Photo du Jour!!

09 November 2011

My best attempts to summarize a month of my life....

Ohhhh where to begin!

I have neglected my self-imposed blogging duties for far too long, and I apologize. I do have (many, many) excuses, however and I'll try not to take too long explaining them all.

First of all, I started teaching. Life has been good in the classroom. Primarily, it is exhausting. I have gained a HUGE respect for career first grade teachers. After just a few days, I can already appreciate a lifetime of doing this. I am already learning so much from the kids - about teaching and about how to deal with so many situations on the fly. Today, one of my kids' teeth fell out in the middle of class. I forgot that even happened to people! That was so long ago! It has also been really interesting (and difficult) learning about the differences between cultures - the hard way. As in, I'm up in front of class and I'll say something completely incorrect and they all look at me like I'm dumb. Also, apparently American cursive is different from French cursive, so much of the time, they can't read my handwriting. They're very big on format as well, which I'm adjusting to - but essentially, I'm adjusting by telling them that it's not a big deal for me, and they do it anyway. I cannot tell you how many times in any given class period I get asked 'can I write this down with a blue pen?'; "Should I underline that?"; "Should I write the date here? or here?" It's understandable (as I learned when I told one class they could do whatever they wanted, and the proceeded to only care about choosing what color marker to write with, and paid no attention to the lesson) and clearly, they've been programmed very well. But it's such a stretch for me to follow along. I figure they'll adjust as well.

Anyway. There have been many, many more interesting adventures in the classroom since, which I'll be more than happy to elaborate on if you let me. But I'll refrain. The second big thing that happened was our first two-week vacation. Yes, I only work 12 hours a week and I have Wednesdays and Fridays off. And, yes, we get two weeks off every five weeks. I have a really good gig going here. And I also have wonderful people in my life that I get to go visit. So for this break, I was lucky enough to be able to return to the States to see Mike, my boyfriend. He's going to grad school in Rhode Island, so I flew into Boston and then took the train up to meet him. We had three eventful weekends, and I had two very relaxing weeks while he was in class. I was, surprisingly, pretty productive, getting lots and lots of things done. We also ate. So much. Sooooo much. I did get to spend Halloween in Salem, Mass. It was super fun. I got a tarot reading, so I can officially say that I have a positive future to look forward to. We spent a day in Boston, another in Providence (which is definitely one of the coolest cities ever), we went apple picking, we saw friends at Yale - all in all, a great trip. Getting back to Auch is another story entirely (flight from Boston delayed 2.5 hours, sprinted through Amsterdam airport, barely made the gate, arrived in Toulouse without any luggage, took shuttle to train station to find out there are NO trains to my town, then called every single person I knew here with a car and ended up getting picked up by my roommate's advisor's boyfriend in Toulouse) but that's another story for another day.

Now, I am back in Auch cranking away again with my extremely grueling schedule. I will admit - with the jet lag, these past two days have been exceedingly difficult. Roudy children and delirious exhaustion are not a good combination. But I think I'm back into the swing of things....the salsa dancing classes I started tonight will hopefully help!

This weekend will hopefully involve a fun trip to somewhere nearby, just for a little more adventure in our lives. After that, we get to start celebrating CHRISTMAS!!! (which is entirely reasonable because, you see, the French don't have a Thanksgiving that comes first). So, hopefully, we'll get to decorating sometime soon, and finding our sapin (they have a special word, just for Christmas tree. How great?!) I'm also very, very excited to start frequenting the marche de noel, or the Christmas market, where i can get my vin chaud, or spiced wine, and all kinds of goodies. All the streets are already decorated as well - but the lights should come on sometime soon, and then things will be just magical. I can't wait.

I also can't wait for MY FAMILY TO COME HERE!! Now that this vacation is over, I get to look forward to the next one, where my family gets to come see me in my town! They are flying in to Barcelona, where we get to spend a few days, and after that, we'll drive through the Pyrenees to Auch and then stay in this adorable farm house hotel my mom found. It's going to be a blast! And so good to share all these things with them that I've come to love so much. It's a shame they won't be able to meet my roommates....but that will come, in due time :-)

I will do my best to stay more up-to-date with my blog, though that should be feasible with not as many things going on. And, as always, feel free to contact me via any method you can think of! I love hearing about people's lives!!!

