27 October 2009

Je me trouve à Besançon...et me perd, aussi. OR I find myself in Besancon, and lose myself, too.

Hello, again, after a shamefully long break. Suffice it to say that I had a lot of trouble finding internet access for a few days, but now have both internet and telephone at my apartment in Vesoul! YAY!
I am in Besancon at the moment, and have been for the last two days. Lupita, Pamela, and I stayed with Louis, an assistant from Cuba, in his apartment at the Lycee du Duc for the last two nights, and I will be staying with Julia tonight and have a medical visit and some administrative stuff to do tomorrow in Besancon....
We arrived in Besancon at around noon on Saturday and one of my high school's English teachers met us at the train station and took us, with our baggage, in her car to Louis's place and then to see a bit of the town. Unfortunately, as some of you are all-too well aware, I have a tendency towards carsickness, particularly in small cars, and particularly with manual cars and most particularly on uber-narrow medieval one-way streets.
Now that I have explored a bit on foot and regained my sense of equilibrium, I know that Besançon is a lovely town, with cobbled pedestrian-only streets and shops, shops, shops, boulangeries (bakeries), chocolateries, etc. etc. Here is a photo of one of the main squares while a market was going on. The Doubs river runs in a horse-shoe loop around centre ville, the old town, and there are five or six bridges that cross it at intervals. There are ramparts and gaurd towers from the 16th century all over the place, the brainchild(ren) of the architect Vauban. This photo of me is in front of the ramparts of the Citadelle, built by him. One of Vauban's towers, the Pelote, now houses a restaurant where the waitstaff are dressed in medieval garb and there is no electricity. I totally want to check this out, but am told it is pretty expensive, so I'll have to wait a bit. I envision a cross between Medieval Times and Monty Python & the Holy Grail...
On Sunday, Louis, Lupita, and I went to the Musée du Temps, housed in a giant old building built by the Granvelle's a powerful family in Besançon's history. The museum was a combination of very very old architecture--thick wooden beams and sloping stone stairwells, and very new architecture-- glass walkways flung through the upper stories, and beautiful, very modern science exhibits on nanotechnology and quartz crystals that could have passed for art installations. The older exhibits told of the evolution of Besançon as a watch and clock-making town, as well as the advancements in timepieces that led to modern clocks. Basically, there were long glass cases filled with clocks and pocket watches from the middle ages, all beautifully ornate, and made from all sorts of materials--gold, silver, shark's skin... my favorite pieces looked like the Golden Compass, with all sorts of tiny dials showing not only the hours, days, and minutes, but also the movements of the planets, seasons, phases of the moon....
By the time we got to the Musée de Beaux-Arts we were a tad musée-ed out. I was still able to get excited about seeing works by Courbet, Matisse, Picasso, and Rodin. And then suddenly as we were wandering down the labyrinthine, sloping rooms, there were mummies! Two of them, to be precise, and some displays of Roman artifacts found in the Besançon area.
On Monday I met up with Julia, my friend from Colorado, and we made some tasty tasty vegetarian fajitas in the gorgeous apartment she shares with a French girl called Estelle, who is Lovely and Amazing. Estelle is an artist and the apartment has these very elegant, shabby-chic furnishings...one of those people and one of those places you would like to be/have yourself someday, but probably never will.
Julia let me come with her to her gym in Besançon and I went to a French weightlifting class, that was sort of like aerobics and barbells combined...I had never done anything remotely like this before, and so felt rather silly rather a lot. But I was entertained by the way the instructor gave directions and encouragement ('un, deux, encore, toujours!') and by looking around at the other participants, who seemed to be very very different, and ranged from Super Buff Older Fellow to Puny Anorexic Lady-HowIsSheLiftingThat?!, to overweight lady with world's Least Attractive Mullet... then I ran for a while and tried really hard not to make eye contact with the other gym-folk, since I wasn't sure what comprises a culturally appropriate way to behave in french gym...
This morning, Tuesday, I had my medical visit and visa validation, which means that I am now officially allowed to reside in France! YAY! And then Julia and I went to a giant shoe store and I found two pairs of boots....More Yay. And now I have returned to Vesoul, to have a little R&R for a couple days, sleep in my own bed, do some laundry.

