Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Helicopter Drop

While in Switzerland, I stayed in a small family-run inn in the mountains. In order to get there, we had to hike for three hours because there are no access roads through the rugged terrain. Obersteinberg (the name of the inn) gets all of their food and supplies either by mule or by helicopter. Once a week, a helicopter comes and takes all of their recyclable materials and delivers the food, drinks and other supplies. Occasionally, they also give a ride down the mountain to family members at the inn. In this video, you can see how quickly it all happens.

I found it interesting that the family at this inn is so environmentally conscientious. Rather than burning their trash/recyclables (which may be easier, but worse for the environment), they arrange for a helicopter to pick it all up and dispose of it properly. As Julian, the 12-year-old boy who lived there said, "I love the mountains. The are my best friends."

video

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alpine Horn Blowing



One of the most welcome surprises I had in Switzerland was stumbling upon a Swiss cultural festival on top of a mountain! Here I got to see one long Swiss tradition: Alpine Horn Blowing. Here is a picture of Albert giving it a shot- it was harder than he thought! The horn blowers (and the flag twirler) loved Albert, and pass their greetings on to the USM community! (Just a side note: the flag twirler was very multi-talented. He had competed in a yodeling competition the day prior, went home and slept for a couple hours, got up at 4:30 to milk his cows, then left for this festival! What a busy guy!)

I was lucky enough to get some footage of their group performing.




video

Monday, July 7, 2008

From cheesemaking to cheeseheads



Well, I am finally home, and as you may have noticed, I have successfully updated all of my pictures for your perusal. I had quite the adventure and can't wait to share more of what I have learned, but for now I am glad to be back home with my husband.
I still have a few unanswered questions and comments that I wanted to get to.

1)Ellie asked about what chapter books first and second graders read in France and Switzerland. That's a great question! Actually, the Magic Treehouse is really popular (also for older kids, like 3rd and 4th grade). But my personal favorite is a series called Tom Tom et Nana. These are actually chapter books in the form of comics! Comic books are wildly popular both among adults and kids in both countries, especially France. The "Tom Tom et Nana" series are popular starting around second grade, and are still popular among teenagers, who like to read them as rememberances of childhood. I got a couple for the classroom, so you can take a look in the fall!



2) Mrs. Lengh posted a comment about the cheesemaking and mentioned that the fourth graders visit a Swiss village with cheese-making items. How neat! I bet it would be interesting to compare Swiss cheese-making methods with the Wisconsin cheese-making. Also, Mrs. Lengh asked about cow bells in Switzerland. I grew very accustomed to the chorus of cow bells throughout the Swiss countryside. At the farm, I asked the owners where they got their cow bells, and they said that they have never bought one; the bells that they owned had been in the family for 100 years! What a long tradition! In fact, there is a very popular children's story called "A Bell for Ursli" about a boy who goes to great lengths to recover a big family cow bell. I bought it for my classroom and look forward to reading it with my students.

3) Now that I have finished my trip, I have a few food dishes that I want to highlight in response to Elizabeth's question. Here are a few of my favorites:

- Fresh bread. That has to be at the top of the list. Between baguettes, croissants and pains au chocolat, I never grew tired of bread. In fact, it just kept getting better! Also, bread is served with EVERY meal. You place it directly on the table, not on your plate.

- Fromage blanc: this is kind of like a sweet yogurt that is served as dessert, often with fresh fruit or jam.

- Roasted duck: My favorite meal in Paris was roasted duck with a honey sauce, served with steamed vegetables. Everything was fresh- I ate very little that had any type of preservative in it.

- Rosti: This potato-based dish has many varieties, but most rosti's have at least potatoes, onions and cheese. This is a very regional dish (mostly served in the north-eastern part of the country).
- Fondue: the classic Swiss meal. Cheese fondue is the most popular. You dip bread chunks into melted cheese- yum!!

