samedi 16 avril 2011

The Ex

During my break-up with my ex (in February) I was feeling extremely emotional but eventually got over him to the point where I no longer thought of him. And I realised that any nice feelings or thoughts I had about him weren't about him at all but more about the moments we shared and the stuff we did together.

Prior to us getting together today I had already pictured in my head how it would go down (because I think I know him well enough) and it went pretty much EXACTLY how I thought it would. It made me realise that I am completely and utterly over him and there are just too many bad qualities about him and I'm so glad I'm not with him, but also that I'm so glad I'm not with anyone! Relationships do my head in.

I did have some fleeting gushy feelings for him upon seeing him today after two months but then I realised that those were feelings of nostalgia, of our happy times together and not necessarily happy thoughts about him. I asked if he was seeing someone new now and he said he was and to be honest I feel a bit sorry for her. I don't think of my ex is a super nasty person but I do think he's a bit 'confused' about how relationships work and also I think he's too busy for a girlfriend anyway. He's one of those people who have all their free time booked up...

I did also learn that he changed jobs (and the city for the job) a month ago and earns more than he did before (but he says he is still looking elsewhere for a better paying job!). I also learned that he's going to Paris with his family to see an aunt during Easter and that's about all the information I got out of him in the 2 hours we spent together. In the car going back he did casually ask if I effaced (deleted) some photo albums of mine on Facebook and I said "No?" He said he was looking for a particular album of mine and couldn't find it. In all honesty I change my privacy settings so often I forgot who can/can't see what. When I got home now I had a look and yes, I had blocked him from seeing certain albums after he dumped me - ha! Wow, I admit I was somewhat flattered and shocked he was looking for a particular photo of me after dumping me....

The rest was a blur as we didn't say much and just admired the scenery/landscape (he drove me to a place we'd never been to before, near one that we had). Actually that was the weirdest thing for me and brought me a huge sense of nostalgia. I remember vividly the night we drove through the forest in the snow with a thousand twinkling stars in the sky. It was so damn cold and pitch black. Today it was day time, and 16° and sunny and reasonably warm for somewhere that is 1100m altitude. In fact, it looked pretty ordinary to me and I preferred the wintery scene... I said that it looked like we were in some dinosaur place with upended bits of dirt and grass and weird rocks of all sizes everywhere. It was so weird and he explained that because we had had such a dry winter (and also with snow covering the ground) it affected the grass/ground/plants which is why everything looked kind of weird, and dry and dead...

So it was and wasn't quite the 'conclusion' I'd hoped for between us but in the end I remain neutral. I definitely don't want to get back to him nor do I hate him for dumping me. I don't really feel anything at all. I forgive him for 'wronging' me. It was just something that happened in the past and I'm over it now. I'm glad we saw each other today to at least say goodbye for what would probably be the last time we ever see each other...

So why are you single?

It still amazes me how many comments and questions I get relating to my relationship status. I've been asked:

1• Did I come here because of a man?
2• Did I come here because of a relationship breakup back home?
3• Do I want to stay and marry a guy (and therefore can stay longer)?
4• Did I get a boyfriend recently?
5• WHY am I single?
6• Why do I travel alone everywhere?

Then, I've been propositioned and hinted by various men that they are interested in me (and I am NOT interested in them)! etc etc..

Gosh, it's so bizarre.

I'm not overly offended (and sometimes even find the comments funny) but at the same time I think my private life is MY business and if I wish to share those details I will. (on my blog here :P ) I am also surprised by the number of times someone has told me I should marry a French guy if I want to stay longer.

For the record, it actually isn't that simple and as far as I'm aware, isn't that simple for ANY desirable Western country. You don't just marry someone and automatically end up a French (or English or German or Australian or American whatever) citizen! There are many criteria to fulfill and you have had to live legally in the country for x number of years and proven your relationship is genuine.

And to answer the questions above:

1• Definitely not. I came here for ME. What a concept, eh?! (sarcasm). Actually, my father did not want me to come and he suspected someone had put me up to it as well. He asked, "WHO told you to come to France?" and I was very shocked by this statement but he's obviously over it now, well he had to get used to the idea as I wasn't changing my mind about coming!

2• Not at all. At the time I was in a (newish) happy relationship (which ended because the long-distance thing wasn't working for us).

3• If I end up marrying a guy it would be for love and honestly, I don't think I will get married for quite some time!

4• I did get a boyfriend here in January and it sort of happened really quickly before I realised what was happening and we didn't last very long but I think/hope/assume we are friends now (well I'm seeing him today for the first time after the break-up so I'll see how it goes).
So recently? Definitely not! I'm pre-occupied trying to sort out "the issue" which is completely doing my head in with all this waiting...

5• What a stupid question! Although I suppose I should be flattered because if someone asks that I assume it means they think that someone "like me" should NOT be single (as if that's a bad thing). To be honest (and as I've mentioned on this blog numerous times) I really enjoy my 'me time' and 'quiet time' and silence and meditation and all that. I think I'm quite independent now and whilst on one hand I'd love to be in a relationship, on the other hand I always feel like my emotions are in knots (particularly at the first few months of a relationship) and I don't feel quite right, and I'm quite strong-minded so I like to do what I want when I want and how I want... in a relationship I have to learn to compromise all over again... it's difficult but for the moment I'm quite happy where I am and do not feel any overwhelming need to be tied to/with someone. I do, however, feel like I need to make as many (platonic) friends as possible so I can have a nice social life to keep me occupied :)

6• It's just easier that way! When I ask someone if they want to go with me they usually stuff me around and don't give me definite answers. It's a billion times easier just to make some plans and go! Plus since I like to take photos, 99% of people (unless they are also really into photography) get extremely impatient and then I feel stressed and don't enjoy my time there OR take good photos... However, I do enjoy company for the day once I'm in that city. But to organise dates/transport/accommodation with others just feels like too much work these days.

