I Can’t Be Bothered

There’s this English saying that I find hysterical and that I call English because I never hear anyone in the United States say and it goes something like this:

Person A: Hey, do you want to go into town and grab some food?

Person B: No, I can’t be bothered to leave the house today. Thanks, mate.

That’s a very basic understanding of it, but I find it way cooler to say “I can’t be bothered to…” instead of “I don’t feel like…”.

Maybe it’s just me…and if it is, whatever. I love it and I can’t stop using it. SO, in having newly discovered a new phrase that I love and use, I have compiled a list of things that I just absolutely cannot (or couldn’t) be bothered doing.

Here we go!

  • I can’t be bothered to go grocery shopping all the time. Even though I can walk everywhere here in Boulogne, the grocery store is 10 minutes downhill and when you have to walk 10-15 minutes ALL uphill with food … you tend to put it off. So, I only go when it’s absolutely necessary (aka when I get home and realize I have no food for dinner…heh).
  • I can’t be bothered to go to Lille all the time. I know, I know. Everyone wants to live in Lille and everyone wants to be close to it. But, now that I’m here in Boulogne and have set up camp here, going to Lille is SUCH a chore. Well, at least when it comes to going for work. I had to go last Thursday for orientation and now I have to go again this Thursday for a training day. Thankfully they will reimburse us for our travel expenses but dang son, it is not cheap to always be running around on the trains here in France. Plus, to get to Lille on time I have to catch the train at 7:45am and then again after a long day of having information spat at me, I need to catch another train home, and then, of course, walk uphill to my house. All this walking uphill is doing wonders for my butt, though. Mom, you’d be proud. (She actually won’t laugh at that joke. She’s probably confused and annoyed that I even mentioned my butt. Okay, I’m done mentioning my butt..butt.) Also, shout out to the kind and wonderfully stellar Dana for letting me crash at her place when I (wait for it) couldn’t be bothered to take the train back to Boulogne from Lille.
  • I can’t be bothered to care what other people think. I know that sounds a bit standoffish but it’s true. I do not care what other people think and I’ve brought that way of thinking into my classroom. I know they will think I’m silly or ridiculous but, they’re high school students. Why would I care what they think? At the end of the day, I’m their teacher and as long as they respect me, which they do, I don’t care what else they think of me. I think it’s made a really positive impact in my classrooms because the students have all enjoyed my goofiness and they all laugh at me, which I think opens them up to conversing in English. The same goes for other people: I joke all the time when I say this but, you have just got to do you and imma do me. Let me do me and I’ll let you do you.
  • I can’t be bothered to change my life for other people. Okay, this is a bit deep, I know. BUT, what I mean to say is that I came to France to figure out in which direction my life is going and I constantly feel as if there is pressure to make decisions based on what other people want or expect. However, I’ve learned time and time again that we have to make our life decisions based on ourselves and where we want to go in life. If other people happen to match up with that, wonderful! But, we cannot force our lives to match up with someone else’s or to comply with someone else’s desires for where they hope we will go.
  • I can’t be bothered to stop eating baguettes and cheese. It’s just all so so good, yo. And my new favorite cheese is AH-MAZE-BALLS. It’s called Comté and I’m sure the French must have won an award for it because Holy Toledo it is so good.

So there you have it, 5 Things that I cannot be bothered doing. You can ask, of course, but I simply can’t be bothered.

See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx

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Can You Do the Can-Can?

Life is grand here in the North of France. I’ve officially begun my job as a Foreign Language Assistant at my high school and I love it. I’m observing at this moment but I begin teaching soon, once I’ve completed 24ish hours of observation. Though, I am officially a member of staff! Look at my teacher pass!
IMG_4192Pretty neat, no? It lets me use the special teacher-only door and it lets me photocopy and print to my heart’s content! If you can’t tell by all the “!!!!!!!” on the card, I’m supposed to take VERY GOOD CARE OF IT. Lest I pay 5,80€ to replace it. *yikes* But I feel so official with a job and a pass. I still can’t believe I’m a teacher. Wild.

Observation has been fun! I made a presentation about myself that I’ve been sharing with the students and afterwards I ask them questions about it to see what they’ve learned. They’ve been very receptive and they remember everything, which is funny if you think about it because they know so much about me after just a 10 minute presentation.

I’m very impressed with their level in English. Obviously they don’t speak fluently but they do have a very good pronunciation, some better than others of course, but for the most part everyone can speak pretty well and understand a lot. My prof référente, Mélanie, told me I’m a natural at engaging a class. I was so flattered! I don’t know; I feel very comfortable in front of a group of students. It must be the actor in me, hehe.

