Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big news!

In case anyone who reads this isn't already aware, I'm moving to Tours! I just heard today that I got the job, after an endless wait. Applied: mid-Jan, interviewed: early Feb (you may recall my trip to Tours - secret intent!), then waited and waited and waited while they told me that various echelons of the administration were favourably disposed towards me, but they still could not confirm that I had the job. Was beginning to fret/get pissed off (yesterday was a bad day...), but today I finally heard back! Yay! The BEST part is that it's a real job i.e. it puts to use my librarian training, which I worked... ummm, I'm not gonna say hard, but I worked for at any rate. And it cost a lot of money and virtually cost me the use of my right arm - which is a big question mark over my ability to do the job, but they didn't ask and I didn't tell and I'm trying not to think about what it will be like when I have to once again be at a computer all day long...

Anyway, positive thoughts, I have plenty of time to stress out (being in a French-speaking environment, even though my part of the job is in English, having to find an apartment, being in a new city knowing no-one and without a sort of 'instant' pool of friends - besides being quite a bit older than me, they still vousvoyed each other (used the formal form of the word 'you') in the office I'll be working in, which kinda freaked me out!), having to go from a laid-back 12-hour-a-week lifestyle to full-time work again, having only a weekend between finishing one job and starting the next in a different city etc.etc. Hold on - what was the point of that? Oh yeah, think positively! It's just so unlike me...

What I'll be doing is running a 'current awareness service' for a website - basically, I have to find articles, book reviews, conference announcements, exhibitions etc. etc. to do with a certain field, evaluate and select them, describe and abstract them, and publish them on the site. Maybe not the most fascinating job ever, but what an opportunity to finally break out of the English-speaking ghetto. So far I've had three different jobs in three different parts of France, and spent the vast majority of my time speaking English almost all the time, surrounded by other expats. And I'm not blaming anyone else but myself and the general fact that this is the easy way out - anyone who's ever lived as an immigrant will, I'm sure, never rant about how immigrants come to 'their' country, don't speak the language, and never mix with the locals. For the record, I am definitely in favour of people mixing with the locals and learning the local language, but it is a lot harder on many levels to make friends and become part of the community than many people think, especially if you don't have an instant 'in', like a partner or relative from that country. At the moment, I speak French more rarely than I care to admit, so I have grand visions of rapid improvement once I move somewhere that is less touristy (although I suppose chateaux visits pick up quite a lot in the summer), where I will be living with French speakers, and working partly in the medium of French (all my correspondence about the job and even my interview has been entirely conducted en français - if nothing else, I'm proud of myself for getting through a job interview - already scary enough - in French!) Either that or I'll go down like a sinking ship in a sea of French, we shall find out.

But overall, I am excited, and I am proud of myself. When I came here 6 months ago, it was my plan to use the assistantship as a bridge to getting a proper job in France, but as time went on and I learned more about how French libraries work, my own failure to progress in more than a vaguely osmosisological (okay, not a word) fashion in French, and the French view of foreign qualifications (i.e., not much) I began to despair of it ever happening. But it has! I don't know what I'll be doing years from now, whether my life is in France for good or whether my peripatetic lifestyle will continue, but for the next year starting 1st May, my future is in Tours!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Walking the Moyenne Corniche, hanging in Nice, and Palais Lascaris

Arrgh, uploaded these with such care and then realised they are, in fact, in reverse order from the way I experienced them on my travels. Will never learn!

Staircase in the Palais Lascaris

Tapestries in Palais Lascaris

Inside Palais Lascaris. I didn't see the attendants, who were hiding behind the wall here and took this with flash (which yes, I know is very naughty, even though I hadn't seen any signs banning it) and for some reason the lady goes "no fuh-lash" and then enjoyed her comic stylings so much that she repeated it the same way another three or so times, while her co-worker giggled. I suppose when you have what's probably one of the world's most boring jobs (after the first couple of days), you take your fun where you find it.

I just liked this painting (or detail thereof)

Detail of a tapestry in the Palais Lascaris

A ship heading out from the port at Nice. I just liked the way in real life it looked just like a little plastic ship, and after being "I'm feeling lucky"ed in Picasa photo editor, it looks kinda like a painting of a little plastic ship...

