Tag Archives: Christmas

Back in France!

Welp, I’m back in glorious Nantes!! I had an amazing winter break full of relaxing, cruising around Dallas, seeing friends, and eating way too much Tex-Mex!

Highlights:
-Celebrating Christmas in Dallas with some of the fam from Milwaukee and lighting the fireplace for the first time in this house!

Fire and wonky decorations!

Fire and wonky decorations!

-French night with the besties which included crepes and Muscadet!

Crepes are not as easy as they look...

Crepes are not as easy as they look…

Besties :)

Besties πŸ™‚

-PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES

-Mavs game with Steph and Monica

MFFL!

MFFL!

-The obligatory party at my place

...

-Lawry’s with Steph’s fam!

YUM

YUM

-A fabulous (if not expensive and cooooollldddd) trip to DC to see Katie, Monica, and Danielle

DC...friends meeting friends!

DC…friends meeting friends!

-Mavs game in DC (we won that one even if it was a boring game)

DIRK

DIRK

-being reunited with my faves from Lehigh!

NYE 2014

NYE 2014

-Getting introduced to Kesha’s new song Timber…it is seriously the best song to get you pumped up to do pretty much anything.

It was AMAZING to be able to go home and see my friends from home and friends from Lehigh and to have the opportunity to share some of my life in France with them. And then of course to come back to Nantes and slip right back into la vie francaise.

The first week back was pretty uneventful at school but Emily came to visit!! Unfortunately, I was somewhat sick all week so it wasn’t too exciting. But we spent a lot of time walking around beautiful Nantes, including a creepy museum and the cathedrale. Highlights of her trip include my bathroom flooding (the French equivalent of Draino is called Destop), exploring the Chateau at night, and le Grand Elephant being closed for the “annual closing”.

Lehigh in France!

Lehigh in France!

church

The Chateau at night

The Chateau at night

Typical French cathedrale...but in Nantes!

Typical French cathedrale…but in Nantes!

Les Filles

Les Filles

Things of note for this week:

In the Geography/History class that I help out with, they were discussing a possible exam question titled “The USA, a dynamic population?” with documents showing the changes in population by county. So the teacher was talking about how people in the US move a lot…for jobs, school, or just something different, while French people stay very close to home…he bets that most of the students in that room will spend their whole lives in Nantes. So he of course asked me if that was true/used me as an example. As he said, I’ll always be Texan and a Dallasite but I went to school in PA and came to France etc. But I’ve never thought about how freely we move within the US. As I’m starting to apply for jobs for next year, I literally have no restrictions as to where I end up…I WILL GO ANYWHERE as long as I get paid (if you know anyone looking for a Theatre Director, hit me up!) and my friends at school were in exactly the same position last year and now I have friends all over the country! But I thought that was an interesting cultural difference.

TODAY, I had the weirdest day ever at school. It started with my first class in which I tried to do a lesson on the Golden Globes because it’s current and the students always want to talk about American “series” so I thought this would be a good way to give them a chance to talk about TV. Welp, I guess this group isn’t that into American shows because they really only mentioned that they watch the NBA, Dexter, and Desperate Housewives. Also, they didn’t know Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, so that made about half the lesson not that funny…So that was a difficult start to the day. Then in my class after lunch, three students were assigned to prepare an article to present to me for a grade but the two that were in class just didn’t do it. So we moved on with class and each day two students have to present on a story from CNN Student News (a daily 5 minute video meant for students about world news) videos, but the student who was supposed to go today didn’t know which date his topic was on and we couldn’t find it by just clicking on the list of videos so now that was done. Then, the three students that were missing came into class 15 minutes late because they were finishing their lunch. So the teacher was rightly annoyed that they took so long at lunch etc. And instead of being apologetic or at least quiet, they argued about how they couldn’t help being 15 minutes late even though the rest of class could get there on time and they were basically mocking the teacher. And let me tell ya, people yelling in French is kinda intense!

Anyways, one of the late students was one that I was supposed to interview so after I finished that, the teacher let me go since it was the same lesson about the US population as the day before. He checked in with me though to make sure I understood where he was coming from…the school culture here is definitely not easy for the teachers. This is only one example of students not having prepared the work they were supposed to or not following through on an assignment. I feel like it doesn’t happen too often in the US, at least from my experience, because grades were important and if you didn’t do an assignment you got a zero…that doesn’t seem to be an option here, or at least it’s not used, so the students can get away with not doing their work.

My last class of the day was with the TSTMG group and they’re always a challenge because their level of English isn’t very high and most of them aren’t really interested in learning English. One girl literally refused to speak in English…every question she had, she didn’t even try to say part of it in English! I did a New Years Resolution listening/worksheet activity which was really successful in my classes last week. The first time they listened, only like three of them actually tried to fill out the worksheet. Then they realized I would be calling on them for the answers so they started trying to fill in the blanks. I’ve learned though that having very structured activities like this one is better for this group rather than trying to have a loose discussion based class since they have trouble using their English in a conversation.