Meanwhile, on the subject of taboo topics, I've heard time and time again that French people don't like to talk about money yet amongst most people I know they seem to talk about salary somewhat easily. People seem to ask and tell each other their salaries... I don't know if it's just the group of people I hang around or what! But as an Australian, I feel extremely uncomfortable talking about what I earn unless that person is very close to me. I have no idea what my friends earn back home (although I could make an educated guess based on their fields of work and years of experience). Since I heard that French people don't talk about money full stop I thought it might also be weird to ask how much they spend on certain things but I've asked various people how much they spend per month on rent (I like to compare between each city for reference's sakes) and they didn't seem offended.

vendredi 15 avril 2011

People and personalities

You know, I am CONSTANTLY thinking about what makes a good person and a good friend. I would say that the majority of my friends are wonderful and kind people otherwise I wouldn't be friends with them (duh). I mean they are generous (with either time or money or both) and giving.  Lately I had a bit of a falling out with my sister which saddens me as I tried my best to be a good sister and a friend to her (and we have no other siblings) but she continues to either ignore me and hold grudges (over things that happened 10 or 20 years ago!) and all in all just be an negative pain in the butt. So as sad as it is I have to kind of pretend she doesn't exist at the moment.

Now, here at the school and in my town I've met some wonderful and kind people and yes I know that everybody says that French people are hard to 'crack' but once you 'crack' them they are soft on the inside (if you like my egg analogy ;) ) which I think is very true. And given that it usually takes YEARS to get to know them I think I've done pretty fabulously well for less than 7 months!

Today, I was thinking about some of the people at the school and that no matter what I say or do to them they just don't want to be my friend. I treated everyone the same when I first came and how I subsequently treated them depended on how they treated me... afterall I'm the guest and the stranger to their country.. *I* don't know the 'rules' but surely they must? Not that I've had a falling out with anyone but I do find many people don't like me or ignore me (for whatever reason I can't and won't understand) but now I'm so over it I honestly am glad I won't have to work with and see them anymore. That may sound nasty but that's just how I feel!

Besides, there are far more people who are nice to me and actually look forward to seeing and talking to me for me to worry about the ones that don't!! There is one teacher that I work with and I can't quite figure out which category he fits into. He seems to be nice but then some things he does suggests he's not. One of the number one criteria a good friend (and partner) must have is: Mean what they say, and do what they say they will do. This particular teacher has said many times we should catch up outside of school hours but never managed to arrange it. Now that I'm leaving he's STILL talking about it... Frankly I'm not that fussed if it doesn't happen but in my mind if you don't plan on carrying something out, don't talk about it!! Straight away, my opinion of someone goes way down if they do that to me.

Meh. I really have to stop thinking about this crap so much!!

Meanwhile, I will dearly miss the majority of my students. This morning I first had a very small class so I couldn't do much with them (in terms of celebrate my leaving). Then, after the class, two of the girls came up to me and asked me which would be my last day here as they'd like to give me something. I was so touched with even just the thought of it.

Then, in my next class I had a mini "party" with one of my favourite classes. It was so much fun and that one hour just flew by! When I told them my future plans, just the good part and not stressful "the issue" part.. they all applauded me. I was so happy and touched I could've almost cried. I also took many photos and videos that I wish I could share with you here (but won't for privacy reasons).

A few weeks back, I had my dad ship to me (by express EMS mail which cost a fortune and I'm lucky that my dad didn't kill me for that) some Australian things to show my kids. In hindsight, I could've brought it with me when I came but considering my luggage was already overweight it would've been impossible.

The funniest moment was when I introduced them to Vegemite, that dark brown famous Australian spread (for bread). It's definitely an acquired taste. I remember when I was really young I hated it but then I grew to love it and find it addictive sometimes!

I know that French people have a very sweet tooth so I could've guessed that they wouldn't like it and I think only one person did. They all admit they liked the smell of it (and many said it smelt familiar but they couldn't quite put their finger on it what that was) but hated the taste and one girl said she couldn't even swallow it. I heard dégueulasse too. I found the whole 'experiment' rather amusing and it's all captured on video for posterity :) I also let them try some delicious Tim Tam chocolate biscuits and some cute Caramello koalas (photo credit). I was quite touched when I noticed some students kept the empty sticky chocolate wrapper as well for a souvenir (as that is exactly something *I* would do!!).

At the end I had one girl come up to me and say that I was the best English teacher she ever had and that I was so much better that the other ones in the school. Although I don't think I'd agree with her I was very surprised and flattered by that sweet comment.

I went through a phase (in February, that horrible month for me) where I absolutely hated teaching and I actually thought of it as a crap job. No kidding. But after feeling a bit more confident now I realise it's not too bad a job at all and like any job there are many pros and cons. One of the biggest pros is when you have a sweet student tell you something like that. It just feels my heart with joy. :) Another thing I like about working with people who are younger than me is that they are so fresh and so innocent and haven't been screwed around by 'life experience' so they aren't negative and bitter (and therefore unfriendly) like I feel a lot of adults are.

I just had a look at my timetable and due to exams and school excursions and various other things I only JUST realised that I do NOT have a whole week left but only one day! I believe I only have one class, on a Tuesday. I could probably get it off if I wanted to and start my holidays one week earlier! Hmm... decisions...

(image from here)

Titeuf le film 3D

One of my internet chat buddies worked on this film. I've known about it for months! And when I went to visit him he showed me some of his work and I have to admit he has a super cool job working on various projects and with different clients in the media. He was invited to attend the grand opening of the film in Paris on 6 April (but he didn't go). I'm actually kind of jealous of his job and his life!

