what i miss, in no particular order.

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  • mexican food, margaritas, chipotle peppers.
  • chipotle. i love burrito bowls.
  • microbrews.
  • a brita in the fridge.
  • an enormous comfy bed. i have had enough of an achy back from sleeping on a futon.
  • hugs. no one hugs here. i savor every hug i get from the girls.
  • bikram yoga.
  • dice games at the bar.
  • going to the bar.
  • getting dressed up.
  • coming home and immediately taking off my clothes.
  • my bike. and biking everywhere.
  • work i really enjoy.
  • hands-on work.
  • cooking, being creative with food.
  • making breakfast for two.
  • baked beans for breakfast. baked beans in general.
  • new zealand cheddar… cheddar in general.
  • root beer and diet dr. pepper.
  • trader joe’s.
  • kombucha.
  • a slight hangover. seriously, just a slight one. i just miss how good it feels to crawl back into the big comfy bed and rest.
  • modal sheets.
  • sheets in general. there are no flat sheets in my french house. on any of the beds. just a fitted sheet and a comforter (with a cover on it).
  • bad tv. i miss me some tlc. although “i didn’t know i was pregnant” does exist on french tv, it’s not the same.
  • good tv. french tv sucks. it’s pretty bad when “cauchemars en cuisine” (kitchen nightmares) and “quatre marriages pour un lune de miel” (four weddings for one honeymoon) is what i get excited about watching.
  • sattelite tv. i miss being able to watch a movie (or several) at any time of the day.
  • playing loud music in the house and dancing.
  • cats. my cats.
  • and these arms.
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kids

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stuff i’ve learned about the french child species, from being an au pair.

tickle= guilli. tickles are done to the neck. yeah, weird. i got scratched a lot.

leap frog= saute-mouton (jump sheep)

tag= loup touche-touche (wolf touch-touch)

red light, green light= un, deux, trois, soleil! (one, two, three, sun!)

time-out= pouce (thumb)

simon says= jacques a dit (jack said)

one, two, three, four, i declare a thumb war= un, deux, trois, bras de fer chinois! (one, two, three, chinese arm wrestling!)

quiet game= un, deux, trois, le roi de silence commence! (one, two, three, the king of silence starts!)

piggy back= faire l’autriche (do the ostrich)

tattletale= faire le rapport-perroquet (do the retell-parrot)

the french don’t have a word for “lap,” they just say “on your knees.”

they also pick yellow flowers and ask “est-ce que tu aimes le beurre?” (do you like butter?) although my kids picked boutons d’or, not pissenlits.

he loves me, he loves me not= je t’aime, un peu, beaucoup, passionnement, à la folie, pas de tout.

tirer les oreilles= pull the ears. a form of punishment. ears get pulled.

the songs i’ve sang the most in the past six months:

promenons-nous dans les bois,
pendant que le loup n’y est pas
s’il le loup y était,
il nous mangerait.
mais comme il n’y est pas,
il nous mangera pas.
loup y est-tu? entends-tu? que fais-tu?
 

followed closely by:

sur le pont d’avignon,
l’on y danse, l’on y danse,
sur le pont d’avignon,
l’on y danse tous en rond.
les beaux messieurs font comme ça,
et puis encore comme ça.
sur le pont d’avignon,
l’on y danse, l’on y danse,
sur le pont d’avignon,
l’on y danse tous en rond.

les belles dames font comme ça,
et puis encore comme ça… 

and this one too:

une souris verte
qui courait dans l’herbe
je l’attrape par la queue,
je la montre à ces messieurs
ces messieurs me disent :
trempez-la dans l’huile,
trempez-la dans l’eau,
ça fera un escargot
tout chaud.
je la mets dans un tiroir
elle me dit qu’il fait trop noir.
je la met dans mon chapeau
elle me dit qu’il fait trop chaud.
je la mets dans ma culotte,
elle me fait trois petites crottes.
je la mets dans ma chemise,
elle me fait trois petites bises.

speaking of bises.
a night is not complete with out bisous.

puppy-dog kiss= bisou d’escargot (snail kiss)

raspberry= bisou de trompette (trumpet kiss)

evaluations

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The past two weeks, I’ve been obliged to do evaluations with the Cycle 3 students (3rd-5th graders). While I haven’t had to prepare any lessons or materials, it has been far more exhausting than any lesson I have done so far. It has been a living hell. I have spent the last 4 days of work practically in silence. The evaluations were constructed to validate the A1 level of English, ideally to have been attained by the end of CM2 year. So they’re having me evaluate the students to improve the program for next year. Problem: this is the first year my schools have had any structured English program, the evaluations are too hard for the students, especially the younger ones. Due to the severe teaching methods in France, they are so afraid to make an error that they don’t bother trying.

