Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Bonne maîtrise de la langue. La personne peut comprendre une grande gamme de textes longs et exigeants comportant des contenus implicites. Elle s’exprime couramment et de façon bien structurée sur sa vie sociale, professionnelle ou académique et sur des sujets complexes.
Good operational command of the language. Can understand a wide range of long and demanding texts and can recognize implicit meaning. Can express himself or herself fluently in a well-structured way on his or her social, professional or academic life and on complex topics.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
On Saturday I returned to JF, one of my schools, for the end of the year festival. It was truly a pleasure to be there. Instead of stress, I felt happy to see the kids and of course the wonderful team of teachers. And the kids, instead of being little monsters, were cute.
Les enfants ont chanté et puis il y a eu des stands des jeux. J’ai bandé les yeux aux enfants et les ai fait tourner au stand de La Queue de l’Âne avec Patricia.
The kids sang and then there were games. I blindfolded kids and spun them around at the Pin the Tail on the Donkey stand with Patricia.
Parmi les chansons était « Hello, Goodbye, » une chanson que je les ai appris. Malheureusement, je suis complètement bête et j’ai supprimé la vidéo. En regardant mes photos sur l’écran de mon appareil photo, je pensais que c’était une photo floue.
One of the songs was “Hello, Goodbye,” a song I had taught them. Sadly, I’m a complete idiot and I deleted the video. While looking through my pictures on my camera, I thought it was a blurry picture.
Par contre, j’ai conservé heureusement la vidéo d’une très jolie chanson que j’ai entendue pour la première fois. C’est « Toi Plus Moi » de Grégoire. J’étais instantanément fan.
However, I luckily didn’t delete the video of a beautiful song I heard for the first time. It’s “Toi Plus Moi” by Grégoire. I was immediately a fan.
Merci, les enfants, de m’avoir présenté cette chanson. Vous chantez bien !
Thanks kids for introducing me to this song! And you sang beautifully!
Et voilà la vidéo de Grégoire. C’est tout simplement une chanson optimiste et joyeuse, parfaite pour le début des grandes vacances et encourageant pour mon avenir un peu pas sûr.
And here is Grégoire’s video. It’s just simply a happy and optimistic song, perfect for the beginning of summer vacation and encouraging for my less than certain future.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
“Bonjour! Ça va?”
The man at the fruit and vegetable stand caught me eyeing his tomatoes and hands me a bag.
The normal Paris barriers seem to come down at the markets. Vendors shout bonjour before they know you are going to buy something. It’s to get your attention of course, but they are still the warmest salespeople in the city. The fruit and veggie guy even started tutoyer-ing me (using informal “you”) after my second visit.
I fill my bag with tomatoes, and take two more for green beans and carrots while I listen to the vendor talk to an elderly man about bananas.
“Des bananes de Martinique!” Bananas from Martinique!
“De Martinique? Quelle ville?” Martinique? What city?
“Moi, j’en sais rien. Je suis marocain!” I have no idea. I’m Moroccan! And they both laugh.
After he’s finished with the bananas, I hand him my bags, and he hands me a cherry. Delicious, but what do you do with those pits?!
“Des abricots pour la princesse?” Apricots for the princess?
“Non, merci, ça sera tout.” No thanks, that’ll be all.
“Deux euros dix.”
I hand him the 2 euros and 10 centimes.
“A la prochaine.” See you next time.
Yes, see you next time. But not because you call me princess and give me free fruit. Really.
According to this France Guide website (in French), there are about 90 markets in France. The majority are marchés alimentaires (food markets), but there are a lot of markets that specialize in flowers, clothes, one that has birds, antiques, and then there are also marchés aux puces (flea markets) and the bouquinistes (used books) along the Seine.
The market described above is obviously a food market, one of two that I frequent. There you can find fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, cheese, and much more. And don’t let the name foul you. Most food markets also have stands for clothes, purses, cooking equipment, flowers, jewelry, and other odds and ends, like batteries.
Food markets are usually open two or three days a week for the morning and early afternoon. The permanent covered markets are open most days, but I’ve yet to be to one, but the famous Marché d’Aligre is on my to-do soon list.