He also told me he's a good friend of Zep's which is how he got the gig working on the film. For those that don't know, Zep is very well known (Swiss) illustrator/cartoonist in France and in French-speaking countries, and his comic books are sold everywhere, even in railway station shops.

The film, Titeuf, is based on the main character in one of his series of comic books.

Ever since he told me about the film, I started seeing it everywhere. When I was in Nice, Cannes, Paris, and now my own town I saw/see the movie posters EVERYWHERE. I just can't avoid it!!

Anyway, I don't claim to know anything about the film so this is not a review of it, sorry! But if you like his comic books I'm sure you're bound to like the film.

jeudi 14 avril 2011

I'm famous!!

The tidal wave of emotions continues today and this week...

I only found out too late that I won't be seeing some of my students next week because they're having exams meaning that THIS WEEK is my last is my last week with them and I wasn't prepared :( Still, I tried my best to organise what I could with what little time I have left. I'm particularly looking forward to tomorrow when I'm going to have a little farewell party with one of my favourite classes.

Meanwhile... I wanted to talk about Thursdays. Thursday mornings I had the worst classes ever. Two of them back to back. The teachers who organised those classes for me weren't even English teachers and would change the classes on me without advance notice which shitted me. The students even knew more than I did! So the last 2 Thursdays I turned up to classes with no students! Talk about a waste of a morning. Well no more. This time I made sure I wasn't needed so I didn't need to go.

Last Thursday I had a series of random events that led me to the town market. A few week's ago I went to my town's market for the very first time and last Thursday I went for the second time.

First I stopped by Carrefour to do some grocery shopping. Then, annoyingly, I really needed to use the bathroom except I had no idea where the public toilets were (I later realised there are some just nearby). So I called my friend who lives in town and works from home if I could quickly come over to use the toilet. By the time I'd finished buying the groceries I couldn't really wait any longer so I asked the cashier lady if there was a toilet I could use in the store (TOTALLY expecting her to say no, that they are for staff only). To my surprise she said there is a toilet out the back. I got lost along the way and then was directed there by another member of staff. Then when I came out I got lost again (it happens often to me when I use public toilets in unfamiliar places with lots of corridors!). I realised that it wasn't actually a public toilet at all as it was very out of the way, and that that lady was being nice to me by telling me where it was and letting me use it!

Since I no longer needed to use the toilet I didn't need to bother my friend anymore and so I went to the post office to post the little present to my friend in Paris that I forgot to bring with me. Then, randomly I decided to visit the town hall to enquire about who I should speak to about selling my photos to them.

THEN, I noticed that some roads were blocked off so I went to see what was happening. I should note that the weather that day was glorious. Sunny and warm. Ahhh the markets! I'd totally forgotten the markets were on and I was SO glad that I found them. I had so much fun browsing them this time in the sun (as opposed to the first time with my friend in the horrible rain and grey drizzly weather)... I thought I shouldn't be rude and go see my friend anyway (since he seems to enjoy my company and truth be told, I think he's interested in me which now makes things very awkward)... so after my market shenanigans I was kind of 'late' visiting him but we had a nice time talking anyway.

So with that in mind, and with no class this morning I was determined to go back to the markets again. I enjoyed it so much this time I just HAD to go back! And what happened was unbelievable. I had a smile on my face the whole time and my heart was singing. And dancing. I can't even explain it. I can't explain why. It just happened.

The weather these past 3 days has been awful. Grey, cold, windy, rainy. Awful. I had to drag out my winter coat again and felt like my hands were going to drop off in the mornings without gloves on.

Despite the cold and grey weather though, I was in a good mood. I arrived at 9am on the dot and the market was in motion. As good as the stuff is, I don't like to buy too much fresh food as I have nowhere to store it and I have to eat it pretty much immediately. I was on a mission to go and take photos only since I realised the ones I took last week weren't good enough!

The sellers were very curious about what I was doing. Now I should mention that in Sydney and most big cities, people get the shits with you when you try to take photos of them or their goods. I don't know why. People are so damn paranoid! I hate that. But these people were sooooo nice. They asked if they could help me or what I was after and I said I just wanted to take a photo. Instead of being annoyed or angry they were still as friendly as ever. Mais allez-y (go ahead) they said. And then they'd start a conversation with me. I got asked many times which newspaper I worked for! Haha. Actually that happened last week too. I said the photos are not for a publication, they are just for myself.

I got asked where I come from, if I was a tourist, what I'm doing in this town, why did I choose to come to this town, etc etc.

I even got asked if I wanted to take a photo of THEM which surprised me and I gladly did. Then they asked their neighbour to let me take a photo of them! There was such a happy, friendly, charming community vibe to it all. There was no hostility or sense of 'competition' between sellers and noone got annoyed if you didn't buy anything from them, even after tasting the delicious goodies. And they actually asked about your day and your life and take interest in it.

All I could think about at the back of my head was: If only I didn't have those classes each Thursday morning I could've done this a LONG time ago and make more friends quickly and easily.

I actually only planned on staying 30 minutes but ended up staying 1.5 hours! (well the bus only comes once an hour so it was one or the other). I ended up talking to a really nice guy who was more around my age (since most of the sellers are quite old) and I told him that I'm in the local paper today. He asked to see it but I said I haven't seen it myself yet! It was the second thing I planned to do this morning. Go to the Tabac Presse to buy several copies of the paper! He seemed really keen on seeing the article and asked me to show him once I'd bought it so I said OK. Then we got talking and he said he's from Morocco and came to France when he was 10. I talked about how the snow mesmerised me when I first saw it and he said the same thing happened to him during his first year in France!

At the Tabac Presse I bought 4 copies of the paper. 1 to keep pristine. 1 to show people and look at. 1 to send to my father and 1 to send to my mother (my parents are divorced). I proudly said to the shop owner, pointing to the cover (realising that my photo was on the freakin' COVER of the newspaper!) "Ca, c'est moi"

I was in a mega good mood when I left the market...