12 October 2009

Les choses vont un peu mieux... OR Things are going better!

Things were much better today. I sat in on three classes, and the kids were all very young--14 or 15--and pretty agreable. One of the teachers I like most had gotten back essays from another class, written on the subject of their first meeting with me. The essays were so well-written, sweet, and funny that I got a bit teary reading them. I asked her if I could make photocopies so I could read them when I have bad days like Friday, and she said that was fine. They sort of redeemed my faith in humanity after Friday. So here are some highlights. I'm leaving the errors in because I think they are quite charming:
''The fact that Lindsay has come to see us was very original. I really appreciate that she came all this way to talk to us here in Vesoul. In addition, she was very cheerful, and we saw it we wanted to talk, we discover, and we share her knowledge. For me, I was very happy to meet some new friends with someone who had a smile and wished us know. What is really wonderful is that you could meet one person living in another country and another culture and being able to exchange living with this person.''
''I think Lindsay has some courage to come in France for one year, and alone!''
''We have a lot in common, I agreed with everything she said, except on the fact that french cheese is good! I HATE the cheese here!''
''I didn't think Americans like France. For me, American laughed at French people. But, I discovered they likes us. They likes our culture and our food. I discovered the american accent too. It's funny that Lindsay said ''I like cheese''; We are special humans, we are liked for our cheese!''

In other news, the weekend was fairly pleasant. On Saturday night we met up with some of the Spanish teachers and went to a Latin American soiree put on by the 'Committee for the Support of Latin American Peoples' in a community room in a local high school. We paid €16 for the evening and there was a great live band playing Buenos Aires Social Club-type music. The food was not as good as I was hoping, but it was at least entertaining. It was sort of a French person's idea of Latin American food, I guess, with a first course salad sprinkled with corn and tiny cocktail shrimp, a main course of chili con carne that was basically a thick stew of beans and rice with meat. Next followed a cheese course (somehow I don't think they serve camembert in Latin America, but I could be wrong), and then bannana slices served with chantilly cream and cinnamon. There were no tortillas or corn chips; but there were bread baskets filled with cut up baguettes (yes!) and wine was served, of course!
The evening was Quite long, with a new course served about every hour. We arrived at 8.30 and left a little after midnight! Keep in mind that this was at a high school, and that we were the only young people there, by about 50 years, aside from some toddlers and children playing chase under the trestle tables.
Later in the evening some couples started to dance salsa along to the music and we had a really good time watching them.
Sunday was pretty mellow--I did some laundry with our washing machine and hung it up to dry (on a side note, it is totally different to me to have a washer but not a dryer. We have these huge racks where we hang up our clothes, but since it is kind of humid here it can take almost a week for things to dry! I had kind of forgotten about this sort of thing living in Colorado!). Later, I met up with Elaine, the assistant from Birmingham, AL and we hiked up to La Motte, talking at Mach 9 about all of the cultural differences, not having internet, etc. We agreed that we should really try to find bikes around here, its kind of the only way to get to some good hikes without a car.
Sunday night we went to check out the opening event of Vesoul's Jacques Brel music festival, which was a competition between six unheard-of bands to win a chance to make a cd. We heard a kind of indifferent rap group from Besancon, then a FANtastic girl called Marina, who apparently was part of this reality tv show in France called Star Academy a few years ago but didn't win. She was adorable, and clearly a little nervous. There was this lanky guy who played lead guitar to her rythm guitar and added some perfect harmonies. It was just my kind of singer-songwriter stuff. She totally stole our hearts!
Here is (I think) a clip of what she sounds like from Youtube, but there are no speakers on this computer, so I have't listened to the clip.

