This is my last week of teaching in France, guys. My last week! I really can’t believe how fast seven months has gone by. While I plan to stay in Domfront for a few extra days after my contract ends in order to tie up loose ends, this is the week when I will have to say most of my goodbyes, and I’m just not ready! I didn’t expect to feel so much affection for this small Norman town when I first arrived, but now? I think there will always be a little space in my heart reserved for Domfront, the experiences I’ve had here, and the people I’ve met. I know I promised that my next post would be tips for living in a small town, but all things considered, I think a little tribute to Domfront (and France in general) is in order today.
56 things I will miss about France …
- The fact that even the most banal social interactions are just a little bit exciting because I’m speaking a foreign language and people understand me!
2. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from setting up a bank account, internet, television, a library membership, a phone plan, etc. all by myself and entirely in French.
3. Sharing an apartment with two lovely teachers, where a mixture of six different languages (French, English, Spanish, Catalan, German, and Turkish) can be heard on a daily basis.
4. The two aforementioned lovely teachers.
5. Sipping bitter espresso and catching up on the latest school gossip in the staff room.
6. Realizing just how far I’ve come when I’m standing in front of a class leading an activity and think how terrifying that seemed less than a year ago.
7. Feeling like a local celebrity.
8. Being asked hilariously personal questions when meeting a new class, like “Are you married?” and “Do you have children?”
9. The way that my students have started responding to my “hello” with either “it’s me …” or “from the other siiiiiiddddeeeeeeee …”
10. The 11-year-old who, in response to “How are you today?” turned to his teacher and asked in French “How do you say ‘I am happy because Julia is here’?”
11. The sixième (also aged 11) who admonishes his classmates with a “Be quiet, please!” when he thinks they’re being too noisy in my class (thanks for the support, kid).
12. The 13-year-old girl who, upon discovering that Justin Bieber is Canadian, excitedly told me that “Justin Bieber is my favourite singer in the ENTIRE WORLD!”
13. The kid who started singing “Hotline Bling” and doing the dance when I told my students that Drake is also Canadian.
14. My students’ inability to decide whether they should call me “Julia,” “Madame,” or “Meesseez” (Mrs).
15. All of the adorable mispronunciations and mistakes I hear on a daily basis, including (but certainly not limited to) “life of cream” (life of crime), “stramberry” (strawberry), “framberry” (raspberry, which is framboise in French), “raining” (running), and “rape music” (rap music. I had to try SO hard not to laugh).
16. Seeing all of the awesome made-up words and accidental mistranslations in my students’ writing, like “scarefully,””fastly,” “friend of bedroom” (roommate!).
17. The fact that French students sign all of their (English) letters with some variation of “I kiss you,” “I embrace you very strongly” or “I kiss you hard.”
18. Getting asked questions like “Madame, how do you say Nintendo / PS4 / guitare in English?”
19. Eavesdropping on my students’ conversations when they underestimate how much French I understand …
20. The way that even the most rowdy students turn into the most attentive little angels when I bribe them with candy.
21. The warm fuzzy feeling I get when I hear a student use a word or expression that I know they’ve learned from me (it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s the absolute best feeling!).
22. Watching my students play football in the schoolyard from my bedroom window.
23. Thinking back to my younger years, when I sort of assumed that teachers never went home and just slept at the school and lived there full time, and then realizing that I actually do sleep at the school and live there full time.
24. Walking back to the collège after an afternoon of work at the lycée and waving back at all of the kids waving excitedly at me from the school buses.
25. Seeing things like liver and intestines on the menu at the school cantine.
26. Running into students at the supermarket who either pretend not to see me (no judging here – I remember how weird it was to run into a teacher in public) or give me a cheery hello or bonjour.
27. The gigantic yogurt and pudding section at the supermarket.
28. The delightfully low price of cheese.
29. Being able to buy alcohol at the supermarket, or anywhere really, without being asked for ID or treated like I’m some sort of criminal (come on, Canada, get with the times!).
30. Personally knowing some of the farmers whose products I buy at the supermarket.
31. The scruffy, crotchety cat who hangs out near Intermarché. She’s always so standoffish until she rediscovers how much she loves being petted, and then she turns into a big old sweetheart.
32. The cows that hang out in the field between Carrefour and Intermarché (even the one who charged at me the other day when I came too close to the fence!).
33. The fact that I can see cows from my kitchen window.
34. The gorgeous green, hilly countryside that surrounds this town.
35. Living in a town with a castle (well, castle ruins, but close enough. And they’re castle ruins with wifi, so …).
36. Living within walking distance of work. Well, technically living at work.
37. The nice lady at the médiathèque and the movie selection that kept me from slowly dying of boredom over the first three wifi-less months in Domfront.
38. The special relationship I’ve developed with Netflix since wifi was installed in December ❤
39. Boulangeries and pâtisseries, and all the goodies that they offer! How will I live without tartes au citron, millefeuilles, tartelettes aux framboises and torsades au chocolat?!
40. The lady who runs the boulangerie just up the hill from my apartment, who greets me with the most cheerful “Bonjour!” I’ve ever heard.
41. The local restaurants and the salon de thé. While there aren’t exactly tons of places to eat out here, I’ve enjoyed some of the best food I’ve had in my entire life here in Domfront.
42. Going to the cinéma (either at the lycée’s chapel or in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne) to watch movies like The Jungle Book, and being able to enjoy them in French with no subtitles.
43. Hearing typically French noises and expressions like “Bahhhh …” and “Oh la la la la!”
44. Hearing the SNCF jingle at train stations, which inevitably leads to an SNCF jingle remix being stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
45. Getting huge discounts when I take the train, as well as free admission to most museums, because I’m under 25 years old and have a French visa. Good bless France and its youth discounts :’)
46. Being able to fly from Paris to other European countries for as little as 30 euros.
47. Getting two weeks of paid vacation every six weeks (!!!!!).
48. Only working twelve hours per week (!!!!!!).
49. Going on adventures, both within France and outside of it, with my assistant friends.
50. The aforementioned assistant friends 🙂
51. Phone plans with unlimited data that cost as little as 2 euros per month (I repeat: come on Canada, get with the times!).
52. The kind and generous teachers who give me rides, invite me over for dinner, and go out of their way to make my experience here in Domfront a special one.
53. Trying regional delicacies thanks to those teachers, some of which are good (cidre, poiré, calvados, and camembert, I’m looking at you) and some of which are less good (raw clams. Nope nope nope.)
54. Making the best of my seven months in middle-of-nowhere Normandy, despite my initial fear of wasting away from loneliness and boredom.
55. Realizing that life in a small town is actually kind of cool, and that I might not be as much of a diehard city girl as I thought.
56. Basically everything and everyone here ❤