Tuesday, September 30, 2008

je suis ici!

I wrote this on my first night here - more updates to come soon :)

After planes, trains, buses, (and a few paces by foot) I’m here! In Rocheforte! Truth be told, I’m a little overwhelmed – now that I’m finally here, I’m realizing that I’m here for some time. But to me, that’s the beauty of adventure. In my experience, it seems that each time I’m presented with an opportunity that makes me question and doubt my motives (‘maybe you lost your mind/blacked out when you signed up for this?’), it turns out to be incredibly rewarding. With things as little as camping trips when I was a little girl, to going to New Mexico in College, I think the important thing isn’t that I had doubts but that I strove to overcome that little voice in my head that was saying “uhhhhh, whaaaat???”

The good news is that my cooperating English teachers, Isabelle and Marie Claude are wonderful and kind. They’ve agreed to speak to me only in French, which I’m sure will lead to frustrating, if not hilarious moments in the future. They also laughed when I said I had watched “Les Demoiselles…” before I got here. Isabelle can’t get through that movie, no matter how hard she tries, and Marie Claude is old enough to remember when they filmed it – according to her, there’s a sort of special meaning to the movie for her generation.

I live in apartments owned by the school. When I asked Isabelle if this was normal, she said that it was, not only for boarding schools (like my lycee) but for regular schools, providing a place for the principal and other adminstrators to live. Its small but cozy, I’ll have a new neighbor on Tuesday when the final english assistant comes into town from India (!!!) and last but not least, I have loved sitting in my room, listening to the city pass by. Granted, I’ve only been in Rochefort (at the time of writing) for 6 hours, so maybe I’m catching everyone on a good night, but I’ll stay optimistic and say that this town has a wonderful rhythm.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And the ‘goodbyes.’ I don’t even know how to begin. I have been blessed to find a community of people this summer who have been so supportive, encouraging, and wonderful. Without turning into a sap, I have learned so much from everyone with whom I’ve formed a relationship (co-workers, bay village folk, family): if you only knew how many times this summer, I’ve sat back, inspired by your actions.

A girl I worked with a few summers ago told me that she never said goodbye, only “ I’ll see you when I see you” – it made it easier and I found it optimistic. Months later, I told a friend about this, and conversely (to my surprise!), he found it almost rude. He noted that we say “goodbye“ to acknowledge the role someone played in our life and that now, it will be different without them. Sometimes it’s a ‘good ridance.’ But right now, it means “it’s been a pleasure.”

And so, until we meet again,

Au revoir, mes amis

Monday, September 22, 2008

let me get this straight - I can only take two 50 lbs bags??

I remember when I found out I had gotten this job in France: it was after my first (and to date, only) thesis defense, something that had consumed my last semester of college, challenging me in ways I never thought possible. I hadn’t slept the night before (nerves!) and had decided to make muffins – a somewhat unconventional addition to these things- to butter-up the faculty. I had leftovers when my presentation was done, so I made my way to the student government office to pawn off the extra muffins, relax, check email, and decompress before I started my last week of undergrad classes.

I remember seeing the subject:


Thinking “Is that french?” my heart stopping. opening it. reading the message and a wave of emotions. I began my transition out of collegiate life in that moment, the tears welling up in my eyes from exhaustion and elation, my mind brimming with so many things.

Four months later, I’m starting to pack and say ‘goodbyes.’ Both are proving more difficult than anticipated.

As I mentioned earlier, I'll be in Rochefort, a little town near La Rochelle, that has very little notoriety except for a brief period in the '70's when it was the location for "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" starring Catherine Denuve and Gene Kelly. And yes, it really is as amazing as it looks.

As far as packing goes, my dear friend Sarah Paul passed on her infinite wisdom when I was packing to study abroad in Luxembourg, fall semester of Junior year: pack basics and bring a lot of accessories. Simple enough, right? This hasn’t prevented me from unloading my entire closet, making my room unlivable, causing me to move into my little sister’s room. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting in a sea of neutral basics, procrastinating from sifting through the rubble.

I also need to consider what teaching materials I’m bringing with me (menus, magazines, maps, anything fun with english words), and what documents I need to become street-legal in France. Recently, I found on wikibooks a list of things difficult to find in europe:

1. Dental floss
2. Sunscreen
3. Peanut butter
4. Electronic equipment
5. Underwear
6. Contact lens solution
7. Over-the-counter medication (especially antacid)
8. Blu-tack (and it's not blue here, it's yellow - le tac patafix!)

….5.??? I mean, I figured about the peanut butter….

Monday, September 8, 2008

19 days away?!?

well, here I am, only a mere three weeks away from France! Two weeks ago the beautiful K(c)ates and I made a whirlwind 36 hour trip to Chicago to visit the French consulate so I could get my long stay visa.

1. visited three sets of extended family members
2. reunited with college friends
3. obtained a visa
4. played in the fountain at millennium park
5. discovered the worst fye store in the world, but ended up with an amazing panic-at-the-disco string quartet tribute album
6. discovered that my glasses prescription is a little of date due to a few...driving mishaps...involving curbs and wrong turns

my travel companions were 'parfait,' soothing my nerves, navigating, and providing amazing company!

now I'm trying to make sure I've crossed everything off the list that I started making in June:

plane ticket - leaving sept 26!
visa - in my passport!
place to stay - living at the school in rochefort for the first part of my stay!

I still need to:

open a french bank account
get a french cell phone
figure out the french welfare system - aparently i'm eligable? why not?

for the time being, while I get everything in order I'm doing some additional research that invovles french film, brie, and lots of red wine... :)

a bientot mes amies