Day 4 in the Big Colombian House

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Man I am tired!  Still getting used to the time difference to be honest, but we’re slowly getting there – managed to only wake up once last night, which is better than all the others.  For me I find it much easier to get used to going forward in time, than going backward.  Is it the same for other people?


Life so far has been reasonably sheltered, and not particularly independent.  Rich has come to pick me up every day, and take me home, and I’ve been most places with him.  And the bodyguards.  I’ll miss him tomorrow when he leaves again, but it might also be good to get a bit of independence, and get myself to and from places.  A bit of orientation too.  Although the city is pretty big.  Not a Derby or a Newcastle by any stretch!


I sat in one of the 7 (yes, 7!) services at church today, was great – so many people like I’ve never before seen in my life.  And they were just the people at one service.  The atmosphere was great – to see so many people worshiping without constraints.  The music was really good, I love how they have made their own stuff and made the most of the creativity that’s in the church, as opposed to just importing English songs.  The message was great too – all about getting past the things in our lives that hold us down and stop us from moving closer to God and out in ministry (things that essentially ‘paralyze’ us).  I think I understood about 90% of what he said.  Being in France helped a bit with learning to concentrate when listening!


Today I tried ‘caldo’ for the first time – it’s like a stew style soup with pork and potatoes and herbs etc.  Very nice, only weird thing is that they have it for breakfast!  But hey, when in Rome… Also had my second mahoosive burger in 2 days (ahaa) and yesterday crepes for 2 days in a row.  So at least I’m eating well!  I’ve been so blessed though, have barely paid for anything yet, and so many costs that I thought would come up – accommodation, gym, food stuff, travel and transport – I haven’t had to pay a thing.  It might all look a bit different once Rich leaves, but man it’s been so surreal.  Takes some getting used to.


So far things have been really chilled – I haven’t had any work to do, and I’ve just been spending some time with Rich.  But tomorrow I’ll probably start preparing classes for the pastors, and getting things underway in terms of preparation for the entrenamiento which starts next month.  


More updates to come soon – watch this space.


Bienvenido a Colombia…

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This blog failed a little in France, but my intention is to get it up and running, alive and kicking (anybody remember that show?) for my time here in Colombia…

So far so good – to be honest it’s been quite a surreal experience.  Upon arrival (after a pretty long journey) I was picked up by my friend Rich from Newcastle, who’s just here until Monday.  It’s been really great to have him around though, a familiar face and a bit of reassurance.  

The crazy thing however, was meeting the security guard with Rich who took us to his bulletproof car and drove me to where I’ve been staying.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that..

They’ve put me up in this really nice mini hotel like place – they call ‘La Casa’ where I have breakfast served for me, lunch if I want it, a king size bed, a huge shower, todo…and I don’t pay a penny!  I don’t get it.

The people I’ve met so far have been really friendly and very welcoming, a little different to what I first experienced in France.  I’ve spent a good amount of time with Rich and his fiancée Manuela before they leave.  And although I’ve been talking English a lot I’ve still had a good amount of time to practice my Spanish, particularly with the people who run La Casa.

Things may change a bit once Rich leaves, but for now, I’m enjoying the high life, being chauffeured around, taken out for meals, served tea (and the best coffee) and I haven’t even spent a peso yet..

The long and short of it is, I’ve been incredibly blessed so far, the church is huge and the people I’ve met seem amazing, and I’m really excited for what the next few months have in store!  

More soon 🙂


yet another trending comment about Mr Apple

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Today is a sad day for mankind – I imagine posts like this have been written a billion times over already today, but I’ll still share my thoughts too.   Apple has indeed ‘lost a visionary and creative genius’ and we have lost an amazing human being – if the death of Steve Jobs has taught me anything, it’s that we are remembered for what we leave behind in this world.  Mr Jobs will be remembered for bringing his creativity and ingenuity to the world, sharing his passion with others and leaving something to be built upon in the future.  I actually take that back.  Upon re-reading this, I was reminded of the very famous 1 Corinthians 13: ‘Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears…and now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.’

What will we be remembered for?  Truthfully, even our own family probably won’t know who we were 3 or 4 generations down the line.  So what do we do with this fleeting moment of time we spend here on earth?  Where do we find meaning?  I propose that get involved in a purpose much bigger than our little lives, apply vision, see the bigger picture.  That’s what drives us, what motivates, what helps us get out of bed in the morning.  For my own life, I know that is to be building God’s kingdom where I am and where possible, establishing something that will last forever, and not fade away like a distant memory.  Don’t sleep through your life engaged in your own tiny world – wake up and live!  Find something to input into that won’t fade away with time.

‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life’.  This line from his Stanford University 2005 graduation speech struck me a lot.  And reminded me of something I read recently about having the courage to know that we have what it takes to be the people we were meant to be.  We don’t have to follow what our world says we should become, being told that a ‘real man’ does this or a ‘true woman’ does that.  And to quote Paul in his letter to the Romans: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’

Let’s be innovators.  Producers, and not consumers.  Pioneers, not afraid to step out the boat of our own comforts and into something new.

