Before starting my post, let me first say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM!!!
Today was my first day to actually interact directly with my students. I mainly told them my name and had to clarify that I was not from England like Sophie, the assistant who worked in my position last year. They then asked me questions like “What time is it in America?” and “How old are you?” I’m feeling less nervous about the teaching, although one of my schools (I have three) is in an area of town that is rather poor and mostly immigrants. The kids are nice, but disruptive, and the teachers yell a lot more than I’m used to. The students’ French is also imperfect, as many of their parents don’t speak it as their first language and this will make learning English even harder. But no one back home should worry about my safety, as I take a bus that drops me off right in front of the school and it’s really only after dark that I shouldn’t be in that part of town. The other two schools are in rural areas and are much calmer. One, La Roche de Glun, is in a very charming medieval town. Which is good, because the bus only comes by every few hours, so I will have some waiting between when I finish teaching and when I go back to Valence.
The other day I got to really test my language skills when helping a French guy who lives in my foyer with some New Zealand tax papers. Neither of us could really figure out with he was able to get an exemption on his foreign income when he moved there, but it was good practice for translating and going back and forth between the languages. The biggest language challenge, I think, is when I’m with French people who are all speaking to me at once. To my ears it still all runs together. But sometimes smiling and nodding when the conversation is not too important works.
Wednesday, I met up with a group of internationals for the second time. The first was a crepe party last Saturday and this time was at a pub. It is nice that someone has taken the initiative to round up all the foreigners and friendly French people in Valence. I’ve met a lot of people and have been able to practice my French, although I do indulge in English with some of the British assistants and au pairs. It keeps me sane! It can be so tiring to think and speak in another language all day.
On Thursday, I was able to enjoy the town for the first time without having stressful administrative work. I walked around the park, got a pear smoothie, finished Winter in the Blood by James Welch (kind of a depressing book for such a beautiful day), and admired the wind-up robot toys in one of the shops. I also bought a fluffy pillow so I don’t have to use the flat tube pillow that came with my room. It was so weird to not have to worry about deadlines or work and the day reminded me why I took this time in France in the first place. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how great it is to be here when I’m struggling with paperwork or adjusting to the new climate and timezone.
I hear thunder outside and it reminds me of Oklahoma! I’m sure this storm will pale in comparison, though. I do miss my favorite meteorologist Gary England keeping me advised of the tornadoes, high winds, and severe thunderstorms.