Friday, 22 October 2010

All French Keyboards Must Die

Yesterday was interesting.

I turned up at school late after all of the clocks in my flat reset themselves and my alarm switched itself off. Luckily I was only slightly late, and wasn't beaten with a stick for this.

After spending an hour making children tell me when their birthday is, I went to the staff room to prepare the biography material I had been asked to. I went to my lesson where there wasn't actually anything that needed doing, so I sat in the staff room some more until my final class.

I came up with this fantastic idea of playing a game with them, where I tell them to get a certain piece of equipment out of their bag and put it in the air - the first one to get the right object gets a point. It went down really well. Year 7 are so easily amused.

During the commotion, I was writing something down on the board when one child decided to punch another, giving him a nosebleed. He thinks I don't know that he started it, but I understand French a lot better than he thinks, and I heard all of his discussion afterwards about how the other kid wasn't expecting it. Little git.

After work, I went to villabé to buy YET ANOTHER internet key, on SFR. This worked, and I was able to get online for a few hours to get my previous blog online, annoy people on facebook, etc. However, it doesn't seem to want to tell me my login details to top up. Trip to the SFR shop this afternoon then?

Friday, today is Friday. I have done two lessons and I have about 90 more minutes until English Club (don't know who is coming though, if anyone at all). I was on my way into the staff room when I was stopped by someone who works here, who told me that a lot of children were waiting for me on Wednesday morning.

That will be why there was someone banging on my door, then.

Funnily enough, I'm more likely to turn up to the classes that you actually tell me about.

I'm a bit gutted as this now means that I don't get Wednesday off, but I guess I'll just have to make a deal of going straight out after the class I'm meant to be doing. It also means no more Tuesday night drunkenness, which is a shame.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Orange try to solve this incident and asks you to excuse it. Thank you for your fidelity.

It’s Thursday night. Once again, no internet.

Orange FR is crap. Proper crap. More on that story later.

I left you with my homesick whining on what I believe was Sunday. I don’t know, I can’t get online to check. But I’m starting with Monday anyway.

I woke up for work on Monday, bright and early (for my 11.30 start) and began getting dressed. However, the shirt that I had lovingly hand-washed two days previously STILL WASN’T DRY. After a short panic, I decided that I would just throw on a t shirt and my new hoody from my unsuccessful shopping trip at the weekend, and hope that I didn’t get told off for dressing too much like the students. Nobody said anything, so I assume that it’s okay to dress like this in both schools, rather than just the one. Result.

Took two small groups (5 kids each) for 25 minutes discussing colours, animals, and birthdays. Mostly making them guess things about me. You see, it makes them use their imagination, and their vocabulary, and encourages them to get into the habit of formulating questions. Good all round exercise, in all honesty. Impressive thinking on the feet there, Sam. Well done. Bonus points.

I was so proud of myself that I did the exact same thing during English club, which has been moved into a classroom after the “owner” of the room I was initially placed in moaned that she couldn’t eat her lunch in there whilst I was educating children. You know, because I do work in a canteen, and not a school. Naturally.

There was a grand total of 4 children at English Club. The kid from last week, little geek, had copied up neat all the notes I had given him, and gone and done the “homework” I set him too. LOL. I was a little languages freak at school, but you’d catch me rubbing my nipples with a cheese grater before you’d catch me doing homework set at an optional language club.

They’re really not particularly confident creatures, these four 5èmes. One of them, who I suspect has a learning difficulty of some variety, was actually in tears at one point. Not knowing how to do the consolation thing in French, I left her to it for a minute before explaining to the group that I’m really not here to judge anyone who can’t understand me. She cheered up a bit after that, and told me that she’s got a dog at home and her favourite colour is purple. Awwww.

At 2pm English Club finished, so I went home and fed myself before heading back out to Villabé to run a few errands. I went to the post office to find out if this particular branch had my letter, and lo and behold – it was there, waiting patiently for me.

But you know what?

It wasn’t even my card. It was just a letter that said “ooh, you opened an account with us, cheers mate!” so I’m not sure if I’m meant to take this letter to the bank to collect my bank card, or what. Oh well, I’ll ask Awesome Cika when I see her.

