Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Doing Paris.

So my friend, Brandon, is here right now and we've been running around the city like maniacs seeing everything!  So far we've been to the Louvre, Versailles, the Latin Quarter, the Marais, Montmartre and Notre Dame.  So that's why I haven't posted anything!

We're having a great time though.  Rick Steves has been our faithful companion telling us how to skip lines and avoid crowds.  What a lifesaver!

I'll post as soon as I get a chance!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Playing the Parts.

Ok everyone, I'm here.  Sorry for the delay.  I've actually started teaching lessons, so it's not that I'm being lazy.  Though the fact that I've recently come across the last season of The Office probably isn't helping.  I've been going through them like it's crack cocaine.

Anyway, back to teaching.  I'm feeling more like a teacher now, which I really like.  It's a great feeling when someone sits there and listens and talks to you, and then leaves knowing a little more about something than before they came.  So far I've taught lessons on the American education system, religion in America, and New York City.  They've gone really well.  These lessons were all for 15-16 year old kids.  They were very attentive and were very interested.  They're actually pretty cute kids when they listen and ask funny/interesting questions like a kid during my NYC lesson: How big are hamburgers in America?"  So, things are going very well on the "actually doing what I'm here to do" front.  And the teachers I'm working with are great: very supportive and try to help me however they can.

For the New York City lesson, I found this story where different New Yorkers journaled about what they did during the day, just to show them what actual people that live in the city do every day.  So we read about this 8th grader, Carly.  To summarize her fascinating day, she wakes up, eats cheerios for bfast, goes to school, goes to bagel world with her friend, goes home, goes to bed.  So I had the class read the story line by line and then we talked about it afterwards.  They didn't know what a bagel was, so their teacher explained to them quickly in French what it is, and I did my best artistic rendering of a bagel on the board (complete with hole in the middle).  As soon as they saw the picture they all immediately shouted "doughnut! doughnut!"  We said that it's kind of shaped like a doughnut, but it's not sweet, and it's heavier.  So they accepted that and then we kept talking.  At the end I asked if there were any more questions and someone asked what "cheerios" are.  I said that it's a cereal you eat for breakfast that's small, round, and has a hole in it.  Easy enough, right?  False.  They shouted "Bagel!  Bagel!" and pointed to my picture on the board.  Touché kids, touché.  It was fun though.  It's cool to be the only American at school though.  Everyone says, "Hello Peter" in the hallway.  I try to respond with the less-rigid sounding, "hey guys, what's up?" and get blank stares in return.  One thing at a time, I suppose.

When I'm outside of school, however, I definitely try to blend in.  I think I'm starting to fit in better and better when I'm out on the street.  I'm really learning my way around, so I don't really need to pull out my street map as much.  That helps.  I must be doing something right with the way I dress too.  I was walking to church on Sunday and I saw these two ladies standing on the street corner walking slowly and looking around a lot.  They seemed a little lost.  I walked by them and one of them looked at me and said in a very quiet, timid voice, "umm...excuse me..."  And I, without thinking, responded in English, "Yes?"  She looked at me kind of surprised and said in an American accent, " you speak English"  I smiled and said, "yes I do."  "Oh wow, you speak really well!"  "Umm...thanks" with a slight chuckle was my response.  I gave them directions to the Eiffel Tower and then said goodbye.  They responded with a "merci," and were off.  I still don't know if they realized I wasn't French.

This makes me wonder if I've developed some sort of accent since I've been here though.  To date, I've had one Chinese woman and two Canadians tell me I have a Canadian accent (when I speak English), and then the other day I was at the social security office and I was chatting with this lady in French, and she told me I have a German accent.  So I don't really know what to believe anymore.  I've never been told I have an accent ever in my entire life.  Except an American one.  So yeah...that's something unexpected.

Last Friday I went out with some of the other assistants to the steps of Montmartre.  We brought snacks and wine and just chatted for a while.  I only knew about half of them before going, so it was great to extend the circle, as it were.  After it got really really cold sitting on the cement steps, we headed down from the top of the city and joined a French saucisson party.  Saucisson is sausage.  Yeah.  That's just not something I understand.  You literally get some friends together, and there's about six or seven different types of sausage, and you cut off a piece, stick it on some bread, and chow down.  I don't get what it is with the French and sausage, but I went with it.  The French people there were really cool and the two groups actually mingled quite a bit.  So that was encouraging.  It remains to be seen though if I'll ever see any of those Frenchies again though.  I talked to this one girl for a while in French, she was really cool.  She's a social worker, so it was interesting to see how it's different than social work in America.  There was also this one guy I talked to who had lived in NYC for a year, so we went back and forth between English and French.  I told him if he ever wants to work on his English to give me a call.  We'll see.  (Photo courtesy of Sarah.)

