|This is the last main turn through town before we arrive at Durmstrang.|
|DS all ready for class|
Monday– Upon arriving at Durmstrang, we noticed a couple of things. First, the parents wear much more relaxed attire than the professional and chic folks at Hogwarts. Most were in T-shirts and jeans without elaborate make up or jewelry. A few were in business clothes, probably off to work after the drop off. The relaxation did not quite extend to their demeanor, though. Everyone was with their 11 year old kids. Many of them gathered in little clusters, chatting, chuckling awkwardly, and catching up. But, the kids were nervous, so the parents were nervous, too!
Second, there were a LOT of bikes out front- and most of them were not locked at all. Apparently people here just don’t mess with other people’s bikes parked outside of school. Another sign of the orderly social structures, we guess.
We also compared DS’s stature vs. that of his classmates. He is definitely in the upper 10-15% of the kids there (even if you don’t count the fluff factor of his hair ;-). They have a broad range of maturity, too. Some cling to their parents, others act aloof. I watched one boy who seemed to be the tallest in DS’s class. He had a T-shirt with an English phrase having to do with skateboarding. “Summer Skate Bums”, I think it said. As I watched, he greeted friends, then stuck his finger all the way up his nose, grabbed out something and…. oh my. He ate it. These kids are definitely still *kids* even if they are technically at the High School now!
|DS and DH ready for the day|
We milled about for quite a while before the Headmistress appeared on the stairwell. She is a petite lady with a lot of pep. She was dressed in a fashionable shiny tan pants suit, almost, but not quite, golden. She began by introducing students from the 6th grade (second years), who sang an amusing song about the end of summer and returning to school. The bits of it I caught made me smile, but few of the other parents responded to the lyrics at all. They did clap at the end, though. DH noted that the Germans were quite comfortable clapping, where the French needed a bit more prodding. Next the headmistress admonished the students that they would need to fill their minds with good stuff and talked educational philosophy for a while. She seemed positive and well-received. On the opposite stairwell, 10 or so adults had gathered. Teachers, I was guessing. Most were dressed casually. But one lady was wearing a tight skirt, a frilly blouse, and had her hair and make-up done just so. She sort of flowed more than walked. In short, she was wayyy too sexy for this job! I prayed that DS not wind up with her for his homeroom. I just didn’t think he would be able to focus!
|DS and his class|
They began reading out class groupings. About 25-30 kids per class, BUT, 2 teachers. Nice ratio! DS was in the second set. Thank goodness! He got the perfectly down to earth looking redhead and her dark-haired partner. We found out later that they are both fluent in English and the dark haired one is, in fact, the English teacher.Yay! Nose Picker was also in the group. Laugh. At least DS will not be the immature one. Off they went. We waited for the other classes to get sorted, then the headmistress invited us all to a large conference room for a parent meeting. Well, that is what it turned out to be. All we knew is she said some stuff and gestured and all the parents started trotting off, so we followed!
The conference room was set up with little plates of cookies and there was coffee and cups on the front table. She let us all fill our cups before getting started. Honestly, the meeting was largely unintelligible to me. The headmistress and assistant headmaster and a psychologist all spoke. The tone felt good. The parents were nervous, but positive. The Headmistress spent a lot of time reassuring us. After 2 hours of German, I was exhausted, though. I wondered how DS was going to feel when he got home each day!
After the meeting we tried to talk with the Secretary about transportation. We had been told she had schedules and that we could buy bus passes with her. But, if this was true, she seemed to know nothing about it. Doh!
There were only about 2 hours left before DS would get out of school. So, David and I decided to stay around town and do a little recon. First we stopped by the train station to pick up info about the train routes from Offenburg. Starting Tuesday, DH and DS would be on their own in the mornings because I had to drive DD to France! We still weren’t convinced we had it right after talking with the woman on duty at the station, but David said he would just plow ahead the next day and they would muddle through. Next we decided to wander through old town Gengenbach. Nice old place! A bit touristy- there were a lot of older people there speaking languages other than German. But, very pleasant overall. Here are some of the things we saw there:
|These little demony things are outside of what appears to be an old monastery perhaps. They are straddling a small stream that runs through town.|
|We aren’t sure who he is, but he looks like a conquistador!|
|The mill is attached to a working bakery that sells special breads.|
|Here is the water wheel that powers it.|
After school we pick DS up. He walks down the stairs in the company of another, smaller boy. When he sees us, he explains to the boy that these are his eltern, then proceeds to introduce us in German. Then he explains to us in English that his new friend, Caan, is learning English and the two of them have been helping each other. Big grins all around. On the way home, DS explains his day, spouting forth more German sentences in a row than I have ever heard him attempt before. Most of the day involved name games and other introductory things with the class, but he also got his books and his schedule. We laughed, as parents do, when we discovered that he told the class that his hobby is soccer (fussball)! He hasn’t played since he was 6! But, he explained everyone was listing sports and it was the only one he knew. So, fair enough. He is jazzed to go back, but tired. Good deal!
