Falling over is always embarrassing and often painful. Falling over today whilst carrying plates and glasses was definitely embarrassing. As for landing heavily on my tailbone? Lets just say painful is something of an understatement.
It had been a clumsy morning; I’d already dropped a bottle of wine but luckily that incident took place in the privacy of the store cupboard. My traumatic fall unfortunately occurred during the lunchtime rush. I was power walking, laden with plates like the efficient waitress I thought I was, when I slipped on the wet floor. It was one of those comedy legs-in-air-bum-to-floor type falls except it involved a lot of smashed glass and no one was laughing (I hope). I was strewn on my back surrounded by debris and after an initial moment of shock I began to cry. I was immediately helped up by my colleagues and assessed for damage; everyone was really kind but it was all too overwhelming.
I don’t like my personal space being invaded at the best of times so the whole situation quickly became uncomfortable. Before I knew it I had a well-intentioned hotel guest stroking my hair, a chef holding an ice pack to my derriere and a fellow waitress lifting up my clothes checking for imbedded glass. It was unfortunate that I’d injured my coccyx because all attention was focused on my lower back/bottom area, which made me feel all the more awkward. In these kinds of scenarios everyone wants to help and as much as I appreciated that, all I wanted was some fresh air and a lie down. Eventually Mathilde took me back to my room and set me up with an ice pack, my bed and a nice glass of water.
Alarmingly, I later received a bedside visit from terrifying head chef. I think he felt guilty for the un-safe work conditions and assured me that they could get a doctor if needed and that I must only return to work when I felt able to do so. He even gave me his private mobile number (oh-er) in case I needed anything.
Even at 20 years of age I still want the comforts of home and family when I’m ill or injured. Fortunately, I seem to have timed the incident well because my parents are coming to visit tomorrow so I’ll be well looked after.
It looks like I wont be able to sit down without severe pain for a while but lets try and find some positives:
I put some previously un-used French vocabulary into practice describing pain levels and body parts
The terrifying head chef is now scared I might sue him
I applied for a position as a ‘Study Abroad Blogger’ for my university and I got it! This means continuing to update my blog regularly throughout the year, the main difference is that I am now representing Durham University. A link to the blog will also be accessible to students and may be featured on the website or used for promotional purposes. It all feels quite official and I’m excited at the prospect of other students being inspired by my experiences. An added bonus is that I receive an iPad mini! It will be so much easier to write on the go and take pictures so I am really pleased. I intended to blog for the whole year but this new title gives me added motivation and encouragement.
Its too hot to go jogging every day but when I do make the effort I never regret it. Despite the intensely sweaty nature of the experience I am rewarded by fantastic views. My normal route is a circuit from the hotel down to the village and back again, it takes me about 20 minutes (30 if I stop to pick blackberries) and this is the scenery I get to witness…
One of the main struggles with languages is learning and remembering vocabulary. I know how to construct sentences, conjugate verbs and all that jazz but there will always be subject-specific vocabulary that eludes me. At university we focused on a different topic each week and as a result I am pretty clued up when it comes to terminology associated with discrimination in the workplace, linguistic tensions in Belgium and the pros and cons of nuclear energy.
What we didn’t cover were kitchen utensils, so working in a restaurant meant I had to quickly get to grips with the relevant terms. I knew knife and fork already but ash tray (cendrier) and cocktail sticks (des bâtonnets d’apéritif) took some time.
However, after being here almost a month I was satisfied that I’d mastered all the necessary vocabulary to carry me through the remaining weeks. How wrong I was. Last night we started rehearsals for next week’s staff show or spectacle as they call it. Everyone takes it very seriously; there are costumes, rehearsals every night until 2am (I’m not kidding) and complicated choreography. It’s circus themed and I have somehow been given the role of the acrobat. I can assure you that this was not an informed decision and I am quickly demonstrating just how ill-suited I am to the task.