-Raclette: the other classic Swiss meal. This consists of melted cheese served with boiled potatoes. It is often served with ham, pickles and pickled onions.

- Kaseschnitte (pictured): More popular in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the dish is ham, melted cheese and an egg covering a piece of bread. Also served with pickles.

I have to say that I loved every single meal, snack, etc. that I ate whil I was in Europe. You really cannot go wrong (except if you eat too much- then you'll have a nasty stomach ache to deal with...)!

Enjoy the pictures- my project for this week is to get a couple of videos up for your viewing pleasure!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Don't go away...

My trip is coming to a close, but I have much more to tell! Even though this post must be kept short, there is more to come of the adventures of Madame and Albert in Switzerland. I will be back in the country on Wednesday, so keep your eyes peeled for pitures and videos of yodeling, Swiss folk dancing, Alpine horns and more!! I am so glad that I don't have to share everything that I have learned in this blog, but I get to continuing my learning and sharing next year in the classroom with all of my students!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Albert visits his relatives

I am so sorry that I have not updated my blog for a few days, but I have quite a good reason. Albert, our new puppet friend, has decided to come to Milwaukee, and he wanted to say goodbye to his relatives in Switzerland before taking his big trip. We traveled to Obersteinberg, where his cousin and aunt and uncle live. we have been staying with them for the past couple of days, and in the mountain inn that they run, there is no electricity or internet. I am now in a neighboring town, and have a chance to write and tell you about all that I have learned.

First of all, Albert's cousin, Julian is in fantastic shape- he hikes up a mountain every day from school. The Swiss are very conscious about keeping fit and active.

Secondly, the more I talked with and spent time with Albert and his cousin, the more I realize what a commitment they feel to the beauty of their country. For example, when we were walking, Julian noticed a cloth that was lying on the ground in a pasture. Without hesitating, he ran to it and picked it up, and later threw it away.

Also, whenever I asked him what cetain flowers were called, he always knew the answer. I was so impressed with his ability to name each of the wildflowers that grew in his region- there were so many! I felt quite inspired to learn the trees and common flowers in Milwaukee when I return home.

One of the neatest things that I saw when I was in Obersteinberg was the process of cheese-making! Albert's Uncle Hansel is an expert cheese maker, and I got to observe the entire process from start to finish!! We started in the morning with milking cows. From there, the milk went into a giant copper kettle over a fire, where it was warmed to a certain temperature. After much stirring and reheating, the milk turned into curds and whey (yes, as in Little Miss Muffet!). Hansel then separated the curds from he whey, and pressed the curds into a giant cheese mold. He flipped this several times throughout the day until most of the whey was gone. (They feed the whey to the pigs.) The next day, Albert's aunt Vicky takes the mold off and puts the whole wheel in a big bucket of salt water, which helps preserve it and give it flavor. Two days later, she removes it from its "salt bath", rubs it down with pepper, and puts it in storage for a a few weeks before it is ready to eat. (If you didn't get that, don't worry- I have video footage!)

There is so much to say about my time with Albert's relatives in the mountains, but I don't want to risk you losing interest, so I will save it for tomorrow!

(Note: I have a boatload of pictures from the past few days, but am unable to load them at this time. I will do so as soon as I can, though!!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hello/Bonjour/Guttentag, Albert!



USM would fit in very well in Switzerland. Not only do we love the outdoors like may Swiss people and have a lot of cows in our state, but we start learning a language from day one. That was one of the biggest differences that I saw today in my visit. I actually visited a private school where they speak French all day on Mondays and Thursdays, English all day on Tuesdays and Fridays, and German all day on Wednesdays.