After Marina came this guy called Nicolas Fraissenet came on with a larger band. He played piano and sang and there were two guitarists and a drummer. This guy totally went all out and he had a freakin amazing voice, very powerful, with a huge range. The music was pretty epic, kind of reminded me of U2. The songs were beautifully written, with really original subjects--I think one was about a little boy who watches his father driving away, another was about an old woman who reflects on her life while she is starving herself to death (?), and the last one was a very passionate number from the perspective of a goldfish in a small aquarium. Yeah. I know it sounds weird, but this guy was an amazing performer.
The last group we saw was mUch more experimental in nature, with a cellist, a keyboardist, and a the lead singer who had to play both the drums and a series of stringed instruments at the same time because (I think) the drummer was sick. The best I can describe this group is sort of spoken word rock. But there were strange noises and stuff that reminded me of Ross's 'wordless sound poems' from Friends. There were moments when you just had to laugh because it sounded so wacky, but all the same there was something compelling that tied all of the instruments together and made it impossible to stop listening. It was as if this guys were an old-fashioned storyteller, in terms of the types of lyrics, with the sounds and music as the soundtrack....
Anyway, we had to leave before the prizes were awarded because it got quite late and we all had to observe classes early this morning. I STILL don't know who won and I am super curious. I'll have to wait for tomorrow's paper!!!
Here's a clip of Fraissenet, I think:

In other news, I bought a new pillow today because the ones I've been sleeping on are abominable and giving me extreme backaches. I also finally found a large enough mug for my tea (photo above). Guess which one is mine?? Also, since I had finally put my towel through the wash, I had to find another one to use after my shower this morning. I picked a bright pink one that was in the apartment when we got here. It turned out to be way too small to be useful and I didn't notice until afterwards that it must have been used by someone working on a car or lawnmower because there were grease smudges. As a result, I've smelt faintly like a mechanic all day today.
I managed a very nice little dinner for myself this evening, with a lovely local pinot noir, and pasta with pesto and diced veggies that I sauteed: mushrooms, zucchini, onion, garlic, and roughly chopped cherry tomatoes. Kathrin and I finished the meal off with some AMAZING, creamy cheese--Saint Marcel, I think one is called, and another kind that has a very thin stripe of blue cheese running through an otherwise very mild cheese. With our cheese course we sampled dark grapes and a pistacho & dark choclate bar, to see how the flavors were all together-- and felt thoroughly decadent!

10 October 2009

Dans lequel j'apprends que tous les français croit que les Americans portent les armes de feu.....OR In which I learn that the French think all Americans own guns....Yeah.

