…And I’m still alive!
So much has happened in such a short space of time! After the bottom curve of that bloody culture-shock graph arrived a bit early, everything is on the up again, including the beautiful (but sweaty) weather!
Alors, on Monday I started my job as a Comenius assistant at a private Catholic école and college in Toulon, Cours Notre Dame des Missions. There were no students in on Monday, it was a pre-rentrée meeting so chance to meet everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. Those of you who know me well will know that I’m not a massively touchy-feely person, so imagine having to go into a new workplace and kiss every single one of your new colleagues…! Needless to say, once I’d worked out which cheek to kiss first all went smoothly and everyone I met was absolutely lovely, allowing me to stumble along in my broken French. Then came the meeting (complete with croissants and coffee), well it was more like an assembly, where all the new staff were introduced in front of everyone. Little did I know, that when my name was called, I would be expected to come to the front and introduce myself! Nevertheless, I managed to remember by A-level French phrases and avoid any major errors. [I should point out at this point that when I don’t know the word/phrase/conjugation, I tend to smile and giggle a lot, something that the French seem to find hilarious…]
Departmental meetings followed the assembly, followed by a staff photo (in the rain – the weather was FREEZING!) then a short chapel service – I should also point that although the school is Catholic, I am not, so I mimed along, letting the French just wash over me. Thank goodness it’s not a regular occurrence (I don’t think!). Anyway, after this the school had provided the entire staff with a delicious buffet lunch, plus the obligatory wine and fromage, I also had a slice of tarte tropézienne which was amazing! After this, I was pretty sleepy and tired from wine/food, but luckily the day finished around 3pm so Julia dropped me off at my apartment, but not after one of the other teachers taught me a very important [idiomatic] phrase: ca me fait chier – ‘That really irritates me’ (I was warned never to use this in front of the head teacher though!).
After a quick nap, I went out in the evening to meet Annie, one of the other assistants in Toulon, who was here on holiday for a few days to find an apartment. It was nice to have some company, as my flatmates were on holiday! Anyway she was absolutely lovely and we made plans for the next day for me to join her and her mum to go to an area of Toulon called Le Mourillon (where the beaches/bars are) to have dinner and look at an apartment.
So the next day, I went into school for 8.30am (ridiculous, I know) and made the mistake of walking there…cue a major sweaty look when I got there [NB I have now bought a bus pass, so can bus there and walk back]. It was pretty tiring, even though I was just observing! Anyway, in the evening I met Annie and her mum and we took the bus to le Mourillon. The apartment that we looked at was really nice, so close to the beach, and the colocataire was really nice too, even asking us a few questions! Anyway, Annie has since got the apartment so we now have a beach base! We then spent an hour or so drinking apple mojitos and eating French cuisine (croque monsieur, quiche lorraine, haha) before catching the last bus back to the town (8.45…this could be a future problem!)
The rest of the week, I’ve been a tourist – retail therapy to cure loneliness; sitting by the beach with my kindle and a panaché – and been into the school to properly meet some of the students (who have the tendency to stare at me like I’m an alien!). The school is completely different to anything in England, but more on that next time…
Anyway, maintenant my colocs have returned with the promise of getting our nails done by little French Chinese ladies and teaching me more French slang…
C’est la vie!