Okay, that’s my clichéd Steve Jobs post done.

Let’s try and get off to a better start this time

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Sorry people…I had all the best intentions when i first made this, but this next entry is a wee while after the first…  I’ve been writing some entries for my university learning-focused blog, so I shall post them below to give you more of a flavour of what i’ve been up to here.  Also watch this space for photos.  The stuff below is a bit language-y focused unfortunately, but I’m a bit to lazy to re-write all of them.


The long and short of it is, despite French bureaucracy, and the French just being french, I’m starting to settle here and really get more into a life routine(ish..)

Teaching starts next week, this week is training.  A bit dull, but useful.  And it’s all good for my French!  God’s been really good to me, and speaking to me a lot through these first few weeks, and I can really see the blessings he’s poured out on my life.  Good times!  Anyway, here is my life compressed into paragraphs of (insert font here) on your very own computer screen:


I learned a handy new phrase the other day…

Again, sat in church, this week was a bit more of a difficult experience. Sat in church, with an african lady shouting more so than sharing a message (kind of difficult to follow…) and a service of nearly 3 hours in length (kind of difficult to stay engaged and interested) the girl next to me asked; ‘tu nages?’

Huh? I was pretty confused – ‘euh..maintenant?’ (dumb answer) or maybe she was just wondering if I liked swimming for some casual shallow chit-chat. She laughed.

Apparently, ‘nager’ is also to be completely lost, a bit inundated and not really follow what’s going on. I have a feeling that word may come in useful from time to time…

In other news, training for the teaching has started this week. So far so good, apart from trying to get my head around Sécurtié Sociale and MGEN.. I’m excited to start teaching soon, and in the process of making a few new materials for classes, eg songs, videos, flash cards. I will share them all on this space soon.

Things are starting to settle here too – still waiting on my bank card and sim card, and have to send in social security papers, but after that it’s on the straight and narrow to the classroom. So it’s time to start thinking about objectives. I guess we get better at the language everyday, but it may be more effective to set weekly/fortnightly challenges to improve small areas.

So! From today I’m going to revise a bit of my tenses for the next week, when to use them, irregulars and structures, just so I can set them more clearly in my head, because I still sometimes feel I’m making up verb endings! Hopefully being surrounded by French will give me a good chance to practise.

Ask me how it goes, keep me accountable. Hopefully we’ll see an improvement!




The bureaucracy finally hit home…

All was going well – papers were being signed, forms filled in with little hassle (I mean, I was incredibly lucky with my APL – it was pretty much all done for me, I just signed 2 forms and voila). Then came my final erasmus certificate of arrival thing, which needs a stamp. The head-teacher of my main school is also the conseilleur pedagogique who’s responsible for all of us assistants in Nancy, so that’s handy for me. She didn’t have a ‘tampon’ (stamp – still confuses me that one) at the school, so I decided to go to the Inspection Académique and see if they’d stamp it there. After all, it was only a stamp. I presented my case: a form, already signed, by Mme Leygonie, who works in a high position at the Inspection, dated, everything except the stamp. Could they stamp it? ‘Mais non, Monsieur, il faut que Mme Leygonie le fasse…je ne peux pas vous aider’. Great.

Perhaps the year abroad is teaching me to be less British and more assertive, which is good, because a few years ago I would have backed down at that point. I argued my case a little further, and the receptionist let me go upstairs to find Mme Leygonie’s office, though saying I’d have no luck because she wasn’t in. Anyway, long story short, it was eventually left on her desk to stamp, when she next came in. I’m not sure why no-one else could stamp it, but hey. C’est la vie.

Okay, mini rant over, I have the form back, even my bank account finally opened and a very good phone tariff waiting for me on monday (unlimited texts, internet and 1h calls for €17,99 a month! Sim card only. Not bad. It’s with the crédit mutuelle bank, and I’d recommend anyone looking for a forfait in france to check it out).

So far it’s all been about getting admin stuff done, settling in, having chats with as many people as I can in french as possible. My confidence has shot through the roof, which is great, but what’s the next step? I’m going to be reflecting on this today, thinking about how I can actively expand my vocab, revise my grammar, improve listening etc. Mike suggested a vocab book. Sounds good to me.



French church: God for hire?


I had a very interesting experience yesterday morning as I went to my first French church service of the year. It was a very lively one, full of singing and people getting their groove on a bit and nice and loud (probably a good thing because it kept me on my toes – literally as well as metaphorically!). I felt incredibly British. The amazing thing was I actually managed to follow around 80% of what was being said, which was great. The only confusing thing was when I heard in a song ‘nous te louons’. Chanter, I could understand, adorer, I could understand, but then I was wondering what on earth we were doing hiring God… Anyway I eventually figured that as well as to mean ‘hire’, louer can also mean ‘praise’ or ‘thank’, in a spiritual sense. Looks like there’s a lot of that kind of vocab I’m going to have to learn as the year passes.

