Day Dream Believer

What a difference a city makes…

Paris had always been the ideal, the ultimate dream.  While I did harbour a romanticised view of what life in Paris was going to be like, I knew I wasn’t going to be living in the 1920’s, rubbing shoulders with Piscassos and Hemingways.  But I did think I would get a whiff of their modern day likeness; a taste of the bohemian spirit as it seeped out of the beer darkened woodwork of the Montmartre bars, and cobbled streets.

But as so happens with many realised fantasies it didn’t quite deliver.  This got me thinking about the pressure we impose upon ourselves and our dreams.  Our desires, once in our grasp must not only live up to, but exceed in our expectations otherwise we feel cheated, disappointed or worse, like a failure.  But then, what is the alternative?  To never dream?  To never desire, hope or wish, to never excite ourselves over the multitude of possibilities in life, and in love?

What a fucking miserable existence.  Sorry, but count me out.  I am a self-certified day-dream believer.  Like a tornado chaser, I get my kicks from running after that most beautiful of storms which we call life.  It is menacing, frightening, totally unpredictable and often devastating.  Yet it is fantastically awesome in the true meaning of the word, and it demands our respect for its almighty unstoppable and natural force.  That is life.  And I vow to always run towards the tornado.  Not with wreckless abandon, but with just the right amount of caution.  Well…most of the time.

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A part of me does mourn the loss of my ideal.  I no longer dream the same dream, and it was such a pretty dream.  But then, I think that it’s okay.  What makes our dreams and desires so intense is the element of the unknown. It is this aspects which can either spur us on, or render us immobile and fearful.  We can never know it until we experienced it.

Some have said to me, “Shame Paris didn’t work out.”  Or have asked me if I regret going there.  But I can’t regret it, I don’t.  If I had continued to put my energy, my wishful energy into an idea that wasn’t meant for me, then it would have been a waste.  Like good old Tennyson said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Living “the dream” helped me understand that my happiness lies elsewhere.  Paris “not working out” led me to my happy place, or in fact, back to my happy place…Back to the loving arms of Sofia.  More on that to follow 🙂

Mister Too Much Information…

One of the best things about living aboard and travelling is the variety of people you come into contact with.  The weird and the wonderful of the world!

A few weeks ago I popped into the office to quickly print off some role-plays for my students, when I met this guy, a fellow teacher and one of those weird and wonderful people that make life… interesting!  This is how the conversation went.  He starts…

– So you’re from Ireland?

– Yeah.

– Well done on the big event yesterday. (Ireland’s referendum voted to legalize gay marriage)

-Aw, thanks! Yeah it’s great news. But, actually I’m from the North… and they’re light years away from making the same decision.

– Really?

– Yeah – they’re still getting to terms with the whole Protestants and Catholics thing, so if same-religion marriage causes issues, then same sex marriage is still a unicorn’s wet dream.

– So how long have you been in Paris?

-Since February. You?

– Six years.

– Wow.

– Yeah, and now I’m moving back to London to do a masters, yeah yeah, cos, well I’m getting too old for teaching English. Got to get a real job.

– Right… (yeah, cos this teaching malarkey is just a fairies fart?)

– Yeah I’ve been here a long time. I did the Paris thing – had my French romance for 4 years, that ended horribly, then I met someone else, and now I have a baby on the way.

– Oh congratulations!

– I’m not with the mother.

– Aw…(kward)

– I wanted to be, I offered. I mean we split up and then we found out she was pregnant. I wanted to work things out, but well she’s rich and doesn’t need a man… I mean, beyond the obvious sexual needs of course.

– Of course… (who the fuck IS this asshole???!)

– Yeah, so she’s moved back home.

– Oh, is she English too?

– No, she’s German. I considered moving to Germany, but I can’t get a good job there and, well she doesn’t want me, so I didn’t see the point. *sigh*

– Well, I guess… these…things happen!

– Yeah, yeah of course. We didn’t plan this situation but it was always a risk since we didn’t use protection.

– Aha. Oh, look at the time.  Lovely to talk to you… what was your name?

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ESL/ TEFL Teaching in Paris…

I promised a post dedicated to my teaching experience in Paris and here it is.  Hopefully, it will be useful for anyone considering it.

Firstly, I should highlight that this is MY experience, which, granted is not entirely positive – but others have made it work for them, so you should bare that in mind.

I also won’t write about the job search process as I have already mentioned that in previous posts.  Instead I will focus on my actual work experience.

