samedi 9 avril 2011

Of Men and Women

After some recent posts, I don't want to give the impression that I only hang out with men. I enjoy hanging out with both sexes, it's just that the opportunity to hang out with females doesn't happen as often. One thing with me though, I much prefer to hang out with someone 1:1 then in a big group/crowd.

For me, I feel like that's something you do when you are younger, or if you are more social or all in all just have a different personality type to mine.

Today I had the best time hanging out with one of my good girlfriends here, C. In my whole life I've never really had one best (girl) friend and for the moment and during my time here C definitely feels like my best friend. We can talk to each other about anything and we are there for each other. There is no bitchiness or competitiveness or anything nasty (which can often happen between girls). I feel so lucky that I have a good friend like that here!

She seems to be constantly having a lot of guy troubles and we spent most of today talking about guys and relationships!

She's in a relationship with a guy who treats her like crap (he doesn't live in this town...luckily?) and I've advised her time and time again to leave him after everything she's told me about him. She's far too good for him! I can understand that she knows that that's the right thing to do but she can't do it out of fear (of being alone, of not finding anyone else, etc). I know because I've been there.

It's funny how clearly you can see things when you are not IN the situation yourself and that those around you often know what's better for you than you know yourself.

Meanwhile, she's got this other guy who's 'after' her and who is obviously crazy about her. He offers to do everything for her. She says she thinks of him as like a brother though (ouch for him). They get along well and he's nice and all but she says there is zero chemistry.

Then, she also has a second guy who is after her and constantly bombards her with SMS messages, unable to take the hint.

She said something really interesting to me which I found extremely insightful and something I agreed with but she articulated it so well. With the first guy who is after her, he seems to have no friends and not much of a social life so he's looking for someone to 'complete' him and his life. With the second guy, he's got no job at the moment so he's kinda 'bored' and also looking for someone to complete his life.

She said she's someone who enjoys her 'me' time and needs time away from the other person too (ie being with someone who's not too 'needy'). I totally agree with this too. I go crazy if I don't have my 'me' time and at the moment my whole life is my 'me' time.

It's definitely true that the most interesting people are those that have full and interesting lives and aren't looking to someone else to 'complete' them, because for sure you need to be 'complete' yourself before you begin to look for someone else, otherwise you'll only attract someone else who is as 'incomplete' as yourself.

Me on the other hand.. I haven't escaped from all this craziness either. I only realised that after recent events that two guys (one in this town and one not) are interested in me (contrary to what I originally thought). For me that gets weird fast when they have feelings for me and I don't have feelings for them. It's kind of annoying because I don't want to be rude and ignore them but then I don't want to give them the wrong idea either, that their feelings are reciprocated (when they are not).

Then on the other hand, I admit that I have some feelings for a guy I've been talking to online since the beginning of the year and whom I saw whilst I was in Paris (this part won't make much sense till I do my post on my Paris trip) but I have to hide them since he already has a girlfriend and I don't want to jeopardise our friendship. To be honest I'd much rather have a guy as a friend anyway rather than a boyfriend. At least with a friend they'll be your friend forever.

I seem to have this problem throughout my whole life where there are guys interested in me but I'm not interested in them or vice versa.

Then, as if the timing couldn't be more perfect (that is sarcasm) I got a text message from my ex today. He broke up with me almost 2 months ago and this is the first time he's contacted me since. I decided not to contact him at all after the break up so this is the first contact between us and I'm not sure what to make of it. What does he want from me? What is going on? Is he just bored or what? Should I even bother to reply?

Meanwhile a few weeks back, my ex from Sydney decided to de-Facebook me. Ouch. He didn't even write me anything or explain anything. He was 'gone' just like that. I didn't do anything about it though. I wasn't gonna write and demand an explanation or what not and to be honest it's probably for the best.

Then I wondered why my ex here in France did not de-Facebook me. I admit I was tempted to do it to him but I thought that it would be best to remain 'friends'. If I wanted to I could easily hide my wall, status or photos from him...

I try not to think about guys or relationships too much but things like this just come up all the time that makes me wonder what the hell is going on??? Why does everything have to be so complicated, huh?

vendredi 8 avril 2011

Size of Australia compared to Europe

C'est un truc de fou !

From Matador

Time and Tide wait for no man

(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.


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)

Paris Disneyland Video Tilt-shift

Happy Friday! Have a good weekend!

Bon vendredi ! Bon week-end !

jeudi 7 avril 2011

Boys are silly

Ever since the day I decided I really like being single strange things have happened. This is just crazy nuts. Ever since the day I decided I didn't need a guy to be happy, I have somehow become a guy magnet. Now I'm not saying at all that these guys are interested in me (they probably aren't and in fact I'd prefer it if they weren't) but now I get them contacting me left, right and centre. It's truly weird and I don't really know what to make of it.

