Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You get bread for Christmas! HO HO HO!

Nothing says a French Christmas like a baguette-carrying Santa, right?

This week has been pretty lax; just enjoying doing a lot of nothing. I wish I could say I was reading books, making lesson plans, and being productive..but that'd be a lie. I've been sleeping a lot, catching up on TV series online, and editing photos from this fall. The family left earlier today, so I'm officially on vacation! As for my plans, I'm going to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the family I used to work for. I was really flattered that the mom asked me--I mean, we get along great, but inviting someone from outside your family to Christmas is a really kind gesture. She said no worries, I was part of the family and it wouldn't be a problem. So I won't be all alone drinking wine and watching movies! Of course, I'd love to be at home with my own family eating pork pie and sugar cookies, and watching It's a Wonderful Life, but this year, I'll have to be with my adopted French family. I'll be thinking of you all, though. This is my favorite time of the year!

I'm headed to Berlin on Christmas night, by bus. Fourteen hours on a bus is going to be awful; I know it already. I promised myself after taking a similar trip to Munich two summers ago that I would never again take a bus ride that long..but look at me doing it again. It's cheap, and it's overnight (so I won't waste the day), but I'm going to be one tired SOB upon arriving. Meh, I'll survive. I'm really excited to go and test out my German for a few days. Luckily, there'll be Christmas markets and whatnot still up on the 26th, so I can kind of get the German Christmas experience without being there all alone on Christmas Day. I'm going to stalk a university I'm interested in and do some sightseeing around the capital. I've wanted to go for a long time, so I'm sure I'll enjoy it and be sure to take tons of pictures. I'm going by myself, but a few days later, I'll be going to Holland to rejoin my friend in Amsterdam. We're going to spend the New Year there and before I know it, I'll be back in Paris for a new semester. :( I want vacation to last forever!

Here are some drawings some of my students made me on the last day of school (too cute, huh?):

Well I'm crossing my fingers that the French (once again) will pay me tomorrow so I can partake in the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy tomorrow. I want an iPhone. Real bad. And they're on sale until Christmas. C'mon, Frenchies, make it happen..

Enjoy some final holiday shots of Paris!

If I don't post again this week, Merry Christmas/Happy Kwanza/Hanukkah/Nothing Day to all! Miss you lots, much love from Paris :)


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmastime in the City of Lights

My apologies! For weeks now, I've been making mental notes of things I need to blog about, and taken pictures with full intentions of posting them, but alas, life caught up with me. The days are short, the skies are grey, the kids are tiring, my energy is understand. I'm now once again on vacation and I couldn't be more ready for some me time.

First note of business, I finally got paid! 'Bout time. I woke up on a Saturday not too long ago, sleepily checked my bank account from my bed and BY GOLLY! My poverty was over! (My assistant friend somewhat affectionately calls this period "The Long Famine") I immediately decided to reward the French economy by going out and buying luxurious things like food! and toilet paper! and a winter coat! Just walking around the city and knowing that I had money in the bank gave me such a sense of relief. I know money doesn't buy happiness, but in my book, it most definitely buys piece of mind.

So, with that out of the way, I delved into trying to finish up my last few weeks of classes. Luckily, Thanksgiving and Christmas took up full class periods, which always make my life easier. The kids enjoy a break from all the straight learning when I have a culture day, and good God do they oooh! and ahhh! at my 5 year-old Mac when I show them slide shows! They're always like, oooh are you rich? Look at her silver computer! I love my computer--it's seen me through a lot--but I'm hoping to get a newer, much lighter version in the near future courtesy of the IRS!

Did my first tests a week or two ago and most of the kids did okay. I gave the kids two extra credit questions, and when some of them got back their tests with more than 100%, they were totally confused. You mean, Rachel, we did better than 20/20? But 22/20 doesn't make sense! I explained that that extra credit is pretty common back in the US to help out your grade a little bit. I'm sure the French Ministry of Education would deem it as rewarding incorrect answers or something to that effect...but my class, my rules! It's frustrating because there are always those kids that do great, and then ones in the same class that can't even answer the simplest questions. I know the learning curve is different for all of them, but it's annoying to see some kids do so poorly while others are chomping at the bit to learn more. I can only delay my class so much to accommodate the slower learners. I think a few of them don't understand one lesson and then immediately go into "well, I don't get this, so I'm going to just stop caring at all" attitude. I know it well because I remember being so frustrated when I first came to France almost four years ago (has it been that long already?). I wrote in my journal then something to the effect of "so many words are floating in my head and I can't figure out how to connect them yet." It takes time, and I often equate it to putting a puzzle together. You know bits and pieces, you see or hear something here, and then there again, and then you realize what it means, and hey! now you get what this means! I personally enjoy it, but I doubt a lot of 9-year-olds do. Language acquisition really interests me, and I might write an entry about it over break. Full of lots of nerdy linguistic terms, I know you can't wait!

Christmastime in Paris is beautiful. The city finally started decorating, and the weather changed to match the decor. I know that after spending a good portion of my life in the Midwest, I should be "used" to the cold weather, but nope, I'm not. Can't quite shake that habit of swearing profusely when I walk outside only to be greeted by a cold gust of wind slapping me in the face. And I can't say I enjoy the cracked, dry hands and constant cold feet. The last week has been pretty cold--temperatures in the 20s (-5˚C sounds much more threatening)--and on Thursday, SURPRISE! It snowed! Now, I know you Midwesterners are scoffing at this after the giant snow dump last week, but it really doesn't snow very often in Paris. Once a winter, maybe. It gets cold and teases you with a few flurries, but as far as real snow storms? Hardly ever. So imagine my excitement to wake up to see the sky filled with really felt like Christmas was coming. The kids at my schools were glued to the windows and it actually tied in well because we had just learned snow, snowman, and snowball, so I told them to go and have fun in the snow! The temperatures are also not as cold as home, but as my friend Hannah was saying on her blog (she also writes about it much more eloquently than I can), winter in big cities is much harder when you don't have a car. We're kind of spoiled in the States--we go from our warm houses to a car, then to school or work, etc. Lots of inside spaces and the only exposure to the weather is walking between these places. Not so much for me. I have a cold walk to my metro, followed by lots of walking and waiting for trains and buses--all outside. Brr. Oh, and the other day, in typical French fashion, all the buses were canceled (for maybe 2 inches of snow), but no one was informed. So I waited for an hour at two different stops before finally deciding to just make the 45-minute trek by foot to the train station. Luckily, after about 20 minutes, a nice woman picked me up and gave me a ride. Faith in humanity restored!

Okay super long entry..that's all for now! Here are a few pictures. Lots more (I've been saving 'em up) here.

A star lantern my German friend, Steffi, brought me while visiting earlier this week

And of course, chocolate

World's smallest Christmas tree (Joyeuses FĂȘtes=Happy Holidays)


Notre -Dame and her big 'ol Christmas tree

Coming very vacation plans and SO MUCH MORE! I know you're way excited.