I had contracts with three companies here in Paris.  The first was with the “Speaking Agency” – I took two positions with them.  I found their system confusing- I had no idea what I was actually applying for in terms of contract length.  They did give you a folder of materials for each family, which were actually very good- filled with ideas and activities, they are not appropriate for all age groups and were suitable for only 6-10years old.

My first job was with a 4yr old boy and his 3yr old sister, therefore the majority of the materials were useless. The next student through this company was an 18 year old “man” meaning that this folder of materials (complete with finger puppets) fell a tad short!

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As I only had two 1-week contracts with this company I have very little to say about them.  They paid on time, and were easy to communicate with.  BUT-  I do have friends who worked for them and they had a few problems in terms of getting reimbursed for travel.

Next up is Le Repetoire de Gaspard.  Although a lovely company, professional and easy to deal with, this is not “teaching”.  It is glorified babysitting.  This bothered me, as I was never sure of my role.  If I am a babysitter – then fine.  But I am a teacher and was hired as a teacher, then I should teach… but I also have to make dinner for the child, and get them into their pyjamas?

I have never been what someone would consider “maternal”.  I like kids.  I just don’t want them.  I also don’t want to pretend to have one.  Pretty sure that when I walked the demon 4year old home from school I looked like a young mum who regretted their pro-life choice…

Put me in a classroom with 15 kids and I am in my element.  Put me in a room with one wilful, spoiled, chocolate-fiend, who the only way of making manageable was to play the same episode of Peppa Pig 15 times… and I have no idea what to do!  It bothered me that I felt like a terrible teacher in this situation.  I got very depressed and frustrated.  And I quit.  I also had two other families with this company but I have already described those positions in previous posts. Let’s move on!

Agency number three.  AFS, (Anglo French Service) is a language provider to the big bad corporate world.  This is a huge sector in Paris and if you are looking to teach in Paris then this is probably the best way to go but it still isn’t great!

You don’t get a set number of hours. It’s like a freelance contract – if they have contracts, you can say yes, or no.  Which does give you freedom but it lacks security and a steady income.  Even if you secure the classes and your schedule looks full the students can cancel their classes with up to a day’s notice.  No class, no money.  And in May there are a gazillion public holidays which means no classes, meaning no money.  Then you get to June and July, and people start to take summer holidays= cancelled classes=no money.  Then there is August, the month basically doesn’t exist.  ALL classes cancelled= no money at all!  No rent, no food, no wine and no cheese for you. Ppfft!

The other thing that bothers me about this agency, is the booklet they provide.  It isn’t a text book but just a book of topics to cover, with maybe two exercises per unit.  It does include pointers to other support material, but I find it restrictive as a teacher, and not conducive to the students learning.  For example, with one client I am not allowed to do anything other than role-plays.  And while I agree that role-plays are a great way to learn… it is impossible for students to improve as a well-rounded language learner when sticking to just one method!  Even here I don’t really feel like I am teaching.

Another thing which bothered me about all of the agencies was the amount of travelling I had to do.  In order to fit in an 8 hour day of work I had to be on the go for 12 hours, and be on 9 modes of public transport.  For a small town girl like me, this was soul destroying!!!

So, to sum up, teaching in Paris works like this…You either get a job as a nanny and “teach” or you work for an agency providing Business English.  Both will have you travelling far and wide throughout the city.  My travel pass for zones 1-4 costs me €107 per month… And the pay isn’t that great in light of how expensive this wonderful city is.

I do wish I had more positive things to say about working here… but I don’t!

But then this is the joy of being an English teacher – I am not confined to one place.  The world is my oyster.  But I found my pearl and I can’t wait to get back to Sofia, and back to teaching there.  It had it’s problems, hard times and issues – but I felt more fulfilled in my work there than I have ever felt at any time in my professional life.  But more on that will follow I’m sure 🙂

 

We’ll always have Paris…

I haven’t written in a while. For a few reasons. Mainly, and one I hate to admit, but my move to Paris did not quite live up to the dream.  Despite myself, I guess I did harbour romantic notions of a bohemian life… moulin-rouge-1 I know how naïve that sounds, but what is life without a little unrealistic dreaming, eh?

I came here thinking I would teach through the day, and at nights and weekends be sat in a dingy little bar, sipping wine and writing, inspired by the city, by language, by lovers, by everything around me. Instead I found myself working 12 hour days, the majority of which was spent on public transport; being unfulfilled in my work, and by the time the nights or weekend came around I was so exhausted, frustrated and too unhappy to write, or even go out – since that would mean more time on the dreaded public transport!

I will do a separate post on how it is to teach English here, but for now this is a more personal reflection.