09 October 2011

From now life will pass in 45 minute increments

So I haven't started teaching yet, but I've been in the classroom for a few days, and I think it's going to be good. I'm figuring out my schedule, which I don't think is actually complicated but for some reason has managed to royally confuse me. Essentially, I'm teaching three different levels (called CE2, CM1 and CM2) and I think I've finally mastered the order they go in. They've organized my schedule so that I take half of two classes at a time, and then the other half of those two classes the next period. That sounds confusing, right? But I think I have it now. I've also figured out a lesson planning template that works well for me, and brainstormed for the first three weeks of classes.

I'm also settling in super well. I've been doing lots of sight-seeing-while-running, which has been a great way to see the town. We've done a lot of wandering and getting lost and window shopping and exploring in general. My favorite part is just wandering around a corner and being caught breathless by how gorgeous the view is.

My experiences observing have been interesting. Last week, I went around to all three of my schools with my adviser, Stephan, who then introduced me to all the directors of the schools and the teachers I'd be working with. I was very grateful that Stephan was there...some of the administrators were a bit much to handle right off the bat. One of them, the director of the school where I'll be spending most of my time, literally argued with Stephan about my observation dates - she wanted me to start right away, instead of easing into it like the program usually does. I was super glad I had someone there who 1-had the French skills to argue with her and 2- wasn't completely and utterly intimidated like I was.

When I went in by myself to observe, I met all the rest of the teachers and actually entered the classroom. First impression - everyone's a little terrifying. The discipline here is definitely of a different caliber. I suppose seeing what is expected of small French children should explain a lot about the French adults I've met. But jumping in like I did was a little abrupt. The kids - all around 6 or 8 years old - were expected to have perfect hand writing, to be completely silent, to raise their hand every single time they said anything....and obviously, they're 6 and 8 years old so they didn't do all these things. And the teachers seemed furious. There was a lot of yelling...Annie, the director, at one point sent her class outside to run laps around the playground. It was intense.

I also had my first hilarious language of the teachers does speak a little (a VERY little) English, and she has tried to incorporate general English commands into her classroom (stand up, sit down, take out your books, etc.) So at one point, she was yelling at the children to be quiet, and she goes "I'm waiting! and I'm getting VERY HUNGRY!!!" She looks at me for affirmation, and sees my look of total confusion, then quickly corrected herself (to say "I'm getting very ANGRY!") before I burst into giggles. I can't wait for more of those to happen.

Outside of the classroom, things have been pretty uneventful. We did have lots of adventures at the marche on Thursday, which produced some pretty memorable stories. But like I said - we're settling well, and getting excited for the many many other adventures that are to come!

03 October 2011

Just about ready for real life to start, I think....

I'm starting to feel so at home here! It's so great, and having a schedule helps SO MUCH.

This weekend was wonderful, and more or less curbed any fears I had about a lack of a social life. There are tons of people here who just seem to love foreign people. There have been assistants from my program here for quite a few years, and in the course of all their time here, Auch seems to have paved the road for us in terms of meeting people. It's a pretty small town, but it is pretty rockin, as far as I can tell. There's about 7 other assistants, and through them and Cedric, I've met quite a few other people. It's pretty exciting.

Sunday, we went on such an excursion. Cedric (who is a fantastic organizer thank goodness!) brought us out to this gorgeous lake in the countryside. Marcela and I, plus Lauren, another primaire assistant, a couple from Spain and their French bulldog puppy, Lola (!!!!!!! she was so adorbs) met at Cedric's, and then we walked about 2 km to this exceedingly picturesque lake in, really, the middle of nowhere. Apparently, we were on private property but they live nowhere near it. A bunch of us jumped in and swam for a while (in October!!) and took in the scenery. When we were done, we ate the great potluck lunch that we'd brought, then we played with the dog and relaxed in the great sunshine. It was so great it was surreal.

Today, I had my first day of orientation. It was so nice to get up and be productive! The ecoles primaires work differently than the high school, it seems like, or at least on a somewhat different schedule. But we get to have a one-on-one, personalized orientation with the people we'll be working with for the rest of the year. How great is that? I have a conseilleur pedagogique, or a teaching advisor, that I've met with a few times so far, and he has helped me get everything squared away, from a bank account to making sure I have sheets for the bed. He is unbelievably helpful, and just super fun to hang out with.

