Have begun teaching in a place called Jemeppe-sur-Sambre. It's an hour train ride from Mons and takes in some of the most industrial parts of this region, including Charleroi and Tamines. Salubrious it ain't. The journey is dominated by power plants, slag heaps and smoke billowing from numerous towers. Don't ask me what they're making. Just don't make me breathe it in.
When you arrive at JSS's train station you are greeted by what looks like an incomplete platform. In fact, none of the station looks finished. The ground is made up of messy gravel and there are a few, tiny, waiting huts which look as if they were constructed in 5 minutes using a variety of different materials and boards, none of which match. There is a waiting room and area to buy tickets but it closes at 2pm everyday. This means that if my train home is ever delayed I will never know by how long. I'll never know if all trains are cancelled for the day. There are no electronic departure boards. It does feel like being in the middle of nowhere.
Except, the whole area is dwarfed by the enormous power plant that stares at you just as you get off the train. All you can hear are the sounds of industry, for this is where Solvay, a company specialising in chemicals and plastics, has a base.
Every Wednesday and Thursday, for the next few months at least, this is where I will come to do my teaching. It's the kind of place where without helpful instructions from a previous teacher here, I would have never found the main entrance. It's only a 5mins walk from the station but try finding the reception when all you're faced with is tower after tower. The teaching itself takes place in an annex which apparently houses some of the people who work here. From the outside it looks like a large abandoned building. From the inside, it's only slightly better.
Everyday, before I can leave the premises I must key in my own personal code before exiting via the electronic gates. I've heard of needing a code to get in to places, but never before needing one to leave. Still, as always, the people I'm teaching are very friendly and keen to learn, and the train journeys allow me to catch up on some French reading.