Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bonjour from Lyon!

After my series of unfortunate events, I arrived at my youth hostel without any hiccups! Disregarding, of course, the fact that they wouldn't let me check in for another six hours. Which naturally led to me passing out on a table in the common area... Which naturally left me with bloodshot eyes & looking like a vampire. But after a shower (I had to hold down the button any time I wanted water... welcome back to France!) & nap, I was good to go. Especially since I was meeting up with Nathan, a Furman grad who helped teach my very first French class at Furman, & his girlfriend Betsy. Despite the strike, they came to pick me up at my hostel! We walked down into vieux (old) Lyon for dinner. It was great! Not only to be met with friendly faces & helpful hints on dealing with the French bureaucracy, but to be reunited with French cuisine! So big thanks to Nathan & Betsy for a lovely first evening in Lyon!

A lot of people staying at this hostel are fellow teaching assistants & others are backpacking around Europe. While the facilities leave something to be desired, the view & the company make up for it in leaps & bounds. And look at the little friend I made while I was on the computer last night. Just crawled right into my lap! I do apologize, I took this photo using my iPhone. But the pictures I've take around Lyon are on my camera & the chords are still buried in the aforementioned luggage room of doom.

Today I wandered around the city with Jill, another assistant. After picking up some Starbucks (they only have them in Paris & Lyon, so we're getting it while we can!), we went to one of my favorite fountains in Lyon only to find that it sits directly across from the Musée des Beaux-Arts. We went inside hoping to get some sort of discount for being under 25, but the sign said you needed an actual student card. No matter! They said proof of our age was sufficient enough & we got in for free!! Monet & Renoir were not on the agenda, but quite the welcome surprise! Then we trekked off to get my carte 12-25, a sort of youth card that gives you massive discounts on train tickets for a year. A few things got lost in translation at the train station, but I walked out with my carte 12-25 & my first discounted train ticket. I bought one for Villefranche-sur-Saône for tomorrow morning, the halfway point between Lyon & Trévoux. From there I will take the bus & finally be in Trévoux!

After the train station, we bumped into something quite shocking... Rollerblading. Roller-bladers swarming la place Bellecour (the largest square in Lyon). It was all very 90s. All sorts of races, competitions, & a dancing Ronald McDonald... it was really random! And not quite the French culture we were looking for. So we took ourselves down to the Sunday market lining the shores of the Saône. Everything from the food to the flowers seemed to be the most beautiful thing I ever laid eyes on! There is nothing like a French market & it was one sweet reunion. Spending 5 euros on a baguette & grapes (French bread & grapes are the best!), we ate it on the steps of a cathedral. France... It's good to be back!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"This is the hard part."

That's what she said! Well, that's what my mom said anyway! Funniness aside, truer words were never spoken. While she said this to me mid-breakdown last night, let me share how it's applicable now...

Allow me to set the scene for you... I am sitting in a hotel. Not a plane. A seasoned traveler, I have never had so much trouble flying in. my. entire. life. If we were playing "Never Have I Ever," I would be forced to admit that I have now cried in an airport. Think less choking-back-tears-as you-hug-your-family-goodbye kind of crying & more the-ticketing-lady-just-ripped-my-passport-&-won't-let-me-on-my-flight-to-Lyon-because-my-flight-was-delayed. That was the cherry on top of what had already been an 'icing on the cake' kind of day at the Atlanta airport (at the risk of this turning into a rant, I'll spare you the gory details). But then getting to my hotel in New York, the wheels of my suitcase literally got stuck between the train & the platform! Luckily I had a handy-dandy policeman help me out in perfect movie timing fashion. Oh! And did I mention there's a transportation strike that just started in Lyon? Like I told my mom... this is the part in the movie where everything that could possibly go wrong for the character is. And you feel really bad laughing, but can't really help it. So, by all means, feel free to laugh.

But even if I had made my intended flight, there is still a lot up in the air. And it's a very intimidating spot to be in. I know I'll be fine once I actually get to Trévoux. But getting there, like everything else, proves to be a challenge. I won't lie... I have cried a lot today. But at the same time, I have to think about something else my mom told me (granted, for an entirely different situation). The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason. All I can do right now is hold my chin up & look forward. And there is a lot to look forward to in this program. I think I'm on the verge of something truly defining...

Friday, September 18, 2009

the luck of the draw

"Once upon a time, in a far away land..." my mom took me to see Beauty & the Beast. At the ripe age of 4 I heard "bonjour" for the very first time & was instantly mesmerized. Fast forward to my freshman year of high school & I was faced with the dilemma of choosing between French, German, or Spanish. While French seemed rather impractical, I couldn't help taking the setting of a certain film into serious consideration. That & my dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower ;) But it wasn't until my French major whisked me away to Versailles for a study abroad program that I truly began falling head over heels for all things French. The language, the culture, the food, the silly questions about whether or not I had been thrown in jail... I loved it all!

It wasn't long before I was applying for the French Embassy's Assistantship Program. As a teaching assistant, I would have the opportunity to share my language & culture in a French school for 7-9 months. It was a no brainer! The only question was... where? I will not sugar coat my bad behavior for you. I was a complete & total wreck. The list of where I didn't want to go was virtually non-existent &, thus, unhelpful. So after driving myself & everyone around me insane with the pros & cons of every académie (academic council) in France, I broke down & threw the name of each one I liked into a bag. Sans blague (no kidding)! Drawing out Lyon, I wrote it down as my first choice on my application, & sent it away before I could change my mind again. Lyon was a popular first choice among the applicants, so I was genuinely surprised when my acceptance letter said I got it.

One more hellish wait later & I finally received my Arrêté de Nomination aka placement letter. I will be teaching English to high schoolers at Lycée du Val de Saône for 7 months in Trévoux! A charming town of about 6,000, it is nestled in the Beaujolais hills next to the Saône River. I am absolutely thrilled with my placement! But I can't help noticing the irony of being placed in a town reminiscent of Belle's "poor provincial town." Now more than ever, it is unbelievable how much of an influence this opening sequence has had on my life...