Saturday, July 17, 2010

Working in France … Chapter 4: A New Hope

So, I leave the prefecture.  I trudge along the sidewalk, dreams of enlightening the French population with my wisdom, shattered.

Then I talk to my husband, who (as usual) makes several excellent points.

  1. They didn’t absolutely say no
  2. It took 11 months for his carte to be finalized and he worked (and was paid) that whole time
  3. This is all hookey, they are not in charge and the head of the bureau will make the decision

He tells me to stop panicking and go to work. I wrote my job telling them my carte was going to take some time to process and started working. I figured the worst case scenario would be I ultimately get rejected and then I just give them their money back and say I volunteered.  At least I’d get some experience on my resume and maybe it would all work out. I spent the first few days learning about theory and observing the other teachers.  Teachers are only qualified if English is their mother tongue.  There are 2 teachers besides me, one from England and one from Canada.  Everyone is very friendly and, the work seemed (at least from observation) do-able.

Then I started actually teaching.  My first lesson was observed and I guess I passed because, since then, I have taught 10 classes.  They usually have 2 or 3 people in each class. The way it works is that they listen and read and study a specific topic and then they come in to meet with a teacher and practice what they have learned.  I help them and also evaluate if they have understood the lesson. 

I am working during lunchtimes and the early evenings about half the days so André is picking up some of the slack for me. The kids seem to be adjusting OK to the new regimen, but it is really too soon to tell.  I am definitely in flux at the moment and I do miss seeing the kids and André when I’m not there for dinner.

I really like the work though.  I get to meet lots of interesting people.  I get to talk (although I try to mostly make them talk).  I am getting an appreciation of how difficult it is to learn English and feel a bit less stupid about my inability to master French.   Best of all,  I get to be my overly dramatic story telling self to a little audience!  And they laugh!!!  I have always made people laugh (until I was in Besancon, at least) and I am loving, loving, loving, loving, that aspect of the job.

Of course, I have been worrying the whole time about the prefecture situation.  I got the number and began calling for an appointment the first Monday she was supposed to return.  All I got was a machine with no ability to leave a message.  I kept calling all week and got nowhere.  In the meanwhile I was pursuing changing my license over which involved getting an official French translation of my US license done by an authorized professional.  This took some time to procure.    I talked with André and a friend of mine who promised me they would come with me for my meeting.  There were two good reasons for this.  First, they speak French much better than I do and secondly, they are not likely to start crying all over the place (never helpful in my French experience).  Also we are going to once again try to grease the wheels of justice before the appointment.  Things would all be well, I was sure of it!

When my calls just wouldn’t go though, I figured I might have misunderstood the directions and the head of the bureau was probably still on vacation.  So I called again the next week and finally, on Thursday, headed back to the office to try to exchange the license and also get an appointment.

I skated right through the hazards of getting a new license, the man in charge of the forms took my US license (yep, gone forever) and told me I’d get a new one in only a few weeks.  For once, something is easy.  It’s kind of ironic that this, which, admittedly, I did wrong, is easy, but the thing I am trying to do everything right on is not.

I headed over to the other desk, and explained (to yet another new face) that I needed a different number since this one didn’t seem to be working.

And that’s when things started, yet again, to go terribly wrong.

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