March, like every other month, has felt like it passed way too quickly, and yet when I look at everything I’ve been up to some of it feels like aeons ago! While the month was not marked by any one spectacular event, I nonetheless managed to keep myself entertained:
The month kicked off with a return to school after the February holidays, and Rose and I celebrated a successful week back seeing Years and Years in concert. Though I didn’t know their music super well, it was easy to enjoy with a great atmosphere from the crowd, the band, and a seriously impressive light display as well!
The Musée d’Art Contemporain is devoted entirely to temporary exhibitions which take up its three floors for several months at a time. In January this was part of the Biennale d’art contemporain, and now it’s home to a Yoko Ono retrospective that I went along to with Rose and Ben. It greatly exceeded my expectations! I’m not generally a fan of contemporary art, as I usually don’t ‘get’ it, and I thought being Yoko Ono this would be extra kooky. Au contraire, it was really cool! And had lots of interactive elements that we really enjoyed – playing chess where both sides were white, climbing ladders, going down slides/crawling through holes, hammering nails into a table, being immersed in total darkness and trying (not) to touch people, and chasing each other round in giant sacks (that last one we may not have participated in quite as the artist intended). I’d definitely recommend anyone reading this to check it out while it’s still on, even if you don’t think it’s your thing.
Something I’ve been loosely involved in for a couple of months now is a collaboration happening between a primary school just outside of Lyon, and one in Auroa, Taranaki (I’d never heard of it either). Quite by chance a student of mine’s father, who is a teacher, had found this NZ school’s blog a few months ago, and they have been sending videos back and forth to help each other with their language learning. These kids are probably around 7, and are totally beginner, but they are all taking to it with gusto. Until this point I had mainly been an ‘advisor’ (aka: providing translation services for some of the unintelligible yarns these Kiwi kids spin), but a couple of weeks ago I went along to see the French class. I was treated like a celebrity! For many of them I was the first native English speaker they had ever met, and for them New Zealand is some kind of mystical utopia – an image heightened by the fact that the Taranaki school is not exactly bog standard with 3D printing, robotics classes and the like. I keep trying to explain that this is exceptional but can’t help feeling it falls on deaf ears. Oh well. Let them dream! The students had all prepared questions to ask me and I did a little presentation with lots of photos of NZ. At the end I also had a camera shoved in my face to record a spontaneous message for the students in NZ. Filmed from a 7 year old’s low-angle perspective, this was not exactly the most flattering choice for my big break, so I will not be linking to the video evidence…
Later that week was carnaval, a yearly tradition where the students dress up for the day. There was a parade at lunch, for which yours truly was one of the judges. While basically the entire school of 1500 students, plus teachers, was out in force to watch it, there were only nine entries which was a real shame as this did not include some of the best costumes I’d seen around during the day. Most students went for something simple like onesies or facepaint but there were a few who had really made an effort to construct things – some of the best I saw included the ipod and headphones in the video below; a guy ‘wearing’ a mattress like he was in bed all day, the house from Up with balloons attached and several vehicles made out of cardboard. The parade/judging was a bit of a farce, and quickly devolved into a general rave with nobody caring too much about the prizes (nor their classes – a bone of contention with the teachers). Nonetheless it was definitely an interesting day, which you can get a taste of with this video put together by one of the students:
Easter weekend was eventful to say the least! Good Friday isn’t a public holiday in France, as I discovered last time I was here. More importantly, Hot Cross Buns don’t exist either, so since that fateful Easter 2013 it has become a yearly tradition for me to make my own. Thankfully, they have improved every year, and I have redeemed myself from that first attempt which, without proper yeast, were a little…solid. The weekend really kicked off that evening with a lovely dinner with my English friend Kate and her flatmates Anne and Adrien. It was so nice just to cook, chill out and chat together – encore plus en français.
Saturday was glorious as the sun came out all of a sudden and the mercury flirted with 20 degrees! As in 2013, it was like the whole city made a unanimous decision that it was now officially summer and they would be spending the day outside. Rose and I soaked it up wandering along the Rhône and the park until the sun went down. What followed was an utterly bizarre series of events which, to cut a long story short, ended in us playing laser tag at midnight. Pourquoi pas?
