Réallouer (ray-al-oo-ay) means “to reallocate.” This summer, the program I normally work at in Paris reallocated me to St Andrews to start a brand new program. It wasn’t my first choice, but, since it was a promotion to Director, I signed up. So far, and with only a few days to go, it’s been a great experience. Then, the person who was scheduled to be the Director of Paris pulled out at the last moment. My bosses scrambled to find a replacement at the eleventh hour – and came up with nothing. Then they devised a clever plan. The Director I first started with was available to cover the first two weeks, then my program in St Andrews will conclude, and I will be reallocated to Paris for the final three weeks. So now, I get to be the Director of the Paris program and I’ve been promised first pick of St Andrews or Paris for next year. As much as I have truly enjoyed St Andrews, my heart belongs to Paris, now and forever.
In my summer job at St Andrews, I’ve been introduced to a beautiful lane known as Lade Braes. It starts in St Andrews and wends its way to an ancient mill. Parts of it date to the twelfth century. The parts in town are bordered by moss-covered stone walls, behind which hide quaint houses fronted by beautiful gardens. Out of the town center, Lade Braes is a woodland oasis. It’s incredibly peaceful. Spending time there makes me feel great, or ça me file la pêche (sah muh feel lah pesh). It’s become one of my favorite places in St Andrews.
I’m afraid to jinx everything by putting it in writing, but the summer program where I’m currently working in St Andrews, Scotland is going incredibly smoothly. The way to say that in French is ça marche du tonnere (sah marsh due ton-air), which literally means , “it works/goes like thunder.” In the much larger Paris program where I normally work, I’ve seen it all: fish tanks thrown off of balconies, thefts on the subway, and flashers in the street. Here in St Andrews, the students delight in innocent games like a bizarre one that involved making pterodactyl noises at one another (don’t ask me why, but this had twenty kids splitting their sides). “Introduction to crochet” was hugely popular, including one lad who thought he was arriving for an introduction to croquet. Last night, I was coming back to the dorm after a walk on West Sands (where I took the photo, above) when I discovered a group of students engaged in piggy-back jousting of sorts on the Old Course. It’s just delightful and I hope it continues to marche du tonnere until July 11!
St Andrews, my home for the next few weeks, is known for its university and golf course, not necessarily in that order. Even before the founding of the university in 1413, St Andrews was important as a cathedral town and for its castle.
The church was built in 1158 as a suitable repository for relics purported to be the bones of the apostle Andrew, making the cathedral a significant destination for pilgrims. During the Scottish Reformation, the altars and images were removed and the church began its decline into its current state of ruin.
The castle was the home to the bishops of the nearby cathedral, rather than royalty. It had strategic importance in the Wars of Scottish independence. During the Reformation, it was first used as a prison for the Protestants, and then they took it over and formed the first Protestant Church of Scotland. When the castle was retaken, the famous preacher John Knox was among those taken as a prisoner and made a gallery slave. By 1656, the castle was in such a deplorable state that the stones were carted off to form the pier.
The word dégringoler (day-gran-go-lay) means to tumble, crash down, or collapse. Lately, I’ve become a big fan of a BBC show called Restoration Home during which a decrepit building that is listed on the historic register is painstakingly restored by devoted owners. Many of these buildings look at bit like the castle and cathedral of St Andrews before their owners bring them back from a state of near collapse.
Have you ever filled out one of those “getting to know you” questionnaires? Like “What’s your favorite book?” or “If you were an animal, which one would you be?” These are a standard fixture of the summer program I work at as a means to get to know the faculty and administrative staff. This year, I was really stumped by “Describe yourself in three adjectives.” The first one that popped into my mind was cynical, to which I added anal and intense.
Realizing that these sounded rather horrible taken altogether, I enlisted the help of my daughter and husband. They came up with a rather nicer list: charming, brilliant, and hard-working from my husband; and charismatic, confident, and focused from my daughter. I was really touched. I liked their version of me much better than my own but I lacked the ability to see myself the way they did. The French expression for self-confidence is confiance en soi (kon-fee-ahnse ohn swah) and although I appear to others to possess this in abundance, deep down I’m a bundle of insecurities.
Isn’t it strange how hard we can be on ourselves? Recently, my husband gave me a link to a Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy entitled Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. It’s all about how we sabotage ourselves from appearing confident and how we can re-wire our brains in just two minutes to convey a more powerful image. I practised her ideas prior to my opening address to the students and the faculty, and I did feel more confident. In fact, the President of the company I work for asked for a copy of my remarks to add them to his “best-practices” list for other Program Directors!
So what adjectives did I settle on for my questionnaire? I decided to go tongue-in-cheek and opt for omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. Not bad qualities for the Director for a program of teenagers to pretend to have!
In the summer program I work at, it’s important to do something to mark their birthdays. Sometimes parents will contact us with a list of requests, other times, it’s up to us to highlight the importance of the day with banners, balloons, candles, and cake. The French expression for marking an important event, particularly a birthday is marquer le coup (mar-kay luh koo). This week, one of our birthdays happened to fall on the day that the official piper for St. Andrews University was here. The piper told us about the history of the pipes in warfare and their cultural spread, including France. I’m afraid that we won’t be able to deliver such grandeur to mark the day each time, but it was grand while we could.
Well, I’m now settled in St. Andrews, Scotland, for my summer job. It’s a beautiful little town perched on the North Sea. Famous for golf and the university, St. Andrews is also known for West Sands beach, a two-mile swath of sand where the opening sequence of the film Chariots of Fire was shot. I haven’t been for a run there, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my walks bracketed by the dunes on one hand and the surf on the other. After a long walk west, I then retrace my steps or rebrousser chemin (ruh-broose-ay shuh-mahn) and walk toward the town. It’s lovely to watch the sun set over the sea, although it does so after 11 at night! Usually, I’m tucked in my bed by then.