Today was the last day of school, so the class I visited (SK) had a party in the park. Throughout the morning, conversation flowed freely between French, English and German. It was so cool just to sit back and listen! At the park, I found that students play many I of the games that I mentioned before (Le Loup, soccer, etc.). However, when I asked the teacher if the Swiss are pretty much just like the French in terms of school and attitude, she responded with a resounding, "no". Indeed, the attitude here is much more relaxed, and students don't usually start school until SK. But there is a much greater emphasis on language. The Swiss people speak many languages. Here in Geneva, they speak French, but on other parts they speak German, Italian or Romansch, so in order to communicate with their fellow countrymen, they must speak several languages fluently. Also, Geneva is a really big city where lots of internationals come to work, so English is a must and nearly everyone speaks it.




Exciting news for my SK/1st grade friends!! As I told you at the end of the year, Jean-Robert got a letter from Albert, a construction worker in Paris who has never been to the U.S. before. Well, the day before I left, I met up with Albert at the Eiffel Tower, where he is doing finishing up some repairs for puppet access to the top. He decided to come to Milwaukee and become friends with Jean-Robert, Soleil, Pierre and Florence and see how he likes Milwaukee! He has been travelling with me ever since. Here is the picture of us meeting at the Eiffel Tower. He can't wait to meet all of you!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

When I was your age, the train went uphill both ways...

Usually when I want to go somewhere, I get in the car and drive. Clearly, this is not the case here in Europe. Today I used several different types of transportation.



1) Bicycle. Because I only had an hour before I needed to head out for the train to Switzerland, I rented a short-term bike and rode to the River Seine. Once there, I parked my bike, sat on the quai (the walkway next to the river) and soaked in the sight of the Notre Dame one last time.



2) My feet. I walked to the train station, my backpack loaded with new exciting things (which made it very heavy!). The walk was not only a great way to see the sights, but it was also great exercise!

3) Train. The train is a great, efficient way to get people from one big city to the next- and it saves a lot of gas! The best part, though, is the view. My train wove through countrysides, which turned into hillsides, which turned into a backdrop of mountains and lakes. Switzerland.



4)Car. My host family here, the Wetzels, picked me up in their car. Even though their car has lots of seats and room in it, it is still pretty small. Whereas they may have had an SUV or a minivan in the states, they have a much more compact car here, which makes parking a lot easier!



I spoke to a Swiss friend that I knew when I lived here before, and when I asked her what the biggest differences between Swiss and American schools are, one of the first things that she said was, "We took the train to school." When she was young, she walked to the station with her mom, got on the train, rode it for a couple stops, then got off and walked the rest of the way to school. I love that idea of independence and responsibility at such a young age.



Okay, question time:

-Mrs. Choren asked about French bakery (bread, etc.) in students' lunches. Students in French schools ALWAYS have bread with their meals, according to Luiza. In fact, when they go to visit other countries, they are a bit perplexed with what to do if they are not served bread with their meals.

- Mr. Schlenker asked about what I meant by "French and un-French". You pretty much nailed it on the head. French people were much more engaged in their discussions, while non-French were engaged in their surroundings. French linger a bit more. Non-french are frankly a little louder. Neither was good or bad- it was a fun game to walk down a street, spot a group of folks and try and guess (before I could hear what language they were speaking) if they were French or not.
-Nathan asked about my favorite band for Fete de la Musique. I think that my favorite was the French band playing mostly American/English songs. They were right on the Champs Elysees, the street which runs all the way from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. They were actually the band in the first picture!

Tomorrow I will visit a Swiss school- I can't wait to see the differences between French and Swiss school culture. Until then...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Best Longest Day Ever!



As I mentioned in my post yesterday, yesterday was the "Fete de la Musique" all over Europe and, of course, in Paris the Music Festival was celebrated with pizzaz! This festival happens every year on the longest day of the year. My watch broke right before my trip, so I have been going along and living my days without a single care about what time it is. This got the better of me for the first time yesterday. I was heading back to the apartment in what I thought was early evening (the sun was just beginning to set) and was beginning to get hungry. Sarah and Andrew and I decided to get some dinner before we walked around to find music, and when we looked at the time, it was 10 o'clock! However, we were not alone in the restaurant- it seems that everyone had the same idea. After enjoying some excellent Moroccan food (Morocco, a north-African country, used to belong to France, so there are some strong French-Moroccan ties), we began to walk the streets looking for music.


