Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Priceless

Opening a bank account : 5 visits to 3 different to the bank
Finding an apartment : 6 weeks of searching
Obtaining a Carte de Sejour : 4 trips to the prefecture, 3.5 months
Social Security : 4 trips to 3 different offices, estimated 2 month wait
Getting internet, phone and TV service : 4 visits to the Phone House store, 3 weeks to install

Finally completing all administrative processes (for the time being ;): Priceless!!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

French As A Spectator Sport

On Saturday evening I met up with a few teachers from my school and their friends (one of the benefits of working in a ZEP school is that the teachers tend to be a lot younger and cooler). They all speak English (one would hope that the English teacher would have a mastery of very well and because I have a tendency to be very lazy we usually speak in English. Because I end up not using my limited French skills with them they have a tendency to think that I can't speak French at all. I tried to explain to them that it's easier for me to speak French to complete strangers such as fonctionnaires at the prefecture or at the offices of l'assurance maladie. So after a few glasses of wine on Saturday I decided to bust out my French skills and each time I was either greeted with a round of applause or the response "wow, good job."

So my speaking French with them has become a sort of spectator sport where they listen to me fumble through the language and then applaud me for my efforts. If this keeps up I just may start speaking French on a more consistent basis.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Couldn't Have Paid for a Better Response

I had finished my lesson early with five of my 3eme students when the following exchange took place:

Me: "Why are you looking at me?"

Students: "Madam, because you are beautiful."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Here's the Other Thing...On the Teachers

A lot of assistants out there complain about how rude the other teachers in their schools are and I don't doubt that. But the thing is, I didn't go into my schools expecting my teachers to befriend me and to become my insta-bffs I actually had no expectations of my teachers at all. They have their own lives and their own social circles why should they invite in a complete stranger who may or may not speak their language (aside from it being the nice thing to do)? I was hired to do a job and that's the only expectation that I had. I think that by having such low expectations has saved me a lot of frustration and angst at the end of the day.

I barely speak to the other teachers at my schools aside from the English staff the reason being my French skills are crap. To my surprise one of the French teachers that I have barely spoken to at my school actually struck up a conversation with my in English the other day. He asked me about my vacation and proceeded to excitedly tell me about his American cousin that would be coming for a visit in the next couple of days. Today, to my double surprise he invited me to come to his cousin's poetry reading next week.

So what's the point of my rambling? Well my point is, that long ago I learned to lower my expectations of people and of situations. In doing so it becomes substantially easier to exceed my expectations in many instances and I find myself less disappointed with the human race as a whole.

Here's the Thing...On Teaching

There's a lot of negativity out there regarding the experiences of many of the teaching assistants. I'm surprised that people continue to apply for the job given all of the bad stuff that is written. Based solely on what's written about it one might think that it's the absolutely worse job in the world. But here's the thing, depending on the day my students can either really impress me and make me proud or they can make me want to tear my hair out. On those days when they really annoy me I have a sort of feigned indifference towards them. On the surface I could care less if they smoked a lot of pot during their vacation, if a little ragamuffin calls me a bitch during class and so on and so on. I think the key is t not give them the reaction they are hoping for, I simply choose to ignore them and move on to the next topic at hand. Because at the end of the day I'm not going to let some punkass 14 year old get to me or disrupt my entire class. The other thing is, if they aren't engaged in the lesson that I'm teaching then I have failed them and not vice versa!!!!!

On the days when they are really engaged it can be pretty rewarding. Let's take Leslie as an example. Leslie in one of my 3eme classes and she barely participates in class yet she insists on attending my class not only with her actual English class but during her free period as well. Initially, I thought it "wow, how nice this girl really likes me and has taken a real interest in learning English." Turns out that self-centered view couldn't be further from the truth. Some of her best girlfriends happen to be in the other class and she sees it as an opportunity to catch up with them when she wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity. So as long as they aren't too disruptive in class I let them be for the most part. Last week when Leslie insisted on coming with my group during her actual English class I told her that I would not accept her because of her lack of participation. It didn't go over so well and she wasn't very pleased with me for the rest of the day. Throughout the day I heard her recounting the story to her friends about how I was so mean and how she didn't like me.

Today once again Leslie joined my class during her free period and to my surprise she actually participated, was very engaged in the lesson and even surprised me with her knowledge during class. I was shocked! I had practically written her off but today she really surprised me and made me proud and made my job worthwhile. To encourage such behavior in the future I made a point praising her after class. I am no fool however, I fully expect Leslie to be back to her old ways next week and if not it will be yet another pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Missed Connection

We both boarded the number 9 metro at Hauvre-Caumartin heading in the direction of Mairie de Montreuil. I was coming from checking out the sales at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. You were obviously doing the same from the bags you were carrying. Even though you resembled cro magnon man with your full beard, overgrown dirty blonde curly hair and unkempt look and you epitomized a Parisian bobo I was smitten. You stood against the opposite door of the train because it was crowded and I followed because there was no place else for me to stand, I swear. After two stops our metro car emptied a little and I proceeded to take a seat across from you in the hopes of catching a few discreet glances over the cover of my book. My plot was foiled when you sat in the chair adjacent to mine. I tried to spy the title of the book you were reading but it was impossible to do so without being noticed. Instead I opted to review the subway map above the door intently hoping to catch just a glance of your visage but today time was not on my side. As we passed each successive stop in the 11th arrondissement I knew that you would be leaving me soon to rejoin your bobo tribe. Republic, Oberkampf, St. Ambroise, Voltaire...time's was up. You stood up and made your way through the crowd of people to the door. I tried to sneak once last glance before you were gone forever and in my attempt I notice you look back over your shoulder to see if I was indeed looking at you and I was...

And poof you were gone, opportunity missed!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cultural Differences?

French men can be quite charming, endearing and flirtatious. Generally speaking it's a good thing as Martha would say and I'm like like bring it on. However, I find it problematic that whenever I go to a party with mixed sexes I always end up chatting up some French cutie only to find out much later in the evening that he is actually dating or married to some other chic in the room. What's up with that?

Take for instance this guy:

video
Does the guy in this video seem attached to you?


And then there's the guy from the New Year's Eve party that I attended. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that culprit.

In New York in most social settings I am able to discern almost instantly who was available and who was spoken for but here in Paris I apparently don't have a clue. Just when I've perfected my algorithm to determine whether the guy I'm chatting with is European/metrosexual or gay I need to come up with a new algorithm to determine whether or not he's single. I guess the simpler thing to do would be to ask outright but that's just not my style.

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