Sunday, 31 October 2010


I’m sure anyone learning a new language has experienced the moment when you learn a new word and then you hear it everywhere and then you’re not sure how you ever really lived before without knowing that word.
Most recently for me that word is bouger, it has never come up in school or uni but now I’m in France I must hear it at least 3 times a day. It means ‘to move’ or ‘to move around’ and can be used a wide range of contexts. For example my landlady said to her friend the other day ‘Katie, elle bouge beaucoup’ (lit: ‘Katie, she moves around alot’) meaning ‘Katie, she travels alot’. Or I’ve heard it being used in the context of the sort of dancing you might do at a night club. I’ve even just heard it to replace the verb aller (to go). When I asked a French person about this word she told me it’s au courant which is probably why they never taught it to us at school or uni but I can now safely say it is part of my French lexis. But I bet by the time I return to French classes at uni it will be out of fashion!
I have been doing a lot of bouge-ing recently. This week we are on Toussaint (All Saints) holiday (god bless France and its Catholic holidays) so I kindly took up the invitation from my French assistant from when I was in year 13 to spend a few days with her in Lyon and then a few friends from Dijon (other assistants) joined me for a few more days in Lyon and then we went to Annecy. In sum, Lyon is amazing with loads to see and it was very exciting being in such a busy city after being in the relativly small city for Dijon for a month. Lyon - c'est une ville qui bouge! (Lyon - it's a happening city!) Annecy's main attraction is a stunning lake at the foot of the Alpes and was a complete contrast to Lyon but also absolutely supurb! Many things happened on this holiday but for now I would like to share just a few moments with you:
  1. I attended my first French dinner party. Patricia (my French assistant from year 13 who I stayed with in Lyon) and her boyfriend hosted another couple for dinner. The prep for the food started at 5pm yet the guests didn’t arrive until 9pm, we didn’t start with the aperitifs until 10pm and after 3 different types of snack foods, 1 bottle of wine and 2 bottles of strawberry and rhubarb alcoholic liquor (a Picardy speciality – the region where Patricia is posted as an English teacher) we finally sat down for our starter at midnight. After 4 courses (starter, main, cheese and desert – that’s right in France the cheese course is before desert, which makes much more sense than the other way round quite frankly!) and several more bottles of wine we had our after dinner coffee at around 2 am! (Sadly there were no after dinner mints!) What can I say, the French take eating seriously!
  2. When we turned up for our coach from Lyon to Annecy (in good time I might add) it was clear that there were more than 1 coach worth of people waiting for the coach. In true French style there was much pushing and shoving to get on the one coach and no real form of a orderly queue and as the bus driver waved goodbye to us and the rest of the other stranded passengers (bastard!) it became evident that there would be no second coach and that they had just sold way more tickets than there were seats (a little bit of common sense and planning could have avoided this problem surely?) We were told that we would just have to wait two hours (!!) for the next coach and then 5 minutes later we were told that we could get the train to somewhere else in Rhone-Alpes (the name escapes me right now) and then get a bus from there to Annecy which is what we did all the way laughing at the stupidly of the French’s lack of fore planning.
  3. Our train from Lyon to Dijon was delayed and French for delay/late is retard and despite knowing this word since year 7 nothing stopped us from finding the word retard flashing on the screen over and over again hilarious! Vivre la France and your silly words!
Today (in case you didn’t know is Halloween) and we had all been told that the French don’t celebrate Halloween. And apart from a few chocolate shops (yes that’s right they have many chocolate shops in France, not like England with your chains of Thortons and Hotel Chocolat, no, France has lots of independent chocolatires) selling pumpkin shaped sweets and the odd bar with a few pathetic Halloween decorations, it would appear that this statement is true. However at the very early hour of 4pm (before it had even got dark) a small group of dressed-up children turned up at my door and didn’t even say anything that resembled ‘trick or treat’ they just demanded bonbons, sadly I was unable to offer them any so they just sheepishly sulked off.
I celebrated Halloween this year by hosting my very own French dinner party (yes we had the appropriate 4 courses and bottleS of wine). It was so much fun to cook for people for the first time in ages and it was a lovely evening spent with people who are quickly becoming dear friends of mine and it was the perfect way to spend my last evening in the lovely house in Northern Dijon that has been my home for the last month as tomorrow I move to my apartment in the centre-ville.
Time for more bouge-ing!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Give the dog a Beaune!

