Surprise! I’m Moving to the Middle of Nowhere.

After weeks of waiting, I finally received my arrêté de nomination, or work contract, from France!

So where will I be living in less than three months from today? From the title of this post, I’m sure you have some inkling of where I’ve been placed. Yup, that’s right folks, I’m officially moving to the middle of nowhere.

Let me introduce you to my tiny French village, Domfront! 

First of all, let’s do a bit of a geography refresher. Here is the region of Lower Normandy :

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And here are the three départements of Lower Normandy : Manche, Calvados, and Orne.

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And here is a close-up of the Orne department. See that little dot in the far west of the département, labelled “Domfront”? That’s my village! (Sidenote: Do you know how long it took me to find a map of Orne that actually had Domfront on it?)

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Now that you know where my village is located, here is everything I know about Domfront so far, either from the arrêté de nomination that I received on June 17 or from extensive Google searches.

First of all, Domfront is tiny. Ridiculously tiny. We’re talking 3770 people here, according to Wikipedia (soon to be 3771!). And it’s also in the middle of nowhere, if you hadn’t gathered that already; Domfront is actually smack in the middle of a provincial park (the parc naturel régional de Normandie-Maine)! It’s so small that there isn’t even a train, so in order to travel anywhere of consequence, you need to take a bus to a slightly bigger town, Flers, and then take the train from there. I have always been very happy to be an urbanite, so this switch to rural living will be interesting to say the least!

Colombages_à_Domfront
At the very least, I know that there is a bar in Domfront. Hallelujah!

On the plus side, Domfront looks beautiful from the pictures I’ve seen so far. It is known as a cité médiévale because of its 11th-century castle, which you can visit for free! Who knew that one day I would be living in a town with a castle?! There is a church, the Église Saint-Julien, and the village is known both for its old city centre with its half-timbered houses and for camembert and cidre production. Best of all, there are numerous hiking trails in the area, which means that I will be able to get out and explore the countryside and maybe go on some adventures with new friends.

As for my teaching job, I will be dividing my time between two schools: Collège Jacques Prévert and Lycée Auguste Chevalier. They are located across town from one another … exactly 1.1 km apart. I guess I won’t have to worry about a long commute!

To be honest, at this point I still have a lot more questions than answers about what this coming year will be like. Right now, my feelings about moving to Domfront are mixed. On one hand, now that my initial shock about being sent to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere has subsided and I’ve done some research (a lot of it using Google Street View), I think that Domfront could be quite the adventure for me. There are two supermarkets, so I definitely won’t starve, and although the shopping seems incredibly limited, there oddly seems to be a hair salon on every street corner, which means that my hair will look fantastic while I’m there (haha!). I also think that a slower pace of life might be good for me after the stress and busyness of the last year of my undergrad. Best of all, I’ve discovered a running route! I was really worried that I would have to run laps around the town to train for my upcoming races, since French roads don’t usually have a shoulder to run on, but I’ve discovered that there is a hiking trail that runs right through Domfront! As an Albertan, when I hear the words “hiking trail,” I immediately think of switchbacks going up a mountain (or really any sort of trail that involves a steep ascent), but from Google Street View it looks like this “hiking trail” is quite flat, which will be perfect for my long runs. For me, just the knowledge that I will be able to keep training while I’m there is comforting; I think that if I moved to Domfront with no goals to work towards, I would go crazy very quickly.

On the other hand, I am slightly disappointed about my placement, partly because I requested a bigger city and partly because of the location. When I pictured living in Normandy, I kind of assumed that I would be living by the ocean, or at least within striking distance of it, but Domfront is about as far away from the ocean as you can get without crossing into Brittany. It’s midway between three important cities – Caen, Rennes, and Le Mans – but it sounds like travelling to any one of them will be a bit of a hassle since no trains pass through Domfront. More importantly, I am a bit anxious about being lonely and isolated. I know that many schools will receive multiple language assistants (English, German, and Spanish, for example), but Domfront is so tiny that I’m not sure if the schools offer any foreign language programs other than English. I’ve asked my contact teacher whether there will be other assistants at my schools, but communications from Domfront have been few and far between, so I haven’t received any information about that yet. I think that’s part of the problem; without more information, it’s hard to mentally prepare myself for the move to Domfront, and as a result I’m stressing out about it. Luckily I’ve managed to contact a former Domfront teaching assistant who I found through Facebook, so I hope that she’ll be able to answer some of my questions in the near future!

I will post more information about Domfront as I receive it – next up is deciding where to live and travelling to Vancouver to apply for my long stay visa, so expect more updates in the very near future! Bisous et à bientôt!

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