Orientation and Getting Acquainted to Barcelonnette

Ok, sorry followers. I know it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last post, but I’ve just been so busy here in France, it’s been hard to find time to just sit and write! In the last few weeks I’ve: been to Marseille again (for my orientation), moved into my new apartment, opened a French bank account, started teaching classes, and spoken a LOT of French! I’ve had small bouts of homesickness here and there, but I’m mostly so happy to be here, and although a lot of things are still very foreign to me, most people here have been extremely helpful.

 

My orientation (“formations”) in Marseille was quite an interesting trip. Before I got to France, I knew there was one other language assistant in Barcelonnette (a Spanish assistant who I am now rooming with!), but I thought that we were the only two. The morning I left for Marseille, I learned that there is not only one other assistant, but there are three Italian assistants here as well! I ended up meeting them when I got into the city with the Spanish assistant (my roommate).

Marseille was pretty much exactly like it was two weeks before: a little grimy but filled with so many interesting people with a thousand different backgrounds. The Academie d’Aix Marseille (my employer) put us up in a hotel for two nights in the city, which was great, but unfortunately, as I learned when I got into my room, there were two assistants per bed, so I had to share my hotel room and bed with a complete stranger. Luckily, my temporary roommate (who was from Germany!) ended up being really great, so I had no problems.

 

The first day of formations was mostly just filling in paperwork, handing in paperwork, and watching really long and boring presentations of a bunch of stuff that I could probably have read online. But during the process, I got to meet a bunch of other assistants. The assistants naturally ended up separating into language groups, so I spent most of my time with the other English assistants, which was nice because I got to speak English. I met a group of people from England, a few from America, and even someone from South Africa! I also met many more Spanish assistants.

After the formations the first day, we had a bunch of time to explore the city, so I walked around Marseille with some other English assistants, mostly window-shopping during the day, and at night we found a really cool cafe/bar in an area called Cours Julien. Most of Marseille was filled with graffiti, but this area almost looked like a museum. Here’s a picture of one of my favorites:

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The second day of formations took place at a collège (middle school) in Marseille. We were purposely split up into language groups this time, so most of the orientation this day was in English. I got some lesson plan ideas and met a few more assistants (more Americans, more Brits, and a few from Ireland and Scotland). I only had a small panic attack at the end of the day when I realized I had missed the last train to Barcelonnette (and the other assistants had left on it without me), and I ended up having to stay with one of the collège teachers from the seminar, but luckily she was extremely hospitable and brought me to the train station the next day.

 

Back in Barcelonnette, life is a lot slower. This is by far the smallest town I’ve ever lived in (or even stayed in), so there are a lot of things to get used to. The main difficulty is simply how far away Barcelonnette is from EVERYTHING. To get to Marseille (which is the closest big city), there is only one bus that goes in and one bus that goes out every day from Barcelonnette, so if you miss it, you’re stuck (this is why I wasn’t able to get home from my formations). And things that should be easy to do end up being more complicated, like renting a cello (I’ve got to go to Gap for this, which is more than an hour’s drive away), buying wifi for my apartment (my roommate had to drive about 45 minutes for this I think), and planning flights for my vacations – for example, to get to Paris next week I’m going to have to take a bus to Digne (about 1.5 hours), then a bus to Nice (2.5 hours), then a train to Paris (almost 6 hours).

But the small town life does have its perks. I run into people I know every time I go out (which definitely helps me feel more “at home”), I don’t have to make difficult decisions about which bar or restaurant to go to (there are really only two places that my friends regularly go to), and I can walk everywhere (to work, to the grocery store, to the bar) in less than 5 minutes. Also, there’s the bonus of living in the mountains – I can casually, last minute decide to go for a hike (there are trails within a ten minute walk from my apartment), which I did last weekend. I don’t think I’ll want to live in a town this small ever again, but I am certainly very glad to have this experience, especially in France.

That’s all for now! I still don’t have WiFi in my apartment, so I’m only online at nights usually (afternoon in the United States) when I can make it to a cafe with wifi, but hopefully I will have it in my apartment soon. Facebook continues to be the best way to reach me, but I’m also checking Snapchat when I can and What’s App. It looks like I won’t be posting as often as I said I would earlier, but I will continue to update you all when new things happen here in Barcelonnette. My next adventure is coming up soon, as the two week Toussaint school vacation starts next Thursday. I’m headed from Nice – Paris – London – Amsterdam for about 9 days. I’ll definitely take lots of pictures and will be posting about it when I get back. Until then, keep reading and commenting! 🙂

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Panorama, Barcelonnette