Sunday, November 25, 2007

The First Day…

We took a bus to school the first day, leaving at 7.30 am for the 8am start, that only the EFAC kids had. As we arrived sportily dressed American moms were prepping coffee and pastries outside on tables for the start of their new semester at 9am. EFAC had nothing.

Madame Tranchevant, Directrice of EFAC welcomed us briefly and ticked off our names, she seemed in a rush to get classes going. The French parents and children were chatting loudly and were in no hurry to start the day or introduce themselves either. To my dismay Marc was in a tiny dark old-fashioned room with about 30 children and a male teacher. I had been told classes were limited to 9 students. Nina was in a basement room. There were also three classes of about 9 students and a female teacher. It looked more like a crèche than a class. But apparently this was just for the first hour, and after that the children would return in small year groups. I hoped Marc and Nina would find their way from American classroom to French classroom…they had no idea where 203 or 207 was.

I left a tearful Nina and serious-looking Marc, and went back to the hotel with Gabriel. The day was long and we were glad to meet them at precisely 3.23 (that was when the bell rang). It was a sunny day and the pavement in front of the school was packed with mothers and fathers straining to see their child. A man on a bike sold ice-creams from a cooler box. When the bell rang about three hundred kids poured out the building, more than I had expected, and quite frightening en masse and all at the same time.

I felt suddenly very very lonely, I knew nobody and had no-one to share a smile or to say hello to. The American mothers stressed me out, rudely shouting greetings over my head like I was invisble, and snapping photos of their child posing on the steps for the scrapbook of their First Day At School. Nina looked very lost and out of place and her classmates practically pushed her down the stairs. ‘Well how was your first day? I asked ‘Pas bien’ she answered.

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