22 September 2006

Two Weeks in Paris

I've been here for two weeks now and, as my posting frequency would indicate, I've been pretty busy. The first week was focused on slowly recovering from the jet lag and then beginning to work my way through the French bureaucracy in order for my stay here to be official. For as bad as this endeavor could be, it's progressing with relative ease. The most important, and difficult, thing that I need to get is my carte de sejour or residency permit. It makes my stay official, gives me access to health care, etc... It's very important that I get it, but it requires about a dozen other documents and a couple of appointments before the prefecture (government office) will give it to me. I have most of the documents, the only one that gives me reason to worry is one that I sign at my employer (the high school) saying that I exist and that I have accepted my post. I went to the high school, twice in fact, in order to get this signed, but they cannot (or won't) do it until my contract starts on the first of October. My meeting at the prefecture is on Sept. 25. The high school wrote a letter saying that I will sign this thing on the first of October, but no one has ever known the French government to be too flexible in matters of papers and signatures.

I should begin work soon, within the first week of October. I'm excited to get going though my experiences at the school so far have been a bit exasperating. Last week, Esther called for me to ask when I should come by. The guy on the phone, the assistant principal, said that I should come the next day at 1:30 as all of the English teachers will be meeting. The next day I left about an hour earlier than I thought I might need, I got on the Metro, then the RER (the commuter train to the suburbs) and about 45 minutes later I was in Noisy-le-Grand, the suburb where I will work. I had a map telling me where Avenue Montaigne was but it didn't tell me that there were two Avenue Montaigne's and my school was on the other one. After about 45 minutes of wandering and practicing my French on strangers ("Savez-vous ou est Lyceé Evariste Galois?") I found the school.

Turns out that the English teachers weren't meeting that day. Oops. Also turns out that the one teacher in charge of overseeing my work also wasn't there. Double-oops. So I met some people; other English teachers, the principal and a bunch of sectretaries, and, in general, understood about 20% of what was said to me. I did gather that that I was supposed to return the next day to meet with the English teacher who will be in charge of me.

I arrived at the school, saw some people that I had met previously and they looked for the one English teacher, Madame L. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. After about an hour and a half she came into the room where I was waiting a bit red-faced. She had been grading papers and had forgotten about our meeting. Oh well, just an hour and a half sitting and staring at the same four pages of the sports section from Le Figaro. I learned how to say that one team beat another. I also learned that my teacher has only been at the school since September and thus will not be able to help me navigate the structure of the school, literally or figuratively.

Despite all of this I really like the school. It is a modern facility, built in 1993 and it seems like everyone is really interested and engaged. I haven't met any students yet, that will happen in a few weeks, but I'm excited. I don't know exactly what I will be doing but I know I will make it fun for the students. I can't imagine doing anything worse than being boring.

There has been a lot else going on, especially for the apartment Esther and I will be moving into, but I will save all of that for another post. Tomorrow night we are going to dinner for Rosh Hashana at the house of a family friend. Expect a post about that experience as I try to wade my way through two levels of foreign-ness, both the French language and French customs mixed with Jewish traditions. I have no idea what to expect other than that hilarity will ensue.

07 September 2006

Bonjour! (That means "Hello!")

Here I am, in Paris. Everything went well getting here, I had an exit row on the short flight from Detroit to Washington (which didn't make much of a difference, the Canadair CRJ-200 doesn't offer much space for anyone). The flight attendant, John, was rather humorous saying things like, "We will now be turning down the cabin lights to enhance my personal appearance" and, at the end, "Thank you for flying United, we know that you had many bankrupt airlines to choose from, thank you for choosing ours." Haha said Kurt.

On the flight from Washington to Paris I was absolutely delighted to find that I was just about the only person on the flight with no one sitting next to me. The delight lasted until a girl 4 rows up realized her television screen didn't work and demanded to be moved. Thus, I got stuck in a window seat and some chump 4 rows up was absolutely delighted to find that he was now the only person on the flight with an open seat next to him. I felt like something truly unfair had happened to me, I wanted to protest, but then I realized that I had no right to the open seat to begin with, it had just been dumb luck and that same dumb luck had now fallen onto the chump in front of me. It still felt unfair though.

Esther and her dad picked me up in the Citroen (which is, amazingly, in even worse shape than when I saw it 14 months ago) and we drove through hot, stinking, rush-hour traffic into Paris. I slept for about 4 hours, woke up, met Esther's cousin and then we all went out to see the apartment that Esther and I will be moving into in a few weeks. It seems really great, just the right size for the two of us. Later in the evening we all went out to watch the soccer game between Italy and France (a rematch of the World Cup Final in July) which France took 3-1. Paris was happy.

I slept from midnight until 4 am local time, was awake from 4 am to 8 am, and then slept again from 8 am until 1 pm, all local time. I recommend jet lag to anyone that can get their hands on some.

Well, that's been the excitement for now. Obviously it is great to see Esther again and all of that mushy stuff... Thanks for reading and I'll post again soon!

Tune in next week to read about Kurt's foibles with the French language, "That means 'Your sister is a prostitute'!?! A dirty one no less?" and other adventures from Kurtistan. Brought to you by United Airlines and Citroen.