I went into the centre commercial and found – wait for it – LIDL! I was so happy. I treated myself to some cheap blood orange drink, a family sized lasagne (the entirety of which I consumed over the course of Monday evening because I am a fat pig and also Lidl lasagne is really tasty) and some tortelloni – and I amused myself by understanding the German packaging and taking a few seconds to realise that Kase isn’t fromage. Evidently my German language skills are still floating around somewhere.

I took myself into Carrefour where I bought some stuff. I can’t actually remember what. Wraps, vegetables, and mustard or something. I got home to find out that my internet credit had run out.

It won’t let me top it up. At all. I think, that the Orange website itself is on strike, along with the rest of the country. I think websites have feelings too, and don’t want to work to the age of 62 either? I don’t know. Oh well, no internet for me.

The rest of Monday is boring so I will just skip to Tuesday now.

I went into work, I had the same year 10 class that instantly outed me two weeks ago, and I had to somehow get them to tell me what makes a good class delegate. A few of them were really into it. A few of them sat there chatting. The rest just looked at me pitifully. Oh, and two boys nearly got into a punch up over a chair. Excitement! Then I realised that I was actually supposed to be stopping them.

After that class, I went into the staff room and got myself comfy in front of a computer for my 2 and a half hour break until my next class, when a teacher walks over and tells me I can go home – she’s running late on her classes, my other teacher is absent, so I’ve actually got nothing else to do today. Result.

I went home via Leader Price to buy wine and sweets, and decided to have a short nap before getting drunk.
I woke up at 7pm. My short nap lasted 5 hours. Whoops. I chatted away to Georgie on the phone whilst I drank a whole bottle of wine, and cut my finger with the knife bit on my corkscrew when I was trying to open the second whilst still on the phone. Needless to say, I finished Tuesday feeling pretty drunk indeed, and took myself to bed.

I woke up to the sound of a train zooming past the flat. So they never come when I want them, but go right past me and wake me up when I don’t want them. Bastard trains. I stayed in bed (as I actually couldn’t move – my back muscles have decided to be idiots again) and got a few more hours sleep. Next thing I know someone was ringing my door bell.

I jumped out of bed to go and answer it, in extreme agony because of my idiot back, and was halfway out of my bedroom before realising that I was naked. Whoever was at the door did not deserve to see that. By the time I covered myself up, whoever was at the door had gone, and I haven’t seen them since. Or heard any more door knockings. It can’t, therefore, have been that important.

I slowly got myself dressed before dragging myself out to Evry to buy teaching aids and a new internet key. On the way to the station I discovered the French version of the White Van Man. Infinitely more polite than the original English version, they beeped the horn and blew kisses at me.


Whilst waiting for my train I discovered the coolest thing in the world.

French postmen ride vespas.

I want to be a French Postman!

Anyway, I wandered around the shopping centre at Courcouronnes for the majority of the afternoon (mainly because I was lost) but I got what I needed to buy. The new internet key doesn’t work, because the Orange payment site is down.

Therefore, I haven’t been able to prepare the lessons I was asked to prepare. I managed to create an activity concerning English celebrations, but the Biography thing will have to be done tomorrow in my break between lessons. Gotta love Sam, ever the last minute worker.

I’m going to bed soon, or I will be late for work. I need to allow myself an extra ten minutes to get out of bed because of my stupid back. Once again, I have no idea when I will get this blog online, as I am internet-less. Rubbish.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The novelty is wearing off.

You know what?

These grèves are really getting on my tits.

I went to go shopping yesterday, got on the wrong train. Whoops, silly me. I’ll just hop on a train back to where I started and try again.

There was no train back for an hour. Over an hour, to go one stop.

It was at this point that I really began to feel homesick. Lonely, on an outdoor train platform with only a hoody to shield me from the intermittent rain, it really sank in how crap this area of France is. Give me London back. At least they have buses in place of lazy bastard train drivers.

Anyway. I got to Courcouronnes after almost two hours commuting (I so should have asked Cika to drive me there) with a vague plan in my head. “Work clothes, washing powder, shampoo, bath towels, wine, internet key”. What I really came back with, was shampoo, wine, and a hoody. The homesickness had taken its toll on me – and I was wandering around Evry2 (a really crap version of lakeside) wanting to cry.

