(This post is sort of a continuation of and a bit of a repeat of this post here)
I'm just flooded with a whole mixture of emotions and thoughts right now...
Only 2 more weeks to go working at the school...
To say that I feel time is passing too quickly is an understatement. I actually felt that up until early January the time passed at a nice pace but after mid January it just went crazy and it was like I was on a runaway train...
Honestly, it only feels like yesterday that it was snowing and/or freezing but today, as I look up at the mountains surrounding my town it's as if I'm in that scene from The Wizard of Oz when the scene changes from black and white to colour. Only a few days ago I looked up at the mountains which were still a grey-brown colour as they have been all winter but now everything is turning green rapidly, starting from the bottom. It's quite interesting for me to see something like this, something I've never really witnessed before since I never lived near any mountains nor in a cold-ish place.
The other day I heard the familiar sound of a lawnmower right outside my window, and the familiar smell of freshly cut grass. The cherry blossoms that I love so much during springtime have not lasted long and now, with the wind, many have blown away already. I love all this colour and sun but there are some things I don't like too! The worst would have to be my springtime allergies which I seem unable to avoid no matter where in the world I am. Running nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes... Hopefully it won't last too much longer though.
The other thing which I was afraid of because I'd heard so much about from my sister who lived in Europe and various travel forums (people talking about hotels) is that.. Houses and buildings in Europe are extremely well designed for cold weather but are not at all well designed for hot weather. I already knew this and it was something I was NOT looking forward to. This afternoon it was sweltering in the classrooms being 29°C. And to think it's only early April!
As every day passes I feel sadder and sadder that I am leaving this school and my students, my 'kids'...
This afternoon I bumped into a staff member I hadn't talked to for ages and she seemed genuinely happy to see me. She also told me that my French had improved a lot since the last time we spoke (which made my day). She asked me about my photos (I showed her some on the internet) and as we got talking she suggested I should have an exhibition. To be honest it was something I had thought about before but I was not sure about how to organise it and I really didn't have the courage or confidence to do it so put it far far away at the back of my mind... I have taken thousands and thousands of photos of my school, my town and the area since I arrived. Then sooner than you know it, she was calling up the local art gallery and next thing I was (very nervously) speaking to one of the curators... He said he'd like to see my work and I may have an exhibition there in the near future!
The sad thing was though, that this lady said she wished she knew about my talent earlier and that I could've done a regular photo 'atelier' (workshop) with some of the students. It's times like that I realise how fast the time really went and that you should never put off doing anything in life because once the chance is gone, it's gone... I guess I'm a little bit regretful I didn't think to organise something like that but I guess it also made me want to be more pro-active in all areas of my life so it was a good wake-up call.
Yesterday I went to the mairie (town hall) to enquire about who I should speak to about selling my photos since I've taken a lot I think could be used for advertising/marketing/publicity purposes. We'll see how that goes...
All in all I'm quite overcome with emotions at the moment. I've noticed that with this warmer weather, EVERYONE seems a lot happier, not just me. My students are more awake and attentive in class and these 8:30pm sunsets are wonderful.
Still, I constantly feel a very strong sense of longing for that snow. I just can't explain it. It's something I think about every single day. Why couldn't there have been more snow during Jan-Feb-March? The one thing I really regret that I didn't do during my time here was go skiing. The right opportunity just never came up.
When I spoke to a staff member last night he told me he lives near Chamonix and if you go up high there is still snow there but I want it to be snowing EVERYWHERE plus I want to go skiing too. I guess I'll just have to wait at least another 7 months :( I'm not upset about the waiting though. Afterall, I feel that time passes too quickly and I'm sure it'll be cold again before I know it.
To be honest, before I came to France I absolutely DESPISED cold weather. When I used to think of the most ideal place to live, I wanted to live in Hawaii. I went there once for a holiday and absolutely loved it.
1 VIENNA AUSTRIA
2 ZURICH SWITZERLAND
3 GENEVA SWITZERLAND
4 VANCOUVER CANADA
4 AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND
6 DUSSELDORF GERMANY
7 FRANKFURT GERMANY
7 MUNICH GERMANY
9 BERN SWITZERLAND
10 SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
According to the Mercer HR report these are the top 10 most livable cities for 2010. Out of all of them, Sydney is easily the warmest. I remember seeing those lists and always wondering why cold cities tended to do better than warmer ones. Who knows?
