You said, "Lift up your eyes; the harvest is here, the kingdom is near." You said, "Ask and I'll give the nations to you." O Lord, that's the cry of my heart. Distant shores and the islands will see your light, as it rises on us. O Lord, I ask for the nations.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Just to wrap it up...

So this an anticlimactic end, but I thought I'd make it official. This is the end of BIF. Sorry I never finished the stories, but alas, that's how life goes sometimes. For those coming here from google, welcome, and have fun perusing the stories. The ones from 07-08 are about my time as an assistant in a french high school (yikes!) and the older ones are from my time studying in Montpellier.

Au revoir! (fromage-tastic)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Well, the next few post are long over due, but what can I say, blogging looses it's appeal when you know you won't be traveling again for quite awhile. Alas, good times come in more ways than one, and already this summer has shaped up pretty good on its own terms. But I digress, I have stories to tell.

My second leg of travels took me back to England, a country I once thought I would love, but strangely its mystique has waned. I suppose that happens to every country I visit. I have grandiose dreams of one day living there, of settling down abroad (read: meeting a cute guy with an awesome accent), but once I'm there I suspect whether I'd really like leaving the States permanently. Don't get me wrong, England is great, and France is too for that matter, but they do somehow loose their magic after you visit. Maybe that's for the best. I suppose it's better to like a country on it's own terms rather than on some flighty fancy you dream up from afar. Anyway, after my brief stay in the States for my sister's graduation, I returned to Europe to go to Elodie's wedding, with an extended layover in England to visit Bristol and London.

My flight was long, as usual, but less daunting than my first few transatlantic flights. Something about your 4th flight in 2 months forces you to adjust to the length and discomfort. I landed in London and found my way to the bus bound for Bristol. I was sleepy, no doubt, but not exhausted, not yet. The bus ride was rather cozy, and I dozed off while absorbing the odd array of accents (with one lady I could have sworn was from Belfast...). I was greeted by Chris at the bus station, and we made our way up to the philosophy department at Bristol University. Chris was a wonderful host, as was his wife Pauline. They were both very kind and very welcoming, and I felt right at home during my stay. You may ask yourself what brought me to Bristol, of all places, and I'll be honest --I asked myself the same thing as I neared the city. Chris is friends with my adviser, and I was desperate for some intellectual stimulation, so a trip to visit a prominent political philosopher seemed, well, amazing, and the Bertrams were kind enough to have me. I'm quite glad that I went, and between discussions about Rousseau and God and the like, I got a good look at a rather lovely English city. In no particular order, here is some of what I learned/saw in Bristol:

Indian food: I had my first taste of Indian food here (and no, I have no idea what specific type I ate). It was great. Slowly but surely I'm going ethnic (which Daena will be pleased with for next year in LA!)

The New Room: Wesley's old church. The sanctuary was of the typical protestant-minimalist style. The most interesting feature was the pulpit which was built specifically to give the preacher time to get away from a mob of rioting parishioners! If only they still made 'em like they used to (and if only preachers were preaching something with some fire and passion in it, enough to convict and stir up some action! not that I approve of mobs and rioting...). I was there just in time for their afternoon service, so I stayed and listened, prayed, and took communion with the odd melange of tourists and Wesley enthusiasts who were also visiting the old church.

Queen's Square: I watched a pickup game of cricket in the park. And, I almost knew what was going on. Bowling and wickets my friends, that's all there is to it. (which reminds me, I also watched a rugby game, and I think I actually do understand that some...)

Banksy: fun stencil graffiti. Apparently his work is "hip" now. It is interesting, I'll give it that.

Galen: I sat in on a metaphysics guest lecture... chuckle. I'm not a metaphysician (is that what you'd call them?), but the article I read that morning to prepare for the talk was a touch dull. I generally enjoy metaphysics, to a degree, but thin-subjects --or whatever-- are not my cup o' tea. I guess the other Bristol philosophers weren't all that impressed either, esp not when he starting talk about that whacked out time theory where time is not liner but in chunks of, idk, well I forgot the name. But anyway, it was funny. I'll just stick to ethics...

Dinner Party: Alexander (?) had the Bertrams and some others over for dinner, and they let me come with. I've forgotten a majority of what we talked about, but I will say this: I was grilled. I was asked about a million cultural/philosophical/etc questions, none of which I had ever heard of. Needless to say, there was both the age and culture gaps working against me on that one. It was fun though, exceedingly, and I left with the hostess's copy of Rebecca, because everyone was shocked that I hadn't even heard of it...

Laycock Abbey: we took a trip up to this very quaint village, home to Laycock Abbey, and old home of Henry Fox Talbot (pioneer of modern photography). I totally understand how cameras work (old school ones), for the first time in my life. This is why I love learning, and museums, etc. I'm tempted to find my mom's old camera and tinker around with it. I tried once before, but I couldn't even load the film in. Sad day. Anyway, the abbey itself was beautiful, and was (interestingly enough) used in numerous films, including the famed Harry Potter movies. The most exciting discovery was that the old town itself was used in Pride and Prejudice (my heart melts just at the title).

The other notable event, well not really an event, was my date of departure. I was planning on leaving June 2nd to go to London, and in my head that was on a Tuesday. However, my head is not an accurate calender, and this time it was wrong. The 2nd was on a Monday, and Chris figured this out for me on Sunday night. Oops. At least he did catch it, and we made sure I could get a bus ticket back to London. I had to miss the grad student seminar, which was a bummer, but oh well.

Okay I'm going to wrap it up here. The further I go into this post, the less detailed I write. I'm sorry. This is hard to do in the summertime. The moral is: I really enjoyed hangin' with the Bertrams in Bristol. I saw a wonderful city and learned quite a bit from Chris about a number of things, philosophy and what have you. I had, as we pretend like the British typically say, a jolly good time.

Coming up: London and the wedding...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sorry for the silence...

I realize it's been awhile since I've posted, but hang in there because I still have a few stories left to write about. I just returned from my last leg of European travels and have a few posts left in me. Give it a few days (or weeks) and I'll get them all up here. I've got stories about Bristol, London, Elodie's wedding, and reflections on the year, so be excited. And then it'll be about the time to retire. Anyway, check back here soon (not too soon, because I'll be in LA for a bit!). Cheers!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

And when all is said and done...

This post is coming to you all the way from Chicago International Airport. I've had some time to kill (read: 7 hours and counting, just here). Today I left Avranches, for good. I will still have a few posts in me after this, at least until after Elodie's wedding in June. But my time in Avranches has ended, and I'm ready to move on. I've been lazy about posts recently, so this one is just some loose ends about some things I've been meaning to write about for awhile.

