Monday, 28 April 2008


Here you go Elsie: I lied, and here I am writing again already. I hope it gets you through the last couple of days at work.

I've been trying to keep this blog pretty neutral, since I know now a lot of people are reading it. I try to stick to the facts and not let stuff get too emotional. But obviously moving half way across the world is not all beer and skittles, and I would like to look back on all this writing writing writing and have it actually remind me of what I felt like, and not just what I saw.

So, with that in mind.

Jeez, this is hard work. I'm up and down like a yoyo which I suppose is normal, but sometimes it feels like the yoyo always ends up at the bottom, just like a real one. And just like a real yoyo I have no direction other than just bouncing around which is ultimately tiring and unfulfilling and frustrating.

I had my first day of teaching today and it was hard. SO hard. I had basically just planned to chat with them to get an idea of their level. Ok, I had some activities planned, but it was hard to work out what to actually teach them without knowing what they'd already done, and I'm not confident enough to teach them anything without preparing, so my plan (endorsed by the tiny bit of training I got) was to do lots of controlled discussion with my students to get to know them, their level, their needs.

But it turns out 2 hours is a LONG time to talk.

It's a long time for someone whose English is not great, because they won't elaborate much on their sentences so you have to ask a LOT of questions, and there really is a limit to what you can ask someone. It's a long time for someone whose English IS great, because they'll tell you everything they can and then what else can you ask.

My first student was really cool, and kind of made me think I might like to work in advertising. I think I'm going to get along with her really well, and I think I can help her, because her English is great, but her confidence is not.

My second class all seemed really diligent, and I think I can teach them stuff, because they're still at a basic enough level that I can really structure the classes and teach them grammar and so on. Once I learn it myself, obviously...

My third class all had really great English - not perfect, but too good to actually be teaching them rules and grammar, because they know it all, they just don't use it consistently. I got them to explain the French political system to me, and they found it easy. Right. But they apparently don't need their English much - I asked them how often they use it and they said hardly ever. So what am I supposed to do with them? I can't teach them how to speak English because they already can, I can't structure the classes around the report that they have to write for next week, because they don't have one, I can't just chat to them for 2 hours because they'll see through that and get bored with wasting their time.

And the awkward silences. OH the awkward silences. When they happen YOU have to patch them up, and I don't like awkward silences. That's normally the point at which I go and get a drink.

And two hours is really a long time. I can see how 1 hour would be too short, but WOW 2 hours is a long time. I felt like I was flailing and clutching at straws for a lot of it.

And after 3 lots of 2 hours today my brain is fried. I came home and spoke French to my housemates; bad, tired French, but I was so sick of hearing chunky butchered English and beginning to feel like it was me that was getting it all wrong, that it was actually the better option.

So I'm tired and flat. And I feel like I've been tired and flat for 5 months now, which isn't entirely true - although it is true I've been having frequent tired and flat periods for 5 months now, so maybe part of it is just that I'm tired of being tired and flat, over and over again with no sign of consistent reprieve. When I feel like this, I don't feel grateful to be in this beautiful city, I just feel like I want to leave and go anywhere but here. And even that annoys me because it's really such a waste and I know in my head that another life I would've given my right arm for these opportunities that I'm too preoccupied with blah to enjoy.

I thought coming here that living in Paris would be different than visiting as a tourist, and I think that's true, but now I wonder if the tourists actually get the better deal. They only see the shiny, nice, clean bits, and they don't have to deal with the grey grimy reality of a lot of Paris, and they don't have to deal with trying to get on with having a 'normal' life within a reality where you can't communicate with anyone properly, don't have friends, a direction, a life...

Still, I'm not quite climbing on the plane yet. I know that new jobs are hard wherever you are, and whatever you're doing, so even though it doesn't feel like it, I'm trying to tell myself that it'll be ok, I'll figure it out, I'll be good at it, that less capable people than me have done this and lived to tell the tale, that it's temporary, that the worst case scenario is not that bad. I'm starting French classes again next week, and maybe I will make some friends and not feel so isolated here. I'm going to Spain for the long weekend and getting some time away from the intensity of my (ab)normal life here.

No-one said it would be easy. And everyone was right.

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