Tag Archives: Language

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29–Meetup

About a month and a half ago, my colleague from Switzerland, Kerstin, was here on Long Island for a business trip. We spent a good amount of time together, both working and hanging out. We were talking about my life on Long Island and the usual blah blah blah of how challenging I find it to meet people with similar interests as me when she suggested I try Meetup. She explained that Meetup is a website and an app that you can download that you plug your interests into and it finds groups of people in the area who come together around their shared interests.

I’d never heard of the app, and I was curious to find out more so I downloaded it and proceeded to tick off my interests in this order: hiking and outdoors, spirituality, yoga, reading, meditation, politics, and languages. Hundreds of Meetup groups around the area popped up and I could choose to RSVP to any of the gatherings.

One particular group that peaked my interest off the bat was the “Center Reach French Club,” which meets at Panera in the Smith Haven Mall every Tuesday night from 7-8:30pm. It seemed do-able and safe and if worst came to worst I could always get a soup and baguette and pretend that it never happened. I joined the group, RSVP’d, and then didn’t show. The other day on a Skype call with Kerstin, she asked me if I’d gone to a Meetup group yet. I gave her all my excuses and then told her that I planned to go to the French Meetup this Tuesday as long as nothing else came up. Today she sent me a friendly reminder via Skype and so I right then I pulled out my phone and RSVP’d before I could change my mind.

This evening I hopped in my car and drove 25 minutes to the mall, all the while telling myself that I had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was welcomed by a small, yet diverse group of francophiles of varying language level, age, nationality, sex and race. To my pleasant surprise, everyone was dedicate to speaking in French, with the occasional Franglish sentence thrown in to make up for lacking vocabulary. We held a lively conversation that touched on subjects such as issues with the Common Core Curriculum, differences between American and French schooling theories, favorite places we’ve traveled, and then the usual stuff, like introductions, occupations etc. I was quite pleased that I hadn’t lost my French completely…though frustrated with how rusty it has become after being back in the US for over a year and a half. But I felt good about my grammar, conjugations and my accent….and in general I just felt SO good to be speaking French again.

Beyond the explicit function of this group being to practice and upkeep our French language skills, there is also a strong element of community involved. This small but mighty group has been in existence for over two years meeting once a week to speak in French. I immediately fell in love the idea of having a weekly friend group consisting of an Indian mathematician, a Guadalupian middle school teacher, an Italian immigrant police office, a retired high school French teacher and a young American woman who was also a former English teacher in France like myself–such a diverse group of people, all of whom shared my passion pour la langue Francaise.

I felt the accueil chaleureux (warm welcome) of the group as a whole, and also an immediate bond with the young woman, Audrey, who taught for a year in a French school near Versailles. We stayed after the group left and ate dinner together, getting to know each other a bit more and sharing our similar experiences teaching abroad in France. It was a monumental moment for me to connect with another female in general, let alone someone that I have something in common with! Honestly, I could snap my fingers and have a date with a dude around here in two seconds, but meeting girls to be friends with is another story completely.

Tonight was a homerun, and I’m super grateful for all of the pieces that fell together to make this night happen so beautifully. I’m grateful to Kerstin for introducing me to the concept and then pushing me to join a Meetup group. I am grateful to have spent an hour and a half using my brain and practicing my rusty (but functioning!) French. I’m grateful to the group for their warm welcome, wonderful conversation and diverse perspectives, and finally I am grateful to have met Audrey, a young, smart, and interesting woman with a brilliant handle of the French language and my newest official friend crush.

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Working hard or hardly working?

The difference between my current life and the one I was living only a few months prior is vast. In San Francisco the pace of my life was fast; I was always busy with some activity and sleep was not something of which I was accustomed. Thinking back on this time, it is quite hard to imagine how I ever pushed myself as hard as I did. Since arriving here in Sete I’ve acclimated (a bit) to the idea of having very little to do.

Though my contract officially started October 1st, my job as an English assistant only started last Monday. That’s to say, I spent the first 17 days of October chillin’ like a villain. When I received my work schedule on my first day of school, I found out that out of the 12 hours a week I am contracted, I will split 9 hours between two different schools. 3 out of my 12 hours are being kept for “fun days.” What does that mean, you ask? Fun days are basically a glorified English-speaking field day in which multiple assistants from around the region go to a school to play games with the kids. Thus, I work only Monday/Thursdays in my schools. Not too shabby.

My first week of teaching consisted of introductions and repetitive vocabulary about Vermont’s four seasons. By the end of my last class I was about ready to throw all my stupid flash cards in the trash. However, my kiddies are adorable. I teach ages from CP to CM2 (ages 6-11). I’ve already got my eye on a few English speaking stars, and yes, as expected, there are also a few classes that are incredibly difficult to control. For the most part, however, I stand in front of a class of doe eyed elementary schoolers and I make a complete idiot out of myself as I pantomime everything I am saying…something I quite enjoy, and which comes naturally to me. With two (exhausting) days under my belt, I profit from the benefits of the French education system A.K.A. a completely unnecessary, but all the same, welcomed, 10 day paid vacation.

Though I’ve become a bit more lazy that usual with my 9 hour work week in the schools, it is part of my nature to fill some of my free time with things to do. I’ve picked up some work on the side working as a server/barista in a little café-bar called Bistro du Marché. I befriended the bar man, Adil, (who deserves his own post on here really soon) and I asked him if he needed help.  It turns out he admires the American work ethic more than the French and decided to hire me. I work some weekends, but mostly when he needs me. It’s been an excellent place to meet people, to practice my French in high stress situations, and it’s a few extra euros in my pocket. Plus, I’m learning a trade I’ve never done before. More on this soon.

I also picked up a language partnership. Like I discussed in a previous post, jumping at any opportunity to make friends can prove beneficial. Not only do I have a new friend, but I also have a new French tutor. Two days a week, my friend, Flavien, and I get together to practice speaking in English and French. Our levels are pretty similar, which is helpful. He is also easy on the eyes and has lots of friends. Two of the girls he introduced me to are also foreigners like myself. His girlfriend, Mariko, is a Japanese girl who works in Sete’s only sushi resto and Maman is a Chinese girl who promised to cook me dumplings…. Can you tell I’m missing some San Francisco classics? Another huge plus, Flavien has a car and works in the same town as me. Thus, he has volunteered to drive me to work on Thursdays saving me from having to take the train. Flavien has been a catch.

Travel is another things filling that will be filling up my free time. Tomorrow, my roommate, Ashley, and I are off to explore Bordeaux and Toulouse for a few days. As new members of couchsurfing.org, we’ve already hosted a lovely Québecoise at our appartment and will spend two nights being hosted in Bordeaux. I’ve been meeting great people from all over and I’m looking forward to making some new friends in some new places this vacation!

Okkk this was a long, not very well focused post, and I thank those of you who made it to the bottom. All is good. In fact, all is great, potentially even excellent.

Big kisses!

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