The first exercise required is to “se presenter” : just to introduce yourself. “My name is Rachel, I’m 24 years old, I live in Saint Etienne, I have two sisters, I like squash and I don’t like olives.” The bare essentials, which will indicate the general level of acquired English. Problem: most of them only remember how to say “my name is…” A quarter of them don’t even remember that. It is a major accomplishment to remember “I’m __ years old.” I  try to give them a little help, urging them to talk a little more, to use complete phrases… but once they get stuck, they just stop and stare off into space. Or at me. They end up feeling stupid and I end up feeling cruel. However, it has resulted in some comical phrases from those who are a little courageous or who I’ve coaxed heavily.

“On le dit en anglais?” Most students are quite taken aback when I explain the goal is to talk in English.

(Coming from a boy) “My name is sister. Non, ça veut dire ‘je m’appelle soeur.’ I’m a sister.”

“How are you?” “My name is happy, and you?” “My name is happy.”

“I live in chocolate.”

“My name is 9.”

“I like brothers and sisters. I’m sister.”

“How are you?” “It’s 11, and you?” “I’m a girl!”

“I’m dix ans.”

“Chui… girl?”

Repeat what I say: Five, six, pick up sticks. “Seven, eight…. crêpes?”

Reading ‘Happy Birthday…’ : “Wish you a merry Christmas, wish you a merry Christmas, wish you a merry Christmas…” Me: Est-ce que tu as lu?

“I love you cat. I love you bananas. I love you orange.”

“I love you family. I love you dog.”

I’m going to do the bare minimum and then laisser tomber. It’s too agonizing.

my other french house

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yeah, there’s another house. la famille has a house in the country, in a tiny village called melay (population 900), in the saône-et-loire departement, just over an hour’s drive from saint-étienne, past roanne. we go there on weekends when it’s not rented out. it’s really a beautiful area, with lots of farms, hills and valleys. reminds me of wisconsin. there’s lots of cows. there’s a canal running through the area, there’s tons of hiking/biking trails; it’s a nice place to relax and get away from it all.

the house is in the center of town, right next to the big church, which was constructed in the 11th century. the bell tower is from the 12th century and is in the roman style. the house itself dates from 1777, almost as old as the USA! it’s a big house, huge for the period, and up until la famille bought it, it remained in the same family. there’s a big kitchen with dining area, a formal dining room, salon, a bathroom downstairs and two upstairs (one ensuite) and something like eight bedrooms with fourteen beds in all. the flooring (that you can see in the “salon” picture below) is the original carrelage, hand made and dried in the sun. you can see the footprints of little birds, a deer, a dog, even little child-sized feet. i wonder whose child that was, and where his descendents are now…it’s really interesting because it’s furnished much like it would have been in the 18th century. f really likes antiques, so when we go anywhere there’s likely an antique store involved. reminds me of my dad- except this time around, i’m the one saying “don’t touch anything.”

there’s a big garden with apple trees (F told me they harvested 500 kg of apples one year!), cherry trees, pear trees, and plum trees. there’s even a pool! i can’t wait to try that out this summer… weekends in melay are filled with barbecues, bike rides, and fresh air. it’s so nice to get out of grey saint-etienne into a green space, where you can smell the grass, the flowers… even the cow manure is a welcome change. it reminds me of spring green.

for april 1st, the town of melay hosted a marche of 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 kilometers through the countryside. we did 5k, since baby b’s little legs can only go so far. but she walked the whole 5k (except for perhaps 500 meters). she even received a trophy for being the youngest participant!

