Saturday, December 24, 2011

San Seb and Christmastime

Firstly, I apolagise for how delayed this is. The genius in me left my adaptor in France so I was unable to use my laptop for a week until a new one arrived.. There is so much to write about in these past few weeks I don't know where to begin!

Some friends and I went on a weekend getaway to Spain, with Rachel kindly driving to San Sebastian in the north of the country, not far from the border with France. We had such a fun weekend, shopping at 20% less in Zara was taken full advantage of, and of course spirits were alot cheaper there, so I made great friends with a rum called Negrita, at 12euros (10pound-ish) for 2 litres we were bound to be lovers. We tried to keep traditional with food, with tapas and sangria for lunch, and paella for dinner, although I wasn't too impressed with what 'paella' was served. How silly of me to forget paella is indeed Italian and served with broken up spaghetti, not rice.

The weather was beautiful the entire weekend, so much warmer than Bordeaux, which I thought was freezing until I arrived in London... At one point I just had on a strap top, maybe getting a tad carried away since it was still december. None the less, Clare, Rachel and I braved the sea....up to a massive knee height since we left bikinis at the hostel. The waves were bigger than I expected and so my peaceful paddle ended up in me being drenched by wave and smelling of wet dog for the rest of the day...

After an intentional Italian meal for lunch on the sunday, the five of us who stayed in San Sebastian longer (there were 10 of us between two cars, but some had to be back earlier), climbed a mini Everest to go and see the huge statue of San Sebastian that stands at the top, and enjoyed the views of the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees, as well as San Sebastian itself. The weather wasn't as lovely as it was earlier in the day, but the view was still impressive..

    Sadly it was then home time, so we made our way to the car using a sat nav (not sure if that makes us stupid or geniuses?!) to make the three hour-ish journey back to Bordeaux. We sang to Beyonce, Backstreet boys and Rihanna the entire way back, and I obviously put everyone to shame with my superstar singing voice. It was so nice to be back in France and actually understand road signs etc. I was completely lost the entire weekend in Spain, the mixture of Basque and Spanish was far too complicated, it all looked like hieroglyphics to me.

Me, Martha, Rachel, Clare and Ellie at The Bay of Biscay 

Back to school now, and what it bought in december...

We had an art exhibition one tuesday night, displaying the work of the children which parents and local members of the community could buy. I ended up buying four pieces....they were actually really good I promise. I'm going to go ahead and say that I was the inspiration for the work and that's why it was so good. Its the only reason really. Well that managed to raise around 600 euro for the school, which will go towards paying for trips and workshops for the children to take part in. We even featured in the Sud-Ouest newspaper, which I promise is very impressive!

After the exhibition was finished, all the staff went to Francoise's house (the directrice) for a Sardinian themed evening. One of our European partner schools is in Sardinia, so some of my colleagues went to visit in October. All the schools take turns doing this, and learn all about the traditions of that country. This meant the staff came back with tons of food, so we ate fish egg pasta for dinner, which was actually really nice if you didn't think about what you were eating. Other members of staff made traditional Sardinian dishes as well so we had a bit of a feast, italian bread, pizza, vegetables, cured meats etc etc, and of course some (Bordeaux) wine to go with it. As usual I sat there for a good while not understanding the super speed french being spoken by about 16 people around me, but I understood the general gist of the conversation. It's so easy to zone out, but once we were round the table eating and I was just listening to one conversation between a few people, not everyone talking over each other, it was much much easier to understand!

In the final weeks of school I taught the children a sort of DIY christmas song, since all the traditional english ones were too hard for the younger children. We sang

Santa Claus is on his way,
on his way,
on is way,
Santa Claus is on his way,
Hurry Santa

to the tune of "London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down, London Bridge is falling down, My fair lady" (at least I think those are the words but you get the jist). Well that freestyle song went down a treat and they love it, especially with the actions. I taught them all about the traditions of Christmas in England, I was horrified to find out that THEY DO NOT HAVE STOCKINGS!!!!! So when i showed them the pictures they just kept shouting "chaussette, chausette" and thought it was Santa's sock..?! After a visual demonstration (I was Santa) they understood the concept, but seemed confused that Santa did that in England but not for them...

The banner I made with Class 4 and 5

 For my lesson teaching the teachers, I made scones since it was impossible to find mincemeat to make mince pies. They were impressed with our tradition, and can't wait for the goods I'm going to bring back after Christmas seeing as I spent the most the evening recounting the food we have at home for Christmas, and in general. It was basically an hour and a half of me getting really hungry. Patrice (one of the teachers) came in to the lesson late, and accepted the offer of a scone, and when we explained you cut it in half and top it with jam and cream...this is what he did.... Horrified doesn't come close.

