All entries for Wednesday 20 October 2004

October 20, 2004

Travel Broadens the mind…

Just thought I would share my experiences abroad last year, when I went to France to teach English. I was staying in a small town called Thionville, in Lorraine (eastern France)-its a really cool place, with loads of cafes and shops, an impressive town hall, bell tower. I used to go cycling along the river Moselle-a really huge canalised river, used by huge barges which transported coal amonst other things,with usually large back accomodation for the "barge operators", they even had one or two cars crained on deck. It was great to cycle from the town centre out in to the countryside-there were lots of people out rollerblading, cycling and walking along the long cycleway along the river, which runs on for miles…..and you can pop in to look at local villages along the way!
As for teaching goes-I was so scared in my first week-being left with noisy 15 teenagers with differing abilities and attention spans is a tough job-and I deeply admire those who take up the challenge. As for me-i was "l'assistante d'anglais"- i.e not a teacher so some classes abused the fact that i was unable to discipline them directly. It was hard at first to think up lessons, but after a while-after trying stuff out I began to yet better and more organised!! Teaching is no easy job-and if you are not so creative-you are dependant on teaching resources….But after all that, I got a real buzz out of the students who wanted to learn and who got something out of my lessons.

Enough about teaching, lets talk about my social life….boring usually involving a DVD etc, but in France I had a lot of spare time and was fortunate to have a large group of friends who were all language assistants in Thionville or in the area. I cannot help but mention, my dear flatmate Isabella-who would hug and kiss me goodnite most evenings (the english are so not touchy feely, and the italians especially from the south are a lot!) it was so nice to find a real friend to share my experiences with! I have now taken up italian, in the hope that I can go out to see Isabella in Calabria, which is the southern tip next to sicily….Oh I just dream of travelling all around Italy-as I have not been yet!! I also met many assistants from Germany-Jan who is now teaching English in Germany was the heart and soul of the party, Julia , Juta and Berit also from Germany were cool. And there was a guy from the UK-Jeremy from Oxford-he was cool, and nice to be reminded of home when you are away.My other good friends were Agata, from Canada, who was born in Poland, but emigrated when she was a child and her friend Tara, who now lives in Canada, but was born in South Africa-both of them were really friendly and we had lots of fun making fun of the differences between Brit and Am English. We all used to go out to the Cafe de la Moselle and we got to know the staff there, who were really nice-especially our waiter Kevin. We used to go to the cinema a lot and we went to see a couple of plays at Thionville's theatre which was cool. We also went to the Christmas market in Trier, over the boarder in Germany,which was fantastic. We also went ice skating-everyone was really good, apart from me-i am not hopeless, I just need to practise more. Anyway, Agata helped me a lot and we had a good laugh!!
I should metion my friend Briony-from Seattle, but of mixed Vietnamese, Japanese and European origin-she cooked me great food!!! We went to Prague and Vienna-we had a fantastic time!! We went in February and it was snowing in Prague when we got there-just like a fairy tale!!! I really found all the history, culture and architecture fascinating, and the czech language reminded me of Russian only written in the Roman alphabet. We did so much in Prague its hard to say whats a must, but i would say Prague Castle was really cool, along with Stephan's Dome and the Charles Bridge. However, if you want to escape the tourists-we went to where Dvorzac was buried (soz I don't know how to spell his name) There you will find a huge cemetary, which was very atmospheric, and also there is a good veiw over Prague. All of these places are acessible by metro-which was very reliable. Its best to be in the centre of town (near the Charles Brige) as much of the things to see are there.I would say that it is very westernised and full of brits, but hey, we enjoyed it. Vienna was really cool, if rather expensive-the hostel we stayed in was like a flat-and we had a proper kitchen which we used to cook from as eating out was expensive. I really enjoyed seeing the famous spanish horse riding school-but i feel that it is rather unnatural for horses to dance around…but it was still impressive. We went shopping in Vienna-which was cool, and I managed to get some bargains… We also went on big wheel-like the London eye, but which has been there since the 19th century. The last really cool thing we saw in Vienna was this mad coloured building-imagine yellow, blue, red, white block with little domes and trees on top of it. Below, the street is all bumpy and curved and the bollards are all bent over (not an act of vandalism). Some architect, I forget who designed this building, another, which houses a museum about him and also one of Vienna's power stations-which reminded me of bassets allsorts. Why you may ask-because it was his reaction against the 19th century blocks which dominate vienna. I was a surreal experience to be walking along beside ordinary grey stone blocks and to all of a sudden to be confronted with a riot of colour!!
I went to Prage by coach-which was exciting-but i was sore the morning after. We then look a train from Prague to Vienna, which we almost missed!!! Then from Vienna, we took the coach back to Metz and arrived knacked at 6ish am!!! It was a fab experience never to be forgotten, and something great to share with Briony, who I miss dearly.

All in all a fantastic experience, which has broken down my prejudices against american people and has taught me a lot about different cultures. I reccommend it as a chance to reflect on what you want to do in life. I have decided to do teaching english as a foreign language. I want to get a job first in France, but I really want to see more of the world as well, so hopefully it will go well.

October 2004

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