Friday, 9 September 2011

Aller au charbon. To go to the coal (mines). To do something very difficult.

Well it's a Friday night, I'm quite sure the rest of the world is preparing to party and a few weeks ago in London so would I have been, but right now I have a lead, a dog, my walking boots are waiting for me and I'm going for a hike on this lovely warm evening. If I had a choice I wouldn't have it any other way. This is me.

So I made it, I survived my first week and what a week it's been. I must be mad. I would never have believed I could do this but do it I have and it's been quite awesome, tiring but awesome!

I'm lucky my work colleagues are just a little bit fab, Michelle should be moving in with me any day now so there goes the neighbourhood (only once have I been greeted by the stern look from the headmistress on account of one of my notoriously loud cackles errupting in the corridor one afternoon) the head of English is probably going to have been sent grey by micheele and I come Xmas but they are honestly awesome the pair of them although our conversations when we are sans children are staying a closely guarded secret locked in the classroom with us never to be repeated on here, honestly far too much laughing and consumption of tea goes on, which brings me to the next topic...we now have proper tea in our classroom!!

What gives it away that this is the English department??!! (check out the super grown up stitch and tinks mugs on the right there)

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On account of understanding how wonderfully rubbish the tea out here is (the yellow lable Lipton stuff) we now have a box of Barrys tea from Ireland and some Typhoo! So thanks to Anne and Zoe for providing us with a decent caffeine supply.

Have been having much fun with the French language and my lack of, firstly I have learned i may get myself into a whoooole heap of trouble if I try and turn English into French as it just doesn't work that way. In innocence I have said

"je suis excitées!' (I'm excited!) and....
'je suis facile!' (I don't mind/I'm easy!)

Both could apparently get me into mass amounts of trouble with the opposite sex and as my one male friend told me 'je suis facile' is mostly likely to get the response 'okay you want f*** now or later?'

I nearly died...

Also there's my Coventry accent getting in the way. Generally in cov we drop our 't' sound it's very lazy so when I asked a young boy the other day what he was painting:

'qu'est c'il y a?'

I got the response

"mon grand-Peres voiture, c'est un quatre-quatre"

Ooookay it sounded like he said 'cat-cat' so i asked the lovely Melda one of the schools English speaking assistants what it meant.

"huh??? What did you say???" she said when I confidently repeated the word to her and asked her what it meant. Slightly more uncertain with myself I said it again...'cat cat! What does it mean?!'

"where on earth did you hear that???"

Highly confused I said 'well I just asked him what he was painting (gesticulating to the young boy) and he replied' "mon grand-peres voiture c'est un cat cat!"

Melda burst out laughing and said "aaaaaaah un quatre-quatre a 4x4!!!" this made sense I just hadn't heard him pronounce the 'rrrrr' on the end (the French do that, it's okay for them to lower their voice and make the word inaudible but when you do it....) however thanks to my cov accent I pretty much missed off the 'T' so all Melda heard was me saying 'un ca ca' which essentially in french school speaking terms means 'going for a poo' e.g
"miss un ca caaaaaa s'il vous plait!!!"

Epic fail.

That asides communicating to the kids hasn't been too bad, even the teensy ones who speak next to NO English at all I have been able to get through to. Luckily I'm quite a physical person, my mum is REALLY gesticulative so I grew up thinking waving your arms around when you are talking is normal. I remember when I was little I assumed this was something you'd learn to do as you got older and so I used to practise when having conversations with people; I'd be chatting and waving my arms round like a conductor to some invisible orchestra, I even wondered if like sign language each movement went with what she said, where did she learn these mystery arm movements and what did they mean??!!. I didn't realise it was just something that developed, my mum did it so I felt the sooner i started the better.

As it turns out so are the French. Like Italians they use their hands, they wave their arms everything is Big and expressive so the children are clearly used to this and therefore it makes my job a lot easier. They pull faces, they make noises, every conversation is almost choreographed it is a joy to watch and the kids are so descriptive about everything! At the moment they dont grasp that I haven't got a clue what they are saying to me (which is probably just as well) but I don't need to. They chatter away to me (about what I have no clue) in their cute little French voices pouting and smiling their way through their sentences in a very exaggerated form of the mouth position the french adopt to sound their words and I don't need to understand the words, their facial expressions and their gestures tell me everything I need to know and more often than not they are just chit chatting! So a simple smile, shrug, laugh or pfffft with a shrug or head shake is all that is needed and they are always happy with the response and acknowledgement. Years ago on holiday in the South of France (years I'm talking when I was 7 so about 2 decades ago, dear lord...) I made a german friend called 'zoe'. Now I had no idea what she was saying nor she I, neither of us spoke the others language but we happily spent the entire day together as kids do chatting and playing on the beach. Sometimes the words just aren't important and they say 80% of human communication is non verbal.

The kids are also a great tonic for me, I have been battling some personal demons for a few days and whereas before when I was in the gym whilst I was able to bounce around and greet people with a cheery "hi" even on my lowest of the low days where i felt absolutely worthless, if the sadness was there it was there, I could hide it but it'd be on my mind and somedays I was almost like a zombie.