Sunday was especially jam packed – I had tutoring in the morning, met Kate to catch one of the last screenings of Room and more importantly deliver HCBs to someone who actually knew what they were meant to be like, and after that I was off to meet my friend Sarah (of Berlin/Paris fame) and her parents who were spending two weeks visiting France. When I left home in the morning it was drizzly and overcast, but by this point the sun had once again come out and I was severely overdressed (and sweaty). Nonetheless, I managed to make a good impression and had a wonderful evening getting to know them. We had dinner at a great bouchon and even had lamb shank in honour of Easter Sunday! Merci Barb et Dave, à la prochaine fois…
Thought that was enough hijinks for one weekend? Think again! Easter Monday IS a thing, and I made the most of it to go on an adventure slightly out of town to La Demeure du Chaos. This is basically an open air contemporary art museum, started by one man, Thierry Ehrmann, who moved to an otherwise unremarkable little village in 1999 and has been converting his property into ‘the abode of chaos’ ever since. There’s a bit of a battle between him and the local mayor who does not appreciate what he’s done with the place. Regardless of what you think of his aesthetic, it’s certainly impressive. It’s free to visit and open on weekends and public holidays; worth going out of your way for for something a little (or, a lot) different.
The eclectic outings continued last weekend with a visit to the Usine des eaux. Literally translated as ‘water factory’, this is a little hard to describe – basically a site used formerly used to pump and distribute water throughout the city. Now this may sound exceedingly dry (pun intended), but it seemed like a good opportunity to visit something out of the ordinary! It got off to a good start as we turned up to find one other person under the age of forty in a group of the same number. We adjusted our expectations accordingly. The visit started with a powerpoint about the history of water in Lyon, from Roman times through the middle ages to today, which was quite interesting as it linked to stuff I had previously learned on a walk round some of the old aqueducts. It was a little technical, but ok. After the powerpoint though our septuagenarian friends would not stop asking further questions, and once I zoned out there was no switching my brain back on. We then split into two groups, and our group first went to see the filtration basin where water is gathered, which was basically the reason we were convinced to go on the visit – this was a majestic underground chamber complete with vaulted columns and dramatic lighting. We then switched with the other group and saw the ‘pompe de Cornouailles’ – aka Cornish engine – used to pump the water from the basin to the city. I did appreciate how the paintwork was colour-coded for each part depending on its function/the substance inside it. However, it had once again got all too technical by this stage and Rose and I were just waiting to be able to leave. Not the highlight of the month’s activities, but my instagram photo proved a success so it was all worth it.
Also last weekend was the Quais du Polar, a crime fiction festival with hundreds of invited guests and thousands of attendees. While we didn’t end up checking out the main part of the festival, Rose and I did participate in the scavenger hunt/’quest’ they had organised throughout the city. Well, we attempted to. We turned up at 1:30pm only to be informed that it was ‘over’ as they had run out of booklets. Not willing to concede defeat that easily we downloaded the whole pdf brochure onto my phone, which was not exactly ideal. The quest was hard, and I was in a salty mood due to the way things kicked off (sorry Rose). With two out of five answers completed on our own we, shockingly, didn’t win the Air France long haul flights. However, we did discover some cool new parts of town up behind Foruvière that we never would have explored otherwise, and it was a cool way to spend a Sunday, so worth participating after all.
Other miscellaneous things to mention:
- the assistant team won the weekly pub quiz night!
- St Patrick’s Day + fabulous live band = great craic!
- daylight saving happened!
- I sorted out the CAF situation once and for all and got some more money from the government!
Speaking of getting more money, after finally getting my A into G in February I finally had some success in the tutoring department during March. I now have four new clients. This is win/win/win for me as a) I have something productive to do with all my free time, b) I am actually engaging my brain as I have to plan what to do for these lessons, and c) it is of course bringing in some much needed funds! I know, if only I’d got onto this earlier…
On a less exciting note, the German assistants finished their contracts at the end of March and we had to bid them Auf Wiedersehen. While Esther from my school had lovely leaving drinks with a great group of international friends, this was an unwelcome reminder that there is only one month to go for the rest of us!
Finally, another Very Important Thing that happened in March was my visa for Russia got approved! Plans for May including Russia and Estonia are now all sorted, with Latvia and Lithuania in early June in progress. If anybody has a) read this far, and b) has tips for any of these places, feel free to pass them on!
And that, ladies and gents was March (with an honourable mention to April). Once again, I have nothing remarkable lined up for the rest of the month – though I thought that was the case for March, so we’ll see what eventuates…
A la prochaine fois alors,