Sorry if you're of a sensitive disposition, but I just had to take a photo of this fat, old, inadequately covered couple who for some reason came to the beach with a hacksaw and proceeded to cut up a plank. I was fascinated to discover what would happen next - maybe they would construct themselves a lounger? But nothing ensued, the mystery remains! PS It was pretty windy and not really bikini weather at all, although I supposed they were working up a sweat with their sawing.

The Baie des Fourmis at Cap Ferrat

View of the Baie des Anges from the Moyenne Corniche road

Nice viewed from the Moyenne Corniche road to Eze. Admittedly, this isn't the greatest photo, but I had to stand on a wall next to a busy road to get it over the chicken-wire fence, so whatevs haters

So.(All my students begin all their oral presentations thusly, drives me mad but I don't usually comment cos they probably have enough to worry about without taking my pet peeves on board.) Big news, the clocks have gone back, and we have had some sunshine! Some clouds and rain too, but I'm optimistic.

On Saturday, I set out brightish and earlyish to walk up the Moyenne Corniche from the Port at Nice to Eze - had wanted to do this since the last time I took the bus up to Eze and walked down, because it looked from the bus like there were some stunning views and I thought, seeing that my walks are generally quite long but not very strenuous, it would do me some good to go uphill for a change. Well, within the first half hour or so, my calves were burning, so I think mission accomplished! As it happened, a lot of the views were obscured by fences unfortunately, but it was still a good walk. Once I got up above Beaulieu and Villefranche, I decided to abandon the plan to walk to Eze because I could see the beach tempting me down below with its siren song. As you can see on the map below, I'm not sure exactly how I got down the hill - it involved staircases and short-cuts and zigzags and I was never quite sure which direction I was going except 'down', but in the end I made it to sea level and spent an hour sunning myself as best I could despite the strong winds on the Baie des Fourmis.

(and yeah,if you squint at that screenshot you can see that I do have my MA thesis open - geek! I was reading something about the Guardian about a website that analyses your writing for common words/phrases so you can tell if you overuse certain turns of phrase, and this is the longest piece of writing I've ever done. The results, by the way, were pretty boring. 'Incest' was the most common word after names and things like 'the' and 'and', which is only surprising if you've never read so much as the title of my thesis!)

After that, I caught the bus back to Mt Boron, and stopped off at a supermarket there because I wanted some water and I know it has different varieties of pasta sauce than my local supie, then I walked down to the port (the second purple line on the map) and along to Old Town. In my private lesson on Friday (we have been doing 'food' for the last couple of weeks at my student's request), she raved about Fennochio's icecream, which as they say in NZ (sorta) is apparently world-famous in Nice. And you know when a French girl, who generally will admit only to eating coffee and fruit, raves about a sugary/fatty substance without reminding you how forbidden it is, it's good stuff. So I just had to go and have my first icecream of the season (had my first strawberries of the season the other week, even though they are probably out-of-season imports anyway I suppose). There were all kinds of wacky flavours like olive oil and ummm others I've forgotten, but I wasn't brave enough for that, so I got Ferrero Rocher/Gianduja mmmm. I have to say, not quite as good as the legendary gelati I had in Florence, but not bad at all. I took my cone down to the beach at Nice and sat there for a while - still windy, but at least Nice has big rocks and not small, flying pebbles like at the Baie des Fourmis.

After that, I was going to head home, but I walked past the Palais Lascaris, former home of old Nice/Ventimiglia nobility, and decided to pop in for a look. It was pretty cool to see that they had a palace just shoved in the narrow streets of the Old Town - if they weren't in a castle, they must have lived much more cheek-by-jowl with the plebs in those days than the likes of the Russian oligarchs who apparently own a lot of the coast do today. It wasn't the most lavish palace ever, but it was pretty cool, organised around an ornate staircase which was next to an open-air internal courtyard. If I'm ever rich (ha!) and living somewhere warm, I think the interior courtyard is a design feature I'd like to have in my dream home. Very cool. It was all done in the 17th century and had collections of antique furniture, art, and musical instruments from the same period (although not all original to the palace), including, for some bizarre reason, the original interior of a 17th-century pharmacy, which was originally somewhere else entirely, but got bought up by someone I think around the time of the Revolution and moved around a bit before ending up here. It wasn't very big, so took maybe 15 mins to look around (as with most museums in Nice, it's free) and then I went home to sit on my balcony, drink wine, and read a book while soaking up the last of the afternoon sun. Great day!

