Tag Archives: French

Teaching English and French Classes Online


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As many readers will know from my previous posts, I’m a high school French teacher.  I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, and teaching is my calling.  I love it.  I work at an awesome high school where all of the students are amazingly motivated and the parents are supportive, my colleagues are my friends.  So as I quit my job to move on to the next stage in life, which is making a permanent move to France this coming summer, I have mixed emotions.

For the last year or so I have been thinking very hard about what I’d like to do for work once we’re in Béziers.  One thing I know, at forty years old and with two kids under the age of ten, is that I want to plan my own schedule.  I want to work on my own terms.  I know, after having lived in France before, how wonderful it is to be able to pick up the kids from school and bring them home for lunch between 12 and 2.  Also, as I look at the schedule of school holidays in France, I know my family would benefit greatly by my being able to be off with the kids during those times.  Who am I kidding?  I’ve been a teacher for fifteen years, and I enjoy life with school holidays (coming from someone who has the whole next week off for Spring Break).

Sometime last fall I got the idea of teaching English online.  I have a colleague who taught Chinese online for a while, and she talked to me about doing the same.  I investigated many online language schools, and some are certainly more reputable than others.  I sent my CV off to several of the more established schools, and waited to see what would happen.  It wasn’t long before I started receiving email responses from several of them.

One of them is actually a French online school, but they’re looking to expand to teach English classes as well.  They are based in Montpellier, which is very close to where we will be living in France. That’s where they’re based, but given the nature of the business, one can live anywhere in the world.  The French owner, who is about my age, is in Thailand for the time being.  Another has recently relocated to Tahiti.  They all have children, and they all home school them.  I’m not looking to home school my children, but I love the idea of the freedom we will have.

I actually feel much more comfortable teaching French as a foreign language than English, but that’s just because I have a lot more experience doing that.  I have a BA in English as well though, and I think that’s what gives me an edge in the business even though I’ve spent my whole professional life teaching French.  I went through several Skype interviews over the months of December and January, and finally I was hired!  I’ve given a total of 8 classes via Skype so far.  These classes have actually been in French rather than English, even though I’m not a native speaker.  At first, I was very nervous about it.  Fear of the unknown!  After the first fifteen minutes, I was once again at ease.  It’s so much fun.  You just use the chat box like you would a white board.

I’ve also started creating free French lessons on YouTube.  This is just for fun, and there are only three lessons on my channel so far.  I put a link to my YouTube channel at the top of my blog page. I’m going to try to put up at least one lesson per week and we’ll see how that goes.

I wanted to get started with this new method of teaching right away, so that I could become familiar with it and hopefully get established before moving (and before my teaching paychecks stop this summer).  Looks like I’m on the right track.  I’m also getting a website, business cards, and flyers ready for one-on-one English (or French) classes in Béziers.  Wouldn’t it be great if this took off?  Call me an eternal optimist, but I really think I will find success in this venture.  I always see the glass as half full, and so far that’s worked out very nicely.

Hemingway’s Paris


ImageJust before leaving for my very first trip to Paris back in 1992, my French teacher told me to go and see the legendary bookstore “Shakespeare and Company”.  That’s what I did, and since then I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the history of this legendary English bookstore and all of those who helped to give it a name in history.

Fast forward about twenty years, and my obsession is mainly focused on Ernest Hemingway and his life in Paris in the twenties.  Of course, sometimes I deviate and become fascinated with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald,  his wife Zelda, and Gertrude Stein just to name a few.

Like many others, my passion was renewed with the release of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  I first saw this movie in June, 2011, while in Paris.   I heard that the movie was released in Paris before being released in the United States, but I’m not sure if that’s true.  Anyway, I was traveling with a group of my students, and had dropped them off for some exploratory time at the Louvre.  It was pouring down rain, and I didn’t have an umbrella.  I knew it would be pointless to rush, so I strolled at a leisurely pace through the Tuilerie Gardens, beyond the Place de la Concorde, on up the Champs-Élysées, and right into a cinéma where I spent the next hour and a half or so falling in love with the Paris that had just seen me drenched to the bone.  What a treat it was to walk out of the theater only to find that it was still raining.

