Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My letter to the president of the TEFL Institute

I wanted to make this public, because I know the TEFL people check this blog from time to time. I am planning on e-mailing this to the guy, as well as mailing him snail mail copies too, if it comes to that. Also, I am planning on writing a final Paris blog detailing my last 3 weeks in Paris, which will probably be mostly detailing my last week in Paris, when the girl I have been dating for almost 2 years now, Ashley, came to visit me, but I will do that sometime later this week, hopefully. Anyways, here it is!

December 20, 2011

Mr. Gibbs:

I am unfortunately writing you today to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the TEFL program, and more specifically, with the advice that I received from one of your agents in Chicago. I first contacted the TEFL Institute on the internet this past July, hopeful that I would be able to live out my dream of teaching English in France by enrolling in the TEFL program in Paris and becoming certified to teach English as a foreign language. I was contacted by phone within a few days by one of your advisors in Chicago, a man named Brian Kruk. He assured me that my dream could be realized, and although he did tell me that France may be a more competitive market than some other countries, it would more than likely be possible for me to find work as an English teacher in France. Unfortunately, he never once alluded to or revealed the reality of the situation for American workers in France, which I had to discover for myself by visiting the American Embassy while I was in Paris. I am left to wonder if he didn’t tell me because he honestly didn’t know, or because he just wanted to get me enrolled in the class so that he and the TEFL Institute could benefit financially. Whatever the case, I am still absolutely infuriated; 2 months after returning home, because I feel like your advisor’s incomplete and misleading advice resulted in me being cheated out of something that could have been a life-changing experience, not to mention spending about ten thousand dollars of hard-earned money in the process. I feel like I should perhaps explain to you what the situation for Americans is in France, in case you really don’t know. I would hate for this to happen to anyone else. When I finally got around to visiting the American Embassy, I was told by the people there that the reality for Americans is rather grim. I could not, as Brian had suggested I could, just come to France with a ninety day traveler’s Visa and expect to exchange it for either a student or a worker’s Visa. The handout I received made it abundantly clear that this was frankly impossible, and it also made it clear that it was impossible for an American to get a worker’s Visa outright. The best way to stay in France for an extended period of time as I had so wanted to do, I discovered, was to either try to overstay my Visa and risk getting banned for life from the country I so adored, which I wasn’t willing to do (and frankly found the suggestion to be ridiculous since it is illegal), or to get a student Visa before coming to France and to work part time when I wasn’t in class. For the record, I was and still am adamant about teaching English in France, and would have happily registered and taken some classes in Paris if it would have allowed me to stay there for a year. I could have taken some French classes to improve my French, which was part of the reason I wanted to do this in the first place. But since it’s impossible to exchange a traveler’s Visa for a student Visa, the only way to stay in France for an extended period of time would have been to return to the States, apply for a student Visa, and then go back to France. Needless to say, I didn’t have an extra thousand dollars that another plane ticket would have cost me, let alone the money it would take to continue renting an apartment and keep myself fed until I was able to find a job. So I was forced to return home, bitter and defeated, my dream crushed, feeling cheated and betrayed, overcome with an absolutely genuine sense of loss that fills me with a quiet, simmering rage to this very day.

                In addition to being misled by an advisor who clearly was incapable, due to his ignorance, of performing his basic job duties, I also feel I was misled by the program itself. I was assured time and time again, both by Brian and on the TEFL website, that an exceptional level of job placement assistance was included in the program, which I was told would basically guarantee that I would find a job, with the assistance of a TEFL Institute employee, in the country of my choice. To make matters worse, when I, wanting to be sure I wasn’t wasting my money on some fraudulent scam, asked Brian what percentage of people who completed the TEFL certification found a job, he said there has never been anyone that wanted a job who didn’t find one after completing the TEFL program. So either he was lying to me, or I am an anomaly: the only person who has ever finished the TEFL program and wanted to find a job but didn’t; the one and only black mark on a company’s otherwise flawless reputation. Well, the simple fact remains that neither I nor anyone else in my graduating class received any kind of job placement assistance whatsoever. I thought and was led to believe that there would be at least one person whose sole job would be to find us jobs after we finished the course, and there wasn’t such a person employed by TEFL at their Paris school. The closest thing I received to job placement assistance came in the form of my TEFL instructor telling us where to go to check out job postings, which hardly qualifies as job placement assistance. Plus, I think the only reason she was doing that was because we complained of the surprising lack of assistance when it came to finding a job after finishing the course.

                While I enjoyed the class, my wonder teacher Sanja Jankovic, and my classmates immensely, I feel like if I had been better informed, or maybe even better assisted, I could have made a better choice, perhaps opting to take the class in Chicago, where my sister lives, instead of in Paris, and could have ultimately saved a TON of money on things like rent. And since there’s a French Embassy in Chicago, I could have applied for a student Visa while there, sorted that whole mess out, and perhaps still be in Paris at this very moment, watching snow fall around the Eiffel Tower. Instead, due to a certain amount of ignorance, incompetence, and negligence, I am sitting here writing you this letter in the United States, nursing a broken dream with anger in my heart and a bitter taste in my mouth. I am placing the blame squarely on you and your institution, for I believe it is your organization’s fault alone that I am not still in France, fulfilling my dreams of teaching French people how to better speak English.

                At this point, I honestly don’t expect you to do anything to ameliorate this situation, since my faith in your institution has been shaken so dramatically, but I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t implore you to do something to make this right. I figured at the very least, I could bring this situation to your attention to ensure that it never happens to any other idealistic young language enthusiast, and that it couldn’t hurt to ask that you do something to fix this problem. I will refrain from making any suggestions as to how you can fix your agent’s and your company’s blunder, but my hope remains that you will read my words, reflect upon them, and compensate me, not necessarily monetarily, in a manner that is commensurate with the injustices and trauma I have had to endure as a result of being cheated out of my dream by your agent and the TEFL Institute itself. Please get back to me in writing at your earliest convenience, either by mail or by e-mail. I have included a number of ways to get ahold of me at the beginning of this letter. I hope we can come to some sort of resolution to this matter that is mutually beneficial.


David John Hyde IV

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sightseeing and setbacks: my 5th week in Paris

Well, I suppose it is about time to give you guys the old weekly update, so hopefully my computer and the internet in my apartment will cooperate long enough for me to write a complete post here. My internet has been on the fritz for about 4 days now, and it pretty much does what it wants, so hopefully it won't decide after I write my post that it doesn't want to let me submit it.Anyways

I have suffered a pretty major setback to my plans of staying over here in France and teaching here for a year, so much so that I may have to return to the States at the end of this month, but I'll get to that later. I'd rather talk about the lighter side of this week first.

Last Friday, I went out with some of my classmates to Cafe OZ, this Aussie bar, to celebrate our completing our course and being certified to teach English as a foreign language. I probably mentioned this in my last blog, so I will just say that I had a blast, although I spent WAY too much money and drank way too much alcohol, as we were there from maybe 6:30pm to 3am or so. The point of me reiterating this was to say that after Friday, I literally spent around 36 or so hours straight in my apartment, holed up with my internet and not much else, because I felt so terrible.

