Sunday, 7 April 2013

Pizza, Popcorn, Packing and Partings

With just seven days left until I’m back home at home, I’m only now realising how much I’m going to miss France.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought that I would miss France but also quite liked the idea of going home to England. Ellie said that this feeling of being torn meant that my stay had been the perfect length and I was inclined to agree. Now, however, I’ve changed my mind. I can’t wait to see my family and friends (it’s going to be brilliant) but part of me feels that a holiday to England would do just fine for that.

Life here is fantastic - we’re fairly paid and our workload gives us plentiful time to have a social life and to be an active part of French culture. I love the food, the language and the atmosphere. There are things which I feel I will never understand - the never-ending tide of bureaucracy, for one. That said, I know enough to know that I love France. I feel the same about Normandy and Le Havre. I get extremely annoyed when people are rude about this city – it doesn't seem fair. I’m not ready to leave just yet and I’m incredibly jealous of those that are staying longer.

The other sad realisation that dawned on me and Alex last week was that we’ve probably reached the peak of our language skills. It isn’t that much of a leap to say that our level will begin to decrease when we’re no longer surrounded by French every day. Studying a language at university is fantastic but it doesn’t even come close to learning a language in the country where it is spoken.

That’s the sad part over, time to move on to news of the last couple of weeks.

Last Tuesday Grace, Sam and I went to see Promised Land, a new movie directed by Gus Van Sant. The film, which stars Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand, centres on the contentious issue of natural gas fracking. It’s a great little movie which I’ve which I've reviewed in full for SUSU’s entertainment magazine The Edge. My favourite thing about this night was that my rift with the lady at Le Sirius seems to be fixed. That, or exact change is her favourite thing in the entire world.

The next day, I was invited to lunch by my lovely friend and colleague Céline. We went to a French restaurant in St. François which was really nice. After that, we spent the rest of the day working on Céline’s presentation for her certification to teach Sales in English (DNL). I’m happy to say that she passed it – hooray!

The Thursday brought my staff leaving party at one of my schools. It was a tad premature but we were on a trip this Thursday and there’s a group of students and teachers abroad in England from tonight so it was the only time that we could do it. We ordered pizza to the school and the professeur documentaliste (a teacher who runs the school library, has a much more involved role than an English school librarian) brought some home-made cider. I got some really lovely leaving presents which I didn’t expect – I love my colleagues!

Last Friday night, Alex and I went to see Les Amants Passagers at Le Sirius. The film was in VO (Spanish) with French subtitles – always fun to try making sense of another language through using French! Alex had studied the film’s director Pedro Almodóvar at university and apparently the film is very characteristic of his style – lots of bright colours, music etc. The film was really funny and I enjoyed it a lot, but it was completely insane.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning and the arrival of Sera. I got to the port fairly early so had a walk around St. François and the seafront taking pictures of the area and the boats that were around. We had a really great few days together exploring Le Havre. We ate at a restaurant at the beach and at the casino, we visited many-a-supermarket and had a brilliant wine, movie and packing night. I’m incredibly grateful to Sera for taking some of my stuff home too – that should make moving out next weekend that little bit easier.

This Wednesday, Sam, Grace, Alex and I went for a meal at the home of the family from the language café. Sam has done exactly what I was hoping she would have done and uploaded photos of all of the delicious food we had on her blog. We enjoyed:

Verrines of tomato, mozerella and pesto
Verrines of prawn and tomato
Melted maroilles cheese on a bed of salad
Gammon and pork with carrots and turnips, accompanied by a gruyère gratin of broccoli and potatoes in a garlic sauce
Neufchâtel, Roquefort and two other cheeses that neither I nor Sam can remember the name of)
Profiteroles with Grand Marnier (white) or Vanilla (red) crème patissìere
Yorkshire tea

The night was really lovely – there was a lot of laughter and, as always, we were never stuck for conversation. The family gave each of us a cookbook as a leaving present – mine is a book of Nutella recipes. I’ve had a read through and there are lots of recipes I can’t wait to try once I have a kitchen again.

Thursday brought la semaine de la presse (journalism week) at the school which backs on to ours. Three of us accompanied the eight students and we had a really great day. The two schools are connected by the canteen which is common to the two and it was a bit bizarre to be ‘out on a trip’ with all of our other students eating around us. Each group of 4 students had to write an article, our groups tackling ‘The port of Le Havre’ and ‘Le Havre’s Green Spaces’. I was really pleased that one of our groups won the prize for the best illustrations, not least because they used photos I’ve taken over the past year to do it. Grace was also there with her school and it was nice that we had the chance to chat. The day was really long – we finally left at 18:45, having worked nine and three quarter hours! Something that really saddened me is that a few of the students from the journalism day are going on the London trip tonight but I didn’t realise that it was the last time I’d get to see them until all but one had left. I ended up taking the tram with the last student and we had a really great conversation but I really regret not saying goodbye to the others.

Yesterday I ended up at the hospital with some pesky chest pains which seem to recur every year and (as yet) have no known medical cause. The French nurses and doctor were very nice and looked after me really well. In true French style, it isn’t possible to pay for treatment at the weekend so I need to go back on Monday to settle the bill. I’m hoping it isn’t going to be too eye-wateringly awful!

The next week is going to be very stressful. I am truly, truly awful at packing, I have a lot of things to return, unsubscribe from and cancel, and I’m going to hate working with all of my favourite classes and colleagues for the last time. Sigh…

Ça sent le roussi – That smells like trouble
Trimbaler – To tug, to cart around

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