On Sunday I woke up cripplingly early to 'watch' the F1 on my laptop (it was more like a succession of still photos, such was the quality of the feed, but I did get English commentary), very frustrated that I didn't get to properly see what by all accounts was an amazing race. But still, yay, cos Button won! Then after that I have done NOTHING for the last two days. All my classes are cancelled until Thursday, sweet! Have just been hanging around, yesterday on my balcony, today in the park, reading and sunbathing. Clouded over a bit today and might rain tomorrow though :(

LONG post, that is all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

PS I hate you

Just a tiny little miniscule rant about my worst class. I've read some nightmare stories from other assistants and I must admit, none of my students sound that bad by comparison, but I do really dread this one class. Usually I have only half of the class (with the teacher there as well) one week, and then the other half the other week. This week because of exams or something, I had the enormous treat of having the whole class. The teacher had asked me to do a spelling quiz of some sort, so I came up with a list of 20 commonly-misspelled words and made a quiz where they had to bet on which they thought was the right answer amongst three possibilities - if they were sure, they could bet high, and if they didn't know, they should bet low. Okay, it's not exactly a thrill-a-minute ride, but I thought it would be more fun than a silent spelling test (PS I didn't come up with the idea by myself, so no credit where credit's not due, but did write the test myself and it took forevs.)

Anyway, turns out the quiz was way too easy for them, and almost all of them were getting it right every time. Which was a bummer. The teacher very nicely said to me that these weren't really the sorts of mistakes they made, but that I wasn't to know (I really never see their writing, for starters). I probably find it harder to work with a teacher than by myself - yeah, they're there for support, but they're also there to witness it if you fail.

So anyway, they were probably bored by the quiz, but that didn't mean they had to constantly talk so I had to yell over the top of them the whole class. Even that wouldn't have been too bad, but about halfway through (i.e. far enough in that it couldn't have been a misunderstanding of how the game worked) some students started to just call out the answers, thus ruining the whole concept of 'gambling' on the chosen answer. It made me so mad, I really just wanted to go spare at them, but what can you do? And they are always like this, both halves of the class - constantly talking in French, completely unwilling to speak in English, rolling their eyes and muttering comments I can't catch when I ask them stuff.

Anyway, written down that probably looks pretty minor, but just wanted to get my frustration off my chest. Luckily next week they're doing the bac blanc (mock exam) and then it's the holidays, so almost a month till I have to see them again!

Oh and PS I totally laughed in a student's face this evening! I had a private lesson with 4 students, it's all grammar focused so usually pretty dull. Generally they read a sentence with a blank in it and then say what they think the answer is, but this time there was a whole paragraph before the blank, so he just kept reading and reading in this French-accented monotone, and then I saw the only girl in the class was exchanging glances and giggling with one of the other guys and I just couldn't help absolutely cracking up laughing, and you know, the more I tried not to the worse it was until I actually had tears in my eyes. Soooo unprofessional! It wasn't even that funny, but you know how it is when you see someone else laughing and you can't suppress it. I apologised, and explained I wasn't laughing at him per se, hope I didn't hurt the poor guy's feelings!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (dah dah dah dah, dah de la dah dah)

Not really, I just wanted to get that song stuck in everyone's head... Final countdown or no, it is true (as most readers of the blog probably know) that there are only about 5 weeks to go on my contract, so naturally my thoughts are turning to what's next.

I don't generally like to go into all the details of my daily life, moans being usually reserved for my emails to my Meh, but suffice it to say that I will be happy to leave the flat where I'm living, but am not looking forward to leaving the beautiful French Riveria (if, indeed, that is what fate has in store for me). I have started to look for the next opportunity - I want to stay in France, and let's just say I have an iron in the fire, just the one although that's not for want of looking. Am trying to escape teaching English, that's all I will say for now, in the spirit of not jinxing anythiing!

