Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ohmygoodness, time for an update! :)

Well, here it is, as promised to one Miss Brand—the update of my blog! Haha perhaps a couple months late, but better late than never, I always say! :P

What to say, what to say… Let me first start off by saying that although decisions have never been my strong point, and career paths still remain quite hazy and uncertain, I definitely made a good decision—or rather, a wicked awesome one!—in coming to France to work and live.

I had a great time in Belgium over the October break, getting to meet family and really being treated like royalty as they took me everywhere!  I got to visit Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, Ostend, Bruges, and Ypres and try amazing Belgian food like matentaarts, this dish with endives wrapped in ham, and of course, chocolates and waffles!  (So not overrated, by the way!)  I also was lucky enough to get a VIP pass to the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent.  All in all, it was a memorable time. 

Getting there was also memorable! Haha  It was during the strikes in France due to the retirement age now being – wait for it—62 instead of 60 (gasp!).  So they cut gas supplies and consequently, the trains were not all running.  After a cancelled train, seeing a man pee right in the middle of the train station, a broken down train in Kortrijk where I didn’t understand the announcement that it was broken down..haha… and a delayed train, I made it to Ghent!  But as I said, it was a great trip, and well worth the hassle of getting there :).

France is… France!  Beautiful, proud, and unique.  Sometimes, the only explanation for things—be it paperwork, buses, planes, or lunch hours, is: “It’s France!”  You can’t help but somehow admire a little that they don’t seem to care if you don’t like how they do things/that things aren’t as efficient as may be desired, because it’s just how they do things, and they won’t be bullied into changing for just anyone.  It has character and you have to love it for that. 

Over the past few months, I have gotten used to things like one and a half hour lunches at school—yes, 1 ½ hours.  At first, I thought, ‘How could this be?  Who could need that much time?’  But now I enjoy it and use it to prepare for classes.  I have also gotten used to being a flexible shopper… At first, I found it frustrating that I couldn’t find items that I considered everyday items in the big shopping centre (Superstore/Walmart equivalent), such as lunch bags or Bristol board, or plastic cups.  Now, I simply sigh, say, ‘It’s France’ and find an alternate solution… I’ve found that there are two ways to look at it: you can either be arrogant and say, ‘Well, this isn’t how WE do it back home’ or you can choose to take a step back, realize it’s different and yes, perhaps frustrating because you’re not used to it, but that ultimately, it is not the situation that must bend to you…rather it is you who must learn to appreciate the good in the differences. 

I’ve gotten used to people asking me if I want warm milk with my cereal, which for the life of me, I still do not know why I would want that… ;) but I guess at least I have the option! ;)  and I’ve gotten used to being able to find amazing bakery items every ten steps!  It is said that French cuisine is among the best, if not the best, cuisine in the world… I have to say it has not yet let me down!  Having someone place a huge chunk of warmed Camembert cheese in front of you on top of a salad at a restaurant as your dinner defies the food pyramid, but let me tell you, it certainly lights up your taste buds!  I have yet to tackle the charcuterie (butcher shop) as it looks intimidating with its rows of (for me) unidentifiable items!  I do not doubt, however, that it would be a crime not to stop in there!

I’ve also gotten used to being asked by my kids at school, ‘Do we glue this?’  ‘Can we use markers to colour?’  ‘Do we colour this?’  ‘Do we write the date?’  ‘On which page?’  I’m sure anyone who has taught small children can attest to this sort of constant questioning.  ;)  I have also come to love their constant chorus of ‘Hello!’ and their ‘bisous’ as you walk through the schoolyard.  It is a job and a half, trying to teach them to say ‘I am happy’ and not, ‘Hi am appy’ and such, but I find it is just at those moments where you want to pull your hair out from frustration that one of your little kids will give you a Canada flag he drew just for you, or she’ll give you a beautiful drawing she coloured, or tell you that you look pretty that day.  ;)  No matter the day, it is certainly never boring. ;)  I love being able to sing with them and make silly drawings for them… I sometimes feel like it is more of me putting on a show than anything else with all our songs and my hand actions! ;)

I have come to love being able to hop on a train at a moment’s notice and zip off to Paris just to watch Harry Potter… or zoom off to Strasbourg to see the beautiful Christmas markets and sample warm apple juice with spices and honey…   There is so much to see, I feel as if I’m a sponge trying to soak it all up…  so much beauty to see and so much good food yet to taste! :) 

I have also come to love my friends here in Evreux!  I especially realized this past while when I was sick just how lucky I was to have them :).  They would come by with oranges and tea, or lend me their Vick or make me supper when I wasn’t up for much…  and it always meant so much just to have them stop by and ask ‘How are you feeling?’  I am so lucky to have them to be ridiculous with and laugh with and travel with.  Thank you ladies if any of you read this!! :)  And ladies at home, don’t you worry—I love you with all my heart and miss you tons!! 