The last thing I did was - since it was so nearby - was visit my keycutter/bootmaker friend, to say hello AND goodbye :( He seemed SO happy to see me since it'd been months since we'd seen each other. We spent quite a while talking and he said I should come around next week and we can have a drink...

Then whilst I was waiting for the bus to go back I got a lovely surprise phone call from Karine.  I found her blog sometime last year. She's a French girl now living in Sydney (so basically the opposite of me). I really liked her blog posts and wrote to her. I had no idea she'd be so enthralled by my blog. In fact, I didn't even give her the URL so she must've looked for it herself. She said she wanted to chat to me some more over the phone or on Skype. Then I also found out that she blogged about me on her blog. Thank you Karine! :)

Then, I got a text message from C asking to have lunch with me so we had a very early lunch at 11:30am. Then I started gradually showing various staff my newspaper article. Ahh I was on a high and C was so happy for me too! Then after lunch I went and made lots of photocopies for everyone :P

The loveliest moment was when I spoke to the woman in admin. She seemed SO happy for me she said she wanted a copy for the principal too (who I wanted to see but wasn't around) so I gave her 2 copies. And then she said she will buy the paper tonight to have it in full glorious colour :)

I also put it on Facebook and emailed my photos the article to my friends and I got lots of nice comments on the photo too (which I took myself).

In my afternoon class I showed my students the article too... Ah, my 24 hours of fame. :D

And tonight, the staff member who wrote the article on me said he was at the train station and he bought me 2 copies! So nice! I honestly can't believe how many nice people I've met in this school and in this town.

Also today, I decided to organise a last minute farewell party for myself. I believe that there are certain events in life that need celebrating. I don't like party poopers who don't celebrate anything. So anyway, I decided that I WILL have a small farewell party afterall. So I frantically started asking and texting my friends here in this town...

On Saturday my ex sent me a text message. On Sunday I replied. Then after that I got nothing. I was meh about it.

I ummed and erred all afternoon about whether or not I should invite him to my farewell party. Considering it may be the last time we ever see each other I thought it should be the right thing to do. Afterall, I'm over him and I'm ready to be friends. And I harbour no negativity towards him. So tonight I sent him an invitation too. Since there would be others there too that would make it less awkward and personal too. He asked me what we're going to do and I said I'm not sure yet, hopefully eat out somewhere and do something else afterwards depending on what everyone feels like doing. I'm pretty open to ideas. To my surprise not only did he say, "ce serait avec plaisir" (with pleasure) he asked if we could see each other this weekend! (after I deciphered his heavily abbreviated textos). I said I'm not sure yet. Even though I'm over him I don't know what he's thinking or planning by having us get together alone.

Tonight I went to speak to one of the surveillants and saw him testing himself by trying to learn and memorise the departments of France . Hilarious!

Anyway, that's my exciting day. I actually feel quite OK about leaving now and not too sad. And I feel like I've accomplished a shitload (excuse the language) in my almost 7 months here! and I've definitely feel that I've made the wheel come full circle.

(image from here)

Anywhere by Evanescence

One of my all-time favourite songs ever!


Dear my love, haven't you wanted to be with me
And dear my love, haven't you longed to be free
I can't keep pretending that I don't even know you
And at sweet night, you are my own
Take my hand

We're leaving here tonight
There's no need to tell anyone
They'd only hold us down
So by the morning light
We'll be half way to anywhere
Where love is more than just your name

I have dreamt of a place for you and I
No one knows who we are there
All I want is to give my life only to you
I've dreamt so long I cannot dream anymore
Let's run away, I'll take you there

We're leaving here tonight
There's no need to tell anyone
They'd only hold us down
So by the mornings light
We'll be half way to anywhere
Where no one needs a reason

Forget this life
Come with me
Don't look back you're safe now
Unlock your heart
Drop your guard
No one's left to stop you

Forget this life
Come with me
Don't look back you're safe now
Unlock your heart
Drop your guard
No one's left to stop you now



Yeah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah

[Fades out]

mercredi 13 avril 2011

The wheel is come full circle

When I was in my final year of high school, I studied Shakespeare's King Lear and remember the quote well: "The wheel is come full circle" and I really feel that my time here has "come full circle".

Following from my experience with the French teacher yesterday, today in the staffroom, another teacher with whom I've had almost zero contact and don't even know the name of, wanted to shout me a coffee from the coffee machine. Ha! When I politely declined he asked if it was because I thought it was bad. I laughed and said, "No, I don't drink coffee" (je bois pas de café) and he offered me a tea instead (which I also declined as I'm really fussy with my hot drinks)... But the thought was really nice.

It's funny but I only know of him because he spends a lot of time hanging around a female teacher who lives in the internat down the hall from me. I think a lot of teachers/staff suspect there is something going on between them because they are always together and yet seem like such an unlikely match as well. He seems quite nice but to be honest I find the girl really weird. The first time we met she was over-the-top friendly towards me and suggested we could go out after work and have a pizza but it never eventuated and then she kinda ignores me and barely even says "bonjour" and seems kind of anti-social and weird.

So bizarre but it's true. It's almost always the males I meet that are super nice to me. But not always...

Anyway, tonight, I bumped into that person (and one of his mates) again for the first time in months. 2.5 months to be exact. I actually remember the last time we saw each other because it was the last time it snowed at the school (and even then it wasn't much). I've tried to put it all behind me and forget about him/them/the incident... and I admit it did feel a bit weird seeing them again and making plaisanteries with each other but I do not harbour any negativity or anything towards them anymore. I think I've actually gotten over the whole thing. I haven't actively avoided them but then I hadn't seen them for so long either.

He was actually being very nice and normal to me (like you would with someone you've just met for the first time)...

