Sep 082011

Day 1:

We arrive at the school and park about a kilometer away in front of enormous, prison-like apartment complexes with bizarrely asymmetrical window bars and walk quickly to the school, unsure what time we are actually supposed to arrive.  Not for a while, apparently.  We hook up with another family from the States who is also new this year.  They are originally from Peurto Rico but most recently spent time in Indianapolis and work for a big pharmaceutical company.  Their daughter is DD’s age and seems nice enough, but far too stylish to be impressed with our gawky-geek sprog.  Both of them will have Madame Lustig (Mrs. Funny!) for homeroom.

Chimes play over a loudspeaker: first the Ding Dong, Ding Dong of a normal door bell.  Then, something else…. It is fast bells and very familiar.  Wait.  Could that really be the theme to the Exorcist?  Nah, I must have misheard.

Together with the Morales family, we mill about until the principal gathers all the parents and students for an introductory meeting.  He plows ahead in French and English, leaving the Germanophones on their own this time.  Really all he does is announce his assistants and then read the names of each of the lower graders before dismissing the older kids to their homeroom classes.  And she is off!  Quick hug and a nervous wave and away we go.  Breath held.  Fingers crossed.

About 1/2 through the day, my cell phone rings.  We fail to pick it up in time, but discover that the number is in France.  Uh-oh.  Panic.  We call back.  No one answers.  More research confirms it is the school. We call back again.  This time DH gets shuttled through 2 different people in the admin, neither of whom claims any knowledge of why we may have been called.  Doh.  Well, if it is important, they will call back.

Pick up time.  Lots of parents and siblings.  Many seem to know each other.  Others stand alone.  All look just slightly nervous.  Again we park far away.  My calves are hurting from driving and walking in my stylish boots.  I wanted to look good for the first day!

Chimes again.  Ding Dong Ding Dong, Ding Dong Ding Dong…..  Deep deep dee deet deep deet.   Yeah, that really does sound like the Exorcist.  Boggle!  Someone must have a sense of humor!

Bustling masses of teenagers begin to pour out.  DD takes sufficiently long to emerge that I must remind myself to be calm and patient.  Then, there she is.  She gives a shy wave and makes her way out the door.

“Ok, that was CHAOS” she gleefully reports.

Once she starts talking, she doesn’t stop for 1/2 an hour.  But, the report is …. Good!  It was chaotic, but she fumbled her way through, and she seems to like several of the teachers.  She got lost, but so did several other people.  She connected up with a shy girl named Vanessa and a 1/2 French boy named Sebastian who helped usher her through the day.  There is also a friendly, outgoing girl named Susan who shows up a lot, and another boy named Jordan that hangs out with Sebastian.  She has probably 1/2 dozen other names, but those are the ones that recur the most. 

The  phone call was the principal trying to tell us that DD’s schedule has changed.  They don’t have enough kids to fill an entire German L2 schedule (German as your first of 2 second languages), so she has been moved into the French L2 schedule, and German will be her L3.  I am relieved.  As far as phone calls go, that is an easy one.  David is concerned about the French emphasis, but DD seems fine with it.  Everything is in French anyways.  All the kids speak French to survive (and, ya know, since most of them live in France!).  All the teachers speak French as default.  French will be a good thing to learn!

Oh, but there is a list of school supplies online that she will need. It is long.  It is mostly in French.  It is confusing.  No, it is *really* confusing. 

After allowing for some breathing time, DD and I set off for the local Drogerie to see if we can find her supplies.  2 hours and 50 EU later, and we only have 1/3 the things on her list.  French and German school supplies are different from each other, but do have some overlap.  And neither set are much at all like US school supplies.  Here it is all about individual booklets with a baffling array of sizes and line and box configurations.  Binders are huge and have 2 or 4 rings, not three. Fountain pens are required.  And parents are expected to provide art supplies, many of the text books, and any number of specific organizational tools that just make my head spin.  By the time we got out of there DD was on the verge of a full meltdown.  More decompression time definitely necessary!

After that, 2 more trips to local markets and we managed to get most of the necessities for the following day- but we were definitely going to need to do some shopping in France, too.  We all headed home with some store-bought roast chicken, then collapsed into bed and conked HARD.

Day 2: 

Dropped DH off at work, DD off at school.  Yeah, that is still the Exorcist theme.  DS and I go home, then head back to France to Go Shopping.  Kind people at the mega-ish-mart help us find most of the rest of the things on our list.  There are a few items still missing (books will need to be ordered, a couple art supplies are not to be found), but overall we are successful!