Nobody wanted to go out last night, and to be honest by the time I got home, I didn’t really want to either. So I sat in my living room with my mobile phone, logging onto Facebook every five minutes hoping for a notification from someone from home.

On the plus side, I managed to fix my internet key with some masking tape so I got to chat to a few people last night. Wine and MSN worked out as quite a nice Saturday evening for me.

Today, I have barely got out of my bed. It has been brilliant. Sat on the internet all day, did some interior design, and made plans for the rest of my room for when I get 10 days off (starting Friday). Bliss.

Tomorrow I’ve got to be imaginative with getting kids to speak to me about how clever they are at English. Then I have English club. Hopefully there will be some more this time. If not, I really wonder what the point of me being here actually is.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Friday Afternoon and the Spiders Declare War.

This afternoon didn’t quite go to plan.

I beat my record of one student at English Club, ça veut dire que I had 0 students at English Club today. Instead, I spent 15 minutes chatting to some students in the playground. Oh well, I’m still getting paid, so there.

Before my meeting I decided to give my flat a bit of a clean, I picked up some PJ bottoms from the bathroom floor to discover a baby version of my big spiders chilling on my bathroom mat. I thought I’d leave him alone and get on with cleaning the bath, so I squirted on the Cif and left it to work its magic. I cleaned the rest of the bathroom (including my mirror which now has so many smear marks it looks worse than before and I shall have to attempt again tomorrow) before going back to the bath to rinse it out. I turned on the shower and a bit of hot water came over the side and hit my chillin spider. Poor guy. Anyway, he didn’t take too kindly to this, and he ran at me. I jumped over him. He ran at me again. I jumped over him again. Why was this spider trying to attack me? I could easily kill it! He changed his mind after the third time and ran onto the trousers that he had been hiding under before, before doing a massive poo on them. I must say, I’ve never seen a spider do a poo before. I was somewhat amused, but I reckon I’ll be throwing those trousers away now. Poo trousers.

I went for my meeting at 3, it lasted a grand total of two minutes. Then I went out to La Poste to collect the letter I have been waiting for, which contains my carte bleue (my bank card). I waited for ages, then the woman comes back and tells me that she’s looked all through yesterday’s post and it’s not there. I should go to the post office that is nearer to my flat. It’s probably there. 

Don’t worry, it’s only my bank card. Not important or anything, it doesn’t matter where you guys put my mail because I don’t need it that badly. 

Planning on going out exploring my town (which really isn’t that impressive, everything looks the same – I really am in French Dagenham) before finding my way to Corbeil-Essonnes station to get the train back to Villabé to find the post office where my letter “should” be, I started walking in any direction I could find, spotting a dog with back wheels instead of legs along my way. Aww.

It’s not like London here, you can’t walk around in any direction you like and still be able to find where you’re going. I got so lost. I was looking for photo opportunities in the town, however there aren’t many. It’s not particularly ugly or anything, it’s just a bit, well, crap. So by the time I found my way back to an area of town that I do know, the post office was shut anyway. I went to the Orange shop in the centre commercial to try and buy a new key, where I was promptly ignored by every member of staff. This made me even more annoyed, so I decided that I was going to buy my phone credit and I was going home.

So out of all the things I wanted to do today; get bank card, buy washing powder/3G key/shampoo/stamps/phone credit/wine, take photos of my town, I managed to dedicate an entire afternoon to buying my phone credit. Still, at least I can call you all now.

I got home and slept for a while, it was probably best for me otherwise I’d have ended up crying through stress and fatigue. I have popped some Nytol because I am hardcore and hope to be in bed in an hour or so (it’s 11.20 at the minute). Tomorrow I plan to go shopping, then maybe into Paris. I will get my washing powder and my 3G key, believe you me. I will. No amount of La Poste incompetence will stop me from fulfilling my daily tasks! Except for today.

Robot Slavery and Racism

Hello guys.

Bit of a shorter gap between blogs this time (it’s Friday, but to be honest I’m not sure when I’m going to get this thing online because I broke my 3G Key by being a simpleton) but I feel that enough time has passed for me to have something substantial to tell you all. If you disagree, then well, just gtfo my blog, yeah?

