Day 1 of work: La petite assistante d’anglais (The little English assistant)

So, yesterday, October 1st, was technically my official first day of work. However, work really at all I did not. So, pretty much, in France, everything takes forever to start rolling. My contract officially started yesterday, but I didn’t actually teach or even observe.

I had asked my contact when I needed to be at the school (the high school that is) on Thursday. He told me 12:45pm. So, I had the whole morning to prepare my introduction (because honestly, I’m not sure what to expect regarding that) and to just hang out before I headed to work. I got kind of dressed up: black skinny jeans, a nice blouse, a blazer, a scarf, makeup all done, hair pulled back nicely, and some high heeled booties. I was a tad over dressed. It’s interesting to know that French teachers are super chill, way more than in the United States. A couple of them were wearing casual slacks with tennis shoes. Alright, I can dig it.

Anyways, so I show up at 12:45, and I literally sit there while the teachers decide what my schedule is going to be. I didn’t have to do anything, and I didn’t really have to say much. After they figured it out, they told me “Okay, we will send you a copy of your schedule by email once we’ve confirmed it.” I asked if I needed to stick around, and they told me no. I was free to go. Alright, I’ll take it.

At this point though, I had not heard a single word from the middle school I’m suppose to be working with. I had sent an email but had not heard anything. So, in order to figure it out and get some answers, I walked there and just showed up. After some awkwardness of having to be buzzed in and then escorted to the secretary by a teacher who had no idea why I was there really, I found the secretary, told her who I was, and she was like “Oh yes, we were expecting you sometime this week!” My thoughts were, wow really because I have yet to receive anything from anyone. French bureaucracy, people, French bureaucracy.

Once I had introduced myself though, she was very kind and had all of my paperwork as well as a potential schedule all ready for me. So, I signed some paperwork, and then one of the English teachers (who’s name is Guillaume Poisson, which is William Fish. I just thought that was pretty fun. I giggled a little bit on the inside. That’s, like, the best French name ever.) took me on a tour of the school, introduced me to some of the other English teachers, told me what my schedule would look like, what my students will probably be like, and then he invited me to dinner with some of the teachers from the middle school that evening. I saw this as a great opportunity for growth and to get to know my co-workers.

Even though just showing up at the middle school was very awkward, I accomplished something. After I had gotten out of there, I felt empowered. Here I was, living in France, not really knowing what I’m suppose to be doing but doing it anyways. I felt independent, strong, and like I’m actually starting to find some of my footing. Plus, the secretary and all of the teachers there were very kind, repeated and slowed themselves down when they needed to, and gave me all of the information that I need to start work on Monday (yes, I officially start Monday!)

In addition to all of that, I did indeed have dinner with all of the teachers at a crêperie here in the city. They were all very kind, but it was kind of overwhelming. Most of the time, I just sat there and tried to listen in on conversation. However, my French is still not the best, so hearing multiple conversations going on in French around me was exhausting. Also, I had forgotten how long the French eat for when they are all together. I was there for 3 hours! I’m pretty sure if I had stayed any longer I would’ve past out from fatigue. I didn’t want to leave though because I didn’t want to be rude. Also, I kept telling myself “Lindsey, this is where the growth happens! It’s painful now, but think about how baller your French will be after these 8 months because of situations like this!” Plus, the crêperie was bien sûr delicious. There is nothing like a true French crêpe.

So, I went to bed after all of that feeling exhausted but quite accomplished.

Also, side note, I finally got my French bank card! Now I just have to figure out the cheapest way to transfer my money from my American bank to my French bank. I also got a library card, and it’s free for people who live in Laval! Yes, I’m excited about that, nerdom at it’s highest.

Well, until next time…..à plus mes amis!

P. S. All of the teachers and the secretary at the middle school kept calling me la petite assistante d’anglais. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m rather young or I’m small or both? not sure. Anyways, so, I guess I’m the little English assistant. I wonder how old they think I am?

Laval: “Why are you here?”

