Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Birthday Weekend

I turned 22 on Sunday!! I had initially intended on spending a quiet day, keeping warm lol, but one of the assistants encouraged me to do something fun! This year was the first time I spent my birthday away from home. Things went fine though :-)

On Saturday it was nice and sunny (although like 2°C) so we went to Aix-les-Bains (3 € round trip by train). There we walked through the town, walked to the lake, walked back to the town lol, had some delicious hot chocolate (chocolat chaud viennois) in a Salon de Thé, and visited the Christmas market. Oh, and later had store-bought pizza dinner in Chambéry.

Next day ---> Sunday, my birthday!!!! What did I do? Well, I hiked up a mountain with the same assistant friend! LOL, a mountain?? bet you didn't see that one coming... neither did I!!! I never would have imagined doing that, plus it was my first hike! We started in Challes-les-Eaux (one of the towns comprising Chambéry Métropole).

It took us 2.5 hours to hike up the 850 metre Mont St Michel (located in Savoie, and not to be confused with the exceedingly popular Mont St Michel in Normandy). It was a relatively sunny day, but since it had snowed some days earlier, the path was covered in snow! We even went off the path for a short while, but only realised this when we found the path lol.

At the top of the mountain there's a tiny chapel.

Of course the views from the top were lovely (e.g. the Alps, Chambéry Métropole, la Croix du Nivolet, etc)!!! I couldn't help wondering if I really did hike up a mountain!! Wow!!! There was also good cell phone reception up there haha, so I was able to call my family back home to let them know about my adventure!
There were some other people who also hiked up the mountain. I saw some cute doggies (lol, including one who ran away from his (sexy) owner and barked us... too cute though because he only wanted to play!).

Well, since this is Savoie, of course there were cows!

It was much faster coming down the mountain, 1.5 hrs! However, once we reached the road my feet were hurting. I guess I have to get used to the new sneakers I bought for the hike. As a result of my aching feet I almost missed the last bus back to Chambéry. Unfortunately, that night I wasn't feeling too great at all! I believe it was a result of my aching feet, tiredness and just poor eating this weekend. Sigh!

I went to Grenoble with some assistants on Monday evening to have pizza. The marché de Noël there was quite nice :-). I was quite tired on Tuesday, and with my feet not totally back to normal I had to forgo ice-skating! Well, today I was able to take advantage of a day of nothingness/rest/relaxation lol, except for a quick grocery run to Monoprix.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow, snow and more snow!

As the title of this post suggests, it snowed A LOT today!! I woke up at 12:30pm and it was snowing! In fact, last night it was snowing when I left to go ice-skating around 8pm... so I guess it has been snowing since then. Around 2:30pm today I went to Carrefour, tugging along my little suitcase to put the groceries in. Remind me never to go grocery shopping again while it's snowing!!! It's quite frustrating having to deal with the snow, trying to avoid slipping and potentially embarrassing myself lol. Nice to look at yes, but now all I want to do is cuddle up under my covers!!

Enjoyable teaching...encounter with a pervert...and skating!

Yesterday was an interesting day... good and bad!lol

In the morning I had two classes at one of my schools. The first class was so much fun. For a half hour each, I had two groups of pupils from 5ème (form 2), who were more or less quite enthusiastic!! (I love it!) Their teacher allowed to me to read dialogues to them instead of playing the relevant recording on the CD player. Haha, I enjoyed doing a bit of "acting", changing voices depending on whether the character was a boy or a girl. I can tell that the students enjoyed it. We went then through some vocabulary and pictures. The second class was 3ème (form 4) and I stayed with the teacher for the hour with the whole class. It was an interesting activity as he had the students imagining what they would carry if they were on a desert island and why!

Since teaching/classes are from 10 to 12 on a Tuesday, I usually stay for lunch at the school. The lunch is always very good, and vegeterian options are available! This Tuesday I had: vegetable couscous*, a cheese pie, green salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salad dressing), bread, apple and raspberry crumble, yogurt, and water ..... all for the low price of 2.40EUR!! Yummy!!
* While I said that I never wanted to eat couscous again after the Marseille trip, I must say that the couscous at the school was very delicious!

After lunch I decided to walk from one school to another to see how long it takes (20 minutes). A little before I reached the other school (about 5 minutes away), a guy asked me something. Now the guy wasn't bad looking, seemed relatively normal, seemed to be like late teens - early twenties, short dark hair, brown eyes, blah blah blah lol ... he was a pervert so no need to elaborate! I didn't quite hear him, but when he repeated I realised he wanted to know the time. Being my friendly self (plus I was in a particularly good mood after teaching that morning), not thinking it was a pick-up line, I smiled and said "Une heure et quart, une heure quinze" then continued walking. Only that he started following me!! (Hint... don't answer/talk to perverts). So then he started telling me how I'm pretty, asked what I look for in men (no response!), if we could meet later, oh how to just talk to him for 2 minutes, how I have a joli cul (I quickened my pace but it's only so fast I can walk!!!), grabbed himself (no need to elaborate), made some sexual suggestions, and then like practically in front of the school I was walking to, the psycho reached out and grabbed my left butt cheek!!! I mean..... getting talks is one thing, but actually touching someone?? He has got to be losing it! By that time I was not being nice anymore, and since I don't really curse people in English lol and probably because of the shock of it all, the only French that came to mind was "arrête!!!! (stop)"... although he didn't stop, but by the second "arrête!!!!" he did!!! I hope I never see him again, and hope he doesn't trouble any of the students from the high schools!

