Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Raelyn's First Day of School, Take Two

Organizing their new school supplies.
Monday is here and it's an extra-special day. Not only is it Nola's 9th birthday, it is Raelyn's first day of school with Nola at elementaire. Raelyn is hardly nervous at all since she has seen the school, classroom, students, and met her teacher. And, of course, there is the comfort of being in a new place with the familiarity of her sister. She is excited to be one of, if not the oldest student at school for once. She has always been one of the youngest in her class back home and this has been, for some unclear reason, a frequent complaint of Raelyn's.

The girls are now so familiar with the Metro system and how to get to the station near their school that they are already asking if they can go to and from by themselves. We're not quite ready to go there yet, if at all!  We did do something today that makes us feel more like residents than visitors. We purchased NaviGo cards for our Metro use. It's the size of a credit card with our photo ID on it and we prepay by the week or the month for our Metro usage. Instead of purchasing individual tickets that we have to fish out of our pockets or wallets each time, we put the NaviGo cards at the bottom of a purse or backpack and as we pass through the turnstyle, we simply hold our bag over the sensor to go through.

Raelyn and Nola said their goodbyes at the front gate and off they went. Soren and I were free! For and entire eight hours! We love our kids, but we've really been looking forward to this day for a month now. Time to get some of our adult life in order. First stop, the gym. Club Med is what it's called and it's got everything our gym at home has. Except the classes are at strange times, in my opinion: Very early in the morning, lunchtime, and then late afternoon and evening. Back home, I've been accustomed to my routine of dropping kids off at school and heading straight to the gym for a Boot Camp or Spin class. It occurred to me that the reason there are no morning classes here (past 7:00 a.m.) is because almost all French mothers are employed outside the home. Since childcare is subsidized by the government,  these mothers don't face the same quandary as American ones trying to figure out if working or staying home makes the best financial sense.

The rest of our day until pick-up time was spent with a couple whom we met last year during our trips to Paris. They were introduced to us by our mutual friend, Gabriela. This couple, Juan Carlos and his wife, Mariel, are originally from Guatemala but have been living in Paris for the past six years with their four children. They are delightful people and they have been a super resource for us for all kinds of know-how in living life in Paris. (Muchas gracias Gabriela!). We had a delicious lunch outdoors at a restaurant on Ile de la Cite. Wine and dessert were, of course, part of the experience.

When we picked the girls up from school we met the parents of the two Italian brothers in our kids' class. They speak Italian (obviously), Spanish, a teeny bit of French, but no English. So can you picture our conversation? We were pantomiming, gesturing, and pretending a great deal that we were understanding each other. At one point, we thought they were asking Soren if we walk to the school. He replied, "No, we take the Metro." They looked puzzled. They re-asked. Then it became clear; they wanted to know where Soren works. That is not an easy thing to explain, even in English, if you ask me. Our last gaffe with this sweet couple was when they asked either, (and we're still not sure which question was asked), "How long have you been here?" or, "How long will you be here?" We answered both questions to cover our bases. Except that as soon as the words, "One year," were out of my mouth, I realized I had broken our rule about not telling the folks we meet that we are leaving so soon. I quickly pretended that I had made a mistake and went back to replying, three times, for effect, "One month," and hoped that I was indeed assuming correctly that they were asking how long we had been here so far. In the end, I think we left them with the impression that Soren works for the Metro and that he has been in Paris for one year and that I have been in Paris for one month. Regardless, they are delightful and I look forward to getting to know them better and perfecting my pantomime skills. Their sons, by the way, brought a birthday gift to school for Nola (gourmet lollipops) and homemade cards for her too. The cards were adorable. Each boy drew themselves holding an Italian flag and they drew Nola holding an American flag. And they wrote "happy birthday" in French, English, and Italian on the cards.

Re-connecting with our adult selves.
Raelyn had a great day at her new school. She was happy to report that she and Vishnavi, the girl from the park a few weeks ago, reconnected. Vishnavi recognized Raelyn immediately. Raelyn also reported that at lunch, four girls approached her and began speaking to her in French. Raelyn, a pro now at her French response when faced with this situation, soon realized that these schoolmates do not speak English. No matter, they still proceeded to give Raelyn a tour of the school grounds, ate lunch with her, and played with her. Raelyn said the lunch entree was delicious and, when she had gobbled all but two bites, asked her new friend, "Boeuf or poulet?" in regard to this entree that she practically inhaled. The girl replied, "Boeuf. Boeuf tous les lundis." Raelyn, who has never cared for red meat, was aghast. Aghast at not only liking the red meat that now resided in her belly, but that it was going to be on a plate in front of her every Monday. She still has not decided if she is going to eat it because she liked it, or if she is going to stay firmly entrenched in the, "I don't eat read meat camp."  We'll see. Raelyn said that they soon found common interests: One girl said, "Lady Gaga?" and Raelyn nodded. Then the five girls together began singing "Telephone". Another girl, aiming for more diverse musical overlaps inquired, "Shakira?", and so it went.  I think it's safe to say that Raelyn enjoyed her first-day status as The New Girl.
Post-school photo. Can you tell who is embarrassed that mom is taking this photo?
Off we go to school!

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