We're into our lives here and it's been a good week.
Girls have managed their first week in French (Catholic) school well. In fact, it's been much smoother than I could have anticipated.
Geneva is in 6ieme, which just happens to mean 6th grade which is the last of the "sameness" of 6th grade she would have seen back in Toronto. In France, kids move to College (their version of junior high) in 6ieme. The great news for our more serious and thoughtful daughter is that many of her fellow students are also new to the school too - it's a big transition year so all is new for everyone, not just us.
That said, our first morning at her school, sitting in for 2 hours listening to the Directrice/ Professeur/ Sujet introductions was way over our parent heads - thank goodness, Geneva's French is stronger than ours so she could fill in the blanks on the cursory bits we understood.
English is a big part of this school year, where Geneva seems in the first week to be deputy student teacher - at least here she'll feel like she's aceing something! That said, she's not yet felt like she's behind or missing out on any of her subject areas - relief! - save for Spanish which all students start taking in 6ieme and Geneva has opted to join.
As we left school that Tuesday morning, my heart ached a bit and I felt like a mom dropping her babes at JK again - knowing that they don't know anyone and hoping desperately for friendly strangers in their fellow Toulousian students who would immediately see how lovely my girls are and take them in as friends immediately.
Exhales as mostly, this seems to be the case - girls are making friends - fingers crossed that all continues to go well.
Elena also is adjusting well and from her reports, is well placed in her CM1/CM2 class (equivalent of Gr 4/5 split). She loves her teacher, is sitting beside the smartest girl in class who now is becoming her friend and loves the lunches at the school "canteen" - who wouldn't love chicken drumstick, noodles and a peach, cooked fresh for you and served on china plates?!
Both girls have had the "new girl celebrity" moments - Elena has been asked repeatedly to speak English as her French is so good, the kids aren't quite believing that she's an Anglophone from Canada and want her to prove it. Geneva has had kids she doesn't know come up to her to ask "Hey, are you, Geneva? Are you the Canadian girl?" Guess they don't have quite as many international students as the Directrices (Principals) might have indicated.
All in all, big sighs of relief and fingers firmly crossed as we move into week two of school and full 5 days of classes.
Now, I need to take a moment to paint a picture of after school pick up time at Ecole et College Saint Thomas d'Aquin. Being my first and only French school experience, I don't know if this is the norm however it is highly amusing to me.
The girls' school is on a narrow old street, at a small Place, meaning several streets intersect out of the street which goes past their school. In the afternoon, at the time for end of day at the Ecole, parents come to congregate at the front of the school. You are not allowed to enter past the front doors leading into the corridor of the courtyard so it starts looking like a mob scene - maybe free tickets to a rock concert or coupon day at Wal-Mart - anyway, the drill is that the Directrice stands at the door with the kids lined up behind her and grabs the first one in line firmly in her grasp. She then surveys the throbbing, waving mob of parents to find the match, and on doing so, thrusts the chosen student towards his/her parent - then on to the next. Adding to the frenzy is the fact that while many bicycles are parked to make the scene more cluttered, some parents who drive will actually just stop their vehicle on the street - a narrow, one car wide street - to step out and jump into the fray to await their child's delivery. Now comes a long, honking line of cars behind the select vehicle as no other car can pass through this one way street. Oh, it's a scene. I'm looking forward to further developments on this front.
The only challenge I've noted so far is that I don't know how working moms in France manage their lives. That is, how do they accomodate the different start/end times of various students school days? Geneva and Elena, being in College and Ecole, have different start/end times to their day - luckily only Mondays have a major discrepancy in the morning start time - we'll deal with that tomorrow. However, end times are at least 45 minutes difference and in some cases more. Plus Wednesday afternoons are off so kids are home by lunch. I am feeling very privileged to be a femme au foyer this year, to make this all work out. Will keep reminding myself (former A-type busy working self) of this as the year progresses.
So you have a touch of early school life. Now I need to do some minor airing of issues which are mildly irritating - you know, the things about a new country that we implants just don't quite understand, based on our previous life experiences:
1) Why is there a toilet room with only a toilet? And by that I mean, no sink. Yes, this is in our apartment. The toilet room is just that - well, that and the curtain hiding the hot water tank, various mops, brooms and the vaccuum. But again, no sink. You must exit to either the shower room around the corner - with two very lovely big basins side by side, or to the kitchen sink down the hall. This really puzzles my Canadian sensibilities.
2) On similar vein, why do French men find it necessary and even agreeable to pause when the call of nature strikes and relieve themselves on the side of street, in plain view? And not just the drunken mob from downstairs at 2 a.m. but perfectly respectable looking older gentlemen on their way home from the corner store in the early evening? Let me be clear that my girlfriend in Paris has assured me that she is not familiar with this regular practise and finds it quite odd - maybe a south of France thing?!
3) One more point on the delicate matter - why can't they stoop and scoop?? Again, my Parisian girlfriend has reminded me - and I commented the same - that Paris' previous reputation for la merde du chien has been roundedly cleared away and is not at all common anymore. Again, maybe it takes some time for this information to filter to the south? In the meantime, we are ever vigilant on our walks.
Alright, enough of those matters. Let's finish on a top note. It's been a stellar weekend so far as I've celebrated my birthday yesterday - in grand style, for certain... champagne, sushi, flowers, chocolate. Today, with the rental car, we'll drive to the Meditteranean coast for a day at the beach. All in all, a heck of a way to celebrate one's anniversaire. Also a bit of a reprieve (whether we can afford it or not) from living like poor university students and being much more cautious with our spending than we've been in a long while.
So as the lovely sun has well risen over the red tiled roofs of my newly adopted home, I will say, a bientot - a la prochaine semaine, mes amis.