26 July 2011

To be continued...

I've been putting this off since I got home because I'm not ready to admit that it's done. After a fantastic two week vacation with my mom, I've been back in the USA for nearly two weeks now. While I normally posted pictures throughout my previous vacations, this time I wanted to maximize the last of my European adventure. Reuniting with my mom at London Heathrow after ten long months was just like the scene from Love Actually. Introducing her to her family in Estonia was a unique and unforgettable opportunity. Capping our trip off with Paris was the perfect way to end my French experience. Though I wouldn't say it's the end... 
That song is all wrong... London Bridge is still there! And isn't my mom beautiful?
At Buckingham Palace after the Changing of the Guard
We had an awesome spot right by the gate to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Big Ben
I am adjusting to life in Seattle. At this point, I understand the saying "you can't go home again." Life here doesn't quite feel the same here but it's mostly because I am different. Though it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly what has changed (maybe you could tell me?), I am not the same girl I was last year. I've grown in ways that life in Seattle couldn't offer. I've endured the sting of homesickness, made a home for myself on the other side of the world, and figured out how to do a lot of things on my own. It wasn't always easy or fun but it was always worth it. I learned that the American way is not the only way and while I like teaching, I do not want to be a teacher. The last weeks of teaching were really tough; I was ready to pack my bags at the beginning of June. And then I met someone really special who had me backpedalling and dreading my return flight. Leaving was insanely difficult when I realized that I'd felt at home in northern France and had made connections that I wasn't prepared to leave. I'll be back some day... I'll figure it all out; I've gotten good at that. 
Me, Aunt Aino, and Mom... Three generations of Salu women. 
There's a whole lot of love between these two!
Mom, Jane, and Tiina at the youth song festival in Tallinn
There were only about 80,000 people there... 
Papa's oak tree! I love that there was an oak planted for each of the boys but what about the girls!
I already miss randomly passing castle ruins! 
Mom and here cousins; Tiina singing for the camera, Elmo, and Eino
Our family stone. Surprisingly, our family has detailed history recorded that starts with Kubja Hans in1684.
I thought I could get away with just smelling it.... but I took a bite, too!
We couldn't be related... 
Third time's a charm! But it stings with slightly burnt skin!! Mom, you're a true Estonian now!
Don't mess with her... 
Watchout, Pagans! Mom made a cross with the blacksmith (his first). 
Had to leave this one in Tartu.
Peekaboo! I see you!  
Kissing Students Statue in Tartu
Bon appétit!
There's no doubt we're related. Miss you Aunt Aino, can't wait to come back to Estonia some day!
My teaching contract is over, I'm back in Seattle, but I haven't closed the book on this chapter of my life. It's something I'll carry with me for years to come. It's renewed my love for French language, inspired a world traveler, connected me to family in Estonia, and introduced me to who I think I really am. I followed my dream and it's shaped me in ways that won't be undone. Now it's time for you to pursue your own dreams. You'll be thankful for it! Just don't thank me, thank yourself. But I do thank you for following me along the way. 

Mom would move to Paris in a heartbeat.  
Paris,  je t'aime!  
My favorite place in Paris... spent an afternoon there with one of my favorite people!  <3
Our last morning was seen from beneath this umbrella...
Cheers to a fabulous life in France, vacation with mom, and here's to my next adventure! 
Now that I've fulfilled my dream to live in Europe, I'm working on pursuing my next dream... Wonder what adventures it'll bring along the way? I'll never know until I try. 

Gros bisous, 

22 June 2011

Winding down

I can't believe it's here... my last week in Lille/Marcq-en-Baroeul/Lys-Lez-Lannoy. A week from today I'll be reunited with my mom in London and three weeks from today I'll be back home in Seattle! It's awfully bittersweet. The past month I've been so ready to go home that I was wishing time would pick up the pace. Now that it's so close to the end, I'm hoping it'll go by slowly so I can savor each moment. I did a bang up job preparing myself to leave Seattle to come here... but I didn't realize until today that I also need to prepare myself to leave France behind. I'm going to miss having a roommate who sings along to Beyoncé in the shower, Monday grocery shopping trips with Silvia, checking in with Françoise every morning before class, and Raphaël's adorable grin. Mostly I'm just going to miss being around them. Luckily, my circle of friends in France is more quality than quantity-based, so I don't have that many people to learn to miss. 