Have started to have wild fantasies about "oh! the places I'll go!" etc. once I don't have to spend 45% of my monthly salary on rent any more. Actually, most of these fantasies don't go beyond things like nail polish, books off Amazon, razor blades, a bottle of Absolut vodka (that's in the list cos I saw it in the supermarket today for only 13 euros, amaze!), clothes clothes clothes and the chance to do nice things like having a glass of wine in a cafe on a nice day instead of sitting in the park (which is also nice, of course, but sometimes a girl wants a wine-based change to the routine). Lofty aspirations, I know. Still, I really shouldn't entertain any such fantasies, mundane or not, when my future remains still completely uncertain...

In non-related news, today there was a big national grève (strike - a word familiar to anyone living in France) so I had to do a 1 1/2 hour round-trip on foot in order to do an hour's work. Luckily enough, it was sunny and lovely, HOT even! And I saw the demonstration on my way to work, and they amused me with their blaring of Black Sabbath from loudspeakers, ha ha! After I had walked back home (and, funnily enough, sat in the park for a bit) I sat out on my balcony for a little while, and noticed that the sun, which used to only get as far west as the next building over before disappearing from sight, is now high enough in the sky in the late afternoon to shine over said building, and thus provide me with an hour or so extra sunshine compared with whenever I used to last sit out on the balcony, in November or whatever before the weather turned. We have rain forecast again later in the week (it was raining this weekend too), but I think the weather is definitely on the mend!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Monaco-Menton-Ventimiglia photos

Japanese garden nestled amongst Monaco's unattractive apartment blocks

The beach at Monaco - bet they have to ship in the sand

Coast at Monaco

The old town in Menton, from the breakwater or pier or whatever it is

Statue in Menton

The wee little castle charged with defending Menton

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, between Monaco and Menton

Latte! Rofl (not really)

Ventimiglia - looks pretty much like Menton, except shabbier, and with a river

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Final destination (until next time)

The Nice-Italy walking extravaganza

Yesterday's route

Sorry if people are getting bored of the walking, it's pretty much the only remotely interesting thing going on in my life. But anyway, yesterday was a milestone - I have done it - walked all the way to Italy... and beyond! Finally I have walked between two countries (real countries, not like Monaco or the Vatican City) - so that makes plane, bus, boat, train, car and on foot. I've also gone between continents by all of those methods except train I think (and yeah, all except plane were in Istanbul, so not all that impressive really).

Foolishly got off the bus too early, still in Roquebrune rather than in Menton proper, and thus added an extra 20 minutes on to my walk. Apparently Menton-Ventimiglia is almost 10 km, so with that and the fact that I went a little way down the wrong road in Italy before turning back, I'm claiming it as 10 km fo' sho'. Wolfram Alpha says it's 28.81 kms from Nice to Ventimiglia, presumably on the motorway. I'm going to say 30, plus the walk from Eze to Eze sur Mer, plus the bit around Cap Ferrat, plus the walk from La Turbie to the observatoire = quite pleased with self.

Nothing to report really, except I got beeped at maybe 5 times as much in Italy as in France, had to walk through long tunnels (the one I read the sign on was 832 m) which was kind of terrifying - loud and filled with Italian drivers, although there was at least a footpath, and went through a town called Latte, which warmed the cockles of my heart and also gave me the opportunity to stock up on some Italian chocolate at a supermarket which appeared to cater pretty much exclusively for Frenchies trying to buy cheap booze. I didn't check out the prices, but it's cheap enough here really! I only spent about 20 mins in Ventimiglia before taking the train home - it was a long round trip, probably between 3 1/2 and 4 hours not counting the walk, which took 2 1/2 hours, and didn't seem like there was all that much to see in Ventimiglia anyway.

