December 15, 2005

Dental Aqueduct

Yesterday another first since living in France: We all went to the dentist for a check-up. We had heard that dental care wasn't world-famous in a positive way here, so we asked around for a recommendation from the ex-pat community, and were told of Dr. Jean-Pierre Albouy.

Here in France, dentists are called "Chirurgiens-Dentistes" (surgeon-dentists), which can sound a little scary at first. When we go for a check-up, we don't anticipate any surgery being done.

In any case, we all needed to be seen for our habitual biannual cleaning and check-up, and the dental office made an appointment for all four of us to be seen at 4pm. At first I thought they must have an enormous number of hygienists to be able to swing that, until I realized they were just going to take a look in our mouths to see what needed to be done and get to know us, before actually taking any action.

DentalaqueductWe found the office on a narrow street in the city, miraculously parked right in front, and went up to the waiting room. Classical music played as we looked out of the window at a Roman aqueduct! Not every dentist office can boast of that.

The dentist arrived and displayed a friendly, professional bedside manner, offering French or English, as we pleased. We used both. His training for 3.5 years at the University of Southern California showed in his fluency. He took us all at once into the examination room, chatting with us along the way about how he has a Treo Palm device and asking how we like France, etc. As he examined us briefly from youngest to oldest, the others looking on, he explained that in France, there is no such job as dental hygienist. If anyone cleans your teeth, it's a dentist, but apparently the French on the whole don't really believe in the importance of professional cleanings. Hence the national health care system doesn't pay for them. We pay 20 euros for a dental visit, but 95 euros for a cleaning, since it's considered "facultatif" (optional). This particular dental office, however, does offer cleanings, thanks to Dr. Albouy's Californian training. But he said only one of the four of us particularly needed it at the moment, the rest could wait another six months. So we made an appointment for January, and merrily went on our way, happy with the results of our first French dental foray: no "caries" (cavities), and the most family togetherness we've ever experienced in dental care. In California, we tried to keep our whole family's regular appointments within a day of each other for solidarity, but this topped them all.

December 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

CASNAV, Piscine et Bibliothèque

This week, Jason, as a new immigrant into the French school system, had to take a test in his native language, evaluating his reading, writing, and math levels. A man from a government organization called "Le CASNAV" came to the collège on a special mission to make sure my 6th grade son is literate and getting something out of his classes. Le CASNAV is the "Centre Académique pour la Scolarisation des Nouveaux Arrivants et des enfants du Voyage," or the "Academic Center for the Incorporation into the Educational System of New Arrivals and Traveling Children." Phew. Jason spoke in French with this official, telling him about his sister and the rest of our family.

By the time I got there to consult with le monsieur, Jason was back to his regular classes (taking a real math test in French, I think). The gentleman told me he wasn't worried at all about Jason, and that he would estimate Jason was ingesting about 70% of what went on in his classes already - the level he would expect from someone who had been here six months. Jason has only been in the country for three months and at school for one month, so that's great. Mr. CASNAV then explained that if Jason were really understanding nothing at all in class, a tutor would be provided 20-40 hours a week to teach him French. However, there are a limited number of such tutors, and there are many other children who need one more (like kids who have never been to school before in any language, which is apparently not unheard of in this man's job). It would also take Jason out of regular classes for those hours. We both agreed this would be detrimental to Jason's academic career (not to mention social situation) at this point, so he gave me some tips on how to help Jason with French, and I high-tailed it out of there to pick up Emily for lunch.

Then straight back to pick up Jason, then feed them both lunch, take Jason back to school, take Emily back to school and accompany her class to the pool...a good way to get a headache, going on a bus with 26 second graders...then straight to the town library to pick up Jason who had a field trip there with his French class. I got to hear the tail end of an interactive presentation on "Le Droit de l'Enfant" (the Rights of Children, or Law for Children) including a real live French police officer, a lawyer, a social worker, and a librarian. Very interesting (topics included who is eligible to be elected class representative, what to do in cases of harassment or attempted abuse, whether homework was really required, what to do if someone follows you in the street, etc.). They played recordings of answers from the point of view of parents, kids, the police, the school administration, and a judge. Pretty cool.

