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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Just when I was reaching the end of my nutella honeymoon (right. You think there’s only so much chocolate-hazelnut spread you can consume until you realize it is Chocolate. And Hazelnut. And it is DELICIOUS ON EVERYTHING but I digress), I spotted something sinister tucked in the back corner of my local Carrefour. Did my eyes deceive me? Was that a real, normally-sized jar of peanut butter? With the trusty red cap, just like I used to buy for 99 cents at Wegmans?

Nah, kid. Why would everything be that simple? Instead of being something fairly common, you know, just a butter made out of smashing nuts that is useful in getting kids to eat and getting protein and putting in oatmeal or gluing things together, if you were desperate, it was a SPECULOOS spread.

For the uncultured, (Hah. How I scoff at you) Speculoos are a yummy cookie that apparently comes from Belgium and Northern France (thanks, Google) that’s slightly gingerbready. Mostly I know them as the little cookies waiters give you when you order a café crème, mmmmm. You can buy them in bulk in the grocery store, but that takes all the fun out of it, this little present you earn after enjoying your milky, coffeey, beverage (rough life, right). But clearly, there was a need in the market for spreadable, jarred speculoos flavor, and it was staring up at me, looking all peanut-butter like, from the bottom shelf.

So, naturally, I put it in my cart. And, (I know you’ve been on the edge of your seats) it does taste like speculoos! But creamier. So weird. It’s cookies you can spread. And French people call me fat (well, they haven’t, but maybe behind closed doors. You never know). Check my skepticism:

I’m sure when I run for public office, this picture will somehow come back to haunt me, but I’m in France, c’est la vie, you know? Jauntily knotted scarf and half-moon frown are included for full effect. So now you know. If you’ve always wanted to join the nutella club but couldn’t get into the deliciousness, here is a delightfully bizarre alternative that is almost like peanut butter, but not. Stay tuned for more intrepid adventures.

There’s a lot to cover in this post, so I figured I’d start it arbitrarily but interesting..ly? Yesterday was a rainy, sleepy Saturday with rains typical of Normandy, so me and my friends who were still here for the vacation (by the way, I have ten days off of classes that started yesterday for the Toussaint, or all saints’ day, holidays. Yeeehoo) spent a lot of time watching movies and playing cards. Laure taught us some card games and I learned the names for le carreau, le coeur, le trèfle et le pique: diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades. Pretty sweet. Also, French decks of cards sometimes have cavaliers, which are a level in between jacks and queens (or valets et dames)…and there are no aces. Just ones! Don’t you feel worldly just reading about this? I know I do.Teaching has been going…pretty smoothly. I’m doing better than I thought I would, i.e. it’s not a complete disaster that severs cultural ties between France and anglophone countries forever, but I don’t know if it’s my thing (Or as one could say in French, C’est pas mon truc, which I remembered being translated in a Montpellier class as “It’s not my cup of tea!” but anyway). The thought of getting up in front of a class makes me so, so nervous, but the kids have been mostly sweet and adorable and marginally well-behaved so far. I feel like a rockstar — wherever I go, I hear “Hello, Jillian! Hello!” and I’ve gotten some little presents…a flower, a marble (kids are all about their marbles here), an origami boat and an origami box that’s supposed to attach to a necklace, if I was understanding the little girl who gave it to me correctly. This picture is from when I was making emotion pumpkins, which turned out to be either over the head or too easy for my classes. Oh well. There are many weeks to get it right.

I’ve also learned that thinking on your feet is pretty essential. I didn’t really time my lessons, so when I had extra time, or if the kids seemed bored or restless, I would make up games on the spot. I learned this week that if you split them into separate teams, things get really intense and everyone pays attention. Which is good. In another class, I had passed out Halloween word searches, which was great until everyone started asking me why certain letters were missing from words: “This is almost BLACK CAT, but a C is missing…This is almost HALLOWEEN, but an L is missing…” I had somehow left out an entire column of letters while copying the word search from an online one, because I don’t have a printer. Whoops, haha. I was just like, “Ooooh, it’s a trick! A challenge! How ’bout that…”

So Happy Halloween, everyone. I still haven’t thought of my costume yet. I mean, what could top last year’s?

The title of this post is totally misleading — sort of. If you pronounce the city of Rouen, famous for being the place where Gustav Flaubert wrote things and Joan of Arc was burned, like the French, the closest I sound I can get to that is something like wahh-wahhh. Fortunately, the city itself wasn’t a downer.