The Paris I love is one experienced without commitment.  You may say “as a tourist”, but whatever!  It is true.  I did come here first as a tourist and fell in love.  I had the city at my fingertips to be enjoyed at my leisure, no place to be, no bills to pay, no deadlines to meet, no concerns about getting lost, or missing appointments, no having to deal with officials in a second language, etc.

Of course these are things you should expect to experience when you move to a new country/city.  I just didn’t think that these issues could ever override the love I had for the place.

I do not regret it and I am not disappointed.  I have, of course had good times.  Mainly when I have been acting like a tourist!  But if I hadn’t, if I had never made the move here, I would always have wondered.  I would have wasted hours thinking, “If only I had…” or “I wish I had lived in Paris”.

It would have been a misdirected dream.  Because as much as I would love it to be so- it’s not for me.

So, what now?  I briefly considered moving to Spain.  But with more research and a couple of skype interviews I realised that that wasn’t for me either.

It was through conversation that I discovered where I should be. I was talking with a friend when it hit me.  Not like a slap in the face, or something out of the blue… more like a “so obvious, been there all the time, what took you so long” kind of revelation.

Sofia.  I missed it.  Through conversation about my time there, it had seeped into me.  And I couldn’t shake it.

I contacted my old job to see if they were for real when they gave me an open invitation to return; thankfully they were and I will return for the new academic year in September.

I’ll spend a month with family and friends back home in “Norn Iron”, meaning that I have just a month and a half left here in Paris.  But before I bid my farewell I am going to do my best to enjoy it, and to make as many good memories as possible… Paris...

Spring Time in Paris….

Spring has sprung, and about bloody time too.  Finally I can retire the winter jacket and boots!

What has been happenin?  Well, March was a particularly difficult month.  It was an amalgamation of those little things that, if you were at home you wouldn’t bat an eyelid in doing, but when in a new country with your limited language skills suddenly become a plot from Mission Impossible.

Like setting up a bank account (took two attempts).

Like forgetting the keys for work (picking up the 4yr old from school and having nowhere to take her).

Like adding a new travel zone to your monthly pass.

Like getting stranded in the middle of nowhere without a working travel pass (cos you messed that up) and without your wallet (cos your bag was too heavy and you were so prepared with that new travel pass that you didn’t need it….)

Like getting stuck while crawling under the turnstile at the train station (damn you travel pass!)…

Just little things like that.

But these are all just part of the learning curve, and the “charm” of living abroad.  If things were easy all the time life would be boring and I’d have nothing to write about!

You just have to take a deep breath.  Exhale slowly.  And open that bottle of wine.

Spring time is about new life and new beginnings, and my Paris bud is only just starting to bloom.

Bring it on Paris.  Now, I’m ready!

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Let’s get Paris on the road, and really open her up…

Finally.  The constant searching, CV sending, emailing, posting, calling, job interviews and the endless filling in of soul destroying-ly repetitive online application forms can STOP.  And so can the freaking out, the worrying, the doubting and the fear.  Halle-frickin-lujah!

For I have now secured enough hours to make a 22hour week – which is plenty and perfect!

So. Let’s get this Paris show on the road shall we?    It’s time to start living the dream.

I started that in earnest last weekend, by sharing a bottle of Champagne with a friend at his stall on the banks of the Seine, in the shadow of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.  I brought the Champagne (as a thank you to him, as he was instrumental in making Paris a possibility for me) and he brought the glasses, 1930’s crystal Champagne flutes.  Fancy!

santé!

santé!

This is just a slight change from a decanted bottle of wine into a flask to secretly sip in Glasgow’s “no-alcohol allowed” parks!

Bubbles finished, I headed off in the direction of the Champs L’Elysée to meet up with a new friend for an Expats Paris event for International Women’s Day.  I admit that I was mostly attracted by “free entry and free buffet”!

The event itself was okay, but the venue was pretty awful – one of these “all style but no service” fancy-pants-because-of -location kinda joints.  For example, the free buffet was pasta salad served in a wine bucket, and some greasy finger food – of which there was not a lot of.  They also tried to pull a fast one on our bottle of wine by giving us an already opened bottle which was also half empty!  Not impressed.  But I got to dance and shake my tail feathers in Paris, and I felt good!

I was having so much fun that I completely forgot the time and like Cinderella I had to run like a crazed women from the metro to the RER but was stopped in my tracks by a burly security guard and an equally burly dog.  No trains.  And now no metro, and also no credit on my mobile either.

