Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Crazy Week

It's been a while since the last post. Everything is ok, Duncan is settling in very well and now seems to feel very much at home. At first he hid a lot and would come out to play every now and then. Now he demands attention in the morning and then again about 10pm when he really wakes up. Perfect timing for when we are trying to calm down and get ready to sleep.

Last Thursday and Friday he seemed really sluggish and he had some pretty awful poops. I won't go into detail here, you don't come here for gore. Friday we took him to the vet down the street just to get him checked out since he has never had any shots. Turns out the little bugger had worms!! AND ear mites. I have not stopped itching since Friday. First I was convinced that I had caught some sort of parasite from him. I'm sure I'm ok, but oh man. How icky is that. Worms.

Everyone I tell this is not surprised and everything I read online seems to suggest that most kittens get worms. I don't know, I feel like if my cat has worms I should have wheels on my house and be drinking Milwaukee's Best or something along those lines. Because of all the pooping and such the poor guy was really dehydrated and the vet wanted to keep him overnight just in case he had some virus or something. Animal health is not socialized of course (bummer). He got the overnight stay, an IV, two ear meds, what looks like 6 months of worm pills and some vitamin stuff we have to force down his throat twice a day for 5 days. I think all of that cost us 190 euro, so $245 later we have a healthy and overly active cat. Once all his little stomach passengers died off, which the vet assured me was overnight, he was a new cat! He is jumping all around, chasing invisible bugs and learning how to climb onto the couch. Although he did cost a bit upfront, I'm hoping he is going to be a healthy guy in the future. I swear he seems to be growing right before my eyes...oh they grow up so quickly...

School is ok. I was giving the go ahead to split the class up into two groups and have only one group in the room at a time, that has helped a great deal. I also like working with the kids, but it's not a dream job. I would actually really like to get involved on the administration side in recruitment of students or something along those lines. For now it's perfect though. I have three classes on Tuesday and two on Thursday. Perfect for a little extra spending money. I spend way too much time planning lessons though. I know it won't be like that forever though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A new addition....

Well...we were hoping to have a "family" of course, but we thought it would be while. We just got married less than a month ago. I still have my wedding dress out in the guest room!

Last Saturday Cyr and I went to his mother's house to celebrate her birthday. We went to eat lunch at a Greek restaurant in Belgium and then went back to the house for the afternoon and had a light dinner there as well. She really enjoyed her presents (three large wooden owls and a bracelet) I think.

When we arrived everything seemed normal. Once we said our hellos and did all the kissing cheeks we headed into the kitchen (which seems to be the meeting area in all countries). Both Cyr's brother and his mother were talking about what I thought was an accident that one of the cats had. "Ewe" thought I. When we got to the kitchen Cyr's brother picked up a little black furry thing and said, "c'est la petit merde!"

Annie found 3 (or 4, not quite sure) kittens at her office in a some machine thing last Wednesday. I think one of them died, but two were adopted and then she still had the little black guy and was looking for a home for him (or her). He was so cuddly! I have never had a cat and didn't really think much of the little guy until Cyr said; "Uh oh, I think Susan might have found a home for the little guy." I actually never thought we would take him home, I just thought he was cute and liked to hold him. Of course I jumped on the boat though and we stopped by a pet store coming home from lunch and bought all the necessities. One thing I can't handle is a house that smells like a cat lives there. So far we have been pretty good. But when the little guy know he goes...I'm a fairly immediate pooper scooper. Thank goodness it only happens once or twice a day. I'm hoping the poop will mellow with his age, but I'm thinking this is actually the opposite of the developmental cycle of cats. But hey...our house doesn't smell! It actually smells better because I'm so paranoid I am lighting candles and such. Before the kitten the candles just sat around, now they are being used.

So then there was the naming thing. Apparently there is a cat/dog naming convention that I was not aware of. Each year has a letter of the alphabet (as opposed to another kind of letter. Why do people say that?) ascribed to it and you are supposed to name your animal a name that begins with that year's letter. This year is "D". We don't really know if it's a boy or a girl, things are really small down there, but we think it's a boy. We went through a few rounds of names, but then we settled on a strong Scottish name from the Highlands...Duncan. Because there can only be one... Check out our newest addition!!
So far he's great. Very friendly and playful!