Fast forward another two years, and I’m back in Paris.  I had about ten days in the city by myself.  On the one hand, it sounds like a dream for a working mom who spends the entire school year trying to keep up with a hectic schedule.  On the other hand, after about day 4, Paris can get a bit lonely when you’re missing your husband and kids.  I decided to take advantage of the time and do something just for me.  I spent a few days scouring the Internet , trying to map out a personalized walking tour of Hemingway’s familiar haunts.  I found a travel blog that was MOST helpful to me, and if you’re interested in knowing exactly where to go on a Hemingway walk, I strongly suggest you read it:

http://www.slowtrav.com/france/paris/rl_hemingway.htm

When I’d at last finalized my itinerary, I knew it would be a long walk that would take all day.  What an adventure!  I put on my not so comfortable walking shoes (had to look good, it’s Paris, after all), grabbed a book and my  journal, and I started out from the 15th arrondissement where our studio apartment is located.  I made my way, by foot, over to the Montparnasse district.  I basically did the walk described on the SlowTravelFrance blog, except I did it in reverse because it was more practical for me.  I started down the Boulevard du Montparnasse, walked past La Coupole, La Closerie des Lilas…  Originally I had intended to stop at La Closerie des Lilas for an afternoon refreshment.  It was one of Hemingway’s favorite writing (and undoubtedly drinking) spots.  Also, I’m of the generation of Robert & Mireille in French in Action, and many of their rendez-vous took place in this café.  My plans changed when I had a look at the menu prices.  Thankfully they’re listed outside.  Instead, I planted myself on the bench out front, drank my bottle of water, smoked a cigarette from the pack that cost me almost $10 USD, and chewed on a piece of Hollywood Chewing Gum that I’d bought at the Tabac.

Once I’d rested up a bit, I continued on to the Rue de Fleurus, and that’s where Gertrude Stein’s apartment can be found at #27.  I was mainly reminded of scenes from Midnight in Paris when I got there.  I was the only person on the street who was stopping to have a look, and I felt a bit strange because even though it was Gertrude Stein’s apartment, it’s somebody else’s apartment now!  I was gazing up at one of the windows, and when I caught sight of someone gazing back at me, I embarrassedly scurried off toward the Jardin du Luxembourg.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon, and it was hot in Paris on that day.  I was ready for a cold drink, so before entering the Jardin du Luxembourg, I stopped in a shoddy little café for a beer.  I’m usually not a beer drinker, but it sure did taste good as I sat on the terrace of this dirty-ish café and wrote in my journal.  I don’t remember the name of the place where I had my beer, but even though it was dirty and they only had a one Turkish unisex bathroom, I’d recommend it because I made a great memory for myself on my Hemingway Day all by myself in Paris.

Next I went into the Jardin du Luxembourg.  I decided to sit and read for a while.  I knew that Hemingway had spent a goodly amount of time here, and some of that time was caught catching pigeons to eat so that he, Hadley, and Bumby wouldn’t starve to death.  I wonder if the pigeons of the twenties were the mutant pigeons of today?  It was a gorgeous day, so I found a shady spot on the grass and laid down with my book.  I was quickly distracted by an American couple who were so in love!  What I appreciated so much about them, and why I watched them unabashedly for about fifteen straight minutes, was because they were in love in Paris!  And they weren’t attractive.  They were not very well-dressed, they were slightly over weight, but they were in full PDA mode, and it was beautiful.  I don’t think they would have behaved like that in the US.

After the PDA and about a chapter of my book, I was ready to carry on.  I headed up to the Boulevard St-Germain-des-Prés, had a look at the famous café les Deux Magots, continued  on rue St-Sulpice, and finally down the rue de Vaugirard.  I made my way along the Quai des Grands Augustins and perused the bouquinistes of which Hemingway was so fond.  On to Shakespeare and Company where Sylvia Beach once loaned books, and even fed and housed Hemingway and his contemporaries from time to time.  Sylvia Beach had to close shop after WWII, but it has since been reopened by one George Whitman, who carries on the tradition of caring for artists and writers alike.

