I’ve officially been in Clamecy for seven full days and to celebrate that, here is a blog post summarizing seven new or exciting things I have done since my arrival!
1. I met a lot of people
Between teachers, staff, students, and random people in the town, I don’t think I can count the number of times I’ve been introduced by someone or I have introduced myself. After the first two days in Clamecy, my naturally introverted self was demanding a break from it all. However, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people in the town and I’ve especially enjoyed having the chance to talk to some of the students outside the classroom. It’s a win-win-win for me, as I’ve gotten to informally observe their English skills, while getting a taste of what life is like for high school students in Clamecy, in addition to being able to listen to them speak French, slang words and all. I need all the help I can get with my listening skills and living in a small town has allowed me a plethora of opportunities to do so!
2. I opened my French bank account and got a French sim card
Wow, what an event this was! The day after I arrived in Clamecy, my prof référent gave me the information about what bank in town to go to in order to set up my French bank account, and off I went with zero knowledge of the French vocabulary words associated with opening up this account. That, my friends, was quite the problem for me. I went to the front desk and, in very broken French, tried to explain my situation and my need for an appointment. Not two minutes into the exchange, I was so confused by all the questions she was asking me that I said a quick pardon-moi and went outside to sit on the bench in an attempt to calm down and shake off the frustrations I was feeling. When I finally overcame my embarrassment and entered the bank again, the secretary introduced me to a very kind banker who helped me to get my account set up! Honestly, this was a ginormous blessing, as I’ve heard of many people having problems with banks giving them the time of day, let alone sitting with them for an hour and a half patiently explaining the French banking structure and system.
After my prof référent discovered I had yet to get a French SIM card the following afternoon, another teacher at the school graciously agreed to take me to the phone store to get that set-up. The process was relatively quick and painless and I was out of the store within 20 minutes. Now, I’ve got myself a fancy new French phone number! On that note, to my friends and family back home: it is easiest and best to get in contact with me through Facebook or other social media accounts, WhatsApp, or through writing e-mails. If you have an iPhone, it is less problematic for you to text my French number because we can use iMessage. For those with Android devices, please use the aforementioned methods 🙂
3. I went to my first French yoga class
My first few days in Clamecy, I was able to rent out a room at the school for a small fee. As a result, I got the spend a lot of time around the school and with my future students. After eating dinner with a few of the terminales on Wednesday night, they invited me to go to a yoga class with them the following evening (coming from social work, it feels very weird/unethical to be hanging out with my students outside of school, but c’est la vie!). Overall, I am glad I went with! It was quite different than the yoga classes I am used to—more simple stretching and meditation time than flowing yoga poses—but it was interesting to hear French in such a drastically different context than I am used to. And if I’m being honest, I understood maybe 25% of what the teacher was saying, but if anything, it helped to expand my vocabulary!
4. I had my first apéro
Honestly, why can’t this be more of a thing in the United States? Yes, we have happy hour at most restaurants, but there is something so much more charming about relaxing with a glass of wine or beer before dinner as opposed to drinking frozen margaritas and downing free quesadillas at 5pm (not hating on you, Blue Mesa Happy Hour, but I’m just saying…). The same teacher who took me to get my SIM drove me to the supermarché on Friday afternoon so I could pick up some essentials. Afterward, we went to his favorite little bar in town where he treated me to a glass of wine and good conversation. After finding out we were both born in June (in his words, “we are birthday twins!’), he got up from the table and came back with two lottery cards called Gemini—appropriate as it is the astrological sign of June birthdays and his mention of us being birthday twins—in which I won 2 euros! It was quite an eventful afternoon and a great way to end the week.
5. I went to my first Saturday market
Wow, what a cool experience! Every Saturday, there is a fairly large market in the middle of town with lots of produce, bread, cheese (so. much. cheese.), meat, eggs—they had so many amazingly delicious things to choose from! I went with one of the teachers at the school and her two daughters. While I didn’t buy too much, I had so much fun just walking around and looking at everything they had to offer! I can’t wait to go back after I have permanent housing figured out and actually buy more than just a few vegetables and a pear (you wouldn’t believe the funny looks I got from the vendor for just buying a single pear!). I totally failed at taking any pictures of the market itself, but I’ll be sure to snap a few next time.
6. I explored Clamecy
While Clamecy is a very small town, there is a lot to be explored! I’ve gone on a fair number of runs and walks over the last seven days and each time, I find myself in a new area or walking down a path I have not explored before. I’ve run along multiple river paths, went on a walk with another teacher farther down this same path (which I have learned goes on for miles and miles!), walked around the park in town, explored the church, gone into random shops in the centre ville, visited the supermarchés in town…the list goes on! Here are some pictures of my finding:
7. I took my first BlaBlaCar
Now my friends and family reading this back in the States might be thinking, “What the heck is a BlaBlaCar?” Well, let me explain. Think of it as a cross between an Uber and a train—there are drivers who register certain routes and their stops along the way on the website (i.e. City 1–>City 2–>City 3) Then, travelers who want to go from one city to the other can request a seat in that driver’s car. More often than not, it costs less than taking the train and/or it goes to locations that are not normally or easily accessible by train or bus. As we had the orientation for all the assistants in Dijon on Tuesday, I decided to take a morning train to the nearest big city to Clamecy and take a BlaBlaCar from there to Dijon that afternoon. Not only did that give me time to explore Auxerre, but it was faster and a bit less expensive than having to take the train to Dijon. I had an awesome driver and co-passenger who (patiently) spoke with me in French as they both asked me questions about my travels. It was a great experience and I look forward to using it again in the future!
Overall, I would count my first week in Clamecy as a success! So far, I am loving this place and while I am struggling with my French a bit, I feel very comfortable, welcomed, and at home here. In the next few days, I hope to secure permanent housing, start my classroom observation period, and possibly travel a bit around the Burgundy region this weekend, so be expecting some blog updates in the near future!
Until next time,