I ventured out on Saturday to get something to kill my outrageous headache and to get some McDonald's for the first time in probably 6 months at least, but Sunday I didn't leave my flat at all. I felt like a total vampire. Haha! Since I know you're curious, the McDonalds was pretty similar to American McDonald's, except that they still did the "add bacon for x amount of cents to any sandwich" thing, which I did, and that you can get Big Macs with wheat buns. Yes, I got two burgers. I was hungry. They also have weird menu options (you can get a value meal with 2 Big Macs, or 2 Royales, for example) and some things they don't have in America (like a "Croque Mcdo," which is like a McDonald's version of the traditionally French Croque Monsieur sandwich), but besides these two things, it seemed pretty similar. I think they sell beer there too, and the actual restaurant was much nicer than they are in the States, but I really didn't mean to spend so much time talking about McDonald's, so I will move on.

Monday, I decided that I had to get out of my apartment, so I walked to this really neat park called "Le Jardin de Reuilly" which is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. I unwittingly took the long way there, which took about 30 minutes on foot, but the plus side of this was that I got to see a really neat fountain, perhaps the coolest one I've seen since I've been here. It was like a normal fountain with a big basin and a fountain in the middle (I believe), but what made it awesome in my opinion was that all around the outside of the basin, it had these huge metal lions that were spewing water from their mouths into another basin. I want to go back and take a picture of it. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. So the actual park was pretty cool as well. It had a reasonably large (for Paris) expanse of grass in the middle, with a rather large, elevated foot bridge that carried you over the grassy part, and all along the periphery of the park were these little paths filled with beautiful flowers and other neat looking foliage.

Part of the periphery of the park with these little pathways looked down on the street below (the park itself was elevated above street level), and I enjoyed myself watching cars go by, or people walking to the bus stop, etc. The park also had a playground for the wee ones, lots of areas amidst the paths that were set up with benches to sit down and relax on, a little pool that I think was supposed to be a fountain (but it wasn't working), a little court with which to play games on, I think, and a few very neat looking statues situated amongst the garden paths. It was a really nice experience, and it allowed me a little time to relax, reflect, and soak in the beautiful weather. It was so hot on Monday that I saw several people in the park in swim suits, catching some rays. And it is still pretty hot, even though it's October...we are regularly having days where the high temps are in the high 70s or low 80s, still.

So, also to make myself feel better, I started working out again on Monday for the first time since I had been here, going on a 30 minute run and doing 100 sit ups and 60 push ups. It did make me feel a lot better, and I slept wonderfully on Monday night. I have worked out 2 more times since then, and would like to try to work out 5 timers next week, instead of 3 times. It's good to have goals. :)

I didn't do much on Tuesday either, but Wednesday, I decided to walk to the Notre Dame, since I was running short on cash and found out that it's only about a 40 minute walk from my apartment, which really isn't all that bad. The Notre Dame is probably hands-down the most beautiful church I have ever stepped foot in, and even though I'm no longer a very religious person, I couldn't help but feel moved while in that church. I even sat down and prayed silently for about 5 or 10 minutes, after I had walked around and checked out everything there was to check out in the church. The architecture is just beautiful, as are the stained glass windows and the chandeliers. There is also some pretty magnificent artwork in there, and all along the periphery of the church, there are little rooms dedicated to certain people who helped make the church what it is (Archbishops of Paris, etc).

It also had a really intricate and almost 600 year old wood carving of the apparitions of Jesus, like when he appeared to all of the different people (Mary, Peter, etc) after his death. Also, I stayed long enough to luck into a little 30 minute mass, said entirely in French, and I thought this was a real treat to see. The only difference I noticed was that there was a lot more focus put on the burning of incense, and that they didn't do communion. They just sung some songs (with the help of a hidden female singer with a beautiful voice), read some readings (including a gospel reading), burned some incense, and did some call and response stuff. The organ in that place sounded amazing, and I was really moved. I intend to return there sometime this week, so that I can light some candles, say some prayers for some people specifically, see the bells and the tower (that cost 4 Euro and I had no money on me), and maybe buy a few souvenirs for the people in my life who would treasure that sort of thing...Dad and Mamie, I'm looking at you here. How would a rosary from a more than 800 year old church suit you?

So then on Thursday, I had another interview, but they told me the same thing everyone else has told me so far: that without having my working papers in order, they couldn't help me. More on this in a minute.

Friday, I went to the U.S. Embassy, where I received my very bad news, and then I walked to L'Arc du Triomphe and the Champs Elysee, which is basically just like a big shopping district, but that I still thought was pretty cool. They had a Disney store, a Swarovsky crystal store, a big Virgin records store, a Gap, a big movie theater, and all sort of other nice-looking shops (Luis Vuitton, etc). It seems like this is one of the premier shopping districts in the world, and I am thankful I didn't bring very much money with me, or I would have been tempted to buy something...at the very least, a souvenir from one of the many little souvenir shops that are in this area.

L'Arc du Triomphe was really neat though...it's basically like a big war memorial to all the people who have fought for France, and all the wars it has been in. I knew this, but had forgotten it, so I thought maybe I should tell you what it is. Again, I took a ton of pictures, despite the batteries in my camera dying, and I had a great time exploring basically the last "big" Parisian monument that I had yet to see...I have actually never seen L'Arc du Triomphe up close, since we didn't get to that when I visited here the first time. I also plan on coming back here, since if you wanted to go up in the monument, it cost 9 Euro, and I had very little money on me at the time. On second thought, the monument is very tall, and I don't know how much I would like being on top of it, since I'm not the biggest fan of heights and all that. But I will think about it. I'm sure it has a really cool view of Paris from the top of it, so I may just have to try to squash my fears so I can take some awesome pictures. But anyways, to describe the monument itself, it's just like a big square arch with 4 legs, and awesome carvings and statues and people's names carved all over it. It also has plaques all over the ground in remembrance of those who gave their lives for France in the various wars France was involved in, and a memorial for an unidentified French soldier, complete with a huge plaque and one of those eternal flames at one end of it. It was really neat, and I felt like I learned something about France's history as well. Also, it had a really cool view of La Defense, the city's downtown area, with all the skyscrapers, from the center of the monument, so that was neat to see as well.

Last night, I went out with my friend Angus and his Italian friend Rico that he met at one of the hostels he was staying at over here. They came over for drinks at about 7:30 at night, since drinks in bars are ridiculously expensive and to drink before going out saves us money. We hung out, drank, and chatted until about 9:30, and then we hopped on the Metro to go to one of Rico's friend's birthday parties. She had rented out a bar, so we got in for free, and there was free food and cheap drinks all night long, which made me happy. Unfortunately, after leaving the bar, our nights took a definite turn for the worse.

Last night was "Nuit Blanche," a night in which, we were told, a lot of shops were open all night, they had cool art shows and gallery openings and music in certain places, the metro was open later, etc. The bad part was that we found none of these festivities, missed the last Metro because it didn't stay open later than we thought, almost got the cops called on our group because we were apparently being a little rowdy in the metro station, went with Rico (Angus and I did) and this girl he liked instead of going and doing our own thing, and then had to walk literally 3 hours or more back to my apartment. It didn't seem like any of the cabs wanted to pick us up, and we didn't find any place that was open, not even to get a bite to eat, until we were almost back to my place. Also, I somehow twisted my ankle in the course of the evening, and it has been really sore today. So sore that I had to walk around with a limp, and honestly haven't spent all that much time on my feet today. But I am still in Paris, so that's something. ;)

Now, for my setback. I hate to end on such a negative note, but I feel like I have to get this out of my system, and to let everyone know about it. When I went to the Embassy on Friday, they gave me a handout that made it very clear that I most likely won't be able to stay over here to teach. It said a number of times in the handout that Americans can't come to France with only a 90 day traveler's Visa, like the one I have, and expect to exchange it for either a working or a student Visa.