UCLA: My decision. I wasn't very specific about why I decided on UCLA. So now I'll try and eleborate it a bit more. Before my trip I was fairly certain that I'd go to UNC, and my visit to UNC confirmed that in my mind. But there was something different about UCLA. When I was there, it wasn't that it seemed better, it just felt different. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I had a really good feeling about that department and that city. That feeling surprised me because I expected not to care for UCLA very much. But I did, and that threw me off. Even with that feeling, I wasn't sure. I'm never sure, which my friends can vouch for. Decisions and I don't work well together. Normally, I don't have to make big life changing decisions, like whether to abandon law school or which side of the country to live on for the next 6-7 years. But usually the decisions just happen. I don't think about them too much; I just know, eventually. But until I know, I don't know at all. Does that make sense? What I mean is that before the decision makes itself (before the feeling comes I guess), I have no idea, not even an inkling, or at least I think I don't. And then something happens, or nothing happens, and I just know what I'm supposed to do. It happened when I applied as an undergrad (I made my decision to go to Madison before I applied, and just didn't apply elsewhere, which is strange). It happened when I decided to study abroad, finish early, go back to France, apply to law school, etc. It's funny because you'd think the law school part was a mistake, but it couldn't have been, because if I didn't plan on that then I wouldn't have studied philosophy or taken the classes I did. And when it came time to decide if I wanted to do this grad school thing, and abandon the goals I'd made for myself since middle school, it happened the same way. I went from completely unsure to sure. It just happened. And that's what happened with this decision. I grappled with it during my whole trip home, and with my friends and family when I got back. And then I just knew. It was strange. When I flipped the coin with Irene and it landed on tails, I was glad, and my being glad confirmed what I felt. I told myself that if my feeling was right, what God wanted, then God would get me off that waitlist (which required 4 of 7 undecided people to say no-- not promising). And on April 15th I got an email: I was in. And I knew. It's all very strange, going from completely undecided to this sort of calmness about it. It's not certainity, really, not that strong. Just sort of calmness about it. It's hard to explain, but there it is. The nerd from Wisconsin is moving to LA.

Liberties: The Liberties is our favorite pub, our own pub, in this small small town. We love it because it's English, or at least, the owner and one of the other bartenders are English. The other night Irene and I made a trip there to chat with Danielle and we had a strange barmate. He told us from across the bar that he was a gypsy, but that he was not a "naughty" gypsy. Well that was our first clue. The drunker he got, the more he started shouting at Danielle and I and tried to get our attention, but we ignored him. Finally Danielle turned to him and said that she was in the middle of a conversation, and he started repeating, "Donc tu dois me dire 'Ta guelle!'" (= your snout, or shut the f*** up, not very nice) ...he said that over and over again and finally she told him that she doesn't speak that way and neither should he. By the end he was pretty belligerent, and she refused to serve him, saying that it was time for bar close. When she finally got him to scram, she starting serving people again. I don't know much about gypsy culture in France, but Danielle told me that in the summer they are a lot of them in Avranches and the men cause problems at her pub, so much so that she hired a bouncer for the weekends. Ten or twenty will come in and refuse to pay, start fights, etc. She gets freaked out because as a woman working alone, she can't stand up to them. Usually she just doesn't fight back when they decide not to pay. Now I'm sure not all gypsies are that rowdy, but I guess the ones that come into her pub are, so she's not a fan. Interesting.

Boredom: Vacation was horrible. Two weeks with nothing to do, and lots of rain. On one of the nice days Irene and I went to Granville (on the coast), which was great, but the rest of vacation sucked. I watched 3 seasons of Veronica Mars, every episode of House, and some other things I can't remember. Bored to death. Ready to leave.

First impressions: Yesterday Irene told me what her first impression of me was. By the look on her face, it didn't seem like a good one. Apparently, when she first met me she thought I was the "stereotypical American blond"...I asked for elaboration, and she said that she thought I was probably one of those "popular girls"... implying: mean? Haha. I don't think I've ever been mistaken for a "cool" or "popular" girl. Don't let the blond hair and (initial) friendliness throw you off, I'm not, nor have I ever been, "cool"... but hey, a Chilian thought for about a week that I was. I asked her if she's since revised her view, and yes, yes she has (but for the better, apparently). Sigh, can't keep the appearance up for that long.

Last day of work: my students on Monday seemed genuinely upset that I was leaving. I think, though, because these are the students that I work with while the teacher is there, and they prefer me over her. But hey, I'll take it. Their teacher said that she's seen a lot of improvement overall in thier writing. They write more logically and more deeply. Holler.

Last Soiree: Marie-Francoise had us over for one final soiree, and it lasted quite some time. We were tired, but enjoyed it a great deal. I will miss those.

Last night: For my last night in Avranches, we ate at our beloved kebab stand (classy) and then sat outside at a cafe for a drink. We tried to go the liberties, but it was closed. Later Danielle got ahold of me and told us to come over to her pub for some drinks on the house to say farwell and all that. Our little fete ended up lasting until 3am (my alarm was set for 5am). Danielle even busted out a nice bottle of real champagne, which was excellent, if you're wondering. It was so sad to say goodbye. We will miss her and that pub.

Because we got home so late, Rachel and I decided to just stay up (Kate did not, falling asleep on my bed...what would have been my bed). I got some things ready (and still managed to forget a hairbrush and forget to take out the trash, oh well). When I said goodbye to Irene earlier in the night she was a wreck, but I was eerily okay. I didn't cry, not even when I later said goodbye to Kate and Rachel. Rachel says I'm cold (jokingly), but I like to call it stoic. Doesn't sound so bad. I will miss all of those girls dearly, much more so than I will the city itself or my job. But I just don't cry. Some time soon I'll post a sum up of my impressions of the year. But that requires too much effort for the moment.

Horrid trip home, the trip that still isn't done yet: On Friday I left Avranches at 5h30am with Eric and took the train from Villedieu to Paris. The train ride wasn't bad. I was, obviously, extrememly tired, so I slept for a good deal of it. The real problem came when we arrived. I have a backpack with my monster computer and two bags that are close to 50lbs each. Most of the weight is from the books that I can't bear to part with. Needless to say, I had a horrible time fumbling around with my suitcases and dragging them around Montparnasse looking for the Airport shuttle. Sigh.

