In Memoriam

Hello friends, has it already been two weeks since my last post? Yikes. Life just flies by when you’re in France! Or Germany! Or Luxembourg!

Last week I took the train (three trains, actually) to visit my aunt and uncle in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, a small town nestled between forests and rolling hills not too far from the French border. It was a wonderful visit seeing them both, and my uncle took me on a day trip to Luxembourg, which was beautiful.

I will definitely post pictures and write more about it soon. But today I don’t have much energy to crack jokes or write extensively about my travels. I just learned that an Earlham student passed away in a terrible accident, and two others are in the hospital. I didn’t know these students, but my heart aches for my alma mater, and considering this is the sixth Earlham student who has passed away in four years, it truly saddens me that our small community has endured so much tragedy. I also found out a childhood friend of mine passed away last week, and sadly I was unable to attend her funeral since it was in Colorado.

These events always remind me how important it is to fill my life with love, because that is the only thing that is truly important in the end. I try the best I can to remind people how much I care for them and love them, but I know that stress or frustration or the daily grind can sometimes get in the way of this.

So, in case some days I forget to say it, I love you all. I am so very grateful for my life and so happy to be living it, and can’t believe all the wonderful people I have met throughout. All the friends and families who bade me farewell before leaving Colorado and all the new friends and families who have welcomed me in Laval will always leave an impression on me.

For the rest of the weekend I am in the company of my old host family in Nantes, who have shown me the same generosity and kindness I was met with three years ago when I first stayed with them. Life is fragile and it moves so quickly. Despite the loss and sadness though, I still find beauty in the caring and comfort that others provide for each other during these moments of tragedy. It reminds me that there is still hope and love out there for all of us.

Drinkin’ wine before lesson time

Hey Mom (and all the other hardworking American teachers out there): do you know what French elementary school teachers can do that you can’t?

Drink wine during lunch time. In the break room. Did I mention their lunch breaks are two hours long?

Okay, so it’s not exactly like cocktail hour with all ladies in their twenties. But still, pretty awesome.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you go and get sloshed. The five of us split a bottle at lunch. But still. What the hell America, why can’t you let your teachers have their little pleasures? Honestly, most of them deserve a stiff drink by lunch time for all the stuff they put up with.

Being a language assistant however, I get all the perks without any of the drags. I don’t have to worry about discipline because the teachers are in the class to deal with that. I just get to pop into these children’s lives for 30-40 minutes a week, and play a bunch of awesome language games with them.

Today I planned a lesson to teach “How are you?” and “I am happy/sad/tired/etc.” This turned out to be incredibly fun because I engaged the children with a lot of interactive learning. I acted out all the emotions with the words and had them imitate them. Once they understood, they were also able to come in front of the class and do the same. Most of them picked it up really quickly, and by the end they were able to write the words to corresponding smiley faces on a sheet I made for them.

My bonus incentive: Halloween stickers I bought in the United States for correct completion. I have learned that this is a huge motivator.

We ended class by singing, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” Another huge motivator for kids: getting them out of their seats to clap their hands and stomp their feet. By the end of the day I brought home all kinds of little drawings they had made for me as gifts. Man do I love my job.

I am so lazy that I’m not coming up with a proper title for this blog

During my senior year of college, I was taking classes full time, writing my thesis, and working four jobs. It was exhausting. I never got more than 4-6 hours of sleep a night. I never felt like I had enough time to hang out with my friends. All I wanted was a break, where I could just have the time to do what I wanted!

I hate to lean on clichés, but the whole “be careful what you wish for” thing kind of covers it. With this job, I work 12 hours a week. I spend a little more time preparing my curriculum than that, but even then it’s not any higher than 15. I know I am probably the most annoying person in the world to be complaining about this. Poor me, I have so much free time! My life is so hard, being able to do whatever I want!

But now that I’ve settled in things have gotten slow around here, and it would be nice to have a balance. I’ve always been the type of person who loves summer break for the first two weeks, and then quickly thereafter becomes bored with it.

At first I put myself on full vacation mode, lying around like a sedentary hippo on a hot day.

I know, I know. France really has changed my looks quite a bit.

The less I have to do, the less I do, which I have discovered can quickly become a downward spiral into sloth and self-loathing. The other day when I woke up from a leisurely nap (after already having slept in), I told myself: That’s enough of your hippo-like behavior, Kristin. You need to get up and do something.

Today I bike rode around town and got my social security set up. I applied for some jobs, and did my laundry. I deep cleaned the kitchen for two hours and then cleaned my bedroom. Then I took a bus ride to the grocery store the furthest away from my apartment to buy less than 10 euro worth of groceries.

The upside to this is how much less stressful my life has become. This is basically the first time ever that I haven’t had any homework. I am fully rested all the time, and can already tell the positive effects it has on my health. I also have as much time as I want to prepare meals, which comes along with trying new recipes (banana quinoa pancakes, anyone?).

But as I realized when I was talking with Shaun the other night, I could probably use a new hobby. It’s kind of funny, because I always considered French as my hobby. And now that I’m immersed in it…well, I guess I need something extra to keep myself occupied. Any ideas? I’m more than open to suggestions.