As for I had The Class and Zee Class both. The Class was first. I went in with the same lesson plan I did last week with Zee Class. Low and went great! The class ended and we had finished the lesson (advertising campaigns) and I really felt they had learned something. I went to a meeting for the language classes during lunch (chicken baguette sandwich) then went on to Zee Class. We had to finish up the lesson from last week, which we did. After much prodding and poking. Then we moved on to some grammar work. Then all hell broke loose. Seriously...35 kids in this class. A few kids are completely fluent, most of them are conversationally able to survive while speaking English, then there are about 8 of them that are really, really behind. I'm going to have to split the class up next week and plan two lessons because the fluent kids are going crazy with me trying to work with the slower ones and the material I am supposed to use for the class is WAY over the heads of many of them. I am so glad I had the first class because I would have left feeling like a total failure. Blah, blah...I'm not in the mood to be all dark and pissy tonight. I get so irritated when I read blogs that do nothing but complain so I am going to reserve my "oh woe is me" post for another day. Things really are not that bad. Other than the fact that I have to go back to Zee Class next Tuesday. :-(

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy B-Day Annie! (and More work)

I meant to post this yesterday but forgot...oops! Yesterday was my new mother-in-law's birthday. We are going over to her house this weekend to celebrate. I'm looking forward to it actually. I had a great time the last visit and am feeling a lot more comfortable speaking in French. She actually speaks good English, but I think I should speak French because we are in France.

As for work; well when it rains it pours. ( cliche...but very appropriate being I live in the north.)

So I was offered the 2nd class and have my schedule all set up. Looks like Tuesday is college day with The Class in the morning and Zee Class in the afternoon. I am excited because I already have both lessons done for next week. Woohoo!

I also was offered an adult education class at a large mail order company here in Lille. There are three classes with only 3-7 people in each class. The pay is not as good as the college one, but it's half the work. We even have a book!! How crazy...the company has a book and a syllabus, but the college does not. Hmmm....maybe if folks learned more English in college they wouldn't need the adult courses after they graduate eh?

I also discovered a super cool store which most of you living in France may already know about. My friend Marie told me about it. A big thank you to Marie in Lille!! It's called Picard. It is a store that sells nothing but frozen foods. You might think "ewe...frozen food?" but it's all (what I would call) slightly fancy (some full on fancy) and super pretty. They have tons of little snacks for aperitifs and little desserts along with fantastic full meals. Including pizzas and pancakes! It's like the freezer section of Sam's Warehouse if they were owned by Neiman Marcus and sold small portions instead of the bulk sizes. Best yet, the prices are not bad at all! We were going to have guests tonight so I bought some little snackies and desserts. Turns out they are not going to make it, but I think I might implement "snack night" and munch down on them anyway. I am going to charge my camera to take pictures so I can post them tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad! (plus the quest for a Carte de Sejour)

First things first...Happy Birthday Dad!! I'm over here in Lille thinking about you! I just got off the phone with my Dad and told him Happy Birthday...but I just love birthdays so much I thought I would say it again. Miss you!

UHHHHH....I JUST LOST A WHOLE POST!! Apparently there is a magic button that erases everything. How irritating. now round two of typing my trip to the Prefecture. I don't know if I can spill out the magnificent prose that was flowing forth from my here is an overview:

I asked Cyr many, many times if we are prepared for our meeting. Almost to a point that begins to annoy him. I remind him I don't speak or read French well so he has to be the responsible one for this thing. I also tell him I have not read the list, because I can't read French. On Saturday, after a visit to the Marie, he is able to tell me that we have everything except my passport: photos. Yeah!!

I repeatedly ask him. He repeatedly says "yes".

We show up for our meeting 10 minutes early. We see a sea of people waiting in the same room looking at the monitor for their number to be called. We get ready to settle in for a long wait.

We are the first ones called at 13:01!! (1:00) No way...

We sit down and the woman starts asking for things. Oh...there is a form we had. It's not filled out. I raise an eyebrow at Cyr but he apologizes and begins to fill it out. She asks for our photocopies. Cyr shoots a glance my way. Eyes dart to the woman.

We have no photo copies. I look at the yellow sheet and at the top, in BOLD LETTERED CAPS UNDERLINED is a word that looks like PHOTOCOPY.

Susan; jaw drops, eyes widen, head tilts to the side, one eyebrow finds it's way much higher than the other. Daggers then begin shooting out of my eyes.