This past week, I went out with the teachers from Guichainville (one of the schools where I work) and enjoyed a little night in French etiquette… I got there before everyone else and sat down and had some tea while I waited.  Someone else came and we were talking, but she never sat down.  Soon, others also arrived, were talking, and not sitting down.  So I stood up, wondering if I was breaking some sort of unwritten rule that you don’t sit down until absolutely everyone is there.  Finally, everyone was there, and I was like, ‘Alright, time to eat.’…. orrrr not… as we stood around for another 10, 15 minutes talking, and then proceeded to continue to talk as we sat down for another 10 minutes or so.  I was just laughing to myself thinking that if we were in Canada, we would have been done eating and have left already! ;)  As the evening progressed, I saw other people come in around 9pm to eat— eating late is yet another custom I have grown used to… and so is having a little snack before so that I can make it to the late supper without my stomach arguing with me! ;)  Then came the part where I was so full, yet had so much food left… I knew in Quebec it is kind of a faux pas to ask to get it to go, and figured it would be here too… nonetheless, as I was trying to rid my fridge of food before the holidays, and therefore had little left, I thought it would be perfect to take it home for the next day… well you should have seen the looks on their faces as they realized I was taking food home from the restaurant! Haha  A memory, that’s for sure.  Next social gathering, I will do better ;). 

Oh, and the bisous… for those not familiar with the word, it would be the ‘kiss/kiss’ thing people here do when you meet.  And not just for the first time, but pretty much all the time.  I am not sure if it’s my North Americaness that resists because someone else is in ‘my space’ ;) but I have yet to embrace (haha oh lame puns) the whole kiss/kiss thing when you meet.  I find I still prefer the handshake, but to each his own!  It has led me to appreciate that some people are not ‘stonecold’ haha.   

Right now, I am in England for Christmas, and plan to visit Bristol and also head up to Scotland to visit another assistant… I said if I see nothing else, let me see a kilted man!  Hehe  I am also bound and determined to try some haggis before leaving ;) and to use ‘Cheerio’ at least once ;). 

It was also memorable getting here… after leaving Evreux at 6:20am, we were on the subway to the airport when we found out our flight was cancelled… Upon arriving at the airport and seeing it still posted as leaving as scheduled, we asked and were told that the airport was perhaps not so efficient as to have taken it down yet as (and I quote) ‘It’s Paris!’ haha  After waiting almost 2 hours to wait in another line-up for 1 ½ hours, we found out that our second flight was cancelled… this led us to Eurostar to pay an inordinate amount of money to get on a train that stopped several times for service that needed to be done, and once where they cut the heating and lighting temporarily to conserve electricity!  After another 3 hour train ride and metro stops in between with no working escalators and heavy suitcases, we made it to my friend’s at 1:30am, a mere 12 hours behind schedule, after having been up for 22 hours!  A journey and a half, let me tell you.  :) 

Nonetheless, I am sure it will be worth it, and I am glad of the chance to travel a bit more during our break.  I will miss (and do already!) my family and friends a lot during Christmas, but I am convinced that ‘Stonecold’ here will make it through with a little Skype and phone time ;).  So thank you to my family for being so loving and wonderful that it gave me the strength to leave and explore the world a bit… because I know their love will still be there always through my comings and goings.      

People sometimes ask what I will do after this time in France… right now, I don’t know… I am contemplating re-applying, applying for subbing back home, or maybe finding a random job just to try something new…  All I know is that right now, I am lucky enough to be here and so I am determined to have some Carpe Diem in my life and go where it takes me… I bought a wonderful little sign in the Strasbourg Christmas markets that says ‘Ose ta vie, toi seul la vivras’ – J. Salomé.  Basically, it says, ‘Dare to live your life; only you will live it.’ 

