Friday, December 21, 2007

Recent happenings in silly France.

Silly just means that my fully American eyes sometimes look at what I see in France and laugh because it would never happen in the States.

There was a marché de Noël in Ussel. Now usually le marché de samedi is a good time, but lately in Ussel it's been waning. This Christmas market was utterly disappointing. I went looking for more Christmas presents and found none. It was held in the tiny covered market and it was all food-stuffs and none of it terribly appealing. Dandelion products? We're stretching it here. Luckily I discovered that the kebab restaurant is open on Sundays so that was delicious.

Three exhausting classes of written evaluations. They sober up quick when they know there's a grade...I wonder if I can do homework next marking period! Wouldn't that be great. They didn't do so hot. "Maitresse, what's the word for dog?" Well gee honey, if you don't know that after four weeks of a unit on pets, you should just skip that question. Eesh.

Tuesday: Four exhausting classes of written evaluations. After my last class at School Two, the district supervisor of visual arts - I don't know his name but Madame Renson arranged this for me - picked me up and drove me to Tulle. He dropped me off at the high school where Courtney from DC, Erin from California, Christina from Germany and Laura from Mexico are assistants. There we waited... for what to Courtney seemed like a long time but I personally think was just French and quite frankly, if you have no control over a situation, there's no reason to freak out. Anyways. We waited until Madame Renson came to pick up me, Courtney, Erin and Christina and we went to a wine shop where Madame Renson knew the owner for what we were told ahead of time would be a meal but actually turned out to be bottles after bottles of delicious wine and light snackies. All the primary English assistants and the high school German assistants were there. It was really fun. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and liked meeting and re-meeting and talking with the other English assistants. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the other girls I was with were peeved because they didn't know when Madame Renson was picking us up, the meal was not real food, and because they drank too much wine. It was bad news for them...and quite frankly, it annoyed me. You say you know how to drink...then show it. Be a lady and hold yourself properly. Anyways. It was a lot of fun. I woke up SOOO early on Wednesday morning and caught the train back to Ussel.

I arrived at home at 8:30am. I took a shower, rested, and then started the odyssey. I went shopping, had lunch, and did some massive and expensive mailing. The smallest pre-paid box to send things to the US is about the size of a shoebox and costs 30€. That's a lot. I did some work for my lessons and a ton of very depressing corrections of the evaulations. Dude, my students sooo did not study. It was saddening because I felt like it was my fault that they did so poorly. But Rhonda's voice came back: I am not 100% responsible for their failures; I am not 100% responsible for their successes. And when I did their marking period averages, the percentages did, in my eyes, match their acheivement and behavior. Yes, he's a goofball; yes, she's brilliant; yes, he's getting it; yes, she's clueless. So despite my disappointment with how their written evaluations went, I was pleased as to how the numbers showed their achievement.

Wednesday night, Rocio went to pick up her mom and brother David from the train station in Limoges. Due to prohibitive airline ticket costs, Señora and David will be staying with us throughout January. I understand that they just cannot afford to leave earlier and I wouldn't have them stay anywhere else, especially if we have the space here. It will be demanding for everyone but so far, I'm really enjoying having a mom here. David's really quiet so far. But with Rocio gone and Ben leaving the next day, he suggested we get a pizza, a bottle of wine, and spend the night in English - a novelty for us, considering we've spoken English to each other less than a dozen times. It was really neat. The wine was excellent - a little sweet but good - and the pizza was delicious. He's a really smart guy and I enjoy his company. No substitute for my Andy but probably the best situation I could have hoped for here.

Five exhausting classes of the same Christmas lesson. These kids just don't stop talking! But it went ok. At School Three, Luc and I traded third graders...although the class I taught seemed much older. But he said that my third graders are right on track - what's your name, my name is, numbers, age, colors, favorite color - and that they are a handful even though there's only ten of them! The kids I worked with also had strong personalities but they were very patient with me and seemed to be fascinated with my English. Cute.

Thursday was the high school's repas de Noël. Choice of appetizer: crazy looking shrimp cocktail (remember that they keep the animal whole for you in France) or foie gras; choice of entree: confit de canard or fish; choice of dessert: apple pie, bûche de Noël or some sort of custard; choice of many cheeses; and candy!! Delicious food with the delightful company of the English teachers Blandine, Marie, and Marie-Jo. Such good times. Also there was real wine at the table, not the regular table wine that doesn't taste all that good.

Thursday night we were invited to Monsieur Paillous' for an apéro which actually does mean wine and snackies. Apparently not only were me, Ben, and Rocio invited, but so were Madame Laugier, a high school teacher; Monsieur and Madame Menardi, a economics teacher and accountant and their middle school son; Madame le proviseur or high school principal; Marie, our buddy who is also the substitute English teacher. It was sooo much fun. Such good food and such good company. However, as most French soirées do, it lasted about an hour longer than my stamina and concentration could hold. I begged out about ten minutes earlier than Ben and Rocio did to go home, correct the last written evaluations and be frustrated again at their lack of studying, take a shower, and CRASH. Apparently Madame Laugier had gifts for us. She gave me this beautiful silk pink and black plaid scarf. I wore it today and got nothing but compliments. I think I've found my new accessory: pretty little scarves!

Friday (today):
So hard to wake up on Fridays but when I finally do get to School Two, I am instantly rewarded with warm smiles and bonjours from the teachers and "Hellos" from my students. I love School Two. The Christmas lesson went much better, as all of my repeated lessons do the next day, and my fifth graders especially rocked it. Sylvie, one of the fifth grade teachers, gave me such great compliments. "I really like what you do, and the students seem to really like you too. You do a good job here." Ok, it sounded much better in her French and her words and six hours ago when I was more awake, but really she made my day. Her and also one of the school cleaning ladies who is the mother of O*, one of my star fourth graders. I told her that even though O* sits in the waaay back of the room (in an awful desk might I add) she makes such an effort, does really really well, is really quite a good little girl and always participates. Her mother responded, "Yes, she is a good girl. She also really likes you." Awww!!! I have to add that O* has a really cute high-pitched voice. Did I mention that I love School Two?

Madame Cousty, the directrice of School Two invited me...or maybe it was the other the teachers' repas de Noël. That was delicious! Little cheesy puff pastries and mini mini tarts, veggie soup, and raclette, accompanied by two bottles of champagne and five bottles of Burgundy wine. Dessert was an Italian ice cream, but not gelato, Italian ice, or anything like was just delicious. It was prepared by the three male teachers - Christophe, Frank, and...I forget the other dude. Christophe is one of my fifth grade teachers, and was overly generous with the wine and champagne. Also he's a riot. And wonderful company. During dessert, I made a tiny speech that I'm kind of proud of, just thanking them for their generosity, their warm welcome, and that this is my favorite school. Hands down.

Later today I finished Andy's present, mailed that, and picked up Oma's Christmas package!! Thank you Oma! :)

Today is good. Tomorrow will be good. Monday is Christmas Eve with Blandine and her family and Rocio and her family. Tuesday is quietly Christmas by myself and the presents that have been mailed to me, and Wednesday starts vacation!!

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