I think next I'll walk up the Moyen Corniche to Eze, because the views seemed pretty amazing when I took the bus up the other day, then I might think about walking along the coast in the other direction. I wish I had better shoes though, mine are really more street shoes than walking shoes... But I have the walking bug, and the weather is improving, so should have plenty of opportunities! Maybe it will even cancel out the Italian chocolate and the fact that the lady at the bakery near work reaches for a pain au chocolat when she sees me coming... Ciao everyone!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monaco rage

Last time I was in Monaco (my third visit) was not too bad, but today it filled me with Monaco rage. After my morning class, I took the bus there in order to walk to Menton. I had considered just starting at the France/Monaco border (the far side) but decided that would be cheating, so dutifully started at the Casino in the centre of Monte Carlo (on the grounds that I have walked around a fair bit of the preceding Monagasque coastline in the past, so didn't need to do it again). So far, it has been pretty easy to follow my path. Essentially: find the coast; walk. Today I found the coast, but kept having to leave it due to things like beaches and hotels being in the way. Luckily, there was a handy sign pointing to a 'tourist coastline walk' - perfect! Just what I needed! Yet when I got there, the entry to the 'tourist coastline walk' was blocked by one of those metal barrier thingies, with no advice on how the tourist should proceed from here. Every route I tried just led to a hotel, a private apartment block, a sign saying 'no entry', or in one case, the Monte Carlo country club (vom!) I figured that I would have to get up higher in order to proceed without treading on the valuable soil of Monaco's seafront. This involved having to double back the way I had come, in increasing frustration. Finally I found a promising lead - I will say this in Monaco's defence: they are not afraid to install lifts to take the populace up hills. Up the hill was indeed the right way to get out of Monaco, but it had taken me a full hour to get from the Casino to the Monagasque border - this is the black line on the map. To put this in perspective, the red line took me less than an hour and a half to walk. Curse you Monaco!

Anyway, apart from that it was the same old routine. I walked to Menton, as mentioned, and then spent another hour or so walking around the town taking photos. I have been before, but that was in my camera-less phase, so it was nice to get the opportunity to go back - on another nice and sunny day as well.

Talking of sunny, I was in the park yesterday before the GP and noticed I have a faint watch tan. I know tanning is shameful and naughty, but I am still quite pleased. And btw, I have found out that spring has *not* yet officially sprung, it is awaiting the equinox. In New Zealand, the seasons do what we tell them to do and start punctually on the first of the month, but not here. At the end of the month, our clocks go forward as well, so I think we might have a short time of 11 hours' difference NZ-France and then you'll go back and it will only be 10, yes? I can't be bothered working out whether that's better or worse as far as I'm concerned, but anyway. Photos will follow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

La Turbie - L'observatoire

Route of the day

View of Monaco from La Turbie, c. 500m above sea level

View of La Turbie, with the Trophée des Alpes visible

Closer-up view of La Turbie & the Trophée

A topiary Nessie on the road between La Turbie and the Col d'Eze

View of Eze from the Col d'Eze (not a match)

View of Eze-sur-Mer from the Grand Corniche

Everyone's probably sick of the words 'Cap Ferrat', such is its ubiquitousness on my walks, but I liked the way it looked kind of like a head with a really long nose from up on the Grand Corniche.

The boxy Acropolis conference centre in Nice - with a little rainbow if you look hard

Statue in front of the Acropolis

Today, we have sunshine, hurrah! So I got up earlyish - last night I went out to an exhibition opening and then watched a movie at a friend's so was back quite late, but didn't want to waste the day - and took the bus to La Turbie, another of the towns in the hills above the coast. This one seemed to have a bit of a modern strip going for it as well as an old town. Didn't see much of it - basically climbed up to see La Trophée d'Auguste, aka La Trophée des Alpes aka a triumphal arch erected in 6 AD to commemorate Augustus' triumph over the native tribes. Once there, I discovered it cost 5 euro to go in and look at the thing: hence, all my photos of it are from a discreet distance. Ha! Learning for free, take that!

After that, I started off on my walk with a 'chicken' sandwich purchased from the bakery in La Turbie which was quite expensive and turned out to be using deli meat chicken, not real chicken. Disappointing! I expect better from French bakeries, frankly. But anyway, I was intending to walk to Eze, which is apparently about 6 km from La Turbie, however, I came to a junction where I could either go to Eze village or Col d'Eze. I kind of knew Eze village was the right choice, but I thought the road to Col d'Eze would just take a different route but wind up in the same place, and the road to Eze village had no footpath, so I thought the one to Col d'Eze was safer. It had no footpath either, but at least had a cycle path. Fun fact - I realised en route that the Paris-Nice cycle race will be going along this way tomorrow, if anyone in the world ever watches a cycle race that is not the Tour de France... Lucky I didn't attempt this route tomorrow, at any rate!