I have my OFII (immigration people) doctor’s appointment tomorrow and so after that I should be a truly legal resident in France and can start receiving my “entitlements” and maybe stop doing any work outside of class?? Bahahah kidding, despite all of the craziness, I’m so happy to be here!

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Le dΓ©but de dΓ©cembre

Brrrrrr! Welp- time seems to be speeding up, I can’t believe it’s already December. It still feels like I arrived only a month ago but I’m excited to be home in two weeks for Christmas…just hoping the weather in Dallas won’t be so wintry by the time I get there!

The week leading up to Thanksgiving was pretty uneventful because I was sick, I spent the days either in my bed or at school. It was so weird to work on Thanksgiving Day and for it to be just another Thursday here. I did teach the same Thanksgiving lesson about 10 times but it was definitely difficult to go through it that day because I was missing everything at home! I skyped with the whole fam in Milwaukee which was nice but I missed the football and the annual movie we watch afterwards and of course all the food! So we celebrated at an assistant’s apartment on Saturday. It was a large group of all the assistants including the Germans, some Spanish, Canadians, and the Brits, and of course we invited our French friends. I was sufficiently stuffed that night and it was nice to share our holiday with so many people from around the world; as Obama said in this year’s Turkey Pardoning (which I watched at least 5 times in class…the French students thought it was weird and learned what turkey’s actually look like), Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday. There was plenty of wine and good conversation and some dancing before we went to the bars. I had so much fun but I really missed the atmosphere at home with preparing the food all day and eating and watching football/a movie and falling asleep! I missed the comforts of Thanksgiving at home and of course my family but I’m grateful that I have friends who hunt down turkeys at every butcher in the Nantes area and know how to cook it too!

Thanksgiving spread...There was even more food than this!

Thanksgiving spread…There was even more food than this!

For about the last month, the issue of racism has been a hot topic in France because of this incident. Basically a picture of Christiane Taubira, the French Minister of Justice who is black and born in French Guinea, and a proponent for gay rights, was published in a right-wing magazine next to a picture of a monkey with the caption “clever as a monkey”. This has rightly caused an uproar throughout France and I think shocked a lot of the population because the extreme right-wingers have been seen publicly yelling insults at her at rallies and supporting the magazine and what not. So on my way to the grocery store Saturday, I saw the March against Racism that was organized in Nantes which I knew was happening because there was a sign posted in my school. The issue is obviously something the majority of French people are pretty passionate about; unlike the US and the UK, France does not have a free speech policy in order to prevent things like this. I think this editorial from a French journalist for CNN summarizes the French opinion well. But, the French version of Elle has named her Woman of the Year!

racisme

Marche contre le racisme

Marche contre le racisme

I spent my day off last week shopping (finally!) and wandering around Nantes, trying to get lost. I feel like my entire world here revolves around Place du Commerce because it’s the city center and I live right here so it was nice to walk even just a little further than the true center and see what else is near by. On this walk I found the town hall and a park right next to it guarded by these lion statues.

Look at those teeth!

Look at those teeth!

Of course, I went to weekly trivia on Thursday at Dave’s, Vanessa’s and Tristan’s place. We started a little earlier than normal this week so we didn’t have to rush to catch the last tram so we spent the last 20 minutes with people playing the guitar and harmonicas (!) and having a sing along…nothing makes me more sentimental than a sing along! And it just made me feel really lucky to be here with all these other people who are just as passionate about the French language and culture πŸ™‚

This weekend I went to Manchester to see Grams and my dad who was visiting for the week! It was such a short trip but I’m so happy I went. It was nice to speak English in public for a little bit though I did say one or two “merci”s at the airport. We put up Grams’ tree on Saturday and headed to the Christmas Markets at night. Manchester is supposed to have one of the best German Christmas Markets outside of Germany and we’ve never been since we always arrive on Boxing day and are too late for them. I found a cute winter hat and scarf and we drank gluwein and ate bratwurst and had a crepe (not up to the French standard) for dessert! I’ve come back to Nantes with a few Christmas decorations from Grams and plenty of British treats to get me through the next couple months!

Christmas Market selfie!

Christmas Market selfie!

Christmas time at Grams'

Christmas time at Grams’

LEHIGH/laf week in France?

So this week was the famous LEHIGH/laf week but sadly it passed by here with little celebration and while I did my best to explain to my friends here why this was such an important week, it was difficult because, to quote Cam’s tweet, “Try to explain Lehigh-Laf to somebody in the real world/at work…it’s like trying to explain the space shuttle to your dog.” This was probably the first week where I really wished I was home, especially when I started getting texts from my friends who were in Bethlehem for the weekend. I did however buy tickets to the 150th game at Yankee Stadium next year!!! And I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m in FRANCE…but it still would’ve been nice to have been able to go to Lehigh for the weekend (even if we lost this year).

