March 30, 2004

The Lady who Does Nothing...
There's a lady who works at one of my schools who does nothing. Literally. She was hired by the State to work in the school, because she didn't have a job (or I guess the PC term is 'under-employed').
OK, maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but I really don't know what she does, apart from leading a dance club for an hour on Monday during the 1.5 hour lunch break. She putters around the office, and staff room, and gets to go on school field trips as a chaperone (she went to Germany with us). When I need to get my photocopy limit renewed (I can only do 51 photocopies), I have to track her down (which can be difficult, even though she doesn't teach a single class) and ask her to renew my limit.
France has got quite a high unemployment rate, and I guess that this is one way for them to lower the official rate.

March 25, 2004

I thought that I'd talk a very short bit about a subject that I see daily in Lille. The city is covered with dog, um, 'turd'. It's really quite disgusting, and I've never seen so much in a city in my whole life. It comes in many varieties, sizes, shapes and colours (the green and red versions are the most interesting).
I think that I've gotten pretty good at hopscotch, since I have to play it every day walking through the streets here. Sometimes the stuff is smeared all over the sidewalk, when an unfortunate victim isn't looking and accidentally steps in the stuff.
They actually have guys that go through the streets at least once a week with a big water-sprayer to wash it off.
Some French people in Lille (Lillois) told me that Lille is better than Nice, in the south of France. During my Christmas vacation, I was lucky enough to visit Nice. Sure enough, Lille IS worse than Nice. Obviously they've never been down there. In Cannes, for example, they actually have guys going around on motorbikes with little hovers (vacuums) to suck up the dog crotte.
I don't want to imagine how bad this place must smell in the summer...

March 23, 2004

Never-ending Shower...
I don't know if you remember that I had problems with my shower back in the fall, but my shower had problems yesterday. It was on for at least seven (7) hours straight. The ironic thing is that yesterday was the international day of water conservation.
I took my shower around 6h45, and the water never stopped. I went down to the night guard, and asked him to make a note of it, and to tell the plumber when he got in. I couldn't wait all day, since I had to leave for work at 7h15. Anyway, after breakfast the night guard told me that he had told the plumber, and the plumber said he would fix it.
Luckily I left my window open to let out some of the humidity in the room.
I got a text around 12h30 from Sophia, a girl living on the same floor as me, asking me if I knew that my shower was still running. I texted back, and asked her to ask the plumber to fix it, but she had already left for school.
I texted another friend in the adjacent building around 13h30, and asked him to get the plumber to fix my shower.
Apparently they 'forgot', or at least that was their excuse. I'm just glad that my shower didn't flood (I've been having drainage problems too), and destroy my room.
Regional French Elections...
This past Sunday was the first round of the regional French elections.
To sum up, a coalition of three parties came in first in the north (about 28%), while the Front National (FN) had about 18% of the vote and was the second strongest party.
I don't know if you've heard about the FN, but they are the extreme right-wing party led by LePen that almost won the elections in 1998. They are racist, anti-foreigner, and surprisingly popular in France. I haven't started to talk about racism in France, and I don't think that I want to get started.
But, the FN did relatively well this round, and we'll have to see how they do on the second round this upcoming Sunday...

March 22, 2004

Lille vs. Lens
The big football (soccer in North America) match was on Saturday evening. The two cities are fairly close together, so there is a huge rivalry between the two teams.
As I mentioned, the big match was on Saturday evening. The big outcome, 1-1.

March 20, 2004

A light at the end of the tunnel?
It's hard to believe, but I've only got four weeks left of work, then I'm free! Things have been going so-so. We actually had one nice day this week (sun, 20°, grey sky!), but now it's raining, and it's supposed to stay that way for at least another week.
I'm trying to come up with some interesting lesson plans for the last four weeks. Any suggestions?

March 18, 2004

French language problems...
I have a sad tale to tell. I'm surprised at the number of French pupils that have problems with their own language.
Just this week, I wrote "easy-facile" on the board in a 5° class (age 13ish). Two of the pupils said to me, "hey, there's no 'e' in facile". I was certain there was, since I've taken French for a long time, and it's one of the first words you learn. I said, "yes, there is an 'e' in facile", then looked it up in their textbook, and showed it to them.
Today, the English teacher corrected a kid who said, "moi aussi", instead of the correct "moi non plus".
In class today, a kid wrote "J'ai assister" (I asked them to write in French first, then translate into English). I cringed, and corrected him on his spelling. It should have been 'assisté' (I don't know if you can see the accent ague on the last E or not).
I know that there are problems with English students too, but it seems weird speaking French as a second language, and having to correct the students in their first language. I know that my English is not perfect, but I have never written "I was help" (except for right there).
No, I don't...
I have to vent a bit, if you don't mind.
I'm sick and tired of people coming up to me and asking me if I have a cigarette to spare, or a light (literally "of fire" in French). I don't smoke, nor have I ever tried. NO, I won't give you a cigarette, or a light. If you can afford to buy cigarettes (around 5€50 in France for a pack), you can afford to buy a lighter.
I got really fed up once with a girl who kept following me, that when she finally asked me for a cigarette, I snapped back, "no, I don't have a cigarette. I don't smoke, it's bad for your health".
So, if you're going to smoke, buy your own cigarettes and lighters, and quit harassing everyone else.