Speaking of Mélanie, shout out to her for being the best prof référente out there. She and her family have been so warm and welcoming to me and have helped me feel so well taken care of here in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. They invited me to dinner at their house and it was so nice getting to spend an evening with another family (and eating a home cooked meal that isn’t basic as fuhhhh -> thanks to my (un)goddess like aptitude at cooking). Her kids are the bees knees and her youngest daughter Juliette thinks my name is Steve, which is hysterical and I’m honestly not doing much to correct her since I always say “Steve is here” when I get to their house. It’s adorable, though! So, Mélanie, thank you SO much for making me feel so incredibly welcomed here in Boulogne.

Another important topic to discuss is the question of the other assistants here in Boulogne. I hate them all. They’re the absolute worst and they’re are so annoying.

JUST KIDDING. They’re amazing! We all get on really well and we have a nice little group made here in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. I’m so fortunate to have had everything fall into place so well and when it comes to friends, I cannot complain. It’s so comforting having a group of people that understand the struggles you face everyday because they are going through it all at the same time. More so, I am thankful that we can talk openly and spend so much time together and have a sense of community in this tiny town on the sea.

If you are considering doing TAPIF, I strongly recommend it. This experience is only just beginning and I already feel as if I have learned so much. Patience is a strong one. Everything works itself out as long as you are actively striving to achieve something. If you sit idly by, nothing will happen. But, if you go and put yourself out there, you can achieve anything. That’s actually where the title of this post comes from: “Those who can’t, teach. And those who can, do.” I call a big BULL SH*T to that. I’ve been in a classroom two days and I can already tell you that these people who get in front of a room of 20+ TEENAGERS are not merely doing this because they cannot do anything else. I hate to break it to you, but you are where you are today because of a teacher. Because of a teacher that decided to devote their time to mentoring and passing on knowledge to a younger generation. Having already thrown myself into the shark tank and entertained a classroom of 20+ teens with a presentation and lame jokes, I can promise that it is not a job that one chooses out of desperation for fear of having the inability of doing anything else. This is a calling and a vocation, and after just a few days I can already tell that I’m gonna love it.

So I offer a revised statement that has nothing to do with teaching but rather has everything to do with not being rude and making a nasty saying about a profession (because whatever profession you choose to follow is your own prerogative and no one can tell you if it’s a good or bad decision).

Those who can’t, can’t. And those who can, CAN. It’s as simple as that.

 *Olé!*

This is going to be a good year; I can feel it.

See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx

Livin’ the Dream

Today marks one week exactly since I’ve arrived in France and I’m proud to say that everything is going smoothly.

I left Orlando at 8:30pm (though it was supposed to be 7pm but storms in the surrounding area delayed our plane) and arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland at 7am local time (3am Florida time). I was so panicked because we were supposed to arrive at 6:10am and my flight to Paris left at 7:50am! But, the airport is so small and I was at the gate and through Icelandic customs by 7:15am. Speaking of Icelandic customs, there was no line and the guy just politely took my passport, stamped it, returned it to me, and said, “Have a nice day!” Iceland, you’re doing it right.

I made it to Paris at 12:55pm, local time, or 6:55am Florida time. Here’s a note for anyone taking Icelandair: the flights are really cheap but they don’t give you free food. You have to pay for your food on the flight if you want any. They do give you drinks, though, so I had water and coffee on my flights. From Charles de Gaulle, the main Parisian airport, I took a bus to Marne-la-Vallée, France where my cousin, Filipa, works at a hotel for Disney! She picked me up, I dropped my bags off at the bagagerie, the baggage room, and we popped into Disneyland Paris for the afternoon.

Monday I slept in a little and spent the day with my cousin’s boyfriend, Thibault (so French!). We went around the area outside Paris, shopped for groceries and then went back to his apartment to have lunch and hang out until Fiffy, what I call my cousin, was off of work and stopped by. Okay, here’s where the drama picks up. So, my prof référente, Mélanie, went to look at some apartments for me on Monday. The first apartment she went to was this one that I had found on Leboncoin.fr a few weeks ago. It was a studio apartment inside of a really large home in the Ville Fortifiée, Fortified City, of Boulogne. I had messaged the woman who posted the advertisement on the website on August 24 introducing myself and expressing interest in the apartment. She responded on the 25th explaining that she and her family were moving into this home from Paris and that they were going to rent out various studio apartments within the house to other people. We stayed in contact discussing various details about the apartment I was interested in and planned a visit for Wednesday September 16. Well, I also asked Mélanie to visit on Monday September 14 and she did. Mélanie called me while I was with Thibault and told me that the apartment was very nice but that Anne-Lise, the landlady, would only hold it for me until Tuesday September 15 at 7pm because someone else was interested in the room. Needless to say I started PANICKING because this apartment looked perfect. It was pretty large with one main room/bedroom with enough living space, a separate kitchen and bathroom, well situated in the Fortified City, which Mélanie told me was the ‘place to be’ for young students in Boulogne, and yeah. My parents, cousin, her boyfriend, and I all agreed: This was the place. I asked Mélanie if she would let her kids live there, which was a bit forward but I figured if she said yes, I could accept the place without having seen it myself. Mélanie said yes she would and I emailed Anne-Lise and told her “I’ll take it!”

