A 3 PART STORY: WORKING, EVS TRAINING, TRAVELING

Bonjour à tous !

It has been a while since my last post so this will be a long one. Have some wine = Feel french.

The Blog will be in 3 parts as follows: 1) Working- because my job takes up the majority of my time, 2) EVS training and general information about EVS and 3) Traveling (possibly the best part).

Recommended songs for this Blog (by me):

Macklemore ft. Kesha – Good Old Days

Macy Grey – I Try

Lewis Capaldi – Lost On You

 WORK

A lot of people have asked me if working in France is any different than working in my own country and the answer is both yes and no but it is important to remember that I am a volunteer in France and my job is different no matter what country I am in.

Many people also might be interested in what a volunteer does. That will depend on the project you choose. In my case I work at a school (see last blog) and I spend my time with the teenagers doing different activities and projects.

Sometimes we cook (see magic cooking skills in picture bellow)

22752179_1704772649574881_1615056436_n

Latvian traditional food –> pīrāgi

22752240_1704774089574737_1038845306_n

Sometimes we learn to take care of babies- change diapers and feed them (fake babies in photo here à)

20170905_150954

We visit places together (at Maison de l’Europe in picture)

22539673_360628674360259_30744103874577363_n

Life is interesting in the MFR because I get to learn with the students, so now I also know how to change a baby properly, I learn about different European countries together with the pupils and visit local businesses and lots more!

As with any job abroad, the language is the most difficult thing. Compared to two months ago I can say that my French is better, I can understand more and I am trying to speak more as well. Right now the best people are those who either don’t know English at all or only a little because then I am forced to speak French!

Often I am very harsh with myself- comparing my progress with other peoples or often being annoyed at myself for not spending all my free time learning grammar or vocabulary and sometimes that doesn’t lead to self motivation but just makes me miss home and doubt everything.

It is normal to miss home because home = things that I know and it is often (if not always in my case) easier to do the things that I know. Speaking Latvian, English and even Russian (because I know it much better than French) is safer, easier, doing the jobs I already know is safer and easier, talking with old friends instead of making new ones is safer, easier  but then I remember that many amazing things and experiences aren’t completely safe or easy to do.  I also remind myself that it’s been only two months and I can’t expect miracles to happen that fast.

Other times I just go out to the shops or to walk in the city center, speak to some people in the stores or while waiting for the tram ( mostly old people who are very nice and patient ), I remind myself that I am in France and that it’s not only about grammar but about living it!

So I also set some goals for myself (3 for now), a check list if you will:

 

  1. Try Tandem learning (google it, it’s cool)
  2. Take a cooking class/ learn to cook a French food
  3. Read Le Petit Prince en français (I have a year to do it)

Hopefully this will help immerse myself a little more in the French culture and feel more French in general.

Other than language, from my experience, I would say there aren’t many differences between Working in France Vs. Working in Latvia. Of course the culture is different so that can affect some aspects of my day but I am a volunteer at a MFR so that’s not that typical to begin with!

EVS

In the beginning of October I had the pleasure of having my first EVS training in the south of France. For a week I lived in Sommières which is a small town near Nîmes.

An amazing week with new friends, fun and all questions about EVS answered!

training

Each EVS volunteer has to participate in the training. If your project is for 6 months then you will have one training but if it is for longer (like mine which is 10 months) you will have two training weeks. The first training is about EVS in general- what it is, expectations, how to deal with problem situations, motivate yourself and many other topics any volunteer might be interested in. And the second week is at the end of the project with the main goal being to evaluate your experience and all that has happened during your EVS.

For me this first training week was a really good opportunity to put things in perspective and reflect on the first two months of my life in France.

I was very excited to move to France when I found out the project was accepted and so the first month passed very quickly- everything was new and we had lots of events, every week was full of things to do!

Now that month two has almost ended and I have now gotten used to life in Mans, it can be easy to feel a little lost or homesick, so the training week was an amazing opportunity to meet new people in the same situation as me, talk about what I really want to accomplish during this year and why.