The market above is called Marché Maison Blanche and is a 2-minute walk from our apartment and occupies one side of Avenue d’Italie, the main street for shopping and errands in our area. It can be visited on Thursdays from 7am-2:30pm and Sundays from 7am-3pm. This is where I go most often because this is where my veggie guy works and it’s so close. I also bought a 10 euro purse here (It’s not of super great quality though. For great quality, go one stand down where you will find 70 euro leather purses). Yet, it’s not my favorite food market because of one little thing: it’s organization. It is one long strip to walk down, with stands on each side. It’s usually very crowded and difficult to maneuver.
My favorite can be found on Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am-2:30pm and Sundays from 7am-3pm at Place Monge, near the Arènes de Lutèce. It offers most of the same things, but is set up in a town square and therefore is much easier to move about.
My favorite stand there has spices and olives. It smells absolutely wonderful and the colors are beautiful. Sorry, I haven’t been brave (or rude?) enough to take close-up pictures of stands. I need to learn how to make something with olives so I can actually buy and use some.
Besides Marché d’Aligre, I also hope to make it to the Marché aux Puces de Vanves before going home. The first day of my sister’s visit, we tried to make it, but everyone was packing when we finally got there. By chance, on the way home, we found a one-time flea market. Tom and I found some really neat old postcards of Paris, that had actually been sent decades ago and had their originally messages on the back.
Open-air markets have made it on my list of my favorite things about daily life in Paris. The market ambiance is unique. Watching people interact with each other and smile is almost better than my free fruit.
For more info or to find other markets in Paris, go here (French only).
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
It’s almost time for me to return to the states. After nearly 10 months of living in France, I never succeeded in signing up for Social Security, and therefore health insurance (although I believe that since my pay checks were deducted for this that I would have been reimbursed- eventually- for any medical bills). So, clearly administration in France is a nightmare. However, a recent incident reassured me, that if I were to get sick, I would be taken care of and it wouldn’t cost me les yeux de la tête (an arm and a leg). This incident gave me a glimpse at the system.
My sister came to visit for two weeks in May. It was her first time to Europe, her first time out of the country if you don’t count a few days in Mexico when we were too young to remember. I wanted her to have a great time and for Paris to have a great impression of her. Unfortunately, our staircase had another plan. Her second night here, she missed one or two miserable steps. At first, she was fine. But overnight her foot swelled. My first thought was to go to the pharmacy.
Pharmacists are honestly just awesome here. When I explained what happened to the pharmacist, he took us to a room and looked at her foot. He said he didn’t think anything was broken but recommended she go to a doctor to make sure she didn’t need an x-ray. Nervous, I asked what an x-ray would cost since she wasn’t covered by French health insurance. He grimaced. Oh no. 100? 200? More? I worried. With an apologetic tone he said, “Without French health coverage, it could be up to 30 or 40.”
Next, I accompanied my limping sister to the nearest clinic to make an appointment for later that afternoon. When we came back for the appointment, they asked for her carte vitale (insurance card). After explaining that she’s just visiting France, again with an apologetic tone, the lady said, “then you’ll have to pay the whole fee for the appointment now, but we’ll give you a form and maybe your American insurance will reimburse you.” How much? “22 euros.”
We waited for about 45 minutes in the waiting room where we watched 5 patients be called before us into the exam room. Curious thing about doctor offices (or at least clinics) in France: there are cabines (changing rooms) connected to the exam rooms. So as patients were called, we watched the doctor go through the main door to the room, while the patients went to the cabine. I explained to Jenny that they are probably stripping down and may not have gowns to wear. There are no frills at the doctor or the hospital in France, I hear. “No way am I taking off my clothes for my foot!” she exclaimed. I agreed that would be ridiculous, but after this long day I told her to suck it up if she had to. Luckily, when we were called, Dr. Arnaud just asked her to take off her shoe. She sat on the table and the doctor asked me, “Elle a fait quoi comme bêtise?” (What stupid thing did she do?) I like this guy.