Well. There you go. Just like that, on my second day in France I had an apartment. WHOA.

On Tuesday Fiffy and I drove from Marne-la-Vallée to Boulogne-sur-Mer, a 2 hour 55 minute car ride, and made it early enough to visit my new apartment. It was lovely. I fell in love when my cousin and I drove under the old castle walls to get into the Ville Fortifiée to get to my new home. The place would need some touching up to make it feel more homie…but I was up to the challenge!

Wednesday morning I did what big boys do and signed my first ever LEASE for the apartment. CRAZY. I was officially the owner of this beautiful little apartment. Fiffy and I then drove to Auchan, which is like a huge grocery store mixed with a Target (with more food options than a Super Target), and spent 3 hours walking around buying stuff for my new apartment. It was exhausting. We spent the rest of the day and Thursday organizing and cleaning the apartment to make it feel like a home. Also, Wednesday morning we stopped by Crédit Agricole, a French bank, to see what I would need to open a French bank account, since I need one to be paid for my job. The banker was SO nice and told me I just needed to bring my passport and my housing insurance paper to prove that I had an address here in France. We made an appointment for the following day at 4:30pm, because you make appointments at French banks to open an account, you don’t just walk in and say “Yo, I wanna open a bank account. Let’s do this.” It does not work like that here. You make an appointment for a later day, which can be as close as the same day (if you’re lucky) or as far as a week away. M. Capliez (M. = Monsieur), my banker, said we could also stop by that day at 4:30pm to talk about the different fees and prices for a bank account but I didn’t have to worry about opening it that day since I probably wouldn’t have my housing insurance yet. Well, I got my housing insurance email at noon so when we showed up at the bank at 4:30pm, we went ahead and opened my bank account. I have a French bank account! What a wild week. My first day in Boulogne-sur-Mer and I had an apartment and a bank account. WILD!

Okay. Now is the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the tour of my apartment.

This is the main entrance into my home.

This is the view of the house from the garden in the backyard. The two windows on the top right are mine. Cute, huh?

And this is my apartment! Bienvenue! 
Lots of natural light, non?

This is my bed and my Sorcerer Mickey. He says, “Bonjour!

This is my fake fireplace where I keep some little memories of my room in Florida to make this place feel a little more homie.

Voila my desk where I now sit and write you all these wonderful words from a continent away. Those two windows are the windows that look out onto the courtyard.

Here’s my clothes closet that’s built in – I’m in love with it and my clothes are too.

Here’s my other closet where I keep some clothes and also use for storage.
P.S. Lumière says “Be our guest!”

Here’s my little kitchen. There’s not much counter space, but I’ve not burned anything yet so I think it will do. Also, that thing on the stove is how I make my Cuban coffee and how I brought a little Cuban sabor to my home.

My little kitchen table which doubles as my cooking space. I sit right there every morning and drink my coffee while looking out of this window…

That’s the view outside my kitchen window – yes, that is in fact a castle wall.

Well there you have it! That’s my new French home. I left out pictures of the bathroom because it’s a bathroom. It’s pretty standard and about as large as my kitchen so I have plenty of space.

Overall, I love where I live and I think my home is perfect. All the little touches of stuff that I brought from Florida have made it feel very homie. I want to say a big THANK YOU to my cousin Fiffy for helping me settle in and for helping me clean and make this place feel like a home. I couldn’t be more happy here and I couldn’t have set this place up without you. I love you, prima.

So, welcome to my life in France. I’ve met one of my neighbors and went out with him and his friends the other night. A teacher from my school and her husband have taken me out sightseeing and cooked me a very French lunch. I have a bank account. I have a home. I’m successfully cooking for myself every day and eating well. I also am averaging 17 flights of stairs climbed a day, 5.04 miles a day, and 10,353 steps a day here in Boulogne. I forgot to mention – the Ville Fortifiée is at the top of a hill because duh, castles were made on hills. So no matter WHERE I go in this city, I also have to climb UP to go home. Honestly, I love it. This place is just so warm (not the weather but the people). The people are so kind and I am so happy here in my little French city in the north of France.