That afternoon, I had two hours of teaching and it was quite fun! I did the same desert island activity with the students at the other school :-) Tuesday night it was snowing when I left the apartment to go to the ice skating rink... but that didn't stop me lol. It was soooo much fun!! Although for the 1h40 mins that I skated I had some almost close encounters with the ice (e.g. like when I sped up during Brick & Lace's "Love is Wicked" woo hoo, Caribbean music!!) and I fell once! It was cold!!! (I should wear gloves when skating), and since I had my cell phone in my right back pocket my fall was a bit painful!! (maybe I have a cell phone imprint? lol).

So yeah... enjoyable day overall minus the pervert episode!

Fête des Lumières 2008

Last weekend was the Fête des Lumières in Lyon. On Friday I found out that the university had organized a bus to take students on the trip. Two Chinese students from my class and I hurried to sign up ... luckily we got the last three places available! That night I worked a bit on a presentation for uni, then went with a friend to Aix-les-Bains. It's close to Chambéry, and from the little I saw, I can tell it's very pretty! (oh it has a lake! - Lac du Bourget).

Saturday evening the bus left Chambéry at 5:30pm and we arrived in Lyon around 7:30pm. I met up with the two students and then we set off. We took the métro, went to the Tourism Office to get maps (very important!), and walked around a bit. However, a little later on, I had stopped to take a photo of one of the light displays and we ended up getting separated! It's not very surprising though since Lyon was packed with people!!!!!!! I continued using the map to locate more displays. There were also Christmas markets and people singing/playing instruments. Somehow I didn't expect Lyon to be hilly ... I sure got some exercise! lol. The métro was free because of the Fête des Lumières, so that helped!

Other activities for the night included visiting a church and taking a ride on a 60m high Ferris Wheel! Four teenagers/friends and I were in the same Ferris Wheel thingy (compartment? I dunno...). At first one girl was freaking out/screaming/laughing nervously and holding on to her bf! None of us wanted to fall off from that height! lol. Another girl said that she believed that last year someone jumped out... (uhhh? why mention that when we were trying to remain calm?! lol). Then that girl's gf started to spin the comparment we were in!! Hahah, it was scary spinning so high up, but funn! We didn't die, whew!! I was tempted to go on the ride again but didn't bother. After that I took a walk towards the Rhône river.

A little after midnight, I felt a bit sad/surprised when I saw a muslim woman and her little daughter sitting in the street begging, holding a sign written in Arabic. I'm guessing they were hungry since they were kinda close to a display for "Action contre la faim" (Against Hunger). (I made a small donation :))

Around 1am, I made my way back to the train station (Gare de Perrache) to get the bus. All the students were supposed to meet for 1:30am. I had a little difficulty finding the actual location of the bus since parts of the gare were closed. While explaining my situation to a group of security guards, I saw some students (including the leader/organizer) walking in my direction, yay lol! We then met up with the rest of students waiting for the bus. I even saw the German assistant from Chambéry! I didn't know he was on the trip too. Apparently he and some other assistants (Italian) got a friend at the uni to sign them up. I then met back up with the students I lost earlier on lol. Well the bus arrived some minutes to 2am, and by 2am we were off. It was sooooo cold when we arrived! I walked quickly to my apartment and was so thankful for the warmth!!:-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ice-skating, Préfecture, Marché de Noël!

On Tuesday night I went ice-skating with one of my language assistant friends. It was sooooo much fun!!!! At the skating rink on Tuesday nights there is a light show and music ... a bit like being in a club lol. There were lots of teenagers there. It was my first time ice-skating and I guess that all the inline skating I used to do about 10 years ago lol really helped out! I didn't fall, yayyyy!! although I did trip a few times lol during the two hours on the ice... I just didn't come in contact with the ice - very important lol! I couldn't help but laugh uncontrollably at this sign that kept popping up on the big display screen at the rink:

Hahaha! I think the picture of the man/ass added to the comedy lol of this ad for some French association. At the rink, we were even treated to a short show from one of the teenager's there. She did some twirls n stuff on the ice, very cool! I think I'll be going ice-skating every Tuesday!!!