this is the house (all pictures coming from la famille’s website):

the house, with the church in the background

the house and the pool.

the formal dining room.

the salon.

the blue room. this is my room. i have the ensuite bathroom.

this is where the rest of the family sleeps.

nice

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was nice. sorry, i had to. but it really was nice!

i took off for a week during the winter vacation to nice, while the family spent a week skiing. the train tickets were cheap (91.50€ round-trip), the hostel cheaper (12€/night), and they have a bikram yoga studio. that’s right, i took a yoga vacation!

the weather was beautiful (it only started to sprinkle once i got on the train to come home). nice is beautiful. i especially loved vieux nice, the old part of town. it’s just so cheery and quaint- everything is brightly colored, the streets are narrow and crooked, and although there are tons of tourists it doesn’t feel like you’re in a museum.

i stayed at hôtel pastorale, near the train station. it was really nice, clean, friendly. had a kitchen, wifi, but no breakfast. no big deal. also a nice terrace for hanging out when it’s warm enough to do so (not quite yet in february). we were 8 to a room, with a sink and shower in our suite (nice not to share showers with the whole hostel), and while travelers came and went during my stay, one hawaiian man was there the whole time and became my travel buddy. he was nice and interesting.

the best decision i made was to rent a bike. nice, like many other french towns, including saint étienne, has a bikeshare program. theirs is called vélobleu. i paid 5€ for rental priviledges for one week. (it’s 1€ for a day, 10€ for a month, and 25€ for one year). then when you want to rent a bike, you call a toll-free number (your account is attached to your phone number). the first 30 minutes is free. 30-60 minutes is 1€, and 2€/hour after that. this worked SO well for me! i missed riding my bike, and i was able to go anywhere- from the hostel, i was 10-15 minutes from anywhere. if i was running short on time, i just stopped at a vélobleu docking station and started my 30 minutes over- the time doesn’t accumulate! i only went over my 30 minute time twice- and only by a few minutes- so i paid 7€ to rent a bike for a week!

the yoga was great. i paid 55€ for a traveller’s week- unlimited classes, plus a mat, towels, and water for each class. also a great deal- a single class is 20€, mat and towel are 2€ apiece. the studio was on the top floor of a hotel right near the port. and it was TINY. my first class, the practice room was packed! we had 19 people, plus the instructor, in a room that can accommodate 20 people, maximum. the heating system was different than i’m used to, as well. the room was heated with heat lamps and there were humidifiers in each corner. it was just as effective, although i feel it was less consistent- if you were directly under a heat lamp, it was certainly hotter. and the room didn’t feel as humid as i’m used to. the classes were lovely. michael taught all the classes, in french, and sometimes the second set of poses in english if we had non-french speakers in the room. it was at first a challenge hearing the dialogue in french, but i soon learned the names for the body parts i didn’t know already and felt right at home.

tiny yoga studio. cozy. and we had twice as many people in it!

i do feel, however, that the dialogue in english is more entertaining- “like a flower petal blooming” and “like a japanese ham sandwich” aren’t very translatable. and there is definitely something to be said about the ritual of the dialogue. if you’ve ever taken a class, you know what i’m talking about. every word, every phrase, is the same, every class. you can turn your mind off and listen to the dialogue. it is everything you need, it is complete. the instructors never stop talking, and full of corrections, so your body immediately reacts and follows the proper posture. i found the french dialogue… lacking. i wanted to hear “arms back, look back, fall back, way back, go back, more back… come up and stop in the middle.” i know i’m supposed to bloquer le genou, but i wanted to hear “solid, concrete, one piece, lamppost, unbroken, you have no knee!” instead we often heard silence. i had to concentrate more on correcting myself, often going through the dialogue in my head. all the same, it felt so good to practice again. i realllly missed it. i took a class every day.

i started off the week (sunday) with the fête de citron, in menton. every year there’s a huge lemon festival. the citron de menton is famous- it’s a large, round lemon, not too sour or bitter, and very juicy. each year there are enormous sculptures made from citrus fruits, and various parades. i’ll let my pictures speak for themselves.

