the class for sport and I would have the other half for English, after dinner it would be swapsies. POW. There was the punch in the face I hadn’t been expecting. I tried to explain to her that this week was my observation week and that I hadn’t got anything planned as I have no idea of the level of the children… hence the observation. She then told me she speaks no English and that I would find something. “Allez y” she yells, and half the class jump up and head outside for sport, leaving me stood, racking my brains in front of 12 tough critics. I asked them if they knew numbers – they counted. I asked them if they knew the ’10 Little Indian Boys’ song – they sang. I asked them if they knew what this is *held up a pen* – they told me. Aaaaah what else do I do!?! With 30 mins of a 45 mins lesson still remaining. Okay, my failsafe, ‘Heads Shoulders Knees & Toes’ every French kid loves it…. not this class apparently. They stood up, did the song once and then all sat themselves down. “Assieds-toi” I mumbled to myself. I stood at the front nervously thinking of songs, rhymes, stories but none came to me. “I know you can count… but can you count backwards? 10 jusqu’a 1?” They all looked at me in anticipation of some horrendous song that I was going to force upon them. They were right. I made them all stand at the front, 10 of the children were green bottles, the other 2 children chose which of their friends were the bottle that would fall down. We played this a few times and then the bell rang and it was time for recreation. Wahooo. They all ran off to play in the yard and no doubt spread the word about the new, incompetant English assistant. I gathered my stuff up and rushed home to spend my dinner break researching games for the class that were playing sport.

When I returned and had the second half of the class the children were more inquisitive! Great, that wastes a good 10 minutes of the lesson! Then we played a team game. Boys versus girls, “what is this?” “a book” great girls get a point. However girls got chatty so bonus points were awarded to boys and the boys won in the end, after one little girl, obviously fed up of losing points to the boys, threatened to scotch tape another little girls mouth up. Okay. ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ time – they asked if I could do it fast because Roxanne knows a man who can do it so fast. “No, I can’t” I replied to which they laughed at me. There’s no way I’m standing in front of a class of sniggering 9 year olds doing H,s,k&t at a stupid speed to prove I’m better than the man that Roxanne knows. Simon says! “it’s the same as Jacques a dit” I promptly told them and they cheered. “Simon says touch your head….. touch your knee” The whole class touched their head….. and then touched their knee. Damn it, that’s that game over! ’10 Green bottles’ worked better in this half of the class than the previous half, they were fighting over who could be the selector and trying to out-sing each other. I had to separate 2 girls who kept talking, thus showing them they couldn’t mess with me and I think I gained the classes respect. Great recovery!

After that class was break time again, as I stood in the yard a small crowd gathered around me trying to impress me with their English skills “hello!!” “what’s your name?” One girl started to tell me about her dog in French “that’s great”, I replied, “what’s he called?”…… “he’s dead” she replied. O! :/ Saved by the bell. The children scatter to their lines and I wander to my next class, the teacher is nice and friendly, the children have more energy than I’ve ever seen. The class was slightly chaotic but the children were enjoying it so I guess that’s all that matters.

On my way home I called past the pâtisserie and indulged in a pastry, I deserved it, alright?! When I got in I got ready, ate my pastry and then headed to my friend’s room to exchange stories of our day and prepare ourself for the party in our accommodation. We headed down the stairs with our, Monoprix bought, cake and joined in the chatting with people of various different cultures and languages, making several new acquaintances, including my neighbour, who can in fact hear my singing occasionally. Damn it!

When I finally got into my bed that evening, after a quick visit to the Irish bar, I felt a relief wash over me that I don’t have to face that class for another week and that one of the most stressful days of my life so far was over. Jacques didn’t even have to dit me to go to sleep, as soon as my head hit the pillow I was gone.

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