samedi 22 janvier 2011

Insomnia... This week and random thoughts

Started writing this at 1:30am this morning but then my laptop cut out because I ran out of battery...

Some things of note that happened to me this past week...

After a nice weekend in Geneva with the other assistant in my school, I had a shit Monday which is technically my day off. However, I can never relax if I stay in my room due to the location near the road (and also where the school buses pick up and drop off the kids).

The kids mock me when I tell them off (because, I have an accent, which is oh-so-hilarious you know (roll eyes)) and don't respect me. I'm sick of it.

On Tuesday, The cleaning lady (who is always super nice to me) told me to take away their 'carnet de correspondance' if they didn't listen to me.

I'm still not even entirely sure what it's about as it's something that only exists in France (I think) but basically it's a small book that keeps a record of each time they are late to class, or have to leave early, when they have a day off sick, or when they need to go to the nurses, etc. They also write in it from time to time and then the parents look at it to see if they've done anything 'naughty' which also goes in there.

You should have seen the look of shock on their faces when I said that. I didn't care. I was on a mission. I took it to La Vie Scolaire (which hilariously translates as 'school life' but basically means the admin office that deals with the students and teachers) who told me to take it to the CPE who looks after their class.

I'd spoken to her earlier that day in the staffroom about going ice skating because the person who organised that activity said I could not go anymore that morning! I was really upset and disappointed about this so I told her (as she was the one who invited me) and she said that she'd have a word to this woman about it later... Meanwhile I had to see the principal about my timetable and then she mentioned to me that she gives me the authorisation to go. Yay! (since noone can override the principal's decision, right?)

Something I've heard (from Frenchies and expats) and learnt about first hand is in France if you want something you have to fight and argue for it. Noone looks down on you if you are assertive but people will look down on you if you let yourself get trampled over. Actually, I use that 'rule' in life too. I was brought up to be meek and mild and never complain or say anything and just let people treat me like crap.. after too many years of behaving like that I got sick of it and turned it all around! Hmph!

I only had one class (one hour) on Tuesday and the rest of the time was spent finding and waiting to see this person or the other... Regarding why I had to see the principal... this was something that has been going on for months. As for most things in France it just dragged on...

Sometime in late November I was told I didn't need to take the classes on Friday afternoon anymore. This made me very happy as the teachers who told me thought it would be easier for me as they thought I was getting sad/depressed/sick because of it. They were my WORST students, the WORST timeslot imaginable (late Friday afternoon) and it's the longest day ever (with 6 classes total) AND I never ever get any sleep on Thursday nights* so I am just dead.

I thought it was very kind and sympathetic of all the teachers involved to let me have that time off and then nothing more was said of it.

A few weeks later, before the Christmas holidays, one of the teachers told me I had to see the principal to verify if it was OK or not. Strange why noone mentioned it to me sooner? So I went to see her literally on the last day of school and she said that I'd need to go and see her after the Christmas break with one of the other English teachers (who does my timetable). O...K...

So after the break, I could never get a hold of this teacher in question so I just went to the Principal alone (where she'd forgotten she told me I needed to come in with another teacher! - because rules are always arbitrary in France) and said to see the 2 teachers who are concerned (with those 2 classes on Friday). Sorry, I realise this story is probably getting a bit confusing at this point with this teacher and that teacher...

The teacher (another one) who overseas THOSE 2 teachers already told me and them I would not be taking their classes... and I assumed it was fine.

But anyway, I went to see them as the principal requested. The first said he'd like me to come back to take those classes (or at least help him and work together), and the second one said "comme tu veux" (whatever you want). He said he'd like my help but if it was troubling me it was fine by him too.

So with that I then went BACK to the principal to tell her that... Talk about going around in circles!!

*Then on Tuesday night the teachers living in the internat living near me were making a big racket. Again. (usually it's Thursday nights but sometimes Tues and Wed nights too). We ended up 'discussing' the issue until about 1am. Ridiculous! Getting nowhere... One even rudely suggested that I move out if I don't like living here, as if it was his/their right to stay up to 2 or 3 am having parties in their room, on a weeknight!!  One was pissed because he said the principal had come to personally tell them off because I had mentioned this to her during my meeting with her (as for why I preferred not to work Friday afternoon - because I am dead from no sleep the night before and a long day). They're in their 30s and 40s and behaving like children.

I got zero sleep that night and was totally dead on Wednesday but I didn't care because I was going ice-skating!! I was so excited.