The shuttle got me to Charles de Gualle after about a 2 hour wait (not sure why the delay). Then I dragged my luggage over to the US Airways guichet. Hmm, that's interesting, there's no line. Sweet. As I approach the man at the window I see a worried look come over his face. Crap. Um madame... We regret to inform you, but, your flight to Philly has been canceled. Crap crap crap. Please go wait in that really long line with your massive amounts of luggage and we'll try and get you home eventually. Awesome. The line wait was about 2 hours, my suitcases being slowly dragged every step of the way. Thank God I was earlier enough in the line to get on the next flight to Chicago and connect on to Atlanta. She gave me my new tickets and said hurry! Okay! Drag my stuff to the other terminal, ugh. And get there just as the last few people are boarding. Sweet.

On the plane I was so pissed to find that once again there were only a few little movie screens at an awkward angle in the aisle. This is why I spent the extra 20 bucks to take US Airways, hoping not to get a crap AA flight again. Nope, I just can't get away from them. I was also supposed to have an empty seat next to me, not so much anymore. This flight was packed. I had the good fortune to have a crazy french woman next to me. Let's just say I had to translate a fight between her and the flight attendant about the duty free cigarettes that they ran out of, and she decided to turn into chatty cathy just as soon as the movie started. Grrr. The flight was long, and I'm tired and hungry, as usual. We arrived and I was supposed to have a 2 hour layover before my flight to Atlanta. And then it was delayed by an hour, and then another, and another. I have been in Chicago for over 7 hours. I want to die. It would have been easier for my mom to pick me up then sit around here starving and desperately wanting a bed. I'm about ready to break down. This is why I'm blogging, to try and find some sanity in my long, long, long day. If they push the flight back anymore I might just ask for a hotel. Can you do that? I don't even know.

I should be in Atlanta right now, or Auburn, but I'm not. If I ever get there, I'll be sure to let you know. Later gators.

update: Just for fun I rechecked the ETD: from 10:45 to 11:05. Are they joking?? (it was orginially 6:55).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Heads Carolina, Tails California

So a little over a week after I return from my adventures in the US of A, I've finally gotten around to writing about it. Sorry for the delay. Boredom, apparently, doesn't inspire you to actually be productive... This is super long, so I'll finish it in a follow up post later.

For all the country fans out there, you may recognize the title from Jo Dee Messina's song (I encourage you to play the song while reading this post, just to get in the right frame of mind). Like the loser that I am, this was the first song I played when I began my trip last Wednesday. I bobbed my head along to this old favorite at our little train station, and thought seriously about flipping a coin right there, just to see. While I was impatiently waiting for my train to Rennes, and listening to my special-made playlist, I was randomly accosted by this very peculiar Austrian man who I think drives trucks for a living, but it was early and I admit that I wasn't really paying attention. I only mention it because we don't get randoms in our little corner of France very often, and I think he was quite happy to meet an English speaker (he wasn't, it seems, very fond of the French). Oh the delights of travel.

On the train to Rennes (and the subsequent train to Paris, 5ish hours in all) I was productive, and I will brag about it. I started and finished two philosophy articles that I printed on the sly in the teacher's lounge. It felt good, really good. I go in and out of moods where philosophy is exciting to do. Normally, it's the days where I am totally bored that I can't muster the ambition to buckle down and dive into a good article or chapter. That's why I need to be in school. When I have stuff to do, I get other stuff done too. I'm funny like that. Anyway, I got to Paris and took the long RER trip to CDG, only to wait at CDG for another few hours. Really, this was all a drag. I wait, just to sit on a train, and then wait some more, just so I can sit on a plane and wait even longer. Lots of doing nothing is involved in travel. That's why I prefer to have an amiga with me. Although, sometimes the waiting can be fun. I do enjoy people watching, and mass transport does provide the perfect setting to see a wide variety of people, and believe me, I saw quite a few characters wandering their way through the Paris airport. Good times.

After my long, and not all that enjoyable flight (the TV screen was at an awkward upward and to the side angle, making movie viewing not all that comfortable...but a bored passanger can't not watch the movie screen in the aisle, so to heck with the muscles in my neck...). When I got to JFK I had to race through customs to make my connecting flight. The plane for my next flight was literally a toy plane. I was in a row that was one seat wide. Needless to say, it was nice to spread out a bit without fear of unknowingly falling asleep on an unsuspecting neighbor. When we landed, I had already been traveling for close to 24 hours (or rather, sitting around). I was finally in North Carolina. And then it hit me: how am I supposed to find the student picking me up? I knew he drove a red and brown pickup truck and was going to pick me up outside...but that's not all that specific. I had no number in case he didn't find me, and it was close to 1am so no one was manning the desks in the airport. Hmm. I waited outside baggage claim for lack of a better idea and I sat. I sat for a good 45 miniutes and my fatigue was not helping my overall anxiety at the fact that everyone had been picked up and I was out there alone. Me and my suitcase, chillin' on the curb, awesome. I was so tired, and my lack of a backup plan was really starting to worry me. I thought to myself, all I want is a bed, or maybe just a pillow, heck I'll just lay down on the bench if that's what it comes to, I don't think my ride is ever coming... I'll have to call the department in the morning, but I'm not sure how... Thankfully, my ride showed up, and really not all that late. We landed early and I had checked my bag so I was able to zoom through baggage claim and was outside waiting at around the time my plane was supposed to land. But when you're exhausted, you don't always think rationally. It felt like forever.

I got dropped off at my host's house and was ready to go sleep. My host was very nice, and a fellow badger, so the guest room I stayed in was decked out with Wisconsin stuff. By 2am (around 8am France time) I was in bed, only to wake up less than 6 hours later to go to breakfast. My day was jam packed. I met with professors, chatted awkwardly about stuff I know next to nothing about, and tried to keep up my energy level. Everyone was extraordinarily nice, and the department felt really comfortable. It seemed like a place where I could definitely study philosophy. I sat in on a class, which was exciting for the first half, but by the second hour I was about ready to crash. Some strange adrenaline rush kept me going up until about 3pm, and then I was ready to curl up in a bed again. I was also annoyed at my throat, which was starting to feel pretty soar. Stupid circulated stale air on airplanes. Somehow though, I trucked through it and met some students and chatted it up with more professors, all of whom seemed pretty nice. After dinner I took a nap, because I was scheduled to meet some first years later that night.

