Thursday, September 29, 2011

Busy Work

It's Thursday and I have tomorrow and the weekend before I really get into this new teaching assistantship adventure. However, I guess I sort of already started it all this least the paperwork/running-around-getting-paperwork-done part of it. 

On Monday of this week, I took the train to Cannes (which reminds me...I need to buy a month pass tomorrow so I'm not stuck doing it last minute in a busy train station while running late next week) to meet my coordinating teacher and see the school for the first time. Normally this is reserved for next Tuesday, but the teacher does not work that day, so I went in a week early, hoping to be able to hand all of my paperwork in on that day. Nothing is ever that easy, especially in France (I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but the French seem to love paperwork). While waiting to meet the teacher in the staff lounge, I met several other teachers, a few of which are English teachers at the school. They were all very nice and accommodating, which was reassuring. Since the teacher I was supposed to meet with was late because of a meeting or something, another teacher showed me to the secretary's office to deal with all of my paperwork. Of course, there were additional forms that needed to be filled out, etc, which is why I've been shopping for a doctor for the past two days (that's a different story). Once that was all over, I met with the coordinating teacher and we attempted to go over the types of things I will be doing with my classes this year, like different cultural subjects and ways of teaching. I left feeling a little more comfortable with everything. 

The only thing that I found a bit odd was that the teacher wanted me to set up my own observation schedule for next week by contacting the other English teachers. I would much prefer and I feel it would be more beneficial if I observe the classes I will be teaching to get a better idea of their specific levels and to get to know those teachers and students. They are the teachers/students I will be working with after all. In my opinion there is no schedule for me yet, which is why I am supposed to be "setting up my own observations" for next week. I am supposed to start teaching, or at least assisting, on October 10th, and I don't think it's a great idea to show up in a classroom never having seen the students or the teacher. Anyway, that's my only stressor at the moment. I wrote to my coordinating teacher and expressed that I felt it beneficial to observe the classes in which I will be placed, so hopefully this will be straightened out soon. 

The only real paperwork issue I had left to do (I think) was to find a doctor for the next year. I need this form filled out by one specific doctor so I don't go to five different doctors throughout the course of the next several months and confuse the system. I can always do paperwork to get a different general doctor if there are any issues with this doctor. This paperwork is for my healthcare, which I am very excited to have soon. I found several doctors near where I live and even a few on my street (so convenient). One thing that is not lacking in Nice is doctors. They're everywhere. So I got into the doctor's office on my street and have a signed form. I'm good to go. I was expecting it to cost me the normal price of a visit, 23 euro, but luckily, they didn't charge me anything. Sweet! Now I think I'm good to go. 

Other than that, I feel like I have been writing stuff in French non-stop...e-mails, ads for babysitting/tutoring, etc. Luckily I have had several parents interested in my tutoring/babysitting services. I just received a call from a lady on my street that wants me to help her son with English. She asked about doing a group session with a few of his friends. I really don't know what to charge. I think 20 euro an hour is about right for a private session around here (it's the going rate and people definitely pay it), but with the group session, I said maybe 25 euro??? I really have no idea. I guess I'll have to see how it goes. I told her I would meet her next week and we can see talk more about it then. 

That's about it right now...I'm just busy doing busy work. I'm looking forward to a calm weekend with Olivier. Then I have a week full of meetings, observations, and no Olivier (he'll be in the North of France all week for a work thing...bummer). Well, I hope you are all doing well. It's been beautiful here. Much love! xo

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How'd I end up here & The truth in the distance

I often find myself thinking about how in the world I ended up in France. I'm still young...maybe I don't actually end up in France, but for now, I am. Ever since my first visit to France, I knew I wanted to spend a semester or something in France, to really get the not-just-a-tourist feel of it all. After a while, as my life went in other directions, like history and math, thoughts of life in France became dimmer and dimmer. Then one summer afternoon, while shaving my legs in the shower, the dream came boldly racing back. Why not? I thought. You better go while you still can. So I went. I figured a summer would be just fine, that it would satisfy my "French hunger," and then I could get back to life. Hah. Guess again. 

That summer did nothing but expand my dreams. I needed more. I needed a year. So I became an au pair. When I left that summer, I thought it would be the only time that I would have to say goodbye for a whole year to everyone. It was truly difficult being so far away. I'd wander the streets listening to The Sound of Music to cheer me up. It actually works pretty well. 

I am a pretty emotional person. It's in my genes...thanks Porter sisters. I was always scared that I wouldn't be able to last a year, or anything more than that.  I remember getting terribly homesick living just two hours from home when I was at MSU. The truth is that living far away from loved ones is terribly hard. I keep their sad faces etched in my mind from each goodbye, remembering what it's like to drive away or watch as a train leaves them behind. I oftentimes want to just call my mom when I am missing her, but I know that calling when I am emotional will only unnecessarily worry her. Even though it is hard to be so far away, there is always another side. I cannot imagine my life any other way than it is right now. My visions of teaching in the US have long since been extinguished. I know that I am lucky because I will be able to come "home" at least every summer and spend a significant amount of time there, soaking up my family. And the only way that I could even begin to do this is with Olivier. He's the other side of the scale. I feel so guilty living so far away from my family, but then I have to remember that I have to follow my dreams. I have to be a little bit selfish. I don't even want to stay in Cadillac, MI, so me being this far just means less visits, but also longer visits (and more expensive visits...hey, at least the euro is worth more right now).  

