Thursday, 14 April 2011


ok. i'm a bad blogger, i'll admit it. i'm sorry.
it's been two months since i last posted, and so much has happened since then. i will do my best to fill you in.

first, i successfully signed up to work with oxfam at glastonbury again this year! i've only been twice before, but now it's got to the point where if i ever didn't go to glastonbury i'd feel like i was missing out on so much. it is one of my favourite weeks of the summer, without a doubt, and each year as soon as it's over i start counting down until the next one. the organisers released the official line up today. it is so amazing i can't wait. and i bought some new wellies in preparation. june 20th cannot come fast enough.

i spent two weeks at the end of feb/start of march back in england. it was really nice to be home, especially since i'd had an 8 week run of work (the longest stretch of continuous work in my entire contract), and i was really tired and needed a break. this side of the holidays, there's only 6 weeks, which i can't decide is good or bad. since christmas, time seems to be whizzing past me at such a rate it's unbelievable. i have no idea where my time here has gone, and i'm getting to the stage now where going home (i'm leaving two weeks today) is becoming really real.
as i sit here typing this, i have two huge removals boxes stacked up next to me, constantly reminding me of the fact that a) i have to leave this beautiful part of the world and b) how much at home i have made myself here. the sheer fact that i have to even source removals boxes and get quote estimates from UPS to ship my belongings home is testament to the fact that for the past 7 months, my tiny flat in the south of france has been my base, the place where my job is, where my friends are, and my home away from home. i genuinely will be sad to leave.
its also started to dawn on me that i do really enjoy the job i do here. there have been some moments of course when waking up at 6am to trudge through the freezing cold winter winds to teach a room full of snotty, germ ridden 8 year olds didn't hold much appeal. but as the weather has got warmer, things have become easier and more relaxed. i'm now able to walk into school feeling comfortable and at ease, without having to stress about what i've prepared and whether they will understand, whether i will remember how to speak french and use the correct tense, mood, gender and agreement in the correct moment. none of that seems to matter any more. the other lovely thing is watching the kids be so enthusiastic about and do well in their english lessons. when i come into school now i get bombarded by hoards of them all going "hello! what's your name!" at me (even though they all know my name). i get hugs, carambars, drawings, cards, biscuits and all sorts. they genuinely seem to love me. and all this makes leaving SO much harder.

if this is the last post i write (which it may well be), then i hope it sums up how much i have loved my time here. this job has made me into a much more confident, happy, self assured person, in a way that i don't think many other situations could have done. i can't emphasise enough how important this year is. i don't pretend to know a lot about politics (because i don't...), but i think it's laughable how the government were even contemplating cutting the funding for teaching assistantships abroad. i don't really have any intention of finding a career that uses my french in an obvious way: i don't want to be a translator, or an interpreter, and as much as i've loved my job this year i don't think i want to be a teacher. but this year has given me skills that i think i could apply to any job i want to go for in the future. it's shown that i'm capable, that i'm adaptable, resourceful, independent, confident and generally a really well rounded person. and what's perhaps even more important, i can recognise this now. i probably had all this potential lying dormant in me for ages, but just never realised. it's taken 7 months of hanging out with children and eating/drinking lots of yummy cheese/wine/patisserie/pastis for all of this to sink in. in terms of how my french has improved, i'm not sure i can quantify it. i definitely feel like i've learnt much more in these past few months than i have over the past couple of years at university. i've learnt things that you can only learn by living in a country - the expressions, nuances, and little tricks that fool people (but only for a second) into thinking they you may not be a foreigner. tant mieux, hein? i also chose my final year university modules today. i'm growing up.

SO if by chance you're reading this and are about to embark on any kind of adventure in the future, then i urge you, more than anything, throw yourself into every situation. make the most of every second and don't regret anything. yes there will be bad times, but they'll make you stronger. you never know how much you really can achieve until you push yourself out of your comfort zone. if i could do this year again, i would do it in a heartbeat. just go.

Monday, 14 February 2011

something to keep me going until june.

in two week's time, i'll hopefully be signing up for this for another year. excited doesn't even cover it.

14.02.2011 happy valentine's day!

the way they spell my name cracks me up.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


talking to a class of 7 year olds about Valentine's day. The aim was to talk about what happens in France versus what happens in the UK. The conversation went something like this...

"alors, qu'est-ce qu'on fait en france le saint valentin?"
- on fait des calins! (hugs)
"ouiii, on fait des calins. et quoi d'autre?"
- on fait des bisous! (kisses)
"oui, pourquoi pas, on faire des bisous pour souhaiter un bon nouvel an, et le saint valentin en plus, ouais. quoi d'autre?"

at this point, they were running out of ideas, until one boy, obviously very proud that he'd suddenly thought of something, practically leapt off his chair and thrust his hand in the air.

"oui romain, qu'est-ce qu'on fait?"

cue about 20 hands clapped over very shocked mouths. and lots and lots of giggles.

- bahhh oui, si on est marié....

i love primary school.