After my nap we went to Hell. Apparently, Hell is the bar frequented most by the philosophy grads, and it also happens to be a bar that's pretty tight on security. Believe it or not, I did not bring my driver's license to France, because a passport usually does the trick. For less secure venues I just bust out my International Student Identity Card. And apparently, my ISIC card is not considered sufficient identification to prove that I was born before 1987. I thought I looked the part, but I guess to some people I still look pretty young. The funny thing was, my host and her friend thought my ISIC card would suffice and told me not to bother with my passport, but I told them I'd bring it just in case. I also lied, I guess, because when I went to get the passport out of my wallet it wasn't there. Oops. So we drove back to my host's house, I dug through my bag and actually brought my passport with me the second time. My bad. Overall the first years were very cool, and they seemed much less socially awkward than your typical philosophy students. I think there may be some self-selection giong on here because UNC has a reputation for being more social, so the more socially inclined tend to choose UNC in the end. But that's just a theory. I also beat two guys in a game of pool, because as you may remember me and the other assistants have some mad pool skills. The one thing that seemed pretty uniform from the first years was that the department and professors are great, but UNC is a college town, and with that comes the feeling of not being in the real world. There's not much to the city outside of the college, and to some of them (thought not all), that was a real downside. But overall, it was good, and I was able to pick their brains for a good amount of time. I think it helps being the only prospective there. Unfortunately, my throat was really hurting now, and every swallow of my drink really hurt. But I tried to push that out of my mind.

That night I only slept on and off. I would wake up super thirsty, but when I tried to drink my water I could barely swallow. I also alternated between being over hot to freezing. Again, like the stoic warrior I am, I pushed it out of my mind, forced down some more water, and tried to go back to sleep. When I woke up, however, my throat literally felt like it was completely closed off. Ouch. Every swallow was torture. I told my host that I was pretty sure I had strep throat, but also that I was pretty sure I didn't have my American insurance card with me (not needing it in wonderful, socialized France). She wasn't sure what to do, tried to assure me that it was probably just allergies, and I agreed to wait it out and see if it got better during the day. That was stupid of me, really stupid. I have allergies, and I've had strep throat, and I know the difference. A fever and not being able to swallow anything is the difference, but again, I put it out of my head and tried to enjoy the day. I had some good old southern cooking at a lunch with some of the professors and a visiting professor from Norway. And then I made the rounds with professors once again, and sat in on the lecture by the visiting professor. The lecture was hard to get through, and although my throat felt slightly better, I was freezing. It had been raining all day, which didn't help, but it wasn't that cold outside. I knew I was the only one that cold, and it wasn't because of the weather.

Other than that, my overall impression that UNC has a very friendly atmosphere was confirmed. I only had two incidents that sort of put me off, and they were comments made by two students about religion (or religious people) that were derogatory. I know that I will encounter those things everywhere I go, but for some reason they caught me off guard and I was put off by them. The professors were over the top nice, and the students all seemed to be friends with each other, and I really did like it there. In my head I was 80% sure that I would go to UNC after seeing it. I was expecting this to be a "gut" feeling that I'd end up there, which I did not have, but before I left I was leaning towards UNC and my visit gave me no reason to change that preference. In my mind (and out loud to some people), I thought that the only way I would choose UCLA would be if it somehow blew my socks off. But I didn't really expect that to happen, not after my visit to UNC, so after seeing UNC I was pretty confident that I would be there next fall.

Saturday morning I woke up to fly out to LA. That night was much like the one before it, only my fever (or at least, what I could only assume was a fever) felt worse, and my throat seemed even more inflamed then before. Even my lymph nodes hurt when I touched them. Things were not looking good. My flights, to top it all, were horrible. The pressure made my head and ear drums feel like they were going to explode (my ears didn't pop until Sunday, grrr). I was freezing, and I could barely drink my water. On top of that, I hadn't had a good night's sleep in 3 days. I was exhausted and miserable. I rarely break down, as many of you know, but on that plane (particularly the 2nd flight that was 4 hours long) I was very very close to breaking down in tears. I just wanted to be at home in my bed. After all, I was in the States, so why couldn't I just be home?? I rarely cry, and that day was no exception (thankfully). Somehow I managed to hold it in, and I tried my best to sleep. Fortunately, two good things did happen on that flight that made me smile. I think God made sure I had a window seat to try and cheer me up, because we passed over both the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. I've never seen either, and the view from the plane was amazing. God's glory in nature can have a very calming effect. Also, while on the plane I decided that the first thing I was going to do in LA would be to go to the doctor. I rechecked my wallet and low and behold, behind my American Red Cross blood donor, I found an old copy of my American insurance card. Holler back. I'm going to the doctor.

When I arrived at LAX I couldn't find my host, so I blew $10 on a calling card to call my host's cell phone. I kid you not, as I finished dialing his cell number, I saw this guy walk through the entrance and look around with a hand made sign that had my name on it. Well hot dog! Hey, that's me, I'm Lindsey. Awesome, no need for the card, and off we went. I got in the car and he and his girlfriend introduced themselves. They asked what I wanted to do first and I meekly said, "Can I go to a clinic or to the hospital or something? I'm 90% sure I have strep throat..." Ohh, okay. I skipped the small talk, because frankly, it hurt and I wanted some antibiotics. They certainly weren't expecting that, and a few phone calls later, they decided that the only place to take me was UCLA's ER. Alright, I think it's important to check out the campus hospital, after all, health care is a very important factor in my decision, at least it will be if this stupid illness doesn't go away. So we went to the ER, and after 3 hours I was able to chat with the doctor, tell him my symptoms and told him I'm sure it's strep, he said that I know the symptoms for strep quite well, I said that I've had it before, etc etc. One look at my throat and he agreed, no test or anything. The nurse said, "You're dehydrated so you need to drink some juice deary [sic], what kind would you like?" ...Um, apple? A few minutes later she returns with over 30 ounces of apple juice. Whoa. So I drank, and drank, and it hurt, but gosh darn it I was going to finish that mega drink. An attending came by and told me, very seriously, that I either have strep caused by bacteria or a virus. Crap, I know where he's going with this... If it's caused by bacteria, the antibiotics will clear it up in a day or so, if it's a virus, well then I have to tough it out. He went on to say that it could also be mono, which has similar symptoms and it's pretty common among people "my age"... what he was implying I could only guess. Needless to say, I prayed it was the former, because I really didn't want some 6 month tired-virus mooching off me. He said I could have one shot now or 10 days worth of pills... the shot, the shot! And that's what I got.

My hosts let me relax for a few hours, and after that I already started feeling better. The weather was, as you can imagine, beautiful (70 and sunny). They took me to Venice beach, and we ate some at some authentic Japanese supermarket foodcourt--better than it sounds, and the warm noodles felt really good on my throat. Then they called over some other 5th years (the people I met at UCLA were much older than the crowd of 1st and 2nd years I met at UNC) and we ate at this fun Cuban place. Lots of good ethnic food for me (we later ate Mexican, Thai, and something else that escapes me). That night I went to bed early, well LA time early (around 10pm), and I slept for 14 hours. It felt good. On Sunday they took me to see Santa Monica, downtown LA (every block is like another country, the diversity is awesome), and we drove home through Hollywood and the posh Beverly Hills. When I told them that the stuff I know about LA I learned from the Hills, they told me that they both love the show. Yes! I don't feel like a total flake now. So they drove me by through Lauren and Heidi territory, and believe it or not the Hill's theme song came on the radio. Coincidence?

