All entries for October 2005

October 31, 2005

Brasssoc: the Musical

I have finally seen it – Antony brought his tour DVD with him when he visited this weekend. I think we should fear for Owen and Andy's sanity…they have waaaaaaaay too much time on their hands…however, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how all those songs we sang fitted into the story, and the participation of Paul McGrath plus backing singers was particularly genius! (badger badger badger badger doo be doo be…) It made me miss the Music Centre, though – the atmosphere amongst the people there (without sounding twee and ignoring the politics and incest…) is one that I've never found anywhere else, and one that has always made me feel comfortable, so I do sincerely miss everyone now that I'm far away! Hello all you Music Centre people – don't forget me! I'm hoping to be back in Term 3…
I also enjoyed the excruciatingly bad (but also brilliant comedy value) miming, particularly on the part of Dave Sait. Owen and Andy, I salute you – an impressive (if slightly obsessive and complex) project!
Too tired to write about coming home, weekend etc, but it's been good. More update soon.
Lia xx

October 20, 2005

Long time no blog…

Sorry to anyone who's been avidly following my blog (as if…!) if they've been disappointed by the lack of entries of late; a combination of factors including actually starting my job, going away for the weekend and not being able to get at a computer for several days!

I have now, however, discovered that the computer room on campus has a wireless internet connection, so I'm sitting outside it in the corridor using my laptop! Hurrah!

Well, what news… I went to visit each of the IUFM sites at which I am teaching last week, to look around, meet the people etc. – the site at Antony is bigger, and the people very friendly, we have a little office for the English teachers/assistants with lots of books, a computer and (most importantly) tea and coffee making facilities! At St Germain there is no such office, but there is a cupboard with a tape recorder and equipment, and a staff room with pigeonholes and a computer. The people at St Germain are nice, but less personal, and since the teacher responsable for me is away on a course this week, I've been left a bit to my own devices.

Last thursday I succeeded in buying a fridge (yaaaaay!) so I now have milk and jam and butter and fruit juice and all sorts! On Friday I went to see 'Wallace and Gromit – the Curse of the Were-Rabbit' at the cinema with Melanie and Michel (yes Mark, I do seem to be going to the cinema a lot, don't I…it's because there's nothing to do on campus!) and it was in English with French subtitles – bonus!

On Saturday I went down to stay with Jill and Steve with mum and dad, near Saintes, as it was Jill's birthday on the Sunday. We did some shopping in Saintes (I bought some pretty blue fluffy fairy lights for my room!) and had coffee and cake, then watched 'strictly come dancing' on BBC1 before supper! So nice to watch English TV for a change…in fact, TV full stop! I spent a lot of time playing with the GORGEOUS kittens; Georgia, GT, Gizmo and Chalky. See for yourselves (below) how cute they are!! On Sunday we went out for a fabulous meal at a little restaurant for Jill's birthday, with Harry and Adrienne, then I got the train back to Paris in the evening. Unfortunately my electricity had tripped out at some point over the weekend, so my fridge had defrosted and was fairly damp…:S I only had to throw away some cheese, though, so it was all OK in the end, and it hasn't done it since (touch wood!)

I taught my first class on Monday – I was just covering for a teacher at St Germain, in fact, who had to do a welcome course for some first-years at the same time as he had a second-year group, so I took the second-years for him. It was fine, they were quite keen, although there were 30 of them (I will normally have about 10 students at a time) so it was tiring! On Tuesday Miguel (the other assistant at Antony) and I shared the first lessons at Antony-val-de Bievre, which was fun – we played some games, got the students to introduce themselves etc. Today I had my first classes by myself at St Germain – I had thought I was going to get three groups of 10 students each, an hour for each group. However, what I actually got was 3 students for the whole 3 hours! I didn't have enough activities for that, although they were good at asking questions and we did some pronunciation and correction exercises once we'd finished the activities, so it turned out to be a really good lesson for 2 hours! Then I let them go. At least I know now, and I can plan for it!

