vendredi 1 avril 2011

Off to Nice and Cannes!

Yeeha! This weekend I'm making a last-minute whirlwind trip to Nice and Cannes, with Paris tacked onto the end as well! I'm so excited but I don't think I'll have much energy to do much. Fingers crossed for nice sunny weather!

Do you know how long I've wanted to go to the French Riviera for? Years and years! I LOVE beaches and aqua waters and palm trees and... and... I had planned to go there (one of the hottest parts of the country) during one of the coldest times of the year but other things came up. Also it's not exactly the closest or cheapest place for me to go to. I know if I kept putting it off it just wouldn't happen and soon I won't have the opportunity or time to do it, so this weekend it is!

Youpi ! Ce week-end, je vais faire une visite éclair à Nice, à Cannes et à Paris au dernière minute ! Je suis tellement excitée mais je pense que j'aurai pas d'energie de faire pas mal de choses. Je croise les doigts pour un temps ensoleillé !

Savez-vous depuis combien de temps je voulais aller à la Côte d'Azur ? Ca fait des années ! J'adore les plages et les eaux turquoises et les palmiers et... et... J'ai déjà decidé d'y aller (un des plus chauds coins en France) pendant un des plus froids moments de l'année mais il y avait quelques choses d'autres qui se sont passées. Et ce n'est pas le plus prôche ou le moins cher endroit d'aller. En revanche, je sais bien que si j'atermoie, ça n'arrivera pas et bientôt je n'aurai pas d'opportunité ou de temps de le faire. Bref, ça y est ! C'est parti, ce week-end !

PS loving the 8:15pm sunsets now!

PS J'aime bien le coucher de soleil tardif vers 20h15.

Photo of Cannes by Tomoyoshi (Flickr)

jeudi 31 mars 2011


Just a wee bit stressed right now. Have problems sleeping (or staying asleep) and my face is breaking out and I am just exhausted beyond imagination. I wish all these problems could be resolved soon. I have this big news that I am DYING to tell everybody but I can't because I don't even know the news myself yet because it's not finalised and I'm getting really impatient now. At least someone understands. When I told my friend at least he understood. He said you're going through x, and y and z.. no wonder you're stressed. Here, have some Euphytose. LOL.

mercredi 30 mars 2011

A Day in the Life of Me

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.

Sarah McLachlan - Ordinary Miracle

I have some songs that I listen to over and over again and never get sick of and this is one of them...  I wish I could explain what is going on but I can't until the time is right. I've only told 2 people here and I haven't even told my family.... that I have a big, huge secret! Hopefully I'll be able to reveal all soon but for the moment everything is sort of up in the air and I'm a total mixture of emotions: happy, sad, excited, nostalgic, stressed, anxious, bittersweet and everything in between.

Sarah McLachlan - Ordinary Miracle

It's not that unusual when everything is beautiful
It's just another ordinary miracle today
The sky knows when It's time to snow
Don't need to teach a seed to grow
It's just another ordinary miracle today

Life is like a gift they say, wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way to give some of your own

Isn't it remarkable like every time a raindrop falls
It's just another ordinary miracle today
Birds and winter have their fling but always make it home by spring
It's just another ordinary miracle today

When you wake up every day please don't throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart cause we are all a part of the ordinary miracle
Ordinary miracle, do you wanna see a miracle?


It seems so exceptional that things just work out after all
It's just another ordinary miracle today
The sun comes up and shines so bright and disappears again at night
It's just another ordinary miracle today


It's just another ordinary miracle today

lundi 28 mars 2011

Setting the wheels in motion

Woah... it's all happening. My life is about to start a brand new chapter very soon. Meanwhile, I am so exhausted I can't even think. My brain and body are totally fried. I've had very little sleep all week because I've had insomnia thinking about all this 'stuff' and I've also been out every night which is so unlike me. Plus I've been in many long car rides on winding roads and after 6 months here, I still feel car sick every time...

• Wednesday night, got back at 8:30pm which isn't that late but considering I left at noon it was a freakin' long day.

• Thursday night, went and saw my new friend in town that I made through Couchsurfing (for the second time). Brought along one of my other friends, C, here at the school and the 3 of us had a great time/dinner. Got back at around 9:30pm.