By the amount of people that were on the street, you might have thought that it was the middle of the day! We saw all types of local and visiting bands, from an Irish folk music band, to a great French band playing American music, to a single Frenchman (beret and all!) playing famous French music, to a Reggae band at the Eiffel Tower. Just as that band ended its set, the back lights of the Eiffel Tower turned off, and it began to sparkle! What a way to end the night!


Earlier in the day, we went to visit the Louvre, the biggest and most famous museum in Paris (this is where the Mona Lisa is displayed). As we were walking across the courtyard, we heard music and high voice singing opera. We were curious to see who was singing this beautiful music. After wading through the crowd, we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw not an elegantly dressed woman, but a man dressed in baggy street clothes, singing in his falsetto voice! It was quite unexpected, and was a good lesson that people are not always what they seem. From looking at this man, I would have never guessed that he would have such a talent!


I realize that this is getting a bit long, but I want to share with you all that I got a fantastic book yesterday with 1500 traditional songs, poems, and games. It even comes with a CD, and is considered the most comprehensive collection of essential rhymes, etc. in France. Many of these have been around centuries! I can't wait to learn some with my students!


Well, tonight ends my stay on Paris. Tomorrow I leave for Geneva, Switzerland. Happy belated Fete de la Musique to everyone at home!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Love Paris in the Summer, When it Sizzles

I apologize for the missed post- unfortunately, internet in the big city is not free and easy like it is in the small towns I have been up till now!

Before I left Maule, I decided to visit their world-famous "chocolaterie", or chocolate store. This store, Colas, is known not only for the unmatched taste of their fine chocolates, but also for the fact that they use their chocolate to make art! Their chocolate shoes (not to be worn, obviously!), their mini chocolate pianos and chocolate African masks are bought and sold all over Europe. Take a look at the pictures- all chocolate. I bought a chocolate tool box with chocolate hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers for the family I will stay with in Geneva, and of course a little assortment of dark chocolates for myself and my husband.

Then on to Paris. Ah, Paris! As I walk down the streets, I cannot help but hum the tune "I Love Paris" and feel like I am living in a movie. As it turns out, I am staying with my two comanions so far (Andrew and Sarah) in a fantastic apartment right next to the Latin Quarter, an old section of Paris which is full of book stores, shops and cafes. The streets of this city are so packed with history, and I find myself constantly wondering, "Did Victor Hugo ever walk down this alley? Did King Louis ever wander these gardens? What conversations could be overheard on this corner during the French Revolution?"

A couple of popular things for kids to do in Paris are 1) sailing boats at the pond in the Jardin de Luxembourg- a big garden, and 2) play with their friends in one of the million parks around town. In fact, last night I saw some kids playing tag. Instead of saying, "You're it!", they say "Touche!"

Last night I walked along the River Seine, where people young and old, French and very un-French, rich and poor, claimed their preferred picnic spots. For nearly a mile, blankets were spread right next to the river and friends chatted with friends. There is even a little section of the river where there are nightly tango lessons. Wow, could those people dance!!

Today is a really special day in all of Europe. It's called "La FĂȘte de la Musique". Apparently, bands from all over the city play in the streets all night long! I can't think of the last time that I stayed up past midnight, but I think that this would be a worthy occasion. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fairy tales, Kinder eggs and cafeterias

Today was my last day in a French school, and it did not disappoint! The teachers here have been so accomodating- they like learning about the U.S. just as much as I like learning about France. One of the teachers here loaned me a book of popular French fairy tales. Today when I returned it to her, she took it, wrote a nice note inside, and offered it to me as a gift! I look forward to reading through the whole book more thoroughly this weekend in Paris and telling my students these stories in class next year.