DD is looking tired, but still happy.  She scored “coolness” points in science by impressing her teacher with interest in the shape of water droplets and by impressing her classmates through repeatedly explaining the Water cycle to them.

If the word of the day for Day 1 was “chaos”, WOTD for Day two is “French”.  Several of her classes apparently default to French.  Art is in French, Music is in French, PE is in French.  Actually, in all, we figure out that 6 of her 11 classes are in French.  1 is in German, and the remaining 4 are English.  As DD notes “That’s a lot of French!”  They also had 2 hour of PE that consisted of running back and forth as a recorded voice in French counted them down and tried to inspire them to beat their last times.  They shared the exercise area with students from the other school that shares the grounds.  She swears Crabbe and Goyle were among them.

Once again we are all exhausted.  Sleep comes easy, but I wake up too early as a rain storm passes through. 

Day 3:

Short, hard day.  DD did not sleep well either, and has all 3 Languages plus Ethics today.  Her English teacher is new and trying to be strict.  But, they will be doing a lot of drama, so that part sounds good.

She likes the German teacher and did well the previous day.  Today, though, she is exhausted.  She messes up on her conjugations and can’t get her synapses to connect.  It happens.

The French teacher is panicked because with the L1/L2 switch, he now has 4 students who are complete newbs stuck in the middle of his intermediate French class.  They are working on reading Hercules in French, and she and Sebastian get assigned to write a response from Herc’s Mom’s Husband when Zeus impregnates her with Herc.  Hilarity ensues.  The teacher promises to figure something out to help the newbies catch up.

The Ethics class is taught by a middle-aged Irish guy with a good rep among the students.  She finds him amusing and enjoys the class discussion on Famine.

Day 4:

Another short day- but this one is EASY.  All her favorite classes.  Technology, Math, Science and Study Hall.  I get a write from her as she logs into her computer at school:

M Paris says (09:53 AM)
Stephanie Paris says (09:53 AM)
Are you in tech class?
M Paris says (09:53 AM)
Techno is awsome!
Stephanie Paris says (09:54 AM)
what is it like?
M Paris says (09:54 AM)
It’s French


Math is taught by a small African woman who tries, and fails, to be strict.  DD likes her and thinks the math looks like a lot of fun.
In science she and Mdme. Lustig discuss the nature of the solar system and the physics involved in proving (or not) whether the Sun is its center.  DD thinks Mdme. Lustig is quite the science geek and really enjoys chatting scientific theory with her.

So!  Looks like we are off to about as good a start as I could hope.  Knock wood!  DD even got invited to a party today.  It was a dance party for the birthday of someone she didn’t know and they were expected to wear dresses, so she politely declined.  But, what the hey!

I fully accept that there will be bumps in the road, but, as far as we have gone, I must say relief is the watch word.  As I type she is in the living room teaching her brother exponents and finishing her own math homework.

Speaking of exponents, next week things get exponentially more complicated with our transportation and scheduling when DS starts school at Durmstrang.  As far as we know, *all* of his classes will be in German, so I expect another exhausted child.  But, hopefully, a happily learning one!

A note on scheduling:

I skipped over it above, but may I just say that DD has THE absolutely craziest school schedule I have ever seen, bar none?  I guess complications add up quickly when each student has 11+ classes (not counting Study Hall, Homeroom, or optional Latin) and 3 different languages at varying levels.  DD’s schedule is different every single day and about 1/2 of her classes alternate weeks.  She has 2 arrival times and *4* different times that she leaves.  Lunch varies daily, and is as early as 11 and as late as 1.  Every other Monday she is there until almost 5, but 2ce a week she only stays for 4 hours (er, make that 1.5 times per week- one of the early days alternates!).  If I manage to drop her off and pick her up at the correct times more than 90% of the time, I think I should get an award!   I color-coded my copy of her schedule and marked the heck out of it.  But, I am thinking anything short of a tattoo and I am gonna so lose track.  Also, it looks like she and DS will get out at the same time on Thursdays, so I guess she will need to hang out in the Library for an hour, cause I have yet to get a hold of a Time Turner that might allow me to be in two places at the same time!

Total hours of school per day on Odd and Even weeks
Odd , Even
M 9,  M 8
T 8, T 8
W 4, W 4
TH 7, TH 4
F 8, F 7

Next week, I suspect, will be a lot of German- and a lot of driving!

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