Until next time, à tout à l’heure.

See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx

Mayday! Mayday!

Welp.

That, my friends, is how I feel. Tomorrow (or, when you all are able to read this, today) is the day that I have so long awaited, the day that felt like would never come: the day I leave for France.

This program, TAPIF, is a funny thing. I’ve technically been a part of this program since I applied at the end of November. For the past 10 months, my part with this program has been waiting. Waiting waiting waiting. Now, however, I feel as if it is all moving so fast. I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about how long exactly these 9 or so (if not more) months that I will be in France are. What I mean is, what does 9 months feel like? Seeing people for the last time and doing things for the last time (like just having showered for the last time in my shower that I’ve used for the last 6 years) has felt so weird knowing that I won’t be able to repeat these simple yet habitual tasks for almost a year’s time. So much can change in 9 months. Babies are made and birthed in 9 months! And that’s how long I’m going to be gone! Wild!

A wise counselor recently told me that this moment in my life is akin to ‘taking flight’. Putting the cliché aside, I find beauty in this because of the truth behind it. For one, I’m actually flying out of here (heh) but I am also packing up and leaving the nest. I’ve lived in Florida almost my entire life. All I know is Florida. And, for longer than I can remember, I’ve wanted nothing more than to live outside of Florida. It’s not that I hate Florida; I don’t. I just want to experience life elsewhere to get a bigger sense of the world and to live differently for a change…and tomorrow it is finally happening. I’m moving out and I’m moving to France!

Because of the interconnectedness of everything these days, in many ways it won’t really feel as if I’m gone. We can iMessage or FaceTime our families and friends. For these things, I am grateful. While I go out and find myself a place to live in this town called Boulogne-sur-Mer in the north of France, I’m glad to know that my family and friends are only a message or FaceTime audio call away. I’m also thankful for the fact that Facebook has made it so easy for me to get in touch with other assistants in my area and in my region. While I may not have met them yet, I do already feel like there is a good group of assistants going to France with me. And while we may not yet know each other, we all share in this experience of craziness and uncertainty.

Nerves are setting in. But, they’re the excited kind of nerves, the type of nerves you feel when a new adventure is rounding the horizon and coming your way.

To all the other assistants out there getting ready or heading out: Bonne chance!

As for me, wish me luck and let’s go!

See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx

T-minus 5 Weeks to TAPIF

I leave for France in exactly five weeks. I can’t believe that this summer is coming to a close. From my university graduation on May 1st to today, August 8th, it feels as if time has literally flown by. Students across Florida are already gearing up for school and I’m gearing up for my move to France (beat that!).

While students and parents are going about buying school supplies during this week of Tax-Free shopping (woohoo!), I’ve been putting together my own materials for my transatlantic move. I’ve scanned all the forms I’ll need upon entering France so that I may “seamlessly” transition into the wonderful, entangled mess that is the French bureaucracy, or as they say in French, la bureaucratie. In all honesty, I’m not too concerned for this move because I’ve been to Europe so many times and have family all across the continent. With all the times that I’ve visited family in Portugal, Spain, and France and actually being European-born myself, I feel like I’ve really embraced the cultural differences between the USA and most of western Europe. Yes, I’m moving now instead of merely visiting, but I’m fairly confident in my French-speaking capabilities and I’ve already reached out to various people, other bloggers or people that I know that live abroad, to answer some of the questions that I have.

The hardest part about this experience so far is the wait. As excitement vibrates through our bones and anxiety finds its way into the most vulnerable crevices of our minds, the wait only makes things worse. However, I’ve come to realize that I can really only control my arrival plans and from there, I must understand that everything else, finding housing, opening a bank account, getting a cell phone plan, etc. can only be taken care of upon arrival. Of course, I could secure housing before I arrive, but I don’t feel comfortable renting an apartment until I’m actually able to look at it in person. So, I’ve stopped looking. Well, I’ve stopped looking “seriously”. What I mean is, yes, I still go to leboncoin.fr (a French website where people post housing ads and pretty much ads for anything, think Craigslist) but I don’t get too invested in apartments anymore. I look around, see what price places are going for, but that’s it.

For those that aren’t sure what to do, I can tell you that this is what I have planned: I’ve gotten an Airbnb in a local’s home in Boulogne-sur-Mer for a week so that I can be situated in Boulogne while I search for housing. I think staying with a local family will be helpful since, from what I’ve read in the reviews, the family has helped others find housing in the city and I like staying with locals. I love conversing in French and locals always know the best things to do and the best places to live in their city. So yeah, once I’ve arrived in France I’ll stay with my cousin who lives outside of Paris for a few days and then we’ll drive up to Boulogne. My cousin is going to stay with the host family and me for two nights and she’ll even be able to help me apartment hunt! I’m so thankful that she is willing to help me and that I even have family that can look out for me like she does. Also, having her car means I don’t have to deal with taking lots of heavy luggage on a train, as I find that the baggage space on trains is almost always full, so that’s a plus!

