Monday, September 28, 2009

I Went to Belgium for Lunch

Yesterday, Sunday, a few other assistants and I were exhausted with the stresses of our first week in France and really wanted a full day of rest and fun. Since Sundays in France are usually pretty dead, we decided to hop on the train and head to Brussels for lunch!

After getting off at the wrong train station and having to walk through the more grimy part of town, we eventually made it to the city center and saw that Brussels is quiet beautiful and quaint. I concluded it is pretty much a city filled with chocolate, lace, gold, beer, fries and waffles, which is pretty cool in my book.

We strolled through the Grand Place, had some sausages and fries, meandered through the winding, cobblestone streets, saw the peeing boy and also a shop that sold a real Nimbus 2000 for 320€. I engulfed a ginormous waffle complete with chocolate, whipped cream and strawberries.

It was a great day, and refreshing to hop over to a different country. However, we took the eurostar home, which meant going through customs and almost ending up in London. But whatever, that wouldn't have been such a bad thing :)

The Rachels and me in the Grand Place

The peeing boy

Sausage and fries all in one. Delicious!

Had to have beer

Look at all the yummy ways you could get them!

Pat, me and Rachel with our gaufres

The Nimbus 2000

We were on our way, but had to get off in France this time

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Housing in Lille: I need a tent

So, I have concluded yet another futile day of searching for housing in Lille. I have sent out as many "feelers" as I can, sent out millions upon millions of emails and phone calls to results on, and every other housing site there is in France. I've pretty much almost given up. So here is what I plan to do:

1. Wait and hopefully my contact will find something for me in Valenciennes
2. Stay in Lille with my friend as long as I can, try and get as much of my paper work that I need to do to stay in France done, and then Jordan will be here and we can bum around until vacation time. Go on vacation. Get back. If there is still no housing, just peace out of here and travel around a bit
3. Rent a parking space and put up a tent in Lille
4. Buy an RV and put it somewhere
5. Try and get my paper work taken care of in France and then move to Sweden
6. Try and get my paper work taken care of and move back to Aix

I'm to the point of "whatever" I might as well enjoy myself now, just know that things work themselves out, and hope this will too. I'll try and figure something out, otherwise I'll jsut buy a plane ticket somewhere else. Thanks France!

Continuing in Lille

I have been in Lille almost a week now, but unfortunately there have not been too many new revelations since my last post. I am still homeless and on the hunt for a somewhat decent apartment here (I am viewing 2 studios today, so hopefully that will go well), so my days are spent desperately emailing and calling prospective homes and then meandering around the city with my fellow teaching assistants, exploring our new home and trying to enjoy this new, beautiful experience of ours, without freaking out about all of the silly details of homes, paychecks, social security, bank accounts and the like.

On a positive note one of my contacts from a school I am teaching out called me yesterday. She assured me someone has been looking for housing for me in Valenciennes (where I am teaching) and that they would call once they had something. That's great, but I don't want to live in Valenciennes, so I am hoping I can take care of this housing deal on my own. But we shall see...

Mostly today I guess I just wanted to share a few pictures of my last few days of exploring. That is more fun than reading anyways, right? Hopefully there will be more news after the weekend...

They have a Scandinavian restaurant here :) that is a good sign

Of course with a Swedish plate (there also were Scandinavian salads at many of the restaurants I noticed. Maybe being up north has something to do with that?)

A street in Vieux Lille

Me and one of the Rachels (there are 2) in my American Assistants group. We are being tourists in front of the Opera

Look a gun shop!

Beautiful sunset view from where I am staying, at the Place de Jeanne d'Arc (that's a good coincidence)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wherever You Go, There You Are

So here I am. I know it has taken me a while to start this thing (having been in Europe about a month now), so I apologize for my tardiness and hope you all will understand I was a bit distracted these last few weeks ;)

To sum up what you have missed: Swedish McDonald's is still the best in the world, Swedish women are so hot they can't keep there hands off each other (literally), and Swedish men really probably are the best partners due to their "enlightened attitudes toward equality and gender roles" as The Local has reported (I can't cook, clean, or do laundry the Swedish way--yet! But I want to learn!).

Jonatan and I had a great time doing what we do: eating, relaxing, laughing ;) And I was truly sad to leave when it came time. Goteborg is a beautiful, welcoming city and I enjoyed exploring it a bit more on my own this time (as Jonatan was in school. which was ok, because now I am totally comfortable taking the buses and trams all by myself. and shopping all by myself too, the most important thing).

I even joined a club while I was there: The American Women's Club of Goteborg and was able to connect with many interesting women living the expat life with their Swedish partners in this coastal city. Good contacts to have!

Jonatan and I also got to share the most exciting weekend together: meeting the twins! Alexandra (Jonatan's sister) and Felipe (her husband) welcomed their first children into the world one month ago: Victoria and Valentina. They were the most beautiful babies and spending time with them and the family was very heart warming (I still need to work on that svenska though...I'm starting up that Rosetta Stone again).

But sadly, I had to eventually say hej då to Sverige and bonjour to France (though I hope to get back to Sweden soon! And not just because I had to be an eno gab on my flight out and leave half of my luggage there because I am an idiot and don't check baggage allowances on flights within Europe until two days before I leave).
So now I am in Lille, my new home for the next 7 months. I admit, yesterday, after travelling from Goteborg to Oslo to Paris and then finally to Lille, I was a bit of a poop. I was nervous, anxious, stressed, lonely and my heart was hurting a lot. But, thanks to the most generous friends, I had a place to stay and a tour guide during my time of transition.

And Lille really is an exquisite city. The past 24 hours I have felt a bit off balance and have been trying to search for that passion and admiration I usually feel for anything French. It is slowly coming back, especially after I devoured a tarte au sucre and a gourmandise from the original Paul (boulangerie), but I am hopeful that once I am settled I will yet again be mesmerized with the certain magic this place holds for me (like the food, shopping, architecture, history, language, culture and art and not the beaurocracy or the pain in the *** it is to do pretty much do anything practical here. but whatever. this is definitely only temporary that I will be here, so I might as well just focus on the good stuff and enjoy it ;).

I have so far set up a French cell phone number for myself, tried unsuccessfully again to contact the teachers at my schools in Valenciennes (for those of you who don't know, I will be teaching English this year in 3 French public primary schools in the city of Valenciennes, about 30km outside of Lille), and met up with about 10 other American teaching assistants in the same boat as me. It really is great to be able to meet with people going through the same thing as you--especially when it can be so frustrating!

Anyways, I enjoyed a tasty steack avec sauce deux poivres et frites this evening at Aux Moules and a big Belgian beer with my fellow assistants.
Tomorrow it is off to discover Valenciennes, desperately search for a place to live and maybe write and discover more of this new place. And it's not bad. It may be missing a few places and people in particular that I would like to have, but it's alright. I think I will enjoy it just fine. Afterall, how bad can a place be that sells chocolate covered waffles? Not bad at all...