I only had two more stops to make on my walking tour.  I wanted to find Ernest and Hadley’s first apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and I wanted to also see the room Hemingway rented in a hotel nearby at 39 rue Descartes.  I couldn’t find the former, even though I must have walked up and down the narrow street a dozen times.  I wonder if it’s just not marked with the number 74??  However, I did find 39 rue Descartes, where Hemingway rented a room and tried to write.  There is a small plaque on the wall that says (in English) that “Ernest Hemingway lived in this building from 1921-1925”, but it’s not true.  That’s just where he went to work, or more likely to get away from family life with Hadley and Bumby.  There’s a larger plaque on the wall that says (in French) that “Dans cette maison est mort le 8 janvier 1896 le poète Paul VERLAINE…”  I wonder if Hemingway knew that when he took the room?

By this time, it was probably getting close to 7 pm.  I was tired (in a good way) from walking all day, and was starting to get hungry.  It would have been easy to have a seat in one of the many Latin Quarter cafés for a little something to eat and to people watch, but I opted to take the Métro back to the 15th.  When I got back to my neighborhood, I stopped chez l’Arabe (the neighborhood convenient store) and picked up some pasta, Barilla sauce aux olives, shredded emmenthal cheese, and a bottle of wine.  I went back to our 11th floor studio apartment, cooked my poet’s repast, and opened the window to the view  you see in the picture below.  That was a day well spent.

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I Love Paris in the Springtime…


I’m so ready for spring to get here.  Yesterday it was snowing up a storm, so we may have to wait a little while before seeing some nice weather.  With the arrival of spring, the countdown to summer gets shorter and shorter every day.  I figured out that we only have about seven more full weeks of teaching left (not including holidays), and then we will quickly be getting our furniture ready to ship on the container.  It’s supposed to take 3-8 weeks to arrive in Béziers. My last day of work is in May, but François has to work until June 18.   I’ve been spending some time (when I can find it) looking at apartment websites, just to see what’s out there, how much the rent will be, what the conditions are, etc.  Of course, that’s a bit frustrating because as soon as I find something I love, I remember that it’s a little to early to start signing papers!  I really hope we will be able to find a spacious apartment in a nice area of town so that we can walk everywhere (bringing kids to school, grocery shopping, going to restaurants and cafés!).  On the other hand, there are some really cute “villas” for rent, and they’re more spacious, newer, have private gardens….  But they’re not right in town.  It sure would be nice to have an extra bedroom to have for when people come to visit.  I’ve got a feeling we’ll have quite a few visitors now that we’re going to live in France!!  It really is hard to stay focused on the tasks at hand though.  I’m so excited and ready for this adventure.  My husband is a bit antsy and nervous about the whole affair (especially about finding jobs), but I just know that it’s going to be great.  I have a very good feeling about it all.  

What School Lunch in France Can Teach us Back Home in the U.S.


Here’s an interesting article I found on WordPress, again about France’s school lunches.

What School Lunch in France Can Teach us Back Home in the U.S..

House has sold, and we’re really moving to France.


After seven months of pursuing our dream of selling our house then moving to France, today it has officially happened.  We closed on the sale of our house in St. Louis!  Neither of us was quite ready to believe it until all of the closing papers had been signed.  Until the last minute, we were living in doubt.  Since putting our house on the market back in March, 2012, we have had six different contracts fall through for one reason or another.  We really wanted to move to France this past summer, and it was a harsh reality to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen, not exactly the way we wanted it to.  Looking at the big picture, we can both see that leaving next summer will be much more practical on many levels.