Until then, we can only enjoy ourselves and what little time we have left in the United States (or whatever country we come from).

What questions do you guys have about moving to France, preparing for overseas travel, and packing? I’d love to know and even more so, I’d love to help!

T-minus 5 weeks to France and to TAPIF. Who ever thought it would be so close?

Until next time.

See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx

*At the time that this was originally posted, I had written that I wished I would have a car to take from Paris to Boulogne. Since then, my cousin graciously offered her car to take me and help me settle in. I love her.

I’m Moving to France, Y’all, and I’m Doing the TAPIF

That’s right! You heard correctly: I’m moving to France.

So, I’m sure you’re all wondering: Chris, what on Earth are you doing moving to France and what the heck are you going to be doing there and what in God’s name is “TAPIF”?!

Wonderful questions, really. Well, if you read my “About” page you would know what’s up. If you didn’t, shame on you.

Just kidding! Here’s what you missed (on Glee!):

In the fall semester of my final year at university, I wandered into my professor’s office looking to discuss personal statement ideas for graduate programs I was considering. Well, my professor told me that going to graduate school is great and definitely something to consider, but she suggested that I take a break and really try to find what it is that I truly want to study instead of shuffling into what I just thought I was interested in. Needless to say, I was terrified and distressed. I always thought that I would naturally go through all of my schooling in one go and then bam! Be done. And now one of my mentors was suggesting to me that I … dare I say it … take a … GAP YEAR?!

Fast forward a few weeks and the idea eventually sunk in and I was committed. I was going to look for something else to do after I graduated instead of going straight to graduate school … but what, exactly?

One night in November I watched a movie on Netflix recommended to me by my father: Last Love – a movie about an American expat living in Paris who is recently widowed. He befriends a younger French dance instructor and they become friends, but because of their age difference, everyone, especially his children, thinks their friendship is inappropriate. It was good. The reason the movie is important, however, is because I remembered in that movie how much I love France. The country has captivated me since I took French 1 my freshman (first) year at university. I love the culture, the food, the wine, the landscape, and, above all, the language.

The next morning I researched this program I remembered stumbling upon a few months before. I couldn’t remember the name but I knew it was something along the lines of “teaching assistant France”. It was the first result on Google.

The program that I subsequently applied to is called the TAPIF: the Teaching Assistant Program In France. According to the website:

The Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) is a joint initiative of the French Ministry of Education, the Centre international d’études pédagogiques (CIEP) and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The program’s goal is to strengthen English-language instruction in French schools by establishing a native speaker presence, while also providing American Francophiles with excellent teaching experience and first-hand knowledge of French language and culture.

You have to be between 20 and 30 to apply for the program and you must be an American citizen and you cannot be a French-American dual citizen. I’d like to point out that I’m speaking only about the American TAPIF. The French Ministry of Education hires young adults from many different countries to go to France and act as native speaker resources for their various language classes that they offer from primary school through secondary school. The program’s contract is from Oct 1 – Apr 30 and it is paid. You aren’t guaranteed housing, however, though some schools do offer it to their assistants.

When you apply for the program, you pick whether you would like to be placed in a primary (kindergarten – 5th grade) or secondary (6th – 12th grade) school. You also pick three “Académies” in order of preference to pick where you will be placed if you are accepted to the program. France is split into 26 académies and 4 departments (for the American territories that France still controls). An académie is an administrative zone run by the Ministry of Education and they, for the most part, correspond to regions within France. You pick 3 in order of preference, though there is no guarantee you will get your first choice and TAPIF makes it clear that they give placements based on merit, though I’m not so sure if that is true. Here’s a map taken from the TAPIF website that shows France divided into its various académies:
The deadline to apply is in January and then you don’t hear back until … APRIL! You’ll see that TAPIF is all about waiting. Yay.

In April, I was notified that I had been accepted and placed in the Académie de Lille! If you look at the map, you’ll see Lille in the far north of the country. That’s right. Winter is coming. (Sorry, I had to). But really, I’m from Florida so this is going to be one heck of an experience. I’m convinced that I’m going to freeze. Let’s put out a warning now for anyone in the region to look out for a frozen Floridian come November when it really starts to freeze (to me). Keep your eyes open guys. It’s gonna be me.