Tuesday– So far so good. DH and DD make it to school on time by train. DH misses one train back to work, but still gets there before most of his co-workers. DS had a few more missteps with language. We thought he was supposed to write his job at home on his homework, but turns out it was supposed to be his favorite sport. Whoops! Also, they play a game where they ask what he likes, and he says “noodles”, but he is supposed to be listing an animal! Double Whoops! So, now his favorite sport is taking out the trash and his favorite animal is noodles! Hee. His teachers send us a note about a special tutoring class they have after school, where older students help younger ones. Also, they will take him out of English classes and give him extra German. I write them back a letter thanking them and describing a bit more about our situation. I also ask if DS can do 1 instead of 2 hours of tutoring after school because I worry that he may get worn out. DH curses at me for making him translate my thick text. But, he can’t really complain- he missed his bus coming home, so I had to make yet another car trip to Kehl to pick him up!
Wednesday– About the same as Tuesday. DS and Caan are still hanging out. And DS really liked the cafeteria. He can buy butter pretzels there. Yum!
I am not sleeping well, though, and get completely exhausted. By the time I have picked up both kids and made an emergency trip to the supermarket, I have no brain cells left. I collapse on my bed and sleep until DH gets home. We have eggs and lauger bagette for dinner (sort of a huge soft pretzel). I collapse again, waking up at 4am. But, I manage to rest in until its time to get up. I feel MUCH better.
Thursday– I blow it for the first time! I am just finishing up a passage for work when I look at the clock and realize I need to be at Durmstrang in 10 minutes. It is a 15 minute drive, minimum. Crap. I jump in the car and race off to Gengenbach. Only, I get behind the slowest two trucks I have encountered in Deutschland. Neither will go over 65 KPH, and the road is an undivided two lane highway. I lose more time. I try calling DS, but fail to get through. I have to fight my panic response. I remind myself that DS is safe, just wondering where I am. As I am pulling up to the school, I get a call from him. He thinks I thought his tutoring started today, but it didn’t. Also, his teachers want to see me. I grab my stuff and jump out of the car, vaguely aware that my heart is racing and I look like I haven’t showered. Oh yeah, I haven’t showered. Damn. I rush up to DS and realize he is standing next to Caan and an older distinguished middle eastern gentleman. Caan’s dad. I try to be friendly and polite as my inner-shy screams at me. DS is simultaneously trying to introduce me to Caan’s dad and rush me off to see his teachers. I shake hands twice and make some minor small talk about how Caan is learning English. Dad doesn’t speak much English and I am feeling late, so I make the hastiest polite good byes I can muster and rush off to greet his teachers.
DS knocks confidently at the door of the teacher room. The readheaded Frau Bücking comes to greet me, then ducks back to find her partner. Another woman emerges. I have never seen her before. She walks over and talks with Audric and explains that she will be working with him on English. She is young and perky and short. She seems pleasant. I miss her name. Frau Bücking returns with Frau Algeier in tow. Frau Bücking seems uncomfortable talking in English, but maybe she is just German Reserved. Frau Algeier seems completely at ease, which makes sense since she is the English teacher. We muddle through pleasantries and figuring out his schedule. I thank them all and we retreat. My inner-shy is having a she-ist-fit and my pulse won’t calm for the better part of an hour. But, really, it is all good.
- Some big German Readhead on a bike stops me to ask if I am parked in a particular spot at our apartment complex. I say no and explain that our garage is busted. He mimes kicking the garage for me and I am mildly charmed. Two days later I park in the spot he had mentioned and we get a nastygram on the window, even though the spot is not marked at all and we are supposed to be able to park in all unmarked spots. Sigh. We need to get the garage fixed- and we will need another spot soon. We will be buying a second car!
- DH is working hard to try to get us our Drivers Licenses. This is proving to be our biggest difficulty since arriving. DH will have been here 6 months, soon, and at that point his US license fails to be valid. Mine does the same thing a few weeks later. And it isn’t like we can do without now that the kids are in school. We need to get this dealt with. DH expresses this in no uncertain terms to folks at work. They assign the HR guy to get it solved. DH calls a LOT of driving schools. One finally comes through, and we are scheduled to meet with them Friday. Stay tuned.
- DD has an admirer. He is a tall, redheaded German boy one class ahead of her. He has a wingman who speaks better English and helps him out. He comes to flirt with her every break that they share. He has awkwardly told her back that she is beautiful. DD is amused and flattered. DH thinks this boy is too forward and has tried to convince himself that what the boy really meant was “pretty”which is far less intense. I think the boy shows very good taste!