October 28, 2003

In other news...
Despite the whole police "incident", things have gone fairly well. I haven't holed up in my room, and I've been able to make jokes about the whole thing.
The dinner at my teachers house was great. I got to meet his wife (who is also an English teacher, and who invited the assistant from her school to dinner as well), as well as two of his daughters. We had raclette (melted cheese on potatoes with meat and veggies, mmmm), and some white wine from that region of France. He also had the piano music for some of the songs from "Amelie", so I sat down and sight-read them. That was really cool, because I haven't played piano in a while. He said that he would photocopy them for me!
On the weekend I went out to Cafe Oz with a bunch of assistants from mainly English speaking countries.
Then I spent a day in Tourcoing, and yesterday I spent wandering around Lille with some friends. Nothing too exciting.
Today I went to Bailleul with Genevieve, LaCrystal, and the American Suzanne for a hike. It ended up being more of a stroll though. The cool thing was that we went into Belgium, and there wasn't even a sign saying 'Welcome to Belgium'. We asked a guy, and he said, "I don't speak French [I think he was Flemish/Dutch], but you're in Belgium". The funny thing was that we saw a field of Brussel sprouts right on what we figure was the border between the two countries. We also stopped at a Commonwealth cemetery, and I found the grave of a young man killed in the First World War who has the same last name as me.
Tomorrow I'm heading down to Arras for a few days, which isn't too far from here. I'm planning on going to Vimy Ridge (a big memorial to Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War), and maybe a few other sites.
Almost deported, part 2...
No, I wasn't almost deported again, this is just an update as to the aftermath of last Thursday's "adventure".
I got a phone call from one of the English teachers at one of the schools where I was working. I talked to him, and he said that after the last election here in France (remember LePen?), that the French police have become more "stupid, crazy, and insane", as well as "racist". He still said that they shouldn't have treated me like that, and that I should file a complaint with the police (which I'm not planning on doing).
I tried going to the Canadian consulte in Lille on Friday morning during business hours, but they were "exceptionally closed". I mean, they are only open 15 hours a week.
Anyway, I went back on Monday morning, and talked with the lady at the consulate. She was horified to hear what happened to me, and made a face of disgust that I can't even try to imitate. She said that I would be stupid to carry my passport with me everywhere (which is why I didn't have it with me when I was in the metro). Anyway, I filled out a form registering me with the Canadian Embassy in Paris. That way if there are ever problems again (and I hope that there won't be), I can call the embassy and they'll be able to help. The lady at the consulate said that if I ever get stopped again, I should call right away, before anything gets out of hand. She also made a colour photo copy of the info page and visa page of my passport, then stamped and signed it with the Canadian consulate's seal saying that it's a true copy. Now I can take that with me instead of the real passport.
I should also say thanks to everyone who sent me encouraging emails over the weekeng. I'm doing a lot better now.

October 23, 2003

Almost deported...
Just over 2.5 hours ago, I was heading to the metro station. As I went down the stairs, I saw four policemen/women standing at the bottom of the stairs. This is a common occurance, so I thought nothing of it. Then the one guy motioned for me to go over to the side.
He asked for a piece of ID, so I gave him my Canadian drivers' liscence (why would I carry my passport?). The guy looked at it funny (the card being in English and he never having seen such a thing before). He passed it onto the policewoman, then onto another policeman. He asked me if I had any "knives, guns, drugs, etc." and I said "no".
He said "I hope you're not lying. Empty your pockets."
I took out my keys, wallet, kleenex, cell phone, etc. The lady picked up my wallet and started going through it. The guy then frisked me. I don't mean that he patted down my legs either. He patted down the front to make sure I didn't have anything in my underwear.
The lady saw the Canadian bills that I had in my wallet (I was going to use them at school, but never got the chance), and asked me what they were. She asked me to take them out of my wallet, and I did. She said, "Oh, you're Canadian then? Look guys, these are Canadian bills. Show them." So I showed the bills to the other three cops.
Then the guy who frisked me said, "So you're not French then. How long have you been in France for?"
I answered, "one month."
He said, "Where's your passport?"
"It's in my appartment."
"I can deport you for this. You need to carry your passport with you at all times." No one had said that before. You think that would be something important enough to mention to assistants from foreign countries. Why would I carry my passport with me everywhere? To the grocery store, to school?
I gave him a shocked look, as I was honestly shocked. The lady laughed and said, "you know, Canada isn't in Europe". (Now that was news to me...)
The first guy said, "no seriously, I can deport you to Canada right now." I mumbled something, I honestly can't remember what. I was so shocked and freaked out.
He then said, "well take your stuff and get out of here. But make sure that you take your passport with you from now on."
The thing is that there isn't a stamp in my passport indicating when I entered France. The people at French customs don't stamp passports, and hardly even look at them. Oh boy.
Needless to say, I'm still a bit shaken up, and a bit nervous. I'm OK and everything, but still shaking.
I might remember more of the details in the future, but right now I'm still a bit in shock. I can't believe it.