On Tuesday afternoon I had gone to the Prefecture to inquire about my récépissé or carte de séjour... I still didn't have anything and my visa is going to expire just now! Well, the lady I spoke to told me to come back on Wednesday morning to collect my récépissé. I did exactly that... and yayyyy!!! I got my récépissé on Wednesday. It's valid for quite some time so I don't have to worry about being illegal in France once my visa expires lol. Only problem is that if I go to England I may have problems entering France since I haven't received the actual carte de séjour as yet... I'm trying not to risk having any problems, so I think I'm going to be staying here for Christmas.

Yesterday, three of my assistant buddies and I went to Annecy to visit the Christmas market. However, the main Christmas market hasn't started as yet, so we went to another marché at the Impérial Palace Hotel. It was alright, but I personally think it was geared more towards children. There were stalls, Santa, reindeer, music, and even a Québecois stall, where we got crêpes and hot chocolate, yummm!

It also snowed a bit, awwww!! After the visit, we headed back to Chambéry.

Today was an interesting day. I walked to the university this morning because I was really tired and a little walk is good to get the eyes open lol. Plus, since I found out about the shortcut the walk only takes about 20 minutes. I guess I feel a bit lonely at the university sometimes... but besides that things are fine. I wish I had my Financial Management textbook (in English!) though! All this new technical vocabulary can be a bit confusing. Spanish was interesting, and I'm so glad the lecturer convinced me to do it instead of Français Langue Etrangère. After 3 years of not studying Spanish, it surely is coming back! yay!!! After a quick lunch, I went to teach at one of the schools. That was cool since one of the teachers had a great activity on clothes for me to do with the students. I plan to use it with my other classes tomorrow morning! Well, since my Spanish assistant friend returned to Spain, the studio apartment at the school is currently available. Looks like I'll be moving in for the New Year... the place is small but cute and cosy, 45 minutes walk from centre ville, not to mention ... the rent is pretty fantastic!!!:-)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shopping, Snowing, Studying & Strolling!

It was quite cold in Chambéry for the past few days, with temperatures reaching below 0°C!!

Well, Tuesday afternoon my teaching classes got cancelled so I made my way for the first time to the Chamnord Centre Commercial (aka the mall) to get new winter clothes. To be quite honest, I have not really been enjoying shopping for clothes across here. The main reasons are because I have never shopped for winter clothes before this Chambéry experience (so it's a bit frustrating since I'm not sure what to buy!!), and then I like cute/bright/colourful clothing but here there seems to be a wide variety of clothes in grey, black and brown! Not to mention that I also can't seem to find pants/jeans to fit properly!lol. Anyway, I ended up buying a brown hooded jacket of which the inside reminds me of some kinda fluffy animal lol. This purchase turned out to be a great move! because it snowed on Friday morning! It had snowed some days before that, but mainly at night. That morning I walked through the snow on my way to teach at one of the schools, and it was ok because I was warm enough in my jacket and gloves!

On another note, yesterday I spent about twelve hours working on a university project (Commerce International) with a German student. Yes... twelve hours... but the good thing is that we finished!! I think it's also the first time I've ever finished a project so early, a week in advance of the deadline! *wow*

Today I went strolling! It was soooo nice and sunny yay!!!!, plus it was 9°C which is a great improvement from the past few days! My unplanned stroll took me through Chambéry, Jacob Bellecombette, Cognin, La Motte Servolex and back to Chambéry. It took me a little under 3 hours walking around, stopping to glance at the "Vous êtes ici" signs on the maps at almost every bus stop to monitor my progess :-). There doesn't seem to have much to do on Sundays in France since almost everywhere is closed, so walking was fun. There were a few people walking and cycling today too. I think I'll rent a bike one of these days, as soon as I think I'll be completely comfortable with riding on the "wrong side" (i.e. on the right) of the road.:-)

Thanksgiving dinner!

On Thursday evening I had my first Thanksgiving dinner with some of my language assistant buddies from the USA, England and Germany. Ohhh, it was soooo goood!!!!:-) It was a potluck and we had really delicious food!!! :-) The menu included mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, pink cabbage salad, and fried rice (courtesy me), with pumpkin pie and milk rice for dessert! Drinks included water, wine, and apple juice. I'm thankful for having met some nice people across here! :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My students are adorable!

Sorry to say I haven't written much about teaching lately. To be quite honest, things are going really well! My kids are absolutely adorable! For instance, I'm constantly greeted by several students smiling and saying "hellooo" once I set foot on the school compound. At first, I felt a bit hesitant to go to one of my assigned schools, but that's over now! Whew!!

