Friday, November 23, 2007

Hey they have twin towers here too!!!

Chicago seemed strangely small. I was expecting New York size and found it was remarkably compact and easy to navigate. The architecture was stunning and we walked around heads in the clouds admiring the black staggered skyscrapers, even though they were not as amazing as the KL ones. Taxis, buses and trains were cheap and our hotel was just off the Magnificent Mile of shops and restaurants so we were well placed.

I wanted Marc and Nina to fit in physically in their new school, so we shopped in Gap for Marc (it took me a few weeks to discover the cheaper but similar styled Old Navy…)Nina chose an all-black outfit from an expensive department store for her important first day. What seemed like a bargain was not so much when at the till they added 9% sales tax…

After a couple of days waking at 6am with reverse jetlag, and overdosing on oversized blueberry pancakes or watching the American flatscreen tv in the hotel we went to visit our future home and school. The Abraham Lincoln (he came from Illinois we would later discover) Elementary School was the home of EFAC, or the French bilingual program we had chosen and we must register with the school as local residents. The suburb was leafy and beautiful, rather English looking, like Richmond or Fulham with lots of upscale coffee shops and gift shops. Our house-to be was a grey shingled semi-detached and Victorian style, spacious and just renovated, but our furniture was still blocked and we would have to start school from the hotel.

There was no-one to welcome us from EFAC. The American main school office was open and we had a file of papers to fill out. ‘Nina will be in 203 and Marc 207’ the secretary said, although it meant nothing to me. A few teachers popped into the office and one young Asian heritage woman shook hands with Marc and said she would be his teacher. Class lists of required items were handed out as was the summer’s homework.

Back at the hotel I began to panic, Marc should have read and reviewed a whole book by now. We dashed out to Borders bookshop and bought the book, but it was too long and set in America, with lots of different vocabulary which I needed to explain to him. I ended up speed-reading it to him over the next three days and doing the review for him.

Then there was the list of supplies to get ready. We hired a car and drove to a huge shop called Target, and in a crowd of pushing and grabbing parents searched for the school items required. A Sharpie pen, what the hell was that? An erasable pen? Did that exist yet (it does! Thanks Papermate!), a book stand (I didn’t know them that the books would be so heavy they had to supported..), a bottle of hand sanitizer and several Composition books and three-subject books which came in a variety of lines and sizes. We also stocked up on the mysterious fabric book covers that everyone else was buying…

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