Tonight I think I am going out with Alessia to some Erasmus party and staying at her apartment (I went there to visit last week – it's small but cosy!) and then I'll be back in London on Sunday afternoon for about a week! I shall visit anyone who's around…but don't expect to see me much between Wednesday night and Sunday, as Antony's coming down to stay!!
Enjoy the cute kitten pictures, love Lia xx

October 10, 2005

La belle france – vendredi, samedi, dimanche et lundi!

Well, as I said Friday was a day of administration, as I went to the lycée I'm attached to in Antony to sign my contract, give them my bank details so they can pay me (most important!) and apply for my reimbursement for my monthly travelcard (equally important!) The secretary was very nice, and made everything very easy. Then I went to meet Lessy for lunch at her uni, at Port Royal (along with Bea and Sam who are also studying at the Sorbonne this year) which was really cool – nice to speak English for a bit! The french students looked a bit bemused at us sitting chattering away in the canteen though… Lessy came back to visit my little room at Nanterre (via the bank to put some money in for my insurance) and said it was much like the one she had in Lille, which was reassuring! At least it's no worse than the rest of France! We watched a couple of episodes of Buffy (that my neighbour lent me on DVD) before she went off home.
That evening, Julia and I went to the soirée for all the residents here, which was pretty good fun – slightly dodgy music, very loud, but we had a glass of wine, danced a bit, chatted to some people and had something to eat, so generally an enjoyable evening. However, we got tired rather quickly after our hectic week! So we left by 1am.

Saturday was less busy – I went to Chatelet to do some shopping (well that's what I do best!) and bought myself 2 nice jumpers, a vest top, a long-sleeved t-shirt (see all practical things!) and the complete series of Narnia books in one volume, in French! I thought since I knew them fairly well already, apart from the last few, it would be good for my brain to read some fairly easy french every day, and to have something to read in bed! In the evening I went to the supermarket and watched 'Love Actually' with Julia. Antony had left for his holidays in Tunisia that day (lucky thing!) so it was nice to have some company in the evening!

Sunday was a beautiful day weather-wise, so Julia and I went for a walk in the park at Nanterre, which is surprisingly pretty despite being in the middle of high-rise buildings! There's a high hill where you have a very pleasant view of La Defense and the general Paris skyline :)
In the evening we went to the cinema with Miguel (another english assistant), his flatmate Justin, and another German student Julia had met at the choir on campus. We saw 'Les Frères Grimm' which I quite enjoyed (apart from the ridiculous accents and the silly Italian character) but almost all the others hated! I think they didn't really understand the Terry Gilliam humour and the fact that it wasn't trying to be a truthful account of the Brothers Grimm…

Today was our last day of training at the IUFM in Versailles, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which gave me lots of ideas for lessons and materials – I'm going to collect lots of things when I come home in October! The teacher running it was really nice, and is my teacher 'responsable' at the Antony-val-de-Bièvre site, so she gave me some idea of my timetable and asked Miguel and I to come to some classes tomorrow! I'd better go and file my papers…we don't have to teach tomorrow, it's just to meet the students, but we're going to think of a 'getting-to-know-you' type game in the morning before we get there!

I have credit on my french phone now, so I probably won't be taking my English phone anywhere with me any more. If you've all forgotten, my french number is 06 71 39 85 53 – feel free to phone! Plus Julia got THREE postcards today from her friends at home so I'm very jealous!! Please send me some nice things to decorate my walls with…!

More soon, Lxx

October 06, 2005

France day…something…training and more training!

Am slowly getting used to getting up at 7.15am (who would have thought it?! me!) as I have had to for the past two days! Yesterday Dina and I went to Neuilly for our English assistants training day, which turned out to be more or less geared towards assistants in collèges or lycées, and so a lot of it was either irrelevant, or to do with the americans (of which there are lots) who have various and individual paperwork problems. However, there were a couple of interesting things and useful pieces of information, and I met a lot of nice people :)
In the evening I tried to go to the bank but it was shut, and bought some SMS credit for my mobile phone – I then discovered that my international text messages don't come from my SMS credit, they come from my calling credit, which has run out. Bummer! Confusing french systems… I also went to the supermarket with Julia and some of the German assistants to replace my shower gel, which disappeared after I left it in the shower on saturday morning…!

