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My name is Claudia and I am an English teacher in France. I am originally from Singapore, a little country in Southeast Asia and have been living in France for 4 years, since 2016, in a little town called Orsay, 30km away from Paris.

This podcast is about the bits and pieces of my life in France. Through this podcast, you can learn things about Singapore and view France from a new perspective - from the eyes of a Singaporean.

Juste Claudia Juste Claudia

    • Culture et société

My name is Claudia and I am an English teacher in France. I am originally from Singapore, a little country in Southeast Asia and have been living in France for 4 years, since 2016, in a little town called Orsay, 30km away from Paris.

This podcast is about the bits and pieces of my life in France. Through this podcast, you can learn things about Singapore and view France from a new perspective - from the eyes of a Singaporean.

    France Lockdown, Season II

    France Lockdown, Season II

    Guess what? Last night, the French President officially announced a national Covid-19 lockdown for the second time, starting from Friday, 30 October. French Lockdown, Season II.

    In the past five months since the gradual lifting of first national lockdown, the French government has reiterated that the country cannot afford another national lockdown as the first one almost brought the French economy to its knees. The government has been pulling all stops to stall the spiralling rise of new Covid-19 cases, especially since l’entrée scolaire, the start of the school year in September. Only just two weeks ago, on 17 October, a curfew was imposed in 8 metropolises. Exactly a week ago, the curfew which runs from 9pm to 6am, was extended to 54 of the 101 French departments. A department is an administrative division of France. In terms of population distribution, close to two-thirds of the population have been affected.

    However, the last desperate measures to curb the new cases are in vain. In the last few days, we have seen the relentless surge in new confirmed cases, patients in intensive care units and deaths. According to the French government, the second wave of Covid-19 is expected. However, the speed at which the virus spread has exceeded even the most pessimistic forecast.  Consequently, President Macron has to declare a national lockdown for the second time.

    The second round would last for at least four weeks, until the beginning of December, but it would be less restrictive than the one in spring. Like the first round, only businesses that are deemed essential to the daily lives (supermarkets, tobacco shops – imagine! pharmacies, opticians, bakeries) can stay open and everyone is strongly encouraged to work from home, whenever it is possible. Similarly, all university classes and tertiary education will be conducted online.

    What’s new, is that factories, public works, public services such as the post offices, and sectors like agriculture and construction are allowed to continue operating. In addition, all other schools, from nurseries to secondary schools, will remain open. Parks and gardens will remain open too.

    Running in the woods, surrounded by the autumn colours, definitely beats running 5 times up and down the same stretch of bitumen.

    The last one is a piece of good news for Silviu and I. It means that we can run in the local woods that is just 5 min away. On the other hand, we are constrained to one hour of outdoor time per day and we have to be with...

    • 7 min
    Moving From Traditional to Digital Classrooms

    Moving From Traditional to Digital Classrooms

    France’s economy, like those of many countries, almost came to a complete standstill during the Covid-19 lockdown. For France, it was for two months from 17th March to 11th May. 

    In these two months, only establishments such as pharmacies, hospitals, supermarkets, bakeries and weirdly enough, tobacco stores (“bureau de tabac”) that were deemed indispensable to the daily lives were authorised to be opened. All other premises had to be shut down, including education institutions. After the 11th of May, while some commerce was allowed to resume operations albeit with certain sanitation protocols, most schools were basically closed till end of August.

    So, what are the irregular verbs in English?

    For those who are new to my podcast, I am a freelance English teacher in France. I spend most of my time teaching English to students in universities and also nursing and midwifery schools. Occasionally, I teach corporate executives too.

    During the lockdown period in March, April and May, most of my scheduled lessons were cancelled. Many schools were not well-equipped in terms of digital infrastructure and also not prepared psychologically to step out of the traditional classrooms. Only a handful of schools were willing to step out of their comfort zones and scrambled into the bandwagon of digitalization of learning. Overnight, for better or worse, education institutions around the world had to rely heavily on video conferencing services to conduct virtual classes, and also learning management systems (LMS) such as Moodle to manage the delivery of educational content.

    Before the pandemic, hardly any schools would entertain the idea of having their scholars spending 1.5h to 2.0h in front of a computer screen, learning English from a teacher who was not physically with them in a four-wall classroom. Even the adult corporate students were comforted by the physical presence of a teacher in their journey of language acquisition. The Covid-19 pandemic has turned everything topsy turvy. 