I told them I was leaving as soon as the school holidays start and one of them asked, "Tu quittes ?" I said quite defiantly, "Non,  je quitte pas. C'est la fin de mon contrat. C'est que pendant 7 mois" (No I'm not leaving/quitting. It's the end of my contract. It's only for 7 months). I was kind of annoyed by that comment. Note that it was said by the other person and not the one that wronged me. I felt that there were undertones that I was "giving up" and leaving, much like the English verb "to quit".  Quitter is an interesting word (French verb) because it means to leave. It can often mean to leave on your own accord, ie a job or a relationship as opposed to just leaving a place/event, eg leaving a party which is partir.

Anyway, I told them my plans (which truthfully I don't even know myself yet) which are to stay around at the school for a bit during the holidays (as in, the school will still be "my home") and travel during that time... I also told them about "the issue" lalala. I guess/hope/assume they are happy for me. But meh. I'm kinda over it all and just wish to remain neutral about the whole situation and them. I don't like to make enemies or hold grudges.

And to end this post here are two more quotes : Let bygones be bygones.

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the PRESENT.

( Image from here )

Paris by bus video

This is a really basic video of my recent Paris bus trip (the last 5-10 minutes of it). It's nothing flash but hopefully you'll enjoy it!

Careers, exams and waiting

It just occurred to me that SO many people I know are in the middle of a career change or doing exams and going to interviews to improve their career prospects...

My friend 1 - applying for dozens and dozens of jobs hoping to get something soon. I really hope she gets something too because she really deserves it considering the amount of effort she has been putting in. I also helped her translating her CV and cover letter into English

My friend 2 - he recently went to a job interview and has yet to hear back from them. It's for the same job he's currently already got but this one a permanent full-time position (which is the holy grail) instead of part-time/temporary/shift type one.  I helped him with his CV and then after the interview they sent him this huge online test by Adecco to do to test his personality traits and his English level. We were a bit naughty because I helped him with the English part (which consisted of something like 150 questions!!) I admit that for a non-native speaker some of them were extremely tricky. We were smart though and didn't want to make it look suss so I purposely clicked on some wrong answers so he wouldn't get 99 or 100%. So he is waiting to hear back from them...

Our mutual friend, 3 - he recently did an intensive series of exams in Lyon that went for a week I think (!!) to become a customs officer. A bit like being a teacher in France you could end up almost anywhere in the country (on the borders or at an airport). He's waiting to hear back from them...

The school nurse - I saw her studying intensively for some special exam that is mandatory involving first aid and emergency care. Something happened (I couldn't quite understand since she was talking at at a million miles a minute but I think she said that the examiner didn't like her and there was a disagreement or something) and anyway she said she failed the exam and she has to take it again in month's time.

My friend in Paris - currently studying for his exams that he'll take in September to become an avocado. OK stupid joke. The French word for lawyer/solicitor/attorney, avocat, is the same as for the fruit avocado! He is currently a juriste and wants to change fields.

Someone I was speaking to on Skype (that I found through a language learning website) - he said he's currently studying for his upcoming HSK (Chinese language) exams in June. Then he wants to go to China and live/work/travel there.

A long time friend (from a language learning website) - he's a pharmacist and bored and says he wants to go back to university to do something different!

One of the teachers I work with - during the last school holidays in late Feb he went down to Lyon for a week to do a course to get some special teaching certification.

A surveillant at the school - He says that once he finishes up here in June he wants to go to Lyon to look for work.

It feels like so many people around me are in the midst of change in their lives relating to their careers...

Honestly, whether it's for necessity or by choice, I really admire people who have the guts to make great changes in their lives. It's all too easy to just live within your 'comfort zone' but I'm all for pushing yourself and being the best person that you can be and living the best life that you can live!

And as for me? Well I'm still waiting for this important piece of news and the wait is killing me because I worry that by the time I find out it may be too late to tell people here since I only have one more week to go after this (and then it won't be a proper goodbye).. And also there are a lot of things I want to do and plan but without this news I can't really go ahead. Grrr...

mardi 12 avril 2011

Waiting waiting waiting...

I am waiting to hear some news which will decide the fate of my future... The suspense is killing me! Without knowing the outcome I can't share my news with everyone including my family, my friends back home and my readers. I just want the suspense to be over already so I can celebrate the good news!!

I really hope I hear by Friday or early next week at the latest.

Fingers crossed!!

Meanwhile, I want to SCREAM "NOooooooOooOooOoooo. Please stop time." I've only got 1.5 weeks left of teaching here. I will miss the teachers, the students and the other staff like crazy. I'll also miss the school itself. Waaahhhhh :`(

On French Guys

This isn't just about French guys but also guys living in France (of any origin) really... It is so bizarre. At the moment I seem to just attract guys wherever I go and all of them seem so nice, complimentary, flattering and chivalrous.

I guess in Sydney I never hung around guys as friends (and would attract a random guy in the street maybe once or twice a year) and I feel that it's much harder to meet people there than in France or Europe. Of course it was very hard for me initially to meet people but now I found I'm that snowball rolling down the hill gathering more snow and gaining momentum... life here just gets easier as time goes on (and makes me all the more sad that I'm leaving so very very soon). :(

This morning I sat in again on a French class taught by one of the teachers at my school. Last time I sat in on a class in the lycée which I think was première (11th grade) and today it was in the collège, 5ème (7th grade). What a difference it was!

First of all, last time I was almost falling asleep because I couldn't keep up. The level was far too difficult for me but today it was more at my level and I was able to understand everything. Even so, the teacher and the kids speak soooo fast. And there is no way I can write French at that level yet.

In the whole time I've been at this school I've barely had any contact with this teacher at all, apart from the odd "Bonjour" or "Salut" here and there. It wasn't till I asked if I could sit in on his classes that we finally started talking...