Anyway, turns out the Col d'Eze is actually not all that close to Eze proper at all, and instead of taking the Moyen Corniche (the middle road) I was on the Grand Corniche (the high road) - as you can see on the map above. This was all well and good (although for the most part there weren't actually great views) but no bus ran along most of the route, so once I was committed I basically had to keep going. So as you can see on the map, I walked much further than my original plan, but it was still only a 2 1/2 hour walk and I only gave up and took the bus once I rejoined the bus route because I was dying for the loo. Looking at the map, it probably would have been almost as quick to cut across to C-mizzle as to take the bus down to Nice Riquier and then back up, but I didn't really know where I was at the time, although I stopped near the Nice Observatory, which was quite cool because you can see it in the distance from round about my flat, but I never knew exactly where it was before...

Anyway, that was my outing, tomorrow is the start of the F1 season and I am très excited, so Go Button! (Despite being only in I think P7, boo)

PS Photos of the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc from the other day in the post below

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weather: still crap

View over Nice from near my place

The Eglise Jeanne d'Arc, Nice

Inside the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc

Statues inside the church

Frescoes inside the church

Not to moan about the weather again, but everyone around here I talk to seems to agree that this is the worst winter in, like, forever, so lucky me! It's turned quite cold again - I took my coat out last night, I thought I'd seen the last of it for the season, but apparently not.

Anyway, the point is that my walkies have been suspended pending sunshine. This weekend is, I'm happy to say, supposed to be nice, but I might be meeting up with someone on Saturday (or not) and on Sunday, it is of course the start of the F1 season (yay yay yay yay yay) so I will be firmly ensconced chez moi, in front of t' telly, BBC liveblog scrolling away on my laptop, in utter F1-related bliss I hope!

So no big walks, but today I did walk down to Nice Nord (Nice a bit South from my perspective...) and visited the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc, which is very weird-looking and bears the distinction of being the first building of note that I saw upon arrival in Nice. It, in fact, gave me the opportunity to try out my best "c'est quoi, ça?" on the driver. It's a big, concrete, futuristic confection which I would have guessed was from the sixties, but was actually begun in 1914, interrupted by the death of its architect and the First World War, and eventually finished in 1933. I actually quite liked it - very cavernous, cold and peaceful/eerie inside. I had the place all to myself, but they're doing restoration on the outside, so there was a chorus of muffled clangs which just seemed to make the place more redolent of an old crypt or something, so that's all good in my book. It had lots of frescoes which were actually the Stations of the Cross but had the vibe of a less demonic Dantean scene to me. I will put photos up - note that the place is very dimly-lit indeed, so the flash gives a bit of a false impression.

After that, I went to the big Monoprix supermarket on Jean Medicin, which is notable only because the woman in line behind me was spouting off, very loudly and repeatedly "I'm neither a homosexual nor lesbian" (um, the difference being?) "and I don't like to be taken for one!" I have no idea what set her off, but I was most amused to see that she was purchasing a bottle of 'Gayelord' brand vitamins! Ha! Maybe that's what caused the confusion (gay cruising 101: go to Monoprix, pick up a bottle of Gayelord vitamins, and lurk in the fruit & veg aisle...). Also, she had a bottle of rum, which, much to my disappointment, was not of the Mount Gay variety :( Nice to see that French people also sort of shuffle and exchange awkward smiles when confronted with public crazy.

Anyhoo, that is all! Oh, no, wait PS in news that will interest no-one - my epilator broke last week, sad times, I ordered a new one off Amazon.co.uk on the 6th of March and it came today! I really must applaud that level of service. Although I will say that it appears to have been dispatched from France, which means there is really no excuse for the fact that it would have cost about twice the price had I bought it off Amazon.fr. Tut tut!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Teaching update

I've been thinking that I should do an update on work, because at the mo it probably seems like I don't do any. Whereas, in reality, I just don't do much. It is a shocking fact that 8 weeks of my contract remain, 2 of which are holidays. Which is a good thing, because I'm running out of teaching ideas pretty much. As you may recall, I officially teach 12 hours a week. I'm fairly confident that, since the beginning of my contract, I would be able to count the weeks where I had to work all 12 hours on one hand. Looking back over my diary for this year so far, I can see only one week where I haven't written down a cancellation - and of course, the year began fresh from Christmas holidays & I've already had another 2 week break. This week I already have 5 hours' worth of cancellations. And I still get paid the same regardless :D