Getting a working Visa is pretty much impossible as an American, so I was hoping I would be able to get a student Visa by taking a class or two and staying here to teach, if nothing else, as a last resort for staying here. But apparently, if I wanted to get a student Visa, I should have done this BEFORE coming over here, by applying at a French consulate in the U.S. There's one in Chicago, and if my advisor from the TEFL institute, Brian Kruk, who I had been talking to for the entire month before I came over here, had TOLD me that's what I had to do, I would have just done it, since we had a month to prepare for me coming over here. Brian told me more than once (I asked several times because it didn't sound right to me, even then) that all I would need is my traveler's Visa, and I would be able to figure everything out after I got here.

Now, if I wanted to get my student Visa, I would have to return home, and to be honest, if I come back home, I'm not coming back to France. I wrote Brian an angry e-mail though, and I am hoping there is some kind of a loophole that isn't just for me to overstay my traveler's Visa and to try to support myself by doing under-the-table jobs (because that wouldn't help me with one of my main goals, to boost my resume up), or that he can find me work in some other country that I wouldn't mind being in, but to be honest, I think the chances of this happening are very slight. I honestly wouldn't mind returning home, and I am already sending out resumes for jobs in St. Louis that I heard about before leaving, I just don't want my Dad to be upset that he paid for all of this and that it didn't work out. But if there's really no legitimate way for me to stay in France, and I did all I could do, then I feel like he has to understand. Right?

Also, I feel like I should have done some more research on my own into the Visa situation, instead of just believing whatever Brian told me, but as he was my advisor, I figured he knew what he was talking about, and I trusted him a great deal. It's unfortunate that me trusting someone like this has blown up in my face again, but hopefully some good will come out of it, and I can just move back home and find an ESL job, or substitute teach full time, both of which would allow me to get my own place and be more independent, which were a few of the things I wanted to get out of this experience regardless. And at least I got a new certification and can apply for a wider spectrum of jobs now, and I got a great amount of experience from it all. Maybe I'll be seeing everyone a lot sooner than we expected. But I should wrap this up, as I have rambled on now for what feels like days and have therefore said everything I wanted to. Besides, it's about 8:30pm, and I'm starting to get hungry. I hope you enjoy reading this, and if things change regarding my situation I will of course update you, but as of right now, it looks like you all will be getting to see me a lot sooner than we all expected. Have a good week, friends! I love you all. A bientot!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A busy two weeks

So, I realize that it has been over two weeks since I have updated you guys about my new life in France, but I have been really busy finishing up my class, and I haven't had a whole lot of time to sit down and write a good blog post in a couple of weeks now. But, since the class is now over (I passed, but if it had been graded, I probably would have gotten an A in it) and I don't really have much to do any more, I now have time to write you guys another sprawling DJ novella. I'll try to keep it short, because there really hasn't been a whole lot that has happened since I last wrote, but I'm not making any promises. Here we go!

So two weeks ago, right after I wrote that last blog post, I started feeling really homesick and lonely. I had a couple of bad days in there (Sunday and Monday) where I just really missed my family, a select few of my favorite people, my dogs, even some of my favorite restaurants and things to do in St. Louis. I'm still waiting for my phone and TV to set up, which will help my loneliness since I will be able to call people randomly whenever I am feeling sad, and I will be able to watch French TV when I am bored. But I did get over it, and my friend Angus contributed to me feeling better, though he may not have been totally aware of it at the time, because he started crashing on my spare bed in exchange for taking me out to dinner. It was a win-win...I got someone to keep me company, he got a cheaper place to crash. It started originally because he can only stay in a hostel for a week at a time, and he had a few days to kill before staying with a visiting friend of his in a hotel for the weekend, so he asked if he could crash at my place. In total, in the last two weeks, he has probably spent 5 or 6 nights here, which is fine by me.

So during the week, it was pretty much just nose to the grindstone and getting my work done. I had a pretty bad lesson two Mondays ago, but my lessons definitely got much better with time, and after hearing some feedback from my fellow students, I realized I have a really bad habit of being self-deprecating which only serves to sabotage myself, and it definitely carries over to my lessons, making them less effective. So, I tried this whole confidence thing and relaxed and didn't make fun of myself or my lessons when giving them, and they turned out much better...more enjoyable, more effective, just all around better. Even I can tell that I have made a great improvement when it comes to presenting lessons in the last couple of weeks. I really think I got something out of this course, which is a very good feeling. And I gained a new skill, which will hopefully not only make me more marketable when I return to the States, but will help me with my direction in life as well. Plus, I made a few friends, so that's always good. Moving on.

The only dinner Angus took me to that I feel worth commenting on was this super fancy (and super expensive) Thai place called the Blue Elephant. He was craving spicy food, and I love anything Asian, so I was on board. I got the Cashew chicken, which came in half of a hollowed out pineapple, and was quite tasty. Angus got curry something or other, which was supposedly one of the hottest things on the menu, but still only barely satisfied his craving for spicy food. French people just do not do spicy like we in the States do, and I know this news may be disappointing for some of my friends who may be visiting and love spicy food. But I have done some investigating into this subject, and I have found a few things that are at least somewhat spicy. For example, they have this sauce called "harisa" (I believe) over here, which is like chili sauce mixed with ketchup, and although it still isn't as spicy as say, sriracha is, it's better than nothing. Also, we got sushi a couple of days ago, and they at least know how to do hot Wasabi over here, as it was as hot as anything I've had in the States. It is probably still lacking a bit of the punch of the stuff we have here, since I am not an expert on hot/spicy, but it was hot enough to make me cry, which is a good thing.

I know this post is already getting long, and I have barely even started yet. But I have two weeks to talk about, so it's going to probably be a little long. I know you'll read it, since you want to know what I've been up to, so stop complaining, you tiny attention span having people, you. Haha!

So one of the coolest things that has happened since I last wrote a post was going to that Techno Parade I was telling you all about. Before I came over here, I remember being bummed out that they had stopped doing Love Parade, a techno parade in Berlin, I believe, because I had always wanted to go to it, but it doesn't really matter now, because I have been to a techno parade, and it was one of the most awesome electronic music related things that has maybe ever happened to me in nearly 12 years of listening to electronic music. I will try to give you all just a brief description. It started at 11, so that's when I got there, at the Place de la Republique, which is only about a 15 minute metro ride from my apartment (not bad at all). They had a stage set up right in this big roundabout, in front of this monument/statue that has probably been there for 100s of years.