As predicted, any remaining authority over the students has been lost after Kermesse. Monday was the absolute worst day I've had at work all year. My least favorite class, Anne's CE1 (1st grade), was out of control. Last week she'd told me she'd be gone and I wouldn't have her class. I was quite excited - until some students came to tell me she was waiting for me to do English. She was wrong about the date... I was going to play Hot or Cold with them but that never happened. The hellions were ten times as agitated as normal and I lasted only ten minutes. Nine minutes was spent yelling at the same students who were purposely acting out. I'd yell, take a breath, and then the same damned kid would be doing exactly what I'd ordered them to stop doing. After 10 minutes, I walked into Anne's office and told her I was done and that I couldn't support their behavior any longer. Except I couldn't make it across the classroom without breaking into tears. Then Anne firmly told me not to cry in front of them - of course I knew that but I couldn't hold it in. It wasn't even that I took it personally. My motivation is shot and my energy for dealing with their behavior ran out months ago; I just hit my breaking point. I really feel bad for the small handful of students that want to learn anything in that class. Tomorrow I will explain to Anne that I refuse to teach her class on Monday. I'm putting my foot down and insisting on it. Those kids don't deserve another 45 minutes with me and I deserve to end this on a good note.

I have three days of work left but only two days of teaching. On my last day, Silvia's class is going on a field trip and I am accompanying them! Silvia's working it all out and I'm excited because this way, I'll get to spend my whole last day with her and Raphaël (and not teaching)! Silvia and I are also having lunch at Françoise's house tomorrow, which will be fun. Not to mention that I get to see them both this weekend! (And Fréd, too!) 


19 June 2011

Bowling in Belgium

When Kermesse was finished, my day was far from over! Françoise La Blonde is one of the cleaning ladies at our school and has done a great job taking me in. (There's  also Françoise La Brune, who's another of the cleaning ladies!) Her nephew Fred's 31st birthday is next weekend but she wanted to surprise him with a night out before hand. Though I'd never met him she invited me along to celebrate with her family. Before Fred came over, Françoise, Nadia, Marine and I headed to a retirement home to visit with Marine's ailing mamie, where I was introduced to more of her family as "mon amie américaine". Once back at Françoise's place, Fred picked us up and we headed out to Belgium for the night! 

We went to Thémis Friterie in Mouscron for fries and sandwiches/burgers, where they're regulars. Being so close to Belgium, there are some Frenchies over here who won't order fries unless they're in Belgium. I really don't like french fries but I decided that I was in Belgium and was starving, so I ordered them alongside my chicken burger. I will admit that they're maybe the best I've ever had (and are delicious with sauce Andalouse). Dominique, another co-worker was supposed to meet us at 8:00pm... but didn't show up until after 9:30 when we had just been served our food. Until he arrived, Fred had no clue that we were there to celebrate his birthday. The second Dominique strolled in, he ruined the surprise! Fred was touched that Françoise had arranged it for him.  

Nadia, Marine, and myself  
Françoise and Fred, the birthday boy!
As much as I don't like fries, I did order them in Belgium since they're rumored to be the best. Some rumors are true! With sauce Andalouse, yum! 
Dominique thinks he's pretty suave... except he showed up an hour and a half late and ruined the birthday surprise! And then he left before we started bowling...
Then he wanted a picture with everyone...
We had our lane reserved for 10:30 but had to wait a little while for it to free up. When it came time to bowl, I was a little embarrassed that I had no idea what my shoe size was. Four pairs later, I'm a size 37. And if you're wondering, in French it's called bowling, a strike is un strike, a spare is un spare... des quilles and une boule are pretty important, too. I was first up in the game... well, Kaci was. I normally am terrible at bowling, as shown by my first frame score of 3 pins. But then somehow the American pulled it together and only lost by one. Fred joked that it wasn't fair to beat the birthday boy so he changed the rules for me. According to new regulations, I was only to roll the ball down the gutters and not down the lane. I sucked at following this rule. We joked that it was my scarf giving me the luck, so I shared it with him since I was breaking all the rules. My luck rubbed off. When I  got hot and took my scarf off, my talent slipped down the gutter. 