Anyway, so we left there around 2 or 2:30 and I had to take the stupid night bus back home.  The bus finally came (after waiting 20 minutes) and I got on and got dropped off at the closest stop to my apartment (about a mile away).  So I had to walk back.  Luckily it had finished raining for the night, so I made the best of the long walk home by putting in my iPod and dancing down the street the whole way back.  Great end to a great day.

Ok...I need another hit of The Office.

Before I go though: Shout out to Hannah P. for the new job.  It was great catching up the other day.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bad boys bad boys.

I'm sorry everyone.  I've been neglecting you.  I was going to write an entry earlier today but instead went to church, planned (part of) a lesson for tomorrow, went to a concert, and ate dinner with a friend while watching The Office and Psych.  So it's been a very productive day, but, I still have two and a half lessons to finish.  I will leave you with a picture from this weekend though.

I will update before too long, promise!

Merci de votre compréhension.

Monday, October 12, 2009


So when I first arrived in Paris my friend, Sarah, allowed me to stay with her for the first couple of weeks until I found a place.  She lived near the 8th Arrondissement and one day I was walking around for a little while and just happened to walk by the Sofitel Faubourg Saint-Honoré!

I was actually very surprised by this because I worked not far from here a few summers ago and never noticed it before.  I guess the only reason I noticed it this time was because I worked in one for the past year, lol.  That tends to help with this kind of thing.

At any rate, I should have taken more pictures, but this will have to suffice for now:

Sofitel Lafayette Square definitely has a much grander entry way, to say the least.

The lobby of Saint-Honoré is nice, but I think Lafayette Square is a bit more elegant.  I was going to go in and take a bunch of pictures, but I felt a little awkward, so I just went in real quick and looked around and then fiche'd le camp.

So anyway, this update is just to say that I think about all my Sofi-friends often and hope all is well chez vous.

And one final one with me and my bud:

And always remember: Keep it classy!

Peace out!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another week in Paris.

I'm rather frustrated right now with the teachers at my school.  I can't seem to get them to tell me exactly what they want me to do for them.  I understand that I'm here to help them in their classes and to help their students, but I have no idea what they're doing with their students right now!  I think I just need to sit down with each of them and get updated on their students' ability levels and what lessons they're working on at the moment.   So far the only interaction I've had with these classes is a brief 10-20 minute period of being interviewed by classes asking me questions like, "where are you from?" and "do you like France?"  Not only is it difficult to judge a class' ability level this way, but I don't remember which classes are which.  I have 15 or so different classes with five different teachers and five different age levels.

So anyway, right now what happens when I visit a class (following to the schedule I was given) is, first, the teacher forgets who I am and it takes a few seconds for them to realize I'm not a student, then they say, "oh!  Right.  Ok, well, what do you have prepared for today?"  I spend a few seconds explaining that I have no blessed clue what they're even doing in the class right now, so I have nothing prepared.  Then they say, "oh ok, well how about you just sit in and observe."  So then I sit there while the teacher explains something about English in French and then looks to me for approval.  I say, "yup."  And then she continues.  So, up to this point I haven't really done all that much. seems I just got an email from one of my teachers.

Figures.  As soon as I start complaining about all this I get an email from one of my teachers asking me to prepare something about NYC, McCarthyism and the American school system, haha.  (Not all in the same presentation, obviously.)  This is good though!  Direction is always nice.

Well I guess that's one problem working itself towards a resolution.

Last night I went out with some more new friends.  My friend, Kate (another assistant), has a French boyfriend who was going out with some friends, so she invited me to pal around with them.  It was really fun.  I actually felt like I was included in a lot more of the conversations this time.  It was a much smaller group this time, so I think that really helped.  Plus one of the girls had studied for three and a half years in Scotland.  We spoke in French, but it definitely helps conversation to have commonalities.  She's obviously interested in  English and she likes UK culture (which is much more similar to that of USA rather than that of France...that's for sure).  So we hit it off and talked for a while.

I left the bar around 1 AM or so and got on the first metro that I could find because it was raining.  I was at the station to change lines and was sitting for the next train to come and a few French people were looking around and kept asking me if I knew whether or not the line was finished for the night.  By this time it was like....maybe 1:30 AM.  I said, "I don't think's Friday night!  It has to be open late."  False.  About two seconds later the PA system came on saying that the Metro line 8 was finished for the night.  Crap.

But luckily I was only one stop away from where I would have gotten out of the metro anyway, so I just took a nice, long, chilly, puddle-filled, muddy, and slightly creepy walk back home from the metro, cutting across the Champ de Mars (the stretch of green in front of the Eiffel Tower) to get back.  I only saw one homeless person, so that was nice.  I was rather unsettled at first by a person I saw cutting across the field in front of me, but then I noticed it was simply a bass violin case (and not some sort of dead body) strapped to his back.  You can imagine my relief.