To balance this lack of work, I have picked up 2 private lessons - and by 'picked up', I mean 'had them thrust upon me more-or-less against my will'. Now I'm actually doing the lessons - one one-on-one oral class with a girl in prep school, and one small group focused on (eek!) grammar, I feel a bit dumb for trying to wiggle out of it for ages, because they're actually not half bad, and some handy pocket money. I just hated teaching so much before that I was petrified of the idea of having 100% responsibility for a class again, however small, but I think I've come a long way since I first taught in Moscow.

Analysing it, I think it all hinges on the fact that I'm not actually responsible for drilling these kids on grammar or making sure they follow a logical programme where they progress, for example, from 3 weeks on 'going to the movies' and 'the present perfect' to 3 on 'my dream career' and 'the future tense'. This has two effects - one, even if they're not learning anything, and frankly, I doubt that they are, it's not really my responsibility because I'm not employed to explain tenses to them (well except in the private lesson mentioned above), and two, I'm free to do what I like so I can actually (attempt to) make the lessons interesting. Long-time followers of the blog (hi Mum!) may remember that the final straw for me in Moscow was learning that one of my classes complained I was too boring. Looking back now, I realise I was *too* focused on following a programme, just sort of rigidly going through the exercise book without really bringing it to life. To be fair, I did try to throw in some different stuff I'd photocopied from other books now and again, but here I really just make up my lessons from scratch out of my head - they're not always successful, but at least it's not "turn to page 89, let's do lesson 1... okay, now page 90, exercise 4" like when I was in Moscow. I'd like to think that if I ever did end up teaching in a private school again, where I was solely responsible for the curriculum, I would be able to combine those sorts of grammatical exercises that, probably, the text-book is really best for, with some imagination and interesting stuff I'd have come up with myself.

Teaching English is not something I see in my future, but if you'd asked me after I left Moscow with my tail between my legs, I would have definitely said 'never again', and here I am, so you never know... I want to get out of the sort of ghetto existence which is living in Europe in this English-speaking bubble, but it's difficult, and it's nice to know that something that I would have recoiled with horror at the thought of a couple of years back (teaching in a language school) is sort of there again as a backup plan for me if all else fails.

Anyway, the real purpose of this post, of course, was to procrastinate instead of doing my homework - a contraction croisée. I (and my students) have to read a short text in French and summarize it in about 120 words. It's difficult, but this is the sort of thing I'm good at, and I like to think I have it down to a fine art. Tomorrow I get to dictate my version to the kids so they can marvel at my wordsmithery :D Better get to it!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Eze, Beaulieu-Monaco photos

Photos from my latest foray, from Eze village to the sea, back to Beaulieu then along the coast to Monaco Ville. Full & fascinating rundown in the next post below!

Old stone houses in Eze village

The 'golden goat' looks over the sea at Eze

Giraffes roam the ramparts at Eze

Looking up at Eze village from sea level

The view of Eze sur Mer from halfway down the mountain

The sea from the Allée Friedrich Nietzsche between Eze and Eze-sur-Mer

Tunnel through the rock between Eze-sur-Mer and Beaulieu - also known as the land of wind and (no) fire

I don't know who lives here, but they must be rich...

The coast at (I think) Cap d'Ail aka Cape Garlic! How French!

Looking over Monaco from the Rock

I think this is Monaco - it's the opposite side from Monte Carlo though so it could maybe be France (Cap d'Ail)

19th Century cathedral in Monaco Ville

Cathedral interior - very gloomy stony sort of a place

A Mary doll in a 17th C chapel in Monaco Ville. This thing is just begging to star in a horror movie - the whole chapel was creep city!

An early Grimaldi who apparently dressed up as a monk in order to gain access to the citadel and, presumably, slaughter its inhabitants

Inside the creepy chapel, Monaco Ville

Princess Grace's grave in Monaco cathedral. Bah, no matter how much thought I try to put into the order of photos they always end up jumbled, stupid Blogger