In hindsight I should have just gone to a hostel for the night.  But in my Champagne, cocktail and wine fueled head, walking for 4 hours seemed like the most sensible thing to do.   “I’ve made a huge mistake” 

It was not as romantic and magical as you might think, although I did manage to take some beautiful and interesting photos along the way.


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But at 4.30am my legs decided that enough was enough, and I parked my ass on a bench outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral and wait for morning.  I amused myself for a little while by taking funny face selfies…  055

And just when my camera battery had run out I was approached by this guy.  I was wary as I had already had to shove off one guy during my misadventure, so I was on my guard…  But luckily, 25year old Sami was a gentleman, and he sat with me until the trains started to run.

So my first night out in Paris, ended up being an all-nighter resulting in a 5am French/English language exchange in the courtyard of the Notre-Dame!

Cannae beat it!

Paris Life. One week and 2 days in!

It was only day three in Paris and I was already in a panic about finding work.  I had received one negative response from my “contact us when you get here” list, and the others were deathly silent.  I was worried.  I had been counting on them.  This was how it had worked in Sofia.  Surely, it will be the same here?

Another three days and I was losing sleep and thinking things like, “ok, well if I limit myself to 25euros a week I could survive until Easter”  (Easter is my minimum goal since my parents have booked to visit, so I have to be here at least until then!)

I had had one interview which had been arranged back in November.  I turned up bright eyed and bushy tailed, and they were like, “Who are you?  Who are you here to see?  Me?  Oh I have no record of you?  Did you apply? We have no record of you.  Here, apply again, now, quickly.”

I was pissed off. They treated me like an idiot but (and BTfrickinW) have since said, “congratulation, you’re been selected to be part of our team!”  I haven’t replied at yet…

Anyway, I did also manage to get an immediate response from a differnt agency, and the gut reaction to them was completely different.  They were proactive and not in a pushy way, just organised, keen, serious but friendly.  They had already arranged for me to meet with a couple of families for private tutoring and then if all went well I could sign a contract.

This was good news.  But it still wasn’t going to be enough to allow me to stay long term in the city…. so the panic bird still fluttered in my throat.

But then Monday came, and as things turned out I was able to sign that contract for one family.  And while in the office doing that the agency boss said, we can add another family- you can meet the mum today if you like?  I was thinking “Does the pope shit in the woods?  Fuck yeah!”

I replied in a slightly more polite way but with the same enthusiasm, and off I trotted with just an address and a VERY vague notion of what direction to go in…

I got off the metro at Concorde, with the Eiffel Tower looming in the background reassuringly.  I found the first street I needed to be on, and then the second aaaaaand voilà!  I am lost.  I ask a security card for directions in my best French…. turn right he says… D’accord.

I go along and turn right… No, no, this is taking me in a circle back to the metro so I ask a young smoking chef outside a swanky restaurant, and eventually I made my way to Place Vendome . I was already nervous, but as I passed shops such as Gucci, Cartier, and Tiffany I was giggling nervously at my ridiculous out-of-placeness!

I found the address, which turned out to be a law firm and presented myself to the reception.  I took a seat and waited, trying to sit up straight so not to make the impeccable place look untidy.  The receptionist told me to take the elevator to the 5th floor and find meeting room, “Melle…mleeeuegh”   Aaaah… pardon?  Encore, s’il vous plait?  (my French listening skills are RUBBISH!)

I reply, “Aha. Melle-mleeeeuegh”  Right.  Ok.  Got it.  (Haven’t got it.)

I exited the elevator tentatively, and wandered down the empty and too-quiet corridor.  It turned out to be a hall of meeting rooms, all with their doors open which meant you actually had to step inside the room in order to read the name on the door.  And each time I did I was expecting to be faced by some suit who would start talking not only in French but in LEGAL French!

I was smiling like a nervous maniac, giggling away to myself like a mad woman.  But eventually I found my “Melle-mleeeugh” room and I made myself comfortable, or as comfortable as I possible could…

This is my lawyer face...

This is my lawyer face…

Within a few minutes the mum arrived and she was so nice, and immediately all my insecurities melted away and I was looking forward to teaching her daughter.

Then I arrived home to find 14 emails, all about possible work, secured work, new contracts, French lessons, and even a “we’ve been passed your CV from another company and we want to meet you” email!

It was a GREAT way to bookend my first week in Paris!  Although my head was in a total spin by the end of the day and, well I needed a wee lie down.

But, not only does it go to show that good things come to those who wait (even if it is rather impatiently) – but also if you work your ass off, it will eventually pay off, AND you can do the thing!  Whatever it is.

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