Posts Tagged ‘Teaching English’

I just received great news about the CAF: I finally received it! lol. Yay for housing rebates 🙂 But, surprise, surprise. Along with the good news they sent me a separate letter asking for MORE PAPERWORK. Ha. It never ends…


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I haven’t been feeling up to par for the past few days – my throat has gotten progressively scratchier (did I make up this word or should it be “more scratchy”? lol) since the weekend – and finally, yesterday I just felt horrible. So after realizing that my illness was not going to go away on its own and that this couldn’t be a worse time to be sick (Elise arrives Thursday and we leave for our crazy Christmas adventure on Saturday), I called up my doctor and scheduled an appointment (yes, I actually talked to him – he is his own receptionist/nurse/cashier) for the next day (today) at 8:45 a.m.

This morning feeling I woke up feeling even worse (my gum has also been bothering me and is quite inflamed – not sure if it’s because there’s a wisdom tooth under there or if it’s something else), so I couldn’t wait to jump out of bed and walk 3 minutes up my street to the doctor’s office.

Once chez le mĂ©decin (the doctor’s office), I let myself in and headed toward the salle d’attente (waiting room). I was surprised to see five other people already waiting in the small room (guess everyone wants a morning appointment…), and sat down with a magazine for what I figured would be a decently long wait. Sure enough, 40 minutes later, the doctor opened the door to the waiting room and called “entrez” to the next person in line (moi), shook my hand once firmly and led me into his office.

For someone who plays every role in the office, it’s amazing to watch this man work. Women are notoriously known for their multitasking abilities, but this man’s also got skills. Here’s what he must have been thinking during my visit:

Greet patient. Ask what’s wrong. [door buzzer rings] Press buzzer to allow person to enter office corridor. Back to patient. Take blood pressure. Check health history and find out what actually is wrong (i.e. do you get sick often, what hurts, say “ahh,” etc.). Translate occasional work into English when patient looks confused. Back to desk. Begin writing prescription. Ask why patient is in France (this part’s just in my case). Ahh, English assistant from Louisiana? (Get sidetracked and start talking about how it’s a shame that so many languages – like Cajun French – are in danger of or have already been lost.) [phone rings] Answer phone (“un moment s’il vous plaĂ®t” to patient). Lady just had operation – needs house call tonight. Schedule house call. Back to patient and loss of languages. Finish prescription. Receive payment (“That will be 22 euros.”) Make change from wallet. [door buzzer rings] Press door buzzer. [phone rings again] Schedule another appointment. Say goodbye to patient. [phone rings again] Schedule another appointment. Get up to call in next patient. Previous patient is in hallway – forgot doctor’s excuse. Give patient “avis d’arrĂŞt de travail” (excuse from work) and explain how to send it to MGEN. Say goodbye to patient for the second time. Call in next patient. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Honestly, I have no idea how he does it all. There’s so much going on at every moment, yet he is extremely friendly, knowledgeable and actually manages to carry on a sincere conversation in the midst of everything! It is clear, however, that he could use someone to help him get a bit more organized – the glass shelving units in his office are crammed with papers, medicine bottles, and other random medical instruments, and half his desk is piled high with paperwork. Guess he can’t do EVERYTHING himself…lol.

I walked out of the office feeling the same physically but mentally more optimistic, and headed to the nearby pharmacy with my prescription in hand. I had only taken about three steps when I noticed what looked like little flecks of dandriff on my coat. I looked up and sure enough, these mini-flakes were swirling all around me in the air. “Now this kind of snow I can handle,” I thought,”…tiny flakes of the fluffy, powdery stuff.”

I arrived at the pharmacy a few minutes later and handed my prescription/information to the pharmacist without even attempting to explain anything in French. He asked me if I had a carte de securitĂ© social. I said no – that’s why I gave him the official MGEN paper with my social security number on it. He asked me if I had a mutuelle (supplemental insurance for what the general securitĂ© social does not cover). I said no. He looked a bit puzzled for a minute, conversed with another pharmacist, and the proceeded to search for my medicine. I was still debating on whether something was wrong and wondering whether I had enough cash to pay for the medicine (surely 30 euros would be enough?) when he came back to the cash register, placed two little packets on the counter and said, “That will be 1 euro 88, please.”

“C’est vrai?” (“Really?”) was my shocked response. He laughed and assured me that yes, that was the price. I explained that I was from the US and had never paid so little for prescription medicine. Cheap in my mind is under $25 (usually medicine from the LSU Student Health Center), but 1 euro 88??? I stepped outside feeling lighter than air and oh so happy to have had such luck. (I know this doesn’t mean that French national health care is cheap – all those taxes – or free of problems, but I can’t wait for the day when the US finally solves its own health care debate and manages to lower health care costs for everyone without sacrificing quality of care/etc. At least one can dream, right?)