Anyway I used to have a huge FEAR of winter and cold weather and in November when everyone told me it would snow soon I couldn't believe it. I looked at the weather report online every day and on one hand I didn't want it to come (because to me it meant it would be freezing) but on the other hand I was excited to see it.
I remember it so clearly like it was yesterday... It was a Thursday night and I was having dinner in the school cantine with some of the surveillants (as usual). It was pitch black outside (now it looks like 3pm when we are having dinner at 7pm) and I could not believe my eyes when the snowflakes fell down and they continued to do so right into the next day. Then the next morning I looked outside my window and it was a beautiful white fluffy wonderland, like a bubble bath. It was so surreal. That was one of the most beautiful and precious memories for me and something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.
I remember the following weekend, the Saturday. It was the first time in ages I decided not to do any travelling because I was still getting over my cold and I spent an hour Skyping my father and an hour Skyping my sister and her boyfriend and I remember pointing my webcam out the window to show them. I was so proud of the fact that I had this beautiful snow right outside the window that I wanted to show the whole world!!
So after all these cold months honestly now I can say that I am NOT scared of winter or cold weather at all (except when it's windy. When it's windy it's hell). And the reason for that is because European buildings are so well heated it's always comfortable and let's face it you're not outside for that long anyway. Plus for me the snow is just a big big bonus and something to look forward to. Which is funny because most people I've spoken to tell me they hate(d) the snow and was so glad when it all melted.
I've been looking forward to warm weather for so long but didn't realise it would happen so quickly. It is wonderful right now where it's usually in the low-mid 20s. I am not really looking forward to the crowds of summer. One good thing about travelling in Europe during winter (except Christmas) is that there aren't that many crowds around.
This experience (of living in France, particularly in a small city, and teaching high school students) has had a profound effect on my outlook on life and on my opinion of myself.
I remember when I first came and how I was filled with wonder and joy of discovering all these new things but also with fear and sadness of the unfamiliarity of it all and leaving my former life and family/friends behind... I think about how far I've come in such a short time and how I've done things I never thought were possible.
I remember thinking my sister was out of her mind when she told me she did this Couchsurfing thing and now I've done it around 10 times and think nothing of it and have had the most wonderful experiences with some lovely, kind and hospitable people.
I've visited so many cities in such a short space of time. I've had so much free time to do what I wanted and having all these paid school holidays has been great.
I guess you never know how strong you can be unless you put yourself 'out there' and jump into the deep end and do something really really 'hard'. Although I think I give people and my friends an image that my life is all fun and games it truly wasn't and hasn't been (at least not all the time). I don't think most people can imagine what it's like to be so far away from home and have very very little contact with your family/friends or anything that is familiar.
I was also thrown into the deep end with the French language. I had only taken 6 months of classes prior to coming to France!! (it's all documented here on this blog if you've been following ;) ) I think that's a bloody huge achievement to go from that to talking and using it every day. Talking on the phone still makes me really nervous (it does even in English because I hate talking on the phone to strangers) but I'm getting better with practice.
To be honest a large part of my motivation of wanting to come to France and do the Teaching Assistantship was because of my sister. She studied in Germany and I was in Sydney living a pretty ordinary life and I was regaled with stories of all her adventures and travels and even though she was a dirt poor student, she managed to send me sweet letters, postcards, and little gifts that wouldn't cost too much to send or buy.
I never did the study abroad thing when I was a university student and it's something I always regretted but I guess I've made up for it now. In a way I think the Teaching Assistantship is even better than being a student because you actually get paid to be there and you don't have much homework to do and you have just as many holidays and time to travel...
I actually felt like I'd won the lotto when I found out I got in (as I didn't want to get my hopes up and thought I only had a 50% chance) and to say it's been one of the most amazing experiences of my life is an understatement.
I'm truly sad to leave but I have other wonderful things to look forward to on the horizon...
If there is one important thing I've learnt in life it is: "Time and Tide wait for no man." If you REALLY want to do something, just do it. Today. Stop making excuses (of time or money). Just do it. Stop wasting time and complaining about how you can't do it. Find a way to make it happen if you REALLY want it badly enough. Honestly, I don't get paid much at all in this job but I'd rather have my experiences a million times over compared to more money or material things. In the end when you're old and grey you'll only remember the happy, wonderful experiences and memories that you had in life. You won't remember the other stuff.
Le temps passe trop vite !
(Image from here)