Then back to the primary school to pick up Emily. Quite a full day it was!

October 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Another Hurdle Surmounted

Choose a doctor from the eight in our village listed in the phone book - CHECK

Make an appointment - CHECK

Same day, find out that a neighborhood mom who has children in both of my kids' classes (and whose daughter also is also affected by asthma), with whom we carpool once a week, is herself a family practitioner in the next town over, and hear from her that the doctor we picked is okay - CHECK

Wait two days - CHECK

Venture out on a cloudy, cool, drippy afternoon and find a parking spot - CHECK

Enter the doctor's office to find no receptionist, no staff visible, no check-in process, no sign-in sheet, no request for an insurance card or copayment, no new patient forms to fill out, just an echoing waiting room with a tall ceiling, and spiral stairs straight ahead leading up from a hallway - CHECK

Verify with the other two patients present that one is just supposed to sit down and wait, and take a seat (orange plastic for me, pink for Emily) - CHECK

Wait 40 minutes, whilst a couple exits with their baby, and another newborn cries upstairs like it's being tortured (Emily asked, in what she thought was humor, if they were killing it), and six other hopeful clients enter and settle - CHECK

Remember carefully who was there before us, and when it's our turn, so we can leap up and claim our spot at the right time when the lady comes down the stairs to greet us - CHECK

Discover to our surprise that the "lady" who goes up and down the stairs with each patient is, in fact, the "the doctor," and all by herself in the office, with no nurse, no helper, and no administrative person, privately raise eyebrows in surprise - CHECK

Medecinsign_1Find that she is young and blond, despite an arabic-sounding last name, and is very pleasant, despite the sign in the waiting room that tells patients not to be surprised if the doctor is angry due to the poor pay and hours and lack of benefits for physicians here in France - CHECK

Explain reason for visit, translate names of vaccinations received on immunization record - CHECK

Show American medicines, be relieved that doctor recognizes one of them immediately and confirms they have it here too, and that she has a computer on which to track down the equivalent of the second one - CHECK

Encourage Emily to cooperate happily with weight, height, and stethoscope procedures - CHECK

Cheerfully hand over twenty euros ($24) straight to the doctor (weird to hand currency straight to the physician's hand; a new experience), this being the extent of what we are charged for the whole visit, without involving any insurance companies - CHECK

Take prescription to pharmacy; be surprised that a bottle of prescription cough medicine costs less than two euros ($2.40), and a canister of emergency asthma medicine only about 5 euros ($6), while a month of preventative asthma pills (Singulair) cost 41 euros ($49); vaguely wonder whether we will see any of this money again from either the French government (if we figure out how and where to submit the forms) or our U.S. health insurance company (a nebulous affair at the moment) and how long it would take to get to us - CHECK

Be surprised in retrospect that the doctor never asked for our address, our phone number, any health history (other than to inquire after any allergies); that we didn't have to sign anything or write anything down; that the doctor didn't wash her hands between patients that I noticed, yet shook all their hands upon greeting and saying goodbye; and that our three prescription medications received were not labelled with anyone's name or dosage information - CHECK

Be thrilled that I've conquered this feat, the first French doctor's visit and first prescription pick-up - CHECK

Blogger Ezra Klein here explains the French health care system. For example, he says, "France has a basic system of public health insurance that, as of January 2000, covers everybody in the nation. [...] The public system covers around 75% of total costs. [...] French physicians only make US $55,000, about 1/3rd what their American counterparts pull in."

New French Medical Vocabulary for me:
ordonnance = prescription
And, of a bit of concern, I saw signs in the waiting room talking about sophrologie and mesothérapie. Wikipedia says "Sophrologie was created by Alfonso Caycedo in the 1960s. It is a psycho-science that studies the human consciousness.The Study of the Consciousness' Harmony." Hmmmm. Sounds very suspicious to me. Furthermore, wiki says mesotherapy is a technique using microinjections to reduce or remove lipids, originating in France (chemical fat reduction process). I am extremely dubious about both. I think I'll go have a bowl of ice cream and watch a romantic movie with my husband so our consciousnesses can be in harmony.

