Exactly one year ago, I started my first day of work as an English teaching assistant in Douai, France. If things would’ve worked out as I was hoping for, I would be doing the same thing today! Unfortunately, that’s not the case – but when I look back at this year and everything that has happened, I am like whoa.
I spent 8 months in France, teaching 12 hours a week to French high school students. I definitely had my ups (like my great class of senior students who always greeted me with a smile) and downs (like that one time that I ended up yelling in French at my sophomores who didn’t want to listen to a word I was saying), but I definitely learned a lot. If I ever have the opportunity to do the assistantship again, I would take it.
I lived in a small city but made great friends from all over, including my roommates from Spain, Italy, and Germany and my other assistant friends living nearby.
My boy and his family ever so graciously invited Grant, Matt, and me to celebrate Christmas Eve with them at home. It was my first Christmas to not spend with my family, but I was so thankful to have my little bubs there with me for our first Christmas in France.
We all sat down for the meal around 7:30pm, “we” being Grant, Matt, me, Michel, his parents, his brother and sister, his godmother, and two of his cousins. First up was a platter of little bread slices smothered with fish mousse, fish eggs, or pate. All three of us tried all three of them, and I was proud. I can’t say that I was a fan of the fish eggs but now I can say that I have eaten them! Next up, we all toasted our glasses full of a beverage called “kir”: creme de cassis mixed with champagne (or non-alcoholic champagne).
Let me start out by saying that I am incredibly shocked by this weather that we are having in the north of France. Last year, at this time, it was snowy, slightly miserable, and freezing cold. This time around, I am looking out at a blue sky, 45 degrees, and no snow. Although the snow can be beautiful, it can also be quite a hassle when it comes to travel plans. My brother arrives in a week (AH!) and we have not yet had any snow. I’m praying it stays that way so that we can travel peacefully by train… as long as my beloved Frenchies don’t go on strike!
The ambiance of the Christmas season in France is similar to that in the United States, but it is presented in a different way. When I think of Christmas back home, I think of excitement, lots of shopping, family, food, pictures with Santa, and decorations at home (as well as at the malls). In France, there is definitely an air of excitement as well. I went to Lille four times last week and each time, the city was packed with people out to do their Christmas shopping. Walking in the streets, I felt like I was in a mosh pit; each time someone would move, the whole crowd would move as well. Since it took us several minutes to move not very far, at least we had time to take in all the beautiful decorations and lights that adorn the streets and buildings in the city. French cities, unlike my hometown in the states, go all-out when it comes to decorating for Christmas. Garlands, lights, bows, and trees are seen left, right, up, and down. Everywhere!