It was full of people! Rouen is way more bustling than Évreux. There are tons of shops and all the comforts of a big city (like a tram! So jealz) while still being quaint and charming. In this picture, you can kind of see some of the half-timber houses that are all over the city. Évreux has a couple, but we learned during our informative tour that a lot of buildings were destroyed in the war, so most of Évreux’s buildings date from the 50’s onwards. The more you know! One of the main attractions is the Cathedral, which was huge and beautiful inside. Outside was a square where a brass band was playing. A woman was dancing crazily by herself to the music, weaving in and out of the musicians, taking off her scarf and whipping it around. She was grooving. You go, woman.

We spent the rest of our time here quite enjoyable. We ate at the fancy McDonald’s, which was also in a half-timber style building. For breakfast on Sunday (dude. try finding something else open) I got a Croque McDo happy meal, complete with Barbie toy and these amazing, delicious potato wedges that the US needs to get asap. McRib’s got nothing on these. But anyway. The rest of the weekend was spent at the art museum, quickly wandering H & M, eating Chinese food, giggling in the hotel, getting glowsticks in our drinks, almost losing the Sackett Jacket (!!) and getting it back, following Erasmus students to a nightclub, and walking back to bed at 3:30 a.m.

By the end of the weekend, we were all like, why can’t we move here?! There are buses everyday between Rouen and Évreux, but it would be way too much of a hassle to commute. I like being able to walk to my schools and it’s nice to have so many assistants here! Évreux isn’t the entertainment capital of the world, but I’ve met awesome people here, and fun is where you make it, y’all (awww). There are more adventures to tell — discovering the Blue Moon ‘discotheque!’ buying a bike! my adorable students and my awkward teaching skillz! — so get pumped. For now, I’m going to bed. À plus.

 

It’s so easy. Technically, chez translates to “at the house of.” But we wouldn’t say that in English. It’s just at my house, at his mother’s house, at the doctor’s. In french, because there’s no possessive contractions like that, it would be à la maison du Paul, or au bureau de médecin (I thiiink), but that’s too complicated. Chez Paul. Chez médecin. Chez vous.

But chez can take on a bigger sense, like this afternoon when I was at the bank finally closing the LCL account I had opened in Montpellier in 2009. The man closing my account was very nice, and we were chatting about me being in Évreux. It must be a big change, coming from New York, he said. But it’s so close to Paris, so it’s not bad, I replied. Do you like Paris? Better than New York? Hmm…I like them for different reasons. Paris is more calm. No it’s not that, I like them both, but New York is chez moi, you know?

He knew. Chez moi. So much to say about home in two syllables. It’s looking kind of meaningless now that I’ve typed it out about a million times, but still.

  1. The teacher whose class I first observed started the day by gathering everyone around a table with chestnuts and mushrooms on it, and then invited the children to eat a chestnut. I’m not really sure why this was done, but how bad can your day be when it starts with chestnuts?
  2. Some of the classes work out of English books that are called “A Cup of Tea.” Hee!
  3. As the go-to English resource for the day (and the rest of the year!) I was called on to settle a pronunciation dispute by reading a book title out loud: “What color are my knickers?”
  4. A boy in one class said that I was the first American I’ve ever met! Also, one boy asked if I had ever met Spiderman in New York. He was also really jealous that I had seen the Statue of Liberty.
  5. I found out that I have been living a sad and depraved existence during my twenty-two years when I could have spent my whole time having fun and calling my local crossing guard a LOLLIPOP LADY (?!)

After the process of settling in France and getting to know Évreux and the other (awesome) assistants here for the past week, I was pretty much ready to start the whole teaching-English part of my stay here. Which we did today! I rode with my friend Ana and our contact man to Rouen this (very rainy) morning, talking about kilometers and sports (he really likes the Knicks) and France along the way. In Rouen, we had a meeting for all of the language assistants in the Rouen academié, which includes both the Eure (that’s me!) and the Seine-Maritime départments.

I found out what schools I’ll be working in — three écoles, elementary-school level, all within walking distance of my apartment. Hooray! Other than that, the day was mostly taken up by administrative stuff and (free) lunch and coffee afterwards. Always coffee afterwards! The best. I have a feeling the rest of the week will be a blur of waiting around, making photocopies of my passport, and filling out forms to make sure I’m paid and covered by social security. After that, I can focus on the rest of my Évreux to-do list: finding a bike (baguettes all up in my pannier, riding down the river Iton! Parfait), joining the library, and planning my October break.