Dr. Arnaud confirmed that nothing was broken and that an x-ray wasn’t needed. She had une entorse (a sprain) and he wrote her a prescription for an anti-inflammatory cream, une attelle (a brace) and a set of cannes anglaises (crutches, but those that you hold with your hands and don’t go under your armpits). The doctor even assured us that we could take our trip to Mont Saint Michel and that she could even ride a horse. He even included a funny horse riding demonstration from his chair.
Back to the pharmacy we went for the brace, cream, and rented crutches, which cost about 50 euros. So the day’s worth of medical bills, without coverage, cost under 75 euros.
The standard fee for seeing a (non-private) general practitioner for adults in France is 22 euros. If you are covered by the Social Security health coverage (which are all citizens and residents here long enough to get paperwork finished), 70% of that is reimbursed. Back in March, the doctor unionists (yes, doctor unionists) went on strike. They were demanding that the fee be raised to 23 euros. Well, from what I’ve found on the Internet, it didn’t exactly happen. Some doctors have begun to charge the extra euro, but the Assurance Maladie (Health Insurance) website assures that patients have the right to refuse to pay the extra euro. For Francophiles, this article is interesting if you want to learn more, and this site explains the basics about doctor fees.
I indeed sympathize with the general practitioners who feel constrained by politicians and unappreciated, and I think they deserve the extra euro. Clearly I must admit that there are problems and downsides to the French health care system. Yet, I firmly believe that my sister, as small as her incident may have been, was in competent hands. She was well taken care of, and even without coverage she didn’t have to forfeit all of her traveling money for medical bills.
After doing some research about fees and such in France, I decided I needed to learn more about the new health care plan going into effect in my home country. I knew the very basics, but since it passed, I didn’t understand how and when things would exactly change. Some of the first things to go into effect are that people under 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance, and that insurance providers cannot deny coverage to children due to pre-existing conditions. As a married individual, I can’t exactly benefit from my dad’s insurance (I assume), but I think that is wonderful. How many 22 year olds find a job with excellent benefits right after college? That’s a much-needed cushion in my opinion. And not allowing insurance companies from refusing to give health coverage to children, well how could you argue with that? Is that not simply just?
Before strangers to my blog begin to bombard me with anti-socialist comments, let me say that I’m admittedly not an expert, and let me change the subject. Another wonderful thing to come out of my sisters’ slight misery was my opportunity to speak French in a new environment. Speaking with pharmacists and doctors and learning new vocabulary was honestly exciting and it felt good, since I’ve not had “new” French speaking experiences lately. So, Jenny, I’m sorry you feel down the stairs, but thank you for the gift of this interesting experience.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Un de mes cours préférés à la fac était La France Contemporaine. J’ai appris pleine de choses sur la France et les Français. J’ai appris que les Français appellent la France, des fois, l’Hexagone, et qu’ils sont tellement fiers de leur pays varié. Pour le cours, il fallait situer les chaînes de montagnes, les fleuves, et beaucoup de villes sur une carte. Ça fait 3 ans que j’étais assise dans la salle de classe, m’émerveillant à la belle France avec une carte, un livre, et des photos. (J’avais déjà visité la Normandie et Paris, mais j’avais beaucoup à apprendre). Et maintenant que j’ai vu beaucoup plus de mes propres yeux, je peux vous dire que je serai fière aussi si c’étaient mon pays. Bon, je suis fière d’être résidente. Et je sais que j’ai vraiment la chance d’avoir vu encore de la France la semaine dernière.
Avec nos amis, Thomas B et Maggie, on a loué une voiture pour cette aventure. Notre première étape était Auvergne, une région dans au centre de la France. Les parents de Thomas ont une maison en Auvergne, alors il connaissait déjà la région et il était un excellent guide. Nous avons monté deux volcans (oui, il y a des volcans en France !), et nous avons visité le château de Murol, des grottes, une ferme de chèvres où on a acheté du fromage, et le village d’Usson où la Reine Margot a été bannie. Et nous avons essayé beaucoup de nouveaux fromages : Salers, Bleu d’Auvergne, Cantal vieux, et trois types de chèvres.
