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A(nother) Meal to Remember

Friday, October 14, 2016

With my new teaching routine, Fridays are now quite full. Today, I learned how to play the longstanding French game,' jeu des 7 familles,' so that I could lead some of the younger classes in playing it with English cards. Usually, the game has seven families with members ranging from a young boy to the grandfather but, for pedagogical purposes, teachers often create their own laminated knockoffs using categories (i.e., families) with various sets of things, such as colours, numbers, etc. Such was the case Friday, when the school constructed an English version with sets including days of the week, fruit, and equipment and ingredients used in making pancakes (to build on what I'd taught them earlier). Kids then use the cards in a 'Go Fish" like manner, with the objective being to get as many full sets as possible. For each class, I was to review the thirty English words, teach them the phrase "In the ____family, I want ______" and oversee and assist the five groups as they played.

The first bit of bad news came when we found out one of the teachers was ill that day. Consequently, when the sub arrived, five minutes before the bell, he was quite harried as this was his first time with the class. Secondly, after I reviewed the words with the students and was trying to get them into groups and teach them the instructions (which proved fruitless in English), he was desperately trying to get a handle on the day's work ahead and totally ignoring me and the students. I finally had to interrupt him to get him to explain in French and from time to time, would ask him to help certain groups. I understood he was in a difficult situation and had a need to plan a bit for the day but I was disappointed it came during my session with the kids. As a result, I don't think too much learning actually happened, but they still seemed to have some fun. The next class was much better, as the teacher had taught them many of the words already, had reviewed how to play the game, and actually participated in the class!

Once again on the playground, during recess, I ran into the same hoard of young girls who had talked to me in previous weeks. They were braver now and attempted more English. I was also braver and attempted more French. While assisting in Myriam's class a bit this morning, I was able to observe her students more closely. When she would ask them to tidy their desks, readying themselves for the next subject, most of the girls were able to do it within a few seconds, many of the boys followed shortly thereafter, and then there was Valentin, the little lad I had mentioned before. He is like the Charlie Brown character Pig Pen, with constant chaos in his wake. His desk is covered with an ocean of unbound loose-leaf, various pens and pencils, math instruments, and texts. On the floor are bits of paraphernalia: pencil crayons, an eraser, Myriam's carefully-written list of corrections for him on a sticky note, and a glue stick. When he works, he is either sitting on his feet or has them up on a neighbouring chair rung. When his neighbour tried to help him, I could hear her exasperatingly ask, "But where are your corrections, Valentin?" At one point, Myriam asked me to help him with metric conversions so I oversaw his work while he completed a few questions; however, it was not without him attempting to pose some off-topic queries first.

The final class of the day was with Vincent's 10-year-olds. For them, as they were older, Myriam had prepared a worksheet and I reviewed a condensed version of my earlier presentation with them, the objective being that they had to glean bits of information and fill in the blanks on different Canadian aspects. We then played 'Canadian bingo' with pictures of Canadian animals, food, and sports so that they could improve their oral comprehension. The whole hour was really interactive, and a few kids tried to me ask additional questions in English, which the teacher was quite pleased about. At the end, I received an impromptu round of applause, likely their usual way of thanking a visitor. Again, it was another interesting and successful school day.

Immediately following the end of the school day, I had a hair appointment with the 'coiffeuse.' Hoping I didn't screw things up too badly in my explanation of what I wanted done, I tried to relax and allow her space to work. It's only hair, I thought, it will always grow back. Her 'patron,' (boss) was a comedian wannabe, which I knew from my previous encounter with him when making an appointment. With my glasses off, I could not see my newly-shorn hair, but blanched a bit when he said in French, "Oo la, that's very short, hein!" It turns out he was just trying to be funny and I recovered when I saw all was actually OK. The coiffeuse was very amiable, and while we kept conversation to a minimum, we did go through some expected topics (children, work, where we live, weather, hairdresser apprenticing, la famille Poirot). If anyone's interested, the cost is about the same as in Canada for a woman's cut and colour, but I'm not going to mention it explicitly because I try to shield Ben from numbers like that, knowing he has been paying less than twenty dollars for his cuts for years.

Vincent and his wife had wanted to host a meal for me so Myriam and he had agreed on tonight. We made eight at the table, with Myriam, Thierry, Vincent and his wife and daughter, and another teacher and her husband. He and Claire had taken pains to ensure they mainly served only recipes or products originating in Lorraine. Hence, for the apertif, we had a champagne sourced locally, served before the meal with light snacks (pickles, pretzel sticks, capers and radishes rolled in small portions of raw trout, and slices of a dried sausage stick known as 'saucisson'). When we sat down at the table, Vincent served the meal, noting that it was 'rustic.' Claire had made a traditional potée Lorraine, which is a meat and vegetable stew, and generally includes pork and cabbage, as this one did. Vincent first ladled out the vegetables onto each of our plates. He then individually portioned out a small piece of each of the two types of sausage and the cured pork, to which he added a too-generous quantity of pig lard (considered a real treat). This was finished with a ladle each of white beans. By the time he was finished distributing these 48 ladlefuls, I was definitely ready to eat. But the process of serving seems important to the whole experience too. After this plat principal, they offered the remaining bouillon in soup bowls, to be drunk, not spooned. It was all really delicious and very filling. Disappointingly so, as there were still three courses to go: a selection of eight cheeses, served with bread and a red wine; salade vert; and a thin tarte aux pommes with coffee.

As I said, it wasn't all about food -- there was ample conversation too, this time a bit easier to follow as they all waited for each other to speak, indicating that they weren't as close a group as the other ones to which I've been party. During the evening, the topic of Ben's trip to Paris came up and was oohed and ahhed over once again; I noted that all three women gave their husbands meaningful looks. Vincent is an artist and once we had confirmed that we had both been to Morocco, he for a sketching course and me, with my family, he offered me his sketch book to peruse. I was tickled to discover a sketch in there of the very hotel we stayed at, the Hotel Continental, which is a bit of a landmark in Tangiers, given its once-grand past.

As with most French evening gatherings, we started nibbling at 8:00 and didn't finish till about 11:30. Goodbyes took a further half hour so we weren't on our way home till after midnight, rolling out the door like stuffed 'poules.'

Posted by mzemliak 09:58 Archived in France

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I don't believe it. I composed an entry that was exactly 2000 characters. When I went to add it, I had to log in again (I guess I had timed out). Anyway my entry disappeared. Aaaah!

by Jane1

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