So I’m back in Ussel after a jaunt all around the region. On Monday morning, I went to Limoges for the orientation meeting for all the foreign language assistants in this region. There are 64 assistants altogether, teaching English, Spanish, and German. The two people who directed the meeting were from like the BOCES of the region (I’m trying to find equivalents), and their absolute FIRST question to us was “Who still doesn’t have housing?” That just goes to show that they are concerned for our well-being. At the end of every year, all the foreign language assistants have a survey to fill out detailing their experience and apparently this region has the highest satisfaction rate. It is obvious. I have met so many people, some not even remotely related to this program, and the first things out of everyone’s mouth is “How are you? Are you doing ok? Is there anything I can do for you? Do you have any questions?” Everyone is genuinely interested in making this a positive situation for everyone – the assistants, the real teachers, and the students. I really feel welcomed here.
So anyways, at the orientation (which is called a stage), I met a bunch of the people I met via the internet – Daena from Toronta, Sonia, Pamela, etc. I also found Sashi, the Indian girl who I stayed with in Brive, and the other assistants who would also be at the Tuesday meeting in Brive – Eleanor from London and Courtney from DC. Very comforting. The stage answered a lot of my questions about the Carte Vitale I needed for my carte de séjour, what the heck is MGEN (if I wanted more than 70% coverage for healthcare, I could buy into this and pay nothing, ever), what the heck is “résponsabilité civile” (kind of like accident insurance, obligatory), and whole bunches of other things. I took notes. We broke for lunch, where Daena and her assistant friend Carey (from Wales! with a baby boy named Caio, which kinda sounds like Kyle) and I went to lunch at Quick, which is the French-born equivalent of McDonalds, but weirder. I <3 Quick.
After lunch, we broke into groups according to language. The primary English assistants got their own group. In this meeting, a primary English teacher named Mireille (it means Miracle) who looked like Helena Bonham Carter on meth showed us different teaching methods. This was immensely helpful because it showed what they expect of us which is very different from how I’d normally do things based on my American training. It was really neat.
After this stage, Eleanor, Sashi and I took the train to Brive. I think Courtney was on the train as well. But anyways, I spent the night at Sashi’s AMAZING AND ADORABLE apartment that somehow lost its water connection. That made for a dirty night but I feel badly for her – I hope it works out. She’s from a southern Indian state, and apparently there are as many individual mutually unintelligible languages in India as there are states, so the only way everyone in the country can communicate effectively is through English, which is taught in schools. Her English is very good. Heavily accented but that’s kinda cute.
On Tuesday, Madame Renson, my contact throughout the summer, collected me and Sashi and together with Courtney and Eleanor went to the district offices for (1) regularizing any more bureaucratic bullshit (omg France this is getting ridiculous…) and (2) more pedagogy! We learned some more methods and the textbook that most of the schools use and may even have (what a thought!) for us to peruse.
We again broke for lunch. Sashi went with Madame Renson to figure out why she has no water, and Eleanor, Courtney and I went to find lunch. It was really nice to speak with people who are in the same situation, and people like Courtney are really neat because we’re both from the northeast. Essentially. She’s really sweet and I really hope to get together with her sometime. In Tulle, because there is not much to do in Ussel… but anyways, it was a nice couple of days. There were some times that I was immensely peeved because I had NO idea what was going on and I was just blindly following people – Eleanor on the way back to the train station in Limoges, Sashi from the station in Brive to her apartment when she was on her cell with her sister, and before we broke for lunch because I didn’t know what was happening after lunch. I really don’t like not being in control of my activities, or at least knowing what’s happening. It bothers me, but I knew I really didn’t have much say in the matter so I just bit my tongue and everything worked out. Mostly.
Tomorrow I have to (1) make photocopies of paperwork (2) go to the post office to mail out very important paperwork (3) talk to the IT dude Rodolphe (4) talk to Françoise, including where to buy some résponsabilité civile, (5) do some massive shopping, (6) eat lunch for real at the cafeteria with people (7) unpack perhaps (8) prepare lessons for next week.
I want a hug. Courtney and I hugged before she left for her bus for Tulle and I left for my train to Ussel, and that was really comforting. We both need something concrete, and she could possibly be someone I’d be friends with normally, not just in these extenuating circumstances where you’re basically friends with those who are most like you.