March 15, 2004

My Class from Hell...
You may think that I'm joking, but the 4D class that I have to work with has been called the "class from hell" by several teachers at the school. In fact, when I say that I have the 4D, they all gasp with horror.
Just before the winter break, all of the teachers that work with this class (except me of course) had a crisis meeting (principal included) as to how to deal with them. If they are having crisis meetings, why am I working with these kids.
One of them, was sick one day (unfortunately I didn't have the class that day), and a teacher said in the staff room, "Halleluiah, he's sick!!!!! I hope that he's in the hospital for at least a week!" Of course that sounds mean, but you've never had him in a class of yours.
The first time that I ever had him in a class, he wouldn't stop disturbing everyone else. At first I moved him to the corner by himself, then threatened that I would send him back to the teacher (that's the most punishment that I'm allowed to give out). He kept interrupting, so I filled out the form to send him back to the teacher upstairs. When I told him to leave the class, he said "I'm not going. You can't make me leave. You have no authority, you can't kick me out of class, get lost", and other things that I will not repeat. He eventually left.
Then, I saw him in the cafeteria the following day at school. I will not repeat what he said, for risk of offending the younger readers.
A girl in another class, after a particularly bad group, came up to me after class and apologized for her section. She then said, "we must be the worst class you have." I said "no, I have the 4D". She looked stunned then said, "OK, I guess we're not nearly as bad as them."
Well, I could go on, but what fun would that be.
Only five weeks left!!!
A+ tout le monde

March 11, 2004

It snowed in Lille on Tuesday evening, as I was walking to the uni. I thought it was spring!
I thought that I'd write a bit about the adventures I had on the bus from northern France to Italy.
-When I got on the bus to Italy in Brussels, the Flemish driver looked at my passport (we had to prove that we could pass through Switzerland without needing a visa or whatever) and said, "ahhhh, KANADA!!!!"
-The bus rid from Brussels to Milan was awful. It was late at night, and we stopped every two hours or so. First it was French customs between Metz and Strasbourg. They checked the whole bus for drugs, since the bus started in Amsterdam. Then it was Swiss customs. We waited for half an hour for the customs guy to get on the bus and ask for one persons passport, then he got off. We then stopped in the middle of Switzerland for a pee-break at 4 in the morning. A little later we got stopped by Italian customs, and they took our passports off the bus. I was then dumped off in Milan around 6, to wait for a bus that left for Florence at 8. I didn't sleep much.
-There were English films playing all night long on the bus, but they all had Dutch subtitles. The adverts during the films (every 45 minutes or so) were also in Dutch.
-On the way back, there was a Chilean assistant (working in Cretail) on the bus. From him, I found out that my academie (school district) is ripping me off.
-We listened to Italian music, on a bus being driven by Dutch guys.
-On the bus from Brussels to Lille, we listened to Spanish music
Police Strike...
I was reading in the paper today that about 60 municipal police officers went on strike in Lille yesterday, after the national police officer union called a strike for the day.

March 09, 2004

And more strikes in France...
I know that this is getting repetitive and boring, but I always forget about some of the strikes that are going on when I mention other ones.
Today, there is a middle school in Thann (region 68) where the teachers voted to go on strike because a girl was allowed by the school district to wear the Islamic headscarf in school.
Several thousand directors of public research labs are planning on resigning today if they don't get more money from the government. The remaining scientific researchers are going to strike on Thursday if nothing is resolved.
Don't forget that there is a teachers strike on Friday.

March 08, 2004

Another (teaching) Strike...
Today there is a transit strike. Some of the buses are running, and some aren't. You don't know wich ones though, so you have to hope that the one you need is running.
There’s going to be a massive teachers strike this Friday (March 12th). Unlike the last few, I think that all of the teachers will probably strike, not just a few like the last time. The main purpose of the strike is to protest the fact that fewer teachers are being hired, and changes to the pension scheme. It doesn’t affect me though, because I never work on Friday.
Sidewalk = Parking??
Now that I’m back in France (it’s freezing cold here, comme d’habitude), I remember how much the fact that the French park on the sidewalk bugs me. I often end up having to walk on the road, because the cars are parked so close to the buildings that you can’t walk by. It can actually be quite dangerous, especially considering French drivers.

March 05, 2004

Bella Italia...
Well, this is it for Italy. I'm back off to Northern France.
After I was in Rome, I headed south to Naples for two nights. Everyone warned me about the city, but it wasn't so bad, once you got out of the tourist-trap (literally) square right outside of the train station. The sun came out, and the water was beautiful.
I spent a morning wandering around the ruins of Pompeii. It's incredible to think that the place was inhabited by Romans 2000 years ago. There are still amazing frescos on the walls. You could also see plaster castings of some of the victims, including a dog.
I also ate the worlds best pizza, no joking. I ate at the best pizza place in Naples (they only had two pizzas on the menu), which is the home to pizza. Let me tell you, and make you drool, that it was by far the best pizza that I've ever had. It's all downhill from here, lol!
Then I spent a day in Sienna, and I wish that I could've spent more time there. The city was so beautiful, and it was sunny! I went to see an exhibit of Duccio (13th Century) paintings.
I'm now about to head off for a fun 26 hour or so bus ride back (I just realised that the return journey is going to be longer than the one to come here)