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.