Halloween Celebrations

Happy Halloween !! 

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No your eyes are not failing you, this is in fact another blog post a day after the last one, don’t get used to it !

It has to be at least a good.. 15 years since I actually did anything for Halloween and to be completely honest I kind of forgot it was approaching until my housemate mentioned that she was throwing a Halloween Party.. my first thought: uh oh.. socialising with a bunch of Francophones.

For the days that led up to the party I was dreading it.. I even tried to find an excuse to get out of it but.. in a small town the excuses don’t exactly form and present themselves at the required pace.

I am glad I didn’t manage to find a good excuse because it was actually a really enjoyable evening. I have to admit though it was super tiring having to converse in French for 6 whole hours, my brain felt absolutely fried by the end of the night and my verb conjugations slowly but surely jumped out the window, one by one as the fatigue settled in.. you know you are tired when you say something in French and whilst the other person is responding you have to question what you just said and why you said it in that order. An experience nonetheless !

Friday 27th October – 

Saturday 28th October –

The day after I was invited to go to a Halloween Parade and a Haunted House.. now anyone that knows me is aware that I am soo jumpy ! On that same morning, I was washing up and my housemate appeared behind me without making any noise and started talking, I almost died on the spot.. but yet proceeded to think it was a good idea to go to a Haunted House. Well, I never said I was logical..

The parade was really cool, I did take a few pictures, none of which came out very well because it was soo dark. The local library projected ghost figures and things that reminded me of dementors from Harry Potter on the windows. So far I was doing fine, having a nice little chitchat with the family who had invited me, about London, languages.. winter. The parade continued then ended at the Haunted House, I kid you not, I think the whole of Matane had come out that night to be frightened out of their skin. There had to have been at least 100 people waiting so we decided to head back later and in the meanwhile I popped to have a cup of tea with the family. To my surprise when we arrived at their house, 2 dogs came running towards me tails wagging and one happened to be a pug..I absolutely love pugs (just a side note, Christmas is not too far away so if anyone wants to buy me a pug, just go ahead).

Back to the Haunted House, it’s safe to say I jumped a few times. They had created a narrow corridor effect using lockers, cages and curtains and then plotted actors around the place. I honestly don’t think I will forget one of them that was dressed as a killer nun.. it’s not an easy thing to cancel out. I would say the worst part was probably this white tunnel-like part where the space just felt as though it was getting smaller and out of nowhere, peoples hands started grabbing at our legs. As someone that appreciates their personal space and is jumpy, you can imagine my reaction was amusing to those around me. Apparently I was pushing one of the people in front of me through the space.. I like to think it was just me offering my support as opposed to hurrying the process up. It’s not like I was scared or anything .. *cough*.

One last thing, I got into work today, only to be greeted by one of the students who was more than ready for Halloween:

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It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to teach an adult size baby !

 

Once again.. until next time !

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Meet Matane

Yes I know it’s been a while.. it may not seem like it from these blog posts but I do actually work (no really.. I do) but I am back !

Saturday 21st October –

It’s very easy in a small town to be tempted to stay indoors all weekend and bore yourself to near death but this weekend I decided to go out for a wander and I am soo glad that I did.

Firstly I stopped at the bookshop because I wanted to get at least one French book to read whilst i’m here. So I went in for one book and came out with two.. and of course a notebook that I don’t need.

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I then decided to go to the library because below it, there is an area called Espace F where there are exhibitions. This was the last day that the two exhibitions I went to see were open and I am soo glad I managed to see them.

The first one was a video called Brise-Glace (Icebreaker) by Diane Landry

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It was a video which showed a lady rowing a boat but the sound of the waves were created by sheets of plastic. Now that doesn’t sound very impressive but given that I don’t have as many creative options as in London, seeing a creative at work definitely made me feel as though theatre wasn’t soo far away afterall.

The second exhibition was called Phainesthai* by Laurent Lafolie.

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*Phainesthai – The Greek expression phainomenon, from which the term “phenomenon” derives, comes from the verb phainesthai, meaning “to show itself.”

I loved this one and a guy that worked at the library told me some interesting facts about the artist and his work.

The artist is from France and doesn’t actually know the people in the images. If you watch the video you’ll see that the pictures move as I walk by them and that’s because he used Japenese washi paper which allowed him to print the images directly onto the paper simply by placing them in the sun. I honestly love the fact that the movement in the room physically brought the images to life.

This exhibition was all about highlighting the idea of identity and the fragility of our being and I really think that even the thin sheets of paper and how they were soo easily influenced by the air around them, further highlighted that fragility.

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Across the length of one wall were lots of small squared images of peoples faces, some smiling .. some not so much. It started from a black squared image and slowly as it went down the line, the faces became visible and then they faded out again. I honestly have never seen something soo simply displayed but soo powerful at the same time.

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Once I had finished admiring the art work I headed upstairs in the library to check out the sorts of books they had. I am not sure why but there seemed to be a lot of books about failed love.. not exactly a light read !

I even happened to find a book that reminded me of university..