I don’t know the French for handstand so couldn’t express how much I really really hate doing them. Similarly, I couldn’t explain that I’ve only ever done a round-off on a ‘sprung floor’ as that word is absent from my brain. This ignorance, combined with the year abroad mantra ‘say yes to everything’, meant that I spent most of the rehearsal unhappily upside down. For one of the routines I am balanced (I use the term loosely) in a handstand with Solène (who is knelt precariously on the second level of a human pyramid) holding my ankles. In another routine I have to do a handstand and flip over onto Artur’s back. I didn’t know the word for ‘dizzy’ to describe my discomfort I like to think it was obvious from my facial expression. Costume-wise, I asked what I’d be wearing but circus attire was equally lacking in my French education so I remain none the wiser. It was all a bit stressful, inelegant and embarrassing.
I think the moral of this story is to listen to French teachers when they tell you to study beyond the taught material. I may have succeeded in my exams but when it comes to real life (or life in a holiday resort) being able to discuss immigration policies is yet to come in handy. A bit of gymnastic-based vocab on the other hand could have saved me from this whole ordeal.
Another day off and another day exploring. This time I took the bus to Fréjus; a place I’d been to previously for an evening meal. It was great to see the town in the morning this time, it happened to be market day so there was a lively atmosphere and lots to see. Fréjus has Roman and Medieval heritage so there’s an aqueduct, an amphitheatre and an archaeology museum all within a few minutes walk of each other. What I liked most however were the art galleries tucked away in the quieter streets; I discovered colourfully painted bollards, knitted lamp-post warmers as well as tiny book shops and market stalls – I will definitely be returning!
I have never been one for big groups. At school I always had a smaller group of friends and its been the same ever since. In big groups I’m shy and anxious whereas one to one I can have proper conversations and truly be myself.
Here it’s been much of the same. During group social occasions with the rest of the staff the language barrier only amplifies my awkwardness and I often find myself observing rather than contributing. Because of this I am repeatedly faced with the question “Pourqoui tu ne parles pas Megane?”.
It’s the same at meal times. When I’m working I eat with all the kitchen staff before service begins, we all sit round a big table and they all discuss the goings on of the hotel, which I don’t know much about. I like to listen and I am able to understand more and more each time. But again, I get the question “Pourqoui tu ne parles pas Megane?” this time in a more scathing manner from the terrifying head chef.
It’s frustrating because one to one I am much better. I have made friends with another waitress, a local girl called Clara. We have loads in common including music, tv series and a deep dislike of coffee (which is very unusual for a French person). We get on really well and with her I feel so much more confident about my speaking ability. She now knows most of my life story and I am spending my day off at her house meeting her family.
As far as learning French goes, I’m aware that the more I talk the more I will improve and I’m trying to be more confident in the group settings. However, because I value the quality of my friendships over quantity, forming proper relationships here is a higher priority than making myself heard in a group. So for now I won’t let it bother me that a couple of the chefs think I’m mute, I’m happy to have made a genuine connection in another language and a friend who I know I’ll stay in contact with for years to come.
There are many differences between here and England. You’ve got the obvious ones like the language, the currency and the weather. Then there are the kissing-on-cheeks greetings, the abundance of vineyards and the mere existence of topless sunbathers. But the best difference, which is probably unique to the south of France, is the quality, size and availability of fruit. Now it may not sound worthy of a blog post but I promise you- the fruit here is incredible. There are markets for des fruits et des legumes everywhere. On the side of the road, at the beach, in town squares, next to the lake – it’s impossible to drive for more than a couple of minutes without being faced with a fruit-buying opportunity. In St Raphael I discovered a permanent indoor market with a huge selection of fruit and veg. When I visited it was crammed full of American school children and judging by comments such as “man those cherries are awesome” they appreciated the selection just as much as I did. Who knew that freshly picked cucumbers taste completely different to the Tesco ones at home? The watermelon here is the juiciest I’ve ever tasted and the peaches are literally the size of my face. My parents needn’t worry about me getting my five a day because, as you can see from the pictures, it’s all just too pretty to resist.