After school, Andrew and I decided to have a truly French snack. We stopped at the supermarket and bought Kinder Eggs, thin, hollow chocolate eggs with special figurines or toys in the middle. When we got home, we ate these chocolate treats and had chocolate milk with it (chocolate milk is a popular treat here too!).


It is interesting to see the difference between the schools in this town and the schools in the first town I visited. One thing that is really different is how many students stay at school to eat lunch. My host family says that 80% of students in this town eat at the "cantine"- the cafeteria. They always have three courses: first salad (most of the time with beets), then the main dish (chicken, fish or red meat), and finally dessert. Dessert does not always mean sweet, though! Most of the time it is cheese, yogurt, fruit, and every once in a while- a small cake.


I have some exciting news for my incoming third graders: do you remember writing the thank you letters to Luiza, who did the Skype conference with us? Well, she was so happy to get ther letters that she responded to each letter individually! She was very happy to practice her English, and she read each of your letters with care. When you return in the fall, each of you will have a letter from her.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A 21st Century Lady in the Court of Versailles

Although my cousin Andrew lives in the country, an essential element of the city is right below him. He lives right above a wholesale bakery. As I write this blog late at night, I hear the "boulangers" below baking baguettes, kneading dough for croissants, and putting pains au chocolat into the oven. When I wake up, the smell of bread wafts into my window (I'm right above the oven-room!). As could be expected, my breakfast this morning was a fresh croissant and a warm pain au chocolat. What a way to start the day!!

After a lazy morning and a little journal-writing, Andrew and I hopped the train to Versailles. The palace was a short walk away. It truly commands the street and its surroundings. What an impressively HUGE place!! This palace was built by one of the most famous kings of France, King Louis the Fourteenth. In his opinion, Paris was too big and he didn't like all the hustle and bustle of the big city, so he decided to build a "country house" for him and his best friends to live in. The result? A gigantic castle with more rooms that anyone would know what to do with, and the most impressive gardens imaginable.

The most incredible part about the Palace of Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors, a long hallway (about as long as it would take to walk from the Lincoln Center to the Quiet Zone) decorated with gold, chandeliers, and of course- mirrors. (My cousin Andrew said that he kept imagining how funny it would be to see monkeys swing from one chandelier to the next, all the way down the hall! That would be quite a sight!)



After we toured the house, we decided to enjoy the gardens. When I hear the word "garden", I think of my cute little flower pots and vegetable garden in my back yard. Not Louis the Fourteenth! His gardens take up most of the town itself! In fact, Andrew and I walked for quite a long time, ducking in a out of little pathways here and there, and we didn't even come close to exploring all of the yard! In fact, we got so tired that we decided to stop awhile and read next to the giant pond. We enjoyed the view of the house and the view of the pond, where people rented boats and rode up and down to get different glimpes of the gardens.




One of favorite moments of the day was walking down the big avenue in the gardens, and noticing a small path off to the right. Out of curiosity, we took the path and after walking a few paces, found ourselves in a huge courtyard made of marble! A beautiful statue adorned the center of the courtyard, and small pools and fountains surrounded it. We were so lucky to have stumbled upon such a treasure of a sight!


I wish I could put into words the magnificence of Versailles. However, a few measly pictures will have to do for now. Take care, all. And for heavens sakes, someone get my husband some vegetables!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Recess "a la francais"


Today I went to school with my cousin Andrew. In each class, I asked students what they like to do at recess. I learned how to do a French clap game and a jump rope game. Both the boys and the girls play these games, and the most popular jump rope game is actually a two-part game. For the first part, they turn the rope and chant, "S! V! P! Joker!" They continue to chant this until whoever is jumping messes up. Whatever letter they were on when they stopped determines what game comes next. For example, if you land on "S", then you jump while everyone sings "Sorciere", which is very similar to "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around".


Another popular recess game is Chinese jump rope, or "L'elastique". For this game, two people put a huge elastic band around their ankles and the jumper has to jump in it, around it, and in lots of different ways in order to win. Some of you may know how to play this game!



