Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the view from the top

Now we're in Nice and Nice is nice! It's hot, it's busy, I finally got to download Michael Bublé's new album, it's all great! Yesterday we checked into our hostel, Villa Saint Exupéry. The night before we tacked on an extra day to our stay here because the train tickets to Grenoble were too pricey. There was a bit of confusion, but in the end the Aussie staff gave us a 4 bedroom room with its own bathroom for the price of a 14 bedroom dorm! We were thrilled! This is the friendliest hostel staff I have ever encountered and the vibe here is really great. And our balcony has an ocean view!

This morning we walked around the fruit and flower market before catching our first glimpse of the beach. Then we climbed up to the chateau for some breathtaking views of the city and the sea:

Then, of course, our stomachs started talking and we went back into the colorful city. We just wandered around the streets- which, I have to say, are at once beautiful and gritty- until we found lunch in a cute square. After that we went to get gelato. I decided to stray from my usual and go for something a bit bizarre... cactus! It was surprisingly good! A hike to the Chagall and Matisse museums (both of which were closed... oops!) a few hours later left us hungry again. So now we've got the makings for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches! This is budget travel at its finest! Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I really DO love France!

It has taken a trip to the South of France to rediscover this, but at least I have! Toussaint vacation has begun and I'm with my friends Brita, Margaret, and Sarah in Aix-en-Provence! It's warm, I'm in good company, the markets are amazing (please note the macaroons- I had orange chocolate & pistachio)... I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I'm so happy!" today! Yea!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

the search begins

This week I found out that my French credit card was ready to be picked up in town. So yesterday I braved the rain to make the long walk over there. Naturally when I finally got to Banque Populaire, they were all on a very extensive lunch break. I decided to pass the time by initiating a very important mission that is very near and dear to my heart: the search for the best pain au chocolat in town.

In the past this discovery was always a happy accident. But my current surroundings call for a veritable quest. I feel I can call it this because of the long walk I have to take into town. So I went to the boulangerie that is the farthest away. And it’s a good thing I did because it turns out they have a special deal with 4 for €1.80! This is a no brainer when one alone is 80 centimes! Yum! I had a good laugh eating one while listening to “Dirty Old Town” by The Pogues. After picking up my credit card, I trotted across the street to another boulangerie. I mean, why not? They didn’t have a special deal and their pain au chocolat was a lot crispier (but still good- it’s impossible for the French to screw these up). So so far, the first one is in the lead for tastiest and best bargain!

These shenanigans might seem a bit ridiculous, but I need something to preoccupy myself with! So if you have any other missions for me that can help me cling to my sanity, I’m all ears! In the meantime, I’m going to eat another pain au chocolat :)

P.S. Speaking of quests, I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring last night. It's been ages since I've seen it aka 5 years ago my friends and I decided to watch all 3 in one day. I don't recommend doing that! Anyway... obsession reborn! I am just blown away by that film and J.R.R. Tolkien's brilliant mind! And Legolas is so lovely!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

of family, vampires, & nuns

This past weekend I had the great privilege of another visit from my parents in Lyon. It was fantastic! Full of great views from the basilique on top of the hill, Roman ruins, my parents sleeping in like seasoned 18 years olds, & lots of yummy food. Which, of course, entailed a trip to the Sunday market. My mom really wanted some cheese to smear on the superfluous amounts of bread we were buying and free samples led us to one particularly chatty vendor. It turns out he sells cheese at Trévoux’s Saturday market. Talk about a small world (especially when Trévoux is concerned)!

Speaking of how small this town is… Upon my arrival here, immediately struck by its ‘petite’ size and the extent to which I didn’t fit in, I randomly thought, ‘It’s like I’m Bella in Twilight.’ The irony is that some of my classes are actually reading this book for school. I couldn’t believe it (vampires!), but I was thrilled. So yesterday all of these classes came up with scripts for the first chapter. Then they placed signs around the room for the different places Bella goes to on her first day of school. And then, much to their horror, we filmed the end result! This was compared with the movie version, which I had brought with me. Some of these classes even had me play the main character. So it turns out, I actually am the resident Bella in Trévoux. Does this mean there’s an Edward in my future? Answer: yes!