There is this classifieds website I go on as I'm looking for something in particular (no, it's not a car boohoo) and there is also this chat thing on there (which I never use). Always within a few minutes of being on there I'll get some guy wanting to chat to me. I usually do it for a few minutes just to be polite but all I want to do is go on that site to look for this thing... Then, they try to find my contact details through the site and email me!

Today for example... I got a call from one of my CS friends saying he hadn't heard from me in a while and asked me what's up and if he can help with "the issue" and that I can come over and use his phone (he can make free calls to anywhere within Europe even to mobile phones) or his printer if I want. He contacts me often wanting to 'hang out' and I would if I had the time... but I don't right now.

Then I had another male friend wanting to catch up with me since normally he works at the school but now he won't for some time and he also wanted me to help him with his English. I guess I felt 'special' because last week he confided in me something that he hadn't really told anyone else yet. Not that it's a big huge secret. He was going for this important job and wanted my advice and help with his CV and want to wear, and what to say, and especially with the English part. Which is kind of funny because not so long ago I was asking HIM for the same advice!

This afternoon I got a total random call from someone I was suppose to meet in Nice but didn't end up doing so (more will be explained when I do a post on my trip there). We ended up talking for a while (he is also a high school teacher) and it was so nice (haha punny) of him to say he was really sorry we missed each other and that next time I come down south he'd like to show me the area...

Then there was the guy in Cannes (who I saw on Monday) who asked me how I was doing with "the issue" and that he'd like to catch up again soon (Cannes film festival - I wish!!)...

Then there was my friend in Paris (who I saw yesterday) texting me thanking me for yesterday even though I was the one who thanked him in the first place..

This was just in one day!

Then of course with all the recent encounters combined where they show me around their town and pay for everything and refuse to let me pay for anything. Well that I could get used to :P

I could go on and on but I don't want to make it sound like I think I'm really good because I'm getting all this attention. Truly, I don't. I just think it's really bizarre and keep wondering why it's happening right now. In fact, if it goes too far it could be a really bad and annoying thing. I can't make head or tail of it at the moment. I don't like to be rude or bitchy and ignore people but yeah... there is only so much attention a gal can take! Not to mention I don't have a lot of free time at the moment at all and have a lot on my plate. I barely have enough time to sleep.


mercredi 6 avril 2011

On French politeness and chivalry

Random thoughts...

I wrote about French politeness before but it still continues to amaze me. To be honest I don't consider myself that rude but I guess to the French I may sometimes seem rude and lazy. I've slowly changed my ways though ;)

For example, in Australia, it's very rare to find shopping trolleys with coin-slots. Aldi, the German supermarket has them but that's about it as far as I know. The supermarkets hire people to go around to all the parking lots and nearby streets to collect them which I think is a truly dumb idea as it just encourages people to be lazy and selfish, not to mention criminal (for those that steal them). This would never happen in France (or other nearby European countries) because they would NOT hire someone to collect the trolleys when they can implement something mechanical/electronic that costs much less. So anyway, I ALWAYS bring the trolley back to the trolley bay.

I remember one of my earliest experiences of this French politeness think-of-others thing. It was November 2009 and I had just started my first French course (at an adult evening college). I met this French guy (through Couchsurfing) for conversation practice. After my class we met up and went to Darling Harbour (which is a touristy spot not far from the heart of town in Sydney). We had something to eat in the food court and he went to put the tray back where it belongs and I mentioned that I usually just leave it on the table (for the cleaners to collect). I suppose you could call it laziness or selfishness but depending on my mood, I guess I do it half the time and the other half I don't.

A similar thing happened in the airport when I was in Singapore. When the passengers go to the x-ray machine everyone has to leave their water bottles behind and most people just left theirs on the stainless steel benchtop. However, since I was flying to Paris most of the passengers were French and I noticed that most people made the effort to walk all the way around the benchtop to put it in the bin.

Then there was another time a few weeks ago, I was with one of my French Couchsurfing friends and I put my hand into my small/tight pocket in my coat (it was cold). I had a tissue or two in there and then as I lifted my hand back out the tissues accidentally came out with my hand and fell to the ground. I left them on the ground (afterall, the ground is filthy - ew) and thought nothing of it but my friend actually made me go and pick them up and put them in the bin! I was mortified. I thought it was rather hypocritical considers he smokes and litters cigarette butts all over the place but I just did as asked and then nothing more was said about that.

Then there was another time only very recently when I was taking some photos in a park and accidentally walked in too far... The French have a 'thing' about walking on certain lawns and without realising it (because I was so focused on the tree with pretty blossoms I wanted to photograph) I'd walked onto a 'forbidden' part of the grass/ground (not that there was even any signs about it!) but I guess I was being rude/naughty/bad according to my French friend so he told me to get back!

