Sunday, November 20, 2011

 So I haven't gotten any better at blogging, but that just means I've been busy enjoying myself (and lesson planning) in Rouen! Right? :) Not that I don't have a ridiculous amount of free time, or anything. 

A couple of weekends ago, my friends and I went to the France vs USA friendly soccer match. The energy was high and we had a great time, especially watching silly non-French speakers drink expensive non-alcoholic beer (the stadium is alcohol-free) and think they're drunk. Nice try! It was a bit sad to see my fellow Americans lose the game, though. I've never seen so many French flags waving at one time as when that goal was scored!

 After the game, I met up with my friend Christina and her boyfriend Arnaud and some of their friends for a night out in Paris! I met Christina in 2009 while studying abroad, and she is currently living in Paris - so great to see her! 

The six of us went out to a club as part of her birthday celebration, and stayed out until almost 5 dancing and sipping champagne. It was a great time and I was in great company. Later this month Christina is going to visit Rouen, and I can't wait to show her all the charms of our smaller city :)

The morning after the club (more like afternoon after, as we got to bed around 6am) Christina and I enjoyed an amazingly clear, gorgeous day in Paris and headed to l'Institut du Monde Arabe. It is a combined museum/bookstore/café with tons of information on the Arab world, as you might have guessed, and beautiful artifacts. The view from the rooftop was amazing. It's one of my new favorite spots in Paris, although we were forbidden from ordering hummus on the terrace's restaurant, so hummus-combined-with-beautiful-view-lovers, beware!

The hostess of said restaurant informed us we could sit on the outside patio if we only ordered drinks, but that we must sit inside if we wanted to eat anything. What's more, we must order more than just a hummus platter if we wanted to eat there. What was really confusing is that there were plenty of people with drinks and appetizers on the patio...hmm. We were directed inside to a small café, devoid of any view, where we could enjoy our hummus in peace. Bummer!

That's one interesting thing about dining out in France ; you do not have the right, necessarily, to order whatever you want. There is no going to a restaurant and ordering just an appetizer, regardless of time of day, and there is no splitting meals. You go out to restaurants to eat proper meals. If you want to snack, go buy a pain au chocolat, one of the few "socially acceptable" foods one may eat while standing/walking in the street, and then only at certain times of the day: early morning and 4pm-ish (the hour of the "gouter", or afternoon snack).  The French see eating as a social, shared activity, and mealtimes are rather formal. No eating in cars, no apples when you're feeling a bit hungry. Of course, you can do whatever you want, it's just a matter of whether you like people staring at you while you do it. 

Clockwise from left: Marissa, Alastair, Liz and Maureen
 Ok enough of that rant! I love Rouen more every day, and really feel that it's the perfect size city. It doesn't hurt that I have an amazing group of friends! I can't say enough how lucky I am to have found such down-to-earth, funny and kind people in this program. We gathered in a park yesterday to have a snack, drink some wine, play some cards, and take advantage of what might be one of the last really nice fall days until winter. It was such a perfect day, simple yet so fun. 

We're currently planning our Thanksgiving celebration this week, all taking responsibility for certain dishes. I am in charge of salad and the pumpkin pie! France does not have canned pumpkin (a travesty, as I am a bit of a canned-pumpkin addict from October through December), so I am using an actual pumpkin this year! I am so excited for this culinary adventure :) haha. I'll have to report back on how it goes!
Not a bad view, right? :)

Teaching has been going quite well, for the most part. Sometimes, however, I have this thought that I have virtually NO training to be a teacher, yet here I am trying to teach squiggly 7-year-olds a foreign language. Am I actually going to make an impression? Also, why am I in charge of this class?!? Once I get into the flow of things, however, I enjoy my classes a lot. 

I often feel as if my head is bursting with ideas for possible lesson plans, and I sometimes have trouble actually concretely getting my work done. I just spend hours googling this and that, perusing teaching websites, and suddenly it's 11pm and I have no lesson done. I always have been a procrastinator! It also doesn't help that I've started watching True Blood (an HBO series about vampires...all of the fanatic facebook statuses intrigued me so!) and that that show is an hour long, and sometimes I just can't help but sneak in an episode between lesson planning sessions. I'm only human! (...or am I?! muahahaha)

I am beginning to feel like a parent posting 8903
pictures of her child. Rouen is just so CUTE!
In other exciting news, Marissa, Maureen, Liz and I are going to BERLIN over Christmas break, and will be there during Christmas!!!!! I mentally jump for joy whenever I think about it, imagining the incredible Christmas markets all over Europe, and specifically in Berlin, that will soon be lining the streets. We'll be taking a (looooong) bus from Paris to Berlin, and staying at a hostel for 5 nights, returning to Paris in time for New Years at the Eiffel Tower. 