I arrived very late in Laval on Wednesday. Thankfully a colleague of my contact person picked me up from the train station and took me straight to my apartment. She was extremely patient and kind with me, which I’m highly thankful for because I’m sure that I didn’t smell the greatest and that my French wasn’t the greatest. She even brought me some dishes, some bread, and some tea to help get me settled. I feel so very blessed to have been so well taken care of. Once I got to Laval, I thought I was going to shower and go straight to bed, however, my brain was on process mode. So, I was wide awake (how, on 5 hours of sleep in two days? I can’t even tell you). So, in order to process a bit before I completely settled, another assistant who got here Monday, Breanna, met me at my apartment, and we chatted for a little bit. Afterwards, I had the best shower of my life and the best sleep of my life. It was glorious.

The next day, my contact person took me to open a bank account, acquire renter’s insurance, fill out all of my paperwork with the school, bought me lunch at the school I’ll be working at, and took me back to my apartment. Afterwards, I went to the apartment welcome center, filled out all of the necessary paperwork (which took almost two hours!), and paid my rent, awkwardly in all cash because my American credit card doesn’t work over here sometimes because it doesn’t have a chip in it. It is amazing that he was so helpful. Most assistants have to struggle to get all of that done by themselves. I’m also really glad I got most of my important logistical things taken care of on my first day in the city. The few things I have left to do are get a better SIM card, wait on my French debit card to arrive, and finish my immigration paperwork.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the title is in quotations. Well, during my now three full days that I’ve been here, I’ve been going to the grocery store every day to buy food and get stuff for my apartment. Breanna and I also ate at the restaurant in our apartment complex (reduced fares. 3€ for a full meal), where we met some of the residents of the apartment complex where we are staying, most of whom are French. I have never been asked more times where I am from than in the last 3 days of my life at the grocery store, while eating, at the tourist center, etc. Not even while I was in Nantes was I asked where I am from that many times in that short amount of time. While we were eating dinner at the apartment restaurant, one of the other residents literally said to both of us, in French of course, ”Why are you here?” with a confused look on his face. Breanna and I also went to the tourist center to pick up a city map and a bus schedule and bus map. The lady working asked us where we were from and laughed when we said we were Americans, as if to say, ”Why are you here, in Laval?” Apparently, it’s very rare for Americans to be in Laval. Perhaps most people assume that Americans only ever go to Paris, which they probably only ever do when they tour France or even Nice, Bordeaux, and Normandy but probably definitely not Laval. I totally get that, but it’s kind of awkward. “Why are you here?” It’s so straight forward, and it’s also weird to me because there are language assistants here every year. You think with a smaller city like this, where the majority of the assistants probably live in the foyer every year (it’s like university housing but for young workers) like I do, they’d know or be at least a little bit aware of the presence of Americans in the city. I guess not. I’m sure I’ll keep getting that question asked over and over again. Hopefully though I can get to know the other residents in my apartment complex and that question will cease to be asked. Who knows though? Maybe there will always be someone asking.

Meanwhile, I’ve just been exploring Laval and getting settled in. I think I’m going to love it here. It’s definitely no Nantes, but I’m sure there’s still some room in my heart for this place. I only felt a little bit of homesickness this morning while I was eating my breakfast and looking out my apartment window. So, I’ve been trying to stay productive so as to avoid jet lag and feeling lonely. Also, Breanna and I met a few other young women that live here at the foyer. One is from Germany, another from Austria, and another from England. I didn’t know that I’d meet people this soon. We all speak French and English, so it’s nice that there are no language barriers. All of their accents are pretty amazing too, and I’m excited to get to know them. It’s nice that I’ll be able to start making friends this soon.

I don’t actually start working until October 1st, so I’m just hanging out and getting used to my new city in the meantime. So, until next time….

Bisous et à plus mes amis!

Goodbyes part 2.

