Another collection of things I’ve been saying about France plus some updates

journal entry, May 24
[My hosts] left for Madrid on Wednesday morning, and the weather has pretty much been awful since then, [but] I have gotten out a bit every day. Three times now I’ve walked to the bakery for croissants, and yesterday I also went to the tabac (for postcards) and got some groceries. I especially like the fresh produce market. Maybe I’d eat more fruits and vegetables if they all looked so good.
*Note: a few days later I had zucchini! Baby steps!

email, June 4
Today I went into Toulouse all by myself! I bought a bus ticket, caught the right bus, made the right transfer at the metro, then explored the city. I got kind of lost a few times, but I was always able to find my way back to somewhere I recognized (even without using my map). I did a lot of walking, and I did some shopping, too. I bought a crepe for lunch (ham and cheese), then I found a cafe where I could sit out in the sun and have some ice cream (raspberry sorbet). I did all my communications (in the stores, getting food) in French, and I only screwed up once. I’m getting much better! Then I walked to the Pont Neuf, found a new metro station, and headed home.

tweets, June 2 through June 5

  • Oh, you know. Just going to throw together a dinner of duck confit and roasted vegetables.
  • Five oz. cans of Coke. Who knew?
  • Even when you primarily speak, read, and think in English, it will get difficult to write in English. Seriously. It took me four tries to spell “passionate” this morning (and two to get it right in this tweet).
  • Today, I heard a word that I didn’t understand. “It’s either ‘salt’ or ‘room,'” I thought. Turns out it was “bowel movement.”
  • Honey as a savory pizza topping. Weird. (I had ham.)

in other news
I’m finding all these wines I just love, and so far I’ve had my dad checking for them at Dusty’s, but they’re so far unable to find distributors in the US. The one I’m drinking tonight was described to me as being halfway between a rosé and a red (it’s a Mauzac). It’s delicious. The wine region I’m right next to (in?) is called Gaillac.

I’ve tried a ton of new foods since being here: scallops, duck, zucchini, couscous, sundried tomatoes, and pine nuts (I think there are a few more that I’m missing…).

Going into Toulouse by myself was a big deal for me yesterday. I’ve never done anything like that before, not even in the US. It was strangely exhilarating, and I came home again feeling as if I could do anything in the world. It was a bit like how I imagine Felix Felicis is. Yes, I’m a Harry Potter nerd even in Europe.

I’ve finally been able to do a bit of writing. I’ve been trying some prompts with a friend, and between that and the ways I’ve been getting out of my shell, I’m finding that I actually do have some things to say again. Right now I’m working on a how to piece, and I’ve gotten some work done on a piece that has the same characters as “The Woman Next Door” (in PANK 7). With any luck, I’ll actually have something to bring to my writing group in a few weeks.

One week left here. Time really does fly.


La vie en France

me at the Med

Me at the Mediterranean.

My dad suggested today that I post some of my thoughts on France. I’ve been here a week now, and I’ve actually done a fair bit of journaling (for me), so I thought I’d share some of that here rather than trying to come up with something new and clever. The following are all excerpts from emails I’ve sent or journal entries I’ve written. I’ve also included a few of my pictures.

journal entry, 5.17
I’ve been here just over forty-eight hours now. I’m still horribly jet lagged, and I’m fighting a migraine, but the sun is shining and I’m content. This morning we had croissants. Mine was delicious, but then [my hosts] apologized for not getting the really good ones. “These aren’t the good ones?” I said. Tonight we might make duck confit. I’m trying to try new things. I also sat in on a French lesson this morning. I’m not as bad as I think I am, I just need to get more confidence and practice more. One of those things, however, depends on the other.

travel journal entry, 5.16
Toulouse: Today I killed a lot of spiders. Over a dozen, probably. But the one I missed fell off the ceiling and may now be in my bed. Joy. Today was a lazy day. I walked into town with [my host and her dog], but we got rained on. Pour le dîner, j’ai mangé chicken parmesan et du vin rouge. C’était très bon. Now excuse me. Another two spiders are getting uncomfortably close to my bed.

email to my family, 5.20
I may have moved forward in the Great French Spider War of 2013 (GFSW13). I woke up this morning and found none (except for the little black one, still on my ceiling; until he provokes me, I’m treating him as a deserter). None in my room, none in the hallway, and just one dead guy, right next to my toothbrush. He definitely wasn’t there last night. I think after I demolished the forces in their frontal, aerial assault, they were demoralized. Maybe they thought to bring me the same type of fear by leaving a dead guy near my toothbrush, but what they don’t realize is that I cheer at every spider death.