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.. When it comes to France I have a slight obsession with talking about freedom of expression so Charlie Hebdo popped up on numerous occasions during my degree.

For my own … enjoyment, a brief explanation of who Charlie Hebdo is: A satirical magazine based in France. They are known for creating rather shocking magazine covers that really push the boundaries when it comes to worldwide issues surrounding religion, politics and so on. They are kind of like marmite, you either love them or hate them but either way, the journalists that are working there truly make a point with their work, whether it’s appreciated by all is an entirely different story (..You can stop yawning now mum).

Right, I digress ! Back to my weekend ..

After wandering around the library, I decided to head down to Parc des iles which is one of the many parks in Matane with a walking trail which goes on for… ever! I walked for almost an hour and still didn’t manage to get around the whole of it. One great thing about the park is that it is located right by the Matane River. Here are some pictures I took:

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All in all a very enjoyable Saturday !

I am currently in the process of putting together a blog post about my Halloween celebrations, that will be posted shortly. So, until next time !

A Whale Of A Time ! (pun intended)

Now I know you came here to see a whale picture but it’s time for you to lower your expectations.. all will become clear!

Saturday 7th October – Off to Tadoussac.

So, I went to Tadoussac, a village in Quebec at which the Saguenay and the Saint Lawrence rivers meet:

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That consisted of a 2hr30 min drive from Matane to Trois-Pistoles, followed by a 90 minute ferry journey to Tadoussac.

We arrived at the hostel at around 4:30pm.. it was an interesting experience. We checked in and found out that it would cost $29 (approx £17) for 2 nights including breakfast, we thought to ourselves “Oh.. that’s much cheaper than we had anticipated..but we need not complain”. Now once you see the following picture, the price will make much more sense to you and you may question how it was possible for me to sleep well whilst being surrounded by strangers .. oh and whilst sleeping on a mattress that was on the floor:

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I have to admit my first nights sleep was pretty good. Despite the.. hostel or should I say, hostile environment.. I survived !

Sunday 8th October – Whale Watching.

So a group of the language assistants headed off to go whale watching in the early afternoon and we had to wear these snazzy jackets and trousers that made me feel slightly like a cross between a fisherman and a fireman:

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Can you tell I was enjoying the new outfit a bit too much?

Here are a few snaps from the walk to the boat and also a quick boat selfie :

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I spent the first 30-45 minutes being occasionally but aggressively sprayed in the face with salt water from the boat, and seeing nothing but.. the following:

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Fortunately after some time, the weather improved. The sun came out and the whales made a brief appearance!

Now, once again I know you’ll be expecting pictures of the whales that I saw but I only have 2 clips. It was the hardest task trying to get a picture of a whale that appeared and disappeared at considerable speed.

Here are the two clips:

Firstly, in this one you will see Beluga whales – they are white:

Random facts:

  1. The beluga whale is one of the smallest whales within the cetacean* species.
  2. This small whale belongs to the toothed whale family and is easily identified by its dome shaped head, short beak and white colouring.

*The cetacean (pronounced  si-ˈtā-shən / si-tay-shon) species consists of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

And now it’s time for the very brief appearance of a baby Minke whale. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it..

Random facts:

  1. Minke whales are mostly solitary animals often travelling alone or in small pods of 2 – 3 whales.
  2. In terms of colour, the Minke whale carries a black or dark grey skin tone on its upper body and is white on its bottom half.

So now that you have seen all my whale footage (I tried..), It’s time for the other 98% of footage I captured whilst on the boat. Tadoussac is soo picturesque !

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Later that evening a few of the assistants went to see the sunset by the St. Lawrence River:

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Monday 9th October – Canadian Thanksgiving + Departure day.

We had a final wander around the village before we all headed back to our towns and I managed to get a few shots..

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FOOD !

It wouldn’t be my blog if I ended the post without at least one food mention, so instead of one.. here is a breakdown of the yummy food I ate whilst in Tadoussac.

Dinner on the day I arrived – Resto Bar:

A ham and cheese baguette with homemade crisps and a cup of hot chocolate. Soo soo good!

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Dinner on the second day – Restaurant Le Bateau:

After the whale watching and St. Lawrence stroll we headed out for dinner at a buffet.. fast forward to dessert, I had a slice of blueberry pie and a slice of sugar pie:

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Breakfast on the last day – Pause Bonbons et Crêpes Express:

A Ham and Cheddar Crêpe + Hot chocolate.

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And that’s all folks ! I  had an enjoyable weekend and this week of teaching has gone swimmingly.. see what I did there? .. Well, until next time !

All things teaching !

“Thank you for your patience” – Alexandre (One of the students).

I decided to start with the words of one of the students because this is one of the things that struck me on my first week. I had just finished a session with 2 students and just as they were almost out of sight, one of them turned back and thanked me for my patience. Now… I don’t have myself down as a patient person on a day to day basis but this really got me thinking about the importance of patience in my role and how I had already started to demonstrate a level of patience with the students.

