The title of this post is perhaps not entirely apt for what I’ve been doing for the last week. You’ll be relieved to hear that I have most definitely not had a child, very few things have been broken (except for a mug on my first day, whoops), and the only person who has thrown up has been Matt, who was less than perky the morning after the proverbial night before, i.e. the two boxes of wine incident. The amount of sleep has been just about satisfactory. No, the quote is not entirely apt…and yet I feel that it captures the chaos of the past week rather well.
When I last wrote, the teenagers were all arriving for the twelve-day-long stage here at le Château de la Mazure. They mostly came with their parents, wide-eyed and apprehensive about what was to come, and coaxing them out of their bedrooms to come downstairs and socialise was a task and a half. Oh, how things have changed within the space of a week.
The courses here are extremely closely structured: the teenagers have breakfast at 9am and have a timetable of various activities to do for pretty much the entire day, with an hour and a half of free time, until bedtime at about 10.30pm. They are expected to speak English at all times (except for during the free time) which obviously doesn’t always work that well in practice and is very difficult to enforce – how are we supposed to stop them from speaking French? – whilst the temptation for us, the assistants, to explain something in French when they clearly haven’t understood in English is sometimes overwhelming.
At the beginning of the week, everything went smoothly: Daniel, Laura, and Hélène (a really lovely French university student who is my new roomie and the BAFA for the stage, or Brevet d’Aptitude aux Fonctions d’Animateur) have done it all before so knew what they were doing, meaning that I was very much an observer, and the students were all a bit nervous and didn’t really know what was going on. However, as the week went on, they became more and more confident and consequently our work became more frustrating and difficult. Having dinner with them was nothing less than traumatic, largely because of one particularly vindictive boy who laughs and talks for the entirety of every meal and last night even decided that it would be a good idea to try snorting pepper (yes, really), and trying to get them to go their bedrooms and stay there was nigh on impossible.
All of that makes it sound like I’ve not really enjoyed the past week when, actually, I’ve had a really good time. It has not always been easy, but the moment when a student repeats something back to you word perfect or speaks to another student in English without having to be told makes the difficulty worthwhile. Most of the students are really sweet and keen to learn, although it’s easy to forget about them in the face of the handful of reluctant and rude ones. Mais c’est la vie. I’ve also had a really good time getting to know the other assistants: those of us who aren’t doing a particular meal eat in the kitchen, and it’s quite literally a laugh a minute.
I can’t deny that I’m slightly relieved that I don’t have to help with this stage for any longer now, and that’s because Matt spent last week working in the company office with Shaun and now we’re swapping. So, from tomorrow until Friday, I’m in the office and he’s here with the kids. I feel like he may have drawn the short straw – at least I had half a week of relative calm before the storm of boisterousness hit. Then, on Friday, I’m finally moving to the foyer in Laval. I’m still trying to pluck up enough courage to ask my scary boss whether it’ll be okay for me to leave a bit early so that I can get there before the foyer office closes for the evening. Gulp.
Aside from work this week, I’ve realised that I really do enjoy a good country walk – and there is no shortage of routes surrounding the chateau, my favourite of which leads to some pretty stepping stones across a little stream. I’ve also managed to go for two runs, the second of which was this morning when I ran to a cute village called Entrammes and back:
but my god it’s hilly. I’m not joking when I say that I expect to have thighs of steel by February.
What else has happened? I bought a French SIM card for this fabulous piece of technology:
which is now on a contract costing only €2 a month! Absolute bargain (shoutout to Will for putting me onto that), and means that I’ll be able to contact all of the French friends I intend to make at the foyer (!) without having to worry about how much it’s going to cost.
Finally, the ongoing vegetarianism saga is still very much ongoing. Today marked a new low, when I had cous cous and rice and instant mashed potato for lunch. All of the carbs. None of the protein. And it’s (beef) lasagne for dinner meaning leftover cous cous for me and Daniel, who is also vegetarian. However, I’m only living in the chateau for five more days, and when I’m chez moi in the foyer next weekend, it will be eggs galore for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m not even yolk-ing (sorry).