Okay, I had kind of a bad day yesterday (Friday). I observed 7 classes, which was pretty exhausting, since I gave presentations about myself and Colorado in four of the classes, which involved me trying to explain things in very simple English and then trying to field all sorts of questions. I worked waaaaay more than 12 hours last week (the required time for assistants), but when I mentioned it to the head English teacher he said, "Oh well, you're just observing, it's not that hard..." Yeah. Right.
Towards the end of the week, I was really feeling like a zoo animal, there to be gawped at, particularly in one teacher's classes, where kids would ask really bizarre or personal questions.
Then during the last class of the day, I presented myself to a really large group of older kids, about 30 of them, and answered their questions and everything. It came up that the night before on the national French news there had been an expose on American politics, focusing on an interview with a Neo-Nazi right-winger who claimed he wanted to assasinate Barack Obama. I tried in vain to explain that this is really a minority opinion and a very radical view, not one shared by the majority of Americans. I thought it a bit odd when one kid asked me if I had a gun, and when I said that I didn't, and tried to exlpain that not that many people in America do, the teacher said "Well, when I was in South Carolina, everyone had guns!" "Yes," I tried to backpaddle, "but it's a little different in the South, you know, people go hunting, and..." but I could see that no one belived me. Then when they started their lesson, I realized they were studying Michael Moore's film, Bowling for Columbine. Aha.
Now, I have seen Bowling for Columbine, and I thought it was really good and thought-provoking in a lot of ways. But these kids were watching it not as social commentary or as Michael Moore's opinion, but as if this was American History. They were studying the cartoon part of the film that critiques and pokes fun at the United State's fears and subsequent massacres, i.e., fear of being persecuted led to the Pilgrims arrival in America, fear of Native Americans led to massacres, fear of black people led to the Ku Klux Klan, etc. etc.
Here's the link, if you want to see what I'm talking about:
Bowling for Columbine cartoon
Now, this is about parallel to watching South Park in order to learn about American family dynamics...it might be an interesting supplement, but if this is all you see, you are going to wind up with an incredibly distorted view of American culture!
The students in this class took turns reading the transcript of the cartoon sequence aloud, and they all did a worksheet to see if they understood what the cartoon had said. I sat there, totally shocked, while they were reading, "Don't kill me big black man!", etc. etc.  in monotone voices...
At no point in the class was there any discussion of how this was a caricature, exaggeration, etc.
I began to feel truly uncomfortable, like the students were looking at me askance...I felt misrepresented, judged, and condemned, and I had no opportunity to say that this is not how "everyone" in the US really thinks or behaves. I was nearly in tears by the end of the class, and afterwards I tried asking the teacher if they had talked about exaggeration, satire, etc. and she said "Yeah, yeah, the kids totally understand!" But I was unconvinced. I later tried to explain to another English professor how awful it had been for me, and she responded by saying "Oh, I thought every American had a gun, too!"
Great. Good. Cool. Okay.
This is the first experience I have had this time around with anti-americanism, and while I sort of expected it in the first few days, I guess I was lulled into a false sense of comfort by the nice townspeople and teachers....now I am wondering if people are nice to me because they think I have a gun! Okay, not really, but I feel kind of disillusioned and super sensitive. It's harder here than I had thought, because I am the first American most of these kids have ever met, and they have LOTS of misconceptions, but because they are so familiar with American music and tv shows, they aren't openminded to hearing things that are contrary to their expectations/perceptions. I guess it's far more dramatic and exciting to believe that all Americans are drug-addicted, promiscuous, and violent...and I feel sort of powerless to change their perceptions, like the proverbial kid with his finger in the dyke. It's also hard to feel like I am the representative of an entire culture, or rather, many cultures. I don't think many French kids get that America can really be compared to Europe, rather than compared to France, Spain etc. They don't understand how vast it is, or how many different beliefs, lifestyles, dialects, etc. it contains. Sigh. I'm not sure if this post really makes sense, I'm probably still too close to the situation to explain it properly.
On the bright side, the marché this morning was nice and I bought some really tasty cheese. Tonight is the Latin American soiree, where we will have chile con carne! Hooray for Mexican food!
Missing you all like crazy!

07 October 2009

Autres Pensees, On a Cimetery, Teflon, and Super Marys

*We, the assistants, have discovered that our nearest neighbors are those in the cemetery just beyond the auto-route that lies about 50 feet from the apartment. Somehow, it wouldn’t be that creepy if this were a really old cemetery, with cool historical tombstones and all—but this is the newer cemetery, where the local folks are interred on a fairly regular basis. I’m not really sure why, but this creeps us out quite a bit.

We stumbled across the cemetery on the way back from climbing La Motte (more pictures available on facebook). We did not find the main track or path up to La Motte on the way up. It was strange, but all the signs that said “La Motte” and indicated the direction were only visible on the way back down from the Motte. I feel this would make a great Eddie Izzard sketch, [insert British voice] “Yes, thank you, we’ve just been to the Motte, and now we’d like to go elsewhere…” So we wound up struggling up a dog track through a densely forested part of the hillside, hopping over tree trunks and such. Fortunately, I had worn my hiking boots, but the other girls had only skate shoes and converses, plus the bags of produce and bread we had just purchased from the farmer’s market, so we took turns hauling each other up the steep embankments and laughing a lot as our produce went flying.

