Monday, November 29, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010


never again will i take thanksgiving for granted. i never really thought about how much i loved it, but now it's gone and i want it back. 
trying to describe thanksgiving to french people makes me realize what a bizarre and wonderful holiday it is. that you're gathering with your family and/or friends just to be thankful. and maybe to eat a lot and watch football while you're at it. 
the parts of thanksgiving that seem weirdest to them are that the meal is eaten in the late afternoon, and that you make a pie out of pumpkin. "une tarte de citrouille? dégueulasse!"
part of me just wants to skip it and ignore that it's thanksgiving because there's no way to truly recreated the experience here and i'm sad to be missing it. but i'm being oh so brave and making two valiant attempts at thanksgiving dinners, one tonight and one on sunday. 
so be thankful if you get to be with your family today and i'll try to remember that i'm living in the south of france and even if i didn't have a million other reasons, that is most definitely one for which to be thankful. 


 my birthday was earlier this month. i was, of course, stressed about it. and while it was a little strange to be away from home, i was so well loved and it ended up being a really great day.
to start off, i was woken up by a flower delivery.
one of the top ten ways to be woken up
i did have to work (pauvre moi) but one of my classes had heard that it was my birthday and brought me in a cake with candles, chocolates, and coca-cola and threw me a little surprise party at the end of class and sang me happy birthday (in english!).
some very sweet and thoughtful people sent me cards and packages ahead of time so i got to rip into some presents!
early that evening i went to kerri's where there was another cake and happy birthday singing and time with friends & community.
after that we went out to sushi with some of the assistants.
sven getting a little fiesty with his chopsticks

they gave me some awesome presents including a book, a pretty bell for my bike, and a sunflower that's bigger than i am. 

we almost took out a light trying to get it out of the restaurant.

and thanks to sweet madeline for all the pictures!

then we went out for drinks and met up with some more friends. if you're looking for the best band covering 90s alternative on a tuesday night in aix, i can now tell you it's at splendid.

this is what a spoiled & sugared-up 23-year-old looks like
 and since i'm an old lady now, i promptly went home and went to bed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

because it's worth it.

i'm starting to feel like i'm getting into a routine teaching. figuring out what each professor expects from me and getting to know the students, even though i see each student at most twice a week. slowly but surely i'm figuring all of this out. and they're getting used to my accent (most of their professors have british accents in english) and realizing that i absolutely do not care if you make a mistake as long as you try.

my sister and i were talking the other day about how when you're a student, you don't really think about how what you do or don't do affects your teacher. but now i know how a 55-minute long class period can feel 5 hours long when nobody wants to participate, how frustrating it can be to try to figure out if a blank stare means boredom or lack of comprehension when you can't even get an answer to "do you understand?".
i'm speaking more slowly than i ever thought i could. i'm figuring out 5 different ways to say the same sentence in hopes that one of them will stick. i'm learning patience.

this all can be tiring, but proved to be absolutely worth it when my student who really struggles with english understood the fifth version of a sentence and beamed and shouted "je comprends l'anglais!" (i understand english!) it would have been easier to have just explained in french and i understand that in large groups it's not always possible to take the time to do that. but with small groups i get to take the time and without that, we both would have missed that incredibly encouraging moment.
on my birthday one class brought me in a cake with candles, chocolates, and coca-cola and threw me a little surprise birthday party at the end of class. i was so touched, i almost cried. i definitely never considered in high school that my actions would have been able make a teacher cry, for good or for bad. granted, i'm a pretty emotional person and my situation here exacerbates that, but i think the point still stands.

at this point i know that monday morning from 9-9:55 a.m. is going to be difficult. but i also know there will be enough moments of my kids getting excited about language and trying hard to understand and speak to outweigh the other moments. even when all they want to tell me is that eva longoria and tony parker broke up, if it makes them want to speak english, i'm all ears.

Monday, November 8, 2010

things french kids like:

  • tv shows: desperate housewives & how i met your mother
  • bands: metallica, bob dylan, & cypress hill (huh?) 
  • books: no real theme here, but my favorite response was "i am not a fanatic of reading"
  • activities: being 16-year-old boys and trying to give me their phone numbers

lucky girl

this weekend i got to go to my very first guy fawkes party! to be honest, and much to the chagrin of my british friends, i had heard of it but had no idea what it was actually about. but a really sweet family from iccp had us out to celebrate, so i did my research.

this party consisted of a big bonfire, a bunch of different delicious curries, vin chaud (mulled wine), smores, and singing about kookaburras. needless to say, i'm now a big fan of guy fawkes day.

it was also so nice to be in a family atmosphere. since i'm not living with a family here, most of my time is spent with high schoolers and then other 20-somethings, so a night with kids and parents and people of all ages was a welcome change.

there's a lot going on in my life right now making me feel uprooted and topsy-turvy and unsure, so i feel so blessed to be establishing a community here. my birthday is tomorrow and while it is definitely hard and strange to be away from home on my birthday for the first time, i am feeling well-loved and cared for here.

hard though it may be in the moment, when all things are said and done, i am a very lucky girl.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


i've been on vacation for toussaint for the last week and a half. i was also temporarily without internet for that time. but internet is back and so am i.
the first week we got some pretty great weather and ran around outside. then it rained for 3 days straight and we cooked and crafted and i biked around furiously in the rain. 

if you didn't know, cézanne is from aix (as is emile zola, but cézanne gets more attention for whatever reason) so a lot of the touristy things to do in aix are cézanne-centric. 
at the beginning of the week, we went to atelier de cézanne, his workshop and gardens in aix. it continually surprises me/makes me laugh how really old and significant things are just jumbled up with everything else. "look, there's a roman era wall, oh and there's a cupcake shop." instead of tearing down old stuff and building new, the new is just built on top. per usual, i didn't know where we were going and was being led along a typical aix street and was caught off guard when all of the sudden we were there. houses, cars, shops, apartments, cézanne's atelier. just through the gate and you're in his gardens where it smells overwhelmingly of lavender. the set-up was pretty simple, you can wander around outside, there's a room of a giftshop where you get a pamphlet about cézanne's life and then upstairs into his atelier. we had to wait a while to be allowed in, but once i got in i was appreciative that they were careful to make sure that people were able to experience the room without crowding. the information was sparse, it seemed more about enjoying the space (high ceiling and walls of windows with still-life objects scattered around) than learning about cézanne. 

continuing in the cézanne vein, we took a trip out to hike sainte victoire, a mountain outside of aix that cézanne loved to paint.first thought when sainte victoire came into view: that should be a painting. yep. 
it was a lot warmer than we were expecting

we didn't plan ahead to hike all the way to the top, so we just hiked for a few hours and went to refuge de cézanne.

note my authentic and appropriate hiking gear. 

 the next day madeline and i went to musée granet, the main museum of aix. it's not very big but very well done. there's an exhibition of pierre alechinsky right now, with whom neither of us was familiar, but both loved. and perhaps most importantly, discovered that we have the same museum pace. which is a big deal. 

friday was hands down my favorite day of the vacation, and probably my whole time here. we went to cassis for the day, with minor traveling problems, but arrived to such a beautiful village right on the water. the weather was perfect so i could put my feet half my legs in the water. 

we splashed around until they dragged me out of the water and walked out to the calanques. 

give me sunshine, water, and gelato and i'm a happy girl. 

then the downpour started and we holed up for a couple days making crêpes and crafting. which also makes me a happy girl.