October 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 10, 2005

Most Bungled Phone Call Yet

I think I am nervous about dental care in France. We've been more or less warned about it by some ex-patriots here, and by our dentist in the U.S. as well. We've been told "they" don't care much about gum health "here." In California, our dentist's office had an administrative assistant and three hygienists plus two dentists (married to each other). The first dentist I called here answered the phone himself. Made me think maybe he doesn't have very many patients. Which was partially confirmed by him telling me I didn't need to make an appointment until a week or so beforehand (compared to months ahead where we came from). But he was friendly at least.

Next I called a local doctor's office. Emily's asthma episode this morning gave me the kick in the pants I needed to begin establishing some relationships in the medical community in our new hometown. I made an appointment for her to be seen so we can get refills (or more likely a new prescription) of her emergency medication and regular pills for difficult times of the year allergy-wise. We're running low.

Finally, to finish the medical rounds, I needed to find someone to check up on Jason's orthodontic appliance, which was put in four months ago to maintain space for a tooth that has yet to emerge. This was the worst executed phone call I've made yet. I half tried to explain Jason's orthodontic history (to explain why we needed to come in), but decided it was too much to tell in this introductory conversation, and gave up. Then I actually asked the orthodontist whether she worked with children. I mean, who else would she be working with? (for the most part). Stupid question number one. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe of the question I meant to ask the dentist and doctor but didn't remember to. At least it would have been reasonable in their cases. The weirder part of this is that I was stumbling and mumbling over my words on this phone call (I've never been involved in francophone dentistry nor orthodontistry before, as all our dental professionals in Geneva were fluent in English), and I think I may have asked the woman whether she "made children" rather than "worked with" children. The same verb in French can mean DO or MAKE (faire). Oops. Then I got all confused and flustered trying to tell her when Jason would be available. I hadn't prepared a list of those times or days, and since he gets out daily at 5pm, it seems like there is no time. She got frustrated with me and brusquely set me an appointment for 23 days from now, and I could only quietly acquiesce in an effort to get off the phone.

I don't generally like going to the dentist nor taking people I love there. Add the language difference in. Throw in completely unfamiliar staff, locations and practices. And a mom who was up at 5am trying to restore proper breathing to her child. You get an embarrassing phone call. Big deal. I'll get over it. Hopefully twenty-three days is enough to make the orthodontist forget who I am too, and we can start afresh face to face.

(this definitely topped the phone call to the pool security company where I couldn't remember the man's name and a lady answered and I couldn't figure out how to ask for him; I eventually just told her the message to give him - he wasn't there anyway. Then there are all the phone calls during which the phone just rings and rings and rings - most small businesses around here do not have answering machines nor websites, so there's no way to figure out their office hours until you happen to luck out and call at a moment they're open)

October 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 30, 2005

Did you know, have you ever, and so on

Did you know that the Beach Boys' Kokomo is a real place?

Did you know that in France, the Tooth Fairy is not a fairy, but a girl mouse? Her name is "La Petite Souris."

Did you know walking to the bakery to get fresh bread daily is a national pastime in France? You see people every day with the baguettes under their arms striding down the village streets at lunchtime.

Did you know that in France they have started serving brownies as dessert at restaurants? Only you have to say you'd like "uhn brooneez" even though it is spelled brownies just like in the U.S. and even though "un" is a singular article. They taste good, though! Especially with crème anglaise...