La Motte consists of this open-air monument to “Notre Dame de la Motte” (Our Lady of the Motte), basically the local version of the Virgin Mary, and it’s essentially a steepled pavilion housing a large statue of Mary, painted white, but with large flakes fallen off around the face, giving a very mottled sort of look, like when vanilla ice cream has chunks of chocolate in it. Mary was put in place by the residents of Vesoul in 1856, and she faces South. The coolest part of La Motte, to me, is the sort of grotto or cave underneath the main monument, with a smaller, brightly painted statue of Notre Dame de la Motte, lots of flowers and lit candles, some smaller Mary statues (mini-Marys?) and tons of plaques, like the ones I mentioned seeing in L’Eglise Saint Georges for Sainte Therese.

I love these plaques because each one seems to represent some momentous occurrence in the life of the donor, and I like to imagine the stories behind the plaque. One plaque from 1920 reads “Thank you for two healings.” Another says “For healing Mamma- M and Y” and lots of them read “Reconnaissance à Marie” which I think in this context means a sort of sighting or direct experience of Mary. And many of these plaques date from around the first and second world wars.

I know that many Christian monuments in France were originally sacred pagan spots, and the book I am reading at the moment, The Discovery of France (brilliant, check it out at the Boulder Book Store) suggests that each village’s Mary was a little bit different from the next, that it was really “their” patron Mary, and that special affection was given to the statues themselves, so that when priests tried to substitute weathered or, er, “ghetto” Mary statues for new ones, the villagers often became rather violent. Having very little knowledge of the Catholic Church’s rituals, I am totally fascinated by this apparent combination of Christian and pagan belief. In particular, I wonder why there are so many Marys in the little grotto (do more Marys equal more results? Like how the Captain Planet kids combine their powers to create Captain Planet—do all the Marys combined make a Super Mary?). And I wonder why the grotto has been given so much recent attention, when the larger statue on top of the Motte seems almost abandoned to the elements…

*It might not have been clear from earlier posts, but there are a large number of students who live at the high school from Monday through Friday, demi-pensionaires, who live in dorm-style buildings called internats. On weekends, the kids leave for their respective homes, which generally aren’t too far away anyway. Since French establishments are very conservative with lighting and electricity, and since there is a fence all around the school property, there are no outdoor lights on the weekends. Fortunately the moon has been bright lately, as I am still looking for a little pocket flashlight for the weekends. But thanks to these kids we can theoretically have dinner and breakfast at the canteen (the school cafeteria). I’ve eaten several times in the canteen for lunch, where I can visit a little with the other teachers, but the food at dinner is, well, not as good, so I prefer to make little sandwiches and pasta at the apartment. Hopefully, I will be able to branch out and cook other things, but since we are missing so many basics (an oven, a cheese grater, a large skillet or wok-type pan, basic spices, etc) and since most of the existing items have been extremely badly used (try eating eggs with bits of Teflon for breakfast. Yummy.) I think I will have to ease into cooking in France. So much for learning to make French meals while I’m here!

A side note: Hopefully it does not sound like I am complaining! I really feel quite lucky to have an inexpensive and, I think, safe place to live. I really like the town and how welcoming most people have been so far. And we’ve had exceptionally good weather while I’ve been here. These experiences and differences are just my mini culture shocks, I guess, and these things are easy enough to get used to—like the fact that I wake up most mornings to the sound of chairs scraping the floor in the classroom on the other side of my bedroom wall. It doesn’t bother me too much now! I just find telling you all about these things to be therapeutic!!