Now back to the other topic: How I got here. I like to think of it as fate. Some people don't believe in it, but I like to. I think I would have left France by Christmas while I was an au pair if I wouldn't have met Olivier. He not only made it okay; being with him made me want to spend my life over here. Even though I have a few sad days here and there, something that helps me get through them is believing that I am not alone. When I can't see the moon, I picture it over the sea. One of the best gifts my grandmother gave me was the comfort in knowing that when I saw the moon, she was thinking of me. Now I believe she is still there, somewhere, keeping an eye on me. I reach down and swirl the ring on my finger; her mother's ring. Then I have this connection, not just to her, but to my mom too. I picture her embrace and I want to think that she knows me now, the person I have become, and not just the child I was then. 

To my family and friends on the other side of the pond: I hope that you all know how much I miss you and love you. Even though I miss you and wish I could just drive by for a visit, I am happy here. I can't wait to see what my future holds. So far, it's been quite a ride. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Post-Hiatus Post

Hello all. I'm back from my unintentional blogging hiatus. Hopefully that doesn't happen again, at least while I'm in France. So yes, I'm back in France, and happy to be here. I arrived last Thursday and have been somewhat busy ever since. However the last two days have been a nice reprieve, as I've been able to be lazy, clean, organize and stock up on groceries. Believe it or not, Olivier is actually a pretty organized guy. He de-clutters every now and then, and does household chores like the laundry and the dishes. However, two months of living like a bachelor while I'm stateside leave the apartment in need of a general all-around cleaning. I like getting all of my stuff cleaned and organized, so having the last few days free to do just that left me surprisingly content. 

I spent my first full day back in France in Beausoleil (just behind Monaco) taking care of Baby Charlotte. I've talked about her before. I took care of her for seven weeks back in February and March while her nanny recovered from an operation. I get to watch her on Thursday and Friday of this week too. She was so perfect, happy, and darn cute with her head-full of curls. I think she might even still remember me because she was smiling with me right away like she did. There was no crying when her parents left or anything. Anyway, we had fun going on walks, babbling to each other, and skyping with my mom. She really likes "the lady in the box," and kept looking for her after we finished the call. So adorable. 

We left for Antibes on Friday to spend the weekend with Olivier's family. All of his siblings were there and we had a great time just hanging out. We ate a lot of great food, drank plenty of delicious drinks, laid by the pool and sat around talking. It was really nice. I enjoyed watching Olivier and his siblings play in the pool like I'm sure they did as kids. Okay, "play" may not be the right word...maybe "dunk each other under water and throw each other in" describes it better. Haha. 

I have a few more weeks of down-time before I start teaching. I have days of orientation, observation and meetings during the first week of October and then I start my teaching assistantship. It's not full-time, but it's a start. I am hoping to tutor students and maybe babysit a little as well to make some extra money. I'm really looking forward to starting my job. My coordinating teacher seems very nice and accommodating, and I am looking forward to meeting him. 

As far as an excuse goes for why I haven't blogged all summer...well, take your pick: "A lot happened and I was too busy to blog" or "I could have blogged, but I didn't." The latter is more correct, but they both have some truth to them. Here's a very quick recap. 

We went to Olivier's brother's wedding in Italy. It was FANTASTIC! Everything was beautiful, elegant, classy, fun and delicious. It was like no wedding I've ever attended. The Italians know how to have a good time. They even do funny skits!

In mid-July I came home to the US. After a few days of unpacking and getting back into the swing of things, we went camping in Elk Rapids, MI for the annual Brugger Family Reunion. As always, we had a blast. Hopefully I'll be able to make it next year. I might just be able to. I was planning on coming home in August, but now I'm thinking July. I won't know for quite a while still. After that I worked for a week at Hermann's in Cadillac as a server (they let me work my old job for a few weeks here and there while I was home!) and had fun with all of the staff. I miss 'em! 

Then Olivier came to the US for the second time. Luckily his trip last summer didn't scare him off. We enjoyed Lake Michigan, went to Mackinaw Island, went camping in Interlochen and tubed down the Platte River, took a road trip to Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Cedar Point, and spend a few nights with family members. It flew by, of course. He saw all of the Great Lakes except for Lake Superior. I'm thinking a road trip to the U.P. next time he comes... 

After Olivier left I had another weekend of camping, this time with the Porter family in South Haven. It was wonderful. We celebrated my mom's aunt's 80th birthday and sung around the campfire. I worked a few more weeks at Hermann's and then ended my stay by spending a few days in New Buffalo, MI with Lauren, Karen and my mom in an awesome condo just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. It was a perfect end to a great Michigan stay, including sun, a pool, bloody marys, great food, wonderful people, cards, and laughs. 

That's all for now, folks! Until next time. A bientot!