Today, all the English and Spanish assistants that are going to be in primaire here met, about 5 of us total, at the office downtown. We learned all sorts of things in the morning about the French school system, and some of the more political, controversial topics that we might come into contact with. Like, for instance, the question of 'la laicite', one of the biggest conversation topics ever. The French government passed a law saying that you cannot blatantly reference any religious symbols in a public place, including schools. So I'm not allowed to use any super Christian references in the lesson I plan about Christmas celebrations, for example. Or I'm not allowed to wear a huge cross around my neck. Obviously, the big question is for Muslim women who aren't allowed to wear their veils to school, or turbans or yamakas, etc. But it's kindof cool that this issue that I've been talking about for forever, actually somewhat applies now.

Anyway. We learned a lot. And then, because god forbid we exert our minds too much, we went out for a two hour lunch. Clearly.

Then we came back and watched videos of cute French kids speaking English, played some kids games and colored some pictures. Needless to say it was a spectacular day. Afterwords, we came home and relaxed, I went for a run (because I'm trying to do that now. And where better to start running than along a cute French river, past a couple cathedrals and chateaux?), talked to my parents and Mike, and then made dinner! Not only that, but I made dinner with my awesome roommates, and we just chatted about our days and life in general. It felt like the beginnings of a pretty nice routine, and I can't wait for it to actually take hold and be my life!

02 October 2011


This is the best news from this week. Well, maybe not the best. Some pretty great things have happened (some super super great things, actually) this week. But that was pretty exciting.

So I've been pretty much working full time on getting my life in order. Which, I think, is a pretty worthwhile occupation. But my gosh it is EXHAUSTING! On Thursday, I met with my pedagogical adviser. He seemed to be super impressed by how much I already had together in my life...which was a little shocking, to me. But I guess a vote of confidence is always good. But I did find out great things. One, that I actually get a fairly extensive orientation, which will be very helpful. They are very very patient too, so I can ask all my questions. ALLLLL of my questions, of which there will be many. I also found out the schools where I will be teaching.  I'll be in three elementary schools, all of which are within walking distance of my house, which is great. Not only that, but I'm only working Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-4. I'm going to peace out so many Thursday afternoons it's not even funny. WOOOO. I also went about opening a bank account, getting renter's insurance, buying train tickets, meeting a ton of people, and oh my goodness so many things.

Today, I BOUGHT A BIKE!! I was so very excited. My adviser told us about a bike sale that only happens once a year, and it conveniently happened the first weekend we were here! It was operated by this biking club here in Auch...people donated their used bikes and then the group sold them for a fundraiser. The family that donated our bike was there, and according to them this bike once won the Tour de France haha. I'm super excited about it, and she's a beaut! This is me, in front of my house, with my bike. We're definitely going to have to name her. It might be a him, actually....I'll have to do a little more testing her out and I'll let you know.

Tomorrow, I'm going on a picnic to a lake that's apparently nearby, with a ton of people from town. Cedric, who I met with the other night, seems to be quite the expert at organizing super fun, multi-national get togethers. Tonight, we went out to a bar, and I was there with a few other Americans, one of whom has lived in Korea the past five years, a few Spanish people, a few French people, a Bolivian and a Mexican. How cool is that??

28 September 2011

ER rooms and 911 Calls...oh my!

Things have been so exciting since I've gotten here. It's like Auch wants to kick me out or something. But it can't make me. I will not leave....even if there isn't an H&M.

Day one here was full of visits to various establishments relating to the French government. My worst fears were avoided...I was only missing one piece of paperwork, and that was only an email from mama away. All the other people in the house also moved in, and now we are full! There is a girl across the hall from me, who's name is Alice. She was born in Auch, and now works in one of the high schools. Down the hall a ways is a girl named Marcela, who is from Bolivia. She is super nice, and speaks English (woo!) but she'll be teaching Spanish in the schools here. Downstairs, there are two guys that apparently we won't be seeing much of. Charlie works third shift, so he mostly sleeps during the day. And Ben has an attached studio type thing, so he stays there. Upstairs is Whitney. She's from San Fran, and is teaching in one of the high schools down the river. I'm pretty sure we're going to be besties. She just graduated as well, she has a boyfriend back home, and she's looking for job/applying to schools...basically, we're in the same place in our lives so it will be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, or to cry to or to snap me out of any funks that may arise.