I admit that I don't get along with a lot of the teachers. I think it's mainly because my French isn't good enough yet so when they talk in the staffroom or in the canteen I really have no idea what they are talking about! I can have a decent conversation with someone 1:1 since there is eye to eye contact and body language, etc, and I only have to focus/concentrate on one person but when it's lots of people and also with background noise, my brain just turns to mush.

Anyway so we talked a bit after the class (about the kids) and then he was like, "Are you coming to lunch?" I can barely remember a single time where one of the other teachers 'invited' me to come to lunch with them. I usually just go with the other assistant C or I go alone at a time which suits me. I mentioned that I forgot my swipe card back in the internat and needed to get it and he said not to worry, I can just use his. I thought it was really nice and always appreciate it when people are nice to me because at the beginning when I first arrived I admit that I felt that most people were mean and cold. I'm not actually sure if it's me that's changed, or them, or both or what.. probably both. I guess my impressions of them and behaviours towards them (everyone at the school) have changed a lot too since I've gotten more confident with the situation.

It makes me sad that I have to leave just when I'm feeling more at ease at making friends with the teachers...

Of course he let me walk through the door first too as has almost every single male I've come across. Then during lunch I was sitting at a table of about 10 other teachers. I couldn't understand what the heck they were saying of course but still it felt nice to be part of a group because I actually gotten used to eating alone or with only 1-2 other people.

After lunch and after a class, I went to administration to talk and ask about something. I'll miss the lady there too. She does all my paperwork for me and at first we were just on professional terms but then the day we started tutoyering each other it became a lot more like we were friends.

OK I didn't forget the title of this post... so where was I? Then I bumped into a teacher that I work with who thanked me for some work I did for a class last week. I was also dumbfounded by this as I thought what I did was honestly not that great... she said no, it was really helpful, etc etc.

Then, on my way back to the internat I had the strangest bizarre experience but then when I think about my other experiences in France, maybe it's not so bizarre afterall.

I was stopped by two random male students I had never seen/met before. They started gushing about how beautiful and attractive I was. "Mademoiselle, vous êtes ravissante." "Vous êtes magnifique." etc. One wanted my phone number so we could go out, etc etc.. I was laughing. Was I on candid camera? I asked, "C'est une blague, ou quoi ?" ("Is this a joke, or what?") They said no. Then to prove a point they asked 2-3 random strangers/staff members if THEY thought I was attractive etc and they all said "Well, yes she is..." OMG talk about embarrassing. Luckily I didn't turn bright red.

Then one of the students put his arm around my shoulders and started stroking my hair and saying how beautiful my hair was and kept persisting in asking for my phone number. I kept saying "Je peux pas..." (I can't...) His friend said, "Stop that, you're scaring her." I said, "You're not scarying me. I just find this all very bizarre."

They didn't even know I was a teacher at the school and I said that I was a prof d'anglais (English teacher) and then they were saying they wished they had me as their teacher... and, "Wow, you're from Australia?" I asked how old they were and they said 18 and 19. One had Turkish origins and the other Algerian.

OMG Honestly I didn't know what to think or how to act. I was very weirded out by the whole thing but at the same time flattered and found it highly amusing. I always thought that kind of thing only happened in big cities or to other people but I guess not!

I think as a female in France you just have to exist and eventually you'll get male attention (whether you want it or not!!)

And regarding the other stuff (teachers, life at the school) I really think it's the Law of Attraction at play. I guess negative things happened to me in the past when I was feeling down or vulnerable. But now that  I feel much happier and content in general and somewhat more 'powerful' or 'popular' (although I loathe to use those kind of words because I don't want to sound arrogant and I hope I don't give the impression that I am!) I seem to attract positive people and situations...

It's not all good news though. My father just told me that his mother (my grandmother) is in hospital and is hooked up to various machines. :( She's in a stable condition but I hope she gets better...praying for her.

(image from here)

lundi 11 avril 2011

Nice, Cannes and Paris vacation

Saturday - Cannes

I've had the most incredible and amazing weekend and that is only because of the kindness and generosity of some "strangers". It never ceases to amaze me how someone who doesn't even know you and who has never seen/met you before can be so nice to you, and would treat you as nice as your own family or long term friends would treat you.

Well I've been stressed with "this issue" (that is still ongoing so the stress is still ongoing too!) and anyway I decided to make a last minute decision to take a trip down south (as I stated earlier in this blog). I wrote an email to a friend of mine as I vaguely remembered that he told me he grew up down there. I thought maybe he could suggest some things for me to see or do, although I did not explicitly ask him this. I just wrote him a vague and short message thinking maybe he would be happy and/or excited for me, that's all.

What I did not expect was... He suggested that I could stay with his mother who lives in the hills of Cannes, in a beautiful town 10 minutes away. At the time of me writing to him I had already contacted quite a few Couchsurfers in Nice and Cannes about staying with them but had not received a positive reply yet so I was overjoyed that he said that and said "Yes! I would LOVE to stay with his mother!"

A few hours later I got a reply from him saying he had called his mother and that I could stay with her and she would love to host me. I also received a lovely email from her herself.

Now about this friend... He's French and I met him in Shanghai when we were both living there. I put a message up on a forum asking if anyone knew where I could buy such a such a product and he said that he had it and that he could give it to me since he didn't need it anymore. I thought that was very nice and we agreed to meet up. We only spent a few minutes with each other and then we never saw each other again! But, we managed to stay in contact over the last 3.5 years (!!) purely by email. I wouldn't exactly say it was a strong friendship but the fact that we're still friends and in contact says a lot I think... Anyway, he was the first French person I became friends with.

