student life

The other side of the desk

My first week as a College professor lolwut? has concluded.
It was, to say the least, the weirdest week of my life. I don’t recall booking tickets into the Twilight Zone, but it seems I was the lucky winner for an indefinite trip into a parallel dimension, with a panoramic view of my past.

It all happened my chance- I had grown *very* discouraged in my job search and I applied, for giggles, to a community college (will not disclose the name of it because, well, I don’t feel like it! :D). A week later, on a Friday afternoon, I was driving back from Ikea when I got a phone call from a very nice lady telling me that a French instructor at X Community College had to resign over a family emergency and they were now in serious need for an instructor. I pounced at the opportunity. A few hours later, I was getting bombarded with information, and 48 hours later, I had gotten a security clearance and background check, input into the system and launched into a classroom where I was to teach 21 people beginner French.

Being on the other side of the desk- to be the one with the information- is certainly a very interesting experience. It’s nothing at all like giving a class presentation. It’s serious business. It’s up to you to teach and teach right. Teach correctly, and teach passionately. It’s about infecting others with a desire to learn and to encourage them to not second-guess themselves because hey! if you did it, so can they! (and I must attest to myself as evidence- I picked up French my second year of Community College).

Now, all of this sounds very idealistic. I sound like a noob, like a rookie. And I am! But I also believe in teachers and professors. It’s these people that shaped me and pushed me to broaden my academic spectrum; the ones that pushed me to excel and get out of my comfort zone! It was also the terrible teachers/professors that I had that made me feel like I could make a difference- that anyone that comes under my tutelage will not only be taught, but taught well.
Some of the students I have took the course because, whatever, they needed an elective credit and they chose the first thing that came to mind which was French (again, maybe because we all feel entitled to all things French, as I’ve said in a previous post). Little did they know that learning French is not just about saying “J’adore”- no. It’s about culture, it’s about learning a violent history, about learning how the language they speak (English/Spanish/Creole) has been directly affected and touched by French. But aside all that, even if they don’t choose to continue, they will have been exposed to something else. Something that maybe will escape their logic, but they will remember despite the fact that it was “hard”.
It’s not about teaching a language, it’s about all the aspects that come with learning it. It’s a challenge- and if it doesn’t feel like it, if it never got weird or nonsensical at some point- then it was not done correctly.

All of a sudden I had more priorities and more things to be wary of: Did I word it right? Do they understand? Why didn’t you complete the homework? Can everybody see red on the board? Why are you not making an effort? did the photocopier seriously just jam?
I may blend in with the crowd but I can no longer check a guy out- that’s just creepy, even if there’s only like a two-year difference in age. Also, I have to deal with silly people from IT, who don’t seem to understand anything I tell them:
Me: I need the adapter to plug in my computer to the video projector.
IT: Well, there’s a computer all the way at the bottom of the desk.
Me: Yes, but it’s missing the adapter to plug the cables in. I have a Mac and have my own adapter, but the link between my Mac and the PC is missing.
IT: Well, if you have a Mac you need your own adapter.
Me: *Kicks a puppy*

Then again, this position comes with perks: Staff and faculty parking. Oh, yes. No more third-degree burns from walking in the sun. Only some pre-hypoxia when I jump in my A/C-lacking Ferrari.

So, yeah, there it is. That’s how I can condense some mayor points of my first-week experience. I will, of course, touch up on other things that I’ve observed- some injustices faced by my students, and some little victories and light-hearted anecdotes.

Stay tuned, because I finally may have found some inspiration to write again!

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Next move

I’m from nowhere. You can’t ask me to lower an anchor and have me grow roots in a single place. It’s just impossible.

Though I’ve not experienced much, I have had a taste, a delicious morcel, of what hopping from place to place feels like. As disconcerting as it is- as confusing as it leaves you feeling, panting and bewildered in a corner, the thrill is sweet.

Although this year was excruciatingly painful, and little reminders still come crawling from the shadows now and then, I am ready to do it all over again.
You can’t ask me to stay put. You can’t ask me to go get a nice job, melt into the crowd and one day say how I wish I had done something differently. I don’t feel like I was made to stay in one place, to just go along with the flow of things. No. I was made to be awed. I was made to learn. I was made to relish in little everyday miracles. I was not made to ignore the beauty that life has to offer. Nothing for me is trivial. I choose to live my life like there’s magic in every nook and cranny because otherwise, what fun is it?

Mind you, getting an email from BNP Paribas telling me my Parisian account has been overdrafted is not anything magical, but hey! Technology and the fact that I was able to live in France is a little exciting, no?

Today I find myself facing uncertainty.

Last time I found myself here, I remember being very afraid. It was in early 2012- I had recently been unceremoniously fired from a part-time job as a receptionist I held since 2009, without notice and without explanation. A simple “Hi, don’t come back Monday” (to the day I still wonder what it was that I did that was unforgivable). I also found myself in the confusion that is puppy love. Oh, if I would have known what was coming up later that year! At any rate, to make the story short (not my forte, ever), last time I found myself facing nothing but confusion, I ended up being whisked away by the adventure that was Middlebury- the “monastic” life in Vermont and then the chaos that was Paris.

I am to return to Miami tomorrow. The idyllic days of the student life are over. 
People are excited. Oh, yes. I went around for a year from place to place “representing”- carrying with me the name of Miami. I went around carrying my “Miami attitude”; telling stories to anyone who would listen (and even those who would not) about my magical home. But who would have thought that in a few short months, my attitude would change. I seldom use “Miami” now. The “305” sign has been thrown up in pictures less and less. I’m no longer “Miss three-oh-five”, as I used to proudly be nicknamed by friends. Going back to South Florida indefinitely (for now), feels a little wrong. 

I was very close to moving to Puerto Rico. I was being offered what was a great position as a Spanish/French teacher at a private school. The cycle of interviews went great. The offer was made and, as luck would have it, the pay, though competitive for the island, was terrible for a recent graduate facing relocation. Crest-fallen, I had to decline the offer. Though it sounds like a huge contradiction to the whole tone of the post, the responsibilities that would be thrust upon me were far too great for the amount of monetary remuneration. It was a choice made with logic at its apex. The story can be tedious, so I will spare the details for now. After an attempt at negotiation and sugar-coating of conditions from the school, I declined them a second time. Puerto Rico would have been an escape. But only cowards escape. 

So now, I have no job, no prospect of a job, and a thirst to part once more. 

I am currently in Montréal (a last respit before drawing up a plan of action), holding a graduate degree in one hand and the traditional walking cane given to graduates in the other hand. But if it’s analyzed closely, my hands are full. My hands hold my orb and scepter. As regent of my life, I choose what to do now. As protector, I dictate what will be best for me.  I have found patience and serenity in the past and, furthermore, I know I am better prepared, better armed, to face the unknown and throw myself into it. The more I think about it, the more comfortable I grow in the idea that I am fully free to do as I wish right now. All it needs is a little push. And this push will most likely come from life back in Miramar. 

Adventure, for me, is not defined as skydiving out of a plane, nor surfing waves. Nope. That may be part of an adventure. For me the meaning of the word is to simply throw myself, with open arms, to the uncertainty of the future.

I may just never be able to go on a Nepalese excursion, or bathe in the beaches of Bali (damn, that was some nice alliteration!), but I give myself willingly to the future and the fights I will have to put up to not become complacent.

Update and parting ways

Welp, I’m back! 

Why have I not been here in such a long time? Well…there are many reasons.
Actually, no. Just one: Lack of stimulation.
It’s not that I have not been stimulated academically- it’s that I have not had any sort of feeling for anything anymore. It’s a little sad, actually. But the realization was, to say the least, refreshing. 

Summer at ClubMidd has been fun. I have met new people who, in 6 short weeks, have made a positive impact in my life. They have pried my eyes open to certain facts I was oblivious to; they’ve made me laugh until I have to run to the bathroom, and one in particular has shown me far more kindness than I deserve. 

There’s always a sad side to it, though. This Friday we all must part ways. I knew the date was fast approaching, but it was actually up until a few minutes ago that it was explicitly expressed. My stomach sank to my ankles. I think it was that feeling that prompted me to start writing again.
On Saturday, the first one left. I’m not good with goodbyes or ‘see you laters’, so I always make them quick, as if we were going to see each other again at dinnertime. I never look back after I say goodbye. I try not to think about it because, well, it overwhelms me (also, because I’m a little bitch). 
But this Friday I say goodbye to a wonderful group of people- the ones that stuck it out with me during this crazy year; the only ones who would fully understand what it’s like to live through the year I did. My party companions, my tourism partners, my métro fellows- my home away from home. 
I am incredibly happy to have crossed paths with these wonderful people- they’ve filled my life with laughter, with support, with love. I can’t just give them each a kiss on the cheek and wish them a good night. 
Life has begun.
Some are off to new ventures- one moves from the West Coast to the East Coast to begin a career, another will go from a Caribbean paradise to New York City to begin work as well. Three of us remain in limbo, but I am not concerned. We’ve been trained to succeed and inside all of us there is a thirst to succeed. Maybe we won’t get to be presidents (notice the “maybe”), but we will attain personal satisfaction, whatever our road may be. Once accomplished, I don’t believe anything in the world would be better. One thing is for certain though, whatever choice we take- whatever move we make, or have already made- will (and has required!) courage. 

Sometimes the little things are a mask for something far deeper and far more complex than we dare to imagine. 

 

First week at ClubMidd

It’s like being the popular kid back in high school.
Because last year I was the new girl (along with many others), there were many people I simply did not approach because I was downright intimidated. Everyone was part of a huge happy family and I was the outsider trying to get in. This time around, though, the return has been so much sweeter. I feel a sense of ownership over the place, and it’s much easier to glide through the crowd, smiling and making small-chat with people. It feels very nice.

I thought I had gone unnoticed last year, but I was wrong. The very first day I had some faculty members and fellow students come up to me with the biggest smile calling out my name, which was not visible, since I refuse to wear any and all indicators given to us (it’s my unconscious way of sticking it to the man) inquiring about Paris and all sorts of things about my life. I was taken aback, but then again, it’s the Middlebury family.

We’ve already met the group that will be going to Paris this coming fall. Some were familiar faces, others were newcomers.
I know I’m going to sound like a complete cunt but those smiles and eagerness will soon fade. I kind of feel bad for them, for some will lose their innocence (AND EGO, HOLY SHIT! THERE ARE SO MANY FUCKING EGOS CLASHING IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY. SITCHO ASS DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP. THE FRENCH WILL NOT BE IMPRESSED AND NEITHER ARE WE 😀 ) and see that maybe Paris was a little bit more rough than they thought it would be. I was in their shoes last year. I know how it works.
Nonetheless, however, I am still excited for them, because they will have the best year of their lives regardless.
Let us also raise a toast to my passive-aggressive ways!

Concerning academia, I have also observed that Paris corrupted me more than I anticipated. Being back in the American system of schooling, which I missed so much, I find that people are…well…slow.
In Paris we had no time to dilly-dally with questions such as “How do you spell this?” or “Is it double-spaced?” (see also: “Typed?”, “How long should it be?”, “Do you want a particular font?”). I walked out of a meeting under the false pretext that I had class. I just couldn’t bear to sit there and see people get their panties in a bunch over the small stuff. I hope I don’t let myself get worked up over these things, but the eye-rolling has begun, and it’s only the second day of class.

Do you want a particular font?

One thing has certainly not changed, however. “La table hispanique” (“The hispanic table”) is still in full force. While all other tables sit maybe 5 or 6 people at a time, we do magic and manage to fit 10. When the 11th person shows up, it’s always the same story: “Just take a chair and sit here”.
There’s plenty of love and space at our little corner…which is also the loudest. But hey!

Getting into the groove of French has not been difficult. As I am finally able to sit down and write something more or less cohesive, I find that French is slowly pushing into my thoughts and tempts my fingers to actually type in it. Oh, what a tease. When I needed you in Paris, you weren’t there! But now…I see what you’re doing.

It’s not.

Also, I find it incredibly rewarding to be speaking with students of lower levels because I can see them already making progress, and knowing that maybe I taught them a word or two in our conversations feels kind of nice. I look forward to the end of the semester, and see how much everyone, including myself, has improved.

Anyway, I have noticed that as a fully functioning, happy person, I am not as inspired nor as good at doing things like taking pictures and/or writing, but I am trying! Someone commented on this affliction being something characteristic of artists.

Well, damn.

I guess I’m an artist.

PS: Did I mention there’s another Beatriz? Yes, with a “z” and everything. I’ve met her a couple of times. More on my one-sided friendly rivalry later!

Week 1

(Hear me bemoan my first world problem!)

So, it has been a week since moving back to South Florida (well, tomorrow it will be, but nothing will have change by then) and I have already begun getting anxiety. Woo!

Anyone who knows me knows that whenever I get anxiety, this means depression. Oh, yes!

Hello, old friend. Fan-fucking’-tabulous to have you back.

Now, this breed of anxiety is different from the one I experienced back in France. There’s a sense of urgency tied to this one. A feeling where everything in my body vibrates, my breathing is fast and my thoughts are racing to all the possible ways I can take to get the hell out of here. The funny thing is, I feel lost. I feel like there is no way out and that I am going to get swallowed up by suburbian life, get a boyfriend with a fresh tape and drive a tricked-out ’94 civic to do grocery shopping at Wal*Mart.
(No offense to those who do).

I feel silly for airing my thoughts and for, those who follow, to see that there is simply no pleasing me. I’m here but I want to be somewhere else. And when I’m somewhere else I want to be here. It’s terrible. And I’m very judgemental of myself, so…yeah. Fun all around!

Don’t get me wrong, though! I have gotten a very warm welcome by old friends and family. It was great to see familiar faces again; to hear their voices and watch their quirks in action once more.

I am truly blessed and lucky to come back to people I love.

But then, there’s that nagging thought in the back of my head and that funny feeling in my chest, like I’m drowning.

Nothing feels like it’s mine anymore, which does not help the feeling of being an outsider. I don’t even have my own set of house keys (not that I’ve left the house much these past few days). I forget where stuff goes around the kitchen, I don’t know how to work new things, and I don’t remember TV channels.
Furthermore, none of my old clothes fit me so I’ve cleaned out my closet and replaced the old stuff with whatever I brought with me from France. In a few days will be put into another suitcase that will go with me to Middlebury for 6 weeks.
I guess it’s this in-between and the lack of stability that’s been affecting me. But I feel if I slow down now, I will not gain back my momentum.
And that’s really scary.

Also, these said clothes have been getting me plenty of attention.

I am by no means a fashion victim. I don’t even consider my personal style to be flashy or fabulous and yet, I made a quick trip to the supermarket the other day (where I got hopelessly lost) and I got gawked at more than I want to admit.

Who knew haarem pants would scandalize overweight housewives in tight mom jeans and neon tank tops?

I think one of them in particular would be more surprised at the amount of sugar her Dr. Pepper 24-case had. As a matter of fact, I’m scandalized by your poor eating habits, how you’ve let yourself go, and your sedentary lifestyle. (It’s hard to miss your love handles).

But what can be expected from people in a community where no one leaves? A place where everyone is so comfortable where they’re at that they don’t seek to move, to better themselves?
I am not any better than anyone but how can anyone be so complacent? So “ok” with their monotonous lifestyles? How!?

I wanted to go for a walk today, because I was incredibly bored (another side-effect of suburbia). I figured I’d walk to Target, but then I thought about it better and I suddenly got really depressed because I knew exactly what I was going to run into, so I changed my mind and figured I’d walk around the neighborhood. And then the reality of it all hit me: what for? There’s nothing to see! There’s no place of interest, nothing to look at, nothing to discover.
So now, my walk will probably be just to keep myself active and clear my thoughts and look at the pre-historic wildlife that surrounds me.

It’s hard being back, man.

Every night before going to bed, I have the same feeling I had when I was a kid and slept over someone else’s house. Yeah, I’d sleep and all, but it felt weird. I just wanted to go home, really. And that’s exactly that’s happening to me right now: I want to go home. I want to go back to my little apartment with the shitty shower and no oven. I want my desk; I want my things. I want to open my window and people watch down below. I want to plop on my pullout couch and eat couscous out of the pot.

But I can’t, because I am “home”.

Maybe I wasn’t so wrong when I wanted to leave in the first place. I did outgrow this place a long time ago, and it’s taking me this challenging experience to make me realize it and not (dare) forget it.
Falling back in love with the city I once loved so much and longed to return to is going to take me longer than I thought.
I’m sorry, Miami, but I don’t think this is going to work out for us in the end.

 

A day in the life

So this is what a very typical day consists of for me. Do notice a few things:

1. It’s very raw footage (shaky, etc. I’m warning you right now so don’t come to me with the “omg it’s shaky” comments afterwards). I’m a complete mess when it comes to iMovie and stuff.
2. Notice how many stairs I have to climb.
3. Notice how on the subway I was the first in line, and suddenly some guy gets in front of me (typical Parisian).

Enjoy!

La bouffe!

What does one turn to when one is sad? Food, of course!

Food brings comfort.
I, for one, have a tendency of eating my feelings (see: Carbicide)

Paris is one of the culinary capitals of the world, I would insist my house is when my dad cooks, but alas, the world is not yet ready. Anyway, escargot, baguettes, crêpes, profiteroles, millefeuilles, the french trifecta of steak-frite-salade…om nom nom.

Obviously, I eat that every day in France! At a bistro! Wearing a beret, with a super sexy French model feeding me.
What are you? Five?
The student diet does not vary from place to place.
Mind you, Maruchan is a little harder to come by here, and a little more expensive, but hey! Pasta is pasta and couscous is couscous and they are both super easy to cook and easy to nosh on while “doing homework”.  Peanuts, too.

 Everyday food is not glamurous- it’s still what you would whip up at home on a busy day, or on a day that you’re just tired as you come home from school or work. Who has time to dice stuff, simmer and all that stuff?
“Not I!”, said I.
(Delivery is quite expensive here, by the way. I would go off on my pizza delivery adventure from back in October but…it’s just such a long story).
Some days it’s couscous with some chopped shallots and red pepper. I add chicken sometimes if I’m feeling fancy. Other days is “pasta con atun”- one part pasta, one part canned tuna and parmesan cheese and a whole lot of delicious!
On the days I’m nearing a coma, I boil the water on my water boiler thingie (for tea- gotta multi-task!), transfer it to a hot pot, cook pasta, add olive oil, parmesan and cracked black pepper and bam! I have a meal before I can feel guilty about what I just put in my mouth.

We have university dining halls here, too, by the way. The CROUS people got it all figured out: you get 6 points for 3 euros and 10 cents. Not too shabby! What are 6 points? An entrée, a dessert and a glass of water. Like all things European, there’s always bread. And this bread is free! And rock hard. But sometimes, the bread is the best part of the meal.

Image

Exhibit A

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to my Sorbonne Nouvelle CROUS dining hall- mostly for the company and because I get a kick out of living “the student life”, which in Miami was faaaaaar different. We were brats! We had choices! What will it be today? Well, Bustelo’s for sure in the morning to get my café con leche and my pastelito de queso before class. Then…hmm…Burger King? Einsteins Bros? Moe’s? Salad Creations? Chili’s?
Yeah. Bratzzzzz.

Another charming thing about these halls is that it’s not only open to students. There’s faculty and staff, as well as your local struggling recent layoff. If you look around, you will see them. And it put things back into perspective.

All of a sudden, Exhibit A starts tasting a lot better.

But DO let me tell you about the fantastic discoveries I have made- the little things, if you will, that make my sejour in Paris bearable at times.

-Speculoos: Ohmysweetlordbabyjesusinfootiepijamas. These “spice cookies” are addictive, to put it lightly. They are made with sweet stuff like molasses, cloves, cinnamon and some unexpected ingredients like white pepper. They’re similar to ginger snaps but, of course, far better. I can eat a whole 250g bag in, oh, one sitting.
They’re the typical pairing whenever you order coffee at a café.
And in Mount Olympus, surely.

-Millefeuille: More specifically, that of La Grande épicerie. I mean…if this thing took on human form and it was a woman, I would totally reconsider my orientation and surely go through a deep, deep crisis.

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I MEAN LOOK AT IT! IT’S PERFECT!

-Panini “poulet tomate”: The mafia that runs crêperie Genia know what’s up (right next to the McDonald’s on Cluny, across from the Musée du Moyen Âge for those who care to know. Especially my girl Zoila…not pictured because I have not been able to, um, capture her. No pun intended. At any rate, it’s just a baguette, some chicken, mayo and tomato on a press. Boy, let me tell you about the love you taste in each bite, though! As a recent arrival, I would go there at least twice a week. I needed the pannini fix, and it didn’t hurt that my then-roommat was totes down for it too.

-Crêpe “nutella-banane”: Again, Zoila. They just slather on that Nutella, no shame whatsoever. And by “banane” they mean a whole banana on your crêpe. They just peel it, lay it there and with ninja-style slicing motions, bam! It’s fanned out all over your hazelnutty goodness. You may now start drooling.

-Grec (from my local Anthony Bourdain look-alike): This non-descript place is among one of the endless hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve your classic street fare of gyros, shwarmas, crêpes, etc. However, this guy has got the best fries. What’s so special about them, besides the fact that he just shoves them onto your gyro or “grec”, as they’re known here? This man adds lime to his salt. LIME. THE GREEN ONE. And it is a religious experience that needs to be tasted by all. I stumbled upon this place by chance, back in 2009 when I was visiting Paris for the second time with my cousin. We were starving and decided to eat there. I remember I would lean against the wall of a church in a tiny, tiny street in the Quartier Latin. As I live here, I know the church to be that of St. Severin, and the street happens to be aptly named after it. In 2012, I made my way back there by memory and ordered me my delicious grec, with the fries, and went to heaven.

So there you have it, a glimpse into real people food here. Not what you thought it would be like, huh? 

PS: I do enjoy a good onion soup now and then. Nomnomnom.