Soon as the children enter the stadium or line up for me outside their classroom...that feeling vanishes, your thoughts drop away to nothing, it's incredible. They bounce in and so you have to be on them straight away, focussed, all eyes on me watching whilst I wave my arms around frantically and pretend to be a rabbit, or mime that I want to see them landing on their feet and not their bottom thank you very much... Spending an afternoon playing football and collecting conkers is brilliant for anyone it's a treat to see life the way a child does again, everything is so much more clear cut! I once read that if you need advice; just once, ask a 5 year old. They don't see the complications in life we do.

Where I have been living all week:

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Le stade! My domain...

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I realised this afternoon how crazy this job is and even more crazy is how Did I come to have it? and how soon everything changed for me! One minute I'm a PT working 1-1 with adults and now here I am teaching 20+ children sport and also English. To stand in front of a class writing on the board and teaching them sentences and marking their work.. (Asides trying to grasp the French language I also learned this week that writing on a board using chalk is definitely a skill. I don't posses it).

I never saw this coming it's like being a proper grown up all of a sudden. The 5 week period from deciding to go for it and actually arriving here last week seems so many light years away and all the troubles between then and now, the limbo, the waiting, the stresses, the problems....gone! It was a whole other life, one I'd didn't comprehend how unhealthy it was until I got here and now can breathe and feel myself again. Yes its exhausting but oh my word rewarding! I did wonder after day 2 how id cope doing this all the time i mean i was shattered (one friend kindly looked at me when i answered my skype on wednesday and went 'woah you look knackered!' yeah cheers...') but now at the end of the week I feel energised and good to go, just like Michelle calls me 'the energiser bunny'. It would be understandable to be knackered after all its 18 hours a week running round teaching Sport, 4 hours teaching dance, 3 hours standing up teaching english, then at some point once Disney organise my rehearsal time add to this some extra hours which will involve learning how to shoot big guns and galloping round on horseback and of course then there's the 2 mile walk to school and back everyday...I'm being very good and making sure I eat right and get a good amount of sleep in preparation! If my body's going to work properly through that lot it is vital I am fuelled right! C'est tres important.

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Someone text me asking for some info recently back in the UK and so whilst the children were on break (gutti!) I text back to say "sure will send it when I'm not up to my ears in 6 year olds pretending to be kangaroos". I laughed out loud when I read it back and instantly felt kind of guilty as knew there was no way the person on the receiving end of that message was having anywhere near as much fun as I was!

The children have generally been pretty good I've clamped down in the first week, no prisoners have been taken and no bad manners tolerated as it's best to set the rules early. It's tough I have a curriculum to follow and so the boys with their 'miiissss can we play football today?' has had to be responded to with 'nope it's athletics til October then you have football after that!!!' I have also had 'when we going to do proper sport like football....' so there was a quick franglais lesson on how athletics IS sport.

I'm thinking just wait til After Christmas when they have to do dance...

They have all learned my stopwatch is not a stopwatch it's an amulet of doom which is set to 1 minute when I have them sitting down properly for a minute of COMPLETE silence. Yu should try it it's very hard and that minute is a long time, especially when I reset the time for slouching, whispering, playing with the velcro on their trainers....ooh it makes me sound like such a bitch ;) Only had to do this once though and now when I hold the stopwatch above my head they shut up on the spot. Good trick ;)

I wasn't all harsh though I let them play games towards the end of the week and now have also learned that tig is called 'le chat' and you aren't 'it' you are 'the cat' so there you go.

Right anyway Sasha is lying on my bed looking thoroughly bored so it's time for a W-A-L-K.... For le CHATS!!!! or maybe a .... SQUIRREL!!! (was watching Up the other day, such a beautiful movie...POINT! ha)

Losing the will to live...

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Tomorrow I have a 2 hour meeting in French (whoop) at 10am then at 12pm it's le r'entree (schools welcome picnic) then who knows what the weekend will bring! I do know I feel a lot more relaxed than I have in ages but I have my sports, my countryside, my wildlife, (Sasha, oh to have an animal in my life again is amazing) the great outdoors; I mean in the last week I have seen deer on my sports field (kangaroos in my gym), foxes, ferrets, a wild boar, my daily flattened hedgehog (it gets more steam rollered everyday poor thing) and an abundance of bird life! Out here something happens that I haven't seen for years and that's the starlings! At 6pm they all group together in the trees twittering at a deafening volume for a good 10 minutes and then all at once...complete silence before they launch themselves into the sky in a big thick well organised big black cloud all moving as one. I remember this as a child in the midlands all the starlings sitting on the aerials of the houses in my street, the noise of their twittering is incredible, then the silence, then there's the rush if thousands if tiny wings and the sky fills with these amazing aerial displays of togetherness like black fireworks as they take off to roost at dusk. It takes my breath away every night.

So I'm off with the dog back out into the great outdoors, I'm definitely a country girl at heart even if i was born and raised in the city, now all I need to make my life complete is to get in some horse riding and being back on stage...

Which reminds me I should have a meeting with Disney shortly!

Bon weekend!

Karen x

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