In other news, I observed three more classes today, and “presented” myself with a short power point presentation, consisting of a map of the US, and a few pictures of Boulder, Atlanta, etc. I also included a few pictures of Tuscaloosa, because I wanted them to have an idea of how different landscapes look in different parts of the US. I included a picture of a tornado, thinking that would be kind of novel for them to hear about, and also a photo of Moundville Archaeological Park’s Indian mounds, thinking that they might be interested in hearing about Native Americans. I tried to speak slowly, simply, and clearly while explaining the photos, but there was a lot of whispering and speculation when the teacher asked them to summarize what I had said. Some of the students thought that the grassy mounds were for BMX or mountain biking, others remembered hearing me mention burial mounds and thought the mounds were a mass cemetery—this evolved into the idea that Americans “fait du velo dans le cimetiere!!” (go biking in the cemetery!). Yeah. I can really see how gross cultural misconceptions have their beginnings.

Later in the class, the teacher wrote a date I had mentioned on the board, “1000 A.D.” and prompted the class to define the abbreviation “A.D”. One girl said “Oh, avant Dieu!” (Before God!). Hmmm. Close. Partial credit for effort. The teacher said something like, “Uh, that’s open to debate, I guess, but most people know it as Anno Domini.” Later still, I was trying to very simply explain how Stone Mountain in Georgia was formed, since the students couldn’t quite tell what it was from my picture. I mimed lava flowing out of the earth and solidifying into granite. [This is tough to mime.] The professor tried to explain that the lava solidified into stone. “Yes, but what is inside the mountain?” one girl asked. “Well, let’s think about this” said the teacher, kind of encouraging her to think of the answer herself, “you have rock on the outside…so on the inside…there’s probably more rock.”

In one of the later classes I had much harder questions to answer, like from the young man who asked me what Americans thought of French people. What sprang immediately to mind was “Frogs. Freedom Fries.” But I tried to proceed with the utmost diplomacy. Others asked questions about US foreign policy, the war in Iraq, etc. In one class where hardly anyone spoke, everyone made “boo” sounds when George W. Bush was mentioned and noises of approval when Barack Obama was mentioned. Interestingly, people here LOVE Barack Obama. He even made the cover of this year’s dictionary. The French dictionary. With French words. This seems incredible to me, since, as you may know, Barack Obama is not French. I asked one of the teachers about this and he explained that when French people really love or admire someone, they treat them as though they deserved to be French.

05 October 2009

Les petits differences OR The Little Differences

Little differences / quirky things I’ve noticed:

*Toilet paper comes in black, red, and pink (Nicole: guess what you are getting for xmas??)

*I am an amazon here, towering over nearly all the other women and a fair amount of the men. Big crowd at the market? No problem. But when talking to other people or waiting in line, I find myself slouching down to be at their level, mostly so I can hear better! Occasionally it makes me feel oversized and awkward, like the clumsy adolescent who keeps making mistakes. In this case, the mistake is that I didn’t stop growing when I reached a respectable height. And, sadly, if I ever need to buy shoes here, it might be difficult to find my size! Keep in mind that I am only five foot six—I wouldn’t exactly consider myself “tall” in the States! And you know that scene in Lost in Translation, where Bill Murray is trying to take a shower, but the showerhead is at, like, chest level? Yeah.

*I had forgotten or maybe never fully experienced the “French stinkiness” when I was studying abroad in Annecy. Well, I’ve experienced it now! I think most men do not wear deodorant, so there is often a very ripe, er, manly scent—a sort of stinky aura, really, that surrounds them. Since it is customary to kiss on the cheeks when meeting friends here, and since personal space is, in general, less than in the States, I have had a few really trying moments, especially when taking public transport, where I’ve been squished up against some very friendly and helpful, but Stinky French man. I haven’t really noticed this with women yet, but if I ever find somewhere to do yoga….well, let’s not imagine that just yet!