Once you find out which académie you’ve been placed in, you have to let the woman in charge of the American assistants, Natalie Cox (bless her), know that you accept or decline so that people that have been waitlisted can be notified promptly. After that, you wait until June or July to (maybe) receive an email notifying you of the schools you’ve been placed in from your “prof référant” – the person at your assigned school that is in charge of making sure you settle in once you arrive in country. I say “maybe” because it’s August 1 and I have yet to receive an email from my prof référant.

In late July, Christmas comes early for all the assistants. What I mean is that our contracts arrive in the mail and everyone that hasn’t heard from their prof référant (including yours truly) finds out what school(s) they’ve been placed in. Now, the reason everyone wants to know this is because the académies are fairly large and you can be placed anywhere in that region. You aren’t guaranteed to be placed in the city that the region is named for, though everyone usually wants to be placed in said city. I got my contract last Tuesday, July 28!

I’d like to preface this by saying to all of my friends that, while I’m sure it’s been fun telling people that you know a guy moving to Paris, stop now because I’m not moving to Paris. I was placed in a high school in the charming seaside city (town?), Boulogne-sur-Mer (IT EVEN SOUNDS REALLY FRENCH)!

Here’s a map of France with Boulogne pinned:
France_BoulogneIt’s all the way up there on the coast! How nice though, right? A coastal town?! I was a little bummed at first because, like most people, I wanted to be placed in or around Lille. However, I quickly took the news for what it was worth and looked on the bright side of things. Boulogne-sur-Mer is a town in the French region Nord-Pas-de-Calais with 43,000 people and a metropolitan area of 133,000 people. Compared to most of my fellow assistants, I’m very lucky to have been placed in a town with that many inhabitants. I’ve seen people placed in towns with a whopping 8,000 people.

I also got fancy and made this photo of the Académie de Lille up close with Boulogne pinned so you can see as well:
Nord:Pas-de-CalaisLook at that. I outlined the académie and everything. I’m such a computer pro.

But yeah! That’s my little region that I’ll be moving to in September. I officially bought my plane ticket and I leave for France on September 12. I’ve been looking at places in Boulogne to get an idea of what rent will cost. I also sent an email to my high school and I hope someone responds soon, though they probably won’t because French National Education workers are on vacation from July 14 – August 24 and let me tell you, the French LOVE their vacations. They do not work on vacation like Americans tend to do, but hey. Good for them!

The reason getting in touch with your school is so important is because your prof référant can help you find a place to live and some may even offer their homes for the first week or so until you’ve found your own housing. In reality, since we haven’t arrived in France yet, we have very little control over the situation and it is nerve-wracking. Most people in the Facebook page for our Académie are worrying (myself included) and I think it’s normal. People keep saying to calm down but we’re moving to another country! We’re excited and nervous and it all comes together as panic.

I know it will all work out, though. It (almost) always does.

So, there you have it. I’m going to be an assistant de langue à Boulogne-sur-Mer, France in 1 month and 10 days. There, I’ll spend the next year acting as a living, breathing English textbook for students and hopefully helping them learn to speak English better! I’m very excited for this job and the adventure that this program will bring. I only work 12 hours a week and I get 2 week vacations every 6 weeks of school (Hashtag Love France). I’m going to get to travel around Europe and visit friends I haven’t seen in months or years. I’ll be closer to my family that lives in Portugal. I’ll be able to visit new countries and experience a world far greater than my home here in Tampa, Florida. And, I’ll get to live on my own for once and get to see how I fit into the world as 1 of the 7 billion people that inhabit it.

Before I forget, here’s a picture of Boulogne I got from Wikipedia:

That’s going to be my own little corner of the world. Let’s go.

See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx

A Vida é Bela e Amarela!

Olá, amigos!

We’re officially in the part of my trip that was by far my favorite. Now, while I loved France, and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE France, there is nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, like Portugal.

To put it simply, Portugal is where the family, and by extension the heart, is. I’m not sure if you know, but I was born in Lisbon and my entire family, save for an uncle, an aunt, and six cousins, lives in Portugal. That leaves roughly … thirty-some family members in Portugal. It’s cheesy … but there’s nothing like family.

For those of you unfamiliar with Portuguese culture, it’s the best in the world. Okay … that may be biased. But, I will say that it is very special. This little video clip, for example, gives a very nice example of what Portuguese sound and tradition feels like. This song is called Uma Casa Portuguesa and it’s sung by one of Portugal’s most famous “fadistas”, singers of Portuguese music, Fado, Amalia Rodrigues. Let me know how you like this song. For a Portuguese person living outside of Portugal … this song drags out a feeling that we Portuguese call saudades.