Today was our second training day at the IUFM in versailles, which was much more useful! The teacher who took it was really nice, very engaging and told us lots of useful things :) I'm glad we have training there as well as with all the other Versailles English assistants, since we're teaching adults it's going to be very different for us. We did some very interesting exercises, including one in which we had to give our name, something we like, something we don't like and something surprising about us all in the language we are going to teach, and make it comprehensible to the rest of the group. For example, the germans (as a rule) didn't speak spanish, so the spanish speakers had to do lots of mime, and vice versa. The most interesting thing was that by the end, everyone had more or less understood everyone else, proving that you can explain things without having to resort to translating into french!
We also had a nice lunch, plenty of coffee and a very friendly atmosphere – everyone gets on surprisingly well!

Tomorrow I am going to go to the lycée in Antony to sign my contract – I also have to pay my rent for the month and put some money in my french bank account to pay for my lodging insurance…all fairly dull things, so I'm hoping to meet up with Alessia for tea afterwards! Then in the evening there's a big party for all the residences at Nanterre, organised by the people who own them, I think – free food and drink, music and some sort of DJ/graff type show… sounds fun to me! At least I don't have to get up on saturday…

Thanks to all who have emailed!! If I haven't got round to replying yet, don't worry I promise I will soon! I do really appreciate it!
Hope everyone is well, more soon,

October 04, 2005


France day 9 (today)

Hello all!

Last night wasn't very eventful – I went to the supermarket in La Défense and bought exciting things such as coathangers, a giant pillow, a frying pan (to match my saucepan!) fruit, pasta, post-it notes and blu-tack…except it's yellow, not blue.

However, while in the queue I met two students, and as we were chatting it came up that I went to Warwick…and it turned out they're at ESSEC which is the French counterpart of the Warwick business school! Coincidence or what?!
By the time I went to bed I was very tired and so I didn't get up till 11 today! I thought it was probably allowed, however, since I have to get up at 7.15 again tomorrow AND thursday! How will I cope?!

I had a nice shower and relaxed, and then took my assurance logement to the residence reception. Am now in the computer room with Julia, and we may be going to the bank, post office etc. afterwards! Oh, the exciting life… teehee! I'm enjoying it much more here now, particularly as I'm getting used to my room and keep meeting lots of nice people. The guy who organised the soirée couscous (even though it wasn't hugely successful, as you may have read…) was playing the piano in the little internet café in my building last night while I was on the computer – he's so good! It was lovely to have peaceful music whilst checking my emails :)
Oh, and I got a letter from Antony today, too, which cheered me up :) Thanks darling!

Will let you know how my next two training days go. Bisous!
Lia xx

France day 9 (general update!)


Saturday 01/10/05

I slept in late, not knowing quite what to do with myself it being a Saturday, and having said I’d wait until 3pm to go shopping, as Paz had gone to fetch her suitcase and didn’t know whether or not she would get back. So we had said if she wasn’t back by 3pm I would go without her. I spent some time organising my room, having a shower etc. then Julia came to ask if I wanted to go to the supermarket with her. As I needed various things (and some company!) I said yes, so off we went. By the time we came back it was nearly 3pm, and Paz didn’t arrive, so we decided to go into Paris without her. I bought myself a French mobile phone (so that I can run both my English one and my French one at the same time and it’s cheaper for everyone!) and then Julia and I wandered around a bit, just taking in the Parisien atmosphere. My French mobile number (cheaper for me if you phone this one, and I’ll text from it) is 0033 (or 0 if you’re in France) 6 71 39 85 53. We decided to go back to the uni to eat etc before going out again. It was the ‘Nuit Blanche’ in Paris that night – where there were loads of exhibitions and special events late into the night, and all the museums were open until 4 or 5am! We didn’t stay that long, though.
We met Julia’s friend Nicola, who is from Berlin, but studies with Julia in Frankfurt, and is also an assistant here in Paris, but at a different school from us, in the north. She was very nice, and speaks very good English so between French, English and german we all managed very well! We saw some interesting things – we walked all the way down the Champs Elysees and saw a clever fountain/light/music show in the jardin de tuilleries – they projected some pictures onto a sort of wall of water, and had the water dancing to the music! We also saw giant scrabble in a little square nearby, except all the scrabble tiles were made of ice! Bizarre…We ended up in Les Halles, where there was a crazy techno band playing and we got very cold walking around, so we tried to find a café to have a hot drink. However, they had all run out! I had to content myself with a Crepe Nutella, and then we went home to sleep – about 1am.

