16 January 2009


wow, its been over a month since i've posted!

in my defense, I was galavanting around italy with the fam and jed, so ... yeah!
we had an awesome time, saw more chruches and jesus than i ever even thought possible ("do you think it would be possible to visit ALL of the churches in italy?") favorites were probably random walks around florence, especially at night with all of the pretty christmas lights, the "slow food" restaurant in florence where we had fresh mozerella and truffle bruscetta YUMMMM and the salvadore feragamo museum ( they had audrey hepburns shoes and shoe form! )

now i'm back in good ol le mans, reunited with my grigris and the munchkins at my various schools. Things actually seem to be going better this year; i had a definate GOOD day at Lyautey yesterday! it also made me SO proud today when my CE1 classes were all able to play "where's spot?" with me, and say, all by themselves "is he in the kitchen? is he in the bedroom?" etc. granted, it sounded a bit more like, "iz ke in zhe kitchup?" but hey, i was told the whole thing was WAY too hard for them so i've got to be doing something right!

we had snow here the week i got back, and it was worse than when it snows in seattle! the city for all intensive purposes, shut down for 3 days. no buses ran, and attendance at school was really slim. of course, i didn't get a day off cause the snow and my schedule meshed well and was able to walk (slip and slide) to school (they didn't think to salt or sand the sidewalks, or did so in a completely unproductive manner. as one of the teachers said "they spent all of their money on pretty christmas lights and not on things that are actually useful!" how french)

anywho, it was a great christmas, and i'm glad to be back, just now worrying about what exactly i'm going to do next year! i might try to renew my contract here, but that seems to be easier said than done. i've been given some hope that i might also be able to find a job as an english teacher/assistant at the university but who knows; its all very up in the air. i might also want to try out somewhere else in france, aguh i don't know! yayyyy for incertitude. story of our lives, right?

damn cat just ate a hole through the heel of my sock. on that note, à plus, mes amis!

11 December 2008


i have a newfound respect for all of my past teachers - grading is hard work! and i feel so bad giving out bad grades! :-(

lets see. So far this week I've made some new friends who are in the masters engineering program, taken Grigris back to the vet (whom i found smoking in his office/exam room... ) and am freezing my butt off (currently wearing my coat in my apartment that is barely 50 degrees with both heaters on). 

I had a very interesting conversation with one of the engineer guys, about how american always bad mouth their country. its true- it's kinda in vogue to be "anti-american". He pointed out that while america has made plently of mistakes we also have a lot to be proud of, and we've accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time. It was a very interesting conversation, and honestly, one that I'd never had before. 

09 December 2008

Christmas Begins

i love christmas. 
And Le Mans, it turns out, is the place to be for all types of holiday goodness.
There's the christmas Marché, lights as far as you can see. Santa now resides in his chalet at the place de la Republique ---

oh quick interjection of an Emmy story. SOOO cute: in class the other day, i was teaching them how to say "santa claus" and one snot-nosed boy yells out "santa doesn't exist" to which this adorable little girl answers, "yes, he does! i saw him at E.leclerc on Saturday"(a store like Target, kind of) i almost melted

anyway, back to my rave review of Le Mans at Christmas. The best is that the Cathedrale has this light show thingy going on at night, all lit up with projections. I have yet to suceed at taking an adequate picture of this event, but i will continue in my quest. The "spectacle"(french for show but i think the french word is better. more SPECTACULAR! i see the word like that in my head whenever anyone says it) makes the fact that it gets dark at like 4:30 a little more bearable, since I get to watch it when I walk home from school.

anyways, been hanging out at french parties, italian concerts and american apartments, awaiting with bated breath the 19th when my family arrives!!!

thanks all for aujourd'hui folks. gotta go plan me some lessons...

25 November 2008

hrmph tuesday

not a whole lot to report. kids at Lyautey still strain my vocal cords and my temper, grigris is still the cutest thing in the world, even if he is in the "biting" phase of kittenhood, and the french still don't celebrate thanksgiving. :-(  we're having a frenchified thanksgiving tomorrow but its just not the same. i miss america right now, and our ridiculous fabulous holidays (try explaining thanksgiving to a french person and you realize how wierd it must seem... uh yah, its a holiday to celebrate the pilgrims blatent exploitation and eventual slaughter of the native americans, so now we all get together, eat copious amounts of food, watch a parade with big balloon floats and football. then we go shopping. i still think guy fawkes day is wierder. we were supposed to teach it to the kiddos but i rebelled. i just couldn't really think of good enough explanation/answers about a holiday where you burn effigys of a guy who tried to blow up parliment)

anywho, i'm late for a meeting

20 November 2008


ANNNDD once again, no school - the teachers are striking today! 