And that concludes my adventure “chez le mĂ©decin.” Now onto feeling better ASAP!

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If you’re in Ponchy, this issue hit newsstands last Thursday. But if you’re not in the Strawberry Capitol or just didn’t manage to grab a copy, check out the online version of the paper and my new bi-monthly travel column! This first article is about “Packing for a long-stay abroad.”

1. Go to http://ponchatoula.com/ptimes/
2. Click the “New Online Edition Click Here” sample newspaper icon (You can’t miss it).
3. The paper will open in a new window and the article’s on the front page!

Feedback is appreciated, so let me know what you think!

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This past week seems to have flashed before my eyes. I have been keeping busy with teaching, then exploring and getting things done on my days off! I spent one afternoon with Ben and Lynsey getting blown away by wind, almost attacked by hungry birds, and visiting the UN headquarters in Geneva. Then on Saturday I found myself on a spur of the moment voyage en Swisse! We visited Lauterbrunnen and a few other small villages nearby. It was foggy and drizzling when we drove in on Saturday, but the mountainous area was still beautiful. We took advantage of the dreary weather and visited a combination of huge waterfalls/caves nestled in the rockface.  Then we headed up to Grindlewald, a town a bit higher up the valley, and were greeted by an exciting treat: snow! It had just begun to fall as we arrived and we watched the flakes drift gracefully down as we sipped coffee and hot chocolate inside a warm, cozy restaurant. I have never really been a coffee drinker, but I do love the feel of un boisson chaud as it glides down my throat and gradually spreads the warmth to the rest of my body.

After wandering around Grindlewald a bit, we headed back to Hotel Oberland for a bit of R&R and re-grouped for dinner: traditional Swiss rosti dishes with oh-so-scrumptious appfelstrudel (with ice cream and rum sauce) for dessert. To top off the experience, an accordian player scerenaded diners with local instrumental tunes. This was the German-speaking part of Switwerland, however, and until dinner, I had forgotten just how helpless it felt to not know hardly ANY words in a foreign language. At least in France je peux essayer de dire quelque chose (I can try to say something), but my German is severely limited to ‘welcome,” “thank you,” and a few numbers. It didn t help that every time my brain heard a foreign language, it automatically wanted to respond in French! So as of now, I am attempting to learn a few basic words-phrases in both German and Italian (as I will be visiting Italy in just a few weeks and am sure I’ll go back to Switzerland and/or Germany sometime during the year). Thankfully, Rebecca and Ben remembered a few useful phrases from their school days, and we managed to get by just fine when we came across situations where English wasn’t extremely helpful.

The climax of the trip came on Sunday morning when we woke up early to a tasty breakfast of cheeses, bread, and fruit in the hotel restaurant and then took a train and cable car up to the Mannlichen, a 2,343 metre mountain in the Swiss Alps. It seemed as if we were some of the very first people up to arrive that day because we were greeted with a fresh layer of snow lay on the ground – so perfect and sparkling like diamonds. Never before have I been in such a peaceful and pristine place. With only the crunch of la neige beneath our boots, along with my frozen breath and a gentle but chilling wind, we tredged upward toward the summit. In my long underware, turtleneck, semi-insulated vest, winter coat, hiking boots, scarf, hat, and two pairs of gloves, I truly felt like an alpine mountain climber (or as close as I will probably ever get to being one). lol. The views of nearby mountain peaks and the deep valleys beside them were stunning, and once again, made the 52,40 Swiss Frank (~ 51 US dollars) train ride definitely worth-while. Taking in another warm “kaffe-milka” at a restaurant near the mountain summit, we watched as more and more people got off the cable car to begin the trek we had just completed. In seeing the others, we quickly realized how lucky we were to have had this breathtaking mountaintop all to ourselves for a few hours.

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Fall colors

Fall colors

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

The Ouch Bike

When I was little, I learned to ride a bike on the grass of my front lawn. Mom was in the garden and I kept failing attempt after attempt to keep myself upright without the help of training wheels. When I finally succeeded, I squeeled with triumphant delight and turned to find my mom talking with a neighbor on the street. They had missed my moment of glory…

I don’t know what made me remember that moment, but maybe it has to do with the fact that learning to ride that bike hurt (or at least, falling down did). But since I learned how not to fall down, bike riding has been quite enjoyable, until now…

No, I have not lost my sense of balance or forgotten how to pedal. I just have one of the most uncomfortable bikes in the world! I shouldn’t complain too much because it came free with our apartment and it does, in fact, work, but I have never ridden a bike that actually hurt (it’s super old and the seat is rock solid with flat edges that dig into your legs and you pedal). I have ridden it to work for the past week, and the pain is gradually decreasing (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing), but if I can find a bike shop that sells seats, I may try to convince our landlady to let me change it – that is, if the current seat isn’t permanently rusted on. Yay for environmentally-friendly and exercise-concious, free forms of transportation, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere!