Andrew and I went to the market today and I brought my brand new grocery sack so that I could break it in! I was glad that I did, because Andrew told me that only one store in the whole town bags your groceries. You are expected to bring your own bag. In response to Mrs. Lengh's question about the environment, I have found that the French in general are pretty conscious of the environment. The grocery bags is a big example of this; they don't want to have much waste. In addition, families here usually only have one car. In the cities, they may not own one at all! Instead, everyone uses public transportation (that means the train, the bus, the subway- vehicles that everyone can use for a small price). Also, the French pay close attention to the lights; if no one is in a room, they turn the lights off (makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?!). It is interesting, though, that the recycling is not picked up ewith the trash at people's homes. Instead, you have to go to a drop-off center.



To follow up on a question that Senor Schlenker asked, I asked students today what they normally do on Wednesdays. Here are a few of the responses I got:


-Dance class

-Horseback riding

-Judo/Karate

-Piano lessons

-Appointments (doctors, dentists, etc.)

-Pottery class

-Soccer practice


Sounds like a fun day to me! Tomorrow, Andrew and I will take advantage of our day off and go to Versailles- I can't wait!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Picnic on a train

After a final farewell dinner last night (the first picture to the right is the family who had us over), I have left Lure to continue my travel and discovery of what French children are like, this time in Maule, close to Paris. My cousin Andrew (second picture) lives here and teaches English to students here.


So this morning I hopped on a train and went to Paris, where I changed trains and headed for Maule, a small farm town outside of the big city. I didn't stay in Paris for more than an hour because of my train schedules (I will be back there this weekend), but even in my short layover, I saw 2 film stars! Well, kind of. First, I saw a movie being filmed in the mall inside the train station. Although I didn't recognize any stars, it was quite the production, with camera men and lighting people and actors and actresses and directors. Lots of bystanders were looking on with interest. Secondly, after I got on my train, and I was waiting for it to leave, I saw Remy from Ratatouille make a brief appearance on the tracks next to mine, only to disappear into a pipe. So that's why you should stay off the tracks...


My second train was a double-decker, and I got to ride on the top! It was great. Because my journey from one part of France to the other was pretty long, I took a picnic with me- yum. I thought it was interesting that in the car behind me was a group of German students. Apparently at the end of the year, students from European schools often take day field trips to neighboring countries! For example, a group of fourth graders from Sarah's school recently went to Germany for the day. They may also go to Switzerland, Spain or Italy. I wonder if Mrs. Lengh would be open to us taking a trip to France for the day next year... :)


My train ride was great- the French countryside appeared quickly from behind me, only to fade into the panorama. But it looks like the countryside is here to stay for a few days, and I look forward to the new people I will meet and new lessons I will learn.


Elizabeth asked a question about food. Oh Elizabeth, I could type for hours on that question! Interestingly enough, I have only been out to eat one time, and I ate crepes- a salty one with egg, cheese and ham, and a sweet one with fresh raspberries. I plan to do lots of eating out in Paris this weekend, and may even devote an entire post to food...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And they lived unahppily ever after???

One thing that I have noticed in the schools here is that respect for authority is a very important cultural value. This was confirmed last night in a way I did not expect. We went over to a family's house last night, and every night, the dad tells a story or sings a song to his daughter. I was priveleged enough to be invited to hear the bedtime story last night. It was a very popular children's story- familiar to everyone in the house but me. I was surprised to find that the story did not bring me the happy ending that I am so used to hearing. In fact, it was quite sad!

It was about a goat who did not listen to her "father" (owner) and strayed from the green pasture where he had placed her for the day. She wanted to wander and eat flowers and grass from the neighboring pasture. So as soon as her owner left, she wandered to the other pasture. Although she was happy at first, soon the evening came and she found that she was cold and lost. Although I expected for the goat and master to reunite, this never happened, and they did not live happily ever after.