Exchange experiences and ideas. Come back home motivated!

My home is here now and now it’s easy to say that home is Le Mans.

I say “I want to go home” and I mean to our house in the city not Latvia. It’s a small change but it’s something new.

So cheers for this!

22752288_1704774772908002_1703961215_n

Also as an EVS volunteer, especially in more rural areas, you will be asked to many events (you will be quite popular) and you definitely have to go, because, personally, I think that the countryside is where you get the real feeling of any country! Since France is really into agriculture, most of the events I attend are in this area: lots of expos where you can buy tractors, animals, cheese and even some jacuzzis!   When you are in EVS you represent you country every single day. If you are the only person from your country in that region, you could be the reason for some new stereotypes about your peoples!

22686898_1704773036241509_409853638_n

P.S. If you ever go to have lunch at an agriculture expo in France, be prepared that while you are eating a stake, it’s brothers are yelling from just outside of the tent…. I was vegetarian for a week after this.

TRAVELING

Since the last post, I have traveled to a few places and I would like to recommend them to you.

20170916_143809

Nantes is a beautiful city in the west of France. It has many things to see and is a little more modern then others. It has beautiful art, rivers, markets and a life-size mechanical elephant! The castle of Nantes is also a history museum, the largest one I have ever seen. Even if you are not a fan of history museums it is nice to walk on the top of the castle wall and see the interior of the castle. With 32 exposition rooms, it will take at least two hours to see everything!

If you happen to be in Nantes sometime soon, try to visit the old prison.

20170916_152659

The city decided to demolish it sometime soon but before that local artists decided to do a house makeover and it’s one of the weirdest places I have been this year! Art pieces on every wall showing the daily life of prisoners, imagined scenes from torture in hell, red, black, white, ancient gods and so much more…

20170916_153220

And after visiting a prison there also need to be a church

22709705_1704774186241394_528518587_n

Walking to Mont Saint-Michel is a breathtaking experience and if you visit France, you should visit this beautiful place!

Legend says that in the year 709 Bishop Aubert built and consecrated a small church on this island because the Archangel Michel had told him to do so in his dreams. From then on the small church kept growing and during the centuries more and more buildings joined it and finally it had to be reconstructed to make what now is known as one of the most impressive UNESCO sites.

In times of low tide in the bay around the island, it is possible to have a guide take you for a 7 km walk to Mont Saint Michel. About 3 hours of clay mud, walking without shoes in the end of September, crossing two rivers, walking past islands, praying for the dead jellyfish and lots of other amazing moments!

20170919_111731

Feet in mud but it’s not as cold as it seems…

22686532_1704773176241495_1251970236_n

Walking where usually there would be 15-20 meters of water above my head!

22711515_1704774536241359_1603584929_n

Still walking!

20170919_114554

And finally we reach this beautiful beast.

20170919_150830

20170919_131558

It is one thing to go by car but a whole other experience to walk there. Please try it. You will not regret it! I will definitely do it again next spring!

Sillé forest in the north of France is a beautiful place for a walk/ hike!

The paths are easy to fallow and each color path is a different distance. 7 km, 10 km, 20 km the walk could be endless. Autumn at its best! Leaves, trees, a lake in the middle of it all and mushrooms! So many mushrooms!

Tereza (my wonderful friend from Czech) and I walked for about an hour just looking at the mushrooms before we broke and started picking them! They were everywhere along the path! We didn’t even need to go that far into the forest.

22752461_1704774366241376_498716153_n

Mushroom picking is a great way to enjoy the nature and have a delicious dinner but if you are not 100% sure if the mushrooms are edible, then DO NOT TAKE THEM! The risk is not worth it!

The ones we were both completely sure about we ate! Franceska (our lovely Italian roommate who cooks amazing!) prepared a mushroom risotto and it was the best!

If you go mushroom picking and are about 90% sure the mushrooms are edible, you can take them to your local pharmacy and they will be able to tell you!

