When in Doubt, Ask a Frenchman

There are two ways of approaching setting up life in France: in the suave, confident,”I can definitely do this” manner or in the panicked “I’m not a native speaker! AAA!” manner. I try to lean towards the former and suppress the latter in theory. However, I usually end up somewhere in the middle while clutching the shoulder strap of my purse as if it’s my lifesaver in a sea of native speakers. Much to my relief, I’m finding as I continue to run my errands that if I ask a French person for help (in person, not over email) albeit directions or just because I don’t understand something, they are more than happy to help though they may give me a “Aw, she’s so cute trying to speak my language” look while they’re helping me. They’ll even suggest changes to how I phrase my sentences too. True story.

Two weeks ago, I thought I could open a bank account in one afternoon.

*insert laugh reel*

This definitely turned out to be a harder task than I thought it would be. The accountant was very professional and seemed rather pleased to be helping an American. He even told me that he really liked my passport which is saying a lot because my passport photo looks, frankly, terrible. My visa photo isn’t much better as from what my younger brother stated while laughing, I look like a Russian Orthodox saint complete with a halo. Anyway, the accountant proceeded to list off everything he would need to complete opening the account. I had everything except one thing, a proof of residency. This situation dragged on for a while since my landlady is often gone for work, and he wasn’t incredibly clear on everything he needed to prove I live here (or maybe I missed something in my jet lagged frame of mind). Although I was frustrated not to get my errand done in a timely fashion, I was impressed by his willingness throughout the entire initial interview to stop and explain something if I didn’t understand since my bank and tax form vocab in French isn’t the greatest. Let’s just say that he had quite a bit more patience than I’ve seen exhibited by some Americans in talking to someone with a foreign accent.

Today, after a couple of weeks of ongoing paperwork frustrations, I finally received this which was music to my ears:

Bonjour,

j’ai bien réceptionné la facture. Je la transmets dès aujourd’hui à notre service pour qu’il puisse valider votre ouverture de compte.

Basically, he’s got everything he needs and will work on finishing up opening my account. Thank you, Lord!

March 2009 038

One of the hallways at the school or rather it’s one that leads to another hallway in another building with a random letter. The veteran teachers tell me not to feel bad since they still get lost themselves.

This unfortunately was just the first episode of ongoing paperwork woes. I’m still dealing with a health insurance “missing document” problem. I’m too tired to deal with it until Monday. Then, this week I was met with the onslaught of information on my actual teaching schedule complete with two orientations for separate departmental classes I’m teaching. I was told this morning that part of my job on Monday will be to explain to the students how their classes work. I looked at the professor rather wide-eyed and asked if she could explain to me how their classes work because I have no clue. She did the best she could, but I still fell a little like I’ve been thrown in a pond and told to swim but there’s no shore in sight, and I’m pretty sure that the life jacket they threw is only usable if I filled out Blue Form A2 before being tossed into said pond.

I also finally discovered my institutional email inbox only to find a host of emails and at least two claiming that there are more forms for me to hurry and fill out. Seems not too surprising that the school itself is a bit of labyrinth.

My Teaching Schedule....Yikes!

My Teaching Schedule….Yikes!

All that aside though, I’ve been so thankful for the teachers and secretaries who have done all they can to try to make this whole transition as smooth as possible. I was in a little bit of a panic yesterday after our instructors’ meeting because I’ve been handed a total of nine (yes, nine! EEEK!) classes to teach with no clue where to start. However, two teachers have willingly shown me around, showed me how to set up my laptop in the classroom, offered to give me their lesson plans from last year, and even took up some of their lunch break just to make sure I had an idea of where to start. I’m meeting with one of them next week to ask more questions and get some lesson plans, and I’m brainstorming with another one over email this weekend on what to teach in one of the levels both of us have.

Oh, and *ding ding* (like the tram), I have a bus/tram card as of this afternoon! Woohoo! No more one trip tickets for me! That is one big thing off of my big to-do list.

Maybe it’s not as calm as I would like, and maybe I feel like I’m a little lost, but as one of the professors told me after I told her that I felt like my mind was exploding with all this information: “Don’t worry, you’ll find your way! You’ll be fine.” I know I will, I just need some time to process, plan, and rest. Maybe I’ll just go back and gaze at this view this weekend. It’s quite a calming view indeed! Oh, France, how can you be so beautiful and yet so incredibly stressful at the same time? 😉

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