Yesterday also consisted of a series of near meltdowns. It was just one of those days where the smallest hiccup made me feel like the sky was falling. Particularly concerning a very fast approaching Toussaint. It’s hard to believe that as of this Friday I will already be getting a 2 week break. I have done both everything and nothing, so this trip to the south of France with 3 of my friends who are also living here is much needed and appreciated. But at the same time, none of us have reliable internet, which makes hostel hunting and booking a rather difficult process. The original plan was to spend our first 2 nights in Marseille, but we quickly saw it was not going to work out. But thanks to the magic of Skype, my dad was able to calm us down and found something in Aix-en-Provence instead. He saved the day and our sanity!

In the midst of that whole fiasco, I went to make some Earl Grey for the lovely Lyon mug my parents got for me at Starbucks (sidenote: we Anderson girls love our city mugs!). Suddenly I found myself singing “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things.” I have no idea what put that song in my head, but the lyrics were so comforting! Desperate for consolation, I decided that I needed more words of wisdom from favorite almost nun. It wasn’t long before my jaw hit the floor when I heard her sing: “Oh I must stop these doubts, all these worries. If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back. I must dream of the things I am seeking. I am seeking the courage I lack. The courage to serve them with reliance, face my mistakes without defiance, show them I’m worthy and while I show them, I’ll show me.” Discouragement has become a pesky little bugger. But the only way to shake it off is to look up and move forward. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. After all, as Maria sang, “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

it's e-mail, it's voicemail, it's snail mail

In He's Just Not That Into You, Drew Barrymore longs for the days when there was only one way to get in touch with someone. I, on the other hand, am missing the days when I could "get rejected by seven different technologies." Hidden away in this small town, I can really use all the human contact from back home I can get! So as we wait the impossibly long wait for internet to annoint the bomb shelter, I give you...

my address:
98 rue Valentin Smith
01600 Trévoux

my French cell phone:
+33 6 48 83 83 39
If you have skype minutes, please call!!! I get free incoming calls! Katy & Will put their knowledge of the French 1, 2, 3s to use & figured out (so you don't have to) that you have to press 3 after the scary French lady says something ridiculously fast in order to leave a voicemail. But when I get internet, we can all skype for free!!!

By all means, send me an e-mail (sallyanderson@me.com) the length of a novel for me to read in between classes at school. Because so far, I don't really have any anyway. Today some of the English teachers said, "She's been here 3 weeks & she hasn't been able to get started yet." Thank you, Sherlock!

Well... back to the bomb shelter to watch one of the movies I brought along for the umpteenth time! And to think I almost didn't bring any!

Monday, October 12, 2009

eating my words (& lots of crêpes in the process)

“As long as I’m in France, I’m happy.” This is something I said countless times before starting this program. And unfortunately, I have to take it back. Even if it’s one you’ve grown to love, happiness is not embodied by a country, culture, or language. Obviously it was a naïve statement, but I let myself believe it was true. But as soon as I got here, I’ve suffered from a very premature (for me) homesickness. I’m no stranger to living or traveling abroad, but this immediate homesickness is something quite foreign to me.

So I was thrilled to get to spend this past weekend with my parents in Lyon! My dad had a layover & my mom caught a first class ride along with him. I may be a recent inductee to the “real world,” but that didn’t stop me from climbing into their hotel bed like a four year-old & napping between them as they slept off their jet lag. It was wonderful! I was with them less than 48 hours, and while I would much rather have them here with me permanently, I’ll take what I can get. I am truly blessed. Not only to have such extraordinary parents, but to have ones that can travel so easily.