Le quatrième jour, Tom et moi avons dit au revoir à Maggie et Thomas qui sont rentrés à Paris en train. J’ai continué vers le sud avec mon mari, content d’être au volant. Après quelques heures au Puy-en-Velay où nous avons visité le rocher Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe (une chapelle bâtie dans le rocher d’un volcan) et un magasin de dentelle fait main, nous sommes allés au Chambon-sur-Lignon. C’est une ville assez inconnue, même parmi les Français, mais avec une histoire incroyable. Pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale, les gens de cette ville, et dans le voisinage, ont accueilli et caché 5000 juifs, pour la plupart des enfants. J’ai écrit mon mémoire pour mon cours de l’Holocauste à ce sujet et c’était un peu irréel d’être là.
Ensuite, nous sommes arrivés en Provence, à travers la route des Gorges de l’Ardèche, pour une journée à Avignon et une journée à Aix-en-Provence. Ahhh. Provence. Vous imaginez le soleil, des bons repas provençaux, et les santons ? C’est ce que j’ai imaginé. Je suis sûre que on peu trouvé toutes ces choses, mais pas nous. Il a plu les deux jours. Beaucoup de restaurants (ceux que notre guide Michelin suggère), magasins, et musées étaient fermés. Samedi était un jour férié, et puis dimanche, c’est dimanche en France. On n’avait pas beaucoup de chance en Provence. Mais, bien sûr, en Avignon nous avons visité le Palais des Papes (oui, les papes habitait en France pendant un moment de l’histoire !) et nous avons dansé sur le Pont d’Avignon, et nous avons même réussi à trouvé un bon restaurant, l’Orangeraie. À Aix, on s’est reposé un peu à l’hôtel pendant la pluie. Je n’ai pas réussi à trouver un magasin ouvert pour acheter mon santon convoité, et on s’est contenté de manger un repas, moyennement bon, à Patacrêpes, une chaîne. Par contre, les serveurs étaient très sympathiques. Mais, avec notre guide Michelin fidèle, nous nous sommes promenés en apprenant un peu sur l’histoire et l’architecture. Je dois avouer que Aix est une ville charmante, même dans la pluie. En route vers Lyon, nous sommes allés à Orange pendant une heure, pour voir les vestiges romains, y inclus un Arc de Triomphe beaucoup plus vieux que celui de Napoléon.
Lyon était notre dernière étape avant de rentrer à Paris. N’ayant qu’une demi-journée, nous avons concentrés sur les deux collines. Sur la colline Fourvière, la colline qui prie, se trouve le Basilique Notre-Dame. Les mosaïques étaient exceptionnelles. À droite, elles racontent l’histoire de France et à gauche l’histoire de l’Église, avec Marie partout. Dommage, photos interdites. Ensuite, nous avons visité la Croix-Rousse, ou la colline qui travaille. Mais nous avons trouvés rien d’intéressant. Peut-être que nous n’étions pas au bon endroit. Ou peut-être que le travail n’est pas très intéressant. Nous n’avions pas le temps de visiter des musées ou d’autres églises, mais les vues du Rhône et de la Saône étaient superbes.
Il y a certainement des avantages de voyager en voiture. Les trains ont leurs avantages, mais en voiture on voit beaucoup plus. On découvre les petits villages et on aperçoit des jolis panoramas inattendus. Malheureusement c’est moins écologique que les trains, et c’est plus cher quand il faut se garer. Il y a aussi les péages si on prend les autoroutes. Si vous pensez à voyer en voiture en France, munissez-vous d’espèces ! Même si les péages sont censés d’accepter les cartes bancaires, la mienne n’a pas marché (il y en avait de l’argent, je promets !) et après 10 minutes, j’ai rendu une dizaine de gens derrières nous vexés, et après une interrogation j’ai reçu la facture avec une menace d’être poursuivie si je n’aurai pas payé sous 8 jours.
One of my favorite college classes was Contemporary France. I learned a lot about France and the French. I learned that the French call France, sometimes, the Hexagon, due to its shape, and that they are very proud of their diverse country. For the class, we had to be able to place mountain chains, rivers, and lots of cities on a map of France. Three years ago I was sitting in a classroom, marveling at beautiful France with only a map, a book, and some pictures. (I had already visited Normandy and Paris, but I still had a lot to learn). And now that I’ve seen much more with my own eyes, I have to say that I would, too, be proud if this were my country. Well, I guess I can be a proud resident. And now I know that I’m really lucky to have seen even more of France last week.
