Monday, December 6, 2010

You Do the Hokey Cokey and You Turn Yourself Around...

Today we have learned a very important lesson. Today we have learned that the black boots that are so cute, that we love sooooo much, are not suitable for icy conditions. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson the hard way, by making a spectacular fall in the street, in front of one of our schools, in front of several students and parents. Ow... my pride... and my backside. Happy Monday, Sara.

In other news, I learned a new song today. It was a song I thought I already knew, but apparently the British English textbook we use knows a different version. It's called the Hokey Cokey. You put your arms and stuff in and you shake em all about, but then there's this whole weird extra chorus part where you do the Hokey Cokey and you turn yourself around...and then "knees bent, arms stretched, rah rah rah?" Yeah, I don't get it either. I am going to have to take this up with my British roommate.

So I went to the big Christmas market in Lille last Friday. On the whole it was kind of disappointing. I was hoping for a lot of handmade crafts and regional specialties that I could take home for Christmas gifts, but mostly it was just a lot of touristy crap. So that was a bummer. But I still had a very lovely afternoon. I went with Joey and two of his friends from the US who were visiting, Jamie and Brad. The temperature was hovering somewhere near the 20 degree mark (I have recently learned that this is some of the coldest weather Northern France has seen in years), but we bundled up and braved the cold and had a really good time. We got some roasted chestnuts and some mulled wine, which helped us warm up a little, and since the Christmas market was a bust, we trekked across the city to the Citadel, a huge military fortification from the 1800's that is now also a huge park. Very pretty all covered in snow. So we took some pictures, threw some snowballs, complained to each other about being cold, and then headed back downtown to the English language movie theater to see Harry Potter 7. It was excellent, of course, the best one so far, I think, but unfortunately the people at the movie theater must be trying to keep their expenses down, because it was effing freezing in there. During the frozen pond scene my teeth were actually chattering. But we enjoyed the movie nonetheless (it was Joey's second screening and Jamie and Brad's third), had some tasty dinner afterwards (and finally got warm!), and then headed back to Valenciennes to my house for a couple of bottles of wine to cap off the night. Brad and Jamie are now on their way to Egypt, for their honeymoon!

Anyhow, that's about all the news I have for now. But here are some pictures!

Joey, Jamie, and moi, braving the cold.
Christmas market crap...
La Citadelle
Joey and Brad having an impromptu dance party in my room...

Happy Monday, y'all!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taco Tuesday!

To borrow a phrase from my British friends, it is BLOODY cold outside. Like, teeth-chattering, bone-chilling, wind-ripping-right-through-you cold. It's so cold that I couldn't even finish the one cigarette I tried to smoke today. I'm quite glad I don't have to work, because I don't think I can be asked to leave the house at this point. So what better to do with my day then spend it inside, in sweatpants, coffee mug in hand and laptop in lap.

I had a really excellent day yesterday. Normally I hate Tuesdays, because I work all day without much of a break and I run back and forth between all three of my schools. Granted, even on Tuesdays I still have it much easier than some of my fellow assistants because my schools are close together and close to my house, but in my world, Tuesdays suck. So I begrudgingly got out of my warm, comfy bed (yesterday was pretty cold too), mainlined some coffee, and headed out the door. I got to work about 5 minutes late, but it didn't end up being a problem because the teacher I was working with was ten minutes late, apparently because of the snow we'd gotten the night before. I actually laughed out loud at this, because I thought she was joking. We did indeed get snow on Monday night, but less than half an inch. The grass and rooftops got a light dusting, and there wasn't any snow at all on the roads. They were just wet, as if we'd gotten a good drizzle, which happens pretty frequently around here. But apparently snow is pretty rare in these parts, and even the negligible amount we got Monday night is enough to paralyze the public transportation system in our city.

But anyway, we started class by continuing our work on body part vocabulary, which we've been doing for a couple of weeks now. We were focusing on the parts of the face, so I did an activity with the kids where I told them to draw a red nose, draw green eyes, etc, and we made monster faces. We did this activity together the first time, with me drawing on the board while they drew on their papers, so that everyone knew what was going on. Then I had them turn their papers over so we could do the activity a second time, this time without me drawing alongside them, and we would see who had the most accurate monster face at the end. So they followed my instructions and drew their monster faces, and then I had them bring them up and stick them on the chalkboard so I could look them over. And I'm walking down the line, pulling out the ones with mistakes, and I get about halfway through and I just have to stop, and stifle a laugh. I've been looking for a monster with a black face, green eyes, an orange nose, and a yellow mouth. And the drawing I see in front of me is a black circle, inside of which I see a green apple, and orange horse, and a yellow key. Maybe she had no idea what was going on, or maybe it was a 9 year old's attempt at abstract art, but nonetheless it made me chuckle, and I gave her some credit for at least getting the colors right. 