I'm going to miss Françoise! She's such a great presence at school and always wants to know that I'm doing well.  
Right before my first strike of the night! 
What's it gonna be? 
Françoise, Fred, and I
Fred's score needed a little boost and since I wasn't following the new rules he set for me, I gave him my scarf for added luck (it worked). 
I was first in the line up... and I lost by one point in the last frame! 
The only non-smokers in the group, Fred and I had fun trying to take a decent picture together while we held down the lane during the between game smoke break. We had a ton of fun together; it would have been fun to meet him earlier on. His cousin Margot (Marine's younger sister) kept mentioning that he's célibataire. My luck continued to rub off on him in the second game, which he won. I topped out at 80 points but didn't mind. Didn't want him to get beat twice by the American girl! 
Take 1
Take 2 - not any better but I think it's a cute picture!
Take 3 - put your glasses back on, please!
Margot was an animated bowler!
At the end of the night, Françoise and Fred drove me home even though Marine lives a few blocks from me. When I walked in the door after 1:30am, I was beat! It was an insanely long day but it was great. I had so much fun with Françoise and her family. I'm really glad that she got to see a fun side of me, too. At work, I'm pretty collect and am usually reading if I'm not in the classroom. I was dancing around and totally felt myself last night. It feels good to be me! I've got just a handful of days left before I leave and this will definitely be a memory that sticks. 


Une mamie - a grammie
Mon amie américaine - my American friend
Une quille - a bowling pin
Une boule - a bowling ball
Célibataire - single (not celibate)  


Yesterday was a long, long day. As ready as I am to say good bye to my students, there was a big event at the school that they wanted me to attend. Kermesse is like a carnival of sorts with games they can buy tickets to play, food to eat, and prizes to be won. But the purpose for the event performing the dances each class has been preparing for a couple months. You'd think June would be able to provide decent enough weather to hold an outdoor event - wrong. The weather was a back and forth mixture of windy, downpour and warm sunshine. One minute, I'd be soaked, I'd dry off, and then the rain came back... But the show went on and each class performed their dance (twice). The event started at 11:30 and didn't get over until just before 4:00pm, to give you an idea of how long it was. I was exhausted before I even got there and was on my feet all day long.

I hung around with Françoise, her sister in law Gigi, nièce Marine, and Nadia. (I don't know where my head has been but Nadia works at Paul Bert and I've never seen her...) Mid-way through the event, the girls and I were starving. We realized that although Nicolas had said he would end the event around 1:30, that wasn't physically possible. We scrapped our plans to eat after the event and decided just to get lunch there. The problem was, they'd by then sold out of just about all the sandwich fixings and I don't consider fries a lunch. Surprisingly delicious, I ate half a baguette with a merguez sausage, which did nothing to sate my insanely ravenous stomach. That was it bread and meat - they were out of cheese, condiments, and I don't think they had veggies to begin with. 
These are the innocent looking ones from one of my worst classes. The blondie with glasses is a sweetie. 
Enzo, Quentin, et Nicolas - Love these guys! 
Rodolphe and Françoise. He loves to tell jokes to try to embarrass me but he doesn't succeed. He also loves blondes.  
Silvia's class. I love these guys.  
Simon always runs clear across recess to tell me hello. He's precious.
Noah and Hugo make me smile from the inside. And they're super tiny, too! 
Maxime and Axèl. Maxime may look innocent but he randomly shouts out random syllables all throughout class and can't easily be contained. 
Fanny's class danced to Waka Waka. I don't even have her students but they're probably the most polite students to me. They always call me by name and respect me as they do other profs. Other classes show their "respect" much differently. 
Laurence's class. Simon and Matthieu are on the far right and I love 'em to pieces. Matthieu is maybe the tiniest kid I have but he doesn't act like it. He and Simon are two of my best CE1 students.  
Céline's class had the best dance overall - Mamma Mia. They're smart kids but I they have no energy at all in class. They're almost boring but that doesn't mean it takes less energy to teach 'em! They're kind of just too cool for school.
Michel's class... I've got three sessions left with them and the idea of it makes me want to gouge my eyes out. I think I lose a little of my integrity each time I step foot in this class.  
When Kermesse was over, my day was only beginning!

La kermesse - the fête
Une nièce - a niece
Une merguez - a spicy sausage