I also went and met up with a guy who I had talked to about renting a room from, but who fell through. He was super fun (Cedric) and he showed us around to some of the touristy things, but also things like the gym, the yoga center, the library, etc. It was very helpful. Then he took us to his favorite bar - a super cute, somewhat secluded patio bar, with trees everywhere and lights in them. It was very homey, and we had a good time. On the way home though, we saw a car crash., where a clearly intoxicated man crashed his car into the center of the roundabout...then he got out and was yelling at everyone. It was no good, so Cedric called the police/ambulance for him.

Day two (which had something of a hazy start, as it took me a little while to figure out that it wasn't actually day three yet....i.e. tomorrow, when I'm meeting my advisor and seeing my school. Not today) was a fun one. After I arrived at the office to find no one there, as the primary schools don't open on Wednesdays, I headed toward the hospital. I've had this dumb skin rash that we thought was poison ivy, but then it exploded and got really bad and spread all over my body. I didn't really get to sleep at all last night, so I decided I should do something about it. I walked out (about a 45 minute walk along the river, which would have been lovely had my entire leg not been on fire) to the hospital, and they directed me to the emergency room (SALLE D'URGENCES). Those are not fun places to be - especially not for what turned out to be a 3 hour wait. Though it was worth it to get a prescription for all sorts of goodies, and strong ones at that. I'm just crossing my fingers that they work, and SOON!

Tomorrow, I'm ACTUALLY meeting with my advisor, which will be exceedingly helpful. We've communicated by email, but only setting up preliminary details. It will be wonderful to meet him (he sounds SUPER nice) and get some information about what I"m doing with my life here. It's odd that I've been functioning so well not knowing anything....and now all the information holes are being filled in. This is kindof the last piece of the puzzle, too...after the travel, then the town, then the house, then the roommates...the only thing left is finding out about my actual employment. I have full confidence that that piece will fit in perfectly too, though, just like all the other ones have!

ALSO - I figured out how to add the tab to my 'Picture of the Day' blog that I decided to do. So you can all check that out too. Woohoooo!

26 September 2011


I live in a house in France now. How weird is that to say?! It's pretty exciting though....I love it. And everything has been so easy! A large part of me feels like this whole experience just sortof came upon me. This whole relaxed approach that I've been taking has resulted in quite a shocking comeuppance. But really truly everything has worked out so well....almost too well, but I'm not going to start complaining now! All the travel has been super easy....I haven't gotten stuck on ANY forms of transportation!! This is very exciting for me, especially with my Paris record thus far. Plus, we got through two metro checkpoints completely unscathed. Things started to get REAL though on the train from Toulouse. Driving through really, the middle of nowhere, I was freaking out just a wee bit. Approaching my stop was a little intense. I realized that I was approaching my new life and it was a little like WOAHHHH slow down. But there was no turning back.

And I'm so glad there wasn't!! Right from the start, things were, once again, super great. I was attempting to get off the train, with my bazillion pounds of luggage, when my landlord all of a sudden was like 'Emily?' And then everything was great. We walked around the corner from the station to the house, which was awesomely convenient. Then he let me get all settled in and showered, and then we went over the rent, bank accounts, government housing assistance, grocery stores, bus passes, and everything else you can think about. then That was a little overwhelming. But I very much hope that I got it all down...

I think I did. And then I left to wander around. The town is amazing! I'm very capable of living here, I belieI kept getting goosebumps after walking around almost every corner. I'm in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, and you can see them in the distance when you're up on top of the hill. The river goes through the valley and the cathedral is on top of the hill on the far side. Everything is in walking distance and there's a ton of things going on! It's way bigger than I thought it would be, so very pleasantly surprised. Not only that, there's a fabric store around the corner. I'm making curtains.

Old town - I don't know what it's called yet. But my gosh it's pretty.

The cathedral! In the sunset!!

The town center

The view from the top of the hill

If you could hear the birds in these was amazing.

Back up the hill.

Um I live here.

Tomorrow, I'm going to get my life figured out (open a bank account, send in my immigration information, and my application for housing assistance) with the lovely Bolivian girl who is living down the hall from me in the house. I just really don't want to get arrested for the lack of some random form, or owe the French government a million billion Euros.

25 September 2011

Last night in Paris!

