Rubbing elbows with the politicians
We started off the Christmas season by ice skating around the statue of Joan of Arc and attending a holiday party at the mayor's office. The ice skating was cold and a little frightening, and the party was a little crowded and lacking victuals. Interestingly enough, the president of the University of Orléans was hosting the party, and he's from Mali. I tried to speak to him in Bambara, hoping to establish a rapport that might land me a teaching job at the university, but he didn't actually speak Bambara, having left Mali 16 years ago.
Last weekend, we volunteered to teach English Christmas carols at one of the nearby castles, La Ferté. Really we just wanted to get into the castle for free to see all the festivities, such as pony rides, hot chocolate tastings, and all the different workshops that were going on, such as a cookie decorating demonstration. Unfortunately, it's rather hard to teach small children who can't read to sing a song in English when they're only passing by, so me, Andrew, and our friend Catherine mostly ended up just singing carols for the entertainment of all. The problem was that all three of us are horrible singers, and after about 1/2 an hour, the woman in charge stopped by to say that the children were bored, and since they were so short-staffed, could we possibly instead help out in other areas of the castle? We agreed, a little grudgingly, because we were planning on catching a train back to Orléans, but felt we had to earn our keep. Andrew volunteered to help Santa, but the woman said that since Catherine spoke better French (she's a Canadian who was raised speaking French, of course she speaks better than us!) that she should help instead. For Andrew and me, that meant leading pony rides in the cold, for what was supposed to be only 1/2 hour. We put up with Andrew being kicked by a very mean pony, but once a little boy was kicked by same pony, we decided to leave before the lawsuits started flying. We called an American friend who lived nearby, and joined her and her French husband, and her American friends, for some yummy desserts before heading back home.
The next day, we went to Tours, again, to visit our friend, Justine. Despite the freezing cold, we had a wonderful time, even though I spilled hot spiced wine on my lovely white coat. That of course gave me a perfect excuse to buy a new black peacoat. And a matching hat. And a turtleneck. What else am I supposed to wear while my coat is at the dry-cleaners this week? Really, girl power is what convinced Andrew to let me spend so much money. I doubt if Justine hadn't been there I would have walked away with so many goodies.
This past week was filled with parties, though we didn't get to go to many. On Tuesday we opted to attend a party at one of Andrew's schools, forfeiting the possibility of celebrating with one of my schools and another of Andrew's, both of whom had parties at the same time. We also missed out on the secret Santa exchange between the assistants, but we still got our gifts (a bottle of hard cider for Andrew and a tarte cookbook for me). We stayed out late feasting on homemade foie gras and other savory and sweet delicacies. My homemade sugar cookies went over well.
The Principal, with his homemade foie gras, or duck liver pâté
Thursday was supposed to be another Christmas party at my school, but on it snowed all day and the teachers decided to cancel the party. It was a little frustrating for me, since I was stuck at school because the buses had stopped running and I had to wait until the end of the school day to get a ride back to town. There was only about two inches of snow on the ground, so I felt people were overreacting, but the fact that I got to skip school on Friday because of the bus situation made it all worthwhile.
We've both been doing fun Christmas activities in our schools. I had my students listen to Christmas songs like "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." My older kids took a "How Naughty Were You" quiz, which they really loved. Andrew had his little ones color paper lights and string them around the room. He also continued teaching them English country dances. My schedule will be changing after the new year, and I'll have some new classes to teach. I'm especially happy because it means no more getting up at 6am! And I still have Wednesdays free, which is wonderful. I really do need that extra day off to finish lesson plans and handle administrative tasks.
Most of these presents came from my mom! :)
So now we're on vacation, enjoying the snow and the warmth of being at home, sitting in front of our lovely little tree, counting down the days until Christmas with a hot mug of butterbeer and some sugar cookies.