Thursday, September 19, 2002

Greetings from Pontcharra, France, grand metropolis of 6500 and growing strong! This town is actually a lot different from what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be out in the sticks, comparable to say…Spanish Fork, Utah, but it is a nice, quaint setting with indoor plumbing and without cows. The town is surrounded on all sides by huge green/rocky mountains. From what I can tell so far, it looks like everything is compacted into downtown. I can see a few houses on the foothills, but not very many. It really is a gorgeous place.

I got to France three nights ago after a long, but easy trip and stayed at the house of some friends in Grenoble. The next day, Tuesday, they brought me to my town. We got lost and I think we asked everyone in town how to find the lycée (the school). When I got here, I met a bunch of people and they all seem really nice. I think I’m really going to like working with the English instructors. (There are six – 5 women and the token male. [And the women said that to me, too, which really made me chuckle to myself.]) The proviseur (the principle), I can see, can be a little abrasive; he’s nice and helpful, but he definitely thinks he’s better than any woman. I will just have to be patient with him because I don’t do well with men who think they are better than me. But he’s really not that bad, so far; I can just see that the possibility of being difficult is there.

I’m really excited about starting my job, but I have two weeks before that happens. I’ve spent my time here, so far, recuperating from the jet lag. And I now have that crap in the ears, nose and throat that some people always get after traveling. Wo to me! I wish I had some Windex. I feel so drained. Yesterday I walked around town for a long time and bought a couple of things to keep in my room. I’ve missed a couple of mealtimes because I’ve slept right through them, so I have a nice stash of bread, cheese, fruit and chocolate under my desk.

Oh…I’m staying right now at the school. The school is renovating some of the wings, so my room is brand new. It’s nice and clean. I have a desk, closet and bed. There’s a shower in the room and the toilets are in the hall, but there are only four rooms on the hall, and I’m the only one who is staying the whole week right now. I pay 24€ for 5 days of meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would like to stay here for the year because there are so many expenses that I wouldn’t have to worry about, but there are some cons. I would probably have to go somewhere for the weekends because there is no heating or food during that time. There is no one here. The students who stay at the school go home on the weekends. And the other instructors told me that the assistants usually stay in Grenoble or Chambéry where there are more people of our age. One of the instructors told me that if I stay and if I need a place for the weekends, I could stay at her house. I have a standing invitation for the weekends in Grenoble. And I’m sure I will have more possibilities once all of the assistants arrive in the area and I get to know them.

I was reading through the “Welcome to Pontcharra” pamphlet, and there are noise hours for the city. I think it’s funny that there are hours specifically set aside for being loud. At home, the rule is courtesy. But apparently these people need specific rules written out. So if they are playing their stereo at 19:30 and they don’t know if they should still be playing it or not, they can go consult the town brochure because apparently “noise pollution is the primary concern of the French in regards to environment.”. So the stereo people will find that if it is a weekday, they are just in time to shut it off because noise hours for the week are between 8:00 and 12:00 and 14:00 and 19:30. Saturday hours are from 9:00 to12:00 and then from 15:00 to 19:00. That seems really odd to me because I would think that we could be louder longer on Saturdays, but as you see in this pamphlet, that is not the case. Sundays we can only cause a raucous between 10:00 and 12:00…for the people who scream and dance in church I suppose, but it says in the pamphlet that the only cultes* in town are Catholic and Muslim…crazy Catholics. And it is law that people clean up after their dogs. It says so right here in this handy thing, and I can tell that it is enforced because I didn’t step in any déjections canines yesterday.

Okay, now before I go, a word about the necessity of gum, breath mints or brushing teeth throughout the day. For those who don’t know, your breath tends to get pretty rank a while after not brushing or not eating something, and the smell it produces, I think, has a radical effect. I am convinced that if I had spent any more time talking to the proviseur the other day, my eyebrows, eyelashes and hair would be gone. So carry some gum, some tic-tacs, some curiously strong breath mints or some of those nasty ‘a’ Listerine tongue strips around with you if you are not able to brush in the middle of the day. You may save someone from going bald too soon. And you know those strange patches of white hair that some people have that are caused by psychological trauma?…bad breath!

French people, I’m talking to you now. I know that you are a frank people, but I think that I would be over-stepping the bounds of frankness if I told the proviseur to go get the stench out of his mouth. What do I do? Avoid prolonged exposure?

Well, everyone, take care. I will try to write something once a week and I will also try to respond specifically to your emails at that time as well. I do not yet know what my mailing address is, and I will know a phone number once I get a cell phone.

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