Let's have a moment of honesty. Hands up who thought I'd still be in France by 5th December? Did anyone genuinely think I'd have stuck it out as long as I have? In all truthfulness, I really did think I'd have packed it all in by now. Particularly after spending a week in my beloved Newcastle- gossiping in Nando's with my sister and rolling around the city dressed as a less-than-convincing Amy Winehouse with my best friends- I wasn't entirely convinced I'd be able to bring myself to get back on the hundred trains necessary to get me back to France, but I did it and I have surprised even myself with how well I'm coping this time around.
While admittedly it's been only a month since I last blogged about my experiences abroad, it does feel (thankfully) that quite a lot has gone on. The last time we spoke, let's face it, I wasn't having the best time of it here in L'Hexagone. María and myself were living in what came to be known as "the dungeon" in the rural town of La Ferté Bernard, where I was spending every day in McDonald's to get online. No disrespect to La Ferté Bernard, it is a beautiful town and the people there are so pleasant it's practically criminal, but it was not for me.
I'm pleased to report that since then I've moved into my own studio apartment. which is conveniently placed less than a minute from the train station which means that I can roll right out of bed and onto the train. This is less than brilliant news for the students I teach at 8am who are faced with a perfect mix of Edward Scissorhands and a disheveled Marge Simpson leading them in a discussion in a foreign language. The stuff nightmares are made of.
Speaking of which, in my last "year abroad" blog post I had been taking classes for just a couple of weeks. I'm now fully in the swing of things and can say with some confidence that I am one of the worst educators in the history of the world. Each time I step into that classroom I start channeling Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Since becoming a language assistant I have so far told one of my students that I was "worried to go flat-hunting on Saturday morning because I know I'll be hungover" and announced to another student that he had to stop playing with a pair of scissors because "sharp items in my classroom are not a good idea when Britney Spears is in Newcastle and I am in La Ferté Bernard".
"Do you want to collect our sheets in?" a bright-eyed student asked me one Friday morning as the bell sounded.
"Whatever," I replied, hurtling out of the door faster than any of my students.
My students range from the wonderfully enthusiastic to the kids who couldn't be loss hostile if they were to greet me by grabbing me by my hair and smashing my face against the chalkboard. At one point last week, when met with the problem of a student who shook his head at me as I tried to explain something or other in English and then proceeded to put his head on the desk, I did flip my lid and ended up hollering "I CAN PROMISE YOU NO ONE WANTS THE LESSON TO END MORE THAN ME BUT I CAN'T GO ANYWHERE SO IF I'M GOING TO STAY HERE AND TEACH YOU HAVE TO STAY HERE AND LISTEN" in garbled French like a crazy person.
I do feel somewhat like I'm making progress with my French, though I have surrendered to the fact I will never have a decent French accent and will always dress people in a different language with the same Geordie accent I speak English in. One thing I've learned is that my French is a lot better if I just let it flow rather than trying to rehearse speeches in the supermarket or the post office. I'm very slowly getting to know some French people (I even went on a date with a French boy-- which was worth alone leaving Hebburn for), and actually finding myself suitably able to express myself which is decent.
Living in Le Mans has been a re-assuring experience for myself on a personal level, as well. This being my first time away from home it's a comfort to know that I'm not the world's most useless person and that I can look after myself to a suitable degree (let's just ignore the fact I've been to McDonald's three times this week in as many days), and I do feel much more confident in myself which is brilliant as well.
I apologise for not blogging as much about my year abroad, or indeed anything else, but finally being in the same city as all the other mint people I've met here means I'd much rather be out living my life here while I can rather than sitting around writing about it. I'm sure you understand.
I'll leave you with some photos of assorted shenanigans that have happened since I last updated:
María's housewarming. She lives above a gaybar with rainbows painted on the side so everyone wore a different colour of the rainbow. I dressed demurely for the occasion.
Harriet striking a pose she very rarely does. Also in the picture are Dave, Laura and Emily. And some homo.
At Liz's for Thanksgiving. She is not in the picture, and neither is the leopard print bow tie I wore in honour of the celebration. Festive.
Me "pretending" to shag Jenni up the arse. Later that night I wandered the streets at 5.30 and ended up sharing a room with a copulating Castilian couple. Dysfunctional is the word.
Me and some of the girls. Liz looks like she's not stopping. Later that night I got off my face and felt up about 80% of the straight men in our party. I fell over on the way home and was so hungover the next day I couldn't take my sunglasses off. I also felt a large proportion of the next day trying to find the source of the vomit smell in my flat. It turned out it was coming from my vest top :(
I believe this is the only picture which exists of Nik and myself. He is sick and should be studied.
This hug was so enjoyable I demanded a photo be taken of it.
Remember, you are literally much better off following me on Twitter these days, I update that all the time because it's not blocked in the staff room.