You know you’re not in the U.S. when:

I work two days a week at a high school, as you may remember from a previous post. Well. The first morning, I missed the bus the first time. You have to faire signaler, which roughly means “make a sign” that you want the bus to stop for you. I watched the bus go by the first time because I hesitated. The second time, I flung my arm out, bus ticket in my waving hand, practically about to dive into the road like it was a swimming pool in the middle of Chicago’s 90-plus-degree summer–and the bus dissed me. That is, the driver saw me, made eye contact, held eye contact, and “rooovmddd” right past me. My toes were centimeters from the wheels of the bus. I *know* he saw me, because when he blazed on by the people behind me at the bus stop started snickering–I’m hoping, at the bus driver and not at me. Needless to say, I use a different bus stop now, and it is slightly less of a walk from the house.

I did make friends with an old lady at a bus stop. Not too hard to do when it’s 7h00 in the morning and you can sympathize with her about how slow the buses are. Although they just added electronic boards that tell you when your bus number will arrive, which is wonderful!

Moving on: “professor culture” in France. Where to begin?

  • Tango, anyone? Well, English assistant and friend, J., had an interesting experience last week at school. Her host mom is an avid dancer of a certain age and frequently has tango parties at her house, at which one of the professors and J. had already met. Naturally, of all places, this professor happens to teach at the same school J. and I are at. This prof is a tango-dancing, earring-wearing Portuguese man. And that’s on the weekends. On weekdays, he apparently prefers to spontaneously dance the tango with unsuspecting English assistants in the staff room when they are on their way to, as J. delicately put it, “the least sexy place possible: les toilettes”.
  • Coffee and cigarettes. Leaving your money in the staff room coffee vending machine is an excellent way to meet new people, embarass yourself and break the ice at the same time. Especially if said prof happens to be around your age (to be determined) and is a good conversationalist. Ironic that he teaches math and of all things I left my *change* in the vending machine. At least I have someone to talk to when all the other profs go out to smoke a cigarette (yes, I was surprised, too: a Frenchman who doesn’t smoke. Most of my French friends do). You see, when all the other profs offer you cigarettes, and you don’t smoke, this can be a barrier to socialization in France.
  • Déjeuner. Also known as “lunch” in the U.S. Since I work from around 8h00-17h00 (8-5pm), the cafeteria is important to me. I don’t pay for my lunches, but I do get invited to go to lunch with the language profs. I let them talk while I try to eat the wide variety of food that I’ve just picked out. I might add, it is a very well-balanced meal of veggies, bread, meat, cheese and yogurt. If I had room, I would add dessert. I also get to skip the large, snaking line: a phenomenon that occurs around 12h00 in which mostly 15-23 year-old guys get a break from their professors. Only to have these profs cut them in line (including me). I overhear conversations in which students (who do not have me as a teacher) ask their peers if I am a new student. *Le sigh*. What is NON.

The days are long, and the students are also human beings, which makes for a constantly changing environment. Meaning, some days students are motivated, some days they aren’t. Some students have zero motivation any given day, and others are really driven. Not unlike certain profs (some days, this is me).

Aside from that, topics of discussion in la salle des profs are very diverse, some of which I’m highly amused to note:

  • figiers. As in, fig trees and their varieties, leading but not limited to the following rabbit trail conversations: white figs, black figs, purple figs, yellow figs, Turkey, Syria. 
  • devinettes. I.e., riddles. More particularly, math riddles. One math professor gave me a math riddle (figures), and I got it right! Miracle.
  • something-or-other going on strike against _______.
  • the latest Charlie Hebdo controversy
  • the train schedule
  • how bad the weather is
  • what’s for lunch in the self
  • afterschool staff meetings – one of which was scrawled rather nonchalantly on the staff whiteboard: “Comment se comporter face aux personnalités misogynes dans l’établissement?” –> i.e., “How should you behave when faced with misogynistic personalities in the school”? You know, your typical day au lycée.  The real discussion should be: why is there misogynistic behavior occuring in the first place? Mais allo, quoi.

However, back to figiers – If you have not had a real fig, you are missing out. (This photo is from September – a gift, fresh from the fig tree of our lovely Iranian neighbors’ backyard – their house, by the way, is *beautiful*. They had an Iranian artist come in to decorate the tiles of their living/sitting/dining room. I don’t have a photo of that, sadly).

En plus, it’s shaped like a heart (NB, the time stamp is on U.S. time – this would’ve been around 2pm in France).



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