We will be staying on in St. Louis until mid-June 2013 due to the nature of our jobs (we are teachers), and also to avoid interrupting the school year for our children (ages 5 and 8).  This wait will also give us the opportunity to save more money, as we will now be paying to rent an apartment rather than paying a home mortgage!  In addition, we won’t feel rushed and unsure about everything as we did last spring.  Not knowing if we were going to move put us in a position where we couldn’t really talk to  many people about our grand adventure.  This time, we will be able to share our dream coming true with friends, family, colleagues.  There will not have to be any secrecy about it now.  In the spring, when we were hoping to sell our house quickly, we still knew that there was a huge amount of uncertainty involving our move.  We couldn’t inform our employers of our move, just in case things didn’t work out.  We knew that if the house didn’t sell, we would need to have our jobs in the fall.  That was good thinking on our part, even if it was very difficult to stay quiet about it all.

Our first step now will be to find an apartment to live in for the next seven months, and it shouldn’t be hard to find one right in our neighborhood.  The next step will be to eventually inform our employers that we will not be returning in the fall.  I think that can wait a few months, still giving them time to find our replacements.  Beyond that, there’s everything we need to get done logistically speaking for the big plunge:  French nationality for me, and American nationality for my husband being the two main tasks at hand.

As the months go on, we will plan out (as best we know how) our first year of living in the south of France.  We need to find jobs, some reliable source of income to support our family.  I feel very optimistic about this as we are two very marketable professionals with many talents, and we have some pretty good ideas already.  My husband is a little less optimistic, but I think that’s just a result of (1) being a husband and father, and (2) being French!

It does help to know that we are moving to a very familiar place where we have family, and we have also already spent a year living there (14 years ago).  We have also spent the last 14 years spending the whole summer over there, so we feel comfortable.  The kids and I already speak fluent French, which I’ve read all over the Internet as being one of the main obstacles of other American families who have the same dream of living in France.  Here in the US, I’d say we already  live as much of a “French lifestyle” as possible.  It’s just the way we are.  The way we live daily and the way we raise our children corresponds much more to a French norm than to the American way.

Over the next seven months, I’ll do my best to record the steps we will take to get prepared.  Hopefully this blog will serve to help others in the same boat (we can’t be the only ones doing this, right?).  So now, let the fun begin!  Thanks for reading, and I’d love any comments or questions that my readers may have.

Let the French adventure begin!


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It’s kind of hard to believe that this is really going to happen for us.  All of last year we were getting our house on the market, thinking all the while that we would be moving to France during the summer (after the successful sale of our home, of course!).  By now we would have been settled down in the South of France, children would be learning lessons in a French school.  Things sure don’t work out the way we sometimes imagine, do they?

After the heartache of six failed contracts on our home, we now have a rather official looking “sold” sign in the front yard.  The closing won’t be until next week on the 19th, but at this point there’s really no turning back for either parties.  This is going to happen, and we need to find an apartment to live in for six months.  We have negotiated staying in the house until the end of November, giving us time to pack and find a place to live.

Everything now seems so official, and we both hope that we’re making the right decision.  It’s going to be very hard to leave the house where our children have grown and continue to grow up.  We have many, many memories after ten years in our little nest.  The truth is, we really love our house, our home.  I hope I won’t be too emotional on moving day.  After ten months of really being proactive about moving to France, now it seems rather surreal to me.

In many ways I consider us fortunate to not have sold our house in a rush during the summer.  Selling it now will give us the proper opportunity to enjoy our last 6-7 months here and to live through the different emotional stages of such a transition.  It will also give us a chance to save some money, and I’m sure we will be very glad we did!

Putting France on Hold…. Hanging in there in St. Louis


I haven’t written on this blog since the month of May.  4 months ago.  I think I just spent so much of last year getting ready for the move to France that wasn’t.  We spent almost a whole year getting the house ready for the market, packing, taking care of administrative details, and just gearing up emotionally.  We’d decided 100% that moving to France was what we wanted for ourselves and for our family, and we never really put much thought into what would happen if our house didn’t sell.

We still are very fortunate in that we were able to spend two months vacationing in France this summer.  It’s a good thing neither of us quit our jobs, that we went ahead and enrolled the kids in school “just in case”, and that we booked round-trip flights.  Our flight back home was scheduled for August 6, and until the end of July we were still holding out for something to happen with the house so that we could stay in France as planned.