I'm going to try and get together with some other assistants later tonight.  Right now I'm waiting for my steak hâché to thaw out for dinna.  It's going to be delicious, lol.

Oh!  And I've decided that I'm going to allow myself to buy one pastry a week.  That way I can still enjoy them, and I won't go broke.  This was an éclair weekend.

It looked like there was gold sprinkled across the top.  I don't really know what gold tastes like, but I really liked the éclair.  I bought it at this place just near my apartment and the ladies were very friendly.  I think I'll be making their establishment my pastry stop of choice.

One more picture before I sign out: It was really cloudy and rainy the other day (actually the past few days), and the top of the tower was almost completely obscured by clouds.  It was eerily cool.

And that's it for now!  I hope everyone reading this is happy and healthy.  If anyone wants to email me feel free.  Especially if you have ideas for a presentation for NYC, McCarthyism or the American education system, lol.

Oh, and congrats to Coco for the job offer in London! Yep, that's right folks, we'll have another one on our side before too long.

Bonne soirée!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Boy am I glad I brought my tripod to France!

So right now in Paris it's la Saison de la Turquie (The Season of Turkey).  Basically Paris is having cultural events and things to commemorate the country of Turkey and how it's been so influential in the world, especially as a bridge between Asia/The Middle East and Europe.  Here's an excerpt from the 500 page handout they have online describing in great detail all the events that are happening:

À l’occasion de l’année de la Turquie en France, Paris est fier d’honorer la culture d’un carrefour des civilisations, riche de ses traditions anciennes et de son dynamisme créatif. La Turquie est un symbole de la complexité de l’histoire comme de la géographie mais aussi de leur grandeur et de leur beauté. Le Bosphore ne sépare pas deux rives, il unit des hommes. À travers les siècles, la Turquie n’a jamais cessé d’être la « sublime porte » qui ouvre notre continent au monde.

So for those of you who don't speak French, you're probably asking yourself, "Why do I care about this?"  Well, for your information, the Eiffel Tower (my new neighbor) is sporting the colors of the Turkish flag for a few days.  Here's the flag if you're drawing a blank:

It's rather beautiful in its utter simplicity.  So anyway.  I decided that I should go and take pictures of it because this is a big deal and it's not very often that they do something like this.  So I took my tripod, camera, and set out just before the top of the hour when it sparkles.

Quick side note: You can click on any of these pictures to make them bigger.

Here are the results:

That's just before it started to sparkle.

Here are a few while it's sparkling.  You can't really adequately capture it, but I tried, lol.

And one last one for good measure:

Ok that's it!

Boooonnnnnnneeee nuit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Establishing the Routine.

I’m sitting at my desk in my new apartment.  The thick billowy grey clouds are slowly marching by.   It’s finally stopped raining for the day and my shoes are dry once again.  Jason Mraz is strumming contentedly at the guitar in the background.  I stick my head out of my window and peer just to the left to check that the Eiffel Tower is still there.  She is.  The steady sparks of light from the very top let me know that, despite the inclement weather, the tourists have still made the climb and are using up the memory cards in their cameras like it’s going out of style.  I’m happy for them.

Today I had to go this meeting for the high school language assistants in my department, Créteil, to get ideas of how to use materials and ideas for classroom games and management and stuff.  It’s nice.   Especially because we get to meet and spend time with other assistants that are in our same boat.  The drawback is that it’s such an obnoxious trip to get to the high school where the meetings are held!  With no direction at all except for the address of the school, I proceeded to take the metro to the RER station, and then when I got out to the Middle-Of-Nowhere RER stop, I asked around until I found the random bus to take to get to the actual school.  The whole time thinking, “why are all of us going to this obscenely difficult place to reach when they could just pick a place that’s on the metro that we could all reach in 30 minutes?”  But I kept this to myself.  Kept it to myself, that is, until I found some other assistants and then joined in with their chorus of whining, lol.

But I’ve been learning so much through everything I’ve been doing here.  For example: Realtors charge a month’s rent PLUS 12%, not simply 12% of the cost of one month’s rent.  This makes much more sense and is a much more shocking price once you convert it into dollars.  Also, I am completely incapable of estimating how much pasta is appropriate for a single person.  This is especially irksome because I have no means to store leftovers, so anything I make I have to eat.  Thus, I am currently suffering the effects of a rather severe spaghetti-coma.  Don’t worry: I’ll push through.

Anyway…simple, yet important things.

Next post I’m going to put up some pictures of my apartment.  I just have to actually find it when it’s in a state of order.  I have such limited space that if I’m not very careful, I put a few things down randomly and use up all my counter/table top space.  So that’s going to be a constant struggle I think.  And I still don’t have a trashcan.  Apparently they don’t sell them in France because I’ve been all over searching for just a simple trashcan.  Fortunately, I have been stocking up on plastic grocery store bags (no thanks to stupid Leader Price where they charge you for their plastic bags…I’m too poor to care about the environment, dammit!)  Using a plastic bag for now is probably best because if I can do without a trashcan for the time being, I can use that 15 or so euro towards something useful like, oh I don’t know, food comes to mind.