Languages are hard, it’s a fact. Well, I mean most things are difficult but trying to express yourself as freely as you normally do in your mother tongue, but this time in a foreign language is a long long process! I think the patience comes from a place of .. experience. We are practically in the same boat, they are trying to learn English and I am trying to master their language before I start my MA. I get it.. so when they can’t find the words to express themselves, instead of making a big deal about it I ask them to explain it in French and then we go from there. The language learning process is long enough and tiring enough without having to deal with someone who wants to hurry through things or makes you feel like an idiot when you get something wrong. Twice I have had students try and tell me that they are bad at English, and twice I have repeated the same thing: You have to fail in order to get better, you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them, you are not bad.. you are learning ! – I think I may just have to write it on a large piece of paper and stick it on the wall if a third person attempts that line.

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My classroom:

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First week of teaching.. (w/c 11th September)

Before heading out to work I sat in the kitchen eating my breakfast wondering if I was truly ready for what was to come. Have I prepared enough? What if they refuse to speak in English? How am I supposed to teach 16+ year olds?! .. After I had finished asking myself every question under the sun, I proceeded to make the very quiet 15 minute walk to the school. In Matane nobody seems to use their car horns and people seem to actually want to stop to let you cross the road (London drivers could learn a few things in that department). Once I arrived at the school I went into my classroom to find this:

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After preparing myself for the classes, I sat in another classroom with Sylvie, the teacher I am working with. Whilst in there she mentioned that I could write something on the board. I then proceeded to look around the room for a whiteboard. Then she said “On the board in your classroom.. with the chalk”. I have to be honest, I genuinely didn’t think chalkboards still existed in schools, being a 90’s kid I missed the chalk board era. Although it was definitely weird to start off with, I do quite like the fact that when I open the top draw of my desk, there is a box full of different coloured chalk as opposed to whiteboard markers. It’s different.

As for the classes, I had zero problems, students were really friendly and willing. We did some work on how to introduce yourself which gave them the opportunity to get to know me and vice versa and also it was a good way of getting them to speak more by using the vocab in a role play in which they pretended that they were meeting their fellow classmates for the first time and greeted one another, asked a few questions and practiced parting ways.

Second week of teaching.. (w/c 18th September)

The week before, when I arrived at the school, I was presented with the option of working with a special needs class and I just had to say yes! I am soo glad that I did because they are such a happy and enthusiastic bunch. The minute I entered their classroom I was welcomed by smiles and many hello’s! The first session was spent giving them a chance to get to know me, they asked me questions about where I come from, whether I have siblings and so on. I feel as though their sessions are going to be some light relief on a Monday afternoon and I am looking forward to our future sessions.

Right, so as for the morning classes on that same Monday.. I have a little story that requires some imagination: picture a student with an unimpressed expression who then proceeds to grumble loudly and display body language that can only be read as “why me?”  .. The realisation hit me that I had become “that language teacher”. I remember being in Secondary School and there were always those kids that despised learning French and honestly, it amused me standing there at the door whilst this student dragged her heels in my direction, zero eye contact.. (if I can’t see you, you can’t see me). It amused me because I completely understood the reaction and felt as though I had gone full circle. I am a great believer in the idea that a negative situation is powerless without your reaction. So instead of taking it personally (it’s the language learning.. not me), I continued my lesson as planned. We played a game with these cards where they had to find the opposites e.g. “Hot” and “Cold”.

For at least the first 5 minutes the student tried soo hard not to smile but found herself smiling as I strategically chose to use Homer Simpson and Marge as an example for describing the words fat and thin and then proceeded to act out other words with perhaps a touch too much enthusiasm for a 8:30 am class. This is what happens when you let a Drama graduate into a classroom… it turns into a stage haha (i’ll keep telling myself that they are laughing with me and not at me.. either way a room full of smiling faces makes the job that bit easier).

Third week of teaching.. (w/c 25th September)

This week was a pretty good week indeed! The week started off with lots of laughs in my Monday morning class and then in my afternoon class I was presented with my first invitation !

I was invited to go for breakfast on the Wednesday with the special needs class, other members of staff that work with them and the students also brought along family members. It was really nice to meet the parents and socialise with the students outside of the school setting and find out more about them.

Here are some pictures that were taken at the breakfast:

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And my breakfast.. this is a “Breakfast Bagel” which contained ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce and.. some egg that I never saw or tasted at any point in the process (but i’m a Brit, so of course I didn’t mention the lack of egg). The bagel came with breakfast potatoes and .. to this day I am still trying to figure out where the watermelon and lemon came into play. It has to be said, I didn’t touch either of them but the rest was good.

On that same day two language assistants that live in a nearby town came to Matane for the afternoon/evening to do some shopping and I met up with them and it was just nice to see some familiar faces and talk in English for a bit.

Last but not least, Thursday, my shortest work day.. I spent the day playing a game called Taboo with the students to get them talking more. I gave one member of the class a card with one word on it, e.g. “Chocolate” and then they had to describe it without saying the word itself, whilst the others had to guess what the word was. They seemed to really enjoy it and one group even asked if they could come back after the break to continue the game. It’s nice to know that I have found a fun way to help them to English.

All in all a successful first three weeks of teaching. Here’s hoping it continues this way !