Sunday September 30, 2007
Today I woke up entirely too early for a Sunday, but with unavoidable tasks. I went to the train station, which is a 30 minute walk (ugh), to buy my train tickets for the various orientations I have in two different cities. Hopefully they’re the right times. I know I’m getting into City #1 well ahead of time, and Marie-Claude has told me it’s probably best to take a taxi to the place (IUFM, which is kind of like a teachers’ college). Other than that, if it doesn’t work, no big deal. Those three tickets cost me a total of ~20E. Um, thank you Carte 12-25. Between the ages of 12 and 25, you can buy this 49E card that gives you discounts on virtually all trains, and often the discounts are near 50%. It’s a good deal. My other errand this morning was to purchase a small bouquet of flowers for Marie-Claude, because if you’re invited to someone’s house, it’s traditional and polite to bring something like flowers, chocolate, or if possible, some regional specialty. I’m fresh out of regional New York specialties (I gave away the two bottles of maple syrup that Mom picked up for me at the Farmers’ Market), so I got a small 10,50E bouquet. It was really pretty and that is going to be my florist from now on. This is the second bouquet I’ve purchased from them since I’ve been here (that says something, doesn’t it), and they are so patient and helpful and the bouquets are absolutely beautiful. And inexpensive.
So anyways, I bought the bouquet for Marie-Claude to whom I still refer as Madame because she hasn’t corrected me yet because she invited me over for lunch today. She, as mentioned before, is a music teacher, and Olivier is a musician as well. Olivier has obviously studied some English as well, as he kept trying to translate his (very very very verbose) conversations into English even though I completely understood what he was saying and demonstrated such by my responses. They have a hyperactive 5 ½ year old daughter named Camille who is obsessed with princesses and fairies. She’s adorable and was fascinated with my presence. She is just learning how to write and also the syllables in preparation for reading. She was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be teaching her class English, and showed off the only English phrase she knew: “My name is Camille.” Soooo cute! Can all of my students be that precious? Lunch was a small aperitif of pineau, a liquor from Ile de Ré which is off the coast of La Rochelle. It’s super sweet. Also there was regional sausage which tasted a little tripe-y, but still decent. Thank goodness for peppercorns. Dinner consisted of an entrée of this casserole of lard, bits of ham, egg, potato, and prunes. I tried my best but did not do very well. The main dish was crêpes (yay!) à l’usseloise with ham and cheese. Oh thank goodness. Then there was the cheese. I LOVE cheese. It smells pretty bad but it tastes awesome. Then we went to the Point des Millevaches, which is not “Thousand-Cow Point” like it immediately translates, but is a standard French approximation of some Occitan (south-central France) word. Olivier explained it but I forgot. Basically it’s a lookout tower on top of a huge hill/tiny mountain where you can see ALL of Corrèze. Wow. I just couldn’t articulate how incredible it was to see so much of France, how pretty it all was, how friggin picturesque it all was, and how beautifully mundane. Like there was nothing special to see, just France. But that’s beautiful. It looked a lot like the view from on top of the Ski Hill behind the house at home. And that made me sad. Or homesick. Or lonely. Then we went back to their house where Olivier and Marie-Claude gave me a little recital of traditional regional music on bagpipe-like instruments, a vielle (kind of like a violin crossed with an accordion that has a crank), and Marie-Claude’s violin. Really neat stuff. Olivier is off his rocker – he makes wind instruments out of ANYTHING, including plastic drinking straws. He also talks a LOT.
It was really nice of Marie-Claude to invite me over. When I thanked her, she said “Well, I just try to put myself in your place.” I guess I see her point: the hardest part about this trip, I can tell now, isn’t going to be French bureaucracy or teaching (although that should prove immensely challenging), but rather the lack of familiar faces. I miss my family and my boyfriend and my friends a lot. It’s nice to see the new people here in France like Marie-Claude, Françoise, and the English teachers so much because they’ll become familiar and even comforting. I find Ben to be immensely comforting, just his presence, because we at least have a mildly similar background (we both understand the love-hate relationship of WalMart, etc). And yet I hardly know Ben.
My train tomorrow morning is at 6.30ish, and it’s a half hour walk, and I want to be there early, so I have to wake up stupid early. Ugh. Rocío and Ben left today for the orientation, but I had the invite to Marie-Claude’s and also I just didn’t want to go today. I’m sincerely hoping that my questions regarding my residency card, social security/health insurance card, and classroom management will be answered in these next two days.
I also hope this week will provide some answers to the communication embargo I’m under at the moment. While it’s very nice that the high school has offered the computers in the library and the teachers’ room to use whenever we like, Ben and I both have laptops with webcams for a reason, and the library and teachers’ room close. I want to TALK and SEE people – it’s possible in this day and age, and in this country that friggin invented the jumbo jet (see Airbus).
I should go to bed. I’m not tired, but being awake makes me lonely.