I was hoping to be able to post pictures from a little suburb north of Nantes called La Chapelle-sur-Erdre where a fellow assistant Katie lives and teaches. For our day off Wednesday, we planned on going on a tour of the city which is apparently really pretty and sort of in the country side so we all planned our various routes and timed them so we’d end up in La Chapelle at the same time and as soon as we stepped off the bus it started POURING. And since our trek was going to be off the beaten path and most likely muddy, we crossed the street and hopped on the next bus going back towards our direction. We did stop though and spend the afternoon at Katie’s large apartment watching French reality TV shows and drinking English tea and eating some marmite! Overall, a well-spent rainy afternoon and we have plans to reschedule our little hike.

Classes seemed to fly by this past week but it is going to be tough getting used to classes on Fridays. I know every other job I would have right now would require working on Fridays but it was so nice to have a three day weekend. However, since I do now work on Fridays, I have the opportunity to eat lunch with the German assistant, Vanessa, and the Spanish assistant, Lizeth in the “cantine.” It’s 2,80 Euros for a complete meal which from what I could tell includes a salad, a warm plate (this week it was a choice of either fish/bolognaise sauce with mashed potatoes/noodles) cheese/yogurt/a donut (there is some sort of rule as to which two you can get of these three things…I ended up taking the donut because that’s what Lizeth, our cantine guide did, and I was trying to avoid what happened at orientation) and a piece of fruit. So at least this will be something to look forward to on Fridays. That being said, my class in the morning is a Negotiations class so I’m really learning a lot about marketing/business stuff and practicing my French and it’s actually a lot of fun for me.

A “highlight” of this week was in my TSTMG class, which is the Technology/Management/Marketing track where the students only get one hour of English class once every two weeks. So I take half the class and have to make them speak. Ever since I started working with these classes they’ve been really difficult. Their level of English isn’t very high and they just don’t care about learning the language, with the exception of a couple students. So I was doing my Thanksgiving lesson, which I’ve now lost count of how many times I have done this lesson, and basically the three students sitting towards the front were pretty interested in learning about the greatest holiday ever but the last two rows, save for one student, were definitely not. So this one girl pulled out a can of peanuts or something like that and we were told at orientation that French students are not allowed to eat or drink in class, but I didn’t want to be “that” teacher so I let it go. She was sharing with the students around her and then all of a sudden I heard what sounded like a peanut hitting the wall! I knew exactly who did it and every time I looked at him he was about to throw another peanut…I finally caught him and had to turn on my best teacher voice (you know that voice that all teacher’s seem to have, when as soon as they speak you know you’re in trouble) and basically told him I was being nice by letting them eat so they shouldn’t be disrespectful. The only thing that made me feel better was that the three students who were into the lesson came up to me afterwards and said they were amazed by my patience with the others and that the others are like that in every class not just mine!

Setting up the Christmas Markets

Setting up the Christmas Markets

The Christmas Markets opened this weekend! I’ve never really been to a true Christmas market so the first night they were open we met up with Josephine and Romane and friends to drink the vin chaud and some roasted chestnuts. The chestnuts might not live up to the hype that some French lady who drove us to Rennes gave them. They sell all sorts of things in the markets including crepes and waffles, scarves, hats, knives, purses, and wine, just to name a few. We actually went back again yesterday with some other assistants and I went back today for a crepe.

It's Christmas time!

It’s Christmas time!

Anna’s sister came to visit this weekend and we had so much fun showing her the night life in Nantes! It was a fun weekend and the start of the Beaujolais Nouveau which one of my colleagues told me was a really big deal in France (even the tiniest cafes in the smallest towns celebrate…) turns out not to be that big of a deal according to my French friends and students. It’s a type of wine that is fermented for the least amount of time and is released on the third Thursday in November. I still partook in the tradition even though it really isn’t great wine because it hasn’t been aged and, as I learned in Bordeaux, 2013 is not a good year for wine.

The Beaujolais Nouveau

The Beaujolais Nouveau

After the Christmas Markets on Sunday, some of us went to the Chateau to see a photography exhibition showcasing how some kids around the world get to school everyday. From taking the ferry in Bretagne to riding a rickshaw in India, the photos were amazing and the stories really interesting. Sunday ended watching some Manchester United “football” at our favorite pub McBryne’s.

Exhibition at the Chateau

Exhibition at the Chateau

While it wasn’t quite the LEHIGH/laf I’m used to, it was still a very memorable week in France.

BEAT LAFAYETTE