30 November 2010

teh inter tubz

While being away from everyone is really difficult and I can't always get a hold of people at home, I have been so lucky to have Anthony. He's always there for me, to share my happiness over the most banal of things, and a shoulder to cry on. He has even been there when my umbrella attacked my thumbnail and I needed someone, at 8am his time, to distract me from the pain and kept me level headed. I try to keep a positive attitude, putting myself out there, talking to people the best I can and making the most of this experience. One of several times, but last night he listened to me vent and cry for over an hour about how I wasn't getting to talk to or meet people. He tried to remind me that things get better, and that things would. My response was that I was doing everything I possibly could and I was destined to live a sad and lonely existence for 5 more months and I should basically take a vow of silence and live in an abbey for the rest of the time. Perhaps slightly dramatic, but it really was how I was feeling.

And this is one of the few times I'll probably say it, so you want to bookmark this page or something, but he was right. Already today things were improving. Nelly, the housekeeper for the building, had been away last week and she's someone I usually talk to a lot. I was so happy to have her back and talked to her for about 15 minutes this morning, then coming back from lunch, one of the students Madame Mazurie had told me about, invited me to the weekly Wednesday night movies at the school (though I usually have choir then so we'll see how that works out), after that I had a funny conversation group, all lively and actually participating- and I hadn't even killed myself preparing that lesson, and finally, when I came back to my flat I talked with Huimin for a while about n'importe quoi.
Though there are days where I don't say much, and I could certainly be improving faster, I do speak French, and beyond joining groups or activities, it's putting myself out there in those little moments.

Which brings me to the internet. It's a blessing and a curse. I love that I get to talk to people from home- sometime over an hour each night ( i <3 skype), I can easily research different English activities, and it's all provide in the paltry sum of 80 euros a month rent. Other assistants are stuck with internet cafes, McDo's wifi and expensive set up plans, so I've definitely lucked out. It also means that when I'm feeling lazy I can watch multiple (aka way too many) seasons of Mad Men and procrastinate on lesson plans. Reflecting on Dakar life vs. Coutances, I realized how much I read in Dakar and how much I blogged, talked to people or just did something. I have an amazing opportunity to even just study French 30 min each day,talk to others, watch a movie in French or read a book, but most of that time is lost on the internet. I'm going to try to cut down on my internet hours. It's difficult, not because I love or need the internet so much, but just because it's easy. It's easy to watch stupid youtube videos and get lost for 3 hours in it. What a waste. So, while I'm still working out the kinks, I'm going to try to hopefully keep my computer off for a good portion of the day, perhaps an email check in the morning and an hour or so at night. But like all resolutions, we'll see how long this one lasts....

Update 1 dec 2010 21h: So far a major fail, but I'm going to keep at it.

28 November 2010

Better late than never!

It's 10pm and I still need to finish lesson plans for classes at 8 and 9am tomorrow! Among other things that have not been finished- talking to great people was definitely worth it- but still, another late night and postponed blog entries :(

+ 29 Nov 2010 10pm Thankgiving entry up, but backdated as 11/27
+ 29 Nov 2010 10pm Cherbourg entry up, but backdated as 11/21

27 November 2010


I was pretty bummed out about not getting to celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day- I had been wasn't expecting that feeling to hit me, especially since I knew I had the Saturday celebration to look forward to. In any case, I did get to celebrate, just a few days later, but with fantastic food and new friends.

Michelle is an assistant (as all of us at the Thanksgiving are) living in Ouistreham. It's the port city, just north of Caen where some of the ferries from England come out. Michelle finished her Peace Corps assignment in Benin this August, so she has been used to doing Thanksgivings abroad and scrounging together other Americans. Michelle also has a huge apartment and loves to cook, and to top it all off, is an awesome cook. Her stuffing (sorry to whoever makes the stuffing in my family) absolutely the best I've had. It had sausage, walnuts and apples- simply amazing. She also made the turkey and a pumpkin pie. It was pot luck style for other dishes- I brought cranberry sauce, cider and apple pie. With all of us and the food it was awesome. Great people, food and conversation. I stayed overnight, because between trains and buses it would have been a quick trip otherwise, and so did Lydia, an assistant in Carentan.

