Friday, October 23, 2009

Hej Då France!

I am off to Göteborg for some much needed r&r. Looking forward to some good TV, a little Max, a little Liseberg and Jonatan...of course <3 I will be back in the beginning of November, so I apologize now if I am a bit MIA. I am really excited about this trip because my brother, Jordan, will be meeting up with us there next week. The first time any of my family members gets to visit Sweden! (and meet the other family).

Puss och kram!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Neness...yes it rhymes with p****

This is Neness. He has a picture of himself tattooed on his arm.

For weeks now Chelsea has been saying we need to check out this bar in town called American Graffiti.

"I hear they play good music and stuff. One of my teachers recommended it and her husband is a musician, so it must be good."

Well we went, and yes my friends, it was good.

This place, American Graffiti, is a haven for any American wandering, lost and alone in Europe and in need of a good friend, who is totally obsessed with all things Americana.

We stumbled in last Friday night, and once Chelsea opened her mouth and that Southern drawl came out, the owner of the joint, Neness, nearly peed his pants with excitement.

"Nashville?! Comme Johnny Cash?! Yes?"

We were instant celebrities, were offered free beer (and cherry beer) all night long and coaxed into taking pictures with the band of the night (they wanted us to hold their guitars, which were apparently replicas of the one Marilyn Manson has. How cool....).

I don't quite know what else I can say about this place. Really only pictures can convey the absolute awesomeness of it. Though yes, I have to say it again, Neness has a tattoo of himself, on his arm. And a statue of Elvis in his kitchen.

I love this place.

Elvis, Native American, Marilyn Monroe. That's America

There's our guy

Just like Marilyn Manson....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm a Teacher and a Tour Manager

One of the classrooms at one of my schools: Plaine de Mons

Quick update to everyone, just to lay down some news and an overview of life so far here in the North.

I went back and read a few of my past posts and I must apologize--I sound rather cynical and ungrateful for the experience I am getting to live now.

In all honesty, I am having a blast. Yeah, France can be pretty ridiculous and I never will understand how this country works, Valenciennes is the quirkiest town next to Tucson in my book and I swear I sometimes feel like I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone, but other than that, people here are nothing but warm and welcoming, I laugh everyday and I am able to talk to the ones I love whenever I want (except Bea and Allison, I need to work on that one--sorry loves!).

So I have taught two classes so far, on Thanksgiving. I think they went well. I am discovering that even though I am only teaching 12 hours a week, I am definitely going to be working a lot more. Prep time for lessons takes a while, plus I have 12 different classes a week, and even if I repeat lessons, I need to tailor them to the individual classes since language levels vary greatly between classes and schools (I teach at three schools).

But I am enjoying it nonetheless, and also have started tutoring Louise, the 13 year old daughter of the Inspector of my school district, so that is a little extra cash.

I also am the European Tour Manager of my roommate, Chelsea Lovitt, singer-songwriter from Nashville. It started out as nothing serious, but we've been here about 2 weeks and already have her booked at two gigs.

Yup, we are just hanging out in the cold North of France, playing guitars, sipping wine and just trying to soak it all in.
Chelsea on the streets of Valenciennes, guitar in hand

Lez Assistantes
(Laura (from Miami), Chelsea (from Nashville), Me, Rose (from Alaska!))

One of the schools I teach at is for handicapped children. This just looks like some weird torture device from the 1940s. I don't even want to know...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ma Tres Chic Vie en France

Chez Moi

Ma Chambre

La Cuisine

I am now finally settled into what will be my home for the next few months. My 2-room apartment is on a quiet street, down the road from the Musee des Beaux-Arts of Valenciennes and, as I have just discovered, right across the street from the French version of Gossip Girl.

Juste en face of my large, living room windows is the private Lycee (high school) Notre Dame and today I have learned that my front doorstep is the hot-spot before and after school and at midi (lunch time).

Five minutes ago the immense green doors of the gated school opened and out strode the throng of highly well-dressed tweens and teens complete with their Longchamp totes, heeled boots, neck scarves, and, of course, that signature cigarette hanging from the lip.

I've decided it is best to either stay hoarded up in my apartment during these specific hours or just stay away, otherwise I end up fumbling through the tangled mess of intimidating French girls who look way more sophisticated than I, a girl almost 10 years their senior.

While this could end up being rather a nuissance, I will revel in it for now. Nothing goes better with my lunch of rice and lentils than a little French teen gossip and galavanting around.

And yes, I am eating rice and lentils because that was all I could afford from the discount supermarket as I now only have 2,50€ in my bank account.

Yup, I am living the dream people. The dream of the glamorous, tres chic life in France.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I live at McDonald's now

So, I am sorry for not writing recently. In France, everything takes a million years and a day to accomplish, so I am still waiting for internet at my apartment.

Therefore, I now live at McDonald's. And have gained 10 pounds (well not yet, because I walk like a million miles a day as well, so it kind of cancels out).