This was kind of a whiny entry, lol.  Sorry.  Next time I’ll be more upbeat!  See you then!

 This is a picture of a church I stumbled upon during La Nuit Blanche.  Just wanted to share.

Friday, October 2, 2009


So I've finally officially got my own apartment.  This morning I met with the realtor and signed all the papers, then I had to go to school for a few hours, then I came back and went to the bank and bought basically homeowner's insurance, and then in about an hour I'm going to meet the lady to actually get the keys.  Then I can move in whenever I'm ready.  And boy am I ready.

It's been very rewarding/frustrating/eye-opening having found, negotiated and acquired an apartment as well as having bought the appropriate insurance for it in France and in French.  I feel very accomplished for this.  So, now that I'm getting settled, and have no money left after the deposit I put down on the apartment, I'm going to start moving in and finding fun things in the area.  But I'm very excited about this new, chic, chapter in my France experience.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Busy busy and Obama.

Phew.  It's nice to sit down.  I've been doing a lot these past few days to get myself situated with everything.  I've found an apartment.  I'm going tomorrow morning to put down the deposit and then get the keys on Saturday (I think) and then I can start moving in whenever.  So it's nice to have that taken care of (finally).

I went to my school and met some of my students today.  It was nice to finally see them.  I only went to three classes though.  I'm not quite sure how  many different classes I'll be going to in total, but this was a nice start.  I went to two classes of 18-20 year olds, and one class of 16-18 year olds.  The two older classes were all guys, which was weird, and then the younger group was mostly girls (or at least half and half).  But today was basically "Grill the American" day.  It was fine though.  We talked about sports, how college and university works, politics and what not.  I told them how much some universities can cost in America and they were all shocked.  I got the inevitable question, "What do you think about Obama?"  I was honest with them and just told them that I didn't vote for him and I disagree with him on a lot of political issues, but I respect him as the president.  Then they started drilling me about health care and all this other stuff.  And this was in the younger class.  They understood me better than the older kids did I think.  I was pretty impressed.  Luckily though I had the upper hand as we were all communicating in my mother tongue.  I would have been much more uncomfortable if I were speaking French with them.  Plus they would have been talking circles around me if that were the case.  But it wasn't, so I won, haha.

So that was today.  Yesterday I met up with all the assistants in my department, Créteil, and they talked to us a lot about paperwork and visas and health care and pretty much anything else you could imagine.  The visa system that France uses to complicate everyone's lives is just now changing.  So a lot of the time the ladies that were trying to help us wound up just saying, "umm...we'll check on that and get back to you."  Which...I don't really know if they even have our email addresses, so it may have just been a diversionary tactic.  It worked at any rate.

We were all in this big auditorium mixed with first and second year assistants.  When someone from the audience raised a hand, they either asked a question, or, using their past year's experience, corrected or amended what the ladies leading the program said.  This was helpful sometimes.  Sometimes it was just annoying.  Especially because there was that girl that spoke about 50 times and each time started out saying, "Last year when I was an assistant, we did this..."  So that was awesome.  What was funny though was that there was this little old lady that had the wireless mic that she was supposed to give to people who were asking questions so everyone could hear them.  Unfortunately though the auditorium was so big she could only reach the students in time to stick the mic in their face and have them say "Thanks."  It was pretty funny actually.

I had been going back and forth on the decision between taking two different apartments for the past few days.  Everything has been moving really fast since then.  I finally decided to spend a little more money and be in the 7th arrondisement than not spending as much and being waaaayyy up north in the city.  I'm very happy with this decision.  And after having taking such pains to arrive at it, I decided to celebrate a little so I made chicken nuggets with "french fries" for dinner.  And I bought heinz ketchup and it was wonderful.  I've been craving french fries lately, actually.  Rather than buy a gallon of fries though, I found a smaller box of like little potato cubes that tasted just like teeny tiny french fries.  Then of course we had some wine and cheese with baguette afterwards.  Il faut.  At any rate, it was delicious and we really enjoyed eating the little buggers.  The ketchup especially hit the spot for me.

I'm going back to school tomorrow to meet some more classes and teachers.  But I have to go first to meet the guy from the realtor and give him thousands and thousands of euro, lol.  Then!  I have to go and meet the person from whom I'm renting the property for the key.  Hopefully that works out, haha.  I don't quite have the full amount to give the guy in the morning because I can only take out so much from the ATMs per day.  So hopefully he'll be fine with that.  Wish me luck!

A demain!