The Changing Seasons...
I know I probably say this in every second post :P but this past week I've been on a major rollercoaster ride emotionally. There is something very big going on in my life at the moment and whilst I am dying to tell the whole world I can't yet because it's not finalised and I have hard decisions to make.
I've been so so emotional lately and one of the reasons is because my time here at the school is ending real soon and I'm not ready! I finish up in 3.5 weeks. So this week and 3 more. I want to scream I'M NOT READY TO GO! I wanted this so much and yes, I admit I went through some tough periods where I HATED living at the school, I hated various staff and students at the school, I hated the job itself, and various other things but now that the weather has changed and the flowers are blooming and the temperature reaches high teens I'm feeling a lot happier and positive. I am also getting better at my job at being a teacher (I think) and am even starting to like it a lot more. And after going through all that... I'll have to leave and it actually KILLS ME inside.
The reason why is because I'm an incredibly nostalgic person. Memories mean everything to me which is why I take more photos than anybody I know. Not only photos but videos. And I keep every single personal email/message I receive and I transcribe important SMS text messages from my phone into text files too. I am obsessed with keeping and remembering memories.
I feel incredibly sad about leaving because I'm painfully reminded of all my other 'leaving' moments in recent years. It killed me to leave Shanghai just when I got the hang of living there (it was a lot harder than France, trust me!) and making new friends and having more of a routine. Now it's happening again.
It killed me to leave my beloved apartment/suburb in Sydney. It was the nicest place I ever lived in because it was new, highrise with a fantastic view, and was so conveniently located. But it wasn't only that of course.....
When you live in a certain place you become familiar with everything. The roads, the shops, the people, everything. And I can't think of a word in English but there is a perfect word for this in French: parcours. Your 'path' or 'journey' or the way you walk from one place to another... I will miss all my little parcours.
And you develop routines. Apart from the people and places that I'll miss, I'll also miss my routines. I'll miss the bus drivers in my town. They know me well and never ask to see my bus pass. They are always kind and wait for me (or others) if we are running a bit late. They go out of their way for us passengers. I can't imagine ever getting that sort of treatment in a big city.
• I'll miss having my 'house' in the same place as my job, where I can go for a little nap or a shower anytime I want.
• I'll miss having my own bathroom
• I'll miss the journeys all over France on their fantastic trains that I've been able to take so easily.
• I'll miss the wonderful and convenient train station. Small enough to not get lost in but big enough to have everything you need in it. I can pretty much recite by heart all the announcements they make over the loudspeaker I've heard them so many times. Le train TER numéro _____ en provenance de _____ et à destination de ______ départ __ h __ voie _. Il desservira _____, _____ , _____ ..... Prenez garde... Merci de n'avoir rien oublié dans le train... Veuillez emprunter le passage souterrain.....
• I'll miss my sweet, nice students who are interested in me and my life, and life in Australia.
• I'll miss discussions into the late hours with all the wonderful people I've met here.
• I'll (strangely) miss the canteen a lot. I'll miss having cheap hot meals available for me every day with no shopping to do, or cleaning up to do afterwards.
• I'll miss my bus trips around the town. Strange to say this because I hated not having a car but I don't mind the bus now anymore. And now that it's getting warmer I can actually walk around a lot more too (which I wasn't inclined to do during the freezing temps of winter).
• I'll miss having my dear friend C living just next door. Always there for me. Always ready to discuss anything with me - work/teaching, students, career, love, life, boys...
• I'll miss walking down the major street in town. And trust me, there aren't a lot of streets in my town. I'll always remember the beautiful decorations and lights during Christmas and snow-covered streets. The mairie (town hall), the post office, the banks, the pharmacies, the supermarkets, the boulangeries, the tabac presses (newsagents), libraries (bookshops), the clothing stores with expensive clothes that I'd never buy, the library, the laundromat, the beauty/massage/health places,... I think I would know the placement of every single shop blind-folded. People keep telling me this town is ugly but I still don't think it is. I'll never forget my first few weeks here when everything was new and I was in awe and amazement of everything. Everything was new and fascinating and beautiful to me (and in a way, it still is).
• I'll miss the fact that if there was anything wrong with my room it got fixed very quickly (eg the shower screen, the light fitting/bulbs). I've heard that in rented apartments in France, things can take months to get fixed (if at all).
• I'll miss the fact that there are some motherly figures at the school (nurses and cleaners) who seem to care about me and are nice to me.
• I'll miss the fact that this town feels as safe as anything to me and I've never lived in a place that felt like that. I can't imagine anything ever bad happening in this town. I don't even see much graffiti around.
• I'll miss looking out my little window and 'spying' on the kids outside hoping they'd go away and stop making all that noise. I'll miss watching the snow fall right outside my window - which kept me mesmerised for days, weeks...
• I'll miss my (almost) fortnightly train journeys to nearby towns
• and plenty more...!
Above all, there's two things I'll miss the most and that is my routine and all the free time that I have. I probably won't ever have another job again where I get to have so much free time and I'll definitely miss that!
I never wrote about this before but now is a good a time as any.
A Day in the Life of Me
6:45am - bell goes off for the people in the internat (dorm) to get up and have breakfast. I've only ever had breakfast once or twice at the school because I hate early mornings and the food isn't that great. I'd rather stay in bed and eat in my room.
7:05-7:15am (or thereabouts) - another bell goes off for everyone to come back to the dorm to get ready for school which starts at 8am.
I have classes that start at 8, 9 or 10am but no matter what, I'm usually awake and up at 7am anyway. I take my time getting ready and getting changed and leave my room only 5 minutes before class begins!
