Vol. 2 Chapter 1

In case you hadn’t already heard, I’ve made the trip across the Atlantic and have landed in France once again. This time around, I’m living in a 5,000 population town called Cluny (as in “Clooney” but sadly, without George) in southern Burgundy. The town is so small that it has no train station. It is however, located not too far from the TGV (High-Speed Train) rail lines, and I’m pretty sure that while riding the trains, if one should blink, he/she is sure to miss Cluny – it is that small. I’ve been living here just over a month now, and figured it was about time to update this blog (I’ve also noticed that I’ve neglected posting about my Spring travels, and I assure you that those will be up soon!). However, my first order of business is to explain how I find myself in my current situation – again!

During the 2010/2011 school year, I was working as an English language Teaching Assistant in Mâcon (about 25 km south of Cluny). I had such an enjoyable and rewarding experience, that when I was given the option in February to have my contract renewed, I immediately sent out my application. New applicants are given priority, so I kept my fingers crossed all Spring hoping for good news. Then, in late June I received word that my application had been accepted, and was offered a position teaching at a high school in Cluny, and at an elementary school in the nearby (and even smaller) town of Lugny. I gladly accepted and began preparing the necessary paperwork, including booking my Visa appointment at the French Consulate in Toronto (and managed to book an appointment in mid-September – time slots fill up months in advance and cancellations are rare). Before I realized, Summer was over, and it was September and I had yet received my work contract from France; a document I needed to ensure that my Visa application would be accepted. I decided to wake up early one morning and give my contact at the Académie de Dijon (Education Authority in Burdgundy) a call. She explained to me that she had received my documents while on holidays (for the entire month of August) and had just sent my documents to the organization responsible for issuing the work contract. I explained to her how my Visa appointment was quickly approaching and that the next available appointment was in early October (after my October 1st job start date). She said she would do all that she could to ensure that my documents arrive on time. And with that, I began to patiently wait. Each day, I eagerly checked the mailbox, finding nothing but bills and flyers. About a week before my appointment I decided to email the French Consulate to explain my situation. The response was less than assuring. I was basically told to cancel my appointment and reschedule for when my work contract arrived as my application would not be accepted without it. The next available appointment was now in mid-October. I emailed my contact at the Académie again to relay the news. In her reply, she attached copies of my work documents and a note of encouragement. I kept my original appointment, and arrived for the interview with the photocopies. Let’s just say that the authorities at the Consulate looked less than pleased. However, once they realized that I was issued a Visa for the same job just the year before, and once I explained that my documents arrived in France during the month long August holidays they became much more understanding. To my relief, my application was accepted on the condition that I present my original documents upon passport pickup. That took place on September 13th. My documents finally arrived on September 23rd! I immediately contacted the French Consulate and was told to come on the 27th to pick up my passport and Visa. Now that I had a clearer idea of my earliest possible departure date, I started researching flights. Sometimes booking a last minute flight has its advantages in incredible deals. However, this was not the case for me as I saw flights that I had researched a month ago up at least $200! At that point I was ready to shell out over a grand to fly into France on a one-way ticket. On the morning of the 27th, I was woken up early by a phone call from my Dad who like me, was monitoring flights to France. He found an incredible price on an Air Transat flight to Paris, that I immediately got out of bed to book the flight. With my flight booked (I got the last seat at that price point!), it hit me; I was going back to France! I packed my suitcases (keeping in mind my 25 kg weight limit – seriously, I’ll be gone for 7-months, packing winter coats and boots, and I have the same weight restriction as someone going on a 2 week holiday?!) and took care of last minute preparations.

Finally, and after nearly a month of anticipation, on September 29th, I boarded a flight to Paris, France just as I had done exactly one year ago (this coincidence was not planned, I swear!). This time, however, I was travelling alone, marking my first solo long haul flight (I flew solo to Chicoutimi, Quebec in 2008 when I participated in the Explore language exchange program).  But I felt confident. Unlike the first time I flew into France, I was much more familiar with the country and so didn’t feel like a tourist anymore. The flight went well (despite the minor cold I was nursing), and upon landing in Paris and after waiting for my one luggage to emerge from the conveyor belt, I made my way to the train station and bought tickets to Lyon, and then to Mâcon (if you told me a year ago that I’d be back here, I wouldn’t have believed you!) where two Teachers from the high school in Cluny I am working at were waiting to pick me up. We drove to Cluny together and they helpled me get settled into my new apartment which just happens to be above the Tea Room to Cluny’s largest and perhaps most well-known Pastry Shop – Pâtisserie-Chocolaterie Germain (the owners of which happen to be my landlords).

I’ve been in Cluny just over one month now, and things seem to be coming together. For most of that month I was without internet (oh the horror!) which made the transition to life here slightly difficult as contact from home was limited. Add that to the fact that I know not a soul in this town apart from my landlords and flatmates (who don’t seem to be around much), I find myself quite lonely – I’m the new girl in a town where everyone knows everyone and everyone’s dog… err… cat (I’ve come to the conclusion that out of the town’s 5,000 residents, 90% are seniors and the last 10% cats). But, when my landlady smiles at me from behind the pâtisserie counter when I walk by outside, or when my students say “hi” to me on the street, I realize that I’m not a newcomer anymore, I’m becoming part of the “everyone”.


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