At the weekend we went to Beaune. There was about twenty of us made up of English/American and Spanish assistants. The plan has been to go nice and early and while the rest of the group logged off Facebook to get a good night’s rest before getting up early I was still online when one of our group send an emergency message saying that the trains weren’t running until noon (coz of the strikes obviously! ) So I went to sleep safe in the knowledge that I in fact had a lie in, only to wake up to panicked texts from the others thinking they’d missed the train! Anyway we all managed to meet in the end and we made it to Beaune. Beaune is a town not far from Dijon and is on the list of ‘must sees in Burgundy’ mainly coz of its pretty appearance and good wine. And wine (and cheese) was what we went in search of! We went to the annual cheese and wine festival and for the bargain price of 12 euros we were handed a plate, knife and wine glass on entrance and encouraged to try as much wine and cheese as we wanted! Which we did! So feeling rather full and a little bit tipsy we left the festival with the intention of being tourists in Beaune but we were too cold to look at pretty buildings and too cheap to pay to go in to museums so instead we went to a cafe/bar and drank mulled wine with the promise to return to Beaune when the weather is warmer!
Perhaps because it is so cold here the most popular way to spend our free time has been to go to the cinema. In three weeks I have seen 3 films, this is more than I normally manage in a whole year! I have seen Mange, Prie, Aime (that’s Eat, Love, Pray) and I am now ready the sequel en francais , Inception which has now confirmed its place as one of my favourite films ever (I was able to follow the French version because I’ve already seen it in English!) And last night we saw the Social Network (in English because it would have been a crime to see it dubbed when it is a film that embodies our generation and thus so many cultural references would have been lost in translation.)
In other news, I’m still not all that further with my flat. I tried to get ‘une caution’ (a letter that confirms in the event I don’t pay my rent they will) from the bank but the admin takes 3-4 weeks to get one and I wanna move in at the end of this month! So my bank manager (that’s right I have my own French bank manager) suggested I offer 2-3 months rent in advance to show I’m serious. He even offered me an INTEREST FREE loan of 2000 euros to be paid back in 6 months to help me pay the rent which I thought was very generous of him but I’d rather not owe a French bank money if I can help it. The other problem is that the agency also require a pay slip to confirm that I am salaried but as we get paid a month in arrears I can’t get a pay slip until November! But the secretary of the Retorat (lady in charge of the Acedemie – or Local Educational Authority) did say she can write me a letter confirmed I salaried. So the plan is to turn up at the agency on Saturday with every bit of paper I can get my hands on, wave a bit of money at them and beg. But if it fails I’ve found another flat not asking for paperwork!
So I may have only been here 4 weeks but its half term already! And I am going to Lyon to stay with my French assistant from year 13! I wonder if I will stay in touch with some of my older students and host them in a few years time?!?!
And before I sign off, a word about the’s actually crazy! Been going on for 7 days now, no buses after 8pm and huge demonstrations in the town centre every day! And when I say huge, I mean an absolute sea of people! And twice now the entrance to my school has been barricaded with bins on fire and riot police – which I find very entertaining!
Anyways its dinner time! Bye!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

French administration

So basically I hate French administration! I thought that I was done with it for the year but no! I have submitted all the papers for a social security number, I have signed my life away at the school and I have successfully opened a bank account. The only thing I had left to do paper work wise was to gear myself up to troll through the requirements for the CAF (housing benefits) (and even then I was thinking I might not bother), right? Wrong!
So I’ve found an apartment! Yay! We all shout! Well apparently I can’t go ‘yaying’ yet. The apartment is lovely, a little pricey but in a perfect location and really spacious and homely and its sharing with a first year medic who seems a little studious for my liking but she seems really sweet and has promised to introduce me to all her friend friends and while she likes to work hard she does go out on Friday nights, win, win! And she’s happy for me to move in whenever and move out whenever and all I have to do is pop a cheque down to the agency each month for the rent, simple as! It would appear that we were both very wrong! Basically my (cross all fingers and toes, and pray a little bit too) new flatmate is on a 3 year lease with her cousin but her cousin in moving out (hence why I can move in) but the agency was on the understanding that I was going to take on the rest of the 3 year lease, not just stay until May!
“Houston, we have a problem!”
So me and Florelle (what a cool name by the way) are going to the agency at NINE AM on Saturday to BEG the agency to let me move in...Surely this can be resolved simply by Florelle promising to honour the 3 year lease and her finding a new flatmate when I move out to help her pay the rent? But knowing the French it will probably be much more complicated than that and they might even say no! (I’m praying – in a non-religious way – that this doesn’t happen!) But just in case it does, I’ve lined up another viewing (in an all boy house!)
So wish me luck....