....which means I move into my house TOMORROWWWW! I can't believe it's already happening. I'm getting very excited to see it, but I'm definitely employing reserved optimism. I just don't want to get ahead of myself. Everything has gone so unbelievably smoothly so far -- my academie seems to be very helpful and good at disseminating information on time, or even early, my contacts at the school are really great, I had tons of options for housing that were all reasonable and pretty welcoming, etc. -- and I just really really really hope that that trend continues!! I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to be doing this, and I will do my best to keep that in mind - above everything else.

 We have had SUCH a time in Paris, which only adds to that feeling of being lucky. Thursday, after we got settled, we actually persevered through the jet lag, and stayed up until about 10:30. We then slept for about 13.5 hours, which was much needed but waking up at 11 was painful on our first day in the city. We then experienced the now (or should be) infamous shower story. Hannah and I had taken showers the night before, and then I switched the shower head back to faucet. Then, Peter gets in and tries to shower and between the three of us (three bi-lingual, college grads, employed 20-somethings) could not figure out how to get the shower back on to save our lives. So this morning, we went down to the front desk to ask for help. They, logically, assumed that it was broken so they sent up the repair guy. When he gets in the shower, he starts to check it out, and then quickly turns around, with a 'vous etes completement stupiiiiiiiiiiid, et americains" look on his face. He points to the knob and says, 'you pull it.' We had done everything but 'pulling it.' And it was unbelievably embarrassing.

 After this ordeal, we (cough, hannah, cough) then took our precious time getting ready, and then we finally took off. Hannah and I went shopping, and I finally purchased a pair of the very French sneakers that I've loved for a long time.
I got the grey ones. We decided to go get lunch, and found a gorgeous spot under the Tour Eiffel. We stopped for cafe nearby, and paid 5 Euro for a cup (about $7...and you thought Starbucks was bad...). We made ourselves some dinner, which was delicious (salad with corn, avocado, chicken, peppers, tomatoes; baguette; boursin - the fig/walnut kind SO GOOD - et du vin! It was delish, and very rewarding.

 Our view from our lunch spot
Dinner on our balcon 

 Saturday was Versailles day! Peter and I had gone to the chateau de Versailles at some point during our time in Nantes, therefore we decided not to deal with the huge, huge crowds to go inside the castle - though we did find a back-door entrance to les jardins, so we got to go in to the outer half of the gardens and explore a little bit. It was a spectacular day (i got a little bit sunburned!) and we had a great time. I also had fallen in love with the town when I was there before, so went to explore that for a while. It's still great. I love it. I would totally live there. We had a very (verrrrryyyyyy) extended lunch, which we enjoyed according to French custom...with lots of food and drink and caffeine.

 Les Jardins de Versailles   


Then we ventured around the wonderful marche, we followed Peter on his quest for ethernet cable, which proved to be completely futile, I bought a phone (so I have a French number! If you would like it, just ask!) and we met Jocelyn, the adorable French man who had worked at "Chez Mickeyyyy" (disney world).

Then we ventured back and prepared for our adventures out to Montmartre. We met Peter's friend who is in grad school here, and went to find the fondue restaurant recommended by the always helpful Julie Sink. Best eating experience of my life. It was so much fun. The seating consists of two wall-length benches that go the whole length of the one room, two big tables on either side, and benches along the aisle. To get to the wall seats, the waiter literally lifted us up over the tables so we actually had to step over it. We were sitting between a group of American girls studying abroad there and a very boisterous Italian family that we became quite close with. Then they just started bringing us food - we didn't have to order or anything. I guess there weren't any options. There was cheese and oil fondue, with bread, steak, veggies and lots of sauces. Oh man it was good.

Then we climbed to the top of the hill to see Sacre Coeur, and the nighttime skyline of the City of Lights!

Today we took it pretty easy, trying just to soak in the last little bit of Paris that we could. Seeing as France pretty much shuts down on Sundays, it was pretty easy to do. We got some groceries at the marche this morning and took a picinic lunch to the Jardins du Luxembourg. Then we found an antique market and I almost died from the lack of space/money that prevented me from buying absolutely everything. It was spectacular.

It's fall in Paris too!!!

Jardin du Luxembourg! So gorgeous

Notre Dame - note the line, which is why we remained this far away

Tomorrow I'm off to my new maison! I will update when I can, but I'll take all the crossed fingers and happy thoughts you're all sending my way!