August 6th has since come and gone, and here we are back in St. Louis working and living our lives as usual.  St. Louis happens to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family, but we are still hopeful about our move to France.  We’re just putting things off for one year (hopefully).  The house is still on the market, and we even have a contract.  Closing date is supposed to be on October 19, but we have learned not to get our hopes up too high.  If everything works out with the sale of the house, we will move into an apartment for the remainder of the school year and make the move to the South of France next summer.

So I apologize for disappearing without a trace.  Something about writing it all down just made it not possible for me there for a few months.  Talk about an emotionally charged summer!  But I’m back now, and ready to keep on keeping on 🙂

Looks like we’re moving to France!!


Moving to France in 24 days

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Visa long séjour

 

The best news is that over the weekend, we received an offer on our house and signed a contract.  Now we’re just waiting for the building inspector to come through, and if there aren’t any major problems with our house (God, I hope not!), we’re going to close on June 1.  Our buyer said he would only walk away if the inspector found something really bad.  I don’t think that will happen.

But wait…. It’s already May 14!  June 1 is only 18 days away! I’m not complaining.  Just trying to figure out the logistics of the thing.  Departure date for us will be June 7.

1.         Reserve a 20′ container to be at our house by May 27.

2.         Pack up everything in the house, get ready to ship.

3.         Purchase one-way flights.

4.         Sell my car.

5.         Get banking in order.

6.         Figure out how to get a long-stay visa (it takes 21 days apparently, and you                                 have to do it in person at the French consulate in Chicago….. and I don’t have all of the necessary documents…)

7.         Quit my job…..

 

I’m not sure how it’s all going to happen, but the important thing is that it IS HAPPENING!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6: Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique)


Fast forward 14 days……

 …and we’re back in Paris after taking a trip around France!

When we first got back to Paris, we were arriving by coach from Normandy.  We arrived at our hotel in mid-afternoon, ready to hit the town.  Everyone was especially excited because the date was June 21.  You know what that means, right?  Not only is it the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, but all over France, even in the smallest village, it’s La Fête de la Musique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fête_de_la_Musique, The Music Festival!  This is the one day of the year that people wanting to play music of any kind, professional or amateur, can get out on the streets and show their stuff.  It’s a great big party, and the ambiance is quite festive, and of course, it doesn’t get dark in Paris until after 11:00.

I don’t think my students had ever seen anything like this.  No matter where they went (we were mainly in the Quartier Latin), there was music on ever corner, every space was filled either with musicians, singers, or  spectateurs like us.  We sent the students out for a little free time, groups of 4+, and I’ve been told they had the time of their lives.  You  must know that all of my students were, at the time, 17-18 years old, and they’re all boys.  We only gave them a bit of free time before meeting up again. We saw how much fun they were having, and they seemed well-behaved (nobody was drinking, or not that we could tell), so we let them have a bit more free time.  On the Métro ride back to the hotel, they had lots of stories to tell.  Most of them had the obvious “best” story to tell (they are teenage boys).  They’d seen a group of about ten young French people all stark naked traipsing around in the Fontaine Saint Michel.  That’s something they’re not likely to forget.

We stayed up later than usual that night, but with the promise that nobody would make trouble when the 8:30 wake-up call would come the next morning.  They came through for me, and nobody had on dark sunglasses.  I considered that a success!  We woke up to a rather gloomy day, as far as the weather goes.  There was a light mist, enough for an umbrella, and it was pretty chilly.  Sweater weather.  Good thing we saved Le Louvre http://www.louvre.fr/en for the last day!

We got to the museum at about ten, and fortunately I’ve been doing this long enough to know which entrance to use in order to avoid the long lines.  In case you’re not aware, I’ll tell you that you must not use the pyramid entrance.  Rather, you should enter the museum through the Rue Rivoli (Palais Royal)entrance.  However, you may not use this entrance for groups.  If you are like me, traveling with a large group (especially students), send them in groups of no more than three, and not one right after the other.  They catch onto that pretty quickly.

