“Maitresse! Mathis m’a dit que je suis un gros nul.” “Teacher! Mathis said that I’m a big dummy/idiot.” I’m going to miss kid-insults. Especially in French. I wish I could say that I wish life was so easy that my greatest fear was being perceived a dummy, but honestly, that still kind of is my biggest fear.

“Jillian, ta coiffure dans le vent, c’est bizarre!” “Jillian, your hairstyle looks weird in the wind.” Thanks, kids. Always boosting the confidence.

“Tu dois partir? Pourquoi? Tu as le travail la-bas?” “Do you have to leave? (cue violins, hearts shattering, etc) Why? Do you have work there?” a.k.a. after this job, you aren’t going to find gainful employment for a month or so, so why not prolong it? Good question, little bids.

I made Rice Krispy (Krispie?) treats for the first time yesterday because you can “bake” them without an oven and I hadn’t seen them around France. The only marshmallows I could find were pink and white, so they came out in a nice pastel shade. Soo Easter-y. I wrote the recipe in French on the board and the teacher had to correct me like four times. I’ve come so far. Three days left.

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Can I still talk about Amsterdam? I can’t believe it’s been only a month since I went there — coming back to Evreux and grappling with the idea of actually leaving, combined with being flat broke and splitting my days between working, the library, and aimless wandering with pals, has made March into a saltwater taffy kind of month: pulled and re-pulled until it’s nearly unrecognizable. Now I’m imagining those machines you sometimes see in the windows of old-fashioned candy shops that fold some unbelievably pink candy into itself again and again and again. I guess thats a pretty accurate metaphor for how I feel about living abroad, great and then awful then great then awful again until I’m no longer sure what I looked like when I started.

Amsterdam is absolutely beautiful, inspiring, the perfect city to get lost in. It was my second time coming and I’m glad I was able to see it again.

(This is a find-fence in Vondelpark, basically a DIY lost-and-found. Brilliant!)

For the longest time, whenever somebody asked me my preference for something, I froze. Most crucial decisions — red or white wine, taking the train at 11:20 or 1:20, teaching colors or food — really, honestly didn’t make a difference to me. I wanted to give off an air of perpetual ease and unfussiness to everyone I met. But despite how many times I looked up the phrase “I don’t care,” it never stuck. Je m’en fiche! I was afraid of using it during class instead of je m’en fous! which translates to “I don’t give a shit!” Maybe not the best technique for building professional rapport.

In French, there’s a few very similar expressions and words that toe the line between being acceptable and looking like a surly asshole. Mince can substitute for the slightly more vulgar merde, punaise! can pinch-hit for the more street-savvy putain! I’m all about being a surly asshole, mind you, but it just seemed easier to avoid the potential debacle of accidentally swearing in front of 7-year-olds, who are all too quick to tell on each other for saying bad words. I finally broke down and emailed my friend who is also a teacher I work with. She told me that je m’en fiche is totally fine for the sensitive ears of wee ones.

Now that it’s nearing the end of my program and the warm weather is making my students act up more than usual, I’m saying I don’t care all the time. “I can stand up here for 45 minutes if I have to. I don’t care.” I point to a student. “You don’t care, eh?” I turn to the teacher. “He doesn’t care.” She shrugs in empathy.

 

p.s. Check out this thing that we passed the other day! Just chillin’ on a little deck alongside the river for anyone passing by to see. France, you’re the best, really.

Substitute teacher: You must be excited, for, uh, what do they call the big vacation in the US?

Me: Summer vacation?

Substitute: Yeah! Summer vacation!

Me: Oh wait, do you mean Spring Break?

Substitute: Yeah! SPRING BREAK! Like on CSI: Miami!

My brain is totally not in teaching mode, which is pretty rough considering the 12-hour work weeks and 2-hour lunches that made it difficult to ever get in teaching mode in the first place (I know, wahhh, woe is me) (ATTN: Everyone who is about to graduate or is going through major life changes and wants to feel like a semi-real person while basically living the life of a college student with — bonus! — paid vacations and the ability to pretentiously say later on “Oh, before I worked here, I lived in France,” etc. TAKE THIS JOB. It really is an awesome opportunity to get outside of your world and hey, maybe you’ll even meet the love of your life or at least the career of your life and while I found neither, I am so grateful to be here even when I am grumpy or drunkenly crying about my inability to play frisbee well. Seriously. Longest sentence ever and last parenthetical aside I swear).