Monday was the day for business (and the first day of full health! apparently it was bacteria). I had an hour or so to explore campus for myself, and I loved it. It really was gorgeous, and I loved that everyone still wore UCLA shirts and sweatshirts. I pictured UCLA being a bunch of buildings mixed up with the city, more like UWM or something, but it really is a campus just like any other, only it happens to be in a larger city. Very cool. Even the library was pretty awesome. My meetings with professors went well, and by this point I think I got the over my fear of them. My token question, "What do you think I should know about this department?" That question is purposefully vague, and they have a lot of room to elaborate (with less questions from me, I really am this lazy). But also, it shows what they think is important in a philosophy education, because whatever they emphasize is what they push for. Is it finishing in 5 years or doing imaginative/thorough work? For UCLA I'd wager to guess it's the latter. All in all, it was pretty cool, and I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the professors and students. And, as it turns out, a lecture that was scheduled for Wednesday was moved to Monday so I was able to catch one of my new favorite Christian philosophers in the flesh (Robert Adams, that is). I was quite sorry, of course, that his wife was sick and couldn't give her lecture, but the fact that Adams was even at UCLA (he's now at Oxford, but used to teach there) let alone that he spoke on the only day I was on campus seemed more than a little providential. It's funny how those things work out, huh?

My impression of UCLA? Of the city: very cool, and I thought I'd hate it. It is kind of like a tropical sprawling suburb, but I can do suburbs, they're almost all I know. The weather, mountains, ocean, etc were also pretty awesome, not to mention the fact that LA is a city with stuff to do and not only white people. I liked that. I asked around about the status of women in the department (since they usually don't fare well in philosophy, but at UNC there's a 50/50 ratio), and all the students told me you don't get messed with at UCLA. They attributed that to the three strong and extremely intelligent women faculty members, but anyways, it was good to hear. Some how, I was just impressed with everything. The students were nicer than I expected, the professors were more open than I expected, and it really seems like the goal at UCLA is to produce well rounded thinkers who can see the big picture and actually contribute in a non-trivial way to the field as a whole. I got the impression that they train you pretty hard, and they have very high expectations, but that if you go there it's because you want to meet and exceed those expectations. At least, that's the impression I got, and I really liked that. I just had a good feeling about it, something I couldn't put my finger on, and I thought maybe I felt that way because I was finally healthy. Either way, I really did feel good about that school and that department.

My trip home was better than my trip there, with the exception of the taxi ride to the airport. The night before my host told the cab company that I only had a credit card, so whoever came to get me needed to have one of those credit machine things in the cab. When I got to the airport and handed my driver the card, he flipped out. He can only take cash, his machine is broken. Well my friend, we told the company that I only had a card. I repeat, I do not have $20, sorry. It was early, and I wasn't really in the mood to push it, but what could I do? I didn't have the money. Oh wait, I don't have dollars, but I do have euros. And what did I have left in my wallet, a 20 and 5. Well 20 euros is pretty much like giving him a 100% tip, but whatever, I have to go. So I gave it to him, much to his dismay, and then tried to explain that I was the one getting the short end of the stick in this bargain. Ugh. Whatever. Other than that, the plane rides were peaceful and I watched a lot of movies (this time I got to choose), and for my flight to Paris the seat next to me was empty which was pretty awesome.

There was only one problem with my trip: it made it even harder for me to make a decision. Before I left I thought for sure I would end up at UNC, but after my trip I was less sure. I was quite impressed with both schools, and I didn't really have a good way to decide. On my flight back I made a comparison chart. And you know what? It didn't help. I honestly thought I was going to have to pick some arbitrary way to decide (the NCAA tournament suggestion was nullified when both lost in the final four). I was sort of freaking out on the inside, because I didn't know how to decide. But then I took a step back and tried to think about how I felt at each school. I liked UNC, but if I'm being honest, I loved UCLA. I know I loved it because I expected to hate it so I think my standards for it were tougher than for UNC. My only hesitation was that my gut reaction could have been enourmously influenced by the fact that I was sick at UNC and not at UCLA. It was also raining at UNC and sunny at UCLA. Then there were those comments by the students at UNC about religion, but I'll get that anywhere. I mentioned this to Daena (about the sickness part), and she said that sometimes God uses weather, people, even illness to affect our "gut" reaction. Maybe God wanted me to be sick, have it rain, hear those negative comments, etc to warm me up to UCLA. Maybe the random coincidence of Adams giving his lecture was a sign. Maybe a lot of things, maybe none of it. Maybe I read to much into it, or maybe the fact that I'm even reading that much into it proves that I'm leaning towards UCLA. Maybe. But I wasn't even accepted to UCLA yet, just top of the waitlist. So maybe UNC is where I ought to go, and I did really like it there. I also know that I can do the south, but can I really do LA? So much uncertainty. I talked with people about, and kept going back and forth (though I only had a few days to decide before the deadline). In the supermarket, Irene made me flip a coin, like the song. I used a good old American penny.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rien de rien, je ne regrette rien...

Today, to the sound of Edith Piaf's famous song (see title: Absolutely nothing, I regret nothing), I marched on down to the train station to buy my ticket to Paris for Wednesday. It was a bit blustery, but I was feeling rather chipper. This week has been (for the most part) a pretty good week. Mainly, my kids are finally behaving and I'm starting to warm up to Avranches again. On my walk I took the path through the jardin des plantes, and it was prettier than I remembered, even with the gray sky overhead. Not too bad.

This week I did a lot of lessons (again) on gender, race and politics, which interested a select number of students quite a bit, and the rest of my students not at all. But that's okay, because I'm going to continue our discussions next week, and however long it takes for everyone to care. They can't get away that easy! In fact, I was quite surprised to find that again this week the macho boys took more of an interest in the subject than I would have ever imagined. Maybe there is hope.

