We are currently camping by the seaside in Quiberon, Brittany. It reminds me of the Victorian Bass Coast - it’s beautiful, varied and not over-run with tourists. It’s less pretentious than the south. Here, I feel overdressed wearing my fake panama hat, whereas down south I lack the sparkle and glitz that is more the norm. I guess you could say I feel pretty “at home” up here. And yet....I just saw a tiny car covered in hand-painted sardines and a man leaning out the window with a mega-phone shouting about a Sardine festival. Not so Bass then.
Anyway, the last blog I wrote long, long ago was full of musings about what my life was going to look like in France once I discovered I would not gain recognition as a nurse. Since then, I’ve taken a back-step on the blogging because I realised I needed to focus my time and effort on projects that were getting me closer to my goals, which then I hadn’t even clarified. The short story is that I decided to make the most of my time here by, 1) getting as good as I can at French and 2) getting a job. The getting a job bit is hard because my CV means basically nothing over here and the French are not known for recognising what others call “transferrable skills.” Nursing CVs only talk to nurses and nurses without registration are….not nurses. So I decided to re-train in something that would get me an actual (likely poorly) paying job.
Are you ready for it? Drum roll…..teaching English! I booked myself in to do an intensive English teaching course (the CELTA) and I surprised myself by loving it. As you can maybe tell from this blog I love words, expression and the English language in general. So I’m giving teaching a crack because if there's one thing I can do better than most locals and that is speak English. After many interviews and tossing up options I’ve taken a part-time position at a university, teaching medical English to med students. I can’t wait. The staff seem pleased to have a native speaker with a clinical background, along with experience bossing young medics around (ahem). So wish me luck on this new venture, I’m gonna need it because it’s ALL NEW. The only thing with this set up is that it will not help my French, but I’ll be doing my best to carry on learning on the side. I’m also working on a small writing project (it's a secret) and I’m still teaching basic first-aid skills to English speakers in Paris once or twice a month. So that’s me.
Oh yeah I turned 40 it felt like a massive milestone, one I was pleased to make. If you’d told me at 30 that at 40 I'd be living in Paris with my husband and 2 kids I would have thought you were mad. I celebrated by having my parents over for a party amongst my Parisian friends - it was a steamy hot May night (novel, as I’m used to a wintery birthday), I had tunes pumping as loudly as they’d let me, a stack of the best local pizzas, cheap cocktails and great company. I also just had my sisters over to visit - they took time out from their very busy lives to come and explore a bit of Europe with me - Paris, Rome and the Italian Amalfi Coast (Positano specifically). It was a huge effort by them to come all this way but it was very special and we will always have Positano. It was precious. Thanks sisters.
The kids are doing well. It’s hard to imagine that we must one day prise them away from their current comfort zone at the local school where they know the kids, the teachers, all the words to the school-yard ditties, the words to all the chorale songs, the lingo, the drill. Euan has now finished the equivalent of kinder here (maternelle). It’s a great achievement and he’s excited (or maybe it’s just me) to buy a new pencil case and back-pack to facilitate the move up to big school (école primaire). Lucky for us it’s all at the same campus so our routine will carry on as usual. Hazel finished her first year as a petite in maternelle where she thrived. She’s more French than Aussie at this point and I must put my English teaching hat on at home to match the pace of her French literacy.
Chris’s work continues to challenge, excite and exhaust him all at once. He’s very proud to be working on a project that aims to improve economic partnerships of indigenous communities in 9 different countries around the world including Australia, Canada, Colombia, Sweden and so on. He’s all over the place. He’s very good at managing jet-lag. I’d be lying if at times I felt a bit left behind when he’s out achieving stuff and I’m trying to scramble a “career” together whilst doing the school run and the dishes. But things could be worse right? I have time to be there for the kids (I go on their school excursions and bake cakes for the cake stall). I have time to enjoy un p'tit café or an apéro with friends and generally enjoy living in this city that I do indeed love. Poor me!
Next on our holiday agenda is Sardinia. We just can’t get enough of having Europe on our doorstep and Italy has been so good to us. So back we go for more pasta, pizza and gelato to the “real” sardine heartland. Who do these Breton folk think they are with their “grande fête de la sardine?” What’s with the sardine theme anyway?
Questions for you. Where would you go if you had Europe as your oyster (or sardine) on your next holiday? How would you spend a limited time in Paris, if you had the chance? How would you do it differently to me? I want to hear all of your ideas. Please comment below - I've been missing our chats.