Monday, 7 February 2011

07.02.2011 ish.

i'm currently still awake at nearly 1am on a school night. this is not good in any way shape or form.
HOWEVER, this has allowed me to sort out this spiffy new layout for the blog. it's not completely new, but I like it. and now you can all see what Avignon looks like. pretty huh?

going to haul myself up into my bed now (not even kidding. check out the photos of my flat here. my bed is up that ladder. effort.) and force myself to sleep. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

06.02.2011 la vie, c'est dur.

So it's been less than a month since i last blogged. I think we can count that as an improvement? woo!

Life in provence trundles on at it's own meandering pace. Since my last post, the weather has turned from warm and sunny, to damp and rainy, to freezing cold and sunny (believe me, this is possible with 40kph winds), and is now comfortably settled back to being warm and sunny. So warm and sunny in fact that i have eaten outside on two consecutive days and have walked around in sunglasses and a tshirt without goosebumps. More on that later.

A couple of weeks ago i received my first housing benefit payment! Since it was the first one, i was owed for november and december, which meant that i got two month's worth in one go (a sweet 460€ no less), and then last week i received january's payment. All this on top of getting my salary meant that i went from being only just in the black to being nearly 1500€ in the black. whoah. being me, the only thing i could possibly do to mark this occasion was go shopping. so i did. i spent a very happy afternoon in sephora choosing a new perfume for myself, and eventually settled on chanel coco mademoiselle (when in rome...). I also went hunting in the vintage shop here and got my hands on an absolute find. an old barbour bedale waxed jacket. it looks like this:

the one i have badly needs re-waxing so is a little paler green than this. it also has a tiny scratch/rip on one of the cuffs, but generally i am very pleased with it! I discovered that new they cost £190 and are going on ebay for around £100. I payed a grand sum of 40€ for mine...

Kathryn came to stay unfortunately on the wettest weekend we've seen in Avignon for a good few weeks. that said, i hope she had a nice time seeing where i've been spending my year. We went to marseille on the saturday and had a wander around. we were limited as to what we could do comfortably by the weather, but we did do a bit of shopping and go for a coffee in a very important café. i'll put a picture up. 10 points to whoever can identify it's importance.

Saturday was one of my friend's birthdays, so to celebrate a group of us took the train down to the cote d'Azur to spent the day by the beach in Cassis. If you've never spent a day on the cote d'Azur, i recommend stopping everything and booking flights immediately. It was beautiful!! The weather was so unbelievably warm and the sky was the most clear, gorgeous blue i have ever seen. we went and got ice cream (kinder flavour... omg!) on the beach, and sat by the harbour and ate moules frites in the sunshine for lunch before walking it all off hiking along the cliffs around the coast. myself and nicky have since vowed to spend every other weekend after the winter holidays by the sea.
here are a collection of photos from the day:

the port. lots of pretty coloured boats.

yummy ice cream.

myself and nicky in the restaurant waiting for our moules. note the choice (lack) of clothing.

the moules arrived. complete with a bucket for the empty shells.

the view from the top of the cliff we climbed to.

sitting triumphantly at the view point. our feet were tired by this point.

sat on the beach watching the sunset.

the port at sundown.

So as you can see, it was pretty beautiful. If you wanna come and visit and spend the day then let me know! The following day was equally as gorgeous, so obviously a sunday lunch outside with a tartine and a glass of rosé was obligatory.

In terms of work, i have recently started conversation classes with the teachers I'm working with. This is completely alien for me, because the only times i have ever been in this kind of intimate teaching situation before in my life was when i was having conversation classes to improve my french, so my instinct is to speak french the whole time, not english. I suppose also that it doesn't help that i'm teaching primary school children here, because even though i do teach them how to speak english, there is still a lot of explanation in french involved. after 5 times of explaining instructions to any particular game in english and failing miserably, it is soooo much easier to just switch into french. So that means i instinctively start explaining something to them (the teachers) in french and they stop me going "no no eeen eeengleesh!". fatigant.
I'm also starting private tutoring this week. It is the son of a teacher at one of my schools who is in 6ème at the collège and is apparently very shy and struggling with talking english at school. So my job (i think) will just be to turn up and chat to him. I'm hoping it goes ok. either way, i'm getting paid 15€ per hour to do it, so happy days.

A group of us went to see the King's Speech at the cinema last week - I really really enjoyed it. I'm not sure i've been to the cinema and enjoyed a film so much in ages. We're quite limited here as to what british/american films are shown in VO (version originale), so i was so pleased to see that this was showing. I read an excellent article on daily mail online (no, that's not an oxymoron) about it last night. Also i had no idea that Geoffrey Rush was actually australian. oops. Off to see Black Swan on wednesday this week, so hoping that'll be good too.