8/9/10am - I teach my first class of the day. I may or may not have another one in the morning. In between classes I hang out in the staffroom preparing lessons, surfing the net for news, listening to my ipod and chilling and/or talking to other teachers (not often). If I have a break of more than one hour I go back to my room as it's nice to have privacy and the comfort of a bed!
11:30-1pm - I start to have lunch. The bell for lunch first goes off at 12 but sometimes I have lunch earlier as I hate the crowdedness of the canteen and hundreds of screaming kids, and often I don't eat breakfast so I'm starving by then anyway. Lunch usually takes 45 minutes because as we all know by now, the French appreciate food and eating and don't hurry. I've never felt in a hurry although sometimes I finish within 30 minutes.
1:30pm - Some days I have a class straight after lunch. Other days I don't. If I don't I go back to my room or I rush to catch the hourly bus to make sure I don't miss it and go into town to do my 'chores' ie buying food for the weekend from the supermarket, going to the bank or the post office, going to the laundromat, etc etc. Usually I have quite a bit of time to kill during the middle of the day so I just walk around exploring the streets and shops. There is also another part of town that has more shops that I go to too and I take the bus there. Sometimes I go to both places in one day just to kill time.
3:30/4:30pm - Some days I have a class at the end of the afternoon. Other days I don't. If I only have a little bit of time to kill I'm most likely in my room bumming on the internet as usual. Sometimes I might bump into one of my friends and talk to them. My friend Y and a student have asked me for help with their English, for example.
5:30pm - School finishes and all the kids catch the school buses to go home and then it feels quiet outside my window, finally. I find this time the most relaxing for me and usually use this hour to catch up on emails, watch videos on YouTube or have a long shower and wash my hair.
6:30pm - Go to the canteen to have dinner with the surveillants and the students. It sounds kind of lame but I actually like doing this as it forces me to be social instead of hanging out by myself being a loner all day long. I also really like the routine and catching up with everyone. There are different surveillants every night and I like talking to them. Some I get along much better than others of course.
7:15pm-7:30pm - We finish dinner and go back to the internat. The bell rings at 7:30pm which means that all students must be back in the building and they need to take the roll. The students can do whatever they want and the boys can even hang out with the girls. Sometimes I go straight back to my room after dinner depending on my mood and how tired I am and if I have to prepare a lesson for the following day or not, or if I have some personal stuff to do, but around half the time I hang out at the internat which is actually kind of cool. I love interacting with the surveillants and sometimes the students. I went through a period where I'd watch the Simpsons on tv from 7:30 to 8:30pm.
8:30pm - The bell rings again. The roll gets taken again (the school is responsible if anyone goes missing at any time during the entire day!) Now the students must go back to their rooms and study. The boys have to go back to the boys' section and the girls to the girls' section. This is the best time for me to hang out with the surveillants because it's quiet and they finally have some free time. They are still technically working and kids will come and go and need their keys for certain rooms and things will happen all the time but the surveillants can do their own thing too. Most of them will go on the internet on their computer or read, or talk. That's where I come in because I keep them company and vice versa :)
9:30-10:30pm - Around this time I go back to my room to get ready for the next day! The bell goes off again at 9:30pm and the students must go to sleep (but of course they don't).
Now, that is a typical day for me. I went through periods where I did non-typical things. There was the period where I had a -ahem- boyfriend so 6-7pm he'd pick me up and we'd go somewhere and/or go back to his place. Then I'd stay overnight and he'd drop me back in the morning and it was a killer having to get up at 6am when it was -5° and pitch black on those mornings. It was really bad when the cleaning lady 'caught' me sneaking back in at around 7am every morning. She said she thought I was upstairs hanging out with one of the surveillants and I said no, I was at a "friend's" house. She said, "Il faut.... " which I thought was hilarious. I guess you need to understand French to get that joke.
There have been many times I didn't eat dinner at the canteen and I've had many memorable nights like that, whether it was because I was invited to a soirée or because I was invited to do something else, or because I invited myself to do something with someone somewhere...!
But all in all I love love love my daily routine and will miss it like crazy. I love that I have time to take a daily siesta and that I don't really have a boss in that I can teach the kids whatever I want. There is nobody on my case or on my back and I have total freedom in that area.
So back to the changing seasons (my reason for starting this blog post), something I missed from my life in Shanghai was the changing seasons. You don't really get a big season change in Australia and .... as much as I love the warmer weather and blooming flowers now a part of me is still very sad about the snow. I miss it like crazy. For me, it was like having a pen friend for 20 years. And then one day you finally meet and it's the most magical, wonderful moment. And then they're gone and it feels like you'll never ever see them again. I can't quite explain it. But when I saw snow for the first time in my town way back in November, I can honestly say it was one of the most exciting and happiest moments of my entire life. A moment I wanted to relive over and over again but when I came back from the Christmas/New Year holidays it barely snowed at all ever again. And now there's no chance and I'm really sad about that because I didn't even get to go skiing. :(
Now that I've been in France for exactly 6 months, everything has come full circle. The temperature/weather is very similar to that of when I first arrived. It makes me think about how fast time goes and the cyclical nature of not only each year but of life. Birth and renewal and all that. It's fascinating and yet it scares the shit out of me how fast time really goes.
Despite all my painful attempts to record all the memories in my life, I still wish I had video moments of all the beautiful and happy times I had here. I feel that during my time here I was in a movie and you know in certain movies how at the end there are flashbacks to moments that happened in the past? These days, I constantly feel and 'see' those moments flashing by in my head. I actually barely remember the bad moments at all now. They've been buried deep down, and the only memories that remain on the surface are those joyful ones where my heart sang and where I had a big big smile on my face.
When I leave this town and France, that's all I'll take with me. Those wonderful, happy and exhilarating moments and memories. I came here to change my life and change my life I certainly did.