monday was the flea market in vieux nice. the main courtyard was filled with 50 or so vendors, selling everything from vintage burberry trenches, to almost-complete silverwear sets, fancy table settings, estate jewelry, dusty books, comic books, post cards, and terribly ugly vintage art.

tuesday i walked around vieux nice, and fell in love. it’s so picturesque! i would love to live here… but i could never ever afford it. i trekked up the colline du chateau, a huge hill that sits between vieux nice and the port. beautiful views of the city and the sea, a man-made waterfall, and ruins of an old chateau (really, just a skeleton remains).

the view of vieux nice from the colline du chateau. not my picture, but i took the same one.

the waterfall. again, not my picture, but i took the same one.

wednesday i visited the matisse museum. it was free, and quite nice- a lot of pieces, some sculpture, some early work, and even an exhibit of photography by george brassaï, with whom he had a close friendship. i didn’t really know anything about brassaï, but his photographs were instantly recognizable. they are the iconic photos of paris, of the south of france, of france in general. he saw france, paris especially, in a way francophiles dream of. he managed to capture the je ne sais quoi in his photographs that makes people fall in love with paris- the very essence of the city. amazing, poignant work.

matisse, jeune femme à l'ombrelle. this is much more effective, more colorful, in person.

matisse, portrait de madame matisse.

brassaï, la môme bijou, bar de la place pigalle. does it look familiar? (think titanic).

brassaï, bassin du luxembourg.

all the museums are free in nice, so i also visited the modern art museum, which was comprehensive but confusing (i don’t really get modern art). i did enjoy the ben exhibit- ben vautier is a cheeky frenchie whose art is mostly textual and questions the very subject of art. i also checked out the museum of human paleontology, which showcases the remains of a prehistoric elephant-hunting village found near the port. yes, at one time, there were elephants in france! it was not terribly interesting, but it was free and a way to kill a half hour. on saturday before leaving, i went to the théâtre de la photographie et de l’image, where they were just opening a brassaï exhibit… it was a great way to end my stay.

thursday i took my vélobleu along the promenade des anglais- the boardwalk, if you will. it will take you over 12 km along the mediterranean to cagnes-sur-mer, which is what i did. there isn’t really anything to see in cagnes-sur-mer, except a renoir museum (which was closed) on top of a giant villa-covered hill (which i climbed for nothing). it was more the bike ride that was interesting. it was a beautiful day and i really, really missed bike riding. 15 miles later, i was feeling good.

i saw a movie at the cinématheque de nice, which shows oldies and classics for cheap. 1€ membership fee, and then 2€/showing. i saw an old elizabeth taylor, secret ceremony, which was weird. it’s about a woman, leonora, whose daughter drowns, and a young girl, cenci, whose mother has died. cenci is a bit of a delusional nutcase, and in serious denial of her mother’s death. she meets leonora, who looks just like her deceased mother. leonora adopts the role of cenci’s mother and they live happily for a while. enter albert, cenci’s stepfather, who has some incestual longings for cenci… it becomes complicated. a strange movie, but i really love the style of that era.

friday i went to italy. i love that i can just pop over to another country for a day. ventimiglia is a mere 45 minutes from nice, and on fridays, hosts a huge market full of knock-off designer goods. i got some anchovies and pesto. pesto is expensive in france, for some reason. and not very good- you have to get it in the saveurs d’ailleurs section of the grocery, which doesn’t make sense, since italy’s not that far away. asia is far away. anyway, ventimiglia was a fun way to spend a couple hours. first my hawaiian friend and i got some coffee, and in his bumbling italian managed to make friends with the owner of the café. she gave us some incredible cream puffs- free! we taught her how to say “a glass of water” in english (and she taught us how to say it in italian). we walked around the market, along the ocean, and ventured across the bridge to the less-touristy part of ventimiglia, which was very pretty. the streets were even tinier than vieux nice! we ate at a sidewalk cafe, 9€ for a pasta dish, a dessert, and a pichet of wine. good deal! we shared a pasta with all’amatriciana, a spicy tomato sauce with guanciale (dried pork cheek) pecorino, and red pepper, and a piece of lasagna. the pasta was better than the dessert, but it was all very good.