Together with our friends, Thomas B and Maggie, Tom and I rented a car for our Spring break adventure. Our first stop was Auvergne, a region in the center of France. Thomas’ parents have a house there, so he already knew the region and made for an excellent tour guide. We climbed two volcanoes (yes, there are volcanoes in France!), and we visited the castle in Murol, caves, a goat farm where we bought cheese, and the village of Usson where Queen Margot was imprisoned. We also tried a lot of new cheeses: Salers, Bleu d’Auvergne, Cantal vieux (“old” Cantal), and three types of goat cheese.
The fourth day, Tom and I said goodbye to Maggie and Thomas who took a train back to Paris. I continued south with my husband, happy to be behind the wheel. After spending a few hours in Puy-en-Velay where we visited the Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe (a chapel built in the rock of a volcano) and a handmade lace store, we went to Chambon-sur-Lignon. This town is not very well know, even by French people, but has an amazing story. During WWII, the people of this town, and in the surrounding area, welcomed and hide 5000 Jews, mostly children. I wrote my paper for my Holocaust class about this and it was a little unreal to be there.
Next, we journeyed on to Provence, driving through the Gorges de l’Ardèche, to spend one day in Avignon and one day in Aix-en-Provence. Ahhh. Provence. Are you imagining sun, wonderful regional meals, and cute little stores (particularly those selling santons- figurines for elaborate nativity scenes)? That’s what I imagined. I’m sure you can find those things here, but not us. It rained both days. A lot of restaurants (those that our Michelin guide suggests), stores, and museums were closed. Saturday was a holiday, and Sunday was a Sunday in France. We didn’t have a lot of luck in Provence. But, of course, we visited the Pope’s Palace (yes, Popes lived in France for a time!) and we danced on the Avignon Bridge, and we even succeeded in finding a good restaurant, l’Orangeraie. In Aix, we rested in the hotel while it rained. I was not able to find an open store to buy the coveted santon, and we settled with having a moderately good dinner at a chain restaurant called Patacrêpes. However, the servers were really nice. But, with our trusty Michelin guide, we learned a bit about the history and architecture of Aix while strolling through the city. I have to admit that Aix is a very charming city, even in the rain. On the way to Lyon we stopped in Orange for an hour to see the Roman monuments, including an Arc of Triumph much older than Napoleon’s.
Lyon was our last stop before returning to Paris. Only having a half of a day, we concentrated on the two hills. On the Fourvière hill, “the hill that prays”, is the Notre-Dame Basilica. The mosaics were beautiful. On the right, they tell of France’s history, and on the left the history of the Church, with Mary to be found everywhere. Too bad, no photos allowed. Next, we visited the Croix-Rousse hill, “the hill that works.” But we didn’t find anything interesting. Maybe we weren’t in the right area. Or maybe that work isn’t very interesting. We didn’t have time to visit museums or other churches, but the views from the two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône, were superb.
There are certainly advantages to traveling by car. Trains have their advantages, but in a car you can see so much more. You discover little villages along the way and you see amazing and unexpected views. Unfortunately it’s less green than trains, and it’s more expensive when you have to park. There are also tolls if you take the autoroutes. If you are planning a road trip in France, go prepared with extra cash! Even though the tollbooths are supposed to accept bank cards, mine did not work (there was money in it, promise!) and after 10 minutes, I had angered the ten people behind us, and after a questioning from a lady through the speaker, I received a bill that threatened that I would be “pursued” if I didn’t send in the payment within 8 days.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Last Thursday was my last day teaching in my schools. And I was, sadly, just relieved. Even though I knew from the start that teaching small children wasn’t my truc, not my thing, I had hoped to like it a little. I mean, I was very lucky to have the wonderful and welcoming team at JF. I made some friends and had a great time talking to some of them. PA/B is just a different story (a few good experiences would be the exception to the indifference I felt there).