Did you know that writing checks in France is upside down from how they do it in the U.S.? In the U.S., the date is at top right, then comes the donee and then the amount, and then there is a line for the signature at the bottom right. Well, here in France, there's nothing at the top right, and the first two lines are for the amount, then the donee, then a short line for the TOWN you're writing the check in (!), then finally a line for the date. Both the donee and the location spaces have the word "à" before them, so it's hard at first to remember which one is which (the first à meaning "to" and the second one meaning "at" or "in"). Finally, at the bottom you are supposed to sign your name, but there is NO LINE for it! Which has led to my forgetting to sign checks several times. People don't like that much. My final comment on this subject is about signatures. It seems to be frowned upon around here if your signature actually has anything to do with your name (such as any legible letters in common with it). Typically a very brief undecipherable scribble meets with more approval and less attention. If they can read your name in your signature, they practically accuse you of just writing your name instead of signing. Hmmmm.

Did you know that at French public middle schools there is a body called the "Conseil de Classe" which consists of the teachers, plus two parents AND two students from each class (parents and students not necessarily related to each other, in fact more likely not to be)...and that at the end of each grading period, all of the the children's grades are revealed to this body, which then votes on whether each student should get "congratulations," "compliments," "encouragements," "warnings" or "blame?" The vote is based on the grade point average plus any testimony from the parent and student members of the council. The two student representatives are elected by their classmates. I was floored at the revelation of the grades to the parent and student elements. And by the fact that classmates will have a say in my child's report card remarks. Sounds like a popularity contest. Good for the popular kids... On a related note, today in French class Jason and the rest of his class had to recite a poem. The delivery was then graded by each member of the class. The average of the students' grading counted for half the final grade! The other half was left up to the teacher. At least she had some part in it! I suppose this does make the kids want to try harder, being evaluated by people whose opinions they may care more about than the teacher?

* * *

When I went to a PTA-type meeting a few weeks ago, there were 12 people there. 8 out of 12 took smoke breaks during the 2-hour meeting. 2 rolled their own cigarettes. Only the three people running the meeting and I didn’t go out to smoke. I noticed. I am surmising that a lot of people here smoke because everyone else does and they don't notice the stench so much that way. What I find really sad is the 6th-9th graders who smoke outside the school gates before going in for their classes. Those poor young lungs being polluted already. Yuck! Then again, I suppose they're probably filled with smoke at home by their parents' cigs anyway. At least there's no smoking inside those school gates.

* * *

Have you ever seen a pregnant lizard? I am quite sure, based on her thick middle and slow movements, that I witnessed one lying in the sun on the step outside our bedroom the other day. All the other lizards I've seen were narrow and lightning fast. This one sure looked wide and sluggish. In any case, it sure reminded me of how many pregnant women feel!

* * *

Ever seen (or even heard of) a black radish? They look yucky. Saw some in the store today.
By the way, I noticed at Hyper U the cashiers wear plum-colored trousers with matching plum blazers over a white T-shirt with blue writing. I guess the blazer thing is really in (given the red ones at Intermarché).

* * *

Where do your avocados come from? In California they were local and had ads all over the place for all the wonderful things you could do with them. Here in Southern France, they come all the way from Kenya!

* * *

I am right-fruited. That is to say, I have to use my right hand to choose fruit at the grocery store. My right hand is particularly trained in determining whether a kiwi, avocado, nectarine, or plum is of the desired firmness. My left hand is somehow clueless. How about you?

* * *

Have you ever gotten mango or rhubarb yogurt in your hair? You should try it sometime. But not recommended for right after your shower. It can kind of flavor your whole day. I have experience in the matter. Pesky long locks. Fortunately I don't put my mop into my plate as often as Emily. We have taken to keeping hair elastics in the dining room so we can sweep her blondness back after the first trespass into the pasta sauce and avoid the next five dips.

* * *

For the first few months I lived here, I avoided restaurant dishes containing the word "pistou" because I was under the illusion it was some unknown kind of local produce that was probably a cross between a pistachio, a date, and fennel. If you can imagine that. Then I discovered it is actually a local kind of light pesto sauce, made, of course, with garlic and olive oil and basil! Yum! I'm steering for those meals in the future.

* * *

Here in Baillargues, look for small village mentality. For instance, outside the electronics store there is a sign asking people, in case of absence or closure, to leave packages with the butcher across the street!