• Friday night, one of my crazy friends M invited C and I to go out with her and her brother. The 4 of us had the best time! We had dinner in a gorgeous restaurant by a lake (at Aix les bains), and the waiters were all amazing with their service and smiles. The highlight for me were the glowsticks in our aperitifs and this hilarious dessert menu cover!! La sensualité de nos glaces. The sensuality of our ice cream. How 80s does that photo look? Is she supposed to be seductive?

Noone else found it as funny as I did. Probably because I was the only anglophone there! Another highlight for me was asking for ketchup for my fries. I am obsessed with ketchup but French people don't really use/like it so I'm always stuck using mustard (which I hate) or nothing. The waiter told me (jokingly) that I would change the taste of the food and make it worse but he still brought it to me with a smile (and not in the bottle but in a small glass shot-glass type container and with a spoon!). I'll also add that in this posh restaurant, the food wasn't even that expensive. And it was top notch.

After that we played 10 pin bowling which I really appreciated as I mentioned it's something I've been wanting to do for months. One of my other friends kept promising me he'd take me but he never did and M knew this, so she and her nice brother decided to take us there. C had never played it in her entire life (!!) so the 4 of us had a jolly fun time and then after that we went to the casino where I got stopped and wasn't allowed to enter :( because I didn't have any ID on me! It wasn't actually for age (France doesn't care too much about that) but because they need to verify you're not someone on a list for people who are banned from gambling! Oh well. I didn't mind. I don't particularly like gambling and poker/slot machines (machine à sous) anyway. The building was exquisite, opulent and gorgeous. There was also a charity auction going on and everyone coming in and out of there were dressed to the nines. Didn't get back till 1:30am.

• Saturday night, M suggested I should go out with her brother (again) and his friend from the Casino. She couldn't come though. I was a bit hesitant since I don't know him that well and had never met his friend. M tells me that this guy is really rich and will pay for everything and just go along and have fun... er... ok... so I did! I had no idea what he'd look like and how old he'd be. According to my guess, he was quite a bit older than us. Probably 45 or so. Oh well. I had a brief flashback to Le Divorce like what the heck am I getting myself into here? I'm going to have dinner with a rich, older man. OKOK it wasn't like that at all. Actually, it was NOTHING like that. For one thing, there was my friend's brother who was with us and it was just like 3 friends having dinner. Nothing more. I had a fun time teaching English to them and I actually believe that over the course of the evening they had improved! And yes, they both paid for me. Not that it was a super extravagant/expensive dinner anyway. But still, it was very nice of them. After that we went to a pub and they wanted to stay out later but I said I needed to get back since I had an early start on Sunday. Still, I got back at around midnight.

• Sunday. OK, so a few weeks back I met this guy through Shared Talk (a foreign language exchange website). From our very first chat we just got on like a house on fire. It's very rare that that happens but it happened for us. Then, he invited me to come over and check out his town. Even though he is on Couchsurfing as well, I still hesitated and cancelled because of some stupid articles I read about CS being dangerous and whatnot and then I got this stupid idea and re-read our chats over and over again and overanalysed EVERYTHING till I scared the crap out of myself for absolutely no reason to at all. Then I told myself I was being an idiot. So when he invited me the second time, I decided I HAD to go and put my fears aside. They were unfounded and it was just my imagination running away with me.

So, he picked me up at the station. Yes, what was I thinking? Getting into a car with a complete stranger? Well, first of all I have to say that the majority of people have a 'sixth sense' and if something doesn't feel right you can feel/sense it. I didn't feel there was anything scary or wrong about him or the situation at all. According to our chats I felt like I knew him quite well too. The first thing I did when I saw him was laugh because... he was wearing a beret and a blue/white striped shirt. He looked so ridiculously French and I asked if it was deliberate or not and he said no, and that he only bought the beret a week ago... in London!

So first thing we did was go to a pâtisserie to pick up something to eat, and then he drove me to this gorgeous look out place that we had already talked about during our very first chat! (there seems to be a lot of them in my (Rhône Alpes/Savoie/Haute Savoie) region).  Luckily it wasn't crowded at all even though it was a Sunday. The view looked down to Geneva and it was pretty impressive. We were at around 1200m altitude.