After lunch (kids in France don't have school on Wedneday afternoons) we piled onto a coach hired by the school to take us to the nearest ice rink (over an hour away). The view and the weather was beautiful, sunny, and it almost looked like it could be spring outside (apart from the bare trees). We passed some really picturesque areas with lakes and mountains (which I'd seen before already) but it was still nonetheless breathtaking. I felt like I was going on a 'summer holiday'. On a type of one-day tour that you pay for except I didn't pay for anything! Nothing. I paid nothing to tag along. It was very nice and generous of the school to let me do that.

For the first time ever, I did not feel nauseous on the bus. I don't know why. I actually heard one of the students say he wanted to puke and then one of the girls did puke (in the toilet) when we arrived so now I know it's not just me that feels (or used to feel) extremely nauseous on bus trips around my region.

Once inside, I couldn't figure out which size iceskate to take. We were told to take once size bigger than our normal size except I don't know what my normal size is! It just depends on the brand. I used to be 37 but these days I'm more of a 38 so I took a 38 iceskate first to try but it was too small. She gave me some labelled "38.6" which I thought was rather weird. The Asian/Japanese size on there was 24.5.

I tried it on and it fit well but it annoyed me a little because they seemed old and everyone else got the newer ones.

Once on the rink, I suddenly felt extremely apprehensive. It'd been around 15 years since I iceskated! They felt so slippery and my feet hurt like hell. I felt like they were cramping up. Later I realised it's because I have flat feet and the skates have an arch and they are just tight in general (on the sides). I was so shit scared at the beginning for the first 3 laps or so. I looked at the blade on the iceskate and it looked to be only about 7mm thick!

I kept telling myself, "Don't fall, don't fall." I do not want to fall and end up with bruises. However I believe in the "Law of Attraction" and if you keep saying and thinking, "Don't fall" the universe will only hear "fall" so I had to stop myself from thinking about it altogether. I told myself it was 'easy', just like walking. I had done it many times before (even if it was a long time ago). It's just like sliding over a smooth wooden floor or kitchen tiles.

At first I had one of the other staff hold my hand for a lap or two but the more I did it, the easier it became. After 2.5 hours I wasn't feeling scared at all never fell down once. Yay me!

I will say that I did change my skates. Twice. The first time was because my left foot was in a lot of pain which I thought was weird because my right foot is bigger. So I changed to a size 39 and specifically requested the newer model ;) but then when I tried to skate it felt like I had no grip whatsoever and with each step had about 80% chance of falling. I was going nowhere and could not even do 1/4 lap with those.

Back I went and then I changed back to the original size and model that I had except they were a different pair, and it was much much better! It hurt a bit at the front of my shin/ankle but hey, you can't win 'em all.

I remember all those years ago when I had ice skating lessons (when I was about 11) I remember wearing 2 pairs of thick socks but then I'd read online it was better to wear thin socks. I ended up wearing thick stockings, then a pair of (footless) leggings, and then a pair of thick socks which worked well for me. I actually watched a couple of videos on YouTube too before I went to prepare myself.

Including transport, the ice skating took 5.5 hours. The view back was just as beautiful now the sun was setting. When we got back at 7pm we were all instructed to go straight to the cantine/self to have dinner. I was still on a high and considering my tiredness from getting maybe 3 hours sleep the night before and my 2.5 hours of 'exercise' (yes I actually worked up a sweat!) I had a really really good sleep that night. I don't know if there was a 'party' next door that night but if there was I didn't hear it. I was out like a light.

Because of the exams the Terminales (Grade 12) have this week, I had only a few classes and had 2 on Thursday morning. So I had the rest of the day free. Yay! I managed to fill up the entire day.

At lunch time I met up with the guy who wanted English tutoring. All is explained in that blog post so I won't repeat. Since the shops in town are closed at lunch time I had to wait around until the next bus came. That was when I realised it was snowing. EXACTLY as the weather report had predicted.

Instead of going back to my room and doing nothing I decided to go to do some more shopping in another part of town (where the shops ARE open at lunchtime). Well I was basically just killing time. I've already hoarded up enough food. I'm always paranoid that due to extreme weather conditions or if I get sick/too tired I won't be able to go out to buy food so I just stock up and I certainly didn't need more! (but I got some anyway ;) ).

The soldes (sales) are still going on so I tried on a whole heap of clothes but didn't buy anything. I was going to leave at 2:30pm but decided to catch the next bus at 3:30pm and mull around and waste yet more time going window shopping and trying on things I probably won't buy.

After I came out of the shops it was snowing furiously. So much that the visibility was minimal. It was crazy but I was loving it! (unfortunately as I'm writing this it's already all gone now as it wasn't thick enough to stay around).

