Tunisie & Back to work.

I’m back & settled in Tarbes again! After two weeks of school holidays, I arrived back here nearly two weeks ago to begin Spring term.

The holidays were a strange mix of exhausting traveling & a week of utter relaxation. I boarded six different flights in eleven days, so my carbon footprint definitely isn’t in the best shape at the moment, and found myself in four different countries (France, via Germany to England, Tunisia, back to England & then France via Germany again!) but it was brilliant fun! I actually found myself growing quite accustom to being the lone traveler, book in hand.

Tunisia was gorgeous, as expected. Our room looked right out over the beach, which was incredible to wake up to in the morning, and the hotel itself was equally beautiful. In terms of language, I was quite disappointed to find that no one really spoke French unless they had to, the main spoken tongue is Arabic. I was able to practice a bit with hotel signs and leaflets etc, but admiring the beautiful Arabic script while being totally clueless was much more frequent! We were so lucky with the weather, too. Both the weeks before and after our stay were wet and cloudy, whereas we were blessed with blue skies and warm sun for six out of our seven days there! We ate on the beach, sunbathed, rode camels and horses, went to an animal park & generally did a lot of relaxing…ahhhh. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Coming back to reality with a 12 hour journey home, I promptly started back at work, battling my way against unorganised, clueless teachers. The children, of course, remain as lovely as always. Classes are still being cancelled and shuffled around, but with only four weeks remaining I’m trying not to let it wind me up too much!

This week I did a little extra work for our area coordinator, and went through one of the method textbooks that some schools use, to make sure there were no mistakes. Worryingly, there was one in nearly every chapter…a textbook that has been edited and published and is one sale to schools! Needless to say this was shocking, so I have been given the other two books in the series to check, too! (Lucky me!) I definitely think there may be a gap in the market for an excellent English textbook for Primary school level…hmmmmm!

The weather in Tarbes has been all over the place in the last couple of weeks that I’ve been back! Apparently, during the school holidays it was gorgeous sunshine, but the day after I returned, I woke up to find the place covered in snow!! The snow lasted for a couple of days, which then changed to a week of rain, and for the last two days we’ve had beautiful warm weather! I and another assistant, Ashley, even went into town and had a beer sitting outside in the sunshine, amazing! Now that’s why I chose the South of France!ImageImageImageImage

I highly doubt it will stay this way but…fingers crossed! Now for the countdown of the last four weeks of work. I can’t believe it has come around so quickly!

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February!

To anyone that cares, I apologise for not blogging much recently! I’ve been very busy/tired and keeping myself occupied with other things, but I will try to recount what’s been going on! 

The weather has been so up and down here it’s laughable! We’ve had snow, hail, pouring rain, combined with the occasional day of gorgeous bright sunshine and warmth! It’s a good job I came prepared with clothes for every weather, the big faux-fur coat I thought I’d only use in December has been used A LOT. But, I prefer the cold to the constant rain of January!

There isn’t much new to report about my schools, we’re just working through the textbook method’s supplied by the local authorities, and the children themselves are as lovely as ever. My Thursday school is really getting on my nerves, however. Three weeks in a row, I turned up to find that three of my classes (out of four) had gone skiing for the day. Not only had they chosen Thursdays to do that, but had failed to send me a little email or even tell me while I was there the weeks before. There is a class at that school that I haven’t taught since before Christmas!! The awkward thing is, I know they don’t really want me to be there. I often feel like I am ‘intruding’ on their classes, and they won’t really let me get involved; I know for a fact that several of the teachers there don’t even want to teach English atall, so I suppose it’s a bit of a lost cause. The children there are enthusiastic, however, and my other two schools are as welcoming as ever.

A few weeks ago, I and fellow assistant Ashley took a bus up to the little town of Cauterets at the feet of the mountains. The buses here are actually very reasonable, it cost is €7 for a return journey, and each way took over an hour. It was a beautiful little place, nestled in a valley surrounded by towering snow covered peaks. The Pont d’Espagne was accessible from there, but we weren’t suitably dressed to trek up into the deep snow! Lots of skiiers were trudging around in their clumpy boots, and little cafes serving coffee and pastries all seemed very friendly and cosy. We had a lovely lunch in a very pink cafe with the owners dog stretched out beside us, and checked out the famous thermal baths which we will definitely be returning to!!

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A group of us from Tarbes also went to the nearby town of Bagners de Bigorre, which is only half an hour away on the bus. There is an assistant there, Alex, who kindly showed us around. It was so pretty, and although it was a lot smaller than Tarbes, it seemed more bustling and busy with locals and had a lovely French feel about it. We were there on a beautifully bright day which, although it was still cold, made all the difference!

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Although it’s snowing again today as I write this, just last week we were blessed with a day of about 14 degrees (bizarre!) and decided to make the most of it by having a picnic in the beautiful park Jardin Massey, here in Tarbes. It was such a gorgeous day, I couldn’t believe we were in February! Jardin Massey is one of the sites Tarbes is most proud of, and it’s maintained very well, even home to peacocks which roam freely across the grass (something humans, however, are not so lucky to do, as I found out from the park security guard…cough cough). It boasts a local museum and large greenhouse full of all sorts of exotic things. Really beautiful.

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As well as these lovely outings, I’ve also been trying to go to the cinema frequently, too. I’ve always loved the cinema, and am happy to even go on my own! In French, it becomes a bit of a challenge, but I find it really helps, and now I’m at the stage where I actually understand (most) of what’s going on, it’s a really fun experience! The complex is quite a walk from my apartment (over half an hour), but hey, every little helps! I really do think French cinema is coming back into its own again after quite a few years of dropping off the radar.

I have also made the most of living so close to the local rugby stadium for Tarbes Pyrenees Rugby Club, who are in the 2nd National division! It’s only 5€ for a student ticket, and makes us feel like real locals! 😉 I often bump into quite a few of the little boys I teach there too, trying to sell me raffle tickets of on a day out with their dads!

I think that’s about it…I will try to blog more often so that I avoid another huge post! The February half term holidays started on Friday, so I’ve got two weeks off now, so going to the make the most of it by visiting Tunisia! It will be really interesting to see whether I can communicate just as well there with their different French accent and dialect, and of course I’m really hoping for some sun!

A bientot, Tasha x

 

 

 

 

Skiing & Photos

This weekend has been very fun! On Friday afternoon my new laptop arrived after my old one gave up the ghost after six loyal years. Then on Saturday morning I set off on a bus to the ski resort of La Mongie with fellow English assistant Poppy and her brother to spend a day on the pistes.

I had been humming and harring over whether to go, as it was going to be so expensive, but I finally realised that it would be stupid to live so near to the beautiful Pyrenees and not make the most of it! But it was expensive…about €100 for the day. The coach took about an hour and a half, stopping at villages on the way, and then I had to rent all my ski gear and clothing, but I have to say, it was worth any penny.

When we first arrived the resort was still in a snow cloud, the visibility wasn’t good and it was snowing quite a bit which made the snow slippy and hard to control yourself on, but still brilliant fun. I hadn’t skied for five years, so it took a while for me to get back into the swing of it!

We stopped for lunch at a little creperie, and then after the cloud had lifted and blue sky appeared, lighting up all the peaks and making the conditions much easier. The scenery was just stunning, it was hard to believe we were just a short drive from home!

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We had a bit of a scramble back to catch the bus on time, but all ran smoothly and it was a great day out!

Today, I and some of the other (multiple language) assistants went to watch Tarbes Pyrenees Rugby team play Aurillac at their stadium which is five minutes walk from my apartment. It costs €5 for students, which is great value, and it was a lot of fun trying to explain the rules to the different nationalities there! (American, Italian and German) Tarbes won!

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Rainy days & cold nights.

I’ve been back for nearly 3 weeks now, and I don’t think it’s stopped raining for more than a few hours. Literally every time I look out of the window it’s grey and wet, my umbrella’s barly had a moment to dry off! It also seems quite pointless doing ‘What’s the weather today?’ with the children, as it’s been exactly the same forecast each week!
I knew it got cold down here, but I have to say, I didn’t expect this monsoon-like drenching. Most days the mountains aren’t even visable due to fog, which is a bit of a bummer! A nice view always lifts a mood!
I definitely need to venture up into the mountains soon, though. I’m hoping to visit the village of Cauterets next week if the rain holds off, although it shouldn’t be as wet at higher altitude. It’s about an hour & a half on the bus from Tarbes which isnt bad for a holiday resort!

The other night, when I and some other assistants were out for drinks, we had a welcome break from rain as the temperature dropped below freezing and snow began to fall. It really was beautiful and the flakes were huge! It was quite bizarre seeing snow topped palm trees!

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It had all melted by the morning, however, and we were back to rain.

That’s about as far as the excitement stretches at the moment…I’ve spent far too many afternoons cooped up in my apartment wishing for the weather to improve. Apparently at the end of Feb it’s supposed to really brighten up, so fingers crossed!
Bisous x

Class shenanigans.

I know I have already spoken about how ‘organised’ the French like to think they are, with all the (completely unnecessary) paperwork etc, but at this moment I couldn’t be more annoyed at the lack of organisation I’ve come across in my schools. 

Today has been one of annoyance. On Thursday’s I have two morning classes at 9am and 11am, then two afternoon classes at 2.30pm and 4pm. I arrived for my first class, which went smoothly, and hung around in the staff room reading until 11 for my next one. When I went to the classroom, it was deserted. All the children’s things were there, but no children or teacher in sight. I went and checked the library and the computer room but there was no sign of them! I tried to find the headmaster to ask him if he knew where they were, but there was no sign of him either. So, after 15 minutes of wandering, and with now 3 hours to kill until my afternoon class, I gave up and went home. 

After lunch, I made my way back to school for my afternoon classes. However, when I knocked on the door a supply teacher answered, who was apparently completely unaware that they were supposed to be having an English lesson, or that I would be arriving, and sent me home. 

Walking there and back 3 times today has me over an hour in total, for one class that I finished at 9.45 this morning. I am not very impressed to say the least, considering all it would have taken was a short email or someone to mention the days plans to me this morning!

Oh well, hopefully next week will go more according to plan! 

English lessons for me.

I’m currently sitting in the computer room of Ecole Jean Moulin pondering a subject that I myself obviously need to brush up on, and that is the tricky subject of English plurals.

I’ve been setting up the projector in here, ready to do a presentation to a class of 7 year olds on ‘Animals and Colours’. All was going well until the teacher helping me pointed to the slide of ‘A green Tortoise’, and asked what the plural of tortoise is.

I had absolutely no idea, so we sat down at one of the computers to research it. Google was definitely not helpful, with lots of sites telling us it was ‘Tortoises’, while many others claimed it doesn’t change and remains ‘Tortoise’. Others even said it becomes ‘Torti’.

This sparked a discussion of the difficulty of teaching English plurals to children, and when you think about it, they are indeed very difficult to categorise and learn! The obvious rule is ‘add an ‘s’ on the end of the noun’. But the sheer number of irregulars there are makes it very complicated for children to learn.

There are the endings ‘s’, ‘es’, ‘ies’, ‘ves’, ‘oes’, as well as all the completely irregular nouns that either don’t change atall in the plural, like ‘sheep’, or change entirely, like ‘tooth’ to ‘teeth’, or ‘mouse’ to ‘mice’. These are without even mentioning all the latin based nouns that change to ‘i’, ‘ae’ or ‘um’.

Now, obviously 7 year old don’t need to know all of these different rules and endings, but I really do feel quite sorry for them when they poudly announce a plural of a word by having added an ‘s’ on the end, only for me to correct them yet again!

However, they shouldn’t worry. The amount of misformed plurals I see from English speakers on a daily basis on the likes of facebook and twitter is beyond belief, but to be honest, understandable in some cases.

There are definitely postitives about learning English, for example the lack of different gender nouns, or the lack of difficult conjugations in the present tense. However, irregularites to rules seems to be the big spanner in the works for English learners, more so than any other language I’ve studied, and I don’t envy them trying to get their head’s round them in the classroom!

A bientot! Tasha x

Home from home.

So, after a wonderful Christmas and New Year, I’m back in Tarbes!
I had a disastrous journey back…a scarily turbulent plane landing, a cancelled train followed by a delayed train, a missed connection for the next train, money dished out on new tickets & then a cold wait for a taxi. But i eventually got here in one piece!!
Being at home was brilliant. It was so lovely to see all my family, friends & boyfriend Arran, and spent many an evening eating, drinking and being jolly. The feeling of landing and hearing everyone speaking only English was so bizarre after 12 weeks speaking French. It made me realise how immerced I really had become in French life, which of course, is a good thing.
(In order to try and stay in the French state of mind however, I’ve recently taken up the habit of watching any film i fancy in the Version Français. So far the Harry Potter series has become not only enjoyable but educational haha!)
Being home also reminded me how much I really do love England, though. Despite it’s many problems, I don’t think I could ever kore away permemantly. It’s home and it always will be, no matter how amazing the rest of the world is. I love living in France for the experience and language, but knowing I’ll be coming home to England at the end of it is something that’s a very positive thought for me. That doesn’t mean I wish to rush and waste my time here, though…
Anyway, now I’m back to work and back into the swing of daily routine. I only have 15 weeks until my contract officially ends, which is so scary! 15 weeks to get as much French immersion as possible and make the most of all my contacts and teachers. I know the standard I wish to be when I return to Sheffield and I think I have enough time to achieve it, eventually. It’s a good job I love my work here & the children are always on hand to help me practice my French when they decide they dont want to learn English anymore! (Which is about every 5 minutes…)
The weather here is freezing, not literally but about 2oc, and so far I haven’t managed to get my hot water running. Cold showers are not fun. But, other than that, things are settled and running smoothly 🙂
A bientôt!
Xx