So that is where I stand now, ladies and gentlemen, lads and lasses—in Liverton, England, thankful for all the blessings God has given me in 2010, and looking forward to making many more memories (look at that alliteration! :P) in 2011.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! 


- megan

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Evreux Events!

Hey everyone!

I figured it was maybe time to update my blog again since I have now arrived in Evreux where I’ll be working.  It is hard to believe I have only been here a week and a half… it feels like a month!  But I guess that is how it goes when you are settling into someplace new.  I always forget you have to rebuy all the basics like soap and a garbage can! Ha  … and then, if you’re lucky, you also get to haul them back 15 minutes from the grocery store! ;)  Pretty sure with all these muscles I’ll get then, people will be saying, ‘Chuck who?’ when I get back ;)…ahaha… right. 

After much ado about getting to Evreux in Paris, I had a wonderful person help me out at the train station in Paris.  He took his time explaining everything to me and was so patient with my questions!  So I would just like to add for the record that I would count him as a very nice person that I met in France, to counter the stereotype.  Yay for nice people in France! ;).   

Annie, one of the ladies who was in charge of us (she has a new job now), came with the new lady Cécile, to pick me up at the train station, and then they took me to my residence, and on a tour of Evreux, which was so nice of them. 

We also picked up Alix that day, my new California friend!  The next day, with our lovely Irish friend, we made the trek to Cora— our closest supermarket, which we have come to know very well over the past week!  I have discovered that it is wise never to leave the house without a reusable Cora bag, because you will inevitably find your way there, despite intentions to the contrary!  And who knew peanut butter is an American ethnic import?  I totally caved and bought the only jar they had—a mini camping format jar—and for 4 euros!  Eek!  So that would be about 7$.  However, there are some things I am just not willing to sacrifice.  Plus, with no fridge, it is really the only kind of sandwich I can make, so I figure it is justified. ;) 

Also, I have learnt that you must never, never, and I meant NEVER, leave the house without an umbrella.  It can be just slightly cloudy out (because it seems the sun is not too fond of Normandy), and before you know it, raining cats and dogs!  Or it will be pouring, then stop, then spit, then pour.  I have to say, I won’t be singing, ‘come again another day’ to the rain anytime soon!  You’d think after our summer of rain, I wouldn’t notice, but I think I am ready for some nice fall sun :).

I have had quite a blast so far, between exploring, meeting more lovely assistants, and hanging out with them.  They are all a lot of fun :).  We all went out for a pizza supper one night, had a potluck supper, went out to our first discothèque soirée, have had some movie days, and then went on a guided tour of Evreux on Saturday that the tourism ladies organised (they are so nice!).  Everyone seems to be up for a good time and for adventures, which is great!   

I am looking forward to starting our job, too.  I went to meet the students at the two schools where I’ll be working, but it is still fairly confusing as to what is expected of me, so here’s hoping that gets sorted out!  Some seem to want you to plan with them, others just want you to speak for them… we’ll see!   The students all seemed very cute though!  They are 6-10 years old, although I am hoping to also intervene at the high school level as well.  My one teacher/the principal lady, said I talk like Celine Dion with my accent! Haha  Anyways, I was glad she said it was a Canadian accent.  I also enjoyed watching everyone’s expressions today as I said I was from Saskatchewan.  The confusion and blank looks were priceless ;).    

I will also be moving at the end of October- YAY YAY YAY!!  It really does merit caps locks x3 and exclamation marks.  Ha  I am at the Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs right now (aka Youth Workers’ Hostel) and it is not the worst of places, but certainly is not the best!  I am looking forward to moving into the Godehilde residence (or, as I like to call it, ‘the Got-it-all residence!) ;) and having a fridge and Internet in my room!  Among other luxuries like a bathroom, showers that don’t turn off after 10 seconds, and non-microwaved food.  Only 26 more days till I can move in!  I plan on living on the purple floor, of course ;).  Until then, it is Jade and I (my English friend!) sticking it out for the minimum stay of a month—thank goodness I have an ally!  :)   

I will be going to visit some family in Belgium during our break at the end of October as well, so I am quite looking forward to that!  Before then, we are all going to Rouen next weekend to see the sites and perhaps sample a few goods at the patisseries! 