Yesterday I did some practice Cambridge Oral Exams for my yearbook-ers, and I was (thankfully) on my own. The kids did a great job, and listened, and seemed to actually care about the advice and tips I was giving them. I guess when you mention "upcoming exam" they start to tune it, esp since I can help them more than their actual teacher. We worked on having normal-ish conversations, and using questions/etc when you're unsure what the topic is. I reminded them that if they don't know they can ask their partner (the exam is in pairs) questions, and if those questions are in English, then that counts towards showing that they have a command of the language. It even makes the conversation less forced. So we'll see. For homework I told them all to go to (I kid you not) and watch some of the free shows online. I recommended the Hills, Laguna Beach, True Life and Made (though there are plenty of others). They were shocked that I would actually recommend those shows, and I explained to them that not only are those shows shallow and simple, but they use boring everyday conversation vocabulary. If they just watch a few episodes, they'll hear a lot of greetings, etc, that will help reinforce the vocab they need for their exam (and it will aid in the listening comprehension part). At the end of class I told them that I'd be gone next week because I'd be in the US, and they flipped out. They thought I was finished or something, but I explained that I'd be back the next week, and that would be my last day. That didn't help much. They seemed genuinely upset. I'd like to think it's because they think I'm a cool assistant, but a part of me knows they just prefer dinking around with me than getting yelled at by their teacher. A few of them suggested we have a party, and some said that if they ever travel to the US they are going to visit me (yeah right, but nice thought). And they made me promise to visit them after break during my last two days (I end on a Tuesday, but see them on a Friday). Part of me would be willing to finish out that whole week for the sake of some of my classes, but another part is ready to be done with some of my more unruly classes, so I think I'll just end on Tuesday (though I will stop by one of their other classes before leaving).

You will all be proud to hear about my culinary progress this week. Rachel had already taught me how to do some yummy sauted potatoes, and Kate taught me a great way to use spinach and creme to make a sauce for tortellini, but this week Colin taught me how to make a reduction sauce. It's great because the principles he taught me are basic enough that by changing a few ingredients you can make a radically different sauce. He helped me make a red wine sauce for my turkey and it was quite delicious. The non-evident tips: butter and flour to thicken the sauce, chicken or beef stalk for added flavor, if using cider (my goal for next week) add lardons (bacon pieces) to spice it up a bit. He also showed me how to roast garlic, which you can add to mayonnaise for a posh condiment. And if you cut a garlic clove in half and remove the green bit, you effectively eliminate the cause of garlic breathe. Thank you Colin. I even bought an artichoke (on a whim), and he promised to help me figure out what to do with it. One day, I'll eat like a normal person. No more chicken nuggets!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A long Easter post

Sorry ahead of time for the long post, but here it goes. The end of the week went okay at school, surprisingly enough. For the most part, my kids discussed stuff and what not, though I think perhaps my standards are just lower now than they were at the beginning (in fact, I'll wager that this is the real reason). I also started tutoring 3 kids who need help getting ready for the BAC, and no, this is not paid. I was sucked into it somehow, and I feel bad turning down kids who, for once, voluntarily want to work on English. We had a really good session, truthfully, and I wish my other students cared as much as those 3 kids (and they weren't great at English by any stretch of the imagination, but they were trying). And actually, on Friday Marie Francoise told me that the boy in the group told her he has started to fall in love with me...haha. It amazes me how I can inspire such opposite reactions in my students (love, indifference, hatred). Oh well. I'll chalk it up to the subject matter. I was also told this week by the teacher who teaches my BTS students (the 19-20 somethings) that I need to speak slower because the kids are too scared to ask me to repeat or slow down. Let me add here that I am well aware that they don't/can't understand me. I ask them repeatedly to ask me questions, to show any signs of life. They don't, so my patience has dried up. Now I just go talk at them for an hour and hope they absorb something. Sometimes I have an actual conversation with one or two students, but the others, well maybe if they SHUT UP they would be able to understand me. Scared, whatever. These kids are as old as I am. But again, my standards have fallen quite low, so I'm not all that bothered. My yearbook kids and my philosophy stars are keeping me from utter insanity, so I'll take what I can get.

This weekend the weather has taken an interesting turn. What was once a bit sunny and even, dare I say it, warm, is now cold and blustery and rainy. Boo. Yes, I know that Wisconsin is buried under 2 feet of snow, but the weather here does suck. It's always wet, and windy, and the wind is strong enough to blow me across the Channel. In fact, on Saturday night it even snowed for a good 5 min (giant wet clumps). That was at least a little exciting. Rachel and I flipped out and I even took a picture. It doesn't take much around here.

Easter. Easter was interesting. It started off on the wrong foot because Irene and I had a bit of a confusion in the morning. We were supposed to go to Church together, and 15 min before our ETD she skyped me to say she was running late but that she'd come over when she was ready. Close to 30 min later she still didn't come over. So I went to her apartment and saw a sticky note on the door that said in French, "Lindsey, excuse me but I can't go with you to Church." Ohh... hmm, glad I came out and didn't wait in my apartment... Why didn't she just skype me and tell me that too?? Well, as it turns out, she did come over and knocked really quietly so as to not wake up Rachel, only I couldn't hear it over the roar that is my computer. So she tried calling me and my phone was on silent. She had been feeling ill all weekend so after not finding me she just went to bed. The note she had written in the middle of the night when she woke up feeling sick, in case she couldn't wake up to go. Oops. Well, not knowing any of that, I headed out to Church solo, much to my dismay.

You may wonder why yesterday, of all Sundays, I didn't want to go alone. Well, for various reasons, I've stopped going to the tiny evangelical church. It was so small that it's really hard going and not feeling like a part of their little community. Part of that is my own fault, but it really is just a bit uneasy to go there, and the last thing you want to worry about when you're supposed to be praising /learning about God is how awkward you feel. So I've been doing some distance church time thanks to Blackhawk's website. But for Easter I wanted some corporate worship, and I thought I'd go to St. Gervais, the prettier (and warmer feeling) cathedral of the two in our city. The only thing is, St. Gervais is a catholic church and I'm, well, not catholic. I have nothing against catholicism, I just don't really understand it and the last time I went to a Catholic mass (in Montpellier) I was super confused. So Irene was supposed to go with me so that I would know what was going on (she is Catholic), and so we could finally go to Church together (after all of our God-conversations, the only reason we haven't is that she didn't want to go to the protestant church with me).

