Teaching Assistant Program in France

 

 

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Marseilles, France

“The only difference
between flight and falling
is distance”

“8 Frames of a Boy Falling From a Ferris Wheel” by Nate Maxson

I have known I wanted to teach abroad since high school, a combination of productivity and travel that little else encompasses so well. A few months ago, while thinking about what I might do after graduation, I looked into the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF), a program for native English speakers to live in France for a year and teach English and (for me) American culture for a year in a French school. Sounded good. With my summer camp and tutoring experience, I felt qualified, so I applied, only to later discover that TAPIF is, actually, an extremely competitive program.

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Nice, France

I was put on the wait-list at the beginning of April. Although initially devastated–since I hadn’t really put any effort into planning anything else–I started making other arrangements to move to Albuquerque where one of my friends already lived. I had possibly convinced another best friend (currently residing in Scotland) to move with me and, possibly, a significant other. I was growing comfortable in my post-graduation decisions to take a break from academia and not go straight into graduate school, like many of my peers, even without the romance of Europe ahead. I was trading the extraordinary for a year of friendship and love. Since moving to college, I have not been able to hang onto the same group of people for longer than a year due to constant moving (studied abroad my sophmore year, had two of my best friends graduate my junior year), each year acting as a painful reintroduction to starting over. I was getting excited to be with (possibly) three of my favorite people from the get-go, and settle into the comfort of happiness.

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Albuquerque, NM

However, last week, TAPIF offered me a position in the Montpellier region of France (one of my top choices) with secondary education, and, being the sort of opportunity you don’t turn down, I took it.

Since the acceptance, I’ve been having trouble paying attention to school. I can’t stop dreaming about what life in southern France will look like next year. Weekends spent on the Mediterranean. Free time endlessly spent reading and writing in little French cafés (TAPIF only requires 12 HOURS OF WORK A WEEK! Right now, between class, work, and church, I have 37 hours a week of obligations, not including homework) while picking up smoking from long, chic cigarette holders. Seducing mustachio’d French men with my berets and red lipstick. I am infatuated with the possibility of the best year of my life lying just a few months ahead of me.

However, I also find myself unable to stop thinking about this dichotomy between comfort and adventure in which my future has now planted itself. The choice I made between Montpellier and Albuquerque is one between solitude and company. I know nobody in southern France, and my French isn’t even at a native fluency level yet. I am, inevitably, facing a year of isolation I have never yet experienced. I do not mean this in any way to say that comfort and company are worth any more (or less) than adventure and solitude, but why, exactly, have I picked the latter when I, often, yearn for the former?

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Unidentified Location in France

Perhaps I am simply in love with the romance of the youthful narrative where I, as an independent woman who don’t need no man, travel alone to enrich my worldly perspective and give the finger to settling down. Perhaps I am in love with the 1920s vision of the ex-pat writer settling into French life to paint in the contours of their artistry. Perhaps it is just my practical side saying, “Look. You want to study comparative literature and maybe go into a bit of translation. Your French needs to be better for that shit, Lizzy.” Really, it is a culmination of all these things. TAPIF is not the kind of offer you turn down. Yet, with all of this, I still mourn the loss of the life I had been planning in Albuquerque.

 

I am excited for my year ahead in France, but I am also excited for a time where I can find two years stapled together by a measure of happy stationariness, even (hopefully) during my youth.

Sunshine Blogger Award

I would like to thank the lovely Keene Short for his nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award! I remember seeing these on the blogs I followed in high school, and I am so excited to join this fun little tradition of the blogosphere as an effort to recognize the blogs one admires! The rules are as follows:

1. Thank the person that nominated you. (Ugh. Fine.)

2. Answer the 11 questions from your nominator.

3. Nominate and notify 11 bloggers.

4. Give them 11 questions to answer.

The questions I was given, and my answers, are as follows:

  1. What book are you reading now, or are eager to start? Actually, I just finished (today) reading Stefan Kiesbye’s Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone (which is incredible. Read it.)
  2. What music do you listen to while working (if anything)? Depending on the mood, folk music like Mountain Man, Shakey Graves, etc. or electronic music like Hundred Waters, Sylvan Esso, etc.
  3. What is the most useful tool for your work or hobbies? Word. Unfortunately, mine is in Danish. And stuck on British spellcheck.
  4. The Grim Reaper rings your doorbell; you challenge the Reaper to a board game, and if you win you won’t be taken to Hades; what board game do you choose? Clue.
  5. What is your ideal pet (apart from a domesticated Grim Reaper)? A pig.
  6. Is there a past (or future) decade for which you are nostalgic? If so, what and why? The turn of the century before World War One. Despite knowing that, if I lived during this decade, the feminist in me would be a bit sad, I think the style from this time is the most flattering. I like looking flattering and all. Also, my favorite book series, Anne of Green Gables takes place during this time.
  7. What is your best method for coping with stress? (I swear I’m not asking because I’m stressed. I swear). Well, most often used: taking it out on people who will put up with it. Best: tumblr.
  8. How do you celebrate a major achievement or accomplishment? Drinking.
  9. What is your preferred mode of transportation (bike, plane, feet, racing team of twelve congresspeople tied to a sled, etc.)? Bike, in flowery dresses while secretly listening to loud, angry, ratchet music.
  10. Where do you do most of your work (home, office, school department, coffee shop, in a sled pulled by twelve congresspeople)? My apartment.
  11. And lastly, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could get a law degree from Harvard and join a lobby group on behalf of small locally owned and operated woodchucking facilities and successfully bring down Big Wood and their death grip on the international woodchucking industry? Five.

Okay, the next part I must concede to failure. I promise I’m not a stuck-up blogging isolationist, but I do not have eleven blogs to nominate for this award, most of the blogs I follow either falling into the catergory of perhaps a little too famous or simply professors I’m obsessed with, but am simultaneously intimidated by. Instead, I will pose eleven questions, and I’d like to hear in the comments some answers? Yeah? Deal? I don’t want to forgo my award to a lack of internet awareness!

  1. How are you today?
  2. What is your favorite flower?
  3. What is the most recent genre you have read besides a fiction novel, and what did you read?
  4. Pumpkin spice or peppermint?
  5. What is your favorite holiday?
  6. What do you usually spend your summers doing?
  7. Do you have a favorite artist?
  8. When winning your first Oscar, who is the first person you thank before getting cut off by a pissed off violin?
  9. What sticky substance do you think the man likes best?
  10. What is your future pig’s name?
  11. What would your camp name be?

Art and Literature in the American Southwest

I had the lovely opportunity to spend this past weekend with my honors class Art and Literature in the American Southwest camping, painting, and writing at Lee’s Ferry, Marble Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend with local Flagstaff artist Bruce Aiken and honors professor and writer Robyn Martin. All of my previous painting experience has consisted of getting drunk with my friends and painting “Fuck Off” on stuff, but, this weekend, I also learned to watercolor southwestern landscapes to a somewhat-acceptable degree. Additionally, I took on the task of fitting all of my creative writing prompts into my well-loved form of the letter:

Prompt: At Lonely Dell, the homestead of Emma Lee near Lee’s Ferry, we were told to write a letter to Emma Lee. She was one of the Mormon martyr John D. Lee’s nineteen wives (each with their own, separate homestead which only saw John D. Lee himself from time to time), a mother of nine, and later a midwife in Winslow, AZ.

Dear Emma Lee,
There is something to your name that was built to slide off of the tongue. I have not known you, nor am I familiar with you story past a cursory glance at an hour of new-found oral history. But your name was meant to fit into mouths, Emma Lee, those of natives,

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Lonely Dell

those of Mormons, children, husbands, laboring mothers, decedents, visitors. How did his name, Lee, tack  onto the end of the other wives’ names, I wonder? How did you share the love of a man, his seed, your God with women planted across the red rock of this place you call “Lonely Dell,” Emma Lee? What did this loneliness feel like in the knowledge of his social abundance scattered, planted, and growing despite the dryness of this landscape?

 

Emma Lee, your name is reminiscent of my gentile Eve, a trapdoor of consonant sandwiched between open vowel. I admire the garden you have here, dear Emma Lee, sown in the dust of the original sin which shaped the world in which you must toil. Please, warn me, your tourists, the daughters you have ushered into this world of any snakes, Emma. In the southwest, I hear, lost innocence is not chosen, but stolen with a rattle.
Love, Lizzy

Prompt: After reading Terry Tempest Williams‘s “Why I Write”, answer the question “Why do you write?”