speaking of edibles, i found some great deals in nice as well, after some long and hard google-ing. restaurants are not cheap in nice, especially in vieux nice, due to tourist exploitation. but i really wanted to eat provençal food and niçois specialties. i did find one place i loved- so much i ate there twice. in vieux nice, right among all the tourist traps, is a lovely bistro frequented by the locals- bar de la bourse. so well known, in fact, that it’s packed every day. they close after lunch because quite frankly, i don’t think anyone would want to work a second shift! the first time i ate there, i was early- before 12- so i had a nice, leisurely lunch, but it was full by the time i left. the second time, i was late- after 1- and waited 30 minutes before being seated- and when i was finally ushered to my table, i was seated with a table of 3 people i didn’t know! i thought it was funny, and we ate cheerfully together. there were so many times i wished i could have done that at hotch… “come on, you all have the same goal, can’t you just eat together?!”

bar de la bourse.

they have a 12.50€ menu fixe, which includes a kir, an entrée, a plat, and a dessert. best deal in nice! for an entrée, you have a choice of pissaladière, a niçois pizza-like tart topped with carmelized onions, anchovy purée, and olives, beignets de sardines, or a leek tarte. i chose the beignets de sardines…both times. they were that good! they lacked a little salt, but that was easily remedied. otherwise, they were hot, crispy on the outside, moist on the inside… not too fishy, and a large portion, too! now i’m craving them…

menu fixe.

the choices of plat principal are the plat du jour, petite friture (which is lots of tiny fried fishies), or daube garnie raviolis. one day i had the plat du jour, which was a buttery chicken with mixed veggies, good but not incredible, and the next i had the daube- which was FANTASTIC. daube is another provençal dish, and essentially a beef stew, with herbes de provence. it was phenomenal. rich, creamy, tender… the raviolis were good too! and everything is made in house… even the desserts. crème caramel, crème caramel beurre salée (you know i had that), crème brûlée (tried that one too, delicious), tarte aux pommes, cheese…  okay, maybe the cheese isn’t homemade. seriously. go. get the beignets, and the daube.

what other lovely things did i eat? i got gelato at fenocchio, which was founded in 1966 and boasts 94 flavors of gelato and sorbet. i got nocciolata (like nutella). alongside chocolate, vanilla, and cappucino they include delicacies such as tiramisù, fraises tagada (france’s favorite haribo chewy candy, and the only one i really like), ferrero rocher, confiture de lait, chestnut, and chewing-gum… and oddities like tomato basil, violet, rosemary, thyme, olive, avocado, swiss chard tart…

yes, swiss chard tart. another niçois specialty, it’s quite delicious. we have sweet potato pie and carrot cake and zucchini bread… they have tarte aux blettes. delicately sweetened and filled with raisins and pine nuts, and topped with powdered sugar, this was seriously good.

i also found supposedly the best pizza in nice at au vieux four. i especially liked this sign:

you won’t find that in your average american pizza joint. fritz, the chef, won best pizza of france in 2008. he assembled and cooked it right in front of me, in a beautiful wood-burning stove. i got the neptune, with tuna, parsley, and garlic. it was AWESOME. i got it take-away (since i was alone and france doesn’t do doggie bags), and it was 15% off- 8.50€.  i realize that i LOVE tuna on pizzas. i always thought the french were so weird… turns out they’re right. i’m never looking back. goodbye, sausage and pepperoni.

what else does nice have? socca. nice street food. socca is a flatbread, like a thick crepe, made with chickpea flour and olive oil, topped with lots of black pepper.

socca.

the best places to get it? chez theresa, at cours sareya (only sold til 1pm, and transported from her kitchen in vieux nice on the back of a bicycle), rené socca (sold on the street, you line up and then grab a seat at the picnic table. i got my tarte aux blettes here), or chez pipo, which is said to be the best, but also the most touristed. it’s a sit-down joint, and i hear complaints of long waits, small portions, and wasn’t-worth-its. i brought home a kilo of chickpea flour to try my hand.. but i feel like my cast-iron pan in an ikea oven won’t live up to the meter-wide pans cooked over a charcoal-filled drum.