Beautiful, huh?Back on the topic of family, here’s a picture of but a fraction of my family celebrating my aunt’s birthday together, depicting what a “casa portuguesa” means to me.

Essentially, it’s laughter, fun, and love. Super cheesy, I know. But for someone that spends the majority of the year away from his family, I’m allowed to be gushy when it comes to them. My grandparents had nine children, voila my mom and her four brothers and her four sisters. Each sibling has at least one child, with the majority have at least two. This, my dear reader, explains why there are thirty odd family members living in Portugal. It also explains why, every year when I leave, I leave a piece of my heart in Portugal. You’d think after all of these trips coming back home, it’d be easier. But leaving never is. I love my family very much and each and every one of them have a special place in my heart. I never thought I would be one of those people to be so focused on family … but the more time I spend with them, the more I love this crazy group of people.My stay in Portugal this summer was predominantly defined by a Portuguese language course that I took at the University of Lisbon. Yes, I speak Portuguese. No, not perfectly. That’s why I took the course; I wanted to truly perfect my speaking, reading, and writing skills because, being Portuguese, I find it embarrassing that I have trouble with it. Shout out to having the absolute best and most simpática teacher ever, Solange. Think of the best teacher you’ve ever had and she’s better than that. You could just tell that she truly loves her job and, as I’m sure many of you know, languages are not an easy subject to learn nor teach. With Solange, however, she really made every lesson understandable and had fun with us while doing so. I’m really going to miss her. Solange, se está a ler … beijinhos e saudades!

Moving on with my story … on the first day of school, I met my rat pack

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There’s something special about a group of friends that all come, well mostly, from different countries. Here we have Simon, an English guy, yours truly, an American/Portuguese, Anna, a French girl, Alba, a Galician, and Natalia, a Castilian (the last two are in fact Spanish girls but for Alba’s sake, she’s Gallega at heart). We all had lunch together on the first day and ended up doing everything together from that point onward. We would spend almost every afternoon together exploring Lisboa and having a great time together. These guys … let me tell you, this summer was not easy on the heart.While in Lisboa, I got to take my friends around and visit all of my favorite childhood sites like Castelo São Jorge. It’s this medieval castle that sits on one of the hills that Lisbon is built on and the castle makes part of the Alfama, the original and oldest part of Lisboa. One afternoon after classes we decided to visit the castle. Here’s a picture of us there.

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The biggest reason for visiting the castle is the view. Lisbon is built on hills so it’s very easy to get a beautiful view of the city, and the city is naturally beautiful, I might add. Try and look past our youthful, attractive faces and you get a little glimpse of the beauty that is Lisboa. When you visit Lisbon, I recommend Castelo São Jorge. You get to take in Portuguese history while simultaneously getting a chance to appreciate the city for it’s unique feel. I say this because, unlike other cities in Europe, Lisbon (or Lisboa as I’ve been writing) has yet to be attacked by tourism. It’s still very Portuguese. You can wander the streets and go to touristy spots, of course, but at the end of the day, with its light breeze from the river, its cafés with cheap, delicious coffee and treats, and, most uniquely, its people, Lisboa ainda é portuguesa.Now, one of the beauties of studying abroad, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, is that you get to meet people from all over the world. My group of friends in Montpellier and my group of friends here in Portugal (I say here because I’m sitting in my living room in Lisbon as I write this) demonstrate this fact. I’m saying this because I want to introduce another friend, Natalia, who is from Poland (how cool, right?!) and I was trying to figure out a way to segway into it and avoid the fact that this picture of us was taken in a bar … oh well.

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Hehe. We’re a classy duo, what can I say? But no, as silly as this picture is, summers and spending time with friends are all about fun. Life is too short to spend it being uptight all of the time. Polish Natalia, like Simon, Anna, Alba, and Natalia from Spain, were a hoot and a half to spend time with. Fun fact! Every single one of us spoke English, Spanish, and (now) Portuguese! The dynamic of our conversations was so comical because we would go from one minute speaking in English to Spanish to some sentences in Portuguese and then back to Spanish. We were usually approached by Spanish people who thought we were all from Spain. It’s these cultural experiences and exchanges that I love about going à l’étranger (or abroad, if you will).One saturday, we all took a trip to Sintra, this town near Lisbon that, if you ever visit, is a must see. It sits on a mountain range known as the Serra de Sintra. At the top of the mountain range, sits the Castelo dos Mouros, another castle that was built by the Moors when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula, and the Palácio da Pena, a 19th century romantic palace built by the Portuguese monarchy. Here’s a picture of Simon, Alba, Brendan (a classmate that we also hung out with a lot that ALSO SPOKE SPANISH), and me.