    Distance learning is not new. It pioneered with the correspondence study using books. It was then followed by learning through video tapes and cassettes, and then finally online classes through MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which started around 2007. Now, the social distancing restrictions have obliged people to adopt videoconferencing if they would like to continue their education.

    • 6 min
    Reading-In-Progress (RIP) Books

    Reading-In-Progress (RIP) Books

    Next to my reading lamp on my bedside table lies a stack of books. The make-up of the stack of books may vary every few weeks, but the stack is a permanent fixture in my bedroom.

    8-Inch Tall Stack Of Books

    The current stack stands 8-inch tall, put together by 7 books. It is propped up by the thickest book, a 2-inch thick, English translation of War and Peace paperback by Russian Leo Tolstoy. I lugged this book from Singapore to France during my last year’s visit back home. Since my book collection in Singapore had been left to gather dust for many years, my father decided to give some of the books away. In the last visit, he wanted me to go through the books to pick out the ones I wanted to keep. ­­When my glance fell on War and Peace, still in minted condition, a wave of guilt crept into me. It is one of the classics that I have promised myself that I will read, and that particular promise made ten years ago in Singapore was still unfulfilled. With a renewed promise, I packed the hefty paperback in my luggage and flew it with me to France.

    My current bedside RIP books—8-inch tall, comprising of 7 books.

    War and Peace was purchased ten years ago when I was still living in Singapore. Ten years have passed, and I have barely made a dent in this weighty tome. My only defensible excuse is that I wasn’t living in Singapore for eight of those ten years, and the book was neglected during the moving process.  The reading of this classic is not made easier when the tome contains close to 1,400 pages, and each nearly translucent page is crammed with 40 closely spaced lines of small print. Since its arrival in France, I have ventured only few chapters which have barely scratched the sixtieth page.

    Sitting steadily on top of War and Peace is the The Count of Monte Cristo (Volume 1) in its original language, by French Alexandre Dumas. Boosted by my self-confidence in my level of French after managing to finish the first volume of The three musketeers by the same author, I decided to try my hand on The Count of Monte Cristo last year, Dumas’ other famous novel. This book, compared to War and Peace, is more manageable with its slightly bigger fonts printed on the 1000-page paperback. I am one third into the book. With luck, I would be able to finish it by the end of this year.

    The remaining five books of this stack, a mixture of French and English, are less formidable in appearance and contents. Lain gingerly on top of The Count of Monte Cristo is Émile Zola’s The Ladies Paradise, followed by Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey…

    Hold on. I am not an intellectual snob who reads only classics. The other three books were written by contemporary authors—The House of Mr. Biwas by British VS Naipaul, Perfume: the story of a murderer by German Patrick Süskind and Trois jours et une vie by French Pierre Lemaitre. Two books are my recent purchases, having been in my acquisition for about a year. One of them is a book borrowed a few months ago from Silviu, my husband.

    RIP Books

    These seven books are not the only books that are reading-in-progress (RIP). These are just seven out of the numerous RIP books in the apartment.

    • 13 min
    Quest For French Residence Permit

    Quest For French Residence Permit

    In one of the previous posts, I talked about how I became an English teacher in France. In this post, I will talk about the biggest obstacle I or any other foreign national has to face before being able to live and work in France — Residence Permit (Titre de Séjour). The application of a residence permit is seldom straightforward in most countries; yet, a country will find it hard to out rival France in its convoluted administrative step. 

    Like other countries, France requires a foreign national who plans to live in France to apply for a residence permit. This process is exempted if the applicant is a European Union (EU) national, a national from one of the other 26 member states of the EU. Being an EU national, you can reside and work legally, without any additional paperwork other than your national identity card or your passport. The freedom of movement is one of the biggest advantages of being a citizen within the EU.

    The freedom of movement is one of the biggest advantages of being a citizen within the EU.

    Being a non-EU national but married to one who is staying in France, I need to apply for the French residence permit. With this permit, I am eligible to live, work and enjoy the social security benefits in France for five years. Other than not being able to vote in France and in the EU, I have basically the same rights and obligations as a French citizen. After five years, I have the option to apply for permanent residence permit in France which would be valid for 10 years and is automatically renewable.

