Bonjour et re-Bonjour!
It’s that time again.
I’ve begun a new adventure in France! This time, I’ll be working as an English teaching assistant at a high school in Normandy. My first “real” job, my first paycheck, my first experience after college…
It’s all a bit unreal now, but I’m doing my best not to obsess too much about the meaning of “adulthood” and simply enjoy the wonderfully lucky situation I’m in at the moment.
After three days of traveling from my home in the US to my new post, I was happy to meet my new colleague, Mehdi, a fellow English teacher, at the train station. He and his wife invited me to their home for dinner and I had a fantastic time learning more about them and life in Normandy. They were very friendly, and I was grateful for the assurance that my time here certainly won’t be lonely. After a cursory after-hours tour of the school, Mehdi showed me to my apartment. It’s just above the main hall and the principal’s office, at the top of a spiral staircase, and it’s all mine.
The next morning, I emerged from my upstairs haven to introduce myself to the rest of the school. I met the various office secretaries and began the process of remembering all the technical vocabulary needed for setting up rent payments, social security, and bank accounts. I’ve never done any of this stuff in English, let alone French, so it’s a bit intimidating, but hopefully I won’t accidentally transfer all my paychecks to an offshore account in Jamaica or ruin my credit while I’m here. (Remember that whole not obsessing about adulthood thing? Not sure if it’s working.)
Even though I was nervous, I had a wonderful morning, because everyone at the school was incredibly welcoming. The secretaries walked me around to everyone I needed to see, and were understanding when I forgot words and sounded like a cavewoman. Ah well, blame the jet lag.
After finishing up my housekeeping business, I walked down a long hall and stood in front of the door to a place that’s always been the most forbidden of rooms, where plush couches and unending pots of coffee abound, and where I’ve always suspected the most secret of rituals take place…..the teachers’ lounge.
No longer forbidden or secret, but definitely couch- and coffee-filled, the teachers’ lounge is my new favorite place. There, I met Mehdi and the rest of the English teachers, as well as several other members of the faculty who were all just as welcoming as the secretaries. We all chatted and joked around, and then several of the English teachers, including my main supervisor Anne, marched off to the cafeteria, where we skipped ahead of the snaking line of students and grabbed our trays. How could I have forgotten the glory that is the French school cafeteria?? For a whopping €2.50 ($3.38), I was treated to a huge plate of pasta, leek casserole, cantaloupe, cheese, pecan pie, and of course, bread. I ate maybe half and it was all delicious. I can’t wait for lunch on Monday!
I joined Anne a bit later in her LVA English class-some of the most advanced language students at the school. I introduced myself to the class and opened the floor for them to ask me anything they wanted about me and my background. They were a bit shy, but they soon came around and, after a few tense questions about coming from the American South, began asking me about my favorite American TV shows. I took the opportunity to split them into pairs and have them write about their own favorites-almost everyone wrote about Breaking Bad! Most of the students spoke very well, and I was so happy that they were my first class. If the rest of my students are half as attentive, I’ll be just fine!
This morning (Saturday), I set off exploring my new town. I had been told there was a weekly farmers’ market near school, and I wasn’t disappointed. The market is huge, with everything from live crab and lobster to rows and rows of farmers’ tables and the occasional crepe or sandwich truck. I walked around for a few minutes before selecting the farmer who seemed to be adored by all the little old ladies and had good looking spinach.
Of course, it seems that most farmers, whether American or French, speak a little differently than the rest of us. I didn’t understand the details of what the friendly farmer said thanks to the imaginary wad of gauze stuck in his mouth, but I understood when he handed out grape tomatoes for everyone in line to taste, and when the price he quoted for my carrots, broccoli, and spinach didn’t quite add up to the one I’d calculated in my head. I told him that I’d just moved here and that I’d be frequenting his table in the future.
The rest of my day was spent cleaning and arranging my kitchen to my preferences and catching up on my lazy internet browsing while it rained. Not too shabby for a Saturday evening!
So far, I’m very happy to be here. Of course, it was difficult to leave my family back home, but I’m confident that returning to France for this opportunity was a good decision. I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for me, and what memories I’ll bring home.