and the best place for pissaladière? supposedly le jardin d’hélène, near the port. of course, i wouldn’t know… when i went to get some on my last day, there were 5 people waiting. the chef looked at me and said “did you reserve?”… no, i don’t usually reserve street food… “you’ll have to wait at least 45 minutes.” oh. i guess it is saturday… so i left, and went back to bar de la bourse. pissaladière will have to wait until next time… or until i make it at home (i did buy anchovies, after all).

pissaladière. seems easy enough to make.

now for pictures…

halfway

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my return from nice marked the halfway point in my stay in france. already!  i’ve been in france for five months- and have five months to go. time has gone by quite quickly- and even more quickly in the past two months. living with a family, having something to do every day, being busy makes the days feel short. instead of searching for something to occupy myself, i’m happy to get a spare moment to myself. things have changed.

it’s funny to think that i’ve already been in saint-etienne for as long as i was in paris… my stay in paris felt so much longer!

so let’s do some mid-term evaluation. i’m constantly asking myself if i’ve made the right choice, not in coming here- that i know was the right choice- but if the choices i’ve made since arriving have been the correct ones.

packing. 

did i pack correctly? i think so. i was definitely prepared.

things i’m so glad i brought: my tiny sleeping bag. it was my only bedding until i was able to go to ikea, and it’s sheltered me during my travels (in lyon, in savoie, in nice) as well. my headlamp. essential for hostels. silicone spatula. i use it every day. my chef’s knife. beats buying a shitty one. school supplies. our schools don’t furnish us with anything. my packable grocery bag.

things i haven’t used: tent, camp stove, hammock, although camping season isn’t really here yet. and the family’s tent isn’t big enough to accommodate all of us.

things i shouldn’t have brought: dressy tops.  “blouses” aren’t flattering on me. i didn’t wear them in the states, i don’t wear them here. yes- i brought clothing i had never worn, and have yet to wear. also, dressy dresses. i brought them just in case i was invited to, perhaps, a wedding, and they take up hardly any space. but still, i don’t see myself wearing them. my blazer. while i love it and wear it often enough at home, i’ve only worn it a couple times here. it’s not the most compact piece of clothing i own, either. my big-ass TEFL binder. haven’t used it once, and it’s heavy. binoculars. haven’t used them.

i do think i could have gotten away with bringing less clothes. 3 pairs of pants was about right, but i have more shirts than i need. i only really need to get dressed two days a week (meaning, not leggings and yoga pants). i wish i had more yoga pants.

language

making great progress, i am feeling good about it. i have very few problems in aural comprehension (something that really bothered me in paris). i am speaking french every day with the girls. this is good and not so good. the good- i am learning lots of vocabulary. i am forced to speak french all day. i am forced to think on my feet, in french. at the same time that 2-year old B is absorbing phrases and verbs, i am as well- we are both learning by imitating. the not so good- i am learning baby french. i spend most of my time saying things like “stop bothering your sister. get dressed. pull up your pants. go wash your hands. hurry up! stop! stooooop! sit correctly. eat! brush your teeth. put on your coat. put on your shoes. stop bothering your sister!” i am forgetting how to conjugate vous when i need to. i forget to use vous. i am losing confidence in my ability to hold a normal conversation and i’m having a hard time expressing my opinions. i am learning how to talk to children, but i am forgetting how to talk to adults. which leads me to

integration

failure. i am not integrated. i never got attached to the other assistants in saint-é. in the beginning, while they were forming their cliques, i wanted to spend time by myself. i wanted to avoid anglophones; i didn’t want to surround myself with english while in france. that’s not the point! in effect, however, i ended up avoiding everyone. i didn’t really make anglo friends, and haven’t made french friends, either. thus i don’t get the chance to practice french in a casual situation outside my host family. i’m not exposed to slang. i don’t sit around shooting the shit with frenchies. it bums me out sometimes, but then again, it doesn’t. i don’t really have a lot of time to bum around with anglos or frenchies. i’m a busy girl. which of course brings me to

work

well, i work a lot. my job has slowly evolved into something i love and hate. i hate mondays. i love tuesdays.