While it wasn't the insane proportions of food in Dakar, or in the Kzoo caf (with some of the greatest people I know) it certainly made France feel more like home.

26 November 2010

Dear France

Dear OFII (Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration),

Thank you so much for letting me change my first medical visit appointment. It was kind of silly of you to put it in the middle of the Toussaint vacation so that was cool of you to say you would just send me a new date.

However, since it's been over a month since a first called, and I've called each week in November asking when I would receive my new date, and you keep saying next week, and yet I still receive nothing, so this is getting kind of ridiculous and I'm sick of it.

On Monday, when I call yet again, can you please not be on vacation and can you please actually send me the papers this time?


Dear Internet Provider of Lycee Lebrun,

I am actually quite thankful you exist, and that I realize have a pretty good internet situation, especially compared to other people. But that really made my Thanksgiving Day, having the internet crap out for absolutely no reason at 7 pm to 9 am this morning. Even better was that I didn't have any phone credit so I could call anyone back. Or look up thanksgiving recipes I needed online. That plus the whelks that the Frenchies kept trying to get me to eat at lunch really just added to the overall spirit of the day. Who wants to talk to family and friends on Thanksgiving anyway? It's much more fun to have spaghetti for dinner again.

Can't wait until next time!

25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

From a student who speaks English much better than he pays attention:

"Zee Macy's Zanksgiving parade is when zee president kills the turkey at the end, oui?"

And if that wasn't enough fun, pretty much the grossest Thanksgiving joke ever:

Farting Your Guts Out

Bob and Martha have been married for 15 years. Every morning for 15 years, Bob wakes up, farts loudly, rolls over onto his back and gets up for work.

Every morning for 15 years, Martha says, "One of these days, you're gonna fart your guts out!"

One Thanksgiving morning, Martha's preparing the turkey and gets an idea. Before her husband gets up, she creeps upstairs and places the turkey innards in his pajama bottoms, giggling to herself.

Well, later that morning, Bob wakes up and goes through his morning ritual. He screams as he goes running into the bathroom. Martha laughs, but is concerned after noticing that Bob has been in the bathroom for 3 hours.

She runs upstairs, and is about to knock on the door, when Bob opens up, pale as a ghost. He says, "You were right. You were right. I did fart my guts out, but by the grace of God and these two fingers I got them back up there again."

21 November 2010

Cité de la Mer- Cherbourg

On Sunday I made a trip to Cherbourg to visit Cité de la Mer. Cité de la Mer is the tallest (deepest?) aquarium in Europe and some cool exhibits. It's definitely geared towards children but it's fun all the same. We drove up there in the grey morning, which was a nice change from the train. After getting our tickets we first took the tour with audio guide of the submarine. IT'S HUGE! I can't imagine living in that confined space and not seeing the light of day for several months with 135 other people.
I couldn't even fit the whole thing in one photo!

We finished the audio guides just in time to head over to the “attraction.” We weren't really sure what this entailed, but it turned out to be ok. Basically there's this whole back story they've created about how our groups is going to be exploring the next frontier, the bottom of the sea. They made you go through these different “training modules” which are pretty hilariously stupid and then go “on the voyage” in one of those flight simulator type things. After that you are sat down to watch a video of the news conference announcing the epic trip to the world. They piece into the video small snippets from the “training modules” that we had just done to actually have us on the “news conference.” Overall, cute, not super impressive, but like most things there, probably a lot cooler if I was 10.

Meike and I then headed over to the main attraction, the aquarium. The aquarium was 2 stories high and you could look at it from three different levels. At the very bottom you could look up to the top giving a little mermaid effect to it.

"Look at this stuff, isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection's complete? "

There were all kinds of cool fish swimming around with different designs and bright colors. They also had some specialty type small tanks with other fish in them and a large touch tank with sting rays and shark-type looking things. They looked like they were hungry for fingers, ready to jump out of the tank and there was no museum guide or anything so Meike and I kept our distance from that one.

Les poissons de confiture. Ok, the french for jellyfish is actually "la méduse" but I like my name a lot better.

Because of our timing and skipping some of the younger interactive sections, our trip to Cherbourg was pretty short. Nothing is open on Sunday, so we headed back soon after leaving the museum. A fun day out to try something new!

