Sorry for the long time without posts. I moved to Bordeaux, France, about a month ago, and I’ve been scrambling around trying to find an apartment and jumping through various administrative hoops in order to comply with French employment and immigration laws. I don’t have internet set up in my apartment yet, so I haven’t really been able to blog. As I get settled in I’m hoping to start writing here more regularly. One of my friends just posted on my Facebook wall inquiring about the lack of posts, so here’s a quick update, with more to come soon.
I’m working here as an English teaching assistant in a public lycée, which means that I’m responsible for running conversational English classes with French high school students. But ever since I’ve been here, the French public has been protesting/striking in response to a recently passed retirement benefits reform that changes the age of retirement for many French workers from 60 to 62.
The high schoolers that I teach deploy a method of protest that I’ve never encountered before. Rather than just skipping class and marching around chanting slogans and waving homemade signs, they actually gather as groups in school entryways and form blockades so that even students who want to attend school are unable to do so. Interestingly, teachers and students who are part of an intensive program preparing them for the ultra-selective French Grandes Ecoles (sort of like the Ivy League of France) are allowed to pass through. So when I approach the gatekeepers of the blockade and explain that I’m a teacher, they let me by. But often students who want to go to class but cannot because of the blockade attempt to slip in behind me, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. The absurdity of it all is amplified when I remind myself that all of this excitement is ostensibly about retirement reform, but that’s France for you, I suppose.