I am now actually in Valence, the city where I will be teaching. Sorry for the delay in posting, internet is still difficult but I should be fully “wired” by Monday. Who wants to Skype???
I just spent two and a half days at a Stage (orientation) in Autrans with the other 300 assistants in the Academie de Grenoble. The summer camp that we stayed in was quickly and separately (and tastelessly perhaps) nicknamed Auschwitz by the Anglophones. It must have been built during the war and everything was built at the level of a six year old. All of us were at least over 18, with most over 21, so this was inconvenient.
The rooms were in this long echoing buildings and each room had six beds. I was in a room with another American, an English girl, two Germans, and a Swiss girl. The room was probably only meant to hold four beds, but I guess 300 people are hard to accommodate. The surrounding mountains were beautiful. However, I pity the French child who has to spend their whole summer in the stark Bellecombe dormitory and eat the dining hall food.
The food… I’ve never had such food in France. It was so bad that I actually got excited to see what bizarre concoction they would bring out next. Each meal was an inexplicable five courses, except for breakfast, which was giant boxes of cornflakes and coffee. No coffee cups though, so you had to either use your cereal bowl for coffee or the cornflakes and unpasteurized milk. Back to lunch and dinner though. Luckily, there was always something that was free of meat and plenty of bread that you could retrieve from strategically positioned laundry baskets. The first night there was a mushy, salty vegetable mixture as an appetizer. Someone at my table declared it “tasted like seawater.” Other dinner and lunch highlights included the endless plates of cheese that came between the main course and dessert. One night dessert was a plate of chocolate éclairs, the next apples and processed cheese. Throughout the meals, the cooks would be standing with arms crossed in the dining hall. They were very strict about where you could sit and made you fill up an entire table before the next could be seated at.
The reason we were actually at this place was to learn about what we would be doing. However, I mostly was told that I have to teach Queen’s English. My thoughts on this is if they wanted official British English, they shouldn’t have hired American, Canadian, Australian, South African, Jamaican, Taiwanese, and Irish assistants. So I’ll do my best, but I’m not going to care very much about the difference between “coloring pencils” and “colored pencils.” They were also adamant about not touching the children. Thank god they cleared that up.
Despite all this, the Stage was amazing for meeting all the other assistants. I met a lot of fun and amazing people and I’m excited to meet up throughout the months. We’re kind of spread out, but it’s not a huge space. I’m going to spend this weekend and the following week in Valence and may head over to Grenoble again next weekend to sightsee. Or go to a bar that doesn’t require a mile walk in the cold mountain air like in Autrans. I guess crazy conditions are good bonding experiences though and I’m feeling good about the English-speaking safety net I have if things get stressful.