October 21, 2003

Moules et Frites and Vacances de Toussaint...
I went out last night for moules et frites (mussels and fries). It's the first time that I've tried mussels, and they were excellent! OK, so they look repulsive, but they taste pretty good. I went out with some of the MAJT assistants (Genevieve, Suzanne the Brit, Suzanne the American, Caroline, and Aili). I just had the basic moules et frites, and they were expensive enough (about 10Euro), but I wouldn't mind trying some of the other varieties, like garlic or cream.
Believe it or not, but I'm now on vacation. That's right, I've got 1.5 weeks of vacation before I start working again. I just got internet access at school today, and now I'm going on vacation so I can't get access here. I'll still be updating, and reading my emails though.
I haven't decided where I'll go yet, but I can't go far because I don't have a lot of money. I envy the British assistants that can take a train home for the week.
That reminds me, one of the British assistants is supposed to be in the newspaper today. They did an interview with her about the work that she's doing, and what she thinks of things here.
I'm going to one of my English teachers' place for dinner tomorrow night. He's been vachement sympa (really kind) and helpful. His wife also works as and English teacher in another school, and she is inviting the English assistant from her school (who is American I think). Anyway, it should be fun, and it'll be nice to have a home-cooked French meal!
I get to go to England for free! One of my schools is doing a fieldtrip to England in the middle of April, and they said that I can go along if I want to. We'll be taking a boat from Calais to Dover, then travelling through the south of England, before hitting up London for a day. The accommodation is with families, so I won't have to supervise kids at night. The trip is only 4 days or so, but I get to go for free, how cool is that?!
Did you know that 6 people have found my site by typing McMadagascar into a search engine??
Anyway, I should be off to walk to the bus stop, to catch the bus, to hop on the metro, to walk back to my place and make some lunch.
Bonne vacance and A+

October 20, 2003

Of Cake, LOSC, and Art...
Well, on Friday night I went to Maria's (Italian) birthday party. A bunch of us from the MAJT (the apartment where I'm living) went. We had wine and cake, and sang happy birthday in numerous languages (English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese...) We had to leave at midnight though to catch the last metro back.
On Saturday evening I went to a football/soccer match. I was walking through the town centre, and saw the LOSC (the local football club) boutique. I new that there was a match that evening against Ajaccio (from Corsica), but I didn't know how much the tickets were. I went in with some friends, and found out the tickets were free that evening for students. I whipped out my ISIC (International Student Identity Card), and got my free ticket.
I almost froze ( it was 8 degrees) whilst watching the game, but it was fun despite the 0-0 score. I'm starting to learn some of the cheers.
Yesterday, after having a great fry-up (bacon, eggs, hash browns) with the English speaking assistants, I went to a photography exhibition at the MAJT by the artist in residence (Helene Marcoz). She has taken some amazing photos. Most of them are looking out different windows of the same building, showing how you can look at the same thing, but from different perspectives.

October 16, 2003

Yogurt, Bread, Cheese, and Chocolate...
I think that I've become addicted to yogurt. I never liked it before I came to France, but I've started eating a lot. There are so many varieties and types, it's great. Right now my favourite yogurt is sugarcane, but I want to try the chocolate one. The lemon/lime was ok, but I preferred the vanilla yogurt.
And the bread, when it's fresh nothing compares to it, but when it's old and hard it would make a good weapon. I want to try making French toast with some good, thick brioche bread.
And French cheese, what need I say? I bought myself a round of Camembert the other day, and I bought some Emental yesterday. There are so many kinds of cheese that I won't be able to try them all.
The chocolate is pretty good, but it's better and cheaper in Belgium. I was in the grocery store yesterday, and I saw a chocolate bar that was 99% cocoa. Can you imagine? Back home chocolate is like 30% if you're lucky.