I did mess up and miss one of my classes on Tuesday - ooops! No one was very upset though. I've come to the conclusion that Americans and French get along much better once Americans have accepted this fact: Expect very little, and you'll be happy. Now, that also works in reverse: Very little is expected of you. I explained to the Director of the school that I'd misunderstood the time when I was supposed to have taught and that I was really really sorry (I thought I was in trouble, honestly...) but he was like, oh no worries! And very chagrined that I was so upset by my mistake.

Anyway, I took my day off to do a little shopping...for my cat. Yes, I am offically a crazy cat lady. WHAT. But now Grigris has a litterbox that prevents him from kicking cat litter all over the place (his previous favorite passtime) AND a new snazy collar. And cat food that, suppposedly, is supposed to make his poo less smelly (not the reason I bought it, but I found it extremely bizzare that this would be advertised on the front of the package).

Tonight I'm headed over to one of my assistants friends house (Grigris home, actually) to make dinner for her, because she broke her foot last weekend and has had QUITE the experience dealing with it. The poor girl is on crutches, has a full plaster cast up to her knee and has to have a nurse come to her house EVERY NIGHT to give her a shot so her blood doesn't clot (??? yah, I don't get it either). The poor girl is deathly afriad of needles too. Good news is socialized medicine. In France, even WITHOUT insurance, just for being alive and French (or having applied for a carte de sejour, in our cases) you get 60-70% coverage!! Thats like really good medical coverage in the US! If we pay about 35 euro a month its nearly 100%!

Anywho, that is all pour aujourd'hui mes amis... ugh the term "my friends" will never be the same for me after the McCain campaign...

Grigris in all his collared hansomeness:

12 November 2008


No school today (Wednesday) but a bit of a crappy day, since we did have a meeting with our "responsable"aka the woman (Sylviane) who helps us create our lesson plans. I explained to her what I'd done, showed her my lesson plans and she told me that I'd been conducting my classes wrong, that I wasn't supposed to have the CE1 classes write or read at all. This may sound easy, but believe me, its REALLY hard to keep a bunch of 8 year olds interested in your voice for 45 minutes. So yes, I showed them the words "red" and "blue". Honestly, I think its not that big of a deal but I was told to change all of my future lesson plans to not include ANY written words. ugh. I don't know, I just hate doing things wrong. Granted, I knew I'd make mistakes, you have to make mistakes to learn....its just a bit demoralizing.

However, this does make me smile:

Hours of my Gym:

9:30-2:00 and 4:00-9:oo

Wednesday and Friday

9:00 - 1:00

plus free espresso and candies at the front desk...and yet french women don't get fat. Seriously, a national mystery.

11 November 2008

Hello, again


I know its been nearly (gasp!!) two months since I've up and jumped across the pond, but I thought I'd start up a blog again, because I keep finding myself having funny moments, experinces, "Emmy-stories" that I want to share with everyone but then, honestly, I get lazy and forget. So, I figure, if I had a cohesive place to put it all down, then it'd be easier to do. 

So, a quick low-down on life in Le Mans, France. 

I live in a little itty-bitty studio (20m2) that has two floors (do not let that aspect throw you. two very small stories. Case in point - I was talking to my parents on skype the other day and my mom commented that I always seemed to be in bed when I was talking to her. This, I pointed out, is because my bed takes up nearly all of the room on the second floor where I keep my computer. Plus, its super comfy. But I digress)

This is my street, artsy view. I figure as long as I have a blog, I might as well be emo. 

I have a french cat. His name is Grigris (yes I can say "he" now with a strong degree of certainty. I took him to the vet - quite the experience in itself; very french - he didn't wear any gloves and answered the phone twice during the appointment after being 15 min late... but we did confirm Grigris male-ness.) He's probably the cutest thing in the world and kind of my obession right now. Probably homesickness displacement but hey, everyones' got a role. 

my dear readers, meet Grigris:

his little kitten tummy! The giant ears! I'm drowning in cuteness!