Earlier in this experience, I had felt a little sad because some students in one particular class weren't paying attention. It was totally surprising that the next time I had that class, they were veryyyyy interested in the activity I had prepared (fill the blanks song activity). In fact, a girl who was one of the least interested students last time, was the one to participate the most!!! *smile*

So far I've been playing Jeopardy with my classes, listening to songs (while playing the video on my computer), and having them complete worksheets! Jeopardy has had an overwhelming success!! The students are very competitive - which makes the game exciting!! - and they come up with some interesting team names... lol e.g. The Best Women in the World, The S***, Camembert. Worksheets are good for them to actually write something down and help them remember. While I'm only supposed to use English in the classroom, I kinda break that rule and use French with them sometimes. It's for their benefit though. For instance, if we're talking about a topic and they have ideas but don't know how to express them in English ... this results in the dreaded blank stares lol. So in such a situation, I'll allow them to speak in French, while I translate and write the relevant vocabulary on the board.

The week before, one of the English teachers didn't show up at one of my schools. As a result, I didn't necessarily have to teach. It was so strange/cute/surprising when some of the students in the class came to my classroom and said we could still have class! I mean, wow... they actually wanted class!! They/We had fun though; we played Jeopardy!

No teaching complaints here!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nightclub Experience

Last week Thursday, I went to a French nightclub for the first time. My university (well the IMUS - Institut de Management de l'Université de Savoie) had a Soirée Kitch - Tous à pois at Opéra Discothèque, a club here in Chambéry. Basically, it was supposed to be a kinda 80s party and guests were supposed to wear polka dots (à pois) if they wanted a free cocktail! Well it was only 5€ (instead of 10) for tickets bought in advance, and I was curious... so I went (of course, with two English assistants!). Since I only have polka dot pyjama pants lol, I decided to pass on the polka dots.

We arrived at the club a little after 11. First, we had to pay 2€ each to leave our coats. Ok...ready to actually get inside the club... the lady at the coat place, said we had to leave our bags too! I mean, seriously now, my handbag?? With my passport, etc? Sigh! So I had to decide on the spot what I wanted to carry inside... reassured by my friends that my stuff/passport would be safe, I chose to hold my purse, camera and cell phone. All this time, the worker was being a real garce telling another worker "Oh, pourquoi c'est toujours moi?" (Why is it always me?) ... clearly I just ignored her...

Finally, we got to walk around inside the club. After 11pm ... the place was pretty empty - like 30 people if so many lol - and about 80% of the early-birds were guys. The dj was cranking up the techno music! After sitting around for a while, seeing more people come in bit by bit, I finally heard the best song for the night (in my opinion) - Sean Paul's Temperature!!! Yay!!!! Music that would actually be played in a typical trini club!!! lol. The only similar song I heard was Kat De Luna and Elephant Man - Whine up ... that's it!!! The next best song I heard was Discobitch - C'est beau la bougeoisie ... notice something? Veryyy different from Sean Paul, etc... it was pretty much techno whole night!!! and some 70/80s stuff (e.g. We will rock you).

More "culture shock"... There was a glass booth so people could smoke in the club without really smoking in the club (if that makes sense). Drinks were ridiculously expensive ... e.g. 6€ for a glass of Malibu and pine (a TT$15 drink for $TT60!!!). It's not worth it!! Oh and if our French translations were right, it seemed as though people can purchase expensive bottles of alcohol (e.g. 350€ a bottle), and leave it with the club for when next they go back to Opéra. Also, a few times I wondered to myself "why are people dancing so far apart?". Lol, don't lemme start with the dancing! Well to be honest, you can't really look to "wine down the place" haha to techno! It was fun though, just different! And of course, I joined in!! (Hope no Caribbean people saw me embarrassing/enjoying myself, just kidding!). And I didn't come across any sick men either... this is odd... girls just dancing by themselves in peace lol and guys just dancing by themselves... *confused*

Apparently the closest club where they play Caribbean music, etc. is in Grenoble, which is an hour away by train. After that night at Opéra, I was really tired the next day... not so much when I was teaching because the students have so much energy, but during uni... yea, I felt a lil nod coming on after lunch! Overall it was a fun night out, but I don't think I'll be going back in a hurry lol

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Search of Sunshine

Last week, the weather forecast for Chambéry included rain and more rain, and degrees ranging from -1 to about 12°C . Clearly I had to start a sunshine search! Destinations: Marseille and Montpellier!

Two assistants and I got a pretty good deal to Marseille (20€70 one way, not bad at all!!). So we took the bus from Chambéry to Valence (2 hours), then after a quick 15 minute lunch, we were on our way to Marseille on the TGV (1 hour). On our arrival at the station, we located our free accommodation provider lol: a young French guy with a drawing of a couch (too funny lol), with the word couch written underneath. The three of us assistants, the guy and his friend took the métro to his apartment. Very nice place, really artsy too!