Then, around the time mid-last year (2010) when I was getting ready to move to France he contacted me asking me if he knew of anyone who could offer him a job in Australia as he was looking for a way to immigrate there. Since he's an engineer I put him in contact with my father and he went back and forth over several months weighing up all his options. In the end he thanked me but he said he decided to go with another company who said they could sponsor him but first he had to spend some time in Hong Kong. So he's currently still living in Hong Kong but he recently got his permanent visa for Australia and can move there after he marries his current partner so he can bring her over too.

I can't help but wonder if he was nice to me because I was nice to him and (tried to) help him out? It's funny how when you're nice to people without expecting anything in return, you eventually get it back. I really believe in karma and this is just one example, I think.

So, to say that I was tired when I arrived in Cannes was a complete understatement. I'd stayed up to almost 1am the night before stressing over this "issue" and then I had to get up at 6am to leave by 6:30am to catch my train. It was quite cold and I left a bit too late and basically had to run to the train station. It was still a bit dark when I left and the air going into my ears was really cold, giving me a splitting earache (which feels like someone put hot pokers in them) so by the time I arrived I was out of breath, sweating with a throbbing head/ears. I almost blacked out. "No worries!" I thought (in my Australian accent). I'll just sleep on the train. Easier said than done!

Seriously, I THINK EVIL THOUGHTS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO TALK LOUDLY AND NON-STOP ON LONG PLANE OR TRAIN JOURNEYS. Honestly, I just want to scream WOULD YOU PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SIT THE FUCK DOWN?! God Damn it. Why do people have to keep getting up and walking up and down? What the heck is wrong with them? And a train is PUBLIC transport. It's not your own bloody private living room and the whole world does not want to hear your goddamn inane conversation at 100 decibels for hours and hours on end!

The first half of my 6 HOUR train ride was OK and I got some rest but the second half was just hell and I gave up.

Reminded me of Sydney...

Then, minutes before my train was due to arrive in Cannes (bad timing) I got:
1) an SMS from a guy in Nice who said he could meet up with me and show me the town.
2) a call from a woman regarding "the important issue".

Since I was then in a tunnel I couldn't respond to either of them and then I had to get off the train, and then my friend's mother (C) was there waiting for me, warmly welcoming me.

She was talking and asking me various things and telling me about Cannes and to be honest I was distracted as hell because I really wanted to respond to both of those people but I thought it'd be a bit rude since we'd just met for the first time and she was so welcoming and happy to see me, etc and talking at a million miles a minute... So I just forgot about it for while...

My first thought was when I arrived was.... I feel like I'm back home in Sydney! The weather, the sun, the sea, the plants/trees/flowers. It all seems so familiar. The only thing that's really different (as always) are the houses and the architecture. I couldn't have been luckier with an 18°C day, sunny and a light sea breeze.

As much as I wanted to explore and see the city I actually wanted and needed to sleep. My head felt like mush and I actually felt like I'd been on a plane and passed through different timezones or something! So she took me back to her house (about 10 minutes drive away) and we had lunch. Then I rested for a bit (actually I tried to but I was so hyped up and pumped up and soooooo excited to be there that I couldn't!). I told her I really needed to use the internet and a printer to sort out this "issue" and I felt soooooo bad that I had to bother her with that and I felt so annoyed that I couldn't enjoy my holiday in peace. The whole time I couldn't really relax because I needed to sort out this "issue" and that was the reason why I had to cut my holiday short and go to Paris.

We had some problems connecting my computer to the internet and couldn't figure out why and she said she'd call her son. We ended up talking to him (in Hong Kong) on Skype and it's funny because I have NEVER spoken to him on Skype before! I don't even know his account username. And the first time I ever talk to him on Skype is at his mother's place! I spoke to him in both French and English and he said that my French had really improved.

It's funny... I remember the very first email I ever wrote to him in French well. I said something about "votre photos" and he corrected me and said that I don't need to "vous" him and to call him "tu" and that because photos are plural I need to say "tes photos". I'll never forget that!  Ahh... How far I've come in my French! :D

We didn't get the problem solved but I managed to solve it myself sort of by accident by trying a few different things with the buttons on the LiveBox. Hurray! I could finally get online to email the person about "the issue".

C and I had some tea around 4-5pm and then I really had to go and get some rest before her soirée! I knew there was no way I could stay awake if I didn't.

I slept till just before the guests arrived, at 7pm. God that sleep was heavenly. You have no idea how much I love staying over at strangers'/friend's places when they give me my own nice big room, with a big bed, and nice fresh clean crisp sheets. OMG it's heavenly compared to when I'm living in a tiny tiny room with a single bed. Every time that has happened I seriously don't ever want to leave! Also I often sleep better at other people's houses because it's much quieter than where I am at the school.

So her friends came over and they were all lovely. A lot of the time when you're at a party with people you don't know they often don't bother to include you in their conversation but they really made an effort with me, even offering to speak to me in English (but I said I preferred to speak French).

We had a delicious seafood Paella for dinner followed by a frozen dessert from Picard. Since my friend's mother is divorced and lives alone and has a busy social life (like all single people I know!) she doesn't have much time to cook so the Paella was bought and pre-made by a shop but it didn't matter because it and the dessert were both still delicious.

Her friends had been out sailing all day so were understandably very tired and it finished relatively early at around 10-10:30pm.

Sunday - Nice

The next day we were off to Nice! It worked out perfectly because by going with them I didn't have to worry about transport (lots of time and money saved - yay!), I get to spend time with them AND do my own thing because 2 of her friends (a couple) who had also stayed overnight at her place and her were going to see the opera.