That is one of the things I love about here—the patisseries are everywhere!  Which is why it is probably good we have to walk everywhere! Ha  They have sooo many things that look so amazing… and the cheese!  It really is not overrated, just in case you were wondering…. Which is probably good, seeing as they don’t really do milk over here… I think they must have missed those ads that it does a body good.  I did buy some bio milk one day… wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s like toilet paper— sometimes, it’s just best to stick to the brand you know. 

So far, almost everyone has spoken to me in French, which I love, so I think it should be a good language experience (which of course my nerdy self is psyched about!)  ;) 

I hope you are all doing well!  Love you all and hope to hear from you! 

- Megan

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Day 1, Sept. 22nd: Arrival

I had to smile as I stood crammed onto the trolley that transported everyone from my flight to the airport and baggage centre, as one of the female workers managed to effortlessly maintain the stereotype of stylish French woman as she executed her job in heels and pearl earrings.  After collecting my luggage at an incredibly crowded conveyer belt, I had to taxi it to the hostel.  Even though it was 42 euros, I was just glad it wasn’t the 80 the lady at the airport said it would be!  I did have a slight heart attack as the taxi driver said, ‘Here is 245 rue La Fayette, but I do not see a hostel’ … only to realize he was on the wrong street!  I was too busy wondering where to go if it wasn’t, all the while thinking I wasn’t paying him if it wasn’t, to really notice my heart had stopped beating for a second!  I love taxi rides in a new place, if nothing else because they let me look around in silence and just absorb everything.  Like for instance, the fact that duct tape really is a universal solution to any problem, as I see a car mirror duct taped together.  Or the clichés as an old woman carries a baguette down the street. 

Once he had dropped me off on the wrong side of the street, I had to drag my suitcases against traffic to the sidewalk!  Granted, he wheeled one to the other side, but then let me face traffic on my own.  Lovely!   

As one of the hostel workers explained how things operate here to me, he was like, ‘I have a funny question for you… do you need both of your bags?’  Knowing this was a bad sign, I did a nervous laugh, and said, ‘Well, kind of.’  And then I had to ask it.  I knew the answer, but part of you just can’t help but wanting to hope— ‘Soo, uh, do you have an elevator?’  One hundred and fourteen steps and a skinned elbow later, I made it up the six flights of steps to my room (I counted).  Ok, so I passed out halfway up the narrow, winding (of course it had to be winding) staircase, and lied on my suitcases for a while, but I still made it.  Definitely had to have a shower after that and the plane ride.  It was also incredibly hot out, to add to my lovely climb.  ;)  Looking out my window though, I felt the climb had been worth it, as a glittering river ran parallel to the street, and Parisian architecture flanked its banks. 

After settling in, I set out in search of food… and ended up at McDonald’s.  I know, I know!  My first meal in France, and I go to McDonald’s.  Judge if you will, but know that my hunger was driving me, and I had no desire to pay the nearby café prices, no desire to walk further, but a strong desire to eat something I knew I would like.  So, as it was only about 10 steps from the hostel, I succumbed to McDonald’s.  I did, however, buy a chocolate from a local chocolate shop later to start enjoying French food.  Although I had no idea where I was wandering really, I asked this lady at a shop where this park was located.  It turns out it was only about 5 minutes away, and I had thought it was in the total opposite direction!  I’m glad it wasn’t though, because it was so beautiful!  I may have gone camera happy. ;)  The atmosphere was so relaxed, and so unique…  there were elderly people chatting on a bench, little kids running around, dogs in heaven… my favourite was when this little kid is walking up to his friend, and he has a long stick poking out of the back of his shirt, waving two in his hands, and saying, ‘Jerome, tu peux pas me battre!’  haha  He was probably right, as his friend/brother approached waving only one long stick.  I was so thankful to have found that park, and for the incredible weather.  I eventually wandered back to find some Peace and Love, and called it a night.  I told myself I wasn’t going to bed at least until 8, as the plane ride and two days with no sleep had gotten to me, and so I was quite proud I made it until 9:15!  Living big.  ;)

Day 2, Sept. 23rd: Navigation

13 and a half hours later, I awoke!  Aside from waking up briefly at 2am, I slept for 13 ½ hours solid!!  I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time that happened.  I had left a note on Claudio’s pillow (my Italian roommate) to please lock the door when he came in at night.  This is because there is only 1 key per room.  Apparently the budget is tight.  It’s not so bad, because you just leave the key in the room with whoever is there, and only take it down to the main floor if you’re the last one to leave.  So when you come back in, you ask if the key is there; if it is, no one’s in the room—if not, someone is.  Well, it seems efficient, except when you walk up all 114 steps and then realize it is locked!  Then this morning, I thought someone else had climbed onto the top bunk (Claudio is on the bottom) but I was half asleep, and thought maybe someone new had checked in.  However, Claudio informed me that no, someone had just come in, and then left really early.  Ahhh!!!  I thought I had heard him lock the door, so I don’t know how this random got in, but needless to say, I was not so hooked on the 1 key per room idea after that!     