In was rainy in Marseille, but the place is so lovely that I still enjoyed it!! (plus it would have been worse in Chambéry so I was grateful! lol). Anyway, to avoid writing a novel! I'm going to see how much of the vacation I can fit in point form:

Tuesday Afternoon/Evening
  • Marseille arrival by train
  • Métro to the Old Port (Vieux Port)
  • Beginning of aimless walking around Marseille done by us assistants
  • Stop by the Tourism Office to get maps
  • Walk around the Vieux Port
  • Walk along la Canebière (historic high street)
  • "Ooh, what's going on there (on side street)?" A market - so I took a picture
  • Angry market vendor started asking me if I took a picture
  • Fearing for my safety, I resorted to "I don't understand! I don't speak French. What?" Lol
  • Quickly left the market and headed back to the main street
  • More walking (we did a lot of that!!!)
  • Heard sounds of water ... where is that coming from?
  • "Holy Moly!" We stumle upon the Palais Longchamps!
  • Of course we just had to visit :-)
  • Alright, time for food!!!
  • Where to eat? Remember, fish-eating vegetarian here!
  • Ended up at a Tunisian restaurant
  • Three orders of couscous (1 chicken and 2 veggie)
  • Hmm, not my thing...
  • "I don't think I can eat anymore" (me)
  • "What? You have to eat all. It's impolite if you don't!"
  • "Are you serious?"
  • "Yeah! It's written outside on the menu in two languages you understand!"
  • "No, seriously? I'm paying my money I don't know why I have to eat all."
  • Remembering aggressive vendor earlier, I decided to not take any chances
  • Shared and tried my best to finish the couscous! Success!
  • "Why didn't you eat all?" (me)
  • "Well, it's ok for a man." Hmm, ok then.
  • Only to find out later that I got punked!!!! Very funny :P
  • Lol, guess who won't be eating couscous anytime soon!!
  • Time for some wine to wash down that couscous lol
  • More walking until we were back at the Vieux Port
  • Happy Hour! Buy one drink and get one free!
  • Time for ice cream lol. Expensive, considering the one scoop we got lol, but delicious!
  • Métro back to the apartment!


  • Breakfast pastries followed by Métro
  • Football stadium!! Followed by visit of the Musée Boutique of Olympique de Marseille
  • This was when the day of walking really began!!!
  • Walk along a really long boulevard
  • Finally, the sea in the distance! but first a quick visit to Parc Borély
  • The sea!!!!! Sand!! lol
  • Rain! Time for shelter at a nearby café
  • Hot chocolate and pain au chocolat - 2€50
  • Ok, back to walking along the coast!! Walking, walking, walking lol!!
  • Arrival at the apartment - 4:30pm ... huh??!! We left the apartment at 10:30 this morning! Wow, that was a lot of exercise!
  • About 30 minutes later - time to leave the apartment again
  • Métro. Beginning of the search for the Cathédrale, Notre-Dame de la Garde
  • Jewish Synagogue
  • Steps to Notre Dame
  • Time for an uphill climb!! (let's not forget the morning walkathon lol)
  • Finally!! Look how pretty!! Wow @ design, roof paintings, etc.
  • Lovely views of Marseille from up there!
  • Time to go. Going downhill was much easier.
  • Random walk in a dark park ... creepy!
  • Time for food!!! I get to pick this time :-)
  • We're in Marseille!! Must have fish!!
  • Checked out some menus,, then chose Café Simon!
  • The food was great!!!!!!!!! I had lemon butter sesame salmon which came with rice, stir-fried veggies, a veggie pie thingy, and of course bread! (It's France after all!)
  • Happy Hour again at Exit Café ("egg zeet" lol)
  • Football match between Marseille and Nantes!! Played in Nantes, so the bar had a nice crowd of Marseille football enthusiasts!
  • "Allez!" "Oh putain!!" "C'est pas possible!!" "Allez... allez!!!"
  • Lol, fun match which ended in a 1-1 draw
  • Eventually it was time to head back to the apartment. The Métro stops at 11:30pm.


  • Breakfast in Marseille, followed by random walk around the area
  • Chocolat chaud in a café
  • On the way back to the apartment - hey, look our couchsurfer guy!
  • Goodbyes and thanks!
  • Reached the apartment, got our luggage, then off to the train station!
  • Hurried and bought my train ticket!
  • Time for the assistants to say goodbye for now:
  • Different destinations: Montpellier, Toulouse, Morocco!
  • I just had to visit Montpellier again :-) since my last visit 2 years ago
  • Randomly assigned seating on the train
  • Good-looking guy on my left, good-looking guy on my right ... hmmm, there's something about Marseille! I like!! lol
  • Sunshine!!!!! Yay, Montpellier!!!!
  • Bit cold, but sunshine nevertheless :-)
  • 3 hours of touring Montpellier! Strangely enough, it felt like home, aww!
  • Train to Valence, then another to Chambéry!
  • What a great vacation!!!!! :-)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Geneva day trip

One of the benefits of living in Chambéry, or rather pays de Savoie, has to be its proximity to the neighbouring countries. Today, I decided to take a little hop across to Switzerland!