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In the background is the Palácio da Pena and if you notice the rocks around us, that would be because we’re in the Castelo dos Mouros. Also, here’s a picture from the top of the castle looking down into Sintra.
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Cheers to the woman for getting in my picture. But yes, Portugal has a breathtaking natural beauty as well that you get a great chance of experiencing from the top of the many hills and mountains that litter the countryside.Just for fun I’m going to add another picture. This one is of Anna and me. On the first day when we were eating lunch, Anna and I discovered that we were living on the same road. Anna was staying with a family friend and their home was right down the street from mine! We quickly bonded and every morning we would meet up and walk to school together and spend our break time together and spend our afternoons together and go home together and meet up to go out at night together and then come home together again. Let me know if you’re sensing some co-dependency here because if you are, your senses are on point.

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Regardless if we relied on each other a little more than what would be considered healthy … she’s the absolute best. Anna, tu me manques! Thankfully, technology has simplified communication and makes it possible for us to keep in contact with people from all over the world. It’s crazy how nowadays I can send an iMessage or a WhatsApp message and Anna, Alba, my friend Kara from home or even my mother will receive it immediately and we can have conversations even if we are thousands of miles (or kilometers, I don’t judge) apart.Back to talking about little trips that we took … we got a sizable group together and visited another nearby town, Cascais, also a must see, one afternoon. My cousins, Álvaro and Gwinny, and my aunt and uncle, their parents (dur), live there and so when we visited, Álvaro came and spent the afternoon with us. I really appreciated that my friends got to spend time with some of my family members. It was really fun getting to pass time with both family and friends at the same time. Here’s a picture of all of us in Cascais.

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You’ll notice two new faces, three if you weren’t paying attention to the first photo that I posted. The two new faces are Vladimir and Nikita. Since I’ve been going through mentioning all of my friends, I couldn’t leave these two guys out. Now … I’m sure you already can figure out where these guys are from without my telling you … did you guess Ireland? Because you’re wrong. It’s Russia! I’m telling you, this group kept getting more and more diverse. I loved it! Again, if you ever get the chance to study abroad, or even to just go abroad, I recommend it. You make connections that traverse this planet and it is truly a blessing. We never really understand how large this world is until we meet people that live on the other side of it.I always come back to Portugal, but this time, like every time, was uniquely different. Traveling is a gift that we take for granted. Money, of course, will always be a factor in many people’s decisions. When it comes to traveling, I have one thing to tell you: Spend it! Traveling is the one expense that will ever make you richer. Maybe not literally, but you will leave every travel experience with more appreciation for this world than when you started. Who cares where you go or for how long you stay, just get out there and experience the world. It has so much to offer and we need to, as the Portuguese say, aproveitar.

Well, my time in Portugal and in Europe is coming to an end, as usual. My friends have left, most of my family has gone on vacation, and I need to get back to reality. I’ll leave my home here for another year and get back to school and work in Florida. In Portuguese, we have a word for when you reflect back on the past, something I’ve done as I’ve written this blog post. The word is saudade. There isn’t a direct translation for saudade in English, or many languages to be honest. You could say it’s nostalgia … but that has a sad connotation behind it. Saudades aren’t just nostalgia. They’re a feeling of looking back on the past and, while wishing for a particular moment to happen again, it’s also being happy that it happened and hoping that you will return to feel the feelings you felt while in that moment with someone or when you were at a certain place. Saudades are a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness that something is in the past and no longer in your life, and happiness that life brought you this experience, this memory, that you hold with you in your heart that you hope to one day experience again.

This summer has been a ride. I’ve made so many friends from my friends in Montpellier, Salomé, Juan, Vanessa, Gladys, Ana, and Alessandra, to all of friends in Portugal. Alba and I met because we took our diagnostic test together and we finished it in 20 minutes and got to go on a break together and instantly clicked and Alba has a special place in my heart as the first friend that I made in Portugal. I also miss her hugs. Natalia from Spain, Simon, Anna, and I met at lunch when I insisted to Alba and Natalia that we sit with Simon and Anna so we could make friends. Little did I know this piece of my outgoing personality would create a group of friends that would spend every day together for a month complaining about school, life, and also having one of the best summers together.

Alright, enough with the gushy feelings. I hope my summer was every bit as interesting for you as it was for me. I won’t stop posting … but we saw how long of a pause I took between my last bunch of posts and these last two so I won’t make any promises, but we’ll keep in touch. More importantly, I hope reading my posts has inspired you to travel. It’s my favorite pastime and it should be yours too.

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x Besos x Beijinhos x Bisous x
See you in the clouds,
Chris
Xx