It’s a hard life

I’m now on a two week break from teaching as I mentioned in my last post. It really is a hard life here in France. Warning, this post is a bit longer than usual!

My first stop was Paris to meet up with my travel companion Laura before we flew to Istanbul, Turkey. What a crazy place! There are so many people and always something happening. We saw all the major sites: Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, the Grand Bazaar and the spice market. I ate what felt like my body weight in Turkish foods (Baklava and Turkish delight) and we saw some of the passion of the Turkish people with several protests taking part in the areas we were hanging out in. The police presence was heightened due to protests earlier in the month turning violent with some reports of 22 deaths.

Other interesting experiences included visiting a Turkish bath and being scrubbed clean by a half naked Turkish woman, being encouraged into shops with one liners like “I have leather bikini” and “how can I sell you something you don’t need?”. We also made friends with a Turkish woman on the tram and shopped at a neighbourhood fruit and vege market.

For the last week we have been in Greece. We started in Rhodes where we saw a lot of history and also hired a car and drove around the Island stopping at pretty beaches and swimming. Our B&B host there was super kind and we had a great time (well all except getting caught in a huge storm). The food was also excellent!

The next stop was Athens which Laura and I had both been warned about. We weren’t expecting anything great. We ended up having a great time out the night we arrived and got into the Acropolis for free, saving us €12 each! To finish up a great visit we found the most amazing vegetarian cafe with vegan and gluten free options, this is virtually unheard of in Athens and we thoroughly enjoyed the food.

On Sunday we caught the ferry to Naxos where we relaxed and wandered the city before on to Santorini where we are now. Once the cruise ships leave for the evening the town is quite pleasant. Today we wandered along the hilltop and also went to a prehistoric village which is approximately 4000 years old.

We still have 2 more days in Santorini before we have to head back to reality. More next week when I am back in France.

Amanda xx


A lack of sleep and other events

Last post I ended by saying I was off to Paris for the weekend. I had a great time and mixed a little sightseeing with meeting friends (new and old).

On Friday night Jess and I went out in Oberkampf it was great and we made some new French friends. Saturday I traipsed around Versailles in wonder at all the chateau like stuff. On Sunday I started the day morbidly with a visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery to check out the graves of  Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and some French painters among others. After the rather creepy morning I ate lunch with Laura and witnessed/took part in a restaurant catastrophe! Let’s just say, we don’t like cheese that much. This week I am really getting into the swing of things with teaching which is great considering I had 6 classes on Monday.

Other highlights of the week include a trip to a cave, going out on Tuesday night with friends and pretty much just having my accent made fun of/enjoyed all week at various different occasions (I now feature in a murder mystery dialogue for my school) and now I’m waiting for my tram to go and meet the English teachers at my school for dinner. Which brings me to the final point, today there is a transport strike… C’est la vie en France…

We are now on school holidays for two weeks (oh what a tough life) and I’m off to Istanbul and Greece.

Until next time,

Amanda xx


A quick induction into teaching

I ended last week with some observing of classes and hearing about what I will be expected to do with my students and classes. I also got some more life admin done.

On the weekend I went out clubbing with some of the other assistants and had a wonderful night out! I didn’t think I would be able to keep up with all the early 20’s assistants, but I danced as hard as the rest of them. Sunday was terrible weather and was spent looking around some free attractions. On the first Sunday of the month galleries and museums throw open their doors and welcome everyone in for free.

Monday was the start of teaching for me. I had several classes lined up but a few were cancelled as the teacher was off sick. So my first experience of teaching was being left with a group of ten 15 year olds who really didn’t want to be there. All I can say about that is teachers in France are (and are allowed to be) much more strict than back home in New Zealand. On Tuesday I had two groups of wonderful terminale (final year) students. They had to watch a movie trailer (The Boat that Rocked) and then discuss and summarise the main points. After Mondays 3 missed classes, I had two more cancelled as during one they were sitting a test and the other was going on a field trip. My last two classes I just got to speak about (and test my knowledge on) New Zealand for an hour each to a group of BTS students (mostly 19 and 20yos). In general the students were really curious and I got lots of really interesting questions like “What is the average wage?” Thanks to my background at Statistics NZ for helping me answer those curly ones!

Next week I have more classes with a little more freedom about what to ‘teach’ (mostly will just be sitting around chatting, sounds like my kind of job) and then it is school holidays! But first this weekend I am going to Paris. On that note, I’d better go pack.

Amanda xx

A French city (finally) and stepping in dog poop

I arrived in Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday night and was picked up from the train station by Olivier, the teacher looking after me at my school. My accommodation is at the school which means it is super convenient and cheap.

On Monday I had a wander around the city on the way to meet up with some other assistants for some pizza. The city is really two towns; Clermont and Montferrand and there are two distinct town centres. My school is in Montferrand which makes it a bit of a journey into the heart of the city which is in Clermont but there is a tram which is really efficient and I will also have the loan of a bike. On this first walk around the city I did it, that thing so many people talk about and recognise about France… I stepped in some dog poop. It really is everywhere and sometimes there is no escaping it.

My school is great, lots of students but the teachers are really friendly and nice. They have given me Fridays off so that I can have a long weekend and do some travelling. I start classes proper on Monday. On Wednesday we had the induction day which was exhausting as it was all in French and trying to understand how complicated things work in a language you are not fluent in is not easy.

Yesterday I got my French bank account so I can now start getting everything organised like a French mobile number, my social security forms (more paper work) etc.

Amanda xx

Walking, drinking, walking, drinking, eating, walking, drinking and eating

Valencia was great. Liz and I spent a week doing much of the same (but completely different at the same time). Plenty of walking, eating and drinking. Within 24 hours we had fully embraced the Spanish way of life, eating late and drinking plenty at all times during the day (yes wine before midday is OK). On our wanderings in the Old Town we regularly got lost only to find ourselves next to some major landmark or square we recognised from another point of view.

Other than wandering the Old Town we also spent some time sitting by the hotel pool reading and had a couple adventures including a walk down the old river bed (they put the river underground after many floods and turned the space into a city long green space with plenty of room for walkers, runners and bikers) and checking out The City of the Arts and Sciences.

We also had two beach days. One was spent checking out the America’s Cup village (albeit in the rain), and the other was an adventure on a local bus to a beach further south, the area surrounding having been badly hit by the recession. Think empty/closed 5-star hotels and tumbleweed (the beach was lovely though).

Now I am in my destination, Clermont-Ferrand. I am lacking internet and energy however to write another post. Hopefully this will get sorted soon, the bureaucracy is already doing my head in.

Amanda xx