I teach, 4 days a week (French kiddo's don't go to school on Wednesday. Nor do they capitolize days of the week or months - French people in general, that is, not just the kids- which really buggs me for some reason) at 3 different schools. Lyautey, which is the farthest away, about 30 min by bus (joy of joys) is probably my "worst" school, since the kids are, well, plein d'energie and un peu malin. I spend most of the 45 min yelling "silence!" or "tais-toi!" or "ça suffit!" or attempting to come up with other remarks in French that would get these damn kids to shut up, sit down and listen to me. Easier said than done. Plus, one of my classes has 9 boys and 2 girls. Hell in a classroom. You remember in Elementary school, that PE teaher/singing teacher/student teacher/aka someone other than your normal teacher who you knew you could get away with anthing with? I'm that person. One of the classes I teach there, the teacher let me in on her secret of "enlever"ing points (taking away, literally, "lifting"), which she told her students that I had the power to do as well, which seems to help. Next week, I'm going to talk to the other teachers and see if we can't set up a similar system. I think its the difference the kids can see with how I view a "good" class. I can't tell you how many times I've just been happy that they're are not being too noisy and the teacher will come to check on me and give the the up and down for not sitting "comme il faut" (like one must) or some other minor infraction. While I know this is an attempt of the teachers to help, I've found it quite unfortunately undermines my authority. Normally, these kids are subjected to what Americans would deem draconian standards - They have to use "vous" with their teachers, they have to line up two by two in the hallways and maintain total silence, hold open doors for adults, and are perpetually being yelled and scoffed at by their teachers. Being told "no" here is not seen as a squelching of a child's imagination as it is in the states. There's no translation of "good try"  "close, but no cigar" or anything of the sort. Kids are simply told, "NO". and "wrong!" I think that there's something to be said for that.

ANYWAY. long rant on my experiences at Lyauty. My other two schools, Marceau and Phillipeaux are both in Le Mans proper, and are much "better" schools. This probably also has something to do with the fact that the teachers at these schools stay in the classroom with me and yell at the kids, rather than leaving me to figure that out while also trying to teach them something. 

I teach CE1 and CE2, which is like first and second grade. So, this is the first time most of them have spoken a word of English, or heard anyone speak English, which makes me both at once a celebrity and a horrible ailen. This is evident when I arrive at the schools, and am immediatley surrounded by small people yelling "ellow!" , but the moment I respond anything in English, they scatter as if I'd just set off some kind of stink bomb. 

Their utter wonder at English is also really cute. One girl asked me if a "pumpkin" was a big apple. I was like, well, uh, no, not really, why? Oh, she says, because you keep saying "pommekin" (pomme being the word for apple in french). Others refuse to believe I speak English since I'm American (not totally their fault because books etc. that are translated will say "translated from the American.) Or, when I was doing a lessson on numbers, the entire class would snicker everytime I said "six" because it sounds like the French pronunciation of "sex". However, my alltime favorite has to be the kid that tried to convince me that John McCain was Mexican. Priceless. 

So yes, I "teach"- I use the ubiquitous " because I do it most of the time, when there's not a holiday, school break, scheduling conflict, natural disaster or alien invasion (it seems like I've hit every excuse thus far...) If not, I hang around a lot with the other assistants here, 3 of whom are also Americans, and one other English girl. These are just the Primary assistants. Odd thing is, there are BUNCHES of other assistants around Le Mans, (for the middle schools, and high schools) but we have no way of getting in touch, so yeah, every once and a while someone will come up to me all timid-like and speak in English "are you an Assistant? I heard you speaking English..." 

Ms. Panicek came to check out my new digs recently, which was fabulous to have her around, even if I did show her the most boring week ever. (whoohooo carrefour and the pawnshop!!) I'm finding that this year is a lot more about acutally LIVING in France than last time I did this, which has taken a bit of adjustment. I can't quite discribe what it is, but there's a definate tweak in the outlook. 

So there's a not-so-brief-but-much-belated introduction to Emmy-in-Le-Mans. 

I'll leave you with this: I was watching the French version of "Extreme Makeover" last night (you know, the plastic surgery makeover show) in which boob shots are a-ok, nipple and all. But they blurr out all the surgery.  Meditating on that for a while made me think a lot about the differences in what we versus France deem unsavory or unsuitable for public viewing.