I don’t hate children. I don’t. I hate children when they outnumber me 15 to 1. I know that “real” teachers (who I respect oh so much) have classrooms of 20 or 30 all day, every day. But there’s one small difference that I’ve been trying to keep in teachers’ minds since day one: I am not a teacher. I’m not certified and I had 4 days of training. I’m an assistant.
Even though the assistantship program is quite old, nobody seems to be used to the idea. The principle is that uncertified Anglophones can come to France to teach French children or teens to expose them to the right accent and to share our culture. The uncertified part isn’t supposed to be a problem (at least for 7-month assistants) because in theory, we’re either supposed to be with the whole class with the teacher, or take small groups. I never looked it up, but I’m not so sure that 17 counts as a small group.
Yet, I sympathize. I’m sure how else it would have worked, since only one or two teachers in the school are qualified to give their own English lessons.
So, I was the Prof d’anglais in one school, and spread thinner than a crêpe at the other. I went to 13 classes a week, but didn’t see the same kids every week. So, I “taught” English to total of more than 300 kids. Remembering names was a nightmare and connecting with the kids was downright impossible.
Before starting this job, I talked to my teacher friend Heather about my worries. Number one was discipline. I was afraid of the kids walking all over me. And I was right. They didn’t see me as their teacher. So, I had to yell. Despite some mistakes, I’ve learned to lecture in French. As my sister-in-law elegantly put it, I was a BA (and no, that doesn’t mean Bachelor of Arts like I thought at first). I sent misbehaving children to the hall or back to class and didn’t blink when they started to cry.
However, I didn’t spend all my time yelling or perfecting my “classroom” French. I did teach some English. We sang and played games. And I encouraged kids. The names of the particularly bad students were easy to remember and I learned to praise them when they started to improve in English. Or when they learned how to listen to a song without starting to drag themselves around on the floor. That must be one of the best parts of teaching- seeing a kid become proud of himself after you tell him he’s improving.
I really wish I could have been with SMALL groups and had seen the same kids more frequently. I really feel that I would have been able to make a bigger impact, and they would have been able to progress more. But, when every class, starting from 1st grade, has to have English, and there’s just one of me, that wasn’t possible.
Was it a total flop? Well, no. Some class sessions certainly were. And I didn’t come close to getting through the curriculum.
The CP/CE1 (1st/2nd grade) class- I swear they’re the fastest learners- at JF still sings Blue like the sea by heart. Ok, they don’t actually know all the words, but they will never forget their colors! And it was a very rewarding moment when Ali came up to me and said, “Hello. My name’s Ali. I’m 7.”
And at PA, in one of my CE1 classes (one that I saw every week), the kids can kind of express themselves- almost independently. They can say that they like spaghetti and that they don’t like snakes.
I had to lower my expectations to keep from going insane or being too hard on myself or the kids. I don’t mean that I suck or that they’re stupid. I just had really high expectations and wasn’t being realistic. And I didn’t understand kids. So, I’ve learned to be more realistic (and maybe l’Éducation Nationale should too) and having realistic goals helped.
Thursday was my last day. I had a wonderful party at JF, and, well some of the people at PA/B remembered it was my last day and said goodbye. But here’s what’s more important: the kids were sad to see me go. Because I’m a pushover and English is second recess? Maybe some of them. But, others…well I'll just let you read it for yourself.
Yacine drew his class, or maybe just his favorite classmates. "Big kisses" is a literal translation of the French expression "Gros Bisous." It's equivalent to hugs and kisses, or xoxoxoxo. The second is "Kety, I love you." I told you about my name!
Valentine says "Goodbye Cathy. Big kiss." Samantha says, well a lot, but it includes a thank you for the lessons.
This one just cracks me up. "We are going to miss you. You were a real English teacher (who was American)! Have a nice vacation." It's also fun for me to correct their FRENCH mistakes. That should be bonnes vacances.
This sweet letter is from Wendy (her English class name). "For the best English teacher (that's me!). When you came to France I knew right away that you were nice and that your classes would be good and I was right. I'm sad that you're leaving but I think that we'll see each other again (when I go to the US :) ). Goodbye and maybe I'll see you soon. From the bottom of my heart, Wendy."