After I got back I decided to visit the profs (teachers) in the hôtellerie (hospitality) part of my school. I work in the lycée part but there are 3 parts to my school: The lycée (senior high school), the collège (junior high school) and the lycée professional (professional high school which prepares students for working in trades).

When I first arrived in the school I stumbled upon the big kitchens by accident and it had been months since I'd been back so I went to check it out again. It's actually really fascinating. Watching the students create things that are extremely difficult and that you only find in high class restaurants. The aroma in the air is wonderful. There's a flurry of action and in contrast to the regular classrooms where the teachers are called Monsieur or Madame, the teacher here is aptly called Chef (which actually means 'boss' in French).

I hung around for quite a long time and was shown the actual restaurant part. There are two restaurants in the building too. Yes, a real restaurant for real patrons. The meals served are similar to what you would find in a nice restaurant but for a much lower price.

I should note that the teachers I saw were actually the same ones who live next to me. Yes there's a bit of tension between us but I prefer to be friends with people and not enemies so by visiting them and having them show me what they do at work I was kind of trying/hoping to ease tension between us. Dunno if it worked though - LOL.

Then I went back to my room for a few short minutes before the bell rung and it was time for dinner!

After dinner I spoke to the other assistant for an hour (we had a deep and meaningful about our lives, our relationships, our past/future career etc) and then I had to go upstairs to tutor one of the students who asked me to help her with her homework. I was actually super tired but considering it's rare to find a student so dedicated I agreed. She was super sweet. She told me the teacher gave her extra (harder) homework because her level was higher than the others in the class.

I didn't mention this at the time, but when I went to watch Another Year last Friday there were maybe only 12 people in the cinema and almost all of them were teachers from my school! haha.

The teacher who gave this girl the extra homework was one of the ones I bumped into last week. We were both like, "Don't tell him I asked you for help" / "Don't tell him I helped you" hahahaha.

Apparently he'd shown the class this film and wanted them to comment on it/the issue.

After I finished talking to her (as usual with my students, we end up about personal things too...) and then to the other assistant again it was about 10pm.

Then at 11pm the hôtellerie teachers came back. The kids had taken a practice exam tonight and had to prepare a 4 course meal for real guests (almost 40) in the restaurant and after serving and cleaning up they finish very late. Actually I was exhausted just watching them all in the kitchen and I was only there for about 1.5 hours. It's a long long day for all the teachers and students involved. I wanted to ask the teachers about how it all went but they weren't very talkative. Stay tuned for my saga with them! LOL. I guess you could say we have a love/hate relationship hahahaa

Friday morning I have a class of only 3 students. It's good and it's bad. It's nice and intimate but in small classes I have to do more/talk more to fill in the time. Luckily for me they are nice kids but very shy at speaking.

After lunch I have 2 classes of very weak students. They aren't necessarily bad but they are the type of kids who never study at school/don't care/have low morale etc. It's always interesting to compare the types of students/people. The smart go-getters and the ones with the laissez faire attitude to everything in life. It's kind of sad to see.

In my last class of the day (when I'm already dying to go) I was supposed to prepare something but somehow it slipped my mind and I had a real Ohshitwhatthefuckamigonnadonow? moment but I just said I could find what the teacher wanted on the internet and (hopefully) talk about that for one hour. I was very surprised how well it went. There were 2 rude and hopeless students who did nothing but apart from that it was reasonably successful. It's always hard to try to fill an hour. I always try to time so it finishes close to it and not earlier or later but it's hard.  It's why all teachers wear watches. We always have to be really conscious of the time.

Luckily, I didn't have any more classes because I was that close to falling asleep after getting only one night's decent sleep this week. However, I hate hate Fridays. There are only a few teachers and students left after lunch, the internat is empty and the other assistant (who I hang out with) is usually gone too as she has Fridays off. I dread every Friday afternoon/evening because it makes me realise I'm alone. Again. I love the peace and quiet (love it!) but it feels me with dread knowing I'm stuck here in this huge building alone. All the students always seem shocked when I tell them I live here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They then give me a look of sympathy.

I used to go away every weekend but I'm trying to be more budget conscious so this will be a very uneventful weekend for me, I'm afraid. However, I've just been invited to a soirée on Monday night so that's something to look forward to :)

On another note I just did a couple more lessons on LiveMocha (updated progress bar on lower right of this page) so now I only have 9 more to go before I finish. I will also eventually finish the French in Action exercises. I noticed that the videos on YouTube were taken down so I had to find other ways to watch them. I still love them!

Bon weekend à tous et à toutes ! (Have a good weekend y'all!)

(image from here)


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