    Clear And Straight Forward

    Residence permit application was on the top of my list of priorities when I arrived in France at the end of 2015 to join Silviu. We were rushing to get it done within a week upon my arrival as we had to leave for Romania for our wedding.

    Based on the information available on the national government website, the application procedure looked clear and straight forward. I was to apply for the residence permit at my nearest Préfecture or Sous-Préfecture  (the local administration or sub-local administration) with the list of required documents. Upon submission of my application, I would receive a temporary residence permit, a “récépissé”, while I wait for the issue of the permanent one. Even with this temporary permit, I was allowed to work.

    Everything Was In French

    Basic translation of the essential information would definitely facilitate the lives of newly arrived immigrants.

    All the online information relating to the application was only available in French. Without Silviu to help me, I would be completely lost.

    Well, you might exclaim, “Of course, it’s in French! You are in France.” But think about it, from the position of a new immigrant, “The information on the website is to help me, a foreigner who is likely a non-French speaker, to settle in France. Perhaps it’s unreasonable to ask that information be translated into all languages. But,

    • 21 min
    Haircut After Lockdown

    Haircut After Lockdown

    Last Tuesday, 15 days after déconfinement, I finally got my hair cut. 

    Post haircut. Hair clippings can still be seen on my face.

    Messy-Hair Couple

    Silviu and I are different in many ways, but we are similar in that we do not take as much care as we should of our crowning glory. Silviu is worse than I am. He visits the salon every 4 to 5 months a year. The last time he stepped into the hair salon before the lockdown was in the fall of 2019. With the 2 months of lockdown, he accumulated 7 months of unruly and frizzy curly locks.

    As for me, I am slightly more disciplined than he is. The last time I got my hair done was four months ago, in mid-January, just before Chinese New Year. I usually schedule a visit to the hair salon every 2.5 months, which is already longer than the industry advice of 1.5 months to 2.0 months for people with short hair. Short hairstyle needs higher maintenance since the hairstyle loses the shape quicker—just a little growth in hair weighs the style down, losing volume and body. During the lockdown, I was modified by the limp and lifeless locks every time I looked in the mirror.

    • 17 min
    How I Became An English Teacher

    How I Became An English Teacher

    In June this year, I will have taught English in France for four full years. These four years have been as much a learning experience as a teaching one. How did I end up being an English teacher in France?

    Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

    Generating sales figures, gathering data, analysing numbers, producing statistics, justifying valuation, verifying results.

    Never have I thought that I would become a teacher, and an English teacher to boot. My tertiary education was in Finance and Economics. It was expected of me to clinch one of the highly coveted finance jobs, be it in a financial institution, or a financial position in non-financial sectors. So, there I was, for 12 years, a clog in the wheel in the convoluted world of finance:  

    Generating sales figures, gathering data, analysing numbers, producing statistics, justifying valuation, and verifying results.

    Reports, Reports, Reports

    Reports - Procedural Embellishments.

    These numbers were usually not to be presented in their raw form, especially when your employers needed to justify to clients that the fees, trailing with zeros, paid out were not in vain. The end products usually arrived in the form of a report that was painstakingly prepared by yours faithfully. The thickness of report, in part, depended on how fat the fees were. So, that was my job: crunching numbers and churning reports. At times, I felt that clients were only interested in the final numbers, which could normally be found in the executive summary, located on the first few pages of the report. As long as these figures were within their range of expectations, the rest of the report was just procedural embellishment.

    My point is that my that former professional background has not much relevance to my current profession as an English teacher. Other than the fact that English was the working language, which I used on a daily basis, both oral and written, and that I have a good grasp of the financial and economic jargons.

    Back To School

    English was not my strongest subject in school during my primary and secondary studies. I cannot recall what was being taught in class. The only memories of English lessons that I had were those with an English teacher, who was also my form teacher, in primary school. It was not what he taught during the lessons that left an impression on me. Rather it was his unconventional teaching methods, at least unconventional for the 1980s.

    “Clink” “Clink” sounds as the coin hit the bottom or the side of the jar.

    One of his approaches to force us speak English was making us pay 10 cents each time for not speaking English in his classes. Each time we uttered a non-English word, each time we broke out in our mother tongue, we would reluctantly dig into our pockets for a coin ...

    • 13 min

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