Anyway, even though I have mentally checked out of teaching, I still make an effort to, you know, show up and try to inspire some appreciation for the English language in my wee ones. Today was made more hilarious by two things. The first was during a class where the teacher tried to explain the concept of like/don’t like by saying, “MMMM, I like eggs. I don’t like hamburgers. Beurk!” (In France they say Beurk instead of Yuck! More reasons why France is the best?). The kids’ attempts to make sentences to express their innermost food preferences were hilarious. Many thought that “Mmmm” was an important and necessary part of the phrase. One girl just repeated the question and added food: “What do you like soup mmmmm.”

The second part of adorable hilarity came when I was correcting drafts for letters that another class was writing in English. They’re exchanging letters with a class my mom teaches, and they’re all excited and writing about kid things like their best friends and their pets and the name of their school. And, dang, they’re just so cute! Check this:

I hope that when this class grows up and becomes awesome at English and finds this blog in the annals of the Internet, they won’t be too embarrassed that I’ve shown the world (a.k.a. my mom and a few others) the language equivalent of their naked baby pictures, but to them I just say, d’awww, y’all were just so cute back then. To which I also have to add the inevitable — WHAT HAPPENED?! because there was always some jerk at the desk next to you who asked that when you brought in your baby pictures for some 6th grade class project. Jerks, I tell ya. I’m still just as cute as when I had spaghetti sauce all over my bib.

Finally, finally I’m going to tell you about some places I’ve been instead of just moaning about teaching and my deep inner feelings. For once. We’ll see how long this lasts. First up is Rotterdam, a medium-sized city on the way between Brussels and Amsterdam. When I told people this was my first stop for February break, I got either blank looks or a rendition of some song I had never heard that goes “It could be Rotterdam, or anywhere…” I guess I should have looked this song up on youtube, but I still haven’t. Take that, Internet.

After meeting Tessa & Tijmen, I got settled in their apartment and was contentedly drinking tea until they asked if I’d like to come to a weird show at a squatted butcher shop. Um, yes.

Squatting just became illegal in the Netherlands only a few months ago, I believe, but people who were in a squat before the law went into effect could keep staying where they were. This was an unused butcher shop and now people have shows and sleep here. Brilliant! There was even a letter on the door explaining to the landlord that there were squatters inside. It amazes me that things like this could happen…I’ve never seen something like this at home, but maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.

We had this the next day at brunch — baguette, butter, and chocolate sprinkles a.k.a. delicious breakfast heaven.

Before going to see the National, my hosts showed me around Rotterdam a little. Rotterdam’s architecture was a really nice mix of pretty old buildings (think the kind you’d see in Amsterdam) and interesting modern developments, like these cube houses. People actually live in these — there’s also a youth hostel in them, but it seems kind of complicated in terms of furniture placement (Imagine playing the Sims with a cube house? Where would you put your pool table?)

The EuroMast is maybe Rotterdam’s most recognizable chunk of skyline at 186m above the ground. You can go up and check out the city from such great heights — there’s even a restaurant — but I decided to just stay on the ground and explore the park where I took this picture.

And of course, it being the Netherlands, there were bikes everywhere! I hope wherever I move to next I’ll be able to bike to get to work, at least half of the year. I kept freaking out whenever I saw stylish Rotterdamites (-ers? Idk) riding past. More Dutch cliches abound: Rotterdam features many of the Netherland’s famous coffeeshops.  The most touristy one, according to my hosts, is called Coffeeshop Nemo — just look for a little cartoon pufferfish smoking a joint. Oh, Europe, you so crazy.

Rotterdam was a fun, quirky city that I’d love to visit again. Vous me manquez, les pays-bas!

Looking at this and knowing I only have one month of normal Evreux day-to-day life makes my heart drop into my stomach. Photo jacked from my friend Ana via Facebook. This is what our crowd of noisy foreigners looked like last Friday night, jammed into a karaoke bar near the Pigalle metro stop in Paris. People I wouldn’t have met, conversations I wouldn’t have had, work I wouldn’t have put off for later, drinks I wouldn’t have shared, etc etc ad infinitum, if I hadn’t come to France. If I hadn’t stayed. There was a very brief moment where I convinced myself I didn’t have to go, that even though I had accepted the teaching assistantship no one was going to hunt me down if I stayed home. But I was never really, honestly not coming here.

P.S. For the record, the song we picked was Sweet Caroline and of course I told everyone about how I twisted my ankle to that song and of course we rocked it.