Anyway, it was quite the experience. I came late so I didn't get a bulletin with all the songs and liturgy readings, so I looked like I wasn't participating when really I just didn't have any way to follow along. I was also sitting up at the short arm part of the cross, in what appeared to be the veteran section, because I was surrounded by 70-somethings who knew exactly when to stand, make the cross sign, bow, sit, stand, pray, etc. I took comfort in the younger families across the way that clearly only stepped foot inside the church for Easter and Christmas (Cheasters... I felt like one of them), and who, like me, looked like they had no idea what to do next. The service was complete with the dude swinging the smoking can thing all over the place (hey, it smelled nice) and one of the priests went around shaking these branches at us and getting us wet (to which everyone around me bowed a few times and did some cross signs for good measure, while I looked baffled and quite confused). Oh my. My favorite part was the nun leading everyone in the hymns. She was a cutie, and quite energetic for someone her age. She had my respect. And here's the best part. I had no intention of taking communion, because although I could in pretty much any protestant church, I am well aware that the Catholic church prefers you to actually be a confirmed Catholic before you take communion with them. Out of respect, I was going to abstain. However, when the time came I had to let the old folks out of my row, and the only way to do this was to actually get up and get out of the row myself. When I did this, I found myself next in line for communion with the lady in our corner (don't ask how this actually happened, I'm not too sure). I couldn't very well tell the lady that although I was in line, I had changed my mind and didn't want the wafer. I had to be quick, so I just stuck my hands out like I saw someone do once (it was that or open my mouth, I think) and took the wafer. She said something that I didn't understand, and the only thing I could think to say was "Merci!" To my horror, Irene later told me that I was supposed to say Amen because she was giving me a blessing (Irene found my experience incredibly funny, and she was sorry to miss it). The lady probably thought I'd never been to church in my life. Oh well. This is all, of course, just the funny bit. It was actually a really nice service and it was nice to have some time away from everything to actually think about what Christ did/does for us, for all of us. I'm glad I went, because I needed the reminder. I think we all do.

Later on we had the pagan portion of our Easter celebration. The two Rachels hid a few bags full of chocolate eggs around the elementary school where Rachel and Kate live. In a girls vs guys competition (Rachel's boyfriend and his friend are here this week), we had a night time, flashlight only, egg hunt. Madness ensued. Needless to say, I feel sick from all the eggs we ate. Yummy. This week some lucky kids are going to find eggs randomly in the corridor and library.

That's about it. In about a week (April 2nd) I will be on my way to the States to visit schools. I can't wait! I'll have to make my decision in about 4 days after I get back. We'll see!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Things are looking up

This week has been good, in so far as things can be good around here. On Monday I had to give 5 students in my "philosophy" class a mock oral exam. Needless to say, all 5 of my students did an outstanding job. They had a random statement or question for a prompt, 5 minutes to prepare, and then they had to discuss the prompt with me for 10 minutes (and I helped the discussion by asking questions). My star students did well, but so too did my quieter students. There were 2 girls in particular who did fantastic, speaking with me (intelligibly) for the full time period. I was stunned, and quite pleased. Those two girls always seemed the least interested in my class, never smiling and never participating. But they seemed to really enjoy the one on one time with me, and one even used the example of our philosophy lessons as a way to combat stereotypes. I was so happy with all of them. I'm not sure if the students who went with MF did quite so well, but my lot did just fine... and part of it, I think, was that they seem to really be at ease with me and that makes it easier for them to practice their English. So yeah, score one for the lowly assistant.

On Tuesday my class wasn't so great (they combined with another class for a total of around 22) because they would not shut upn (mind you, these kids are 19/20 somethings). I gave them an article about Clinton and Obama and the role of gender and race in politics. It sparked discussion, just not in English and not as a class. People were talking amongst themselves, and it was very frustrating. It's not that they don't always do that (because believe me, they do), it's that this time there was a handful of "macho" guys who are never serious but who were for once trying to express their opinions about this. They tried to explain to me (over the noisy class) that France is not ready for a woman or a minority president (certainly not a North African). I asked why and they said that even though they personally think it would be a good thing, the French are (and this is them not me) too stubborn and traditional and the media perpetuates the problem. It was interesting, though annoying that not everyone was being serious. I told them that we'd continue the topic next week, and they should come prepared to talk about how to solve the problem! I won't hold my breath.

Anyway, the real good news is that I have very encouraging news from UCLA, and I've found out a lot more about their department. It is looking much more appealing than ever, which is bad, in a way, because my decision will be that much harder. The prospect of living in a big city now seems almost exciting (instead of yet another college town), but still, I'm not sure if it'd be fun after a year or 5. The good news is that UCLA can help me visit, so if the airline plays nice than I will be visiting both UNC and UCLA the first week in April. Um, amazing. I really hope it works out, and I really hope the visit(s) will give me clarity on where I should go. God, make it clear! Here's where you should all chime in and give me your thoughts, based on how well you know me. LA or NC?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Stuck in a Rut

First I'll tell you about the end of Feburary break, though I realize it's a little late in coming. I wanted to see Emilie and Elodie (Sophie was gone that weekend) in Montpellier for some catchup time and some sunshine, and some of the girls here decided to go with me. We trained down the long 9 hour trip, but when we got there the city was as warm and gorgeous as ever. We stayed at the Citadines in Antigone (the wealthy business district) because that's where my mom and company stayed when they came to visit me last time I was here. I found a great deal online, and the four of us could split an apartment for only 20 something euros a night (about the equivalent of a crummy hostel in Paris). The apartment was fabulous with a fully stocked kitchen and a balcony. We were loving it, and from the first night we didn't want to ever leave. I showed the girls around the city, and they loved it, of course. It was sunny and bright and the architecture is breathtaking. The whole time they kept saying how they wished we lived there. Me too.

I got to hang with Elodie, and we chatted and got caught up. She's swamped with wedding stuff, but she's getting really excited for June to come, and so am I. She explained how we all walk (wedding party and guests) from her house to the town hall and then to the church for the ceremony. It's like a big parade! Luckily she lives in a podunk town, so we won't be walking miles in the hot summer sun. She also showed my her dress (at the wedding shop) and it is beautiful. She's going to look amazing on her wedding day. It's still strange to me that she's getting married. After all, when we first bonded 2 years ago it was while we wrote notes to each other in our history class about these two boys she had to decide between. Needless to say, I helped her pick Jean, and I'll admit that he was a star from the start. When he met me and the Americans, he was super nice to us and a ton of fun to hang with, and he's always been great to Elodie. It's weird that I was there for the start and now will be there for the wedding, but I'm super happy that I get to go (and so too is Elodie). I already know all of her family (and Jean's!) so it won't be too strange being the only foreigner around.

We also got to hang with my friend from Emilie from Madison (she and Sophie studied abroad for a semester in Madison and worked on ag stuff). She showed us around her agriculture school, and it was SO much nicer than Paul Valery (where I studied in Montpellier). Science is always favored over humanities, though I can't imagine why... She invited us to a soiree with some of her friends and it was a lot of fun. Sadly for her, she just finished school down there and now is starting her internship. But I think she's ready to move on. It's a shame to have to leave Montpellier though! Hopefully I'll get to see her once or twice before I leave.