After updating you all on Tuesday whilst I was at work, I went to my next class to find that the teacher was absent because the entire country has gone on strike and she can’t get a train, so I had another glorious hour of staff room nothingness in which I did some extensive research into how the hell the French postal system worked, and actually what a post box even looks like in France. Turns out, they’re little and yellow. There’s one at the train station, so I will be sending off some letters very soon. Let me know if you want a post card. I might send one. I might not.

I did the remainder of my classes on Tuesday before heading home via Leader Price to get some dirty cheap wine, some dinner and some crisps, as I was bloody starving.  The calzone wasn’t bad actually, although it didn’t tell me about the mushrooms that were lurking in there. Much better than the sandwich I bought upon my arrival in Paris, anyhow. I fell asleep, woke up, then proceeded to fix my internet connection by performing a system restore. I am so cool.

Wednesday, I had the other part of my induction, which took me AGES to get to because of the reduced train service. Spent about an hour waiting around on platforms for what is essentially a 25 minute commute. We spent the entire day discussing teaching tips, activities, and whether or not it is shockingly racist to say that someone is “coloured”. It certainly isn’t nice, but the way this girl was bitching about it, anyone would think that the woman had called her an N word. Hello? This is France! You can call people all the blacks and arabs and pakpaks under the sun, and nobody cares, I think the word “coloured” is going to be the least of your worries whilst you’re here. “Oh, in America it’s very rude” Guess what sunshine, this isn’t America. As a gay person, if I went to a country that wasn’t quite as forward-thinking towards homosexuality as the UK is, I would expect all the political incorrectness/offensiveness that this culture considers normal, take it on the chin, and move on. And if I didn’t want to experience that, well I just wouldn’t go. When in Rome, and all that...

I realise that this is the second time I have slagged off American assistants and am beginning to feel like a bit of a racist. Trust me I’m not, it’s just that the biggest idiots I have met so far have just happened to be American females.

Lunch was served once again (despite the grèves) and this time it was mushy peas, carrots and some meat that was pretty tasty but I can’t be sure what it was. I have the sneaky suspicion that it was cheval. It could have been beef, but I’ll keep an open mind.

In the afternoon we were put into groups according to which type of school we were in, given a few teaching materials and asked to come up with a few activities. Our one was a sheet with British road signs on, and I managed to impress the women who were running the induction with my idea of a role play involving pretending to be driving a car, and reacting in the correct way to the signs as the teacher showed them at the front. I am so trying this with my kids at some point. I can see the troisièmes (15 year olds) absolutely loving it. Not.

Wednesday night, I cooked myself a fantastic dinner and went to bed early, as I had Thursday morning off and wanted to use it as much as I could – to sort out my internet connection, buy a hoover, etc.

Or not.

I ended up sleeping all morning, not getting out of my bed until midday. Got to work for 2pm, where my teacher was absent, so I spent an hour in the staff room reading and giggling to myself.

The lesson I did do was with the troisièmes, they were working in groups on film actors/actresses and drawing comparisons between them and other actors. One group told me “Megan Fox is more beautiful than Angelina Jolie because she has had plastic surgery”. It both amused and saddened me, although if I’m honest I’m not sure which of the two actually has had plastic surgery, so maybe the children’s attitudes are correct.

Thursday night, the most amazing thing happened. I picked up some food at Atac after work, cooked myself some variant on croque monsieur (you know that eggy bread thing where I make a ham and cheese sandwich and fry it to death) then decided to go to Carrefour to get my 3G key (which I have broken already) and perhaps a hoover if I could find one that wasn’t going to be too heavy to carry all the way home down the hill. This is where I found my new friend. Mon aspirateur, Electroboy. That is his name. He is my new hoover, he is a...


You stick him in the middle of the room, switch him on, and he wanders around the flat vacuuming everything for me, whilst I sit here and watch him. I paid a slightly silly amount of money for this, but in all honesty I don’t even care. He was nice and lightweight to carry home, he hoovers my carpets pretty well indeed, he doesn’t need a bag, all he needs is the occasional rescue from underneath my bookcase. I love him.