* * *

One of the best things about lunch at home for the kids during the school day (beyond seeing their beloved mother three times a day and getting some true downtime amidst the language immersion) is that on these fickle September days, they can wear long pants in the cool morning and then change into shorts for the hot afternoon.

* * *

I seem to recall my mother driving us to school a few times in her pajamas. I never really understood that until this week. I did it myself, but just to the bus stop once, and then another time I would have done it all the way to the school, except that I was saved by it being carpool morning, when a neighbor takes Jason along with her daughter because they go in late and can't take the bus. Love those long, lined raincoats, though.

* * *

You've heard of a watch dog, but have you ever been greeted by a watch rooster? One crowed at us on our walk the other day, all the way along the wall of its property. We were debating whether it was saying cock-a-doodle-doo or cocorico or quiquiriquí. I think David ended up deciding it was saying cock-a-doo, since the call was too brief to accommodate all those other syllables.

* * *

Words I've learned lately that you might just need some day in French:
betterave = beet
essuie-glace = windshield wiper (windscreen wiper in England)
raclette pare-brise = squeegee
chahuter = heckle, horse around
proscrire = banish, ban, forbid
le cas échéant = if the need arises
échéance = expiration date, due date, deadline
or = nonetheless, however (can also mean gold, of course)

Abbreviations you'll most likely never need to know or understand:
FCPE (Fédération des Conseils de Parents d'Elèves) = a school parents' organization (Federation of Councils of Students' Parents)
PEEP (Fédération des Parents d’Elèves de l’Enseignement Public) = another one of those (Federation of Parents of Students in Public Education), pronounced PEP instead of PEEP.
OCCE = Office Central de la Coopération à l’Ecole (not too sure what this one does, but you have to pay them for it)
PPMS = Plan Particulier de Mise en Sûreté (safety plan for emergency procedures at school, e.g. what to do with students during regional "Red Alert" due to sudden dangerous weather such as the severe thunderstorms and flooding we had earlier this month)

But when I want to know a really useful term, like "wasp exterminator," can I find it anywhere? The dictionary says it is "exterminateur" but I cannot for the life of me find any topic remotely related to this in the phone book or online. I guess people around here take care of their own wasp nests under the roof tiles. Can anyone tell me where in the French yellow pages I can find someone who will come and take away our wasp nest on the roof? Why didn't I ask my local friend during our 1.5 hour walk amongst the vineyards, pumpkin fields, canals, hedges and trees this windy afternoon?

September 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

K-Love in France

I finally downloaded the free RealPlayer app to our music/server laptop and got it to play K-Love Radio through our speakers. I am happy to have "encouraging words and positive music" back in my ears in English, with my favorite Christian musicians lifting my heart to God. Good words like mercy, grace, surrender, melting away pride, washing, and " I Need YouI need You, I need You, I need You..." by Jars of Clay.

The funny thing is that, because of the time difference, the DJs in California have their quiet middle-of-the-night voices on...and the sun shines brightly here this morning at 10:30am...I've never listened to K-Love at 1:30am before!

Yesterday I told God, "I'm so glad you speak English, and not just French..." It was a relief to put that into words, since lately I've only heard about God in French, naturally. Both are good, but though my mind can speak French, my heart speaks English. Interesting for me to realize and take into account. As the British folks in our church here have discovered, though, the heart can be taught other languages. They've been living and working with churches here in France for ten years or so, and they habitually pray in French now, even when they are on their own.

Off to show love and care to my family by folding their laundry...while humming to the Lord with The Heart of WorshipMatt Redman (lyrics).

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pioneer Girl

Did I mention that Emily is the first and only American ever to have been enrolled at her school? The headmistress had to hand-type the nationality into the database, rather than selecting it from a list of twenty or so other ones. A modern-day pioneer girl, my Emily.

