My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

La fête de la gazelle

    Oh my goodness!  This last week in France is packed.  I am enjoying all of the socializing, but if it could have been spread out a little, that would have been nice too.
    I had to work Friday morning proctoring the brevet, the national exam that middle school kids must pass in order to go to high school.  On Thursday, they took the French and math sections of the exam, and on Friday, they took the history section.  It was all very interesting, and the kids' behavior was impeccable.  They didn't make a sound in the exam room.
    I came home after the exam and cleaned the apartment a little before leaving for Anne's house.  We sat by her pool for a while and then went to a party called the Fête de la Gazelle at her friend's house in Marsanne.
    There must have been 100 people there.  The field next to the house was full of cars.  It looked like a  music festival rather than a party in someone's backyard.  There was a steel drum band playing when we arrived.  An acapella choir sang afterwards.  A young woman from Burkina Fasso accompanied by four men playing drums of different types sang next, and then a jazz group performed.  We danced all night!  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wednesday faculty meeting

My presence was really unnecessary at Wednesday's faculty meeting, but I went anyway just to see my colleagues.  Afterwards, Caroline and I met the German teachers in Montélimar for lunch.

Priscilla and Nadine will not be at my collège next year.  As their numbers are low, the department can send them wherever they are needed most.  Neither one has a poste fixe, which means that they travel between two schools every day.   

Wednesday night, I went to Brigitte and Yvan's house for a celebration of the end of classes.  Brigitte has been given a one-year sabbatical so she will not be at the collège next year either.  She will be studying to pass another national teachers' exam instead.  The cutie on the left is her daughter, Yanna.

The cutie on the right is Louise, Mary-Lise's daughter.  Mary-Lise's second child is due any day now so she will miss at least a few months of school as well.  

We had a fabulous time that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.  


After classes on Tuesday, Caroline showed me around her village where she will only live for about two more months.  It's so small that cars have to stop before entering and park in a lot at the bottom of the hill.  Residents may park in the village center, but there's just not enough space for anyone else.   

The view on the way up the hill from the parking lot.  Caroline can see a little bit of this from her kitchen counter.

After having something cold to drink, we walked by these lavender fields on our way to the chapel in the distance.

The chapel

The lavender is beautiful right now, and it's everywhere!

Caroline's three children are in Corsica with their grandparents for a few weeks so instead of doing something for herself, she decided to entertain me.    

Lavender and mountains---I'm in Heaven!

Another breathtaking view.

The village of Puygiron in the distance.

The very last day of classes

Tuesday was the last day of "classes" at the Collège Olivier de Serres.  Most of my cinquièmes were there, but I only had two girls in troisième and a handful of quatrièmes.  We played games and talked and listened to music and just generally enjoyed each other's company.  My little cinquièmes were adorable.  Much to my surprise, they were sad to say goodbye to me.  The girls all gave me kisses and the boys hung around awkwardly.  They asked if they could come in at lunch and sing karaoke with me so that's what we did.  We had a screaming, laughing sing-a-long to their favorite English songs.  Then they found me again after school to give me a heart signed by Scott and all of the girls in my cinquième trois class.  I was really touched.  I'm actually going to miss some of them.  In a big public school like this it takes courage to be different or smart or interested or nice to the teacher.  I will always remember those kids who dared do any of those things.    

Monday, June 25, 2012

The end of classes

    Tomorrow is the official end of classes, but honestly, they've been over for a while for me.  The kids have been so excited for about ten days now that I have not accomplished very much.  All last week, I showed movies:  The Truman Show to my quatrièmes, Ice Age to my cinquièmes, and Billy Elliott to my troisièmes.  I did that to preserve my sanity and to end the year on a positive note with the kids.  If I had forged on, we would have been at each other's throats, and that's not how I want to remember this experience.
    Besides, grades ended on June 8th, and the last conseil de classe was last Thursday, both of which are little carrots that the teachers dangle in front of the students to motivate them.  In addition, the director of la vie scolaire stopped accepting our worst disciplinary cases because there was no more time for them to serve detentions so anarchy has pretty much been the order of the day for a good while now.
    So, will my colleagues think of me as a slacker?  I have no idea, but I kind of doubt it.  I heard more than one movie playing on the language hall last week.  I think that we've all given up at this point.
    I've tried to refrain from vocalizing my criticisms of my wonderful hosts, but these last weeks of school have seemed pointless to me, and I have told that to my colleagues.  Ending one major motivator (grades) two and a half weeks before the end of school and removing the other (punishments) two weeks before the end seems crazy to me.  I feel like we could have used that time better.
    I shouldn't complain, though.  I got to see some great movies, and my students were little angels.  I spent several hours yesterday making one last round of Rice Krispie Treats and des roses de sables for them, and they were very appreciative.  I also made my first cheesecake ever for my colleagues.  I think that it turned out pretty well too.  I served it during our first coffee break this morning and gave out South Carolina flag pins and stickers.

