Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble, Gobble

I hope everyone who is celebrating Thanksgiving has a lot to be thankful for. I know I do. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I didn’t write a post this weekend because I had a whole lot of anger to express and I am actively trying to be more positive (in writing because in real life I am a great big ball of sunshine). So here goes.

I am going to start with the good. Thursday was good because my students and I decided to do Thanksgiving. It was basically their idea (well, ok, I suggested it) and we are going to all bring things and have an international day of thanks after our lesson. Lucky them, they get to eat and have two lessons because, oh yes, I am creative enough to turn Thanksgiving into a lesson.

The other really good thing happened Friday morning. I live in a really populated type of crossroads and there are a ton of homeless people about two blocks from my apartment. One of them found his way to my street camped out under an apartment window Thursday night. I know this because I saw him when I came back from the gym. Friday morning I saw the woman who lives in the apartment lean out of her window and give the man a coffee, complete with a saucer and sugar. It was really a lovely gesture and I am still giving the woman two great big thumbs up.

Let’s quickly shift to the bad, because that is how it happened in reality. Friday afternoon I had the worst class experience. I teach post high school students, around my age, (for you teaching expats, post BTS students) for two hours every Friday. These students are terrible, don’t understand English and don’t have any incentive to learn. By no incentive, I mean they will have no exams, no grade, etc. thus no reason to pay attention to yours truly. I basically just treat them like a pack of wild dogs. I try to keep them happy and I never make eye contact.

I have one male student who thinks he is quite cute. He calls me baby, asks for my phone number, and says, “Ooh, la, la,” anytime I take off my jacket. He is just a disgusting slime ball and I try to ignore him completely. Friday, he and a female student got into an argument. I was working with the 3 students who actually want to learn and didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on, until he stood up. What went on next is a little bit unclear because they were yelling and speaking very fast, but I understood him to say he would kill her, cute her face, kill her mother, etc. He had to be physically restrained by two of the other students and every time the students let go of him, he tried to crawl over the desks to get to her.

I yelled, got some order and told everyone to get their books out. The two students settled down and I thought I would be able to teach and keep everyone calm, but no. The two students started again and he actually climbed over two desks trying to get to her and only had one desk left to go before some students stopped him. I freaked and told both of the students to get out. He told me to be quiet, he wasn’t talking to me and she said she shouldn’t have to leave because she didn’t start it. I said, “Fine, everyone can leave then; class dismissed.” And I left. Not because I was really scared or because I was afraid he would hurt me, but because I was on the verge of tears. I have had many negative things happen in my class, but this one takes the cake for scary. I realized I have no control or any authority over the class and it is not likely to change, so I was really bummed Friday night.

Now, on to the ugly, and this is really ugly. I had to ride the metro (not something I willingly do on my days off because of my unfortunate experience). It was around 3 p.m. on a Saturday so it was nice and packed. All of the sudden I heard yelling and a loud smack behind me. I have been a little jumpy since my experience and freaked out immediately. I looked behind me about the same time I grabbed my pepper spray (thank you to people who will remain unnamed to avoid any kind of legal issues for shipping me that stuff…it makes me feel so much better) and saw a man attacking a teenage boy. Now granted, I don’t know what was said or done before this attack started, but the man was really slapping, hitting and humiliating the teenager and didn’t show any signs of stopping. It was a full metro car but nobody was trying to intervene. That is what gets to me about this city. All these people were watching a skinny teenager get attacked and nobody even said anything. I am constantly amazed by the complete apathy and utter lack of courage in this country. I got off at the next stop because I am personally familiar with French violence and didn’t want to experience it again.

So there you are, the good, the bad and the ugly, in less than 4 days.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Beaujolais Nouveau

Today is the day the year’s new wine, Beaujolais Nouveau, is unveiled to the public. I love this time of year at home and in Paris as well. The fall colors, the crisp weather, and the excitement of the approaching holiday season just gets to me.

I arrived in France August 27, 2005. I remember liking Paris and being impressed with it, but having an overall feeling of disappointment that I didn’t find the city to be breathtaking. Granted, I had a serious of horrible experiences (which now seem really comical) in France that I am sure tainted my feelings for Paris, but I still expected to love the city. And I didn’t. I wanted to, but I couldn’t force myself to have an emotional connection with the city.