A Love Letter from the Pen to Thoughts

 

Dear Thoughts,
How are you? How have you been since your last letter, the one where you smeared my ink on the word

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The Colorado River

“and” with the side of your hand and said a bit of vocabulary at me, even though we both know it wasn’t my fault? I’m sorry that our relationship has taken on this rapport of ours, even though we both know that it isn’t my fault. You, with your untamed violence, thrashing out from the boned confines of your prison skull, and me, sitting placid in the relative freedom of being outside the human body, but dang it if we don’t both need that body to move. I’m sorry that our affair is one of dependence like this.

Sometimes, thoughts, I imagine what it must be like to exist in such vastness only to have me reduce yourself to my thin stream of ink, to pass on to others to expand again. I’m glad you choose me over voice, though, for my permanence scratched out with time over his quickness and ease. In this way, thoughts, I find our intimacy. I rejoice in my ability to give you the timely space to create a similacrum of yourself in my minute form.
Love, The Pen

Prompt: Write two haikus about how you have changed over the course of this trip.

A letter to me:
briefly, leave word for image
in watercolors.

Discover color
outside of typed black and white.
Like rocks, bleed in red.

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Horseshoe Bend

 

Well, Shit, That Was a Good Weekend*

*or, That Time I Went to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs 2016 Conference in Los Angeles**

**This joke was brought to you by JK

If anything, this blog is simply becoming a love letter to Northern Arizona University’s Honors Program, because man it is cool.

This past weekend, as a lucky-as-all-hell honors student, I got to go to Los Angeles for the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference to hang out with writers, publishers, journals, paper, buttons, and conference carpet for a couple days.

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Angels Knoles Park

Although the trip started a little rough with three hours of denying a coffee-bladdered Lizzy a bathroom break, things instantly entered the realm of unbelievable as we parked ourselves on LA’s freeways for an extended period of stress. Eventually, we got off the freeway and into our hotel, whose elevators alone prompted an immediate ride with my friend, Cassandra, while we waited for our professor to check us in.

The rest of that afternoon, two of my best friends and I got to go to the LA Museum of Modern Art, discovered the park from 500 Days of Summer (which you have to hop a fence to get into. I ripped my skirt), and ate at this super cool food market. After adventuring around LA, we went to the keynote address by Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen (which is incredible and everybody should read it). Rankine’s keynote consisted of a two part discussion about black and white relations in the creative writing world and how writers of color are often dismissed as “too angry,” excluding them from taking part in a discussion of “the human condition” as they are only allowed to write from an othered space. Rankine specifically called out the whiteness of her audience and (appropriately) made full use of the second person. Shockingly, however, a woman sitting in front of me still managed to comment after the incredible, beautiful, and important keynote that she found it “angry and unwelcoming.” Sometimes, it seems, writers asking for their voice to be heard have difficulty lending an ear to those that are not their own.

The next two days mainly just consisted of panels and bookfairing, despite desperately wanting to just wander around LA the entire time (there was, Friday night, an excursion to The Last Bookstore, which was absolutely incredible). I saw panels about Asian-American voice in LA, Muslim women’s poetics, eco-fiction, the intersection between visual art and literature, and teaching poetry to children, and saw readings by Geoff DyerLeslie JamisonMaggie NelsonAda LimonHeather McHughEllen Bryant VoigtPeter Ho DaviesRoxana Robinson, and Joyce Carol Oates. At the bookfair, I somehow managed to acquire seventeen books and have a man lecture me on my inability to call myself a writer: “you need to write your own story,” he told me.

IMG_0333Last year, I also went to AWP in Minneapolis, with some of the lovliest people I’ve ever known. I went with a lover, even, and got lost “between the orange slices of two sunrises. …in a city [where we could] fall off the pavement and undig the poetry in the air” (NEAT page 8), but there was just something different about this year in LA. I can’t quite put my finger on it, whether it be the editor of the Iowa Review buying drinks for and dancing with one of my friends and I, the city of LA itself, the different company this year, having had some publications going into this conference, the speakers, what, but this weekend really was just one of the best of my life, and I will dearly miss the opportunities like this that membership to a university affords.