October 14, 2003

What to call this?
Well, where to begin. I had a pretty good weekend, despite the fact that a good friend (Terry, the Swedish guy who was in the same youth hostel as me in Paris) moved off to nowhereville, France (OK, it's like 1.5 hours from here, but the bus goes like 2 times a day, even though it's only 20 km away). I went out with the Italian (Maria and Stefania) and Chilean (Claudia) girls on Friday night. We went to a not too interesting place first, then we found the Latino club. I ended up dancing until 2:30, which probably wasn't too good for my cold. Not to mention all of the smoke because the French smoke like chimneys (part of the reason I had to take a lung Xray I think).
On Sunday I went to the market and bought myself a roasted chicken, then had part of it with mashed potatoes, mmmm. That was my mini Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.
I started observing at one of the schools yesterday. It takes me about 1.25 hours to get out there, so the school has arranged for teachers to pick me up in Lille and drive me out! The school is fairly small, and out in the country, but the kids seems quite nice, if not a bit crazy (like everything else in this country, LOL). I might get to go on a field trip with the school in the middle of April to the south of England! I've never actually been there (the airport doesn't count), so I hope that it all works out. I'm going to talk with the teacher more on Thursday.
Today I observed at the other school. The kids were, um, a little more out of control. There were two girls (in grade 8 or 9, so 13 or 14) in one of the classes who have a crush on me. There were asking the prof if I needed a place to stay, how old I am, etc. LOL
The teaching style is very different in France than in Canada. I'll have to elaborate on that more in the future. I don't remember the last time I heard a teacher dishing out insults to the kids, and reading out their marks in front of the class so that everyone knows how everyone else did.
I'm still waiting to get a password so I can access the internet at the school.
I work for 3 hours on Monday morning, 3 hours on Tuesday morning, and 6 hours on Thursday. I think that I'll be teaching grade 6 through grade 9. From what I understand, I'll be rotating classes, and working with half of the class at a time. I'm not sure though, because one of the schools still hasn't come up with a schedule for me yet.
I'm also hoping to get some photos up online, but that might take a while. I've taken almost 350 to date...
I get to pick up my carte bleue tomorrow!
A+ (A plus tard, until later)

October 09, 2003

I've just finish my language assistant training in Douai, which is 20 minutes from Lille. It was fairly useful, and we got a free lunch (undercooked steak). If you ask for it well done (bien cuit), that means that the outside is burned, but the inside is still pink.
Anyway, I've met a lot more assistants, from all over the world, which is really cool.
I'm only going to be working 3 days a week, and I'll have a 3 day weekend! Unfortunately all of my classes are in the morning, and I have to commute between 45 and 60 minutes from where I live to where I work.
Anyway, A+

October 08, 2003

A school visit, and an OMI visit...
I visited my other school on Monday and Tuesday. I signed my contract yesterday, and handed in all of the paperwork that I need to get paid, and to get my carte de sejour.
That means that I successfully opened up a bank account! I tried another bank, and the lady there was really helpful, and vachement sympa. I'll be getting a cheque book, and even an international Carte Bleue (very French, and more useful than just an ordinary credit card).
I passed my OMI appointment yesterday. All non European Union workers in France have to pass a medical exam. I had to give a urine sample, and get an Xray done of my lungs, as well as an eye sight check, blood pressure, height, weight, family medical history, etc. I passed, and I get to keep my Xray (I need to find some magnets so I can put it up on my fridge!)
I bought a cell phone today, which was quite expensive. But now I feel French playing with a cell phone all the time (it has games!)

October 04, 2003

Welkomen in Rijsel...
(Welcome to Lille in Flemish, as Lille was the capital of Flanders)
Sorry for not writing more or sooner, but things have been busy here.
I visited one of my schools on Thursday, and the prof was really nice. I met the English teachers, and one of them lives in Lille, so he'll probably be able to drive me out at least one day a week. He actually drove me into Belgium (there's not even a sign saying that you've entered another country).
The other city that I'll be working in, Armentieres, was founded in 866, and no, I'm not missing a 1 at the front). It's got some amazing architecture, but there's not a lot else to do in the towns.
Lille is quite nice; that is if you discount the fact that there is no green space, and the there is dog poo literally everywhere (I haven't stepped in any yet!)
My place is OK. It's a little small, but it's better than the youth hostel (my room there smelled like barf and cologne, uck). There are at least 10 assistants living in the same building as I am. There are 3 British girls, a few Americans, and a Spanish assistant from Columbia. I met some cool people at the hostel. I met an assistant from Portugal, two from Italy, and two from Chile, as well as several British assistants.
Yesterday was the orientation in Lille, when all of the assistants got together for an info session. It was OK, but the ''Formation'' (read teacher training) is this Thursday, in Douai, which is another city about 20 away by train.
I tried to open up a bank account at La Poste on Thursday (after setting up an appointment the previous day, so that I could see a financial advisor). Anyway, he looks at the visa in my passport and tells me that it's not the right type of visa, and that because I don't have a carte de séjour yet (I need a bank account to get the carte de séjour, because I need proof that I'm being paid) he can't help me, goodbye, better luck next time. Yah, that was helpful.
I'm going to try another bank on Monday morning. I talked with some assistants yesterday to get the names of a few places that have worked for them.