Still feel like a foreigner

Teaching

Most of my classes are split into 2 or 3 groups, so I see each group every other week. So last week I still had some introduction classes where they could ask questions about me and the US. I did have 4 classes where the teacher wasn’t there and I was alone! It was scary and I learned the hard way what happens when you don’t have enough material to fill the whole hour (awkward silence). That only happened in one class where they weren’t particularly interested in me or the game I had planned. I quickly made up another activity to fill the time (they had to pretend to be someone famous and be interviewed by a classmate).

Luckily, I have some good ideas for this week. This week is the last week before our Toussaints vacation (for All Saints Day; we get two weeks off. People here traditionally visit graves of loved ones who have passed away and leave flowers and candles. According to Wikipedia, there are similar customs in Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and New Orleans!), so I am going to give Halloween-themed lessons all week! I am going to show them my favorite Halloween videos (Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin, Simpsons Halloween specials, the Headless Horseman one), have them write a scary story, and give out candy! I hope it gets them excited about English class!

So far, I have enjoyed teaching kids one on one more than teaching the whole class. It might just be because I don’t feel totally comfortable being in charge of the class yet.

One thing I find really interesting is that all religious symbols are banned in school – even head coverings or cross necklaces! Students are forced to remove them before they enter school property. In America, those students could sue the teachers, school, district, state, etc. for infringement of their rights. But here they have to comply. I suppose it does remove religion from the classroom and social life of the students by making everyone look the same, similar to having a school uniform. But what about freedom of expression?

Au Pair Work

This week was quite an adjustment. The kids and I are still getting used to each other, so we had some minor bumps. I get frustrated when I need to communicate something important to them (like “please hold the leash TIGHTER so that your puppy doesn’t get hit by a car!”) and can’t say it instantly in French. (Don’t worry, the dog didn’t get hit.) I still have times where they talk to me really fast, and I sit there staring. Although day by day I do notice that I can understand a few more words. Speaking is still really difficult, but I am still trying! I will not give up.

When Myrtille first went over her expectations of me, she gave me a strict schedule of snack, homework, play, shower, dinner. Surprise, surprise, sometimes they don’t want to do their homework, and I was having a tough time this week of getting them to cooperate. After I had a bit of an emotional breakdown, Myrtille and I communicated about it and it turned out that it wasn’t necessary for me to be as strict as I was trying to be. It’s more of a guideline, and if they are being difficult, we can just stop what we are doing and play! The #1 priority is that they have fun with me until she returns from work, and that I speak English to them sometimes. That will be much easier than having to discipline them and correct their homework myself. That whole misunderstanding was definitely a cultural difference, because the American mothers I have babysat for have been very uptight, leading me to be uptight with the kids as well!

Overall, it’s been good and we have fun together! We do art, play board games, dance, or go to the park. Gabrielle likes to play with my hair, touch my jewelry, and restyle my clothing. Edgar is a bit more shy but he likes to show off the English words he knows already! Myrtille bought a pumpkin so that we can carve it together. 🙂 I just can’t believe that I get free room and board just for hanging out with these kids!

Social Life

I have been making friends with other assistants and finally had time to hang out with a few people this weekend. Yesterday we used my 2 for 1 movie card to see The Artist, which I loved! I went to a club last night on a boat on the Seine, which was pretty cool. Today I got dinner with a British girl in St. Michel. This week I am looking forward to a French-English speaking night at a bar. You pay 10 euros and there are native English, Spanish, and French speakers, and I think they set a timer for 7 minutes, and you switch languages every time they ding the bell.

I love taking the metro and bus and walking everywhere. My next project will be to ride the public bikeshares they have everywhere – I am just nervous because French drivers are crazy! I am working up the courage! Every city should have this many options for getting around. I feel safe all the time (came back around 3 last night and I did not run into anyone sketchy), which is handy since I’m a woman traveling alone most of the time.

I am continuing to adjust to my new life here. I love it, but I am very homesick, especially for Mike and all my friends and family. I never realized how attached I was to all of you! My host family continues to be beyond wonderful – they bought me a nice little tv and hooked it up to the cable, and a new comforter for the colder weather! – and they are the perfect balance of supportive and friendly but not too nosy. When I go out at night, Myrtille asks me to write down where I am going and who I am with and leave it on my desk so that if I don’t come back she can look and find me! Knock on wood that she won’t ever have to! It’s really nice that she cares enough to do that. I keep hearing horror stories from other people who are here working as au pairs, and I continue to be really grateful that I am working for the best family ever!

Today we had hamburgers for lunch! They were delicious, although the ketchup here tastes different, and they love their meat rare. Unlike when I eat with my parents and force them to practically burn my meat, I politely eat what I am served here; I’m actually becoming accustomed to the rare meat. It’s growing on me! We also had avocado in our salad, and that was a nice reminder of home. 🙂

Next week I will post up pictures, but I want to give you a proper “tour” of Boulogne. Every day I try to snap some pics and I have to be very sneaky so people don’t know I am a tourist. I’m too tired right now to add the pictures, so sorry!

I have been receiving some nice emails from you – keep them coming! I love hearing about the happenings at home. 🙂

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