Anyways, in short, I have started teaching, and the children are adorable! I am so excited! I have been asked if there are cats in America, and also if I know Michael Jackson.

I'm excited to get this teaching show on the road, and also be more connected to the world. Hopefully that will happen soon, and I will post pics and more updates shortly.

I miss everyone so much. The weather here is the worst and can kind of be depressing, but I am really enjoying speaking French and am looking forward to Jordan's arrival in less than 2 weeks and my vacation in Sweden in 2.5 weeks. Thank god, I finally get to go to a country where things actually will get done....

Gros bisous to all!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today started marvelously, went to shit, and then ended on a good note

This morning I treated myself to a trip to the French salon. I feel like since I have gotten here I have been a wreck--sweaty from walking all around this city all day, my hair a frizzy mess and my clothes in shambles after trekking them all over Europe and only having washed them once in the past month.

So, by the recommendation of Pauline, I went to Camille Abane for a hair cut, and it was awesome.

Anais, my new stylist, was the cutest thing, and while customer service apparently doesn't exist in this country, one can find some kind of respect for clientelle at a good coiffure.

They greet you by taking your coat, slipping you into your own robe and then escorting you over to the shampooing stations where you sit in massaging chairs. And Anais, what magical hands she has! I got the best scalp massage I have ever received, followed by a deep conditioner rinse, and then the most precise haircut I probably ever have. I swear she checked almost every strand to make sure it was perfect.

So, I walked out al 11am feeling super French chic and not a haggared mess like I have been.

Then I went home (or to my fake home?) and realized I had no return emails for housing or from my school contacts. I was supposed to go sign my work contract today but no one had contacted me. I realized my money was running out and that I really had no idea what the heck I was doing, yet again.

So I cried. A lot. Went thtough plenty of tissue packets (thank goodness I bought the maxi-pack from Match) and called Jonatan wailing and flailing like I seem to always do.

Well he told me to give myself a slap in the face, grow up and stop crying (and to stop biting my nails) and to just go down to my school and see what the heck was up.

So I did. I marched down to the train station, bought my ticket to Valenciennes, got on, and then Mademoiselle Sophie Lejeune, one of my contacts, called me on my portable. I was flustered and couldn't quite understand her on the phone, but somehow managed to communicate that I was on the train, going to Valenciennes. She said she would meet me at the train station and then take me to the Inspector's Office so that we could go over any questions.

I got off the train in Valenciennes, wandered around a bit and then finally bumped into little Sophie Lejeune--a typical petite Frenchy cute in her little black mary jane heels and dress. And she was the sweetest thing. An air of relief finally washed over me. I of course apologized profusely for sounding so desperate the past week or so, but she said she understood, and even invited me to stay with her should I need to in the time being.

Well we walked right down the street to the Inspection de Valenciennes, which is in the same building as my main school that I teach at (Ecole Cariot). It is a typical northern building: large and all brick, with vines creeping up the sides.

And then all the French started. Now I think I understood people fairly well, but now that I think about it, it was really all a blur.

I met the Inspector of Valenciennes, who is sooo super nice and looks like the actor Bob Hoskins (from Roger Rabbit), I met a bunch of other people who work at the school whom I have forgotten now, including some lady I am supposed to have lunch with tomorrow and who is going to look at an apartment with me, I met Anne-Elisabeth, the cute, really tiny, English teacher I will be working with, and then some other guy who I think is an English teacher whom I will be working with (so I better figure out his name...)

Anyways, Sophie made the introductions, it came up I had no housing and was staying in Lille, so then everyone started throwing out ideas for housing. This Serge Gaveriaux (who is supposed to be my main contact) apparently has just been missing. No one knew he was doing nothing for me, so they all tried calling him, finally got him, I forget what was taken care of with that. Someone called the Mayor of Valenciennes to ask about some house he has for housing. I had a coffee and a cookie. The lady I am having lunch with tomorrow went online and called a bunch of apartments. Blah blah. French French. Oh you are from San Francisco? French French. Oh I think I found housing for you! Oh wait no, the guy I tried to call is in China.

That is pretty much how it went, from what I can remember. So, in the end, I am going back tomorrow, at 9am so I need to get up very early. Sophie will introduce me to my other two schools and we will figure out my work schedule (so far I teach at Ecole Cariot Tuesdays from 8:30-10am and then Fridays 8:30-10am and then 2-3pm), I will have lunch with Sophie, the lady whose name I don't know, and her friend, and then the lady whose name I don't know will go look at this studio apartment with me, and hopefully more places if we can find any.

Whew. Man. All I want to do now is eat McDonalds and watch TV. So yeah, I will do that now.

Thanks Jonatan--you know more than anyone when I need a good slap in the face. I don't know if I could have done today without you xoxo

Tomorrow....another day of stuff I probably won't understand or remember