 Nîmes is a beautiful city in the south of France. It has an about 2000 years long history and is special with its Roman inheritance.

While a part of the Roman Empire (as a colony), it was home to more than 50’000 people. It has many Roman sculptures and architecture scattered around the city. One of the most noticeable being the Arena of Nimes which is one of the city’s most famous remains from Roman times. Used as the amphitheatre, it looks just like a copy of the famous Coliseum in Rome. [1] It was fun to take pictures there and make everyone think I was in Italy.

22709926_1704774129574733_668442444_n

Tours 

Cathedral!

22751920_1704773806241432_409839329_n

The Cathedral of Tours is probably the most noticeable site in the city. All over France religious places have a high historic significance, churches and monuments dedicated to the saints are popular tourist attractions not only for foreigners but also for French people traveling the country.

Even though I am not a really religious person, I always like to spend some time in the old churches and cathedrals, because the architecture is amazing and those are good places to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet, distancing yourself a bit from the outside world.

With the exception of the Cathedral, I would say that Tours is a more modern city- with lots of good shopping possibilities.

Traveling in general in France can be very expensive. Train tickets are not the cheapest option…

Though there are options to make the travel a little cheaper. One of them is making yourself a Carte Jeune which is a good option if you are under the age of 27, it makes the tickets a LOT cheaper!

A popular way to travel is by Blabla car which is a co driving site. People who have a free space in the car post from where to where they are going and how much it would cost to go with them. I have yet to try this option but I have heard many good things!

If you have the chance to get a car for traveling or maybe drive your own down here then that is an amazing option! Petrol in definitely cheaper than train tickets! When setting your Google maps be careful because there are many roots which have highways you will have to pay for! Generally it doesn’t cost THAT much but there are also many ways to get to your destination which may take a little longer but are much more scenic and for FREE (also cheaper all together because can be less in kilometers, just with some speed limits).   But be careful with parking! It can be expensive if you park in the wron  place…. Just saying….

That’s about all for this time! But if you have questions- ask! 🙂

Bonne journée!

Monta xoxo

[1] The South of France (2016). Resource: http://the-southoffrance.com/history-of-nimes

Advertisements

Never ending parties, little chicks and EVS life

Hello people of the world!

Last week was very long! AMAZING but long! I guess most weeks for EVS volunteers are long- full of new things every day.  It was the first real work week so I should probably tell you a little about where I work and what I do.

The EVS project which I applied for is about bringing Europe to rural areas of France. It’s no secret that many bigger nations are less enthusiastic about complete integration in the European Union and with rising nationalisms and populism it is easy to lose sight of the European values we (the EVS volunteers) are trying to bring back to rural parts of Europe. In smaller countries (like Latvia) it’s easier to see all the benefits a country has while being a part of the EU but France is huge compared to Latvia!

My project is all about bringing different cultures to the regions of France (in this case the rural areas around Le Mans) and trying to open the minds of young French people.

This can be hard at moments because it is also no secret that English as a language is very foreign in France. The students haven’t had the chance to use their English knowledge outside of school and so it is a bit “rusty” to say the least… BUT so is my French! We have a year to improve!

For the next year I will be working in the MFR Fye. It is a school for children ages 14-21 who want to or are thinking about specializing in social work- taking care of children, elderly people or people with special needs.

21191077_1648256578559822_502544103_o

MFR’s are a great thing in general! Many of the pupils chose to stay at the school overnight, between their classes they also have certain responsibilities like cleaning or setting tables and so they are like a big family taking care of each other. It is a great place to work as and EVS volunteer because you can interact a lot with the children and they are all very nice!

In school I am Madam Badune (Madame + my surname). It is VERY weird and you have to get used to it! For the first week whenever someone called me, it took me a while before I understood that they were calling ME!