Cyr begins to be very charming in French. Apologizing also because apparently there is a SECOND form in our packet (which we had, we just didn't fill out) that is not complete. He asks if there is a copy machine in the building. Yes there is. He runs to find it. He leaves behind a document. I think I actually began to show my teeth at this point.

I run to catch him. Through the crowd in the waiting room, up stairs, past the entrance, into another crowded room. I tap (ok, maybe it was a bit more than a tap) him on the back and shove hand the other document to him. He smiles sheepishly and finds the machine. We make copies. Meanwhile I am telling him of stories I know of people being sent home for the no copy thing. Having to wait weeks for another appointment.

We run back through the room, past the entrance, down the stairs, through another group past the guards and to our lady. Cyr again becomes this charming French speaking person repeatedly telling her "C'est ma faute, c'est ma faute." Translated "It's my fault, it's my fault." Uh. Yeah. Meanwhile she sees me trying to inflict mass amounts of pain in him with my stare. I think she understands, the amazement and anger in my stare must translate well in French.

This is where things get really crazy.

She accepts all of our paperwork and then tells us all about everything. She answers all of our questions and we are out in under 20 minutes. WITH my temporary CDS.


Once out of the office Cyr immediately does the right thing and invites my scorn. But how mad can I be? We actually got my temporary Carte de Sejour and I can now have health care and a legal working paycheck. I am mostly in shock. I try to bark at him but mostly just can't believe it worked out. Then he bought me lunch with warm mauled wine, three new hats and we have moved on. He is so lucky things worked out...It's like I told him; "the execution was horrible and you get a D- on that, but the result was an A so I guess you pass."

Thank goodness yesterday was a holiday for this lady. I think she got some sleep. And maybe she felt sorry for Cyr when she saw that I could not take my eyes off him with my Death Ray Stare. Maybe she wanted us out of her office because she was worried I would actually succeed in making his head explode. Either way...I'm legal baby...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Week Number 2....

So I had my second class with...well maybe I was too about Zee Class? (Read: someone from the school might find this blog) :-)

So I had Zee Class last night. I went in an hour early to make sure I had everything prepared. I even typed out an agenda to follow as a sort of lesson plan guide. I had more than enough things for the two hour lesson. Side note: I find it odd that one week the class is 2 hours and the next week it is 2 hours and 30 minutes. It changes every week. It also changes rooms and sometimes the time. Why not have a set schedule? Every week the kids have new schedules to follow. They also change things around if the kids don't like something thing. I don't know if I have mentioned this, but it is VERY different from American universities. They are with the same group all day long and take every class together. So my 35 kids are with each other in every class, all day long. It sounds a lot like high school but the classes are very intense and they take way more class time than normal college hours. They are in class 8 hours a day every day.

But back to the changing things around part...The kids in one of the classes didn't want a Friday 2-4 class because on Friday they feel they should be able to go on vacation for the weekend and they want to be able to get out of town early. The kids bring this to the attention half way through the semester mind you. So what happens? The administration changed the class to Wednesdays. You have got to be kidding me. I really just have too many thoughts about why I disagree with this action. A few would be: they knew from the start the time of this class, not to mention all the time that has gone into scheduling a professor and a room not to mention that if they do end up getting real jobs, can they just tell their boss they don't want to work Friday? Is this mirroring real life? Plus...I thought the weekend was your vacation? Did they start implementing Friday as a day off here too? Well, I guess if that 35 hour work week thing sticks then maybe the previous questions are all answered "Uh...maybe. Yes."

Back to the class. So I was waiting for the class. And waiting. It was time for class and no kids. It was 5 past and not one student. I know I was in the right place at the right time because I actually checked two different times in the office to make sure I had the correct room, time and day. Did they all decide to skip? I walk into the hall and see my kids in the room next to mine. They slowly begin to file in about 10-15 minutes late. The computer teacher kept them. Oh. How thoughtful of him. Of course why would English class be important right? I know I should have been upset, but part of me thought "oh well, now I don't have to fall back on the stupid vocabulary thing if we finish early."

It was a bit of a rowdy crew at first. I put together a marketing lesson and had a few fun things prepared. I cut the lights and showed a Top 10 Commercials from one of the Super Bowls. They all stopped as if they were hypnotized. Crazy...they calmed down and I was able to talk to them between clips. They then created campaigns and presented them. There was a lot of talking, but they actually delivered. Some very well even! I feel much better about the class now. I know they are bright, they just need a little herding in the right direction.

