New Year, New Update

Time for a little update! I promised I wouldn’t wait three months to do another blog about some of the little bits and pieces I’ve been up to and I haven’t – it’s only been two months! I’ve been posting a little more often in those two months so you’ve heard about some of the bigger things I’ve been up to like visiting my friend in Rouen for a few days, going on some hikes and even a little bit about what’s been happening in my classroom. So now for some things that have slipped through the net up to now.

After spending Christmas in Mulhouse with my flatmate, having not been able to get home after getting covid and only getting out of isolation on the 24th, I was still taking pleasure in the little things. It was lovely to spend Christmas with my flatmate Andy, a Canadian Erasmus student who also couldn’t make the trip back home (it is a little further than Scotland after all). He had plans to visit a friend in Grenoble for New Year so I was on my own. I didn’t mind that at all, I’ve always been quite happy with my own company. I had a week to myself in the flat, culminating in Hogmanay which I spent, funnily enough, blogging while watching Marvel movies and drinking gin and tonics. All in all, I wouldn’t consider it a bad start to the year! The second the clock hit midnight fireworks went off everywhere, not that I could see them! The best ones were hidden behind the apartment building opposite and a tree down the road.

The first few weeks of the year were very relaxed, involving a trip to Ikea, meeting a uni friend in Basel and catching up with friends who had been able to get home for Christmas. I’ve already written about my trip to Rouen which came at the perfect time. With not being able to go back to Scotland for what was supposed to be a whole month and not having gone further than Strasbourg since my trip to Spain and Andorra in October, it’s safe to say I was getting itchy feet. I wanted to go somewhere new and get a bit of time and space away from Mulhouse. A few days in Rouen were just what I needed. I came back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the new semester. Unfortunately I also came back to the news that my flatmate was positive for covid. I didn’t have to isolate but I did decide to lay low for a while, just going out for work and not much else.

The new term started in mid-January. I have a different timetable this semester but all of the same classes. The way my classes are arranged means that I finish my working week at lunchtime on Wednesdays. It sounds great – and it definitely is! – but there have been things that I’ve learnt even in these first few weeks. Having a four day weekend is perfect for travelling and taking longer weekend trips away but the weekends where that’s not the plan can be very long. The first few weeks of the semester I didn’t have anything in particular planned for the weekends and ended up being a bit miserable. It’s easy to end up working all the time but also not working effectively. You have so much time that there is no pressure to sit down and just get things done so they drag on. I started to make sure I had something planned for one or two of my days off, whether that was just going for a coffee, making dinner with my flatmates, going a day trip to a nearby city or a hike in the mountains. Having these things to look forward to gives my long weekends more structure and makes me more productive when I do sit down to do some work.

On a hike in the Vosges

I recently wrote about one of my lesson plans from this semester, when we were creating movies in class. I haven’t covered a lot about my job on the blog but I really enjoyed writing that one so I think there’s going to be a few more in the near future. I already have one in the works, a day in the life of a lectrice, so watch out for that coming soon!

At the end of January was Burns Night and I actually managed to spend it with other Scots! I was invited to a Burns Supper hosted by Annabelle, the previous lectrice in my position who is also Scottish. There was one other Scot in attendance, Lynzie, a language assistant in a high school near Mulhouse who is from Alva! For those that don’t know, Alva is only 25 minutes from Dunblane and here we find ourselves both in Mulhouse. What a small world! Her French boyfriend was there as well, alongside my fellow lectrice at UHA, Àine, her boyfriend, and one of Annabelle’s other friends. We did our best to pull together some traditional Scottish food, although unfortunately haggis is hard to come by in Alsace. I did manage to find some Scottish smoked salmon, served with some apricot confit and homemade oatcakes. Annabelle made a delicious leek and tattie soup with cheese scones and we had two desserts! Lynzie made us some silky smooth chocolate mousse and Àine tried her hand at cranachan, a Scottish dessert made of cream, raspberries, oats and whisky! Very successful all around. Even though there was no haggis, we did have a reading (or at least an attempt) of ‘Address to a Haggis’ by Robert Burns from all the non-Scots, while us Scots each chose a favourite Scottish poem that we remembered from our days of being forced to recite them in assemblies in primary school!

Sticking with the theme of dinner parties, I asked (or more accurately, demanded) that my flatmates and neighbours celebrate Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, with me by having a Chinese potluck. I was able to spend Spring Festival in China in 2020 but due to the fact that I was travelling by myself at the time and that it was only a couple of days before I actually left China because of the mounting concern over the coronavirus, I didn’t get a traditional celebration nor did I write about it on the blog. Spring Festival is the largest celebration in Chinese culture and food is, of course, a very important part of that. It is custom to eat dumplings, specifically jiaozi 餃子, and although we didn’t manage to make those ourselves, we still had an amazing spread! There was di san xian (地三鲜), a traditional north-eastern dish of potatoes, aubergines and peppers (one of my favourites from when I was in Dalian), soy braised cauliflower, teriyaki tofu and hoisin chicken and water chestnuts. For dessert we had tang hulu (糖葫芦), candied fruit that is also very popular in northern China and that I saw everywhere in Dalian, with ice cream and brownies because it’s our party and we do what we want! Thanks to everyone that was there for humouring me and also coming dressed in your best red outfits (another tradition that is supposed to bring good luck!).

In our finest red attire!

I’ve also tried out a few new places around Mulhouse in the past few weeks. Girl’s night called for a few cocktails, the perfect chance to visit the newly opened Astronome rooftop bar. January is not the perfect time to have drinks outside so the actual rooftop was closed but the indoor space was very open and modern and the cocktails were great! I sampled their mojitos, one passion fruit and one pineapple, and I can definitely imagine coming back when the sun is shining and the air is a little warmer to enjoy the evening light while sipping away outside on the rooftop. After Astronome we headed to a spot that I’ve been wanting to try for ages, Nomad. Nomad is a restaurant and bar in one of Mulhouse’s more industrial neighbourhoods that is going through a bit of a renaissance. The building is a large, red brick ex-factory building. The inside has a warm, convivial ambience and a rather bohemian vibe. I was with Àine and Lynzie who were at the Burns Supper as well as Charlotte, Àine’s housemate, who is also an English teacher. In addition to being a fellow lectrice, Àine is also a fellow blogger. She writes about her experiences in France, as an English teacher and most importantly, as an avid food lover on Une Bouchée A Day. She took the opportunity of being with a group of other English teachers to interview us about our experiences with imposter syndrome. If you’re interested in reading the result, you can find it here!

Cocktails at Astronome

Most recently, I went into Basel to visit one of its many museums and art galleries. On the first Sunday of the month, many of Basel’s museums have free entry and considering that Switzerland is not the cheapest place, it would be silly not to take advantage of that! I went with my flatmate Andy who is a design student. He really wanted to go and see a Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at the Foundation Beyler. You might remember that I went to see the same exhibition in Paris in October but many of the pieces in Basel were different. I really enjoyed seeing more of Georgia O’Keefe’s work, as well as some others that were on display, my favourites of which you can see below.

And that is it for now! The year has gotten off to an interesting start and if it’s a sign of what is still to come this year, I’m excited! Coming up soon on the blog there will be the post I mentioned before, showcasing a day in my life as a lectrice, as well as my fast approaching six month anniversary post at the end of February! À bientôt!

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