Ghetto Shower

If you’ve seen the pictures I posted of my apartment, you’ve seen my incredibly tiny shower/tub. Well, after several trips to the hardware store, Lynsey and I (with Ben’s help) have managed to rig a somewhat “ghetto” style set-up for our shower curtain so that water no longer splashes all over the bathroom when we use the tub! It’s amazing what a few sticky hooks and a bit of string can do. Yay for resourcefullness (and G for the actual curtain!). Let’s hope the steam from the shower doesn’t unglue our non-permanent handywork…

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Right, well, now that I am thinking (in English) with a British accent and am strangely exhausted but hyped up on caffeine while listening to my stomach grumble, I think this is the perfect time to write another post!

Today has been quite successful I must say. This morning, Lynsey and I wandered back over to LCL (Credit Lyonaise – a bank near our apartment) to finish opening our accounts and get renter’s insurance. We were a bit worried about everything going smoothly because it doesn’t often seem to here in France. Thankfully we were pleasantly surprised and received a mountain of paperwork each (to keep), as well as our “RIBS” (which the bank man today explained is the same as the IBAN – ahah, now it all makes sense!) within about 15 minutes. When I think about all the trouble I went through the past week to make a “rendez-vous” with one bank only to have them tell me at the rendez-vous (several days later) that they don’t do short-term accounts, then my trip to the Post Office where I went to inquire about opening an account (yes, apparently they have bank accounts too) and ran into several other disgruntled assistants who pretty much assured me to go somewhere else because of all the trouble they were having. Then Lynsey and I just decide to go to LCL because it’s on the way from our apartment to the city center and it turns out to be the most friendly and welcoming place (where we didn’t even need to set up an appointment!) to set up our bank accounts AND get renter’s insurance for the entire year at only 1 Euro!

Scheduling Issues

As soon as we finished with bank stuff, I realized I had a voicemail – it was a teacher from Lycée Berthollet ringing to check up on me since I was supposed to be teaching that day (though no one had told me this…). I promptly rang her back and left another message saying I would happily come in if someone would just tell me when beforehand! Thankfully, Patricia, another teacher at the school, finally called later this afternoon and told me my schedule. So for the first 8 weeks I’ll be working pretty much all days on Monday (9-4:30pm) at Collège Blanchard, then will hop over to Berthollet Tuesday mornings from 8-11am and have another hour at the collège from 1:30-2:30pm. Wednesdays and Thursdays I’ll be free (yay – more time for writing/exploring) and will work again on Fridays from 8-12pm at the lycée. At the collège I’ll apparently have to prepare lessons and will be given half the class to teach for 30 minutes each, but with the lycée I’ll have only 2-3 students at a time. I am quite looking forward to their questions (apparently they will have plenty) and learning what they know/think about the US and Louisiana.

The Magic Box

Immediately after getting our “RIBs” this morning, Lynsey and I headed off to complete mission #2:  get the internet/phone service process started. We ordered a SFR Neufbox which means that for 29,90 Euro per month we will receive:

  • Internet
  • lots of TV + music channels
  • free international calling to landlines in more than 90 countries

In case you are reading this and happen to be a friend in another country, yes I will be able to Skype you but I can also call the US, England, Canada, Japan, and loads of other places! So just let me know if you have a webcam or a landline telephone and I’d be happy to set up a time to talk! All we have left to do now is patiently wait for the magical box to arrive in the mail (which could take 15 days to 3 weeks). As soon as it’s all set up, I’ll let you all know!

Afternoon Field-Trip

Today, a teacher at Ben’s school told him about a nice mountain view from which we could see Mt. Blanc. Eager for a mini-road trip, we all piled into his car and set out for an adventure just after lunchtime. About thirty minutes (and quite a few hairpin turns along mountain roads) later, we arrived safe and sound on top of the mountain and quickly scrambled out of the car to take photos of the beautiful view. Shame on me for not bringing my mini tripod, but we still got several good “mountain-gear catalogue-esque” photos of all of us with the amazing scenery in the backdrop using the resources around us (thank you rock, sign post, clump of grass, etc…). It really was a perfect day for this trek – clear blue skies and warmer temperatures with just a slight breeze. Amazingly, it has only drizzled once since I’ve moved to Annecy, but, according to the French TV weather lady, a rainy spell should be starting tomorrow. I hope the dreary weather doesn’t last long though because I don’t want the picture-perfect image of my new city to shrivel into a cold, wet puddle just yet.

After our exploration/brief modeling shoot in mountains, Ben was gracious enough to let everyone apartment crash for a few hours so that us Internet-deprived women could check our email. We were all strangely exhausted from the day’s car ride and this World Wide Web session eventually turned into a sort of delirious You Tube “trip down memory lane” involving videos of several boy-bands from the 90s, a lot of random goofy dancing by us girls, and Ben probably wishing he had never let us in the door!