I also got a call from the teacher that is taking The Class over. (That was the 2nd class I was subbing in that was a bit easier to control.) She said the kids didn't like having such a late class and were going to go to the Dean to see if they could reschedule the class. (See paragraph 3.) She asked if I could teach that class if it moved. Heck yeah!! Well how about that, the power of the student worked in my favor. Huh. With the extra class I can now start putting a little money back in my US bank account (which has not seen any action since January). I have not gotten the official word, but I might pick up the second class next week. I'll keep you posted!

Tomorrow Cyr and I have our appointment with the Prefecture to present my paperwork for my Carte de Sejour. Crossing my fingers it goes well and she accepts everything we have. It seems to me that many times the government folks here decided what happens depending on what mood they are in and how they feel about you. I know people that have presented exactly the same paperwork I have for a certain thing, but their papers were rejected and they were asked to supply additional things. I guess I caught the person on a good day. Hope our nice government worker is having a good day tomorrow. I want to be able to travel back home without too much trouble. Cross your fingers!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Class Number 2: "The Class"

Ok, so I was not overly excited about taking the Wednesday class last night. It is not actually scheduled to be my class. There is a Canadian girl who is supposed to take it but is having visa challenges so she is not able to start yet. I said I would pick it up this week and then she is supposed to have it back next week. The good thing was that I knew it was only two hours and I had the huge packet my director gave me so I knew they would have things to work on. This class however ended up being MUCH different than my original class. Which from now on I will refer to as "The Zoo"...

Scene 1: Enter young man with facial hair.
Susan: Hello there, welcome to English. You are a little early (it was 20 till) but have a seat and can you show me where you are on the attendance sheet?
Young Man: Sure, no pro-blum! Air ewe going to be are teasher for zee rest of zee yeer?
Susan: Remains frozen...he is speaking English!! Eyes wide but trying not to look like deer in headlights. Respond accordingly.
Scene 2: Enter a group of 4 young men. All greet me in English, all begin talking in English.
Susan: (Not out loud) OH DAMN!! This is not even my real class and so far they understand me!!
Scene 3: 30 kids are in the room (5 are absent), all of which seem to be understanding English and speaking back. Two people speak English with British accents. No way...why isn't THIS my class? This is what I was told I would actually have. Now I'm prepared for The Zoo and I actually have "The Class".

The same thing happened when I taught 2nd grade in Houston. I was the new teacher in the 2nd grade block and was given all the kids the other teachers didn't want. But by Christmas I loved them and we had a fairly cohesive class. By the end of the year we all cried when we had to leave. I am nothing if not a sales person...and teaching to me is selling an idea (or group of ideas). Now I need to sell English with the challenge being I have a varied audience. No problem. Wish I could up my commission. Maybe add some kind of spif or hazard pay for The Zoo?

Anyway, The Class was great, I really enjoyed them. There was of course some talking and cutting up, and another Facebook surfer during class, but we were able to get through it. At the end of class they actually told me they learned something and that they hoped I would be their teacher next week. Me too too...

So. I am already putting together some exciting things for The Zoo (which will be held on Monday because of a bank holiday Tuesday I am told). In truth I think I am more excited by the idea of The Zoo because it posses a larger challenge for me. I am planning to split them into three groups to work. The kids all seem bright, just at very different levels. Last night I actually had The Class all work on mostly the same things but at different times so I could work with small groups and it went well. Who knows, it might turn out that I get both classes because of the visa issues with the Canadian girl.

So thanks for all the good karma folks! It worked!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Job

Ok, I know I should probably say something about the elections right? I did get up at 3:30am to watch CNN and see how things turned out. Not so much because I am so political as that I was coughing and felt bad about waking Cyr up. I actually love election coverage the day of. Watching the states come in, seeing the excitement from both parties.

Is it strange that all of a sudden I feel like I can be "proud" to be an American again? I am so tired of feeling like I have to apologize for Bush every time someone finds out I am from Texas. This is not a political blog and I do not want it to be, but the people have chosen and it's time to once again be proud of our country and our leader. Unfortunately I went last night with a group of people (me being the only American) to see the Oliver Stone film "W". How I wish I could get those two hours of my life back. From now on every time I hear "The Yellow Rose of Texas" I am going to think of W. trying to bong Jack Daniels or stuff a burger in his face. I am not making a statement other than to say; "Not all Texans are like W. He isn't even FROM Texas and he didn't go to Texas colleges."

Well that was longer than anticipated....