But, the night I went out to celebrate the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, I fell in love with the city. It was a bitterly cold night and I remember feeling some sort of excitement in the air. I stayed out until the wee hours of the morning barhopping with my friends and was completely enamored with the beauty of Paris. (It really is better in the winter!) Yes, I was three sheets to the wind, but it was the first time I didn’t feel like an outsider. Feeling like maybe I wasn’t a tourist anymore made me see the real beauty of the city.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What the......

I went to the post office today to pick up a package and guess what?! They French postal workers are on strike. How can the national post go on strike? What are the protesting against? 35 hour work weeks? 5 week annual vacations? 11 federal paid holidays? One of the highest minimum wages in Europe? Life must be horrible for them.

Seriously, I don't understand this culture; the public transportation workers go on strike about every two months; teachers go on strike about every 5 months; students go on strike whenever there is anything to do the French ever get anything done?

I cannot imagine this happening in the U.S. because nobody would put up with things being closed due to strikes. I don't think I had ever even seen a strike until I came here. I know I am from a small town but shesh, give me a break. The French have it really good and I can't imagine what they could possibly find reason to strike about.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Amsterdam, Anyone?

I am trying to plan a weekend trip to Amsterdam for my cousin-in-law's birthday, but am having a horrible time finding a flight under 175 euros. Anyone know of a cheap airline? I have tried most of the search engines, but if anyone knows of any tricks or maybe some airlines I might not have thought of (I know, how do you know if I thought of them or not. Just assume I didn't), I would love your imput.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What a Week!

This week was incredibly busy. On top of teaching everyday, I had a Habitat for Humanity meeting Tuesday night until 10 p.m. and a cocktail party Thursday. I was nine kids of exhausted last night, but I still went out. It's fine though because there is nothing to do today; it is a holiday so everything is closed.

Speaking of Habitat for Humanity, does anyone have any good fund raising ideas? We are going to have a gala dinner, but we need other ways to make money. This year, the Paris division of Habitat is going to Romania and we need something like 500-600 euros per person.

I am busy planning my trip home. I can't wait! I will be home for a whole three weeks and I will have so much to do. On the top of my list is a huge shoe shopping trip. I love shoes in Paris; they are beautiful, but my feet are too big for them. I went shopping for 4 hours last weekend and I couldn't find anything. Last year, I wanted shoes, this year I NEED shoes. Other than that, I am just looking forward to visiting with everyone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Virtual Welcome

Finally, I can post pictures of my apartment. I am going to give everyone a semi-virtual tour because I am only semi-computer literate.

Supposedly my building is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. I love it because it is all very old fashioned, but I am just beginning to realize "old" means cold.

This is my hallway outside my apartment. I love the red tiles everywhere (I have them inside my apartment as well), but they are also very cold.

This is my "hallway" inside my apartment. I loved my door until I realized that it is paper thin and every bit of cold air and noise comes right into my apartment. The toilet is on the left and the shower is on the right. I know my decorations are a little cheesy, but I am poor.

My bed and some artwork from my friend, Dan. Funny story about the mattress. When I moved in, I slept on the mattress for about 30 minutes before I figured out there was no way I was going to be able to spend a year on it, so I bought a mattress from a fellow expat. But because I have no car, I had to trick a friend into helping me lug it about 10 blocks.

Notice the beams in the ceiling. They are old as dirt and add to the charm of the apartment. I love them! They are UNESCO protected.

This is my huge kitchen. Please don't judge me! I know it is messy, but when there is such a small place, it is hard to be really tidy.

My very large table and a huge mirror. Nice idea, I can watch myself eat.

Finally, my view. I have to say this is the only major downside to this apartment. I have no view and I am very close to my neighbors. Also, because the buildings are so close, no air circulates.

Well, that's about it. There isn't much to show because it is only 20 square meters (all that I could afford), but trust me, it is a huge improvement to what I had last year.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Missed Opportunity

I WAS going to post pictures of my apartment, but blogger won't let me, so I will just say how incredibly cold it is today (why is it that the weather is always nasty on November 1st?) and how I am not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. I have had 5 days to prepare my classes for Thursday and Friday and for some reason, I thought it would be nice to wait until about 12 hours before classes begin to prepare. I am such a imposture; I am no teacher! I am a day dreamer...How in the world am I supposed to be in charge of other people's minds when I can't even get a handle on mine?