What is my life?

Also, even MORE exciting news, My darling cousin Allie will be joining us for New Years :-D. I think that ringing in the New Year in Paris is a sign of a great 2012. 

It's time for me to get to lesson planning now, so I have time the rest of the week to focus on Thanksgiving. It's not as easy to plan and make a massive meal when you have to work late on Thanksgiving and again early the next day! Maybe France should think about adopting the holiday ;) I'm sure they'd agree to another day off. 

I'll let you know how that goes. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How is it November already??

So I have been horribly lazy about blogging during the past three weeks, and that stops here! It's been so long that I could probably write a novel right about now, but in the interest of not scaring away my few readers, I'll keep it short and sweet with mostly pictures :)

So my halloween lessons with the kids went very well! Since my classes range in age from 6 to 11, I adapted each lesson to the language abilities of the students. For the youngest, I read a simple book with pages such as, "My pumpkin has TWO scary eyes!!", to teach numbers and body parts. They enjoyed my interpretation of, "My pumpkin can DANCE!!!". One of the fun things about being with the littlest ones is that I can make a fool out of myself and they like it!

For the older kids, it was reviewing halloween vocabulary followed by halloween bingo. Some lucky winners even got reeses peanut butter cups all the way from the US. Sadly, however, halloween does not really exist in France with very few children dressing up and no trick-or-treating to be seen in my neighborhood. From what I've seen, however, Halloween for my friends and family on the east coast this year was not too great either with all that snow!

Vacation started on October 22, and I go back to school this Thursday. Not too shabby! Here's what I've been up to:

Maureen snapping the tops off of green beans
We've been going to the city's Sunday market every week, and this past week we decided to gather materials and have a nice late-afternoon lunch together!

It was delicious and I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday. Especially when everything else is closed! Hopefully it becomes a Sunday tradition.

Japanese bridge in Monet's garden. Hi Maureen, Jordan and Marissa!
We (Maureen, Marissa, Jordan, Liz, Stacey, Loreto, Clare, Julia and I) took a day trip to Giverny to see Monet's gardens, where he painted his famous water lilies. 

It was gorgeous and such a nice day. Good thing, too, because we missed the once-hourly bus from the train station to the gardens, so we decided to walk the 6 km there and back! It took just over an hour each way and was a nice way to see the surrounding countryside. Giverny looks like what I picture when I think of "French countryside". Most of it, anyway!

The only downside to visiting Monet's gardens in late October is that most of the flowers were in the process of dying. Oh well!

Maureen, Jordan, Liz and I visited Paris for one night this past Saturday, and stayed in a structurally questionable hostel in Montmartre. We visited one of my favorite monuments, the Sacre Coeur. It is always bursting with life, regardless of time of day or weather!

Later that night, we met up with my friend Christina, who I met while studying abroad in 2009 and now lives in Paris, and had dinner in a fondue restaurant that serves wine in baby bottles. It was certainly an experience to remember!

Jordan and Liz goin' for it!

Look at that bubbling vat of cheese!!

Other than our couple of small trips, our vacations have been spent mostly wandering about Rouen and continuing to explore all of the little side streets, nooks and crannies. We went to the Musée de Beaux Arts, a 5 minute walk from my home, the Museum of Natural History, which was incredibly creepy and consisted of stuffed dead animals (the closest I'll ever get to a tiger!) and two-headed cat fetuses in jars. A nice pre-Halloween activity, if you ask me :)

 I've been drinking my share of coffee, espresso, and tea - the French love their caffeine. This Marilyn Monroe espresso cup was served to me in a bathtub-themed restaurant, Les Bains d'Bouches (I think that translates roughly to mouthwash?). There were showerheads hanging from the wall, pictures of people bathing, etc... The food was great too!

I am continuing to enjoy the views from my apartment window, completely aware of how lucky I am each time I look out and see Rouen. Now if I could only get time to slow down a bit!!!