*The walls in our apartment are very very thin, so thin that Kathrin, the German assistant, can probably hear me setting down my glasses on the nightstand at night. There is a family who lives above us, and it is sometimes hard to tell if someone has just entered and is walking around Our apartment, or theirs. Also, since there are no rugs or carpeting anywhere to absorb sounds, and the ceilings are quite high, there are a lot of echoes and everything sounds even bigger, louder and closer. For instance, I am sitting in my room reading, when suddenly I hear a great CRASH! I rush into the kitchen, thinking someone has fallen down the stairs outside the apartment, but it is only that a spatula has fallen onto the floor from the drain rack. Happily, a teacher has just given me an old rug for my room, and it feels much less like a cave!

*My high school students are old enough to buy alcohol and, I guess, cigarettes. I keep seeing little clusters of kids sitting in a circle, smoking, just outside of the school grounds. This has been pretty weird and a little disturbing so far…some of them look like they are twelve, with braces and pimples and everything, it just seems wrong! Even the kids who aren’t 18, but look like they could be, can purchase alcohol, since no one checks ids. I tried to explain how different it is in the States to a group of kids, but I’m not sure if they really understood.

*One of the English teachers told me that many of his students are completely unused to any kind of creative writing or self expression at school. He had assigned them to write poems about themselves, following a rubrick like, “I dream of……” “I cry when…..” and finding adjectives and short phrases that identified them. This was apparently totally novel, and some of them had a really hard time being creative, and not censoring themselves. I thought this was really strange, since, when you walk around the school grounds, they are all dressed so expressively, so individually, with a huge range of personal styles, much more so than at an average American high school. There are posters and flyers for different musical groups, and I’m sure the kids are bubbly and expressive outside of the classroom. The teacher told me that this is one of France’s great paradoxes—it’s a cultural mecca in many ways, but the school system is still backward and kind of oppressive, kind of smushing students down into “ideal pupils” for the bacc exam. Even getting them to talk in class is sometimes hard, they are so used to lecture-style learning.

Today was the orientation day in Besancon, which mostly consisted of a LOT of paperwork! I did get to meet some more English speakers (and non-english speaking assistants) and it felt really good to talk to people who are having the same problems and to compare travel horror stories. (One girls baggage was lost when she flew into Paris, so she didnt have her clothes or toiletries for TEN DAYS when she first arrived! She wears a size ten shoe, so finding replacements was nearly impossible, she had to borrow shoes from a man she met! The airline company finally returned her luggage and it was broken and ripped up...). In general, apart from the internet problems, I feel very very lucky! Miss you all, though!

02 October 2009

Enfin! Quelques images! OR Finally, some pictures!

Finally I have a few images of the apartment and the view from my window of the town to upload! Sorry there aren't any of the town yet--I'm working on it! Pictured are my new slippers (Yay slippers!) because the French dont belive in carpets or rugs, apparently; the view from my window, our kitchen, and my bedroom from several angles!

This was my first real day of observing classes today. I sat in on three different classes, with two different professors and it was VERY interesting to see how they held class and the differences in how they taught English. It seems like its a real challenge to get the students to speak in English--they are quite shy--but very ready to talk amongst themselves in French! I think I will learn a lot about teaching from these different professors--sometimes axactly what NOT to do! For the first class the teacher decided to just sort of improvise introducing me, so we sat in a circle and she had me tell the students a little about myself and then let them ask me questions. I thought they were pretty quiet, but after the class she thanked me and said it was the most energetic she'd seen them so far, and she thought that I might be able to make a real difference in their perception of english class! This makes more sense when you consider that learning english in high school here is NOT volontary! They begin learning english in junior high, and I think for some it is really just one of those things you HAVE to do, like spelling tests, or the dentist. It seems that they are not allowed to do very many fun activities or conversational things, either, since all of their work is meant to prepare them for the Bacc, this huge exam they study for all of high school for that determines whether or not they can go to university. So, hopefully I'll be able to provide some fun and interest for them! Also, I've noticed so far that at least one teacher makes some rather grievous errors in English on a very regular basis! Yikes! Hopefully  I can provide, er, an alternative option....