Archive | September 2010

Saying goodbye

My first regular classes were on Tuesday July 6th. I had three classes – Groupe Prima at 9:00, Sandra at 11:00 and Groupe Lazaar at 1:30.

Today was my last day with these students, and it feels a little strange to know that my time with them is already over.

For Groupe Prima I prepared a lesson about Paris, starting with a podcast about an American girl’s view of Paris from podcastsinenglish.com, some extracts from Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, and part of an interview with Stephen Clarke about his new book – M is for Merde.

Unfortunately only Anne-Françoise showed up (I think this was due to today’s metro strikes). I was a little worried about only having one student – the success or failure of this lesson depended on the conversation, and I’d taken three extracts from Almost French so each student would have something to talk about.

Luckily it was a subject that interested Anne, and the conversation flowed easily, covering clichés, obesity, changing ways of life, table manners and even the court of Louis XIV.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t put as much effort into my next lesson with Sandra. As the last lesson was only an hour and she was at a lower level, we did exercises about stress from Market Leader Pre-Intermediate. Though, with a lot of urging her on through the grammar (past simple and present perfect verbs) and trying to figure out where our respective occupations would fit on a list of the most stressful occupations, it ended up being a pretty punchy hour.

Groupe Lazaar was the lesson that was really concerning me, for the following reasons:

  1. It had been one month since I last saw them, due to holidays
  2. We’d only had one lesson with both of the students together, so I wasn’t sure what the dynamic would be like (being the summer holiday period, I had seen Samya for three lessons and Florence for four)
  3. I don’t think Florence likes me much
  4. They were handing in their Fiches d’Appreciation (appreciation forms – used for student feedback) today, and I was worried I wouldn’t do well due to Florence not liking me and each of them missing a number of lessons

So I made an effort to plan, what I hoped was, an interesting and varied lesson. Knowing that Florence didn’t like Business English, I planned a lesson about food. We would start with a news lesson from Onestopenglish about the fall of Burger King, then I would give each of them a half-completed crossword to complete by giving each other clues for the missing words, then we would do some listening from a case study about Valentino chocolates from Market Leader Pre-Intermediate.

However, when I reached their office on rue Montmartre, Florence had lost her voice! My dreams of a lively final lesson filled with conversation and laughter had vanished – whenever Florence tried to say anything, every rasping wheeze was an effort.

So the news lesson didn’t work to well – we did it, but it was uncomfortably quiet – but the crossword ended up being a lot of fun. Anytime they tried to give clues or translations in French I’d call out “English!” and some of the descriptions they used were really unusual, if ineffective (Samya tried to describe ‘rice’ to Florence by talking about Rice Krispies).

I’ll let you know how I went on the Fiches d’Appreciation once the last couple have been sent to me – of the ones I received today, one was surprisingly good and another was disasterously bad, so hopefully the last couple bring the average back up.

Modern day singles’ bars

No, I haven’t been trawling the streets of Paris for men; I just think I may have stumbled upon a new singles’ scene. If the following has happened to anyone else, please write in. I’m curious to see whether it’s a growing phenomenon.

On Wednesday I was changing trains at Nation and was riding up the escalator. I was thinking at the time, and I bite my lower lip when I think. As I was riding the escalator, I happened to make eye contact with a man who was descending on the escalator next to me, who mimicked me by biting his lower lip.

Having been doing this unconsciously, I released my lip.

He then grinned and waved.

I couldn’t help but smile, and continued on my merry way.

He called out “attends!” behind me.

I would normally consider this to be an isolated incident, but on Friday I happened to meet someone else due to our escalators crossing.

This time I was riding down the escalator from Quatre Temps (the shopping centre at La Défense) to the metro Grande Arche – La Défense. I stepped off the escalator and started walking through the small market stalls to the next one, when a man caught my eye.

“Vous êtes très belle,” he said.

I smiled, and continued walking.

He began speaking to me in French, to which I replied with my usual “I’m not French.”

“Oh, you’re not French!” he exclaimed in perfect English.

“No,” I smiled.