Monday, 11 October 2010

So I live in Dijon now! "What?" you say...

Ok so it would appear that I am a really crap blogger as I never finished telling you readers (if I have any) about the rest of my Canada trip or about any of Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In sum, the rest of Canada blew my mind, the scenery in the Rookies is spectacular and I met loads of Aussies who I got really drunk with...Edinburgh...well...QMTC rocks! Our plays had fabulous audiences and rave reviews and I had a wonderful time teching Figs in Wigs and I ate too many battered sausages (and probably had one too many pints!)
So, guess what? I’m actually in France! After all the thinking, talking, worrying, crying I did and all the resentment and excitement (mainly resentment) I felt I’m actually on my year abroad!
And it’s fair to say that only the tiniest part of me wanted to come (and that’s only coz I wanna be fluent in French, not coz I wanted to leave my pretty near darn perfect live(d) in London and Bristol) and most of me didn’t want to go so I spent the whole lead up to this year in denial. And that means I did no form of research or planning. I just winged it...and do you know what? It’s turned out alright!
So, here I am living in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy – so yes you’ve guessed it, it’s all mustard and wine! But there’s more to Dijon than that! I’ve already been to a few churches and museums and there are plenty more where they came from! I am acquainting myself with the town (the French claim it’s a city, I’m not convinced), I have found the H&M (this is important), I have found my favourite spot to drink coffee and some nice restaurants to eat it (also important) and even a couple of bars but as of yet no clubs but I’m informed they do have them here! Dijon is adorable; it’s a nice sized city, about the size of the centre of Bath and just as charming. It’s also very French; I pity any tourists who don’t speak French who may come to search of mustard?
I have made some friends with other assistants here in Dijon (we even have our own cliquey Facebook group going on) and as well as eating and drinking meet ups have included cultural visits and on Wednesday involves a trip to Ikea (also cultural, but of a different sort!)
I am working at a medium sized lycee (sorta like a sixth form college for those not up on the lingo) and the teachers and kids seem nice although I’m utterly confused about my timetable but I’m told that’s normal to be confused by the organisation of French institutions! I’m teaching 15-22 year olds!!! That’s right after French students finish the bac (kinda like A levels) those who don’t go to uni stay on and do what’s called a BTS where they learn a trade or something but they still have English class. Today one of the BTS students came up to me in town and asked me what I was doing; shamefully I had to admit that I was buying Glamour (en francais I might add!)
So aside from all the jolly things the main stress has been accommodation (as I expected it to be). I am living with a friend of one of the English teachers at my school who is this super lovely, well travelled and very interesting lady who has a very large and very nice house with a pretty garden all to herself (apart from her sons who visit and another student who stays 2 nights a week). The house and my landlady really are perfect, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer person to settle me in to life in Dijon (and she cooks yummy food!) The only problem is I’m a city kinda girl who needs to be in walking distance of the shops and clubs so I have decided to look for somewhere more central than my current location. Telling my wonderful landlady was heart breaking and I cried and I think she did too, and the heartbreak isn’t over yet coz I haven’t yet moved yet but as a selfish move as it will be, I think it’s the right one, I’m afraid to say it but MY year abroad is about ME, if it was about other people I won’t be here (I know someone in particular who can vouch for that.)
For those who are interested in French actualities there’s a strike tomorrow meaning school’s a bit of a wash out so I have the whole day in bed....hence why I’m writing my blog at 1.30am!
Until next time...