Anyway the people I’ve met there are great, very friendly and eager to help me with whatever I need. There’s so many perks to being a Christian haha. I’m off to the club des jeunes tonight so that should be interesting. And another good bit of practice for my French!

On a different note admin things are now taking their time. I had to book an appointment at the bank today to open an account, I have to wait until Thursday… It best be worth waiting for the ‘Crédit Mutuelle Enseignents’… Also have to wait for a stamp from the inspection académique for my erasmus… I’m looking forward to getting that money!

That’s all for now,
Doug, signing off.


The advert leaflet didn’t tell me the residence was right in the heart of the red light district…

Just a brief one here: en route to finding Charlotte and running as fast as I could, I passed a startlingly high number of sex shops and girls on the corners of streets obviously with other motives than just to hang out together and smoke… I got some funny looks. Tried to keep myself to myself aha. Was a bit of a surprise but the more surprising thing was a friend telling me that it is a big problem in Nancy. Apparently a lot of girls even at university (perhaps with little self-image or value for morals) will do a quick job in the the evening and can earn around €100 from it, which they see as easier than slaving away for 15 hours in a coffee shop. Not sure if that is true or not, but if so that is incredibly sad. Don’t think that’s a side of Nancy I particularly want to familiarise myself with.



The days get better and better…

The past few days have been so good! And they’ve flown by. I think most nerves have gone by now, and I’m starting to really enjoy living in France, and speaking the language. Main events: yesterday I went into the main school I’ll be teaching at, to meet the head teacher there who is coincidentally the lady who’s responsible for all the assistants in Nancy. She’s a very kind and friendly lady, she gave me a rough outline of my timetable, which seems pretty varied, and also introduced me to the classes. They were all very excited and enjoyed interrogating me with many questions. Later on I picked up Charlotte Roberts from the station, who is also, coincidentally, in the same residence as me. It was a relief to speak English for a while, and have a friend here who i already knew.

Today Charlotte and I did some shopping, I managed to get myself a printer for all my ideas for school (a bit awkward to carry round the city all day!) and the 12-25 card for discount on rail journeys. This evening was a cool coincidence, I went out into the city with two very gangster people from the residence (obviously I fit right into that crowd) and we bumped into some of the other language assistants here. Then a random English girl came up, who studies here and has been working here since January. She introduced me to some of her french friends, and I found out they were christians, which was encouraging for me because I now know I’m not so isolated out here in regards to my faith etc. Anyway, that’s enough for today. Charlotte’s lost so I need to find her, would probably be better she doesn’t wander around by herself, especially at night.

Anyway, that’s for all now. Doug out…


Lovely chat with Mr Haynes!

Doing much better this afternoon after finding my way around Nancy Ville a bit and doing some internal orienteering. Also just come off skype having had a splendid chat with the famous Mike Haynes. Also managed to find out about phone tariffs and possibility of contracts (to keep in touch with Marlene while she’s in 中国 ) and that went smoothly. I can do this! Aha.



Arivée en France…

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So yesterday marked the start of my year abroad….(dun dun duhhh), all of which didn’t seem too real until the night before I left.  And to be honest, come yesterday morning, I really really didn’t want to go.

The journey was an interesting one – I had trouble with the French regulations before even leaving the country aha – something about baggage allowance and each bag only being 23kg max if you have more than one… Anyway, after that the flight was fine, but upon arriving into Paris CDG I found that my train to Nancy was leaving from Gare d’Est, not the airport itself.  It was too late to get there for my train so I had to get a new ticket – an expensive mistake!  After that things started to go a bit smoother, I was helped by a kind french couple who showed me the ropes of ‘composting’ my billet and helped me find my seat etc. And the lady who’s seat I’d taken up with my suitcase said she’d find somewhere else to sit and it wasn’t a problem.

I made my way to the residence okay, they seem a friendly bunch and quite relaxed about getting all the administrative things sorted, so I appreciated that.  I also met a guy, Abdellah, at the reception who was pretty friendly and showed me things, helped me get my luggage to my room and then get some shopping.  He even lent me a plate ha, kind of random.  He seems very friendly, but as we were walking down the streets he would stare at all the girls walking by… Not sure I trust him yet, but time will tell.

Today I’ll try sort out the administrative bits and bobs for the residence, and find my schools in the town.  Maybe buy a few more things, and if I can get some help, think about getting a bank account set up.  I’ve had plenty opportunities to practise my french already, and people say I’m speaking quite well, so that’s encouraging.

Still feel a bit overwhelmed by everything and a bit homesick (always a bit of a sucker for moving away in the first week or two), but hopefully I’ll settle in soon enough.

More updates soon.

 Dug out, Doug out…