Thursday, October 15, 2009

We've only been here three weeks??

Okay, I suck. I’m sorry I didn’t write last Saturday. Things have been a little slow and frustrating lately. We had a mini-crisis last week regarding, surprise ,surprise, money! Things are a little better now.

Anyway, on to fun stuff. I have started teaching at my schools already. On Mondays and Tuesdays I teach at Collège St. Exupery in St. Jean de Braye, a nearby suburb of Orléans. I teach two advanced English courses to 8th graders, one advanced course for 7th graders, two regular 8th grade English courses, and one 6th grade class. The students are sweet and their English is pretty good, especially compared to Mali. I don’t know if American French students could speak as much French after as many years of study as some of my students. Ironically, there are several Malians in my classes, and they are definitely the bravest, if not the smartest. I’ve been trying to come up with fun activities to play, since that is essentially what I am supposed to be doing. I’m not supposed to be teaching grammar or assigning essays ; my job is to get them to speak. This week we played « Who Am I ? » where the students had to ask questions to figure out who their secret identity was (Britney Spears, Harry Potter, etc.) They had a lot of fun. We also did some riddles/puzzles, but they were actually too easy for my advanced class so I need to come up with something else for next week.

I have Wednesdays free, and so does Andrew, which has been nice. On Thursdays and Fridays I work at Collège Pierre Mendès France in Checy, a suburb a bit further east of Orléans. Unfortunately, the bus ride there is annoying and long and indirect, so I either have to transfer, walk an additional 15 minutes, or make sure I catch the only direct bus, which only runs very early in the morning and late in the afternoon. I have three 7th grade classes, two 8th grade classes, and one 6th grade bilingual class, which means they are learning both English and German at the same time ! Can you imagine learning two foreign languages that young ?

All of my teachers have been so friendly and understanding. It’s been very comforting to know that there are so many people who are willing to help me out if I need it.

Andrew went to visit his schools last week and to observe the classes. He’s at two schools: Ecole Gutenberg and Ecole Michel de la Fournière. Gutenberg is a much bigger school than the other, but the students are just as cute. He still doesn’t have his schedule, but it looks like he’ll be teaching kids from K-4th grade. He went around with an English teacher, Sophie, on Monday and Friday to see exactly how he’s supposed to be teaching, and he had a good time. Sophie is a great teacher and taught at the French high school in LA on Overland. He’s gotten a lot more training than me, but maybe that’s necessary for working with such small children. When he introduced himself to his classes, and he told them he was from LA, all the kids started talking. Apparently, LA is the cool place to be if you’re French: you get to see stars every day, the city is clean, the architecture is amazing, great public transport, everyone’s rich, no homeless… We explained that France is usually a cool place to be if you’re from LA.

We went to a vide grenier, or flea market, this weekend. Among our spoils were :

  • A used bike for 10€ (about $15)
  • A Moroccan tagine for 3€ (less than $5)
  • A complete raclette set for 5€ ($7.50)
  • Harry Potter, books 1-4 in French for 5€
  • A crystal wine decanter for 3€

Now as a special treat for not posting last week, here are two French recipes for your enjoyment.

Bouillabaisse (Seafood Soup), serves 2-3 people, or 1.5 Andrews


An assortment of your favorite seafood (clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, fish, squid)

2 onions

2 tomatoes

1 small branch of fennel

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

Red pepper or cayenne powder, to taste

Dried thyme and bay leaves

Peel the tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water for about 10 seconds. For cooking, you can use a large sauté pan (3 or 4 qt.) Chop the onions and sauté them with the seafood until the fish is nicely browned and the other seafood is cooked through. Add salt and pepper, the fennel, the other spices, and the tomatoes. Add enough water to cover the fish and veggies and let simmer slowly for 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

And now for the second recipe:

Hachis Parmentier (French shephard’s pie), serves 2-3 people


1 pound ground beef

6 large potatoes

½ cup of milk

3 tablespoons of cream


1 onion

3 cloves of chopped garlic

1 shallot (optional)

Grated gruyere cheese ( you could possibly use cheddar or parmesan)

1 ½ cups breadcrumbs

Peel, cut, and boil the potatoes. Drain and mash, adding milk, cream, and butter. Brown beef, onions, garlic, and the shallot, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drain fat and pour into a casserole dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the beef and then sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

Bon Appetit!