Thursday, January 09, 2014

Just keeps getting better and better. Vive la France!

Castres, France
A great day.  Woke early and arrived at the gym at 8am, but it was locked.  No one there.  But I was already dressed and ready to go, so I decided to go on a run through Castres, and I did really well: 17 minutes before my leg started to hurt. 
I returned to the school only to find that one of the students was looking for me, to take me to the gym.  Apparently it started at 8:30. So I went to the gym and did pushups and situps and pull-ups while these groups of girls made these ‘formations’ with their bodies.  4 girls to a group.  And they had to choose from a book of possible forms.  For example: two girls on their knees holding another girl in a plank above their heads, and a fourth standing on the shoulders of the girls.  It was pretty interesting.  They have to practice and perfectly execute three forms to get credit for the class.  Very interesting.

Two of the girls looked dark skinned.  I spoke to them.  I thought they were from Spain; turns out one is from Algeria; the other from Morocco.  We spoke in Arabic together (my broken Arabic), but nonetheless, they were thrilled that I could speak anything at all.  I'll see them next Wednesday so I'm inspired to review my lessons.
Then I realized I left my dress shoes at home.  Someone from the school drove me back, and I took a shower, and changed.  And noticed that my packages that I sent from NY had arrived.  Two heavy boxes: what the heck did I send in this boxes?!  Yes, my language books, but that’s not everything.  Oh my.  Inevitably, I sent more than I need.  Oh well. J

I took the bus for the first time on my way back to school.  It’s a great system.  Smooth, easy, and free.  I just wish it ran past 7:30pm…  I don’t quite know how I’m gonna get home on the weekends, like this Friday night, when I go to the dance club…
Today, I was at the ‘college’, or middle school.  So if you say ‘college’ to someone from France, they will think you mean middle school, and not a university.  I met with the director, and she created my ‘emploi du temps’, or my schedule, for there.  On Mondays, I will be helping with seven English classes.  Busy day.  On Wednesday, one class in the morning; one in the afternoon.  And the same thing Friday.  And she too said that in my downtime, I could sit in and participate in other classes.  I have chosen a history class, and a Spanish class.  Pretty cool: I’m gonna learn Spanish… in French. J

I helped out with one English class today, and then the professor and I went to the high school for lunch.  She’s actually gorgeous.  And... married.  Ha.  Oh well.
I ate lunch actually with one of the sisters (it’s a catholic school of sorts) and Dominique, who is one of the school administrators.  And I was stared at by so many of the students.  With lots of giggles.  And shy looks.  I feel like an exotic animal at the zoo.  While walking towards the dance school later, I passed two girls.  One of them said to the other, "Look, it's the New Yorker!"  Really, this must be what it's like to be a rock star.  It's a totally wild feeling.
After lunch, I then made my way back to the gym to play Volleyball with some of the students and

the two gym teachers. Today there was a huge shopping sale in Castres.  50% off on almost everything.  Every year on the 8th apparently.  So none of the female members of the Volleyball club showed up, and only 3 male members.  So it was 3 on 3: Me, and two students; and the two gym teachers, and another student.  We played to 25, and we won the first two matches; the other team the last match.  And… all in French.  I know I keep repeating myself, but seriously, my entire day virtually is in French.  Everything in French.  And the best part: I can really speak and understand.  The gym teacher Nadine told me in French, “If I could speak English like you speak French, that would be amazing.”  What a nice compliment.  I’m so damn proud of myself!  And it’s only week 1!  

On leaving the gym about 4pm, I looked up, and WOW, I saw two guys dancing, house and hip hop!  And WELL!  Just as good as my teachers back at Broadway Dance Center.  I ended up joining them, and before I knew it, I was his student.  He taught so many cool new dance moves.  It was in the parking lot to the dorms---there are about 100 students from around France who dorm here.  It was a tad embarrassing because all these dorm students (guys and girls) were watching as we were dancing.  But it also forced me to concentrate and really try to follow his steps.  He said he’s there (his name is Gautier) every Wednesday and well, looks like I have a dance teacher.

I then walked to the local dance school here, and turns out they have a hiphop class too, as well as Latin and ballroom.  The hiphip class is with 13 year olds, but hey, I don’t care.  Dancing is dancing, and I’m sure I’ll learn quite a bit.  Gonna start that next week I think.
Then I took the bus back home.  About a 25 minute ride.  Not bad.  I listened to another French lesson.  I only have 3 more Pimsleur French lessons and I’m done with them all.  I guess I will start up with my other languages again: Norwegian, Turkish, Arabic, German, etc.

And then, a delicious dinner with the family.  We ended up talking for about 2 ½ hours at the table.  About politics in France.  Politics in America.  Healthcare.  Taxes.  Flying Squirrels.  Geography.  All sorts of things.  And it reminded me of that time so many years ago in the suburbs of Paris when I was with another family, at the table, and I remember breaking down crying because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, and it hurt me so much, because I had been studying French for so long and I wanted more than anything to become fluent in another language.  And now today, tonight, I was again sitting at a French dinner table, discussing at length very difficult subjects.  And understanding what they were saying in return.  It was and is amazing.  And I’m stoked about what these next seven weeks will bring me.
And tomorrow, I’m back at the high school.  Teaching again.  Really great stuff.  I’m having SUCH a great time.  This was such a great decision. 
Oh, Mel got back in touch, and I may end up spending a weekend in Hyeres, with my old host family.  Mel is about 27 now I think.  I met her when she was 18.  Wow, time flies.  It would be so nice to see her and her mom again. 

And I’m slowly planning my trip to Barcelona.  I don’t know if I am going to go by train, or by car, but at least I’m starting to think about it.  I hope I meet some people who might want to join me in the next couple of weeks, but if not, I’ll go by myself: can’t let anything get in the way of me finally visiting Spain.
And finally, I am TOTALLY inspired by the story of Samuel Morse.  I read more of it last night in "Americans in Paris".  Turns out his ambitions as a painter were destroyed.  And he was an AMAZING and ACCLAIMED painter for years.  But after his return to the US, it was six years of struggle, and then devastation when he was passed over for a cushy gig painting a panel at the Capital building that he was hoping and praying for on hands and knees.  When he got word that he wasn't chosen, his entire world fell apart.  As a result, he gave up painting completely.  When I read that, I was so sad for him.  But after a bit of time, he decided to return to his idea for a telegraph.  And wow... it worked.  Better and better with every day.  Soon, demonstrations in America.  Then in England.  And France.  And EVERYONE went gaga for it.  And finally, the ultimate demonstration, between DC and Baltimore, sharing the news that Polk had been chosen as President.  And ladies and gents: IT CHANGED THE WORLD.  HE changed the world.  The cell phone you have in your hand: you can thank Morse.  It was he who basically invented the first electronic communications device.  As a result, he finally ‘made it big’ by doing that--not through painting.  And he found his glory there--in science.  In something he really never expected or tried to be 'glorious' in.  He always thought his fame and success would result from painting.  But it didn't.  It DID come, but not in the way he expected.  The lesson: maybe what you’re chasing isn’t actually what you are meant to conquer.  Maybe we all need to be a little more flexible in what we're looking for, because otherwise, we not uncover the stone we were meant to use to change the world.  Maybe all of our struggles and heartbreaks and failures are for the ultimate best, and to lead us to the destiny that was always meant for us.  Maybe the mountain we THINK we are destined to conquer is completely wrong.  In fact, maybe it's not even a mountain we're meant to conquer; perhaps it's an ocean we are meant to traverse and walk upon. 

Super tired.  Off to bed.  Gnight!

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