A big part of my work is to just interact with the students- talk to them, do some activities with them. While I’m not doing that, I am trying to get more twitter followers, snapchat and facebook followers ( ! Twitter: @mfrfye Snapchat: mfrfye  Facebook: Mfr Fye ! FOLLOW US! )

The BEST part of working in MFR Fye are my amazing colleagues!  One of the things I was most worried about was that I would have no one to chat with during the day or that it would be boring at work but that’s not the case. I always have something interesting to do or plan and always have someone to talk to in English or practice my French with! I have many French teachers!

So thank you for being so nice and welcoming! Merci beaucoup!

And then came the weekend.

On Saturday we went to an agriculture event in Bernay – en- Champagne. We saw all kinds of animals, tractors and the collage where Laura ( EVS volunteer from Spain) works.

There were little chicks there! Insert picture here –>

21363450_1655692054482941_1063024840_o

Now imagine how happy were six girls to hold cute little chicks! VERY!

There was also a dinner party! Now when French people say dinner party, they actually mean full blown party! Food, music, dancing! BUT be careful! If you get invited to such a party, don’t plan anything else for the evening! Even though the ticket says 7.30 pm, the dinner will actually be served at about 9.30…

At 7.30 everyone arrives, has drinks and talks to each other, so no food yet! Eat something before you go to the dinner party or be hungry and wait for a long time.

 

AND remember that the meal will be four courses! You will be there for a while! But the wait is worth it! The food was really good, the music was nice and we even danced a little!

 

Saturday was long but fun! We saw new things, had new experiences and now we will know what time to arrive!

On Sunday we went to a Bric-à-brac in Le Mans. For those of you who don’t know what that is (like me), it is a market where everyone can come and sell some things. There were old books, used clothes, kitchen things and everything else you could imagine!

21392734_1655691797816300_334253866_o

21361954_1655691734482973_930090908_o

I bought two children’s books in French! TIP! If you want to learn a new language faster- children’s books are a good way!

We also had lunch with some fellow MFR workers and it was really nice to have a home cooked meal. And the deserts were AMAZING! Thank you ladies!

21397211_1655692254482921_1987643593_n

 

So all in all this week was very full of new experiences and a great start to the first semester at collage!

Thanks for reading!

Bisses,

Monta xoxo

The Great Middle and the Dish Soap

 

The first amazing week in Le Mans, France has passed. I am glad to be done with paperwork and tickets and all the rest of the
first week business”. By “paperwork” I mean watching Eline and Clair (our amazing coordinators at Maison de l’Europe) do most of the work.

If you ever decide to do EVS, be ready for A LOT of photos during the first week. Don’t worry, you will be fine, just wash your hair and put some make-up on to cover the black circles under your eyes from all the travels!

21215940_1648257255226421_119212129_o

I am also very lucky to have five amazing house mates/ fellow volunteers from other countries. Together we are six volunteers who share one house. I am happy to say that the house is very beautiful and it feels like home already.  We have all the cleaning schedules ready, so MOM, don’t worry, I will keep everything clean with the help of my new friends/ cleaning buddies! AND I am learning to recycle garbage properly! In France it is very necessary!

We also have a cat. We are pretty sure it is a she and her name is Europe. She does not live with us but somehow she always knows what time we have dinner and is always present for all eating activities.

Some first impressions of life in France:

  • Most things take a litter more time than in, for example, Latvia.

Example- Making a copy of a key takes about two weeks in Le Mans, while in Latvia you could do it in one minute. One minute! So take that into account when you plan something!

  • At the same time, No one will wait! Trains can be crazy sometimes! They are mostly well structured and it’s easy to understand which way which train goes.

Example- if you’re running to the train, the possibility that it will wait for you is low and if you manage to jump in last moment, be CAREFUL, the door will not wait either, it will close with or without you in between! Your backpacks are not safe people!

  • Markets are a wonderful experience if you want to feel like a real local! Sundays in Le Mans will most probably be my favourite days! Next to the cathedral in the centre, there is a big market every Sunday from early morning till the afternoon. Fresh bread, cheese, meat, vegetables and fruit from local farmers and of course a great time to practice your French!

Un kilo de pêches s’il vous plaît!

