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
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)
Latvian traditional food –> pīrāgi
Sometimes we learn to take care of babies- change diapers and feed them (fake babies in photo here à)
We visit places together (at Maison de l’Europe in picture)
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:
- Try Tandem learning (google it, it’s cool)
- Take a cooking class/ learn to cook a French food
- 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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
Since the last post, I have traveled to a few places and I would like to recommend them to you.
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.
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…
And after visiting a prison there also need to be a church
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!
Feet in mud but it’s not as cold as it seems…
Walking where usually there would be 15-20 meters of water above my head!
And finally we reach this beautiful beast.
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.
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.  It was fun to take pictures there and make everyone think I was in Italy.
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! 🙂