Coming Change

It’s been a calm Saturday today. Spring has finally come to Indiana, at least it seems to have come. I cannot always tell how the weather will change or if there’s still a little bit of winter left to come. It’s not unheard of to have snow in April. However, today, spring is here. I opened up my balcony door, turned on my ceiling fan, and just enjoyed having the sounds of spring and fresh breezes waft through my small apartment.

I have had plenty to do today with empty boxes filling my living room which need to be filled to move soon. There’s a paper which needs to be written, homework to be done, exams to grade, wedding plans to work through, and I should maybe eat something soon. This week was so incredibly busy and overwhelming with so much due and so much going on. This afternoon, I decided to take some time to just sit and listen and be still for a little while. Deadlines are there, but I have found that I do much better if I also take breaks and take care to not overdo.

So much change is in the air beyond just the changing of the seasons. They’re good changes, yes, and I’m so excited about them, but with change comes a time of readjustment as well. Thinking back over the last five years of my life, change has been a constant. From moving across the country to start a graduate school program and later, moving across the world to teach for a year, to now preparing to get married and start a new life in another state, it’s been quite a beautiful adventure so far. Not to say, there haven’t been struggles and problems along the way because there definitely have been. I’ve loved how unpredictable it’s been in many ways, and how I never could have dreamed it up on my own how this story would unfold so far.

I remember in my childhood learning quite a few lessons about change. We moved from Georgia to Texas when I was young, and it took me a few years to fully adjust and start identifying as a “Texan”. {Come on, we’re talking about Texas here, y’all, it’s hard to live there and not just become a Texan.} Through it all, my parents taught me some valuable lessons about following God’s direction despite the changes it might involve. God knew us three younger kids would need that lesson as we’ve all experienced moves into areas which are unfamiliar through trying to follow His direction.

As I ponder all of the upcoming changes, I sometimes wonder what’s ahead in life. These thoughts bring a mix of emotions to my mind both of fear and of anticipation. A thousand “What ifs” cloud my mind sometimes. The more I experience changes, the more I am thankful for the Lord who is my firm foundation and who changes not. No matter the changing belief systems of our governments and cultures, He never changes and His Truth never changes. No matter what’s ahead and whether those “What ifs” come to pass, He is still good, He is my Rock.

One of my favorite hymns I learned while I was in France (pictured isn’t all of the hymn) is a prayer for God to teach His child no matter what comes. It asks that He might guard our hearts even in the midst of a storm and give us strength and comfort throughout life. “Teach me” the title says. This song touched me as I sang it with some of my dear Christian friends there.
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I’m thankful for His leading and His care over His children. I’m thankful we can trust in Him who changes not.

Enseigne-moi, Seigneur!

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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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French? Why would you study that?

As a graduate student studying French, one often receives some interesting responses.

When I was an undergraduate working on my Bachelor’s in French, I usually would cringe when someone new at a gathering or church event would come up and try to start a conversation with the question:

“So, you’re in college? What’s your major?”

I suppose, the response they were probably expecting was something like nursing or education maybe a science of some sort. I would respond with:

“Oh, I’m a French major.” *smile*

From here, there was usually one of two responses:

“Wow! That is really neat! I’ve never heard of someone doing that before! So, what are your future plans?”

or

“French?! What in the world are you going to do with that? Teach?” As if teaching was the only “doomed” existence for someone with this kind of degree.

I usually responded with some statistics as well as how much I loved the language and how useful it is in the world. Though my living in Texas usually sparks the next question:

“So, why don’t you just study Spanish? That seems like it would be more useful.”

Yes, maybe around here it’s more useful to speak Spanish, but French is spoken on five continents. Not putting down the Spanish majors because I do have several friends who are, but I think French majors should get a little of the spotlight occasionally since Spanish does seem to usually get most of the funding and attention.

Then, I started graduate school…

It seems that if you then have the audacity to then continue these studies of French into graduate school, the questions only intensify.  Studying French in graduate school simply means that I am trying to reinforce my skills and delve even deeper into the language and the culture. It may seem crazy, but I do love it….even though it seems to be slowly killing me. Believe me either my exhaustion from paper writing is going to do me in or the constant guzzling of coffee will. But, people are still curious which is great, however, I often feel a little self-conscience when I don’t know the answer to one question every single one seems to ask.

So, let’s take a look at those same questions again with the viewpoint of grad school.

“So, you’re in college? What’s your major?”

“I’m actually a graduate student working on my M.A. in French.”

The following statements/questions are usually along these lines:

“Really? I didn’t know you could even go to grad school for that!

“What’s an M.A.? And, what do you use it for?”

“Why didn’t you study Spanish?”

“That’s ummm…different. How in the world is that going to be useful?” *raises eyebrows*

Oh, and my personal favorite which was actually indirectly asked through one of my brother’s professors upon learning that I was a graduate student in French:

“So, is your sister in the ‘Occupy’ movement? ‘Cause she’s probably not going to find a job with that kind of major.”

Yeah, let’s just say I was about ready to fire back with–with–with an essay when this was reported to me.

However, crazy the questions, they always end up at the same place with a question along these lines which I was actually even asked today:

“What are your future plans?”

Frankly, my friends, the answer to that question has yet to be determined. God is a great God has lead me thus far and I know He’ll continue to lead me to know how to use the knowledge He has blessed me with. I am addicted to learning, so I’m very tempted to continue my education for a doctorate, but I will wait and see His will.

My point in all this?

Please don’t be too judgmental about what others are studying. Ask questions, but ask them in a way that shows you’re truly interested not that you’re ready to see how flimsy of a response the other will come up with. I know I’ve been guilty of mentally putting down other majors, but then I realize how much it annoys me when people put down what I am passionate about. We all have different gifts and passions. Not everyone needs to go into the most common fields. God has a plan for each of us.