Bonjour, je m'appelle Sarena. I hold a BA in French with a minor in English/writing. I studied abroad in Nice, France; worked as an English teaching assistant in Laon, France, and served as a City Year AmeriCorps member in DC. Currently, I'm a PhD student in Cornell's French Literature program. I created this blog to document my Francophone experience through writing and pictures.
Probably the shining moment of my jetlag was when I noticed there was a line for the RER B machines, though not the change machine, except I couldn’t decide whether to ask if I could cut the line in English or French, so I ended up pointing at the machine and cutting the line.
For the train to Laon, I completely forgot to composter my ticket, but luckily the contrôleur was nice about my criminal past and didn’t fine me. (Or maybe he took pity on the sheer confusion on my face. Hey, it’s been two years since I’ve ridden a French train.)
I noticed a dude waving his arms wildly outside Claudel’s gates while the Claudel teacher was talking to me, but just assumed it was some guy being weird. It wasn’t until he shouted, “Hello, let me in!” and the Claudel teacher responded, “Why would I, you’re the enemy!” that I realized he was the Méchain teacher. Oops.
He and a school librarian were talking about asking me for English book recommendations, and despite running on a single broken hour of sleep, I thought, “Yes, hello, it’s my time to shine.” (It definitely doesn’t mean I’m a nerd if I’ve read all the books the librarian showed me, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, and If I Stay.)
When he said the students might ask me if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend, the anti-heteronormativity part of me felt so touched.
He also told me, “The students are shy and not very self-confident about their accents.” Oh, don’t worry, you couldn’t have found a better person to understand that struggle.
I can’t figure out why on earth the past English assistants left Christmas trees here. Nor can I see what’s on the top shelf of the closet, because even standing tiptoe on one of the excessive five chairs in the room, I’m too smol. I have to stand on one foot just to reach the coat hanger on the back of the bedroom door…the struggle is too real.
When I first tried to find the salle des professeurs, I walked straight into the wrong building, into a room brimming with high schoolers, where I stared in bewilderment at the wall as if a staircase would appear, and then walked right back out. (Listen, I was too jet-lagged to remember the tour I’d received when I’d been awake for twenty-three hours.) I asked an office worker where to find the room, and the lady peered at me before asking, “Are you an assistant?”
I made the mistake of going outside when the bell rang, and when I tried to navigate through a sea of high schoolers, my first thought was, “Good god I blend right in with these children. Help me.”
I’ve gotten so many weird looks from professors in the salle des professeurs and the computer room. Look, I’m sorry that I’ve got such a baby face that I seem to be part of the student populace.
How many times have I said, “Bonjour, enchantée” or “Je suis l’assistante d’anglais” over the span of three days? We just don’t know.
I bought a baguette at Carrefour for 35 cents, and Madeline went, “…what is this magical place.” I don’t know, wife. Bread that cheap and delicious exists nowhere in the US. Somebody stop me before I eat too many baguettes for my own good.
I woke up feeling awfully nauseated on Friday, so I went to the nurse and she asked, “You have to consider, is there any possibility that you’re pregnant?” and I nearly snorted. If that ever happened, it’d be some scenario as outlandish and improbable as the one on Jane the Virgin. I envy the nurse for getting to see the expression on my face.
I don’t know what to do with the fact that everyone has gone out of their way to be nice to me—one of them actually drove me across the bridge to Chambry to go grocery shopping, and brought me back. Plus, a Spanish teacher said she’d introduce me to the Spanish assistant (a girl), after she arrives on Saturday, so I can have a buddy to explore the city with. I’d offer them Reese’s, but I only brought a bag of 14 with me, intending to give them to my two main teachers’ families, so…