“I was just saying that I saw you on the escalator,” he told me. “I was going up as you were going down, and you were so beautiful that I had to come down again and talk to you.”

My smile widened to a grin. “Thank you, that’s very flattering.”

“Would you like to get a coffee and talk?” he asked, grinning and fidgeting – seeming barely able to contain his excitement.

I hesitated, but couldn’t think of a reason why not, so agreed.

Et pourquoi pas?

Rooms – aaarrgh!!!

Yes, that was a cry of exasperation.

Picture me making it while pulling my hair out.

So the room in exchange for babysitting has been given to someone else – I’m not sure whether this is because the parents found someone they preferred, or just because BTL took a couple of days to get back to me about organising my hours. Luckily, I know I can take Bénédicte’s room, the only problem is that I don’t have a confirmed move-in date. And I’ve only been told that I can keep my current (temporary) room for up to three weeks, which could mean that I’m looking for another halfway house in a few weeks’ time.

I just want to be able to relax, and I can’t do that until I know where I’ll be living. Being constantly tense is resulting in rather drastic mood-swings, and they’re starting to exhaust me. The smallest things set them off – I’m out in Paris on a warm evening, a gentleman tells me I’m charmant, or I have a great class, and I fall in love with the city all over again and could easily see myself staying here for the whole year, and even start thinking about enrolling in a Master’s Degree here so I can get another visa after my current one expires.

And then I get tired, or hungry, or I find out that I can’t have a room I really liked, and I don’t know how I’ll get through the next week and start thinking about resigning and changing the date of my return flight to Australia.

Currently the main culprits are the rooms I see, because, when I see a good room, I start imagining my life there. When I saw Camille’s room I easily imagined my life in Paris where I went to the bakery on the corner and put my books into the shelves in the old fireplace; when I saw Cory’s room I imagined what it would be like to be an au pair as well as a teacher, and thought about being a part of a family; and when I saw Bénédicte’s room I could see myself folding my bed away every morning and writing at the desk underneath a poster of Venice before bed. Every room is a possibility of a new life, and every time I lose one, that possibility disappears.

Even last night, when I made my second trip across Paris with my luggage, my mood changed several times. Every time I move I take two trips – one with my small wheelie suitcase and my large handbags filled with books, and one with my big backpack. Last night I took the big backpack. What I didn’t take into account was that I’d be moving it after work – so I would be wearing heels and a suit as I dragged a backpack that weighs half as much as I do from the 18th to the 13th. I realised that I would look utterly ridiculous when I arrived at my former flat to collect the backpack. What I didn’t realise was how much more tiring it would be – after standing and talking to the former flat-mates for an hour my feet were already starting to ache. Then, as I heaved the backpack onto my back and navigated my way down the cobblestone road to the metro in my heels, I started to feel it through my legs and ankles.

Luckily the metro wasn’t crowded, and I managed to sit on a couple of strapontins (fold up seats in the metro) – one for my backpack and one for me. I only realised how heavy the bag was when I tried to stand up again, and fell back down to the seats. I was not happy. If I was a cartoon there would have been dark storm clouds around my head as thought about how sick I was of moving (this is the third time in three months). As I was changing to Line 7 at Gare de l’Est, I couldn’t help but think that I couldn’t do this again, that I didn’t have the strength. Then, the metro driver happened to see me as I was approaching the stairs that descended to the platform.

He waved. I waved back. He then beckoned, asking if I was catching that train. I shook my head and waved my hand dismissively –yes, I was catching a train in that direction, but he was ready to leave the platform and there was no way I could run down the stairs wearing my bag and heels. But he waited for me anyway. And I found my mood brightening as I thought that Paris is a pretty good place to be after all.

I think I need to get away for a few days. At the moment I’m so invested in every little thing that anytime anything happens (or doesn’t) it feels like it can make or break this experience, and I’m not sure I can get any perspective while I stay in Paris. So, next weekend I’m going to Oxford – hopefully my mental state doesn’t deteriorate any more before then. :p

Update: Bénédicte’s room has been confirmed and I’m moving in on Tuesday September 21st – relief!