There was another time not long after I arrived and I was looking at some hair accessories in the toiletries aisle in the supermarket. There was something on the ground (which was there before I got there) and this man just came over out of the blue and with a big huff put it back on the shelf and gave me a really dirty look! It wasn't even me who had dropped the thing on the ground but I guess it was deemed rude because I didn't pick it up! (or he assumed it was me who'd dropped it).

They're the main examples I can remember but I am sure there are others. I feel terrible if others think that I'm being rude and I'm quite conscious of this fact and always observing others and trying to copy their behaviours. But then again I'm only human and nowhere near perfect...

There's one thing I really don't like doing though. When you go to a French clothing store and try on something in the change room, more often than not you have to put the clothes back yourself! Exactly where they came from. And if you want another size/colour etc they won't get it for you. I really really hate that.

Now, onto French chivalry. Prior to coming to France I'd read a lot of books, blogs, websites, articles etc about the culture here. After being here now for over 6 months and being a single woman I can definitely say - without a doubt - that the average French man is far more chivalrous than average Australian man (I know I could open up a whole can of worms about the Anglo culture and gender equality blah blah blah but I won't).

I have a very clear memory from about a year ago, in Sydney, where I with a bunch of people I didn't know well but we were working together volunteering one long night... We came across some beers and helped ourselves to them (after all our hard work ;) ) I don't even drink but I was in the moment and thought, "what the heck".. except I couldn't open it and I asked the guy next to me if he could open it for me and he said something like, "OK but don't think I'm doing it for everyone" and he had a real attitude about it. I was really shocked and remember clearly my thought at the time that I doubt a French guy would act like that!!

Here in France everybody holds the door open for everybody and when I'm with a guy he'll let me walk through the door first the majority of the time (depending on who it is). I cannot remember that happening back in Sydney. I don't know. Maybe I'm imagining it since back home I didn't exactly spend a great deal of time hanging around male friends like I do now!

Something else I can't remember if I've mentioned on my blog before... One day I was getting a key cut and eating a baguette that I had just bought (afterall there are never any seats anywhere except in a restaurant and I finally had a seat whilst waiting for the key).. and the guy said "Bon appetit" to me. At the time I thought it was really nice but now I realise it's normal. The other day I was on the train and the train conductor said "Bon appétit" to a passenger, not because the passenger was special, not because he was especially polite (I don't think..maybe) but simply because the guy was eating!

What else? 

The language! OMG where do I start? The French language itself is overly formal, stuffy and super super polite. If you were to translate it into English and say that to someone they'd laugh in your face.

I'm so used to using all the French greeting words now that I think if/when/once I go back to Australia I'm gonna miss it a lot. I will also miss hearing French like crazy. Even now when I hear people (strangers) speaking English I don't like it. I only want to hear French!! To be honest, I have to admit that the day when I won't get to hear French all the time will be one of the saddest moments of my life. The longer I stay here, the longer I want to stay...

Everything's coming up roses

Spring has sprung!

I can't tell you how happy I am that it's sunny and Spring (and today I'm not wearing any sort of cardigan or coat!) and how sad I am to be leaving my job, this school and this town. It's all happened so fast. I think it's mainly the weather but lately I've just been feeling a lot more content with where I am (literally and figuratively) and now I have to leave!

On Friday, one of the staff at the school told me he also writes for the local 'paper and would like to do an article on me! How exciting. :) Perfect timing too since I'll be leaving soon. Then, today, I had a staff member tell me that the school nurse told her she saw me taking photos of the blossoms outside the school and that they were really good (the photos that is). What a nice compliment!

Then, I've had people texting and calling and emailing me left right and centre asking me how things are going with "the issue". I feel so happy that I've made so many nice friends who care about how I'm doing. :) After all that horrible stuff that happened before I'm glad to put it behind me and now, everything is literally coming up roses! Timely!

(picture from here)

mardi 5 avril 2011

Whirlwind weekend

Just got back home after a whirlwind 4 days away.

I have sooooooo much to tell you guys and I have written up 3/4 of my post but I'd like to illustrate it with pictures (so I don't bore you with my rambling) so it might take a bit of time to get up here. I have had the best best best time in the south of France, with stunning views and perfect weather - not too cold and not too hot.

I have so many stories to share.

However, it wasn't all fun and games. I had to make a rush trip to Paris to take care of some very important matters and all shall be revealed very soon!!

I am unbelievably exhausted and have a billion things to do tonight on the computer, including planning lessons for classes tomorrow which start at 8am :(

À tout à l'heure !!


11:20pm: ARGH I think I'm gonna be up till 1am. So much to do... :( So f'ing tired...

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