Well I hope you've all enjoyed this read, and I promise to be more regular with the updates in the new year.

Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee!


Friday, December 9, 2011

C'est ma vie!

Hello all! After much persuasion and encouragement I've decided it would be a fabulous idea to document my life on this year (or remaining 8 months) abroad. I'm really funny so I'm sure it will be entertaining...
 I'm hoping it will give those of you I don't get the chance to speak to very often the opportunity to keep up with my wild child antics and my general french mishaps.

Autumn in France..

Centre-ville of Bordeaux
Well as I hope you've realised, I've been living in Bordeaux for just over 3 months now. I'll start by telling you all about my job seeing as that's why I'm here. I LOVE it. I'm working at an ecole maternelle and an ecole elementaire which are connected, as an English Language Assistant. Most my time is spent in the maternelle, where the youngest child is 2, and the eldest 5. In the elementaire section the students go up to the age of 11, so like primary school in the UK. The children are amazing, and of course think I'm fabulous (rightfully so). As they're so young, a lot of my work is practical work with them, trying to drum in key themes and words, such as colours, numbers etc. The classes in elementaire however are more formal and taught in a normal classroom style. Seeing as I'm such a child myself, I have so much fun with them. I do find myself getting jealous when I can't colour with them though, as unfortunately I do need to maintain some kind of authority stance, and not act like the complete child I am. Nothing stopped me yesterday though, when I was a tad too proud when my collage bauble was the first one hung on the paper tree in class 1...

Most the children are keen to learn, so are always repeating my english words, the moment I walk into school theres just a canon of 'ello jessicaaa' in the classic french accent. As soon as one says it, the others do....then they all repeat it over and over until the teacher has to tell them to stop. I'm such a local celebrity! The school in one of the suburbs of Bordeaux, called Begles, and we have children from vastly different backgrounds. I was told this week one of the particularly agressive children sees a lot of violence at home; his mother is an alcoholic, drug addict and a prostitute. Heartbreaking doesn't even come close, and when compared with some of the other children, who's parents are really involved in the school, others are university professors, it really shows what a variety we have. All the children are fantastic though, and the school is a fabulous environment for them, no matter what it is they go home to, I really hope the time they spent there helps shape them in some way. Of course I do have favourites (should I be publicly admitting that?!) and they are so so wonderful. I'm jumped on for hugs every day and have to literally pry hands from around me to walk down the corridor, I'm already wondering how on earth I'm going to manage to leave in July...
The Staff at Arcachon

Wine Tasting in St Emilion...pros
The staff at the school deserve a mention too of course. There are 6 teachers in maternelle, plus the head teacher shares some of the responsibility with a class. They are all so lovely and really welcomed me into the school and french life. Francoise, the head teacher was kind enough to let me stay with her and her family until I found a place to live, where I her family made sure I learned everything regarding Bordeaux and it's wines, so I'm a bit of an expert these days....just saying. It's so nice to work with a team who really love what they do, the build up to christmas has me as excited as the children, watching a different christmas themed play every day...the advent calendars at school...songs about 'pere noel'. It's just all ridiculously cute and I'm far too into it.

Martha and Maddison showing Bordeaux's finest
Well that's my job covered for now, next is home sweet home. I live with a lovely little french family. The mother, Sophie and her daughter Marie who is also 21 were who I was initially living with, as her other daughter, Tiphaine had recently moved out, but we now have Sabrina, a friend of a family friend staying with us aswell, who is also my age. I do feel sorry for Sophie sometimes as were all dancing around the kitchen to Beyonce like madmen, but I think she loves that kind of spirit in the house. I'm really lucky to have got the mix of living with friends and family. Marie is so so funny, we get on like a house on fire, and does wonders for my (still failing) french, but then I still have Sophie taking good care of me, doing the airport runs etc, so I've definitely lucked out.
Maddison and I at Dune du Pyla

Hopefully it's obvious I'm having a fantastic time here thanks to my magical collection of photos to show what I don't have time/ the heart to bore you any further to write about.

I feel like this must have been really boring to read, but I wanted to set out my life here to a degree so you understand what I'm talking about when I mention things and people... I'm off to Spain tomorrow so you can expect another entry in the near future with all those fun stories.

Miss you all, love you all,