The view from Puycelsi.

travel journal entry, 5.18
Tournefeuille: I figured I should list where I actually am, not just the nearest big city. Today we went to Gaillac, where we met with some of [my hosts’] friends and their daughter (and her daughter). Then we drove to Puycelsi. It’s a beautiful walled village up high in the hills. Some words I learned today:

livraison: home delivery
ruche: beehive
rappel: reminder

email to my family, 5.19
We went to the Mediterranean today, and to Carcassonne. Apparently there’s a story about Carcassonne that says that, back when they were being besieged (is that how you say it?), they had almost given up hope, and then they fed the last pig the last bit of the grain and then threw it over the walls. The pig died, and the opposing army cut it open to find all the grain inside. They assumed that meant their siege was doing no good and that the people had tons to eat, so they left. It’s probably not true, but it’s still a great story. It was a cool city, but it’s been so commercialized. It was a bit sad, actually. Also, a lady got mad at me in Carcassonne. I asked, in French, if she spoke English, and she said, “a little,” but in such a thick accent that I thought she was still speaking French. I responded in French saying I didn’t understand, and she got mad at me. Oh well.

a tower in Carcassonne

A tower in Carcassonne.

email to my family, 5.21
GFSW13 is going well! Only killed one yesterday. I think I demoralized their troops. The little black defect spider, though, may be reconsidering his choice of sides. I’ve left him alone because he’s left me alone, then yesterday he wanted to hang on near my bed all day. I can’t find him anymore. I’m hopeful he’s moved on to an area that isn’t a spider dying ground.

We stopped at the mall [today], and a woman asked me a question. I didn’t understand at first, so I asked her to repeat. She said, “Are you finding everything you need?” and I said, “Yes,” and turned around. As I was turning, though, I noticed she had a weird look on her face, and only then did I realize that what she actually said was, “Can I help you find anything you need?” Oops! I swear one of these times I’ll do well! I successfully ordered a croissant and a drink at the bakery today, so that’s something, I suppose. Of course, all I had to say was, “One croissant and a Fanta, please.”

Me, myself, and France

Ever since I spent a few days in Paris last summer, I’ve had this idea bouncing around the back of my head that I need to go back. I know how hard it can be to find good work in France as an American, however, so I really didn’t do much with the idea. I poked into the possibility of getting another advanced degree abroad, but it all seemed like too much money—and very much as if I was just using education as an excuse to travel. But then a few weeks back I stumbled upon the existence of this teaching assistants program in France. The short of it is, every year the French government pays 1500 Americans to teach English in its schools. The pay isn’t phenomenal (just under 800 Euros per month, after taxes and health care costs), but it is enough to live off of. Oh, and did I mention? You only work 12 hours each week.

I missed the deadline for the 2011 program, but I plan on applying for 2012. It would mean starting my contract October 1, 2012, and staying for either seven or nine months, depending on which age level I’m chosen to teach for. My application will be due in January.

In the meantime, I’m doing everything I can think of to prepare. I’m working on my French every day (you need the equivalent of three semesters of college French, which I have, but I’m very rusty), researching the program like crazy, and doing my best to save as much money as possible (when I say the wage is livable, that doesn’t factor in my student loans at all, so I need all that money saved in advance). I also need two recommendation letters, one of which has to address my French skills. This is going to be my biggest stumbling block, I think, seeing as how I don’t know anyone that can honestly speak to that. So I’m looking in to signing up for an evening college class or something.

So this is what I’ve been up to lately. I fluctuate between being incredibly excited and incredibly scared, and I imagine these swings will only get more pronounced. But you have to be under 30 on the day the program starts, so I don’t really have the time to put it off. I’m young and able, and if I don’t do this now, I’m afraid I never will.

Also, as an aside for anyone who is intrigued and now considering doing something similar: Spain, Austria, and I think Italy have similar programs. And Finland has a program where you don’t need any language experience. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.