Saturday, October 1, 2011

The art of don't say no-ism

Whew! So, I heard from my landlord (or landlady, I suppose...) the next day, and she said I could come meet her, fork over the rest of the money, and the keys were mine!! I am absolutely in love with my little apartment; it is the perfect size for my needs, it’s adorable, I have my own bathroom and shower, I have a great view, and so far, everything works! I also have incredibly nice landlords and neighbors.

I moved in yesterday, and had everything set up in no time - one benefit of having very few belongings. Most of what I needed was already here, but I’ve since acquired a few more things: automatic teakettle, bowls, bread and chef’s knives, and wine glasses (of course!); it really feels like home. My first thought when I finished decorating and sat down on my futon was, “I don’t ever want to leave!”
The view from my apartment window is incredible!

That is only theoretical, of course, as Rouen and Normandy in general have tons to offer. In fact, 2011 is Normandy’s 100-year anniversary, so this year will be packed with festivals and attractions. My brain is swimming with all of the places I want to go, things I want to see, and food I want to taste. As of this moment, my time here already seems to be flying!

My landlords, Mr. and Mme. Schaller, came by yesterday to install a new showerhead, point out the good boulangeries in the area, and help me set up my Wi-Fi connection (in French, it’s pronounced “wee-fee” J). Unfortunately, my connection was strong on the first floor where the router is but I had almost nothing up here on the 4th floor. Hearing of my plight, a kindly neighbor who rents an office next to my studio came by and offered me his Wi-Fi password, as his signal would be much stronger from 15 feet away. How nice! Even more generous was the fact that he actually gave me a copy of the keys to the office and said that if my internet was not working, I could use their computers. Who ever said French people are not friendly?!

Fast-forward a whopping 30 minutes to another semi-knock on my already-open door (we’re currently experiencing an Indian summer, and it’s freakin' hot on the 4th floor!) It was my landlady! She asked me how I was settling in, and I told her how much I was enjoying my new place. She then said, “It’s so nice out, and you’re all alone up here on a Friday night!” (loser much?? Haha), and then asked me to join her family for a barbecue at their house in the countryside. Though part of me wanted to plop down and sleep for hours, alone for the first time in a week, I am currently trying out a principle of not saying ‘no’ (within reason, nothing crazy!) I have a tendency to avoid potentially awkward situations at the risk of losing out. Wouldn’t you know it, it ended up being a great night!

I’ll take this time to say that she invited me at around 6:30pm, just as I was going from hungry to ravenous. Little did I know that dinner wouldn’t start until around 10! Once we got in the car, we hit a little city traffic, stopped at the market to pick up some fruits and vegetables, and then dropped one daughter (age 20) off at the stables to ride while also picking up her youngest (Amélie, age 11). Upon arrival at their gorgeous home, Mr. Schaller and Amélie went for a swim. Mme Schaller asked me if I wanted to swim and offered to lend me a bathing suit, but I decided to temporarily abandon my “don’t say no” policy. Baby steps.

As we were waiting for dinner to start as well as for her other daughter to return home from riding lessons with her two friends, I sat outside with Amélie chatting and going over her English workbooks. My landlords had asked me a few days ago if I would be interested in tutoring Amélie in English, and I readily agreed. Yesterday was a bit of a preview! She is extremely sweet and I’m sure we will both teach each other a lot. As an aside, if you want to hear one of the most adorable sounds in the world, just listen to a child speak French. It gets me every time!

The dinner and wine were wonderful, and of course ended with bread and delicious cheese from the Pays Basque, as well as some fruit. The meal itself lasted a couple of hours, followed by some TV and chatting. Around 11:30, however, I began to wonder if I had unwittingly signed up for a sleepover.

A few minutes later, Mme Schaller indeed asked if I wanted to stay over, saying that her kids’ friends have the habit of doing so on Friday nights. I abandoned my “don’t say no” policy yet again and said that I’d prefer to sleep in my apartment if they wouldn’t mind. It was to be my inaugural slumber, after all! She and Mr. Schaller drove me home, taking a little loop around the apartment to point out the good bakeries and stores in the area. I got in my room a little after 12 and was wiped but so glad that I’ve met such kind people so far. I feel that I already have a sort of ‘home base’ and definitely have people I can go to if I need anything!

Today was another landmark day: I did LAUNDRY! Glorious clean clothes were strung all over my apartment like decorations for a grand festival; I even hung my jeans out the window to dry. I found a nice little Laundromat up the street that’s only a five-minute walk- hallelujah!

Later in the day, I met fellow assistants Emily, Jamie and Liz for lunch in Place Saint-Marc (only about 15 minutes away between the metro and walking) and afterwards explored the centre-ville for a bit! Rouen is great on the weekends, full of life and all sorts of people. Tomorrow there are a couple of really good markets, so I’m going to try to get out there early! Not too early, however. The markets start around 6am, it doesn’t begin to get light here until around 7:30 am. I’m not about to go shopping in the dark! I’m not that hardcore yet.

Well that’s definitely a long enough post for this time. Soon you’ll be able to read all about my classroom adventures – things should get interesting ;)
I didn't know my thumbs could bend that far!



  1. Hannah

    Sounds like you've pretty much made it!

    Welcome to France - you seem to have had a wonderful start!

    All the best



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