Goodbyes are also awkward. There’s only so much “goodbying” that you can actually do. There are only so many times you can say “I love you,” “I’m going to miss you,” “I miss you already,” “Have an amazing time,” etc etc. You then reach a point where you have to walk away. You spend time together just as though it were like any other day, and you feel like there should be a big, definitive moment when the goodbye happens. There isn’t though, and that’s what makes them so awkward. It’s almost as though you aren’t really leaving those loved ones for a long time. Comprehending goodbyes is almost impossible to fully do because even though you know it’s going to be a long time before you see those people next, those moments still seem so anti-climactic. Of course, they are still very sad but very much anti-climactic. In the end, you just have to hug, say goodbye, and then give one last wave.

Did I mention that I hate goodbyes? everything about them. Here I sit on my living room couch watching TV with my mom the night before I depart the country for 8 months, and again, it feels like any other night. I suppose it’s a good feeling, but I wish I felt more nostalgic. I don’t feel as though my life is about to change in less than 24 hours. It’s still unreal. I’m not even sure that it will even fully hit me when I’m on the plane or getting off the plane in Iceland or Paris. It’s all so unreal.

I’m afraid that I won’t realize how lonely and far away I am from everyone I love until a few weeks from now when I’m sitting in my new apartment missing home, realizing that I’m more than 3,000 miles away. I’m sure that’s when culture shock will start to kick in, and I’m afraid. I’m afraid because this time, I’ll be living alone. Living alone will be an amazing opportunity to grow individually, but I can’t deny how afraid I am of the loneliness monster. Last time I was in France, I cried myself to sleep for two weeks straight while I was going through culture shock, and that was all while I was living with a host family that treated me like one of their own. I’m terrified of the loneliness monster.

Despite all of this though, I think I’m as ready as I can be. Everything is prepared. All my planning and the majority of my packing are complete, and there isn’t much else I can do except for wait until I board that first plane. Of course, I’ll have an 8 hour layover in Boston before I really start to feel nervous, but I’ll be leaving home. It’s quite overwhelming.

I know that I am ready. I know that I can do this. I know that I’m going to have an amazing time and that I’ll grow in so many ways. I also know though that I’m going to need support and encouragement because this adventure I’m embarking on is going to be quite an intense one, with many ups and downs. I know I got this, but I also know that I might just stumble a little bit along the way.

I’ll see you all on the other side I suppose (or maybe in between), so until then….

A plus mes amis!

Goodbyes.

I’m really not good at goodbyes, I’ve discovered. They are just a reminder to me that no matter where I am or for how long I am there, my heart will always be torn between all of the people and the places that I consider to be home. I cannot wait to return to France and visit my host family and the beautiful city that I used to call home, Nantes, but I also hate leaving everyone here at home. When I studied abroad, it was just for a semester, which seems rather like a small amount of time compared to the amount of time abroad that I am about to face, eight months time. Eight months does not seem like that much time at all, but I can assure you it seems to me like all the time in the world. I just think about the last eight months of my life. I have changed so much. So much of my life has been completely turned around and upside down in that amount of time. Eight months ago, I was extremely unsure of myself and of what my life would look like. I had hoped that I would be returning to France soon, but I had no way of being sure. I was unsure of my aspirations and my passions. Moving back to France was only a dream, and grad school was not even a question. So much can change in just eight months.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’ll forget what it’s like to be home, with the people that I love the most. I’m afraid that I’ll change, not in a good way. I’m afraid that the pain of missing everyone will be too much. I’m definitely afraid.

I’m also excited. I’m excited to see my second home again. I’m excited for new hellos and new friendships. I’m excited for self discovery and self-growth. I’m excited for travel and adventures. I’m excited to share my passion of language with French high school students. I’m excited to be able to call a new city home.

It kind of overwhelms me though, knowing that my heart will always be torn between people and places. Sometimes, I wish I could just bridge the gap between all of my homes. It’s saddening and overwhelming knowing that I can’t really ever do that.

I only have three days left in the States before I say goodbye for quite some time. It’s really hard, and I really hate goodbyes. I really really hate goodbyes. Here’s to new hellos though because after all, they aren’t true goodbyes, just temporary ones (at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

Much love and à plus mes amis!