Time Management

I'm clearly not in college anymore. I will probably have to stay up until about 2/2h30 to get everything finished and I'm about to call that a "late night." Granted France is lacking in a 24h "Dairy Mart" to buy 69 cent sodas, snacks and RedBull, so everything is just topsy-turvy.

Updates on my weekend to hopefully come tomorrow!

18 November 2010

The Sun!

A beautiful sunset from the other night
And the 10 day weather forecast

I'm off to go catch the last bit of vitamin D available for today!

17 November 2010

Thanksgiving Lessons

I don't have much planned yet, but if you google "Thanksgiving ESL" in only a few clicks you will be led to a powerpoint entitled "How to deep fry a turkey"

Tomorrow's Vocab list:
Food baby
Turkey Coma
Mystery Relative

Useful phrases:
Pass to the right
Pass to the left
No! I said it's always counter clockwise!
Where's the wine?
Is the game on?

Traced hand Turkeys
Defining "salad"
What are you thankful for?

I love cultural exchanges!

Update: In case for some reason you don't know what a cherpumple is:


Don't worry if you think I'm lonely here cause I've always got one friend around.....

meet my really cool friend by clicking here!

15 November 2010

French TV

I was watching "N'obublie pas les paroles" (Don't forget the lyrics) and apparently the contestant was in the army. He didn't know the final words, so he wanted to walk away with the money he already had (and was actually guaranteed). A reasonably amusing show, but made so much better by what he said:

"You know, I'm a soldier. And like a good soldier, I know when to give up."

Bahahahahahahahahhahaah HA HAHAH AHHHAHAHAHAHA!

I love when french stereotypes are true.


The weather has improved now that it's time for me to get back to work! Luckily 3 of my 5 classes today were canceled (Workshop in St. Lo and Parent-Teacher conferences)

I much prefer this view...... to the one I had for the last 4 days

13 November 2010

Rain- again

This is the third day of heavy rains we've been having. This means that it's also quite miserable to go out and get anything done. I've not exactly been put in high spirits from it.

And I lost my umbrella.

10 November 2010

Dear France

Dear France,
Thank you for exceeding my expectations in number of baguettes being carried and stripey shirts worn. Your ability to perfectly extend strikes until the next vacation is something I'd like to to teach Americans. The number of cigarettes smoked is remarkable and quite possibly belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records. However, I have been quiet disappointed in your lack of berets and expect this to be improved upon. Also, as colder months come, I'll probably start wearing one. I don't care if only old Normandy Fisherman wear them, I'm bringing it back, deal with it.
Merci Beaucoup (beau cul).

07 November 2010

Lessons, Bikes, Beers, Swim and Movies

This “week” has gone pretty well. I guess week is an over exaggeration, I only had class Thursday because there was only a half week of classes and I don't work Wednesdays or Fridays. Thursday was my best day of classes since arriving. For once, I had something planned- mostly Halloween related since the strike meant we never got to do anything with it. The first class of the day I hadn't even met yet between A/B weeks, tests, orientations and strikes. I had half the class at a time but by myself. I introduced myself and then had them make pairs, introduce themselves to each other and then come up in front of the class and present their partner to everyone. This worked out quite well which was rather satisfying. My second class of the day I had them think of Halloween vocabulary and then they had ot think of a Halloween costume, describe it and turn it into a guessing game. For example a student might say “I have a long black dress, green skin and I have a black cat. (I am heavier than a duck but I float) What am I?” “You're a witch!” This went pretty well, and a favorite of mine was “I am white, have no head and dogs like me. I'm a skeleton!”

My last class of the day was a little bit of a flop, but it was ok. It was with the “terminales”- supposedly one of my highest classes. I has short scary stories that make your skin crawl. I would read them them the stories 2 sentences at a time and have them summarize them so they could follow and so they were speaking. I don't know if it was the usual being scared to speak, a lack of comprehension or a total lack of interest but most of it was met with blank stares. The plus side was that at least I had something for them to do for 30 min and I wasn't there staring at my phone (no clocks in the classrooms- what?!) wishing time to move faster.