After the story, the dad emphasized to all of us in the room how important it is to listen to your parents and obey them, because they want the very best for you. Although what they say to us doesn't always seem fair, they know more about the bigger picture than we can see.


On a happier note, my students will be quite content to hear that I discovered a new version of "Am stram gram" called "La queue de cochon" (the pig's tail). I can't wait to teach it to you and play it with you! In fact, one of the teachers at the Lower School gave me a whole stack of poems, songs and hand games to play in class next year!

Also, the principal, who is a teacher too, asked me if my students would be interested in writing to (and getting letters from) her class. "Absolutely," I said!

Time to answer a few questions:
- Mrs. Choren asked about English classes. The children here do indeed take English as a foreign language, just like we might take French or Spanish. Usually students start learning either English or German in second grade, but because this town is not as wealthy as most, they start in third grade. Most students take English.
- Senor Schlenker asked what students usually do on Wednesdays, their day off. From what I gather, it is more or less a day for students to do extracurricular activities like sports and music lessons. I will keep my eyes and ears open for this particularly this Wednesday, when I will be in another town.
-Nathan asked what the most popular instruments are here. From people I have talked to, some common instruments are organ, flute, accordion and guitar.

Before signing off for the day, I should mention that at this very moment, I am sitting in a McDonald's, the only place with internet that is open on Sundays. Fancy Nancy would approve, though- it has wooden tables, decorative hanging light fixtures, jazz music and espresso. (Unfortunately, I am having trouble again uploading pictures. I'll have to try again tomorrow.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday School

Today is Saturday, and I did something that I have never done before on a Saturday- I went to school! As we have discussed in class, students in France dont't go to school on Wednesday, but they do have a half day of school on Saturday. I tried to keep my eyes out for things that Mrs. Choren asked about in her comment, and here are a few interesting things about the school I visited:

- They don't wear uniforms. In fact; the teacher was wearing jeans!
- In the class I visited, half of the students were in SK and half were in 1st grade. The teacher did say that this was a bit abnormal.
- The paper that the students used was graph paper- not regular lined paper like we have.
- They go home for lunch, and get a recess in the morning and a recess in the afternoon.
- They don't have snack and are only allowed to go to the bathroom when their whole class goes.

Holland asked a great question in her comment: what time is it in France? I am here to tell you that time travel is possible- I am seven hours in the future! While it is 3:45 p.m. your time, it is 10:45 p.m. here.

10:45!! It's late! I will write more tomorrow...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Les Loups Sont Partout!!




If I could have had one wish today, it would have been to have all of my students in my pocket during my school visits today. I learned SO MUCH!!


I helped teach to classes today, and thought that I would introduce the French students to a popular American tale: the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. With props, voices and many dramatics, Sarah and I acted out the story. I was so impressed that the students understood so well. Then the students clued me in: this is not just an American story- it's popular in France too! No wonder they understood so well!


After that, we talked about popular recess games. By far, the most popular was "le Loup"- the Wolf. This game is like tag. There are many different versions, including:


-Loup Touche-Touche (your basic tag game)

-Loup des Couleurs (the "wolf"- or "It"- says a color, blue for example. The others must find something blue to use as base- a safe place where you can't get tagged.)

-Loup Gelé (Freeze tag)

- Loup Bougie (If you get tagged by the "loup", you count down from 10, sinking closer to the ground with each number. Before you get to 0, someone who has not been tagged has to tag you to free you. If you get all the way to 0, you are out.)


I also visited a preprimary school, where I observed an SK class while they were playing classroom games. One game was called "Le cochon qui rit", or "The Laughing Pig". It was a combination between Mr Potato Head and Yatzee. Each student had the body parts that make up a pig- ears, eyes, body, feet, tail. They would take turns rolling dice, and each number corresponded to a body part. The object of the game was to roll enough numbers to collect every body part that you needed to build a complete pig. I took a picture of the game, as well as some others of the classroom. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not in Kansas Anymore...