We went shopping near Place Bellecour, found a great little wine shop by the Hôtel de Ville, walked around old town & through the famous Sunday market. I could give you a detailed play-by-play… but I won’t. Because the obvious truth is that the best part of the weekend was my parents’ presence, not anything we did or saw. I can’t say it enough. And I can’t tell you how nice it was (although it was probably horrifying for them to witness) to just let it all go and cry as they held my hand. I’m just incredibly overwhelmed right now. At the risk of this blog turning into a long-winded vent or sob story, I will leave it at saying there’s a lot to overcome. It’s going to take a lot of faith, determination, & a positive attitude. Please pray for me!

I don’t know what to expect in the week ahead. Will I actually be teaching or just bumming around some more? As they’ve said to me over and over, “We’ll see.” And when this week is over, I get to see my parents again before Delta cuts the flight to Lyon in November. It’s a major bummer, but two visits is better than none. And, of course… “We’ll always have Paris!”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

it's what you make of it

PARIS!!! My good friend Brita is working as an au pair in the suburbs and the mom she works for said that I could come and stay for the weekend! I couldn’t believe it! I am truly blessed because this trip couldn’t have been more last minute. But with my carte 12-25, I got a great deal on my ticket. My roommate drove me into Lyon (she was had to be there for the German assistants’ orientation) and after a 2-hour train ride I was standing next to the Jardin des Tuileries with Brita! Naturally, she and I had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower that night!

After sleeping in Saturday morning, we set off for the Latin Quarter, one of my all-time favorite places to be in Paris. First, we hunted down the famous English bookstore Shakespeare & Company. The inside looks just like I imagine Flourish & Blotts in Harry Potter would be- books, new and old, piled from floor to ceiling every which way, cozy corners with worn chairs, and rolling ladders. We spent the rest of the day poking around Paris before meeting up with our friend Mallory who’s studying abroad in Versailles.

After, yes, another picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, we set off to participate in Nuit Blanche (white night- or a night without sleep). This is a big shebang that happens once a year that goes from 7AM-7PM. All of these gardens, museums, etc are open for free with modern art being displayed. We did go see some weird, glowing crystals in Notre Dame... still can't figure that one out! But mostly Nuit Blanche just brought us lots of run-ins with drunkards and playing Chinese fire drill with some of them on the metro! And then… some major problem with transportation. A supposedly reliable source had told us that the trains and metros were running all night especially for the event. We discovered all too late that this was not the case. To make a long story short, we didn’t get out of Paris until 4AM…

But we weren’t going to let our lack of sleep interfere with the glorious Sunday we had planned. On Friday I had called my beloved Mme Chauchat to see if I could stop by and see her, but she insisted that Brita and I come over for lunch! Pulling into the station at Versailles, it felt very much like a homecoming. But not as much as it did when Mme Chauchat opened her front door. Words cannot begin to describe how emotional I felt! Mid hug she said, “I told you we would see each other again, Peter Pan!” She fussed over us and then ushered us into the dining room where we used to take our conversation lessons. The table was set and her husband was eager to start pouring the wine! We ate very well indeed, two servings of everything, and then a dessert of raspberries and fromage blanc. Then we had tea and just talked for hours (she even let me use her phone to call home).

We also listened to “Thankful” off the Josh Groban album I had given her for Christmas two years before. It was such a treat to see the woman who inspires me being inspired by his voice. It’s funny… she always knows just what to say or do without you knowing what that might be. The opening line of the song is “Some days we forget to look around us.” There really is so much to be thankful for. My situation is tough at the moment, but it really is an amazing opportunity. And like Mme Chauchat said, “You have to choose happiness.” I’m taking that to heart. I am so blessed to be here. And she and many of my friends are only a train ride away. Furthermore, so many people from back home have been sending me notes of encouragement and I just want to thank you all for that! It means a lot!