I had checked the weather online before I left ... not that great, but the best compared to the rest of the week! So with that in mind, I jumped on the 12:09 p.m. train to Geneva. The ride itself was really lovely, especially passing along the lake (Lac du Bourget). I arrived in Geneva about 1:30 p.m.. It.was.cold.and.rainy! (just my luck lol). Anyway, that wasn't going to stop my sheer determination to see the city a bit! I had a map of Geneva (from when I was there in transit to France last month) and decided that I should just see as many sites of interest as possible.

First I made my way to the lake (Lac Léman in French, or Lake Geneva in English), where the famous Jet d'eau (Water Jet) stood out from a distance. It wasn't as amazing as I expected though ... maybe because of the gloomy weather? Then I spotted another attraction: l'Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock).

Here's what the Geneva Tourism site has to say about it:

"A symbol of the Geneva watch industry of world renown, the famous flower clock, located at the edge of the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) since 1955, is a masterpiece of technology and floral art. Formerly only decorative with its sole dial comprising over 6,500 flowers, the new millennium provided it with decisive artistic dimensions thanks to the ingenuity of the gardeners of the Service of Green Spaces and the Environment. It is now composed of eight concentric circles, the colours of which vary with the seasons and the plants which make up the display.
Did you know that the seconds hand of Geneva's Flower Clock is the largest in the world (it is more than 2.5 meters long)!"

Well the weather wasn't cooperating, and it's not much fun being a tourist in the rain (although it's a good thing I carried my umbrella!). Then I spotted the petit train! I really enjoy those tourist trains! The ride cost 8 Swiss Francs per adult and took visitors along Lake Geneva's leftbank (e.g. views of international organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization from the lake, the Flower Clock, Water Jet, some statues, buildings, flowers, etc).

After that, I took a little walk along some of Geneva's streets, even stopped by the Tourism Office. There are a lot of designer stores, however, I did find a store that screamed Switzerland: there were lots of watches, clocks, swiss army knives, etc!

After that, I ate at Swissmeal (lol, I was looking for "authentic" Swiss food, but gave up the search and just opted for fast food with Swiss in the name ... lol, rip-off yes (in terms of cost), but it tasted fine). Next stop was at H&M, then the Metro Shopping centre, where I bought which is perhaps my favourite pastry, a pain aux raisins - simple yet delicious!

It was around 4:15pm when I felt as though I had enough of Geneva/rain for one day; A quick run through the douanes françaises (Customs, in the train station ... ok fine, I had to stand up for like 1 minute lol) and then I got the 4:20pm? train back to Chambéry (which arrived a little before 6pm).

Yesterday my flatmate asked me if I didn't go out for the weekend. Technically I did ... I went for a baguette just across the road on Sunday lol. I guess I made up for my lazy weekend today! More travels ahead!!!!! In fact... Marseille tomorrow!!! I can't wait!! Maybe I've been watching too much Plus Belle la Vie (which is set in Marseille), maybe I just need some sunshine and warmth, or maybe both lol!!

Oh on a side note, clocks went back an hour Sunday morning ... not only was the extra sleep great! but now I'm only five hours ahead of Trini time, yay!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Enfin... les vacances (de Toussaint)!!

I'm officially on vacation!!!!
Classes at the university start back in one week, and teaching at the collèges resumes in a week and a half. To celebrate, I had a very lazy day today! Besides sleeping till midday, I also spent time editing the layout of the blog (isn't it pretty now?!), and taking a little browse around Facebook lol. Needless to say, I'm trying not to be too nerdy, but that's going to be inevitable since I have three projects due for school!!!
Anyway, back to happier thoughts... les vacances, les vacances ... *huge grin*

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Grenoble Adventure

This morning (Wed 22 Oct 2008, well yesterday, France time), I went to the Préfecture and submitted my documents, yay! I guess I should mention that the staff was nice lol. Anyway, the Grenoble adventure started this afternoon!

Three British assistants (two girls and a guy from England), an American guy (some assistants from the Annecy trip) and I left Chambéry on the 12:49pm train to Grenoble. The weather wasn't nice today; it rained and there was a lot of breeze! Yes, I was freezing! We walked around a bit in Grenoble, took the tram to the shopping centre, and met up with a British language assistant who teaches in Grenoble. Since Chambéry does not have a FNAC store, I made it my duty to visit a branch in Grenoble. I considered buying a printer, but eventually didn't bother. Guess I'll wait till I receive my pay cheque (wooo hooo!! I can't wait!), or maybe I'll order it online to avoid having to tote it home on the train.

