TEFL and the Bums

It’s been a hella long time since I wrote about my adventures. The last six weeks have been like this huge black hole, consuming any creative instinct I once possessed and leaving me in this worn out state where I oscillate between sleeping and freaking out over my lack of productivity.

It was during my train ride to Toulouse, as I passed countless fields of cheery sunflowers, that for a brief ten minutes it all hit me. All the feels. Everything that I hadn’t felt in the last 5 months of travelling slammed into me in that one moment as I hurled towards my final destination. This is real, my life in France, and I have one shot to make it work. The holiday is over.

The beginning of my new life here in Toulouse began with the TEFL course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). As mentioned before, I taught English to foreigners back in NZ so I knew what I was getting myself into. Still, it really drained me of my will to do anything else. The course was four intense weeks, 9am-7pm Monday to Friday. We were learning grammar, teaching methods (PPP mostly), teaching theory, lesson planning, and then teaching our own class twice a week.

On our first day a few of us turned up early to discover blood on the front steps. A very auspicious start. The director hosed it down and we began our first lesson. The neighbouring bums soon became a permanent feature of the course.

I don’t know if it’s true or not but I’ve been told that there are so many homeless people in Toulouse because it’s so warm here, they all migrate south. Anyway, there are more here than I’ve noticed in any other European city. Lucky everything else in Toulouse is so great!

The first of my more confronting encounters was when a classmate and I went out on our lunch break. We had barely reached the footpath when we noticed the man lumbering towards us, pants pulled down and everything on display. We promptly turned on our heels and hurried back indoors.

Another time three of us girls were sitting at our table when a man with a bandaged hand found his way into the school. The three of us sat there in shock before calling out to the director. And calling and calling and calling. Not moving an inch. Obviously a super effective tactic. In the end another of our classmates emerged from the kitchen and with a calm “Pas ici monsieur” ushered the man out. Didn’t we feel like fools.

But in all I had a really great time on the course. The staff and other students were super nice and more often than not we were laughing and making jokes, even while scrambling to get our lessons ready. Surprisingly I got on really well with everyone and socialised a lot outside of class: something virtually unheard of in my previous study experiences. Usually I’m the quiet on in the corner who finds someone to talk to and just holds on for dear life for the rest of the course. But here I got in with quite a few of the cliques and really felt like part of the class. Hooray!

Which made the final day a lot of fun as we all arrived to class with our 6packs of beer and bottles of wine, ready to finish in style! The “guinea-pigs” or French students who we’d been teaching for the last four weeks, joined us and we all shared funny stories and made fun of each other in a mixture of French and English. We all got our certificates that night with a round of cheers and ribbing. Including everyone yelling my name in a weird drawl that had become a staple of the course (mocking the way our teacher pronounced my name).

As we were all chatting and watching the braver ones dance in the centre of the room, someone called out my name (normally this time), and yelled for me to look. And there he was, standing barely a meter away from me. The final bum of the course.




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