When I first got there, there weren't that many people there, maybe a couple of hundred, and I was kind of worried. The music was good though, and the small crowd seemed excited. At 1, the parade started,and there were trucks (literally 18 wheelers with DJs on the back, speakers, and people dancing) lined up all down the street. It was also around this time that the parade saw a massive population explosion, and all of a sudden, there were thousands of people there. Well, I followed the first and main truck for a few miles until the parade passed right by the street I live on. By this time, there was easily a 100,000 people there, if not more. There were trucks playing all sorts of different music, even hardcore, and I was very happy to have experienced it. The vibe was great, everyone was very happy, and the music was fantastic. Some people were following the trucks and dancing along side them, but there were also a ton of people just standing back and watching it all go by. Also, people started climbing the Bastille monument, and I tried to as well, but I couldn't pull myself up on it, so I gave up after one try. I didn't feel like getting arrested in Paris, so I hopped back over the very tall fence, bruising my arm as I went, and returned home.

Let's see...what else has happened? Later that night, I met up with some of my classmates and we hung out in the area by the Moulin Rouge, which we didn't enter (I think it's just a club now), but that I enjoyed seeing nevertheless. It made me wish I had remembered my camera, but oh well. I'm sure I'll be back sometime, though hopefully not by myself, as I have been warned not to go into this area (Pigale, the "Red Light District") alone at night. It was funny though to see all of the sex shops and pornographic movie theaters, etc.

Then this week was just a lot more school work, because it was my last week. Angus stayed over a couple more nights, but we were pretty much just studying for tests and finishing any remaining homework we had to do. We had 3 tests this week: one on grammar, one on phonetics, and one on methodology, and I scored 86%, 89%, and 98% respectively. In addition to that, my teacher said that all of my lesson plans and evaluations and written work was just fantastic, which is why I think I would have gotten an A if this had been a graded class.

I guess it's also worth mentioning that a week ago Friday, I stayed in all night and finished my resume and applied for about 2 dozen jobs. I did go on an interview last Monday, but it wasn't really what I was looking for. They could only hire me if I had a student visa, which I would have to take a probably pretty expensive class at a University here to be able to get, and even then, all they would be able to give me is 15 hours a week. I need something more than that, so I have been looking everywhere for a job, and applying for everything I see, even if it's simply a small private lesson. My goal is to get a full-time job and then do private lessons on the side, but until I find that, I still would like to be bringing in some kind of money, so I have been trying to get private lessons going as well. I even put an ad on Craig's List last night, so we'll see what becomes of that. I am not really worried though, since I have 4 weeks to find a job, but I am going to look every day as hard as I can, since I am now finished with my class and don't really have anything to keep me busy all day.

Hmm...what else. The only other interesting thing that I did this week was go out on Thursday and Friday nights with my classmates to have some drinks and to celebrate our finishing the course. Thursday was fine, but Friday I got a little carried away, as we showed up around 6:30 at this Aussie bar to watch the Australia vs. U.S.A. rugby match, and we didn't leave until about 3am. I had a great time, and it was fun to watch the bar go from a quiet and laid-back sports pub to a crazily packed sweaty dance club, but I definitely drank more than I should have, a fact that wasn't helped by two of the bartenders being very nice, and buying me 3 shots that I didn't ask for between the two of them. Oh well. I had a recovery day yesterday, and I am feeling much better today. Tomorrow, I am going to start working out again (just running and doing push ups and sit ups), and I am excited about that. I also have other productive stuff to do, like job searching and laundry and grocery shopping, so I will be able to keep myself occupied while I don't have anything to do, hopefully.

I have cooked for myself actual meals a couple of times since I last spoke wrote a post, and I wanted to talk briefly about that before wrapping this up. I made mandarin chicken one day last week, and it was delicious. Fresh bell peppers, onions, fresh clementine oranges, chicken breasts, sweet chili sauce, and rice. I couldn't find all of the ingredients I wanted (water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, canned mandarin oranges, frozen stir fried vegetables, or terriyaki sauce), but I made it work, and it turned out very well. But what I made last night was probably the best thing I've made for myself in the month that I have been here. I made chicken fajitas with peppers, onions, diced tomatoes, rice, sour cream, this delicious spice mix and "salsa" that came in a kit I bought, shredded Emmenthaler cheese, and lentils (because I couldn't find black beans). It was so damned good, and I have enough left over that it will feed me again tonight, if not one more time after that. I took pictures, because I do that, and I'm sure they will appear on the face book account that I usually post my pictures on, eventually.

Well, I have been writing this post for over an hour now, and I know certain people are going to complain about the relationship between the frequency and the length of my blog posts, but I have been really busy the last two weeks, so I hope you can handle my super lengthy blog posts. But I should definitely wrap it up now ("wrap that gavel up, b." Chappelle show reference) because I have unbelievably ran out of stuff to say. Happy reading. Grosses bises a tous! (Big hugs and kisses to all) A bientot!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A bit of a shorter post, perhaps.

So, I thought I would update everyone on what I have been doing in the past week or so, which really hasn't been much, so hopefully this will be a bit of a shorter post, since many of you are asking for me to trim the fat and not tell you every minute detail of my life over here. Since I last wrote, I really haven't done much. Just keeping my nose to the grindstone for the most part, going to school and doing homework and preparing lessons, etc. I would like to say that I had two chances this week to teach real-life English language learners (Depline and Clautilde) and I am really enjoying the real-life teaching experience I am getting from my class. Of course, I have some things to work on concerning my lessons, but these things are all very attainable. Although I do have teaching experience, it is not experience with teaching people who are learning English, so my lesson execution and planning have had to be altered a bit, but like I said, I am really enjoying it. It's a very rewarding experience, because I can see how much these people are benefiting from my instruction while I am giving it. I will continue to improve as time goes on, but I definitely do think that having some teaching experience already has made this process easier than if I were just starting out as a teacher. For example, I already know how to write good lessons, etc. Anyways.

I have learned how to better budget my money as well, and have done much better this week to not spend money as recklessly as I had been the first week over here. Again, it's all a learning process for me, but I think I've got it now. So maybe you'd all like to know what I have been up to socially in the last week, so you can live vicariously through me. Last Saturday night I went to this bar/club on a boat called Batofar, which was fun, but we (my classmates and I) didn't go in the club part of it because it was something like 10 Euro for some guy I've never heard of, so we just had a couple of drinks on the upper level and left after that part shut down at midnight. Then, to save money, we went to the Quick and got a couple of beers, which are WAY cheaper there than at a bar or club. I think it's hilarious that you can buy beer at fast food places over here, as long as you order some food and only get two at a time (I just got some fries). Then we went to the Irish place by my apartment for about an hour, but on Saturdays it's apparently much different than during the week, and I didn't really like it, so we left after maybe 30 minutes.

Sunday I spent all day reading and catching up on homework, and Monday began my week at school again. Mondays and Wednesdays are from 2pm to 8pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays are from 9am-8pm (killer), and Fridays are 10am-1pm. Monday I just slept in, but Wednesday I went to the post office and the grocery store and to a place I had heard had job listings, but all they had were babysitting jobs and extremely part time teaching things, so I didn't write any numbers down. I did pick up a sort of "Job News" website, though, so that was good. I honestly think most if not all of my job searching is going to be done online, which is super convenient for me, as long as my internet is working. One of the girls in my class went on an interview this week, and she said they needed another English teacher, so I was going to write them a little e-mail when I am done with this.

