I love bats.
And it is a good thing too as we have over 45 of them living in the little attic above our upstairs bath. They quietly squeak overhead to each other while we use the toilet. The roofline doesn’t connect to the rest of our house, and they are snuggled in tight and isolated to the bathroom loft- not the garret over our bedrooms. They come every year, however, last year they decided the Hamori house did not suit them and moved to neighbour Bernard’s grenier. It sounds hilarious, but I missed them.
My favourite time of day is dusk. You can often find me floating in our pool looking up towards the big blue sky, making out shaped in the clouds. Southern France life sounds very stressful I know…
The setting sun illuminates the skies in a golden glow. Like the Canadian military aerobatics ‘The Snowbirds’ I witness hundreds of swallows displaying their quick swoops and ariel expertise with combat pilot skill.
Since the end of April swallows migrate back to the region announcing the beginning of spring. When the screaming begins to change to silent clapping and zigzag patterns there is a 10 minute overlap. Imagine banshee screams high above, as groups of aerodynamic birds display their high altitude feeding maneuvers. My bat family is lower, just over the tree line; tiny, bald headed winged blind mice chaotically fluttering as my eyes try to focus and follow rapid solar beam patterns. Their arrival lets us know the warm weather is ready to stay.
Before my bat family decided to squat in my attic, Alfonz and I were busy preparing for a very busy summer. For our new homestay business we searched Germany-France for a 7-passenger car. We were so thankful to finally find a beautiful, low kilometre Opal Zephira. Unfortunately, and thanks to my persistent perfectionist husband, Alfonz uncovered the dirty little secret the car was hiding. I guess 25 years in the industry does rub off on you.
When he took it to Opal, the man originally said it was a 500€ fix. Apparently the previous owners wanted to change the four spark plugs, took it to their equivalent of Canadian Tire and in doing so, one plug shattered into the engine. At that point they had the option to fix it. Instead they closed it up and put it up for sale.
After debating our options, our friend Philippe called the original owner to see if we could have compensation for the problem. The man told us it was past eight week and that we were in fact out of luck. Our friend then quoted the sale purchase receipt date and we were in fact six weeks into our new car purchase, making them still responsible by law for the motor vehicle. His story then changed to, well our mechanic said it would be cheaper than 500€ to fix the broken spark plug that was inside our engine! He knew about the problem, and tried to blame the mechanic.
And this brings me to how I always believe in people, my optimistic ‘Polyanna’ view of the world, where as Alfonz is more reasonable when it comes to the basic character of our fellow man. If people can get away with it, they usually try, and everytime I am totally shocked and disappointed. It is becoming more and more obvious to me, that we need to protect ourselves. Not just as foreigners, although that does play a part, but also as over-trusting Canadians that are viewed as rich Americans that have money to burn. Our boundaries are open, but are closing up quickly and only cautiously letting people through those borders. Those trees growing money in North America… well they are long dead. Maybe someone should let Europe know!
Car troubles and the 8-week rule in France plays out through your insurance company and a registered letter is sent to the original owners. Most likely they will have to pay for the fixing of our car, but I would much rather have our money back and buy the trusted VW Touran we originally planned. Now I sit and wait, with no spare car to get us through the summer with six kids touring around the region and no money to buy another vehicle until this is dealt with; about 8 weeks, just in time to say goodbye to our last student. Isn’t that timing! I am looking into a courtesy car but because the car was not in an accident, the insurance lady said I am out of luck. Well as luck goes, we are pretty lucky, and I am sure that this is just a glitch in the over all lucky life we lead… C’est la vie! Such is life. And like the problems before, this too shall pass.
The arrival of our first summer students. A busy summer starting this week, our first two of 40 students arrive this afternoon. I am feeling anxious. 10-year-old Ophelia will go down in history as our first student and our whole family absolutely adored the child, and I look forward to seeing her with her sister next year. A tear comes to my eye when I think about her, she was so sweet and missed her family dearly.
Teenagers are different than children under ten in the way they learn. Adolescents question their environment, and start to connect the different topics they are learning all while going through their own hormonal changes. It is a time of chaos for many and I remember being a teenager oh too well. The world at your feet, hard to teach as we knew everything already. Fearless, not dumb. I will learn a lot from these kids this summer.
Lesson plans. I have prepared dozens of lesson plans that follow the French- English course curriculum. I say French- English as we follow the course work provided by the French government to learn English as a second (or third) language.
It is academic. Each year they build on the same grammar points but by the end many haven’t learned to speak. In fact, difficult words are often mispronounced for years, and ingrained incorrectly which are far harder to correct. Even the teachers themselves, find changes difficult. Students need to hear and use the language to develop an ear for it. Many of my top grading students have never said a word out loud, but are grammatically correct and score well on their homework. If I can have them talking by the end of the week, my work is done. I hope to give balanced lessons, mixed with fun, entertainment and learning in all one.
Winding down our ESL class after two years with the same children has been bitter sweet. I developed the Song & Play class to give the French children in class with Daniel and Angelina an opportunity to hear the language, to practice and increase their vocabulary before they hit junior high school.
My students have learned dozens of songs, poems, stories and have a remarkable vocabulary. When they had their oral exam test a few weeks back, they all scored 17+ knowing how to pronounce the words in English and giving the meaning in French. I am so very proud of them all, and most are going to Collége in September. They are prepared.
If I have the opportunity to start up again in September I will. Perhaps an after school program on Wednesdays.
As I sip my last cup of coffee before the summer schedule begins, I have a moment to reflect. I managed to seed a few more employment opportunities this year and had an amazing opportunity to work with the Farrants at La Maison Cachee where Alfonz and I work together managing their holiday home. It was supposed to be just me, but so it goes, Alfonz can fix toilets, swimming pools, lift heavy stuff, where I am better at the booking, money end of things and cleaning up after guests. This year is about finding out what works best for their luxury rental and next year will be about filling the beds.
EDUCATION. I finished my TESOL/TEFL course and learned so much in doing so that if I had to do it all again I would pursue a teaching degree. No regrets however, life is long, and you never know what the future holds. Perhaps they are designing a good online program for me right now and some open universities may take me in as a mature student. I am looking into it. UBC already took me in for the Real Estate program online, perhaps they can enroll me again for the teaching program? We will see.
RECOVERY The last six months since my surgery has been a time of goals, feeling I had to push myself back into health faster than my body would have liked. No regrets again, as I am back on my fitness regime swimming and bike riding, and have seen some good results over the past few weeks. I squeezed into my bikini this week and thought, well forty is not so bad at all!
Lastly, I am learning French more than ever before, building new vocabulary daily through the Duolingo online program. I am finally talking to the person next to me at the weekly meetings for the town hall, taking the opportunity to think in French, try out different sentence structures and have hopes of becoming fluent in the next few years. We have already come such a long way with this, and we continue our progress.
Municipal duties. I am tired of sitting on the sidelines watching everyone get their commissions started. I was working as hard as anyone but couldn’t communicate my progress without my translation program and then having it edited by my deputy Sylvie, who oversees everything I do. I report to her directly as Pierre the mayor is far too busy. I contribute where I can and hope they find a way to use me more in the future. I keep reminding myself, it is a five-year commitment to the new mayor. Sure, it is not everyday you are on the council and I don’t take it lightly. I have had to put my embarrassment on the back burner, push my limits, and stand up to criticism. All humbling and character building experiences to say the least.
Off I go to start my day. One last thought, I am writing about all the adventures we have with our students and forming a Student Activities Journal on our blog. This week we go horseback riding, visit an adventure park and cycle to Puisserguier and back with the girls! By summer’s end we should be fit as fiddles if not completely exhausted.