    I was not expecting to fall in love with my students here the way that I do at home, but I'll be darned if several of them didn't just worm their way into my heart.  A few of them even liked me back!  Today, six girls (Caroline, Estelle, Estelle, Léa, Alice, and Elisa) in quatrième un presented me with a pretty silver necklace before class, and I had to fight back tears in order to start class.  I'll always treasure this sweet gesture, and I'll always be grateful for this unique experience.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fête de la Musique

One of my colleagues told me that a former Ministre de la Culture (Jack Lang, perhaps) declared June 21st National Fête de la Musique day in all of France.  Since that time, cities and villages have gone all out on that day (or the closest weekend) to showcase local and not-so-local talent in all musical genres.  I'm so glad that I was here for it, and I wish that Jed had been too.  It was a blast!  


On the way to the fête

Néo leads the way.

Eytan chills on the Place du Marché with a sirop à la pêche.

A cool singer with an even cooler hairstyle!  
There was music on almost every corner until way past midnight tonight.  After we left here, we passed by a classical concert at the church and a jazz trio behind the church.  We also saw brave people on stage singing karaoke.  We finished the night listening to students from my school rock out in front of the movie theatre.

The end of the soirée---the boys lasted until almost midnight thanks to long afternoon naps, Dom tells me.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


After an extremely lazy morning, I spent the afternoon in Vaison-la-Romaine with Carrie, Mary, and Nate.  In this village located not very far from Montélimar, there are Roman ruins as well as a medieval fortress.  We only had a few hours to spend so we concentrated on the Roman sites.  I guess I'll just have to come back when I've got more time.

On the way there, we pulled over at a rest stop, and this is the view that we had.

Mary at the entrance to the site

My favorite sculpture in the museum

Nate listening to the audio guide

We overheard some American teenagers say, "This stuff is all broken!"  

I like historic sites where kids can touch everything and climb and have fun like this.  These structures have been around for thousands of years so I don't think that we can break them.  

The ruins of the Roman village are on two sides of a modern road.  They are the most extensive ones I've seen outside of Morocco.

The Roman theatre was getting ready for the Fête de la Musique while we were there.   

Me and Carrie

Friday, June 22, 2012

Caroline's house

We had just a minute to stop by Caroline's new house before she had to pick up her kids at school.  This will be her front door.

This is the back of the house.  Unlike most French homes, hers will not be surrounded by a high wall.  She'll use plants as a privacy border instead.  The house has been under construction all year and will be finished in July so it will not look like this for much longer.  

Lavender fields

What you've heard about the south of France is true!  There are lavender fields everywhere!  Today, on the way home from work, my mentor, Caroline, showed me a different route so that I would pass by some that are already in bloom.

Little acts of thoughtfulness like this have made this year unforgettable.  I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.  

Tango, Tango by Magic System

This is for Jed.  Magic System was his favorite group this year.  The official video is better, but my blog won't let me upload it, for some reason.  Check out their joyful music on youtube.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Narbonne girls' farewell weekend

On Friday night, Carrie and I drove to Narbonne to join Kristen and Amy (who had arrived by train) at Jeanne's house.  Erin had thought about joining us, but the trip turned out to be too far and too inconvenient. 

After much discussion, we decided to go to Saint Guilhem le Désert on Saturday.  I thought that I had not been there before, but as we got closer, I realized that Erin, Dan, Jed and I had visited the village in the rain back in October.  Duh!  

On the way to the village, we stopped for lunch at a tapas restaurant that Jeanne knows.  I had a three-cheese salad as my meal:  camembert, chèvre, and roquefort.  Yum!

In Saint Guilhem le Désert...

there are flowers everywhere!

Jeanne had just been here on Wednesday, and she had fallen in love with the work of a master santonnier so she took us to meet him.  He was adorable, and his work was wonderful.  He gave us a tour of his museum and showed us his panorama, pictured below.

It's hard to see all of the detail in the village, but trust me, it's there.  This self-taught artist has been the subject of many television interviews and has displayed his work all over France.  He has a "livre d'or" of all of the famous people who have visited, but he didn't ask us to sign it.  I was tempted to buy some of his santons, but there's no room in my suitcases as it is so I retrained myself.

We stopped for drinks before leaving the village.

We then drove to Narbonne Plage to stick our toes in the Mediterranean.  Toes went in and out VERY quickly thanks to the icy waters!  Carrie was wearing her bathing suit, but we never saw it.

Kristen, Jeanne, Me, Amy, and Carrie at Narbonne Plage  
Can it really be time to say goodbye, les filles?  We missed you, Erin!  Girls' weekend wasn't the same without you.  

I'll take one of these, please!  Not really!  I can't swim and do not just love the water.  The boats are beautiful, though.

The port at Narbonne Plage

A trip to the sea would not be complete without moules frites!

I discovered café gourmand on this trip too.  How many desserts are there on this platter?  I think that's five, if you don't count the whipped cream separately!  Definitely worth six euros!

Carrie left early Sunday morning, but the rest of us had the time to do a little more sight-seeing.  We ended up visiting the Canal du Midi in the village of Somail not far from Narbonne.

The Canal du Midi is listed as one of France's twenty-seven World Heritage Sites.

I loved this vine-covered restaurant.

We sought the shade whenever we could on Sunday.  The water is still cold but the outdoor temperatures are quite hot.

A floating épicerie

Amy, Jeanne, and Kristen

I will miss the lovely, inviting café tables in France.  

One final stop---Narbonne's lively market where we bought pizza and fruit and met the rugby player who owns a popular hang-out inside.  Vive the south!  Thanks for a fun weekend, Jeanne!