It was a wonderful weekend! And I’ll be back in November to see the play Peter Pan in Paris with Mme Chauchat & anyone else who wants to meet us there! So excited!!

first thing's first

Before you ask, there's still no internet at the bomb shelter, but hopefully soon! Now before I tell you about my weekend, I’ll fill you in on my "first (official) day" at the school…

Since my schedule is still not set in stone, Thursday was just sort of a show-up-at-8AM-and-we’ll-see-what-happens kind of deal. Only two teachers had arranged for me to visit their classes ahead of time. But as I was sitting in the staff room thinking how I should have slept in instead, one of the English teachers ran in and asked if I would mind introducing myself to her class. It was a class of technical students (the high school is for both general and technical education) who upon hearing I was there already, begged her to bring me in. I didn’t know what to expect because I had been warned that if they were too hard to handle (they are much older, some are even my age), I could opt not to teach the class. But they were great! They were… shall we say excited… to see how young I am. I was almost immediately asked if I had a boyfriend, did I have facebook, and could I give them my number. Did I mention it’s a class of 12 guys and 1 girl? Mhmm, my thoughts exactly! Their English was weak, but they got the point across. So sometime soon they’ll all be taking me out in Lyon for dinner, drinks, dancing, and… karaoke. Oh dear. They were a riot and I’m really looking forward to working them!

The next class was English lit for Términale. These are seniors and I’ll essentially be preparing them for an oral test they have to take for their Baccalauréat (this is an exam high school seniors take… but I’m not familiar enough with it to explain it properly). I had corrected some of their papers that week and thought they were quite good. I told them this and said not to be shy about speaking English- it’s already good! But they were quiet and barely had any questions for me. It was a complete 180 from the rambunctious technical students who were asking me all about things like Spring Break… ahaha. But the teacher wanted me to take up a lot of class time, so I brought out a bag with slips of paper that had questions written out in English. One would pull out a question and ask someone else to answer. But when it came time for one particular student to answer a question, she started crying. I. Was. Mortified.

At the end of the day I went and saw some younger students. I guess they thought I was an exchange student because they all thought I must have been 16. But they were absolutely thrilled with the prospect of an American in their high school for the year. It was 34 students, but I’ll be rotating them every week because I’m legally only allowed to take 8 students at a time. They were all really eager to ask me questions and to answer the questions I had brought with me, which was a huge relief! Some even expressed interest in the English Club I’m apparently going to have to run. Hmm…

The rest of the day was spent planning an escape route. Since I don’t really have any work to do, it seemed like as good a time as any to take advantage of my built-in 4-day weekends! And so it was that I went to…

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Toto we're not in Paris anymore

Tuesday: I’m writing this blog from the housing my school provided (which I have fondly nicknamed “The Bomb Shelter”) without any knowledge of when I will actually be able to post this. My roommate, the German assistant, spoke with the phone company today & they said we should have a working phone, internet, & TV in 10-15 days… Welcome to Trévoux! I knew this town would be small… it’s smaller! But it’s also long, which makes getting to dare-I-call-it-downtown a bit of a hike. The Bomb Shelter is a 2-minute walk from the school & I can see it out my back window.

Speaking of which, I really like my school so far. As I predicted, on Monday, the bus driver dropped me off in front of the school (this is not a usual stop, but I was the only one on the bus the entire time), & I was wheeling all of my bags across the courtyard. Complete the scene with some snickering kids. I stopped & asked one of them where the office was & then continued to lug all of my stuff into the school. Everyone was really welcoming & quite surprised that I had shown up with all of my luggage. Apparently they all thought I was from the UK! Not sure where that came from as all of my paperwork & e-mails said USA, but… I get the feeling I’m not really a priority. Most of my questions are met with “I don’t knows,” “We’ll sees,” or "Maybe tomorrows" (which is not so welcome when it involves a working shower). But then again, my contact told me that my job was “no big deal.” Ah… the French.

A few visits to the tourism office have shown me that buses barely ever come here. And if they do, chances are they don’t make a return trip. So I’m going to have to plan out all of my excursions very carefully! It’s off to a bit of a rocky start, but that’s to be expected. I’ve just got to keep reminding myself that I’m in France!