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

A Foreign Concept

We have been experiencing the real meaning of that phrase lately. There are many ideas around here that are completely foreign to us (why should I be surprised?):

- All mayonnaise here contains mustard. Even if it says "Nature" (meaning plain). Even if it doesn't say or show anything about mustard on the front label. I did find one exception, which was a gourmet mayonnaise in a small reusable glass with a top. Please tell me regular mayonnaise in the U.S. doesn't contain mustard too and I just never noticed?

- At church, now that we are back into the school year, the children are regularly fed lunch in their classrooms while the adults are in the main service. Also, the service goes from 10am until 12:30pm or so. Two and a half hours. This is why they feel the need to feed the kids lunch. But we eat a good breakfast before going to church, and normally Sunday lunch is a family affair for us. 12:30 isn't very late for lunch. We were very surprised at this practice (which no one told us about). Another surprise: Jason's class was walked to McDonald's to get drinks during the service (without us having any idea). This was very weird for me.

- Elementary school children have Wednesdays off and must go to Saturday morning classes from 9 to 12. This may take me a lot of getting used to. Every day off has school both the day before and the day after.

- In Sunnyvale, California, if a stoplight malfunctions, you can expect it to be fixed within a few hours. Here in a small village in southern France, our main stoplight to get out of our neighborhood onto the big road to our village or elsewhere has been flashing orange for over a month now. We've gotten used to it. It'll be strange if and when it is ever fixed. But I wouldn't mind.

- To fill up your regular car's gas tank (with diesel, even), you shell out 51.24 euros on a day like today. That's $64.21. Oh. My.

- But on the upside, here's a foreign concept I actually like: the whole family goes home for lunch every day, for a two-hour break together from school and work. I pick up both kids from school and bring them home for some down time and a meal "en famille" - even David came home today and ate with us. He doesn't always do that, but fairly often. It's such a nice feeling. It brings the family together. It's a pace of life that adds something missing in the U.S. In association with this concept, if children do stay at school for the lunch two-hours, they all eat a hot lunch. No one brings or sends a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. No one sends anything, in fact. If your child stays for lunch, you must buy the school lunch, which includes a hot meat dish with vegetables and a cheese course and dessert! Wow. Even in elementary school. A different kind of cheese every day, of course. I remember hearing somewhere that France has 400 kinds of cheeses.

- Another nice thing here: At restaurants, if you use a credit or debit card, your card is never removed from your sight. Instead, a little handheld machine is brought to your table, where the card is inserted and wirelessly verified and charged. Wouldn't you think this would be something the U.S. would have thought of? We don't even have to sign anything. Therefore there's nowhere to add a tip; it must be done in cash. That's not so convenient. But then you don't need to tip much either. Just a small token of appreciation. Service is included (hence not very fast service...hmmm, it's all ups and downs).

- At our daughter's elementary school, we've seen cars in the parking lot from Belgium, Germany and Spain. All new arrivals for the school year? Fun to see, in any case.

I am starting to realize I am a foreigner here, on the continent of my childhood but not my adulthood until now. It takes adjustments all around. It's good stretching.

September 5, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 03, 2005

La Rentrée

We're in it. La Rentrée literally means "the reentry" or going back in. What Americans call "Back to School" time.

I give great, big, adoring applause to God for carrying us so lovingly through the first day of French public school for both kids. What courage it took (we prayed hard for that quality, along with many others, for this moment). We dropped Emily off first, got her checked off by her new teacher, saw her into her new classroom, and the door shut with the parents on the outside. Our daughter reports that she promptly burst into tears, although by the time we picked her up for lunch, she was smiling and practically bouncing. She says this was due to seeing us again, but it was clear she hadn't suffered too much during the morning.

We proceeded from the elementary school of Baillargues to the "collège" (middle school: 6th-9th grades), a 5 minute drive or so. This leave-taking stood in stark contrast to the previous one. We didn't get to meet any teachers, didn't get to see any classrooms, didn't get to spend ten minutes hugging our child in the courtyard. Jason had to give us just a quick hug and immediately march up the hill and disappear around the corner of the building all on his own, striding into the unknown with a backpack and his God. All the parents were told in no uncertain terms not to penetrate the gate of the school.