More social stuff and then I promise I will end this one. Last night, Angus and I went to Paris Social Club to see a very well-known veteran French DJ named Laurent Garnier, and he did NOT disappoint. After pre-gaming it at my place for about 3 hours to save money (we each got a six pack of 1664 and then an additional pint bottle of beer for less than one drink at Paris Social Club), we went out, showing up around 1am. The club was very cool...a little high brow, but all in all, not bad. The people seemed to realize what a gem they have in this DJ, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. It was also cool to talk to some more French people, all of whom seemed to be extremely interested in interacting with native English speakers. I even gave one guy my e-mail address because I told him I used to be a DJ, and he said he had DJ equipment and that we should hang out sometime and mix some records...he also wanted to teach me Tractor (sp), which is a kind of new technology when it comes to the art of DJing, which I am fully down with.

Well, Laurent Garnier absolutely KILLED it, playing everything from Beastie boy remixes to tech-house, techno, Drum and Bass, Hip Hop, and at the end, Daft Punk, which incited the crowd into a sort of frenzy. It was at this point that we left, however, at around 4am, because Angus took the reins and realized that if we didn't leave then, I would have wanted to stay until the club closed, at 5am. But I will definitely be going to see this DJ again, as often as I can afford to, because I had a really good time...possibly top 10 all time club/party experiences, no exaggeration. I also learned that Angus is a loyal friend, because we had an altercation with a French guy who apparently told Angus that my hat made me look gay, and Angus was ready to rearrange this guy's face on my behalf. At the time, I played the role of diffuser, but that was largely because I didn't realize the guy had insulted me. If I had, I would have been right there with Angus, ready to do some damage. But that's about it for last night...I got maybe 3 hours of sleep last night, but was miraculously only a little bit late to class today, which my teacher excused. She's really very nice. Then after class today, Angus, Helen and I went to this Belgian burger place (not Quick) and ate lunch in Luxembourg gardens before we went our separate ways to nap and what have you.

Tomorrow, I am going to a big fireworks display just outside of Paris that I found a deal for on Living Social (a web site kind of like Groupon that I joined when I arrived in Paris) to reduce the price of the cheapest seat from about $40 to about $18, and I am really excited about that. I know you may say it's weird to pay for fireworks, but it's a two-hour long show, and it seems like it will be the best fireworks display I have ever seen. Check out the videos at www.le-grand-feu.com and tell me you wouldn't pay $18 for two hours of that. I think Helen and Angus may come with, and they want to maybe pre-game it at my place beforehand, which is cool with me, but I don't know how much I am going to feel like drinking tomorrow after the night I had last night. Anyways, that's all for now. I hope you are all doing well, and if you want to talk to me, I know I've given out my e-mails and maybe even my Instant Messenger IDs on here. Or you could Skype me. My user name is the same as this blog, Hydeingoutinparis. Also, I am sorry that even when I try to write a short post, it somehow winds up as 6 or 7 paragraphs. Oh well. It is still shorter than previous posts, so I hope your attention spans can hold for long enough to read it. A bientot! Grosses bises a tous! (Big love and kisses to all)

ps...this didn't fit anywhere else, so I thought I would add it at the end...I love the differences in French food, even like crappy junk food. Their candy is so much better than almost everything we have in America (except maybe Twix and Reese's), and they have flavors of chips that I would never have thought possible. My current favorite is "Cheeseburger" (yes, I said cheeseburger) potato chips, though I still have yet to try the rotisserie chicken flavored ones. And they're not a foreign brand, they're Lay's! They need to get on bringing those to the states...they are so good. They taste a lot like pickle chips, but they are so much better. And apparently they have a "Mustard and pickles" flavor as well, but those are a bit harder to find, at least in Paris, anyways.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My first attempt at Poetry in a very long time

So, I wrote this poem the other day about coming over here, and now that I have a blog, I thought it would be fun to post it and see what everyone thinks. I spent a lot of time revising it, but I think I may finally be finished. I wanted the pace of it to be appealing, so I spent some time fixing the syllables and words, etc. I also wanted it to rhyme a little. Anyways, here it is.

                                                 Tu me manques (I miss you)

                                                 Final boarding call for Paris
                                                 finds me a mile from the gate
                                                 running hard to catch my flight
                                                 that will send me, sadly, far away.

                                                Time-jumping on a seven-six-seven
                                                puts me hours and hours ahead
                                                landing in Paris on a cloudy morning
                                                la seule chose qui manque, c'est le soleil (the only thing missing is the sun)

                                                Chasing your ghost through Paris, now
                                                a mind's eye mirror in a couple's embrace
                                                I'm haunted by the extreme misfortune
                                           of smelling your perfume dans le monde des francais (in the world of the French)

                                                Maintaining composure while falling apart, now
                                                a self-imposed deconstruction of character
                                                rebuilding myself without my dear lynch pin
                                           la seule chose qui manque, chere, c'est vous. (the only thing missing, dear, is you)

                                               This new process of self-liberation
                                               is proving itself to be exciting, but frightful
                                               my life waited forever for me to catch up with it
                                               la seule chose qui manque, c'etait moi. (The only thing missing was me)

I hope that is as decent as I think it is, and not too personal. Feel free to comment on it as you wish. A bientot!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Casual Friday in Paris

Bonjour a tous!

Although I must admit, at 2:15 am on a Saturday morning, I am starting to get a little sleepy, I'd like to try to post one more blog entry before I go to sleep tonight, so that everyone will be fully caught up with what I've been up to this week. This will probably be a shorter entry, since I have already told you so much, and there's only so much I can talk about. And especially since this post is only about what I did on one day, which was today. Well, one day, and what I did last night after class.

Last night, Thursday, after class, I came home and took a brief nap, got up and made myself some dinner with what little food I had left around here, and then went to the internet cafe down the street for almost 3 hours. I tried to write the first 2 posts I made tonight together as one post, and after an hour or so of typing it out, tried to post it, only to have it fail. That was super frustrating. Anyways, I left the internet cafe a little before 11, when they closed, and came back to my apartment, to read or do something boring. But I decided that I would rather walk down my street and look for a decent bar than stay in and read. I get super stir-crazy when I'm stuck in this little apartment with no way to communicate with the outside world. So I walked all the way to the end of my street, probably a mile and a half or more, to where the Bastille monument is, which is like a smaller version of the area where the Eiffel Tower is, in terms of craziness. I even thought there was a carnival down there with games and stuff, but I think it was just a creperie. But there were even more people than are usually around my part of the street, so it was interesting to watch everything going on.

I started walking back and stopped in for a few pints at this Irish bar I found called Corcorans, which was fun. They DJ was mashing together American and British popular music from the past, and I was enjoying this bit of familiarity. I picked up a little journal with information about all of the English, Scottish, Australian, and Irish bars around Paris, and I may want to check some of them out, if only to find a Newcastle and watch some sports. Although, the beer I had at Corcoran's, called a Kilkenny's, I believe, was pretty similar to a Newcastle, so that made me happy. Also, the bartender told me that these types of bars are hugely popular in France, and among the French as well as the people who are of the nationality that the bar celebrates. I found this to be interesting. Anyways, I left at about 1 and walked home. I didn't want to get drunk, I just wanted to have a few pints and see what was going on around my neighborhood as far as good bars go. There were other once, but they seemed too be a little more "upscale" than what I was looking for, though who can really tell, since so many French people seem to try to dress as nicely as they can as often as they can. Anyways, moving on.

Today we only had class from 10am until 1pm, which will remain my schedule for the entirety of the class. This is a very nice way to end the week, and I know I will appreciate it more and more as the weeks start getting longer and more intense. In class, we had a quiz, which is only for our benefit, not for a grade, on what we have been going over so far this week as far as teaching methodology is concerned. For some reason, this morning I was totally out of it (I think the last of the jet lag was finally leaving my system), and the wording to all the questions confused me, but I shared a lot of my answers with the class, and my teacher said I was on the right track with everything. I must admit that I haven't been keeping up with the reading, but I will have lots of time this weekend to go over everything I have yet to read, which I plan on doing, now that I am caught up with all of my internet obligations. ;)

Also, to update the job situation and staying in France, the coordinator over here just wrote me another e-mail with resume and cover letter advice and forms, and she wants me to fill them out and send them to her, so she can help me with them. She also gave me a bunch of websites about the legalities of working in Paris and everything, which is very comforting. It's good to know that she is going to do everything she can do to help me realize my dream, and it's also a good feeling to know that I  can begin working on finding a job now, instead of waiting until the class was over, and then spending up to another whole month looking for a job while staying in an apartment that is costing my dad a fortune. I am much more confident about this whole process now that Julie has proven to be so willing to help me, and such a good resource. It fills me with indescribable joy that my long ago abandoned dream is finally coming true, and that I seem to be turning into the person that I was always meant to be, and doing all of that self-actualizing psychobabble stuff. :)

So after the quiz, we talked about how the lessons that Helen, Brian, Sarah and I presented yesterday went, how we ourselves perceived them, any critiques our classmates had, etc. Then we watched videos on a bunch of different methods for teaching English to non-English speakers. I was a bit late to class today, as I took a different metro stop that Sarah said was closer and got a bit lost, but that's not why I was late, since I was allowing myself an hour to do internet stuff before class today, and planned on arriving an hour before class started, since it looked like my best chance to post blog updates would be at school. Luckily, that has proven to not be the case. Thankfully, Sonja was forgiving about that, but still...damned "crack book" is never a good reason to be late to class. She did get a little mad at Brian, Sarah, and I, however, when we took an extended coffee break in the garden, just talking about everything. But Sonja didn't remain mad at us the rest of the day, which was good. She doesn't seem to stay mad at people for very long, which is something I appreciate, but I still don't like upsetting her, which is something I have already done a few times. :\ Oh well. I think things will improve now that I don't feel so out of it any more.

So, after class, Sarah, Helen and I went to that Italian place I already told you all about where I got the delicious eggplant wrap with cheese and ham and marinara, and took it back to the garden outside of our school so we could eat and I could check my internet stuff some more, just in case I couldn't do that when I got home, and then Sarah left to go hang out with Michael, her boyfriend, and Helen went back home to nap. I totally sympathize, though...I could have had a nap myself, but Brian and I decided to do something much more fun, starting with an extra-special treat for me.

He took me somewhere that was on his way to school every day, albeit seemingly several miles from our school, which he said he knew I would enjoy immensely, since I seem to keep talking about how much of a nerd I am and have already been seen sporting Harry Potter t-shirts on two separate occasions in the week since I've been here. Enough suspense. He took me to a SUPER awesome Comic book shop, which I didn't even know existed in France. It was a little like Star Clipper in the loop, with a lot more than just comics: figurines of just about everything imaginable, plushes (they had angry birds), and all sorts of random stuff that was devoted to all things nerdy, like pac-man mugs and replica wands from almost all the characters in Harry Potter. I unfortunately couldn't find Ron Weasely's, but the rest of his family's were there, including Percy's. Let's just say I was in complete heaven, and it showed. Brian said I had the exact reaction he wanted me to have, and I simultaneously thanked him for showing me this place, and cursed him because I will probably spend a decent amount of time and money in this store...though of course, I will keep it within reason. If you are interested in looking it up on line, it is called "Album Comics."

I only bought one thing while there today, but I think it is a very practical purchase. I bought the first book of Scott Pilgrim in French, and even though I already own the whole set (or, two be fair, half of it) in English, I rationalized my purchase thusly: I am absolutely obsessed with Scott Pilgrim, and therefore, know the books almost line for line. Since I have it almost memorized, I figured it would help me improve my French, because I could just look at anything I didn't know and just remember what they say in the English version. But I cannot over-emphasize how excited I was that they had Scott Pilgrim in French. That totally blew my mind. I even asked the guy at the counter if Scott Pilgrim was well known in France ("Est-ce que les livres de Scott Pilgrim sont biens connues en France?") and he said that yes, they were. I am still happy about this fact.

Anyways, moving on. After that, Brian and I stopped in at a very pretty local church (though I don't remember what it was called), ignoring the beggars at the entrances and continuing inside briefly to look at the stained glass and take some pictures.

After that, we went to the Louvre for about an hour and a half. It was pretty cool, but I sort of found out how very specific my interest in art is by wandering around the Louvre for so long. For example, even though I said what I wanted to see the most were the paintings, I guess what I really meant was that I wanted to see newer, non-religious paintings, and paintings that I was familiar with. I did see La Jocund (The Mona Lisa), but I had already seen her once before, so it wasn't as big a deal as it could have been. I also did see a few that I recognized, but not very many. The huge, wall sized paintings were pretty cool, though. What I found myself to be really interested in, though I had no idea of this at first, was all of the Egyptian stuff we somehow stumbled upon. Sarcophaguses, artifacts, tablets with Hieroglyphics on them, etc. I was also very interested in all of the Medieval castle-looking structures that we found in the basement. I was even more interested, in retrospect, in all of the statues that we looked at first, even though I said at the time that I found them boring and just wanted to see some pretty pictures. ;) All in all, it was worth the 10 Euro admission price, and I will surely be back, hopefully to check out some of the paintings that I consider myself to be more interested in, and especially since we probably only saw 1/100th of what is in there.

I wanted to stop and talk about the weather briefly, in case anyone is interested. It is very variable, and strikes me kind of like St. Louis weather, with maybe a bit less humidity. Today, for example, was very hot, and people were sitting around the fountains outside the entrance to the Louvre with their legs in the water, to cool off. But this looked like common practice, since no one was stopping them. Today was another day that made me realize that I won't really have to do much extra exercise while here to stay in shape. Walking around for 5 hours with a 50+ pound backpack (I took my laptop to class to access the internet) will surely help me stay trim, and if I want to buff up, I will just do some push-ups and sit-ups. There is a gym just down the street, so apparently this is not strictly an American phenomenon (Tom, whoever else wanted to know about that), but I will be so busy with school the next few weeks that I don't think I'm going to worry about it until I have a job and am settled in and everything. After leaving the Louvre, Brian and I walked to the metro, where I stopped twice along the way. Once was so I could buy a cute print of the Eiffel Tower for only 2 Euro (It was between that or one of my favorite Art Nouveau prints, which I will probably purchase the next time I am out that way), and again for some ice cream, since I thought it would help my still-uneasy stomach. The good news was that it did help, and between the ice cream, the good dinner, and finally re-hydrating myself, I am happy to report that the sour stomach is totally gone.

After getting home, I napped a bit, went to the Monoprix for some groceries that will probably last me the whole week (I also finally bought a big bag to carry my groceries in...they charge you extra for plastic bags here), came home and made maybe the most delicious dinner I have ever made myself, and then spent the rest of the night updating this here blog and managing my Face book accounts and e-mail accounts. I think I did really well at the Monoprix though, and though I spent like 35 Euro, I will probably have food for the whole week, and therefore won't need to spend much more on eat-out food or more groceries until next weekend. I even brought a little notebook, wrote all the prices down, and tried to find the cheapest brand for everything I wanted. I felt like a grown-up in training. Haha!

Anyways, I should probably wrap this up so I can go to bed...tomorrow's plans include getting up in the early afternoon (probably), finally registering at the American Embassy, doing some laundry, typing out my resume and letter of interest for the on-site coordinator here, and then going to Batofar in the evening, to listen to some Funk, Soul, House, and Drum and Bass, apparently. Of course I will let you all know how it is, and I will probably take tons of pictures. I should say before I go that Batofar is more than a club, it's also a restaurant and a non-electronic concert venue. They even show movies there sometimes. It sounds really awesome, and I know that admission tomorrow night is free. Grosses bises a tous!

Birthday Shenangins and Information about my Class

Bonjour a tous! (Hello, all!)

 Finally, I have some time and a cooperative internet to do some blogging, so you all are going to get a two-fer, if not a three-fer. I do apologize, but hopefully doing several posts in one night will make up for my relative silence the past few days. :)  Anyways, moving on. 

I am glad that I will have a more reliable internet connection soon and a free land line, or at least that's what my lanlord is telling me. He set everything up on Monday, and here it is Friday night and everything is still in the process of registering itself and setting itself up. But when it all gets set up, it will definitely make it easier to stay in touch with friends and family. I must admit, I can't wait for the TV to work, because I am dying to watch some French TV (I think it will be a great learning tool) and also to surprise people with random phone calls. I don't understand how it works, but I will have a land line that can call any number in the U.S., including cell phones, for free. I will also have a number, so that people can call me here, and maybe even leave me messages. But for now, the internet and Skype will do just fine. :)
Anyways, I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell you all about my birthday craziness. Let me just start by saying that I think I have made some friends over here, that's for sure. I will tell you about my class after I tell you about my birthday festivities. After class on Tuesday, I got home about 7pm and took a brief nap, since the night before I didn't sleep very well and got maybe 4 or 5 hours of sleep total. Today (Friday) is the first day that I have been feeling like I have my bearings...people say it usually takes about a week to catch up with your jet lag, and they are telling the truth. Anyways, on Tuesday, I met up with my classmates at 10pm by L'hotel de ville, which is like the French...Ministry of Magic (Harry Potter reference), kind of. Ha! I asked some French kids what it was, and they told me it was the place where the minister works, etc. Does France even have a Minister? I thought they just had a president. Maybe they meant the mayor of Paris, or something. This is probably all information I should know, huh.

Anyway, I met up with 4 of my classmates (Angus, Brian, Sarah, and Helen) and Sarah's boyfriend, who lives in France with her, and we went to a little bar called Stolly (like Stoli) or something like that. It was run by Canadians, who were rather nice. Everyone was buying me drinks, and I only paid for 2 drinks for myself the whole night, I believe. I did kind of drink a lot, but it was my birthday, so I felt it was appropriate, regardless of what day of the week it was. We stayed at Stolly until around 1:30 or so when they were closing, and I unfortunately spent a good deal of the night ignoring the people who had gotten me so knockered in favor of talking to this charming young French couple outside who were very nice and were willing to have a conversation with me and help me practice my French, while I helped them a bit with their English. They were called Claudine and Timothy, and needless to say, I was super excited to finally have a chance to have an extended French conversation with local French people.

The people in Paris aren't really rude, but they don't really spend a lot of time talking to people they don't know. It would be weird, for example, to strike up a conversation with someone randomly while on the Metro...and besides, I would be too self-conscious to do that anyways, since the Metros are always crowded and I don't really want 30 or so French people hearing my shitty French and judging me. I'm sure I will get over this in time, though. I did apologize for ignoring my classmates at the bar, but they were very understanding, saying that it was my birthday and they knew how excited I was to talk to French people. I was drinking everything, though. By the way. Probably 3 or 4 pints of beer total (if not a bit more), 4 shots (including one bought for me by Helen, who told the bartender to make me something dreadful...it was god-awful, and I nicknamed it the "fire breather," because it consisted of Tequila, Tabasco sauce, and Sambuca), and a cocktail called the "Cobain No-brain," which I couldn't resist because of the name, which consisted of vodka and sprite (maybe) and cherry liquor...quite tasty.

2 of the shots were bought for me by the bartender, who was very cool...actually, only one of them was for me, but he put out 6 shots and said they were for me for my birthday, and I drunkenly thought they were all for me. I did two of them right in a row before he stopped me to tell me the rest were for my friends. But he got a good kick out of that, said he liked my style, and even told the other bartenders about it, who also got a kick out of it. By the time the bar was nearing closing time, I was completely amped up, and Angus made jokes the next day in class about how before we left the bar, I just looked at him and pointed at him and then back at me and said something like "You and me, we're going to the club." Like THE club, like there's only one. Haha! Speaking of the club, we are all going to a club tomorrow night called Batofar, which is apparently on a boat somewhere in Paris, which sounds pretty epic to me. :D

I wish I could tell you night ended here, but it did not. After the bar closed, we passed a Quick, which is like Belgian fast food, and I ate my first fast food abroad, which I regretted all day the following day. It was good at the time, but I have had acid reflux all day because of it (or maybe it was that "fire breather" shot I did), and France is really weird because you need a prescription for stuff like antacids...you can't get any of that over-the-counter...so I just drank a bunch of water and some milk Wednesday and tried to feel better, though it didn't really work, and I only just tonight (Friday) started feeling better, for whatever reason. I think it was partially due to dehydration. Anyways, another source of amusement to Angus was that apparently my French was tapped out for the night by the time we got to Quick, since I had spent so long speaking in French at the bar, and I ordered a (in a very American accent) " 'hamburger' avec cheese." I was honestly sort of browning out by this point, so I don't really remember saying that, but I don't put it past myself. What I do remember is that I was in great spirits, and seemed to be thoroughly entertaining the people around me, which by this point included another girl, Lara, a friend of Sarah's from Holland or somewhere. After that, we went back to Sarah and her boyfriend's place and watched you tube music videos for a bit, since the Metro had stopped running and Angus and I wanted to sober up a bit before heading back to our respective places. We left Sarah's around 3, and Angus and I split a cab for about 10 euro apiece, which was WAY cheaper than the cab I got at the airport. I had an interesting conversation with the cab driver, who was from the Cote d'Ivoire and spoke very little English, about how America is more interested in starting 100 wars than taking care of it's own problems, etc. At this point, even with a big effort, my French was still very broken, but I got my point across, and was able to understand him fairly well, despite my condition. Quelle miracle!