Bonjour a tous! Today was a very productive day in the life of Madame Dupee. Let me tell you a bit about my day by sharing with you the places I visited today.


- 2 ecoles. I was the guest teacher for the second school, where we learned how to say different prepositions (under, on, in front of, behind).

- Un magasin de jouets (a toy store), where I bought some fantastic things for my wonderul students to use in the classroom!

- Une fromagerie (a cheese store)

- Une epicerie (a grocery store)

- Une boucherie (the butcher shop)

- Une bibliotheque (we all know that one, right?). The librarian was so excited about what I was studying that she is going to talk with the other librarians to make a list of the most popular kids books in France to give to me tomorrow! I can't wait to see what they come up with!

- Une maison. I just finished a delicious dinner by two of Sarah's friends. Marla posted a question about chocolate chip cookies, so I asked these friends if they had ever eaten one. Their answer- what is a chocolate chip cookie? I had to fix that! I gave her the rest of the cookies that I had brought for Sarah, and they were a bit hit. Instead of chocolate chip cookies, this friend (Claudine) said that bread and chocolate were very popular as a snack.

Here is Sarah posing with another popular snack, and me with the gifts she gave me for housewarming gifts (a grocery sack- very popular here, and a tablecloth- sewn by her!).



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Go by plane! Go by bus! Go by train!


I'M HERE!! After 3 planes, one bus and 3 trains, I have arrived in Lure. Here are a few things that I have almost forgotten since the last time I was here:

1) Time does not revolve around my schedule here. It revolves around the train and bus schedule. As much as I would have liked to hop in a car and drive right to Mlle Sarah (my sister-in-law, with whom I am staying), that was not a possibility. Instead, I waited for the trains and buses, making multiple connections. Thank goodness I had Fanny Price, the heroine of the book I'm reading, by my side to keep me company.

2) Before hopping on a train, you must "composter" (validate) your ticket! When the conductors come through on a French train, they are looking for two things: a) if you have a ticket, and b) if you got it punched before you left the station. I took a picture of the contraption that punches your ticket in the station- "le composteur".

3) There is nothing better than homemade French bread. Shortly after my arrival, two friends of Mlle Sarah arrived for tea. They brought with them fresh homemade bread, cooked to perfection. With a slather of Nutella on top, that is a snack that can't be beat!

P.S. I'm having trouble downloading pictures right now- I will add them tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Get Set...


Oh boy! Here I sit in the Milwaukee airport, waiting on my US Airways flight to Philadelphia... then Frankfurt, Germany, then Basel, Switzerland! After that, my journey will be on board trains and buses to Lure, France. That's right, folks- I will set foot in FOUR countries in one day!
Thanks for all of the comments and questions so far. I have some great starting points for my research!

Yesterday I visited with our classroom friends (pictured right), and they bid me farewell for three weeks. I spent today baking chocolate chip cookies (a uniquely American treat!) for my hosts/hostesses and packing. Even though I haven't lived at home for eight years, I still had to call my mom and make sure I didn't forget anything! Here is what I packed for my trip:

- cinq chemises
- quatre pantalon
- cinq paires de chaussettes
- deux paires de chaussures
- les sous-vetements
- un ordinateur
- un appareil-photo
- une camera-video
- mon passeport
- de l'argent
- deux livres
- shampooing, dentifrice, savon, etc.

Did I forget anything?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On Your Mark...


I am officially one week from my departure date for my French and Swiss adventure! That's right- next Tuesday, I'll pack my bags and head off to the Milwaukee airport, and arrive the next day at the train station- la gare- in Lure, France (pictured). All of my reservations are made, my plans are set, and my head is swimming with questions about what kids are like in France and Switzerland. What do they eat? What are their favorite books? What songs do their moms and dads sing to them at night? Who are their heroes, both past and present? What do they like to do at recess? So many things to investigate!

What about you? Do you have any questions for me to investigate?