Friday I had a lot going on. I met up with Meike (the german assistant). We hung out in the garden while the weather held and parted ways when the sun started heading down. That night David, my mentor, and I met up to head out on a mission. A friend of a friend of a friend apparently had many bikes and could lend both me and Huimin one for the year! We met at the school and headed over the other professor (it was his friend) to a town about 20 minutes away. When we got there the friend wasn't home, but his wife was. When she opened the bike shed, I realized that “a few extra bikes” was an understatement. She said her husband had about 45 bikes! She pulled out an old fashioned step through bicycle for me and a smaller one for Huimin (she was in Caen for the day and couldn't come). There wasn't really an area to try it out, as it was a grass lawn and soft dirt road and it's really a road bike. All the same I'm excited about my improved mobility. I need to get a bike lock and a tire pump as I realized the tires are a little soft when I got back to the school. The bike makes me a little nervous as I need to both back pedal and use the handbrake to 100% percent stop, especially on these Coutances hills, but I'm sure it will work out. At 8pm I met up with Vika for the first time. She's here from Belarus working with the AVRIL Association which is an environmental organization that does lots of exchanges throughout Europe. It was actually my first time heading to a bar in Coutances as many seems like they have a sign out front that says “Old Men Only. Please Leave.” “The 3 Pillars” actually had younger people and had a rock band starting up as we left- a little much for a place about the size of our dining room in Ridgewood. Vika is starting to learn French while she's here, lives out at the “College Agricole,” doesn't have roommates, and her internet isn't set up yet. Needless to say, she's been a little isolated since getting here. All of her coworkers sound really nice and have been welcoming so far though. It was nice to be able to chat in English, though now I'm kind of in the habit as thinking of any time I speak in English as a bit of a lesson (though her English is excellent).

Saturday I went to Leclerc, the French equivalent to Meijer or something between a super Target and A&P with Meike (she has a car). Taking advantage of this car situation I bought all the potatoes, onions, soda, cider and beer I might need for a while. It actually wasn't that much but I still had to do 2 trips up to my 5th floor walk up.

Later I had swim practice, which I was late to- oops. Nothing of particular excitement, just got in the water and did laps. I almost always mishear the directions so I basically just pick a person and follow whatever they do, though sometimes they stop and take breaks and my system falls apart.

In a little bit I'm heading to the movies with Meike, we're seeing “Alpha and Omega” a kid's movie, but also something we're hoping we can understand. It's my first time seeing a movie in France, so we'll see if the movie theatre floor is a gross as in the states.

Also, I'm supposed to be working on this project “Le Concours Lechaptois” named after an old English professor at the school. They hold a recitation competition each year and the participants can win a weekend to England. I need to come up with some readings that they can do- any recommendations? Kate, I'm sure you have some favorites from your CMU days? So far I've been thinking about Barack Obama's “Yes, We Can” speech, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” an excerpt from “War of the Worlds” and that's about all I've got. I have time to think of more, but I'm stuck. There's no particular parameters... at lest I haven't been told any, but basically anything goes, though 2 person dialogues are the best.

That's all for now, and I'll try to get those updates for Zurich and Milan up soonish!

01 November 2010

Last shall come first

+Recap for Geneva is up
+Recap for Lucerne is up

So I'm doing things a little backwards with this. I had a great time in Geneva, Luzern, Zurich and Milan. Some of you might realize that this is a few days short of my original plans, and that there are some cities missing. That's because I came home early. Yup, I canceled the last 4 days of my trip and came back early. It felt pretty out of character of me. I love to travel, but I really wasn't enjoying the trip to the fullest. There were a few reasons I came home; the trip was more expensive than expected, I thought I would like the off the cuff plan we had- but it proved to be stressful rather than care free but most of all I was homesick.

Perhaps if I had been with an old friend who knew me well I could have been alright, but all I could think about was how much I wanted to be in Coutances or the States either with the people I love or at lest the ability to skype/ talk to them. There was no point in going to Rome if I couldn't see the Coliseum because of tears blurring my vision.

So in anycase, I left from Milan and took a night train back to Paris on the 30th and got in by 4h30 pm to Coutances (still some strikes). I was beaming the whole way home, happy to be heading back. I haven't done much since I've gotten back- between Sunday and All Saint's Day most things have been closed, but it's been perfect.

Below is my recap for Geneva, with Luzern, Zurich and Milan coming as soon as I can- enjoy!