Last Monday and Tuesday, I taught at the Stage D’Anglais. I had 15 students all by myself. After a mere 90 minutes, I was already in tears. I had planned many, many activities to fill up the whole 6 hours with English conversation, however the students did not seem interested or excited. I had a hard time keeping them from breaking out into quick French chatter and keeping them focused on speaking English. At the break, I regrouped with the other teacher, who gave me advice and lesson ideas to last me until lunch, when we both frantically searched the internet for more activities. It was comforting to know that a teacher with 10+ years of experience was having just as hard of a time as I was!
By the end of the day, I had made some progress in getting the students to speak English, and filled up the time more easily. The next day was even easier, because we switched groups so I could repeat the lessons that had been successful. By the end, we had both lost quite a few students, so we combined our classes for the final hour. Imagine my surprise when the other teacher took over and the students suddenly participated enthusiastically – because she was speaking French! I had been following the rule of “no French” the whole time, and it turned out that the other teachers don’t follow that rule because if you do, the students can’t understand a word you say. Now it’s a vicious cycle, because the teachers baby them and speak French, thus causing the students to learn less English and therefore understand almost nothing that I say in English! The Stage D’Anglais was a good learning experience, but I am rethinking my idea of applying to Teach For America next year. We’ll see…
The kids were on vacation as well, so I spent all of Wednesday and Thursday watching them. Myrtille planned lots of fun activities for us so we could have an easier time bonding. I have to say, it was the most fun I’ve had with kids in awhile! It was also exhausting and I truly don’t know how men and women become parents and stay sane. I am very unsure if I can ever do it! Good thing I am only 22 and have plenty of time to decide. Now I COMPLETELY understand why my cousin Christi used to say over and over when she lived with us, “I’m never having kids!”
We carved a pumpkin, painted pictures, made chocolate chip cookies (Edgar was shocked at the amount of butter that went into the cookies! I tried to explain to him that croissants are definitely more buttery, but he didn’t believe me), rode bikes and scooters around town, went to a park, and saw Un Monstre a Paris – a delightful animated movie that reminded me of a Pixar movie in its style.
I was invited to a Poker Weekend with my friend Kelly, her French boyfriend, and 10 of his friends. They were celebrating the one year anniversary of their weekly poker night. I jumped at the opportunity to spend two days with French people. I was hoping to practice my French and experience a weekend away as the French do it, and I definitely got my wish.
I left my house at 7am, and we did not arrive at the grandparents house until 7pm, however the distance to the house was only about 2.5 hours from Paris. We took a leisurely route: Kelly and I met the driver of our car in a town north of Paris, then we proceeded to stop 7 times on the way to the south of France! If it had been a road trip with my friends at home, the goal would have been to get there as fast as possible. I have to admit, sometimes I was just itching to be there already! But at the same time, it was nice to relax and have no plan except the general idea of arriving at the house at some point.
-Our car was early, so we got coffee at a cafe in a small town (I mean SMALL, as in 200 people! It was bigger than the first town we stopped in that had no cafe at all!)
-We met up with the two other cars. Everyone greeted each other, passed around a bag of croissants, milled about. The group have been friends for years, so the whole weekend was sort of an excuse to just hang out.
-Picked up a latecomer at another train station.
-Stopped in a random town, looked at this beautiful chateau with a moat, ordered a bunch of pizzas and ate them in a park. When I described a pizza as “rich,” because it had egg, cream, and sausage all over it, I was told that it was weird for me to say that. I’m still not really sure why.
-Picked up a ton of groceries to make dinner (36 eggs for making crême brûlée, tons of cheese, wine, and bread, a huge thing of meat, milk, mushrooms, cups)
-Went for a two hour hike in some woods with a river, skipped rocks, looked at nature
-Finally, we were supposed to be getting there, but we made yet another stop for more cheese, wine, and bread, because the boys had decided we did not have enough of these extremely important elements of our meal.
It was so fabulous to drive through the French countryside. There was no rain, and all the trees were changing leaves and had the most brilliant fall colors. The landscape reminded me of a mixture of northern California, the parts with farmland and rolling fields, and Vermont in the fall. It was GORGEOUS. And it had that clean, crisp smell of the outdoors outside of the city. All the towns we stopped in were small and charming, with friendly people happy to point us in the right direction when we asked. I don’t have pictures of any of our stops, because I was so confused the whole time about whether we were staying for a long time or just making a quick stop, and my camera was buried deep in the trunk. I also have no idea what any names of the towns were, because I kept asking and no one really knew either.
Finally we arrived at the house. It was a beautiful little house in the middle of nowhere. The grandparents were great hosts, and we all made ourselves comfortable. A few of the guys cooked the meal and we sat down to eat it all together. The grandfather used to be a butcher, so he served us some pâté that he had made (I think from rabbit and chicken?). I was so scared to eat it, because honestly it looked and smelled like cat food, but I could not be rude so I tried it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it! Later I was also forced to try the mushrooms. At first I thought I liked it, so I took a serving, but then I realized the first piece I had eaten had actually been an onion! So, I still do not like mushrooms. 🙂
Because I had taken the big step of tasting two really gross things, I announced that everyone had to taste the pumpkin bars I brought with me. French people don’t eat citrouille, so only Kelly was excited. I did not take it personally, but just found it funny, because at an American party, everyone would have been stoked! They were all nice and accepted the little square of pumpkin bar I served. Everyone told me they liked it, but I don’t know if they really meant it or if they were just being polite. We finally got around to playing Texas Hold ‘Em sometime after midnight. I did alright, but eventually lost everything.
The next day we journeyed back home. We didn’t stop quite as many times, but we did have a leisurely lunch in a park, checked out a small food festival, and stopped for a drink at the only bar in town that was open on Sunday.
I love that most French people I meet are so polite, and this group was no exception. A guy insisted on sharing the last gulp of wine in a bottle of Gewurtztraminer I liked, because we went for it at the same time. An old bartender asked someone in our group what we were up to, and he happily chatted with him. A guy neatly sliced saucisson and fromage to display on a platter for the group (and I was scolded for snatching a slice of cheese before dinner). One girl made conversation with me in English and French when I was awkwardly sitting silently listening to rapid-fire French around me at dinner. When I went to the room upstairs where we all slept and couldn’t see anything, I stretched out on the floor to sleep. Kelly’s bf found me and made me move to the bed. Sure, some Americans would do these things as well, but it feels different here for some reason.
I have slowly become better at speaking and understanding French! I’ve been able to chat with people in stores, the waxing lady I go to, and this random woman on the street who I helped step over a puddle. I am so proud when they ask me where I am from! Some new French friends I made were very impressed with how much I could understand, and insist that I will be fluent by July. 🙂 So, I am slowly meeting one of my goals for the year!!! It’s so exciting!
Ok, I’m done. À bientôt!