And the last notable adventure on our trip was our afternoon at Palavas. We took the bus to...the beach! It may have been March 1st, and it may have been a blustery day, but we took a dip in the Mediterranean like champs. And actually, Christina and I did the very same thing last time I was there, on March 1st. Needless to say, it was a wee bit chilly, and all the bundled up French people thought we were crazy!

Unfortunately our trip had to end and we're back doing the usual in Avranches. This past week or so has been kind of rough for me, and I couldn't pinpoint why. But last night I talked with Irene about feeling more antisocial and super bored and always tired. She felt the same, and it's strange because we both started the year with so much energy and excitement. We figured out why we were in a rut, and the problem is a combination of our lycee and this city. Despite a few classes that we really enjoy, we feel (as I wrote about before) like we're wasting our time here. The students don't work, they don't care, and we're running low on ideas and enthusiasm. It really is draining. It makes the boredom worse, and the apathy stronger. Couple that with this city where nothing ever happens and everything is always closed (!!), and you can't really be all that surprised that we're in a rut. It's hard to energize each other because we just feel so tired and so bored and so ready to leave. Honestly, my work is done here, and I'm ready to go home. I will miss my friends dearly, but not this lycee and not this town. A few months is great, but a full school year is too much. I think my trip to NC in April and having the month of May to travel and stuff will brighten me up a bit, but it can't come soon enough. I've even tried to get back into my philosophy stuff, which sort of helps, but it's not the same without having inspiring classes and people to talk to about it. I can read the books and articles and blogs, but that only gets you so far without real live interaction. All I have to say is that next fall is going to be amazing.

So yeah. We're in a rut around here. Though if the weather brightens up and I can go back to having my reading time out at the parc sportif, well then I just might get out of it. We'll see!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Fighting Apathy

It's been awhile since I've written, so I thought I'd update y'all on the goings on around here. I've spent the last two weeks in blissful vacation, away from a job I don't particularly enjoy, and away from stress in the broader sense. To clarify, I still like my job, at least parts of it. But the majority of my job feels like, and probably is, a waste of time. Even the classes I like are not all that helpful to the students, at least not in the immediate sense (they are not improving in any of the ways that will help them for their BAC or for their future careers, try as I may).

A large part of this is the fault of the French school system coupled with the French culture as a whole. French schools teach memorize and regurgitation. French children find this an especially hard task in English, as languages tend to require more flexibility of thought. The French system also encourages a sort of leveling down, where going above and beyond is rare but barely meeting minimum requirements is rewarded. Part of that is cultural, in the sense that there is no exterior motivation to excel, academically or otherwise. A few students may have some inclination to excel (for their own satisfaction), but it's quickly squelched by the system. The system is riddled with teachers who hate teaching, or are too burnt out to care, or just lack creativity. It was easy for me to judge them when I first got here because I was a bundle of American energy and enthusiasm ready to take on the world, but I was also a newbie to the system and didn't fully understand what was going on with both the teachers and students. To put it bluntly, the system will suck out all of your enthusiasm, and it will undermine all of your emotional fortitude. By this I don't mean that my job is hard, per se, but rather that even a fresh outsider can be demoralized within the course of a year, which says something. Teachers fight with the students, students don't respect their teachers. No one gets on, and no one learns. Students get by and move on, while teachers hold on and grit their teeth. It's vicious.

All of that is to say that I don't think French schools do a good job of inspiring students. I know that many American schools struggle with this as well, but I think it's worse here. There is a lack of creativity, and there's this ridiculous power struggle between the teachers and students. Sure, this is the country of revolution, but this is also a country of class and power and conflict. Everyone wants respect, but no one is willing to return it. Teachers are traditional, and they don't respect the students yet demand that the students respect them. The students may have complied in years past, but this generation has had enough. They don't respect the teachers, and they don't care about anything. It's a generation of apathy and rebellion. This makes teaching that much harder. It's especially hard to come in from the outside, with no inside knowledge of the system, and no way to overcome it. Every day I try, and most days I fail.

I'm not talking about getting the kids to like me either. Truth be told, most of them do like me, or are in someway fascinated by my foreignness. The problem is, that's not enough! They like me, but they hate learning, or at least, they hate school. They want me to like them, so they'll behave for me (sometimes), but they don't want to learn what I want to teach them. They aren't inspired. Some days I kindle in them a small flame of interest only to find it promptly put out by the teacher I'm working with or one they see later in the day. It's very discouraging, for both me and them. Now I want to add that I still think I've made strides with many of my classes, I just doubt the long-term impact I've had on them. I'm not expecting them to remember everything I teach them, or even anything, but I do want them to learn how to be excited about learning and about the world and their own role in making sense of it. It just isn't working quite like I imagined it would.

I have several classes where the students beg me to teach them without the teacher there. I would prefer to too. They open up to me more than the teacher, and the students that still care somewhat about school and their grades are terrified of the teachers. They can safely learn with me, but I don't have the power to tell the teacher to leave (nor would they) and in some cases the class is just to large to take on my own. In another class I have 2 British girls that are going through some troubles because they're forced to take English. They don't get along with their teacher, and they're bored out of their minds. I proposed an independent project for them, but I think it's too late. The damage between teacher and students is done. I have other students who are just so burnt out by the system that they don't care about anything anymore. They don't mind me, but they sure as heck won't put in any effort for me because they hate what I stand for. It's rough because you can't make them care.

I say this because teaching over here isn't all it's cracked up to be. Superficially, it's quite easy, and I hardly have to work at all. I could walk into a class and wing it, and the students wouldn't be any the worse for it. And behavior isn't too bad, because they like me well enough. It's just demoralizing to fight an uphill battle against years of crappy schooling and apathy. You do what you can and hope it's enough, but you worry that you can't change anything. You worry that it's all just a waste of time, and that's why I don't enjoy my job. I often like it, because I like my students and I like some of the subjects I'm teaching them, but I don't have much in the way of "job satisfaction" because I can't fight that nagging fear that this is all just pointless. Sigh.

That was all to say that vacation was much needed. And vay-kay was made all that more awesome by my great news from UNC. I even spent half a week in Montpellier, which I'll write about as soon as I get some more time. And in even better news, my principal has given me the OK to take a week off in March and go visit UNC. So really, despite the suckiness of French schools, things are going well. The sun's out today, and I'm going to go out and enjoy it. A plus (until later)!

update: I should add, that this could very well be just a problem for my school... and maybe I shouldn't generalize... but I think it's quite likely bigger than just this lycee...