I should probably go now and get on with my hectic evening of drinking tea, eating patisserie and watching biggest loser. only three weeks to go and I'll be back on english soil. HOORAH. Hopefully I'll blog again before then. If i remember.
Lots of love xxx

Monday, 10 January 2011

'appy new year

hello 2011!
firstly, an apology: each time i remember to blog, i close by promising to write more frequently. such is the exciting pace of life here (teaching, essay writing, going out for wine, watching iplayer/megavideo, eating cheese) that it always slips my mind. once a month is a poor, poor average. rumour is that at the start of a new year people try to make resolutions to do things, so i'll try to make this one of mine.

so i have a few loose ends to tie up - the thanksgiving dinner was a success! discovering that i could cook some yummy roast potatoes in my tiny electric oven was a special moment, and since then i have tried to be a lot more adventurous with my cooking. i have cooked two roast dinners for myself and my friends, and have sandwich bags full of various different meals all sat in my freezer. trying to be organised and healthy (so as to avoid dinners of baguette and cheese) is another of my resolutions. so far so good.

I went to spend a weekend with my friend, Kathryn up in Paris in december. Kathryn is another assistant, working in secondary schools in an affluent Paris suburb. It was lovely to go up and visit her and see how her life here differs from mine. Being in Paris would be really good, but it's so so different to how it is in provence. the pace of life, the countryside and even the accent is very different. She is coming down to stay with me for a weekend in a couple of weeks, which i'm really looking forward to. it'll be good for her to see la vie au sud!
Just before the christmas holidays, my brother flew down to marseille to stay with me for a few days, and we travelled back for christmas together. I think he enjoyed seeing where I am living for these months. my parents and my grandmother helped me move in, so it felt right that he came down to see where i am too. we went out for dinner and explored the christmas market with a nutella crepe each, before heading up to paris for a couple of days to explore there. Being in paris was really good fun. we discovered that if you are under 26 and from the EU you can get into loads of places for free!! since the weather was pretty crappy, we took advantage of this in a big way, and got into the pompidou centre, the louvre and the arc de triomphe for nothing. and got half price entry into a photography exhibition jack wanted to see.

Jack with his 'planchette' of salami, brie, paté and gherkins with toast, at one of my favourite restaurants in Avignon, ginette et marcel's.
yum yum.

unfortunately, our stay was somewhat dampened by our journey home to england, which involved standing in a 'queue' in gare de nord for about 4 hours. we finally made it back to the homeland in the early hours of the morning, and i spent a lovely two weeks back home with friends and family for christmas. as always, i really enjoyed being back in england. spending the days skidding about on the icy roads, stuffing yourself with twiglets/mince pies/roast dinners and lounging in front of a log fire is something i began to really crave towards the end of the last term. i have come back to france feeling rested, but two weeks is definitely not enough time off. we british kids are spoilt with our month long holidays, that's for sure.
that said, at the point of writing this, i have less than six weeks to go until i am home again (bringing an american with me this time), and after that there are only six weeks until my contract is finished. i think these remaining months will go really quickly, and although i am slightly homesick (i really really need to stop smelling laundry that 'still smells like home'), i'm also fully aware that this time is precious and it will whizz by really fast. so definitely going to try and make the most of everything this year.
school is still going well, and i am beginning to see improvements in my students' capabilities, which is quite amazing. i don't think i ever expected to be teaching things that would be retained, so feeling quite happy about that. doing this job has really made me think about how i have been taught in the past, and there are certainly things i was taught in french lessons at school all through my education, that i still rely on now. one of the first things i remember being taught at primary school was how to say 'au revoir, à bientôt!'... and now i'm wondering if when i got taught that, i knew what it meant? i don't think i did. but it stuck. scary to think that i am doing that to my kids when i leave the classroom by saying 'bye, see you soon!!'
i am also slowly beginning to be firmly enrolled into the french bureaucratic system. a few forged signatures here and there (i am an official birth certificate translator, don't you know), should hopefully mean that i won't receive any more letters asking me for various different documents. i have also already been reimbursed some of the cost of my doctors appointment and prescription from when i had bronchitis in october, and i should be receiving 250€ish of housing benefit in the coming weeks courtesy of the french government. wahooo more free money!
It will sound weird, but every now and then, i get these strange moments where i suddenly realise that i am living in France. up until now, France has been somewhere i've only ever been on holiday or on school trips, but now it's somewhere i live. i wouldn't go as far as to say that this is my home, but it is somewhere that i now feel comfortable, and strangely, it doesn't feel at all foreign. it's the times when i get glimpses of 'holiday france' when i'm going about my everyday business here that i remember where i am.
the weather too, has been absolutely blinding the past week. from what i can gather, weather back home in the uk at the moment is fairly dismal, but here there isn't a cloud in the sky. it's so good to just be able to sit outside and just feel the sun's warmth again. hopefully it will continue!
I am off out tonight to see a cello/piano concert at the opera house in town, which i am really looking forward to. i'm trying to be more cultured while living here. that said, i am also currently watching 'tool academy' on 4od, and spent the majority of this morning watching 'the biggest loser usa'. so everything in moderation...