I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time ever with a group of friends from all over the world. We all made traditional food representing each of our five different nationalities: the meal included butternut squash soup, pumpkin cake and chicken with stuffing (for lack of a turkey) from the Americans; cannelloni from Catalonia, and of course the obligatory English apple crumble made by myself and my housemate. Our little international family reminded me how much I can feel at home in another country – it just depends on the people I’m with.
Two of the Thanksgiving group are a Spanish couple who are living in Millau, and they happen to have an oven in their apartment. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is to three girls who haven’t had cake or a roast dinner in months. It was such a luxury to use a normal sized kitchen, and more importantly, one that has more equipment than just the one hotplate. On the plus side, back at home, we have miraculously fixed our microwave, and have become quite accomplished at cooking on the one stove. Michelin-star-quality pasta, couscous and rice dishes have been prepared on our not-so-beloved hot plate, generally accompanied by a range of vegetables – and of course, bread, cheese and wine. If consumption of the latter is anything to go by, we should be expecting our French passports in the post any day now.
The past two weeks of work have been good; however I’m still finding it difficult to gauge what the kids will be interested in learning. You’d think ten and eleven year olds would find themselves beyond miming farm animals in a game of Simon Says, but I get demands for that particular activity every lesson. Of 30 eight and nine year olds, a good three quarters of the class hurled themselves onto the floor and flailed around violently when I said “Simon says: be a fish”. Good old Simon has saved a fair few classes from child-sized mutinies.
An activity I’m not so fond of is singing educational songs. My voice is out of tune at the best of times, so singing ‘the Hello song’, or the well-known ‘Who Where What song’ in front of groups of judgemental five to eleven year olds is not ideal. Primary teaching is not a great career choice if you don’t have a great voice. I also never understand how and why the teachers expect me to know these songs. They are made up for foreign kids learning English! I doubt French schoolchildren learn ‘Quel est le date de ton anniversaire?’ – that favourite in Year Seven language classes.
At least I’ve made some friends amongst my teaching colleagues; one lovely lady even lent me a very welcome duvet. I get cold very easily, and it doesn’t help that we have two options for heating: stuffy boiling hot, or no heating at all. The latter is not a great option, especially as December is rapidly approaching. Then again, if we keep the heating on all night, we wake up sneezing and unable to speak from sore throats. Judging by what most Millau residents have been telling us, the worst is yet to come in terms of the weather. Obviously I expect it to get colder, it’s only November, but it is worrying, particularly as I’ve been wearing my winter coat, hat and gloves out for the past two weeks, and have been sleeping with both a duvet and a blanket. Hello frostbite in a couple of weeks!
Photo courtesy of Adam Lederer