Fortunately, my next class was canceled, so instead of having to rush out the door and literally run to another school, I had some time to stop by my house, print some things for my afternoon classes, have another cup of coffee, and check my email. Enter the next bright spot in my day. I got an email from one of my favorite people from my time at IU, Kathryn Brown. I worked with Kathryn for 3 and a half years when I was a part of IU's GLB Speaker's Bureau, which is a group of gay volunteers that visit classes at the university and attend events in the community to do open Q&A sessions, or what I like to call "Ask a Homo." Kathryn is the moderator of these sessions, and I probably participated in close to 100 during my time with the group, so suffice it to say we saw quite a bit of each other over the years. But I haven't seen or talked to her since I graduated, so it was really nice to hear from her again.

So I went to my last morning class with a little bounce in my step, which was good because even on a terrific Tuesday like yesterday, that 11am class always sucks. But I got through it, and headed back to my place to meet my pal Joey for lunch. Joey is another American assistant who lives just a couple of blocks away from me, and frequently comes to my place to use internet and do laundry. My roommates jokingly refer to him as our 6th roomie, such is his ubiquity in our house, and our love for him also :-). Joey normally works all day on Tuesdays, but because of that blasted quarter to half inch of snow we got on Monday (even though it was all melted by noon), he couldn't get a city bus out to his school in a neighboring town, so he had the whole day off. So we were eating lunch and I was complaining about one of my afternoon classes who don't seem to have much respect for me, and lamenting the fact that I don't know enough French to properly scold them. And Joey, who speaks much better French than I do, and who normally works in a high school, wondered if he might be able to come to my afternoon classes with me, to "observe." I figured since he is also a language assistant and since nobody takes assistants seriously anyway, that it would probably be fine. And it was. So I had some company to help me slog through my long Tuesday afternoon, and to help me put some of my less respectful pupils in their grammatically-correct places. Thanks Joey!

So my workday finally ends, and Joey and I decide that since there is a serious lack of Mexican food in France, we are going to make tacos for dinner. While we are in the kitchen, cooking up a fiesta, we learn that my French roommates have never had tacos before, so we decide to go all out. We made a taco bar and margaritas, chips and salsa and guacamole... the works. We also had some other dinner guests, so it turned into an impromptu dinner party of sorts. We had Julien, a friend of my roommate Valerie, Daniel, a (Mexican!!) Spanish language assistant (who approved of my Mexican cuisine, tyvm!), and Amaury, our first couchsurfer! If you recall, couchsurfing, ie staying on willing host's couches for free instead of paying for a hotel or hostel, is how I spent my first three weeks in France, and how I met two of my roommates, so I was quite happy to be able to return the favor to Amaury, who is in town for some job interviews. So we ate tacos and drank margaritas (and later the rest of the tequila), listened to Buena Vista Social Club, and a good time was had by all. Indeed, we discussed making every Tuesday night "Taco and Tequila Tuesday," or the French alternative "Mardi Mexicaine." It was really a very lovely evening. And, to cap it all off, Joey spent the night and got up and made crepes for us for breakfast this morning. C'etait magnifique!

And since then it's been coffee and pajamas. Oh, and shampoo. Yep, I shampooed my hair today. Really just to see what would happen; I haven't made a final decision as to whether or not I am going to go 'poo or no-'poo for the long term. Immediately when I put the shampoo in my hair though it felt much finer and like it had lost a lot of its texture and body, and it had that weird "squeaky" clean thing going on. Now it's almost dry, and doesn't seem to be much worse for the wear. It's much silkier and softer, but definitely finer and maybe a bit frizzier, and my ends seem a little dry, although they were a little dry before, too. I dunno, the jury is still out. We'll have to see how it behaves when I try to style it.

Anyway, that was my lovely day. I definitely needed it. Hope all of you are doing well at home, and I look forward to seeing you in just 2 short weeks!