A Different Way of Life

I’m gradually getting used to the different aspects of French life, like washing clothes in our crazy, grunting, leaky, washing machine and then hanging them out to dry on the white metal clothes-hanger thingy outside on the porch. This type of activity is a bit foreign to me because back home, pretty much everyone has a washer (non-squeaky, non-leaky) and dryer in their house. I remember visiting a friend’s family cottage last summer in Nova Scotia and actually asking her mom if I could hang my clothes on the clothes line because I had never done that before (she laughed but was happy to oblige my request).

As for TV, we do have some basic channels at the moment. So far I’ve caught up on several old-school shows that I haven’t seen in a while (or ever): The Young and the Restless, Little House on the Prairie, Desperate Housewives, 7th Heaven (or “Sept dans la Maison” as it is known here), Bones, and Malcolm in the Middle. All of these shows are dubbed in French of course, but I am proud to say I can generally understand what’s going on, even though I’m not up to date with the storylines. I also watched this weird French dating game show with two girls and three guys separated by a wall. The host goes back and forth on both sides of the wall, provoking the girls and cracking jokes with the guys while each side asks and answers dating questions to eliminate each other until only one guy and girl are left. At this point, the two awkwardly meet and are immediately ushered into a separate room behind the studio audience that bares an eerie similarity to Big Brother (the couple is now “alone” in a private apartment setting – alone except for the millions of TV viewers watching the two get to know each other through various cameras that have been placed around the apartment. After about five minutes, the couple comes back out into the studio audience area and each of them is given the chance to accept their match or reject  it (in this particular episode, neither the girl nor guy fancied continuing their 5-minute relationship and then awkwardly walk off stage, still loveless but slightly more famous – if that helps any?).

A Place to Call Home

I’m finally getting around to decorating my room with photos and the few personal possessions I brought from home that are not various layers of clothing. Allowing my creativity to do its thing, I created several geometric shapes out of photographs on two walls. These shapes act as a sort of artistic head and footboard for my bed. I’m also hoping to find another duvet cover or some pretty fabric to place on my bed – the current covering is nice but the pattern’s just not my style. And since my bed is definitely the focal point of the room (and queen-sized to boot), dressing it up will definitely change the feeling of the entire space. I am happiest in places that inspire me so my success in France depends on sprucing up my room! We’ll see what I can find.

Mini Road-Trip in AnnecyMap of the View

Claiming New Territory!

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Hopping on a jet plane and galavanting across the world is one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. Moving thousands of miles away always has its drawbacks, however, especially when it means leaving a place you’ve called home for several years or maybe your whole life. The growth and success of the Internet has led to instantaneous and cheaper (if not free) ways to keep in contact with loved ones far away via voip programs like Skype, instant messaging forums such as MSN Messenger, or social networking sites (ex. Facebook). A wave of blogging sites like this one allow just about anyone to share their experiences with the world. But none of these virtual contact mediums can replace true physical prescence.

My decision to move to France means I will miss quite a few people, things and events. My friends and family, of course, are at the top of this list. I won’t get to watch my little sister do cheerleading, or my brother’s graduation. I’ll also miss cantoring at my church, a task I truly cherish every Sunday. And I just had to turn down singing at the wedding of two good friends because they will be getting married a week before I return home. This is the price I pay for following my dream. Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford frequent trans-atlantic trips and won’t have to give up quite so much for my passion. Until then I’ll just enjoy letters from home and care packages. This is going to be an amazing journey, but not one I’d want to face without support!

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I found this article in today’s The Advocate, but, since I can’t seem to find a link to it on their website, I’ve just re-typed it here. Looks like my reception into French culture may be a bit different than normal if swine flu keeps up…

Also, here’s the link to a new CNN video on the matter.

Paris – It’s a ubiquitous French tradition, as familiar as a baguette or an espresso at the neighborhood cafe.

Now, “la bise,” the cheek-to-cheek peck the French use to say hello or goodbye, has come under pressure from a globalized threat: swine flu.

Some French schools, companies and a Health Ministry hot line are telling students and employees to avoid the social ritual out of fear the pandemic could make it the kiss of death, or at least illness, as winter approaches.

For students in two schools in the town of Guilvinec, in France’s wester Brittany region, the first lesson of the year came from local officials: no more cheek kisses to teachers or other students.

“I asked the children not to kiss anymore,” Mayor Helene Tanguy said. “I felt that the protections sought – to wash hands regularly, not throw used handkerchiefs around, and not cough any old way – had no meaning if we let the kids keep kissing.”

There’s no punishment for those who do kiss, she added.

France has had three swine flu deaths.

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