Sunday 02/10/05

Having been to the supermarket on Saturday, I had various cleaning products, so when I got up I cleaned the walls and the mirror in my room. The colour of the cloth afterwards was unbelievable – I had to throw it away! But I felt better in my room afterwards. After I’d done some more organising and pottering about, I went to invite Julia for tea, and she came up to have tea and cake and watch a DVD. By the time we finished chatting it was time to get ready for the ‘soiree couscous’ in our building, so we did that.
The soiree, which was originally going to be upstairs on the third floor, was moved to the foyer downstairs, as there were too many people! We went down, ate some delicious couscous, vegetables and meat (mutton, I believe), and there were a few guys playing instruments – Indian drums, and a sort of bagpipes. However, soon afterwards a group of security guards turned up, and as it turned out they hadn’t been informed of the gathering, and they weren’t very happy about it! There was no real trouble, and we all stood around chatting while they tried to sort it out, and in the end it was dispersed peacefully, but they did make everyone go back to their individual rooms for about an hour! Eventually they all disappeared apart from one who stayed in the little office in the foyer, to check that it didn’t start up again. I suppose it was the noise disturbance they were most worried about, but one girl seemed to take it as an affront to our liberty, and called a student meeting on Thursday!
I tried to go to bed early, as I knew I had to get up early today (Monday) but there were people talking in the corridor, and although I told them I couldn’t sleep and they said they would quieten down, they didn’t get the message until I went out to the toilets and banged my door a couple of times! However, by that time it was gone 1am, and I didn’t get much sleep before I had to get up at 7.15am…

Monday 03/10/05

Training day at the IUFM in Versailles – I travelled with 5 other assistants who live in the residences here, one of whom had already been to the IUFM to find out the way, so luckily for us he led and all we had to do was sleepily follow him! When we got there we were met by Agnes Zalczer, who is in charge of international relations, and we had coffee, orange juice and little cake-type things (called chouquettes). When we had done all the customary introductions, another woman talked to us and explained how the teacher training system works in france, and therefore the sorts of students we can expect to encounter while we are teaching. It was rather complicated, and rather a lot of information to take in, in French, so early in the morning! But nonetheless very useful, and they gave us each a satchel with the IUFM logos on the front, and lots of useful documents inside (a calendar, a paris guidebook, booklets on the different types of students and what they have to do, a booklet with translations of teaching terminology, and most importantly of all IUFM headed notepaper and a pen!)
We then had a very nice lunch, where we all got to chat to each other and ask any questions we wanted to the staff. After that, we all went in various separate directions – some to their respective 6th-form colleges to fill in paperwork, others of us back to the residence to drop off our stuff. Then I went with Luis (a Spanish assistant) and Dina (an English assistant from Canada) to open a bank account – as it turns out there’s a bank at the train station here at Nanterre-university, and the woman was really lovely! She explained everything very clearly and it was all very easy. I also have the ‘assurance logement’ (room insurance) that I need to give the residence reception, as you can buy that at the bank at the same time as opening an account. Marvellous and all very simple! Now all I have to do is go to the lycee in Antony to sign all my paperwork – which I shall probably do on Friday, since tomorrow there is a general strike in Paris and the transport will probably be sketchy at best.

October 2005

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