After the shopping centre, it was unfortunately still raining and cold! Nevertheless, one of the British girls had a France book with places to visit in Grenoble, so we headed for a chocolat place. However, it wasn't opened as yet when we arrived. So we went to a café next door, where we spent about an hour drinking hot chocolate and chatting. That was relaxing and it surely was welcoming being in a nice warm place. The chocolate place opened at 6pm, so we went there then. But lo and behold lol, it was no longer a chocolate place like stated in the book. The lady there told us that last year they changed the menu: cocktails, etc. no hot chocolate, sigh! Anyway, she was nice enough to suggest a place for us to visit: Le Hasard, a bar nearby which serves hot chocolate, etc. Le Hasard is a unique kinda bar; I guess you can describe it as a political bar: lots of pictures on the wall, e.g. Che Guevara. The hot chocolate there was really delicious. Another place of interest in the France book was La Fondue, a fondue restaurant in Grenoble. Well that too was closeby, but since it opened at 7pm, we stayed in Le Hasard till then.

Fondue! I had fondue aux fines herbes. Yum yum! At first I was unsure about fondue since I never had it before... but I'm so glad I did! Small bits of bread to dip into a hot pot of melted cheese and herbs... oooh, good stuff!! The fondue had to be shared between two persons. Since there were 6 of us, there were 3 different types of fondue. We also played a nice game of Truth or Dare! lol. Basically, if your bread fell into the fondue pot you had to choose either truth or dare. The very first time I dipped a chunk of bread into the fondue it fell! Luckily, since it was my first fondue experience they let me off the Truth or Dare lol. One guy was particularly unlucky lol, and had to answer a string of Truth questions. Good entertainment for us at the table! There was one question that we all had to answer though... lol, "choosing from the six of us, who would you marry, kiss, shag, touch inappropriately, or kill? And why?". Haha, interesting answers which made the evening light and fun. So our evening at La Fondue included fondue, fun conversation, red wine, water, chocolate fondue with fruits for dessert, and a small weird drink the waitress gave us each at the end (tasted fine on the first sip, but then it was like perfume/medicine/lol, not too tasty/time to just gulp it down! lol). Oh, La Fondue also had a very interesting toilet, with a ladybird design on the seat lol.

We left La Fondue at about 9:35pm. Then we said goodbye to the assistant from Grenoble, and then the rest of us took a tram to the train station in hopes of catching the last train back to Chambéry at 10pm (yes, that was cutting it close, especially since the British guy and I both hadn't bought our tickets as yet). We reached to the station about 9:47pm, ran to buy our tickets from the machines, and got through with that on time. We had to wait a while for the platform for the train to Chambéry to be announced, but soon enough it was and we made our way to voie B. Waiting patiently on platform B, in the cold lol, there was suddenly a message on the PA system: because of la présence des animaux sur la voie the train had been delayed indefinitely! Huh? Animals on the tracks? What kind of animals? What were they doing there?! Lol! The French word for "delay" is retard, and it was kinda funny that the screens in the station kept flashing "retard" next to the Chambéry train (ok joke in English lol). We eventually had to go to the hall in the train station to wait for more announcements about the train. That was the last train departing the Grenoble train station that night, so there weren't too many people at the station. Some trains that were arriving were also delayed because of the animals lol. I'm not sure what happened with people on the train, who couldn't arrive because of the animals. Apparently the train was 10km away. Well, we eventually didn't take the train, never saw it actually! The SNCF people arranged for those of us going to Chambéry to get taxis home, yay! Ok, well rather taxis to the train station in Chambéry. At about 11:25pm, the five of us Chambéry assistants got into a big taxi along with a French girl (who described the "animals/waiting in the station" situation as la méga-galère, and the "taxis" as la classe! lol) and someone else who I didn't quite see who was in the passenger seat.

We arrived at Chambéry at about 12:05am (Thurs 23 Oct 2008). Fortunately, the five of us assistants dropped out close to les Eléphants, so in less than 5 minutes I was back in my apartment!! Overall, it was a great day, in spite of the weather, and I enjoyed myself! Must get more fondue!! lol

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Un mois en France!

Today makes exactly one month since I've arrived in France!
An interesting month indeed! Far away from family and friends (not too far thanks to technology), but I'm doing just fine, thank God! What did I do to celebrate the anniversary lol? Well, what about a nice long walk around the town! It was so nice and sunny that I just couldn't resist! I'm looking forward to the upcoming months; hopefully they'll have good things in store :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wow!!! What a pleasant surprise!!!!

Today was the Retour des Alpages in Annecy. (see programme here). I went with some language assistants (British, American, Italian, and Spanish). It was a really nice day, sunny, and lots of things too see: animals, people wear traditional clothing, folk music, etc. But that wasn't the pleasant surprise lol. Here goes...