in my monday school, i kind of feel like i’m a babysitter. the teachers don’t really seem to take an interest in me or in english, or what i have planned, they don’t even bother to ask. mostly i hate mondays because i have classes by myself. 9 of them. when you send 10-20 students to an assistant (who is not the teacher) in a room that is not their normal classroom… riots ensue. i can’t get anything accomplished. no one pays attention, i lose my patience, and those who are actually interested in learning english don’t learn anything. i end each session feeling annoyed and exhausted, and like a crap teacher as well. thank god i only have them for 20-30 minutes at a time. then i have 3 pleasant classes (where i am with the whole class, with the teacher, and the students and i actually enjoy each other’s company). i can’t wait for mondays to be over.

then come tuesdays. in my tuesday school i am in communication with the staff, they ask beforehand what we’ll be studying. i have 45-minute classes with a teacher (30 minutes with the CPs, 1 hour with one of the CM2 groups). things are calm. the students are sage. the teachers deal with the discipline, if necessary. they help me execute activities. they even sometimes prepare things for me to work with. they care. i am going to miss working at my tuesday school. i would even consider staying on as a benevolent stagiaire. maybe.

travel

since i am working as an au pair, i am not doing as much travel as i would like. but i’m not terribly bothered. i’m living a more authentic life, i feel, and let’s face it: if i weren’t working as an au pair, i probably wouldn’t have enough money to travel as much as i would like. i spent a week in spain, i spent a week in nice, i’ve visited évian (and will be returning for easter), and we often spend weekends in melay. i might get a week or two at the end of my visa to travel (once school is out). on the top of the list if i get the time: prague, lisbon, barcelona. berlin would be nice to see again, but i don’t want to ruin the sparkly memories i have. i would love a week’s stopover in iceland on the way home, but i’d have to re-book my ticket- and that means i have to wait until ticket prices go down. i booked a one-way for 585€- and that same ticket is now 1,371€- a 233% increase. on the other hand, my money is going somewhere more important: student loans, my credit card bill, and savings. yeah. most assistants are coming home broke; i’m coming home with no credit card debt and enough money to go on vacation with my sweetheart. and i’m currently two months ahead on my student loans.

health and fitness

i joined a gym, and i’m pretty good about going. i work out thursday, friday, and if we’re in town, saturdays and sundays. i do 30-60 minutes of cardio and lift weights- i alternate legs/butt and arms/chest/back. i do crunches or a 20′ ab class if i have time. i work out in the mornings, after the girls go to school. mondays and tuesdays i don’t work out, because fraankly i’m quite tired after school and wrangling the girls. wednesdays i don’t usually have a moment to myself- i have the girls all day. once my TA job is over i’ll be able to work out mondays and tuesdays as well- i can’t wait. i feel great on sunday after 4 strong workouts in a row, but i feel like such a slob by the time thursday comes back around. i could just work out after dinner, i guess…. i know, excuses, excuses.

on the other hand, my diet needs work. if i don’t have sugar in the house, i don’t eat it, and i don’t crave it. but i live in a house with little girls, which means there is chocolate and cookies and candy… and once i eat something sweet, all i want is sugar. i’ve been eating more cookies than i should, and it seems like there is always some kind of  gateau or tarte… while most dinners include soup and/or salad, they also too-often include béchamel. my pants aren’t used to that and they’re complaining. like i said, i can’t wait until i can work out mondays and tuesdays.

goals

1. get in better shape than when i started. or at least get my pants to be comfortable again. eat less crap, work out more.

2. improve my regular french. make french friends. go out more, even if it is by myself. allow myself to spend too many euros on an over-priced shitty beer. overall, make more conversation with french adults.

3. get the girls to speak more english. or at least get them to understand it- i’m going to propose english-only days. where they can speak in french but i can only respond in english. probably wednesdays, because we’re not really on a time schedule.

4. be a better au pair in general. i’m kind of bummed because after mondays and tuesdays, the last thing i want to do is play with little girls. and then wednesday i have them all to myself, all day long. i get impatient, cranky, and all little-kidded out. then there’s thursday and friday, when i only have them for lunch and after school, and i feel guilty because i haven’t been in the mood to play with them for the past three days. i’m excited for my TA job to be over so i actually enjoy being around them.

5. figure out something to do next year.