Friday, January 11, 2008


I didn't get wine for tonight. I did however get an amandine which appears to be a little almond torte, which I got specifically because I have a fourth grader with that as her first name. So that's my treat. Yay!

I have two new students at School Two, and do they have the most Anglophone names ever. They're Roma, or gypsies, and due to the nomadic nature of their people, they don't go to school much. In fact, they probably won't stay long. I get the impression that the teachers don't invest a lot into them and quite possibly even anticipate the day they move on. It's one way of life for sure, but I just feel so bad for these kids. They're so disenfranchised from the start, and to keep moving them around so they don't go to school violates their rights as children. Fourth grader S* seemed to follow along ok, but when I asked fifth grader J* if she was able to follow at all she responded "I don't understand English" in a really off-putting tone. Eh, Christophe warned me about her.

I ate lunch today with Delphine the little librarian and a French teacher. I was truly interested in how French is taught here, because it's basically like English is taught in the US, so I asked some questions. The teacher then invited me to come to her classes! That was exactly what I wanted. I only took one French literature class at Cortland (I know!), and I need more French in my life in general. (Who doesn't?) So I will be attending her junior year French literature class on Wednesday mornings. I am so psyched!

Also of note: I am officially a card-carrying French teacher. I had heard through the assistants' grapevine about the existence of a attestation professionnelle, or teacher ID card. I hadn't seen or heard anything official from my responsibles so I took matters into my own hands. I asked Madame Cousty because she's the principal at my main school, ie the school that I'm attached to administratively, and she had no idea. But she suggested I go to the Inspection Academique or the District Office. Luckily it's in Ussel, luckily it's next door to School Three, and luckily my responsable Madame Mouty works there. So I go there and ask the secretary who is a younger guy who reminds me a lot of Ryan, the newest teller at my bank in Camillus, because they both have dark features, are of slight build, and a nervous energy about him. So I nicknamed this secretary Ryan. Makes me happy. I ask, "I apologize for bothering you but I would like to know please if I, as a language assistant in the first degree, have the right to a teacher's ID card." Now, for those of you who hate to hear me apologize so much, you need to know that this is the polite way to start a professional request, especially when you just walk into an office like I did. :) "Ryan" goes to ask the Inspecteur Monsieur Martinet, and fetches me a little card. Ryan and Monsieur tell me to mark that I'm an enseignante (teacher) and not an assistant, because the cards are only for real teachers. I am not a teacher de juris but based on what I do, I certainly am de facto. Luckily I still had my stash of AAA passport photos with me! So less than ten minutes later, I have a pretty little card that says I'm a teacher with the French National Ministry of Education. What's so great about that, you ask? American teachers don't have anything similar, just a xeroxed copy of their certification from the black hole that is Albany. Well, in the European Union, being a teacher means you are cool stuff. FREE ADMISSION to museums, historical sites, monuments, you name it. I am truly looking forward to trying this sucker out during the February vacation. I am so happy that I took the initiative to ask. France, you are silly but there are some fantastic perks.

My bank here in France is funny. It's not a national bank; I've seen two branches total. But it is a baby bank version of the much larger national Credit Agricole, so one would think they do normal bank-y things. I have about $200 in American Express travelers' cheques with me, mostly for "oh my goodness I'm going to sleep on the streets tonight" emergencies. However, just in case, I thought I'd ask my bank if they exchange them. I asked on Thursday. The girl at the counter said "Oh, no" and her eyes got really big. Now this is France, so you should never take one person's answer as gospel. So I went back today. The man at the counter also got the big eyes, inhaled deeply, and said "We could try. I've never done it before." Slightly more promising. It also costs €12,70 to make a deposit from my French bank to a bank account outside of the European Union. I think. I may not remember that correctly.

Ben got me a Christmas present! It's Lonely Planet: Europe on a Shoestring because I had mentioned how much I love Lonely Planet and that after my first trip to France, I somehow lost track of the edition Aunt Karla gave or lent me. I've always felt very very badly about that. But anyways, that was really nice of Ben. Merci mon pote :)

The price for a meal here at the cantine du lycée has been re-evaluated for the new fiscal year; it went from €1,69 to €1,71. Our rent has also been evaluated for the months of October, November and December and we owe and additional €8,12 (divided by three). Our rent has also been re-evaluated for the new fiscal year and will now cost €2 more. Upon hearing these increases, some teachers actually complained. "They don't increase our salary." Two cents or two euro more and you're complaining? I think I'm luckier than a skunk to have this place to live! To eat for about $2 a meal. Jeepers people. The French seem to be habituated to deprivation; after the wars they got used to being "have-nots" and have a hard time accepting that with proper money management, they to can be a "have" and stop feeling bad for themselves. Eesh. Live the good life already. Only a French person would complain about living in France, honestly.

Ahhh I really need to clean my room. Mostly my table. I need shelves, because it's basically layered with schtuff.

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