At lunch time, the Spanish guy, Italian girl and I left the other assistants to find something to eat. The three of us were walking along Rue Grenette when all of a sudden I hear (girl's voice) "ALICIA ...!!", in fact my first name and last name!!! Turned around and there is another fellow Trinidadian, and more than that, we both went to the same high school!!!!!!! I mean, whoa!!!!! In France?? In Annecy?? I live in Chambéry, she is currently on a semester abroad in Versailles, and somehow we ran into each other!! I knew she was in France (thanks Facebook) but had no idea she would be on this side, and I don't think she knew I was in France. I haven't seen her in about 2-3 years, and though we weren't in the same year at school it was just sooo nice seeing her!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good teaching day, yay!

Today I had a class of 3ème (form 4, ie. 14-15yrs old) students... and it was good!!! They paid attention, answered questions, and quietly looked at a video clip on Trinidad & Tobago (Caribbean Young Explorers DVD). When the bell rang in the middle of the video, a student even said "Oh j'étais captivée". Lol, guess she liked it, yay!

Alright, well I have had good teaching experiences so far (for the most part), though I took it a bit personally when a class (3ème) I had earlier this week at the same school had some students who just weren't interested. On Tuesday night I went to the cinema with two British assistants to see Entre les murs, a French film about a difficult high school in Paris. The film won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. I wasn't too keen on seeing it (esp. after teaching that day), but the movie was really good!! Here's the trailer on youtube:

I felt better after the movie, but I couldn't help feeling slightly hesitant about teaching today. I'm so glad things turned out well! Hope this trend continues :-)

Guess there aren't any English speakers around...

This sign/acronym just seems so wrong...
It's for the Fédération Autonome Générale de l'Industrie Hôtelière Touristique.
Uhh what?? lol...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Championne Olympique de Surf... euhhh Snowboard!

Isabelle Blanc ( spoke to the students at the university today, as part of the Semaine de l'Entreprise week. Very very cool and positive! That was my favourite presentation so far. Her presentation was on how to balance your life and be successful, "Comment conjuguer réussite et équilibre".

As for the title of this post, well the printed programme had surf instead of snowboard. Apparently it's a regional thing here to say surf. Just confuse the foreigners! lol

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Almost 3 weeks in France!

Yup, tomorrow will make trois semaines since I've been in France! And what a time it has been so far!

Week 1

After a nine hour flight, a day in London, short flight to Geneva, I finally arrived in Chambéry by train on the 15th September. My first week was spent by a very nice English teacher and her family in the countryside.

To summarize the week (instead of writing a novel lol), I visited one of the schools where I'll be teaching, went jogging around a track with my host teacher and another English teacher from the school, had an interview at the Université de Savoie, got the cold, drank half a bottle of Buckley's Cough & Cold, felt cold, injured my big toe and ankle, bought my first pair of boots (though with the injury I couldn't walk too well in them), bought a French sim card, and spent lots of time walking around Chambéry centre.

Week 2

On Sunday, I moved into an apartment!! I found the place through an agency, and I'm in fact sharing with a French lady who is also the owner. The apartment in located in Chambéry centre (yay!!), and I have Internet access, TV, a full or queen size bed (I'm not sure), a proper kitchen to cook in, etc.

On Monday I had to go to another interview (this time in Spanish) at the University. Interesting... since I haven't done much Spanish in the past three years. A few hours after the interview I received a lovely email... I got accepted to the university to pursue my masters in International Management!!

There was also language assistant training in Grenoble and Autrans this week from the 24th to the 26th September. I met up with the Spanish assistante who is teaching at my second school. At the stage in Grenoble, we met other language assistants in the Académie de Grenoble, walked around Grenoble with two German assistants, and took photos :-) Buses took us from Grenoble to Autrans (a little mountain town). Needless to say, Autrans was cold!! I dunno how people live there... Anyway, so assistants had to share rooms; there were 6 of us in my room: me, the Spanish assistant, two English assistants, one Scottish assistant, and one American assistant.

We went to a bar nearby on both nights spent in Autrans... the bar was nice and warm, and smoke-free! I appreciate the law against smoking in public places. Language assistant training was boring/unnecessarily long for the most part, the food was fine I guess (though as a vegetarian I had to eat a lil more bread to compensate), and I met the only other Caribbean assistant in the Académie, a guy from Jamaica.

Oh, during this week I also started to feel like my normal self, pre-France.

Week 3

I visited Annecy with my Spanish friend (aka the assistant) on Saturday afternoon. Annecy is really, really pretty, and even though we only spent about 3 hours there, we had a good time visiting the lake (including via Le Petit Train), and walking around the old town.

On Sunday I went to the braderie in Chambéry which is a street market which takes place twice a year.

I started classes at the university on Monday!! That was interesting, and felt good to be productive!!!

On Wednesday (1st October) marked the start of my teaching contract, so I went into my main school. On Thursday, I went to the main school and also to the second school for the first time. There'll be more on teaching later on.

Now, Sunday 5th October (which can be considered the beginning of a new week - 4th), I'm getting ready to visit Lac du Bourget (the largest lake in France) with some students from the university. Time for me to get ready! :-)