I prayed off and on all morning, not able to concentrate on too much. Both children were picked up at noon, smiling and proclaiming they'd each made a new friend already. Hallelujah!!! It was nice to have a break in the middle of the day, to be able to eat lunch all together (David worked from home on purpose), and to feel the peace, quiet, and cool of home. But it was a bit challenging to get everyone pumped up again enough to go back to school for the afternoon. Another few hours later, the kids were a bit glazed over, but they recovered after a little rest at home.

Meanwhile, I spent three and a half hours in class. I went to the collège and attended three long meetings in a row. In the first, we got to hear the administration speak and answer questions. The principal, the vice principal, the main disciplinarian, and the cafeteria lady. For the second meeting, I headed up to Jason's home room teacher's classroom. His "professeur principal" is named Mr. Bru. I liked his attitude. He's a P.E. teacher. He seems very friendly and strong and straight-forward. He explained all kinds of things about how the school works, and introduced most of the children's other teachers to us. The most interesting name award goes to Madame Stchérbinine, the French teacher. Close runner up is the science teacher, Mr. Guiu. I really don't know how to pronounce that.

It was really hot in the room, and I got an appreciation for how Jason must feel up there during the day. Looking forward to the fall temperatures arriving for that reason (although we swam as a family today and the pool was warmer than in August, so nice).

By the time most of the teachers had introduced themselves and explained their methods and extra materials we'd need and what they expected from the kids, my head was practically exploding from the overwhelming number of things to remember and do and explain to Jason. I hadn't brought enough note paper, and was scribbling in tiny letters all over my one sheet in a mixture of French and English. Things to buy, questions to ask, acronyms and definitions, guidelines, etc. At last we shuffled downstairs to the cafeteria again, for the final gathering: the Ski Trip Meeting. The week-long outing of all the 6th graders won't be until February, but they tacked the informational meeting onto the tail end of the very first day of school because they aim for 100% participation, and they want to give people as much notice as possible, so as to start generating fundraising ideas. Jason's home room teacher happens to be the one who has spearheaded the trip for the past eight years, and led that meeting as well.

I came home hungry and considering taking some Motrin, but quite satisfied that this will be a good school for this year. I've been spending the weekend so far trying to read through all the informational booklets, fill out all the forms and sign in all the required spots.

Some of the acronyms I am supposed to grasp (I might be wrong about some of these, but I'm trying my best):
CDI - Centre de Documentation et d'Information (the school library)
PP - Professeur Principal (home room teacher)
ATP - Accompagnement (or Aide) au Travail Personnel (study habits class once a week)
EPS - Education Physique et Sportive? (P.E.)
SVT - Science de la Vie et de la Terre (earth science and biology)
EG - Education Générale (French and Math)
VS - Vie Scolaire (school life; tardiness, absences, detentions, etc?)
COP - Conseiller d'Orientation Psychologue (career advice and psychological help?)
CPE - Conseiller Principal d'Education (big bad disciplinarian, in charge of lateness and absence and detentions)
VTT - Vélo Tout Terrain (dirt bikes, BMX?)

Fortunately, Jason has no school Monday, so we have an extra day to go over all the tips and label all his notebooks for the various classes.

The learning curve continues for all of us, but we are off to a fabulous start, as fervently requested.

September 3, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

Permission to get lost and be lonely

I have now been in France for 58 straight days.


TitretaureauToday I was finally summoned to the Mairie to pick up my residence permit, a rectangular self-sticking paper attached to one of the pages of my passport. It officially authorizes me to live in France until next July.

This afternoon Jason rode his bike to a neighborhood friend's house for the first time. He eventually found his way home, having gotten to know the surrounding streets in rather a bit more depth than he intended.

Today was also the first day that I started to feel lonely enough to consider contacting the U.S. community here. There is an American Women's Group, for instance, which puts out a helpful handbook for foreigners living in Montpellier, and conducts various types of gatherings and outings. Maybe I'll give them a call when the kids start school.

August 26, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack