Year Abroad Diaries: 14 December 2012

One week to go

Not even the obligatory advent chocolates could kickstart my energy levels yesterday morning. Standing, I immediately felt faint and threw myself back on the bed as my vision dissolved again.

I felt pretty horrendous. I could think of nothing worse than having to teach my cinquième class (eleven to twelve year-olds), but the teacher texted me and said, “Sorry to hear you are feeling unwell. I hope you can make it at 2pm, the students have prepared a little do.” I couldn’t say no. Stuffing my pockets with tissues, wrapped in jacket, hat and scarf, I walked through the icy air to the faraway collège.

The inside of the building felt like a hothouse to my wind-beaten face; chilled fingers rewarming too quickly and nose shining rouge. “You’ll be in the class with me today”, the teacher directed me from a gap in the door, “hold on… okay, come in!” The portal opened to eager students, their mouths moving in synchronised shouts of “Merry Christmas, Laura!” They were smiling; one nominated girl came towards me flourishing a card. On the front was a supremely good drawing of a pretty, tall girl with curly brown hair (arguably not me) and inside colourful scrawls littered the page. “Joyeux Noël, bises, Sarah” etc, and one boy had written, “Merry Christmas, call me baby.” I thought this was hilarious, as did the rest of the room. He flushed beetroot.

Turns out, for two weeks, the kids had been planning a party for me – they had chosen a playlist, brought sweets, cakes and drinks, and created a bingo game too. It was impressive, and regardless of my streaming nostrils, I was glad I’d gone. One of the students gave me a bag of praline chocolates that were left over, which I then presented to the cleaner, since she looked a bit pissed about having to clean the gateau off the floor.

This morning, my dear internal alarm clock woke me up again at half eight. I felt unwell still, but not as horrendous as the past couple of days. When I was about to fall asleep again, my 1045 alarm rang, so I began my lazy morning rituals: eat the advent chocolates, check emails and peruse the Kindle Daily Deal. Dressed for 1130, I exited my ‘chambre’ to see K reveal our rent bills lying on the door mat. Mademoiselle Downstairs had been extra efficient this month, sending us a ‘kind’ reminding email: “Square up before you leave next week.” Festive wishes and all that.

More Christmas lessons, which were beginning to lose their appeal, peppered my school day. Even the students were getting bored of them. Back at the flat, the light disappearing, we put on some music, opened peanuts and trail mix, waiting for R to arrive. At 7pm, the door rattled, and she delicately danced in, bringing red wine and spices to make – you guessed it – mulled wine! The four of us sat around the table, segregating slightly into English (bevvy internet browsing) and Scottish-American (nail painting and sober lesson discussions). I didn’t drink much; the festive spirit was enough to inhale. Our highest excitement yet was derived from the simple thought of our motherland.

As for home? Well, the Christmas tree has been installed, a few baubles remaining for me to place when I return. Less than seven days now. Oh, chez moi.

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