Unfortunately, because I forgot to reply to this guy's SMS he told me he had changed his plans and was now doing something with some friends. I was a bit disappointed but had no hard feelings. I had so much fun exploring and walking around everywhere until I was even more exhausted than I thought possible. It was warm and sunny. C, being so motherly towards me, told me to bring my coat in case it got coat and I was annoyed I was carrying my winter coat in a backpack all day long when all I wanted to do was to put in a t-shirt. I was sweating like crazy in my long-sleeve top! I kept thinking and feeling I was back home in Sydney. It was a weird yet happy feeling and made me more homesick than ever. However I was extremely content to be in the beautiful south of France and was in no hurry to go back home yet.

This picture reminds me of California or Hawaii

Pebbly beach

Another (bad) thing that reminded me of Sydney was... I found my allergies returning! Strange. Or maybe not so strange.  Because I noticed that the trees, plants and flowers were very similar to what we have in Sydney I also happened to notice my allergies starting to flare up (which I never got in the whole 6 months+ that I've been here!) Prior to that unfortunate event I actually thought that I would LOVE to live in Nice. In fact, I would die to live in Nice. It is gorgeous and and a good size. It has wonderful culture and restaurants. And of course the beach/sea. It's unfortunate that the beach is made of pebbles and not sand though.

One of the first things we did after we parked the car in the underground carpark was walk through a farmer's market. Now of course I'd been to markets before in various cities in France but for the first time... I don't know why... maybe because of the warmer weather... I could really smell everything. I could smell the olives, the tomatoes, the oranges, the strawberries... My nose was being assaulted by the most delicious of flavours and taste sensations I was probably almost salivating. It was just heavenly.

First time I noticed these funky tomatoes ("coeur de boeuf" / heart of beef)!

We walked through several gorgeous streets of Nice (you know the typically French ones with that are narrow and cobble-stoned) before settling down in a big restaurant (La Claire Fontaine) overlooking Place Rossetti, a fountain and an old church. It all looked so Italian. Even many street and building names were Italian!

This is what I ordered:

Farandale des Mais 
Assortiment de pissaladière, tourte de courgettes, beignets de courgettes et d'aubergine, farcis niçois, poivrons au four.

It was beautifully presented and totally yummo (and something I had never tried before!)

After hearing great things about this well-known glacerie (ice cream shop) I was dying to have some! I only very rarely eat ice cream and so when I do I wanna make sure it's GOOD. I was told they have 100 flavours including cactus! I wasn't game enough to try it though. I did however want to try about 20 different flavours... I opted for the pina colada flavour since it's a taste I really like.

Then they took me to the Place Masséna (photos below) and then went to the watch the opéra. Now, because I didn't manage to reply to that guy in time we couldn't meet up and I was a little bit disappointed but not overly. Afterall, I had MORE than enough things to do in the 4 hours that I had. In fact it would be a race against time to see everything since Nice is quite big and I was only going on foot.

I was actually still pretty tired but had to forget about that and just keep walking and walking and walking... I felt so stupid to be carrying around a big winter coat when I was sweating like crazy.

I passed through a gorgeous tropical looking park with a carousel.

I did a bit of research the night before and wanted to go to the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l'image because 1) I love photography and 2) it's free! Whenever I'm visiting a city I like to still keep costs down and do as many free things as possible and there is usually always some kind of museum or art gallery that is free. Plus it was such a beautiful day I did not want to spend it inside so it would've been a waste of time/money to go to a bigger museum/gallery.

I saw the photos of German August Sander and a cute collection of old cameras right in the lobby of the building. It was enough culture for me because I wanted to make the most of the great outdoors!

I kept walking and walking wanting to get back to the sea again not realising just how big Nice was and how the map I had on me was really crap. I'd taken the wrong map with me when I left the house that morning and this was a bus maps which didn't show clearly all the little roads. That's when I got a bit lost and a random elderly gentleman came up to me and offered to help me! That was the FIRST time anyone in France had offered to help me when I was lost. Sure lots of times if I asked someone to show me where something was on the map they were polite and helpful but this time it was different!

And let's not forget the two random people who offered to take my photo for me (with my camera). That has NEVER happened before either. (Then, later, when I left Cannes, a young man offered me his seat at the station and that has never happened before either).

It really is true that the people down south are more easygoing and friendly.

Park with lots of people playing Pétanque

Top French baby's names of 2011 prénoms

According to this site they are:

Top 20 French girls' names 2011

1. Emma
2. Jade
3. Léa
4. Manon
5. Chloé
6. Inès
7. Camille
8. Clara
9. Sarah
10. Maëlys
11. Zoé
12. Louise
13. Lola
14. Eva
15. Lilou
16. Lina
17. Romane
18. Anaïs
19. Louna
20. Lena

Top 20 French boys' names 2011

1. Lucas
2. Nathan
3. Enzo
4. Louis
5. Mathis
6. Gabriel
7. Ethan
8. Jules
9. Noah
10. Raphaël
11. Maxime
12. Mathéo
13. Yanis
14. Tom
15. Hugo
16. Arthur
17. Clément
18. Thomas
19. Adam
20. Théo

Compare this to the previous year's

I have to admit there aren't a lot of French girls names that I like. I'm very particular about names.
I usually don't like girls names that end in 'ie' or 'y' (only because the majority of my female friends have names that end like this),
I don't like names that are too long that nobody calls them by their full name (ie I hate abbreviated names),
I don't like names that are hard to spell OR pronounce,
I don't like popular/common names,
I don't like double-barrelled names which once used to be common in French (but not so anymore, obviously, going by the lists above).

If I ever get around to having a kid I have already decided on a girls name (if the father agrees of course ;) ) that is very uncommon yet easy to spell and easy to pronounce, but am quite undecided on the boys one which seems harder to choose.

One of my students is called Nolwenn. It's a girl's name and I have to say it's my least favourite French girl's name I've ever come across!

I can't think of any French boy's names (of my students) that I really dislike but enough negativity for now!

Here are some names of my students that I like:

Clementine (even though now it makes me think of the fruit!)


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