That's about it for the birthday, though...got home at about 4, messed around for about 30 minutes before bed, and slept for about 4 hours before getting up and showering and putting on some nice clothes
and going to school. Apparently Helen and I had made an agreement when we were all making plans after class that we were going to dress up and kill it on Tuesday night, and I instead opted for my Deathly Hallows t-shirt and a pair of shorts (which I regretted anyways, since it was colder than I expected it to be), so I promised I would dress up the following day...luckily, I did much better than I thought I was going to do on Wednesday, and was very alert until the end of class. It took 2 coffees (the school has this little coffee machine that dispenses 4 ounce cups of very strong coffee for only 50 Euro cents), a Kit Kat, a TON of water, and a Coke, but I stayed awake and alert all day, and today actually went by fairly quickly.

I suppose I should tell you about my class, now, so you know what's going on and everything, and who all of those people are that I just told you all about for several paragraphs. The class is just me and 8 other people, mostly younger than me, but a few who are a bit older. There are 3 other Americans: Brian, who is 33 and married to a Swiss woman and has 2 children and is kind of like me except a bit more relaxed and scholarly...he even looks a bit like me. I sometimes find him interesting, but in class, I sometimes find him a bit annoying since he likes to digress a lot, though I can tell we are going to be good friends, and he reminds me of my friend Dave, because he's very much a know-it-all kind of guy, but in a harmless sort of way. :) Then there is a middle-aged guy who's name I can't remember who is from West Virginia, and a girl named Stephanie from Minnesota who is 23 years old and extremely shy. After that, there is Angus, who will probably be one of my best guy friends in class if I don't annoy him too much...Angus is my sister Liz's age, and from Australia...I seem to amuse him, and he has said he enjoys my sense of humor, which can apparently sometimes greatly rememble British humor, like on Wednesday when Brian stopped the teacher and said he disagreed or something and I just looked over at Angus and said "shocking," in a very British accent. Haha! After that, there is Sophie, a British girl who is 21, Helen, an Irish girl who is also 21, Nori, a married Japanese guy who is 31, and Sarah, a girl of Belgian origin (I think) who is about 25 and who will probably be my best female friend. She's super laid-back and easy going, and is definitely not a girly girl, which is nice. She's actually the one who suggested we hit up Batofar this weekend, and she also is nearly fluent in French, so I can use her as a resource if I need to. Now that you all know all about the people in my class, maybe I should say something about the class itself.

It's not too bad...semi-intense, but we take lots of breaks. This week, we went for 6 hours on Monday, 7 hours on Tuesday, and 8 hours Wednesday and Thursday, but Fridays will be a breeze, as we only have class from 10am-1pm, I believe. Hooray for starting the weekend early! Unfortunately, starting next week, it starts to get super intense, and we will all be going to class for 9 hours Monday and Wednesday, and for 11 hours Tuesday and Thursday, and it will stay this way until the end of the course. But at least Fridays will remain short, from only 10am-1pm, so that’s a bit of a blessing. As far as the course work itself, it is all basically just a review for me…we have had handouts to read this week about lesson planning, classroom management, what makes a good teacher, various teaching methodology etc. Even some the subject matter, like Grammar and Phonetics, are little more than a review for me, and since I love Grammar and Phonetics and language and everything, all of the information about Grammar and Phonetics that I have learned over the years has basically remained in my head. I feel have a lot of useful stuff to add to the class, since I have real experience with teaching and most of these people don’t, and I feel really valued as a student, so that’s cool. 

I did receive sort of a bit of disappointing news on my first day of class,when my teacher said it may be very difficult to remain anywhere in France to teach when my class is over due to certain Visa issues and stuff, but I wrote a pretty angry e-mail to on of the coordinators over here, and she basically told me that with persistence, anything is possible, so I'm not really worried about it. Since I want it so badly, I know I will do what it takes to make it happen. :) Also, about midway through the week, our teacher, Sanja, sat Brian and I down after a break and basically told us that she is happy that we both know so much about the subject matter, but that we should actually try to participate in class a little less, since she feels like the others were getting a bit lazy and no longer thinking for themselves. She just said that if we gave others a chance to speak and offer their opinions, they would get more out of the class. Gotta love being told that you know so much and are so vocal that it's actually detrimental to the class! Haha! :)

But anyways, one thing we were doing this week that was totally foreign to me was learning Croatian, which we are doing more to teach us the methods we will be using to teach English to non-English speakers than to actually learn it. Since most of our students will speak almost no English, they will feel like we did when we were learning Croatian this week, since our teacher wouldn’t speak in English for that hour or so we were learning Croatian. And surprisingly, this method proved to be rather effective, at least for me. At first, it was little more than frustrating, like playing Charades in a foreign language, but as the days went by (we were only doing it this week, Monday through Wednesday), I found myself retaining more, being more engaged, and being able to understand more and more of her explanations, which were only done in Croatian. I told her on Wednesday that I almost wish we could keep learning it, since it sounds so cool and is so different than anything I have done before. But that’s about it as far as class goes so far…Thursday we observed a real life English Language learner being taught by someone at our school, and I also did my own lesson on Thursday, which I had time to prepare for in class, and even though I winged it by looking up a lesson in class and copying it all down and printing out the necessary materials on the spot, Sanja still said it was very good, so I think I'm on the right track. The class does seem pretty intense, but I definitely like the challenge. 

I have been eating very French this first week, by the way. This is something that I aim to curtail though, since I spent a lot of money on food in the first week of being here. I plan on doing this by cooking in and going grocery shopping, which I did tonight. Although I spent like 50$ on food at the Monoprix, I got enough to last me for probably the rest of the week, and will only have to buy more food minimally, or when I just can't resist. Tonight I made my first genuine self-cooked meal at my apartment, and it consisted of pasta shells left over from the previous tenant cooked up with some store brand, bottled bolognese sauce, a little bit of store brand hamburger, and some shredded Emmenthaler cheese, completed by a baguette, a small salad, and some diet peach tea. I don't know why I feel like telling you all about what I've been eating, but I do, so here goes. For lunch on the first day of class, Brian and I split a loaf of Stollen (sweet bread), a small package of turkey (4 slices), and some little baby bella cheeses that were sort of like provolone…I don’t know what they actually were, but they were soft and flavorful. We also both got a beer, and all of this ran us about 3.50 apiece. 

On Tuesday, a bunch of us went to a Vietnamese restaurant down the street for a birthday treat, and I got lemon grass chicken, which was pretty good, and at only 8 Euro, not too bad on price. Wednesday, I splurged a little, too. Got a delicious pastry for about 1.50 Euros that I ate on the metro ride to school, then got an awesome hot dog (translation: “hot-dog”) and stinky cheese Panini on my breakfast break and just had a soda and a kit kat on my lunch break. For dinner, I had a meatball foot long from Subway.Thursday and Friday, I had Beignets on the way to school (chocolate on Thursday, Apple today), and on Thursday I had a baguette, split some cheese and turkey again with Brian, and had another beer for lunch. For dinner, I made grilled cheeses with Emmenthaler, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayonnaise with those Monster Munch chips, and for lunch today, we went to an Italian place, where I got this thing that was like an eggplant wrap with ham and cheese and marinara all over it, for only like 4 Euro. Tonight, I had the delicious pasta dish. So now you all know what I've been eating for the past week. I hope you didn't find that to be too boring. :)

Well, that's about it for this one, and even though it's almost 2 in the morning here, I don't have anything to do tomorrow, and think I might be able to write one more tonight, if my internet connection will allow it, about what I did today after class (hint: the Louvre is involved). I hope you all have been enjoying reading this! Grosses bises a tous! A bientot!