So my first day at work...was completely not what I expected. I was told that they all had a firm grasp on English and that I was to teach high level Business English to them. The first two students walk in, I say "Hello, welcome! I know we are part way through the semester, is this your first English class of the year?"

Response: ::Eyes dart from side to side. A slight smile and cock of the head reminds me of when I used to make funny noises to my dog to see him looked confused. It's the same look. It's because they don't understand a friggin word I have said. Ahh...nothing like exaggeration while selling a job eh?

So as my 35 young 18 year old students file in for my 2.5 hour class I begin to see that most are not very good with English. About 5 of them can hold a conversation. I try to start off by telling about myself and the course objective. I move on to a simple lesson and ask why there is so much talking.

Response: ::"I have to translate for my friend" respond a few people.

Ahh...I see.

So needless to say it was a fairly long class. At one point I asked the kids to use paper to put their names on so I could see who they were. One kid told me "That is a waste of paper." I told him he should go hang out in the office and see how much paper this school wastes making copies if this bothered him. Maybe next week I will suggest he start a coalition to use less paper.

Funny thing is that it really wasn't that bad. We had some good conversations, I got a few groups to get up and argue (or try) points of business and one person even told me he learned a few new words. 10 years ago I would have been upset because my plan crashed, but I recovered. It was like a sales meeting where you find out the person you are selling to doesn't need the product you thought they did but instead needs something about 90 degrees different. I can identify with and see how frustrated they are and am planning to break them up into groups next week. 35 kids is a big crew to teach English to, especially with such a broad array of levels in the room. Should be a nice challenge I guess.

Today I am picking up a class from the Canadian teacher who has a conflict with the class time. I teach the same material but only for 2 hours so it should be better than yesterday. At least I know what to expect today! I have asked to sit in on a colleague's class, but I doubt he will let me. This would be someone who was not willing to share lesson plans after all...

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Last Part of my Succes :-)

Ok...I have taken a few days away from the computer but I am back!! I thought I would post a few pictures of the reception so you could all see what it was like. I was really worried because I thought it would be too small, but our friends really stepped up. My table of friends and family all made sure to dance and have fun, Cyr's tables all made an effort as well. The food was fantastic and the music was great. We had a combination of classic American hits, French classics plus even a little country!!

Above is a picture of me and my family and friends going into the Chateau where we had the vin d'honnour. We were so lucky with the weather!! We took pictures with the photographer during the vin d'honnour and I regret that we didn't spend much time with out guests. I would have liked to talk to them a little more. It seemed like the night passed so quickly!!

There was dancing...

By the time we ended the vin d'honnour my feet were killing me. So I had to bring in a little Texas...

Cyr and I danced our first dance to Anne Murray, "May I have this dance". Nothing like a waltz in a big ivory colored dress while wearing a tiara. Ahhh...

I don't have those pictures yet, but here are Cyr and I in the background after a dance. The handsome fella in the forefront of the picture is Cyr's brother. A real "Beau-Frere" eh?! He's only 18 phone numbers!

I still think I got the best one though!

Here is our fire-hazard-dessert-buffet. It was awesome!! There were about 6 or 8 of those things all over the table!!

Then the toast... I am sure you are completely weddinged out! I think I am done here. I might send out a link to folks once we get the professional ones back. I will for sure send it to family (don't worry Dad and will get more!!).

Tomorrow is my first day of teaching. Woohoo! I have a fairly solid plan though I'm sure something will go wrong and make it exciting. At least now I will have something to blog about other than wedding plans and photos. :-)

Really quick though...thanks to all the folks that came over. Lori, Lori, Tracy, Melinda and Ann; I will never forget you all for being here to support me. Ari and Betrand; you guys are great, I can't wait to see you again! All of Cyr's friends; Kate, Alex, Marc and all the rest. Thank you!! You are now my friends too! Aunt Helen, Sally, Kathy and Joyce; you are all family. Really great family. I know it was not easy to come over, thank you so much. Mom...what can I say...there are not words that can tell you how much I appreciate you always being there for me when things are hard, or listening to me when times are good. I could not have a better Mom, I hope I can return all the kind things you have done for me. I love you.

Ok, enough mushy stuff. Let's move on to real life eh? The one without tiaras, fluffy ivory dresses or great champagne. Well, maybe with great Champagne...and maybe I can wear that tiara sometimes too. And maybe I can dye that dress...I love that dress... ;-)