I took myself to bed at around 12ish in the hope that I could get a respectable amount of sleep before work at 8h30, didn’t go to sleep for quite a while, and as such really struggled when my alarm went off. Repeatedly hitting the snooze button, I overslept my alarm by two hours. I woke up, my phone telling me that it was 9am and that I was halfway through my first class without even being there. I jumped into the first clothes I could find, threw some Listerine in my mouth and went into the living room to pick up my keys, where I looked out of the window and saw that it was dark. Not even just that early morning gloom that most people commute in during the winter, it was actually pitch black outside. I opened up my computer to verify that it was actually 9am and that this darkness meant that the world was in fact ending, which is when I realised my error.

I had changed SIM cards in my phone, and the time likes to reset itself to 1am every time I do that. So it was probably not quite 9am, maybe just half 8 and I was only a little bit late, or something. No. It was half past 7.
The reason I struggled with my alarm is because it started going off at half past 5.

Therefore, today I am a very tired Sam. I have done two lessons with 4ème and 3ème (year 9 and year 10) and am back in my flat until lunchtime club starts in about an hour. I’m hoping to beat my current record of one student, and today I am going to let them tell me what they want English Club to help them achieve. I’m just going to sit there doing sweet FA. I have a meeting at 3, then I’m going to rectify my broken internet situation, find a phone top up, and go take some pictures of the town I live in. Then maybe I’ll get this online, whilst I wash my clothes and Electroboy does the hoovering.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Right. Internet packed up chez moi, so I’m having to fill you all in using a French keyboard. Proper weird, in all honesty. I do believe I left you on Thursday? I’d like you all to know that I just spent ages looking for that question mark. Actual proper ages.
Thursday was an OK day in all, work was a welcome relief after the Hell that was last Wednesday. My friend arrived on Thursday to crash in my flat, replace my organised chaos with decorum and otherwise raise a few giggles over the course of the weekend. In true student fashion, the first thing we did was open the 1 euro 39 bottle of wine that was sat in my kitchen, and sink the lot. After getting our thirst on we went in search of more, getting directions to a Chinese takeaway from one of the local drug dealers, ignoring them, and finding an off licence type establishment, one that sold us some more dirt cheap alcohol. A quick game of “guess the nationality” resulted in the man saying “oh you should have said, I speak English!” 
This is something that is really starting to wind me up about being so close to Paris. If you show even a hint of struggling, one of two things happens; they get annoyed with you and end the conversation as swiftly as possible, or they insist on carrying out the remainder of the conversation in English. It’s okay at first, but when you’ve been in a country for three weeks and are struggling to notice much improvement in your language it becomes somewhat irritating.
Anyway. Friday, I was at work, except when I arrived there wasn’t actually anything for me to do, and tout le monde just thought I’d shown up to get my ugly mug into their school photo. No chance. After helping in, or rather imposing on, two English classes and a rock climbing class (yeah they’ve got a wall here – awesome or what?) I swiftly disappeared back into my flat to “check on my friend”, which is where I stayed until going out that night.
We went into Paris and swiftly began drinking, as you do. Went between a few different places, one of which was actually a bakery, another of which needed rebranding as “bar grand-mère” and one where we found ourselves in an impromptu staring contest with the threesome on the other side of the club. I mean threesome in more than one sense of the word. The rest, I am leaving to your imagination.
By the way – the night bus back to Corbeil-Essonnes is stupidly long. By the time we got home it was approaching 7am, we left the club at half 3 as I had drank myself sober and half-way to sleep. You can probably guess, Saturday was spent asleep, venturing out only to fill our faces on horrendous fast food.
Sunday was meant to be a day for sightseeing, so we went to Paris and started looking at things, stumbling upon an attempted flash mob being held by a group campaigning against the reinstatement of the death penalty. Is this even an issue in France? I am not sure, but their dance sucked, and I didn’t join in, instead thinking maybe they should bring back the death penalty for people who dance in such a shocking fashion in public.
Few more pictures and we were bored again, so we got some food and spent the next few hours drinking (such a bad influence on me!) before heading home via Quick, the skank fast food restaurant that doesn’t live up to its name in any way whatsoever.
On Monday my English club started, and I had a grand total of 1 student. Yeah, go me.