I’ve been to Le Louvre a million times (not really), and on that day I didn’t particularly feel like it.  Instead, I sent them in groups and gave them a meeting point after lunch.  I considered going to see the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1605783/ that had just opened (what an awesome movie), but instead I thought I’d better go and check on my colleague who was stuck back at the hotel with a hurt knee.  He was glad for the company, and we had lunch together.  I felt bad that his last day in France was compromised by his injury (I think he’d been doing too much climbing, he’s quite the adventurer).

After I met back with my students, we went to the Champs-Élysées  http://www.champselysees.org/, viewed the Arc de Triomphe  http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/, ate a few macarons from La Durée  http://www.laduree.fr/, and before we knew it, it was time for an early dinner.  After dinner, it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for an early flight out the next morning.

The check-in at Charles de Gaulle http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-gb/passagers/home/was “almost” uneventful.  Just a reminder:  No, it is not possible to check in with a bullet keychain.  It’s not possible with a seven-inch dagger either.  Boys . . . what can I say?  But I’m not the one who had to deal with all of that.  My unfortunate, liming colleague had the pleasure, while I prepared to greet my husband and children who were to arrive in Paris the next day, and then we began our two month family vacation in France.  That’s the way I do it every year, I send the students home with the other chaperone, then stay for holidays.  Maybe this year I’ll be able to stay there for good!  If you’re interested, see my other posts about moving to France.

So that’s it for the 2011 tour to Paris with my wonderful group of students.  There was a lot more to see between the time we left the City of Lights and the time we made it back for the Fête de la Musique, but that’s a story or two for another series of posts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if anyone has some suggestions for future student trips, I’m all ears!  Merci, et à bientôt!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 5: Montmartre)


After dinner we headed up to Montmartre http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/index.html, which is quite close by foot.  We had watched Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/ in class before our departure, so they thought it was fun to see Le Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amélie works in the movie.  Just after having a look (from the outside) at the café, we started our uphill trek to the stairs of Le Sacré Coeur http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/.  Many people get to the top of the stairs and are so overcome by the panoramic view of Paris that they forget about the jewel of a Basilica that’s sitting right behind them.  It’s absolutely worth going inside to have a look, even if you’ve been on a tour of Europe and you’ve seen so many churches that they’re all starting to look alike.  Inside, you will find the enormous Byzantine mosaic of Christ.  It’s one of the world’s largest.  Many of my students were more impressed / inspired by Sacré Coeur than by Notre Dame de Paris  http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/.

You can’t take a trip up to Montmartre without exploring the Place du Tertre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_du_TertreIt’s normally filled with artists just waiting for a chance to draw your portrait.  All of these artists are quite talented, or they wouldn’t have a spot in this world famous square.  Portraits can be pricey, but it’s a nice gift for students to bring home to their parents or grandparents.  For something a bit less dear, you can also have a caricature drawn, and that’s a lot of fun, too.  And while you’re at it, don’t neglect the urge to grab a crêpe, but not just anywhere.

Get off of the Place du Tertre and walk down the Rue Mont Cenis and have one at the window of Au Petit Creux http://www.montmartre-guide.com/adherents/page3/i65/le-petit-creux.html.  They’re not the absolute best crêpes in Paris, for that you’ll have to head over to Montparnasse http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/03/the-best-crpes/, but they’re still really good, especially with a big glob of Nutella inside.

After filling up on crêpes we hopped back on the Métro at the Abbesses station, and headed back to our hotel.  After such a full day, I didn’t have to worry too much about room checks.  I think everyone fell asleep within 20 minutes.  This is the last night we’ll be spending in Paris, for now.  We’ll be back for a few more days at the end of the tour.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we will make our way to the Gare de Lyon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris-Gare_de_Lyon where we’ll board the TGV for a five to six hour ride to Nice.

The final post for our trip to Paris will be Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6:  Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique).  I hope you’re enjoying the blog, and merci.