Une baguette s’il vous plaît!

Puis-je goûter ça ?  

Travelling in France is amazing! If you are like us- six people travelling and have a mini bus (a car that has 8 places), which we can borrow from our work places but maybe the rent options are also not that bad, then you are good for travelling! The petrol isn’t too expensive and the roads are good for smooth sailing!

Our first trip destination was Saint Malo and it was AMAZING! It is such a breathtakingly beautiful place!

21170974_1648256565226490_742392086_o

The old town is within a large stone wall and on the outside there is a magnificent beach! If you have the chance, definitely free at least a whole day, if not two or three or a week or two….

21191356_1648314591887354_1904692453_o

While visiting Saint Malo, we also visited Cancale- the oyster central of France.

21198105_1648309025221244_1937259579_o

21245665_1648308901887923_527061305_o Of course I had to try the oysters! Let’s just say I’m not a huge fan of them. They taste like the ocean and the consistency is NOT the best. But the city is also a nice place to relax, thought before going you might like to check if it’s high tide or low tide. We visited while there was low tide and the beach next to the city doesn’t look that good.. BUT there are also bonuses to low tides. We got to see the oyster houses! (see picture above)

And on our way out we also had a stroll through Dinan- a lovely town.

All in all I can say that the first week was amazing!

!Next up- first week of work!

But I’m not too worried because I am lucky to have great colleagues, who teach me French and help with anything I need! So – Merci Beaucoup!

Last but not least- The Great Middle. It is how I call the middle of your life when you have lots of time to do great things! The Greatest things! If you (like me) have the dream to be a famous professor in a University or a business man/woman in the end of your life, then you have about 30 years in the middle ( Great Middle) to get as much experience and have as many adventures as you can!

So don’t be afraid to “waist a year” of your life. There are no wasted years! Everything is experience and the more amazing, adventurous experience you have, the more of an amazing person you will become!

Untill next week!

Bisses,

Monta xoxo

 

 

 

 

Me, Myself and My degree. EVS after graduation.

Hello to those I know and welcome to all those who just so happened to find this blog!

As of June of this year, I am a proud graduate.  That means I am no longer a student and one of my new hobbies is to avoid the question:” So, what are you going to do next?” which is most often followed by the question: “Have you decided on a job yet?”  Ah, the wonders of trying to avoid certain topics… First of all, “decided”? Really? As if everyone is throwing job offers right at my face and I’m just trying to decide which one is the best choice!

It’s more like this –>

“Hell no, I won’t work my butt off for that little money! Do you [employers] know how much I spent on my education, let alone the outfit I bought for this interview? I’m young not stupid. ”

or this

“I know it’s popular to teach kids to fallow their dreams but what do I do if my dream is just to be rich? There is no education for that. And I would need to already be rich…”

sometimes this

“I hope people don’t notice that even though I just got my degree, it doesn’t mean that I know what I’m doing and most of the time I only pretend I do.”

or what happens most often

“ [potential employer at interview] We’re sorry, your CV looks great but we’re looking for someone with a little more experience… [me] Oh, no, yeah, I understand! Could you just show me where I could buy some experience for myself? Because no one wants to give me a job without it and I don’t know how else to get some…”

 

O.K., so the last one was a little exaggerated but still very true! That brings us to me, myself and my degree. And also to how I decided to do European Voluntary Service (EVS) sponsored by the European Union (EU) via Erasmus +. The magic words for me were: job, abroad, experience, paid living! The more I learned about it, the more I realized that it would be the best choice for me, so as of late August  this year, I will be an EVS volunteer in Le Mans, France (a small preview in the picture above).

My biggest goal is to learn French, which I will work on profusely. The language barrier is also my biggest fear but other than that I will enjoy everything that comes my way!

On this page I will post about life in rural France, EVS benefits and maybe some problems or things to think about if you are thinking of going abroad as well.

Plus writing about my year abroad in one place will make it easier to remember all the adventures later on!

For now I will start packing.