After that we went back to his place for me to drop off my bags and we were going to check out the Water Festival in Geneva (Fête de l'eau aux Bains des Pâquis). However, after my exhausting week I was too tired to go and said I just wanted to do nothing. Besides, it was really overcast and looked like it might rain. So we talked for a bit and then went out for a walk just around the local area which was exciting enough for me. And with all the flowers blooming for spring it was really beautiful. There was a beautiful park with an oriental style setting. After that we came back, talked some more and then went back out to pick up the 2 pizzas we'd ordered for dinner (by which time it really was raining). If there's one thing I've learnt about single people (including myself) is that they almost never cook. It is just such a pain (and washing up too) and it's expensive, and who the heck wants to eat alone all the time anyway?

We watched a DVD during/after dinner (the pizzas) and then stayed up till 1am and I had so much fun talking about life and random stuff I didn't want to go to sleep. We talked about so much stupid stuff, in both French and English.

That afternoon, he introduced me to a French herbal drug called Euphytose because I said I had been having some mild problems with insomnia because I was thinking too much about this 'matter' and then that night he introduced me to Limoncello, an Italian alcohol that tastes like Lemonade, and both times we joked that he was trying to drug me... Yes, I admit there was a tiny tiny part of my head that was still skeptical about WHY this person was being so nice to me???

He refused to let me help with or pay for anything. He was so unbelievably nice, just like all the other French people I had met on language learning websites or CouchSurfing and stayed with. Even more so. He said he wanted to show me "French gallantry" (and no, he wasn't charming in a fake, superficial way either. He told me he treats all his guests well). He even insisted that I sleep in his nice comfortable bed while he slept on the couch (which isn't long enough) despite me protesting about 10 times. There was nothing underhanded going on at all I'm pleased to say. He never acted inappropriately. I just feel so lucky to have met someone who would treat a 'stranger' so well.

On male-female platonic relationships

After recent events I've come to the conclusion that I really like being a single girl. It's so much fun. I can hang out with as many single men as I please and do whatever I want, really. And who doesn't like hanging out with someone who treats you so well? And not just one person, but several! Noone is going to get jealous or hurt (as long as no one develops feelings)... Plus, I'm still surprised that there are so many wonderful, kind, chivalrous men who do and pay for everything without even wanting anything in return. Yes, I was skeptical too but it's true, but they do exist. I have met many of them.

I guess this kinda explains some sentiments from women:
When a man is a gentleman to women (holds doors open, pulls our chair out, walks on the outside - like "whenamanloves" stated) women are either a) upset that he "doesn't think we can do it ourself" b) left in shock or c) think there is some ulterior motive.  They react like a, b and c because it's not common for men to be this way these days and if he does or says nice things to you then he "must be attracted to you in a romantic way" (he's not, if he is, he will tell you) or we're just simply blown away that this type of gentlemanly behavior actually still exists among some men. Or maybe we think they have some ulterior motive, maybe they just want to get in your pants? Well, that's not it either. Did you ever think that maybe their parents just raised them with high morals and values and they were taught to respect each other? Or if you react like "a" then you're probably just stuck in that "I'm the same as you, so don't treat me different" mentality.
I think most people have a funny idea about male-female relationships. Many people tell me they don't believe a platonic relationship is possible but I beg to differ. I have many male platonic friends and I don't have feelings for them or vice versa. If I did happen to have feelings and it wasn't reciprocated (or vice versa) I believe that that would be the end of the friendship and we'd have to stop hanging out otherwise it'd get too difficult and someone would be bound to get hurt.

Some people also have the idea that if you see a single male and single female hanging out there must be something going on between them. I think that is crap also!! I think the people who can't have an adult platonic relationship with a member of the opposite sex are just immature, frankly.

I don't particularly choose only males to hang out with but it just so happens that since I arrived in France and at this school I get along with them much better and easier than with females (even though all my good friends back home are female).

(picture from here).

dimanche 27 mars 2011

Daylight Savings Time in France - 27 March 2011

Don't forget to set your clocks forward one hour! to passer à l'heure d'été !

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