This morning, I met with confusion when trying to explain that I wanted to take the train to Evreux.  The hostel lady kept pointing to the metro and saying to take that, the ‘bus’.  I was like, ‘Ok, but um, you see, I have two large suitcases—can I take those with me on it?’  wondering if she maybe meant the train somehow.  And if one more person looks at me like I have three heads when I say I am going to Evreux, I am really going to wonder if it does exist!  Honestly, people, it is an hour away!  Anyways, I decided to hope for better luck tomorrow, then headed off to find the church called Sacré Coeur.  Over an hour later, I finally glimpsed it behind some buildings.  After Toronto and Montreal, organized like grids, I’m not sure I was quite prepared for having eight—eight—different streets coming at me all at once. 

Once I realized that there were in fact street names, just on the sides of buildings instead of actual signs, it made life a bit easier!  It was a beautiful church, and we had nice weather again, so I was able to enjoy my lunch on the grass in front of it.  I missed the guy doing cool soccer tricks just before I went in, and he was ending his performance again just after I came out.  Ha.  As I was looking for a washroom, I came across this whole little town, I want to call it, behind the church.  Cobblestone streets, artists with the most beautiful paintings, homemade ice cream and traditional French cookies, crepes, souvenirs…  it was beautiful and relaxing.  And it is time to admit that I may have bought postcards yesterday…… and today.  For those of you who don’t know, postcards are my weakness.  For some it’s shoes, other chocolate, and for me, just a 4x6 picture on paper.  I comfort myself by the fact that at least they are light to carry home!

It took me a lot less time to find my way back (hooray for landmarkers!) and I was tempted to take one of the bikes I see everywhere, but realized I didn’t want to go against traffic on a one-way street, nor barge through pedestrians on the sidewalk.  It is really cool, as I don’t think you have to pay to use it, and it encourages public transport.  I had to buy a baguette on the way back, because it was only 0,60 euros, and even though I had no idea what I would do with it, other than just bite it off and eat it, I just had to feel French for a second, walking down the street, holding a baguette.

Hopefully I should be off to Evreux tomorrow!  We’ll see if anyone at the train station has heard of it.  ;) 

- Megan 

Sunday, September 19, 2010


 the view from my hostel!  definitely headed up the CN Tower after my Visa meeting!
 the reflection pool, right by the city hall
 one of the amazing views from the CN Tower!  more pictures on facebook shortly!
 Montréal!  The view from Mont Royal Park :)
Tam Tam-- it was so cool!  They play every Sunday for hours-- drums, tambourines, guitars, you name it!  It was so relaxing and neat to just sit there, soak up the sun and music and the energetic, but laid back, atmosphere.  definitely recommend going there if you're in Montréal!

*More pictures coming on facebook! :) *

For those of you not aware, I am still not in France.  I know, I know-- I left a week ago, and you're maybe wondering if I just got lost on my way there (a plausible theory).  Although, in my defense, so far navigation of both Toronto and Montréal has been successful (I kid you not).  Currently, I am in Montréal, and have decided to update you on this new adventure through this blog.  Be forewarned though, should you choose to read this blog when you're bored, killing time, pretending to work while at work, or just mildly interested in what this "France and Beyond" journey has led to, that brevity is not my strong point.  Never has been, and probably never will be.  

Nonetheless, here is my attempt to update family and friends on this adventure!  It has been a long haul getting this far, but I don't regret any of it.  For, as Victoria Holt said, (I would like to say I know who she is, but that's not the point here) :

Never regret.  If it's good, it's wonderful.  If it's bad, it's experience.

Here's looking forward to a lot of "wonderful" peppered with, I'm sure, a bit of "experience."  

  I love you all, and miss you already!  Keep me posted!

- Megan