Monday, 30 June 2008

Hurrah, J is promoted from Premier Enfantine

It has been a long first school year in J's life. Premier Enfantine or the Swiss equivalent of junior kindergarten starts at age 4. J and his great mate Adam Ant started Premier Enfantine together; the only anglophones in a sea of french-speaking kids. As expected, they initially created their own English-only island in said sea. Some strategizing between us parents, the teachers and the school's inspectrice, and the boys were partially separated from one another and gradually integrated. First obstacle overcome.

J started the 2007-08 academic year with his vocabulary limited to answering 'Oui' to every question posed to him from "Vous allez bien?" (how are you?) to "Est-ce que vous voulez de sauce piquante avec votre chocolate?" (do you want hot sauce with your chocolate?). His mastery ended with "Regarde-moi" (look at me) and "Viens" (come). He ended the year speaking full sentences. Second obstacle overcome.

J is also somewhat averse to change. He had his circle of friends (mostly other english-speaking Canadians) and wasn't invested enough in school to make the effort to engage the french-speaking children. Early in the year, it broke my heart to see him playing alone or resisting any attempts by the other kids to include him. All of my Canadian friends urged me to stay the course, having been down this road themselves. By the end of the year, he had weekly playdates with the other kids and was the Pied Piper of Escargots collecting. Third obstacle overcome.

Finally, J is a very spirited child. He is imaginative, active, independant and benefits from a lot of physical and mental challenge. The restraint demanded by school rules, school routine and strict Swiss discipline was difficult for him to adapt to for much of the year. But a reward system at home, praise from his teachers and a slow acceptance of expectations won the day by the end of the year. Fourth obstacle overcome.
This weekend, our village celebrated Promotion where all of the school children are promoted from one grade to the next. They parade though the streets accompanied by village dignitaries, a marching band, and frantically photograph-snapping parents. This cortege is followed by a village dinner of saucisses, frites and glaces, and a full-on carnival atmosphere complete with bungy-jumping, mini roller-coasters, flying boat rides, babarpapa (cotton candy), a live band and dancing. This is the 3rd year we have participated in Promotion and we had a ball. We got home at 10:00 pm.J anticipated Promotion with the same enthusiasm as he did his birthday party. He was so excited, he hardly slept the night before and counted down the hours until the cortege at 4:30. He marched proudly, hand-in-hand with his french-speaking pal Alyssa. The next day, he sadly lamented the end of the school year and asked how long it was until he could start Deuxieme Enfantine.You've come a long way baby, mummy is very proud of you and of us.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Father's Day Redux 2008

Weather: Sunny and 30 degrees

Place: Lake Geneva, Geneva Switzerland

Spectacular spills: Too many to count

Injuries: One waterski to the chin, one nettle sting

Happy Kids: 7

Happy Big Kids: 7

Happy Wet Dogs: 2

Price: 3.50 CHF per minute

Friendship and laughter: priceless

Monday, 16 June 2008

The French Connection

I am a terrible parent. Or at least I did a terrible thing. Last Saturday I completely forgot about a birthday party that J was invited to and looking very forward to attending. Caught up in T-ball, C2's return from a week in Bordeaux and an hour of sunshine, the party never even entered my mind until 6:00 pm when a friend called to ask if J was sick. I felt awful.

Birthday parties are a very big deal at age 5 and fantastic occasions for J to mingle with his french-speaking classmates and further integrate into our community. There are geo-social advances made with every one of these opportunities. So being mature and poised, I immediately e-mailed the classmates' mother with apologies for J's sudden onset of fever. There you go, no feelings hurt, no social slight, no harm done. C2 asked how J would keep to the story. Story? what story? He can't explain himself that well in french yet, so I wasn't worried.

This morning J walked into school with a gift for the classmate who received it with pleasure. As they walked away, I overheard J say "Voici ton cadeau, Marie, ma maman a oublié ton fête d'anniversaire".

The good news is J's french is coming along beautifully.

Rain, Rain Go Away

Have I mentioned that it's been raining here? Actually, that would be an understatement. It has been raining here since February. Months ago , I kept thinking "ok, spring has to come sometime soon". But no, it has been one protracted Geneva winter warmed by maybe a few degrees.

We have had the odd glimpse of sun and then we pale, vitamin-D deprived souls raise our pasty faces to the sky and breathe a fleeting breath of sun-warmed air.

The rain-soaked fans at the Euro 2008 football tournament don't seem bothered. They still parade through downtown streets hooting and hollering, draped proudly in their nation's (damp) flags. J isn't bothered at all. In fact, rain makes for wonderful escargot collecting. 42 escargots in one afternoon is his current record.

But me? My hair is frizzy, my feet are cold and I have yet to water my outdoor plants. I have family arriving in 2 weeks for a beach vacation just south of Geneva.

The forecast for tomorrow? 16 degrees and rain...sigh.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Where I'm At

In case you failed to notice, I have been decidedly silent for the last month or so. It started after a dear friend and the finest blogger I know started being e-stalked and some of the fun faded for those of us putting our day to day life experiences out there. I've debated taking this blog private but my intention had been for this to be an open letter to my family and friends, recounting snippets and soundbites of our European experience. So for the moment I think I will carry on, though I will remove some name and place specifics from future postings.

Then I got robbed - ugh. For the second time in two years. It seriously deflated my enthusiasm for a while. While violent crime in Europe is decidedly lower than in North America, petty crime is definitely higher!

For the last three months, my mum (and J's favorite other grown-up) had been visiting with us. It was wonderful, we toured, day-tripped, and played together. She enthusiastically and with great humour and humility stepped into our busy lives for a short time. She was a welcome fellow traveller who continues to embrace life and her family with the greatest of gusto. We are very blessed. She returned home to Canada a week ago - bummer!

J turned 5 this month and I'm not quite sure how that happened but in spite of my best efforts to keep him small, he keeps growing - double bummer!

Today, however, I got a glaring perspective reminder. I reconnected with my former boss from a long-time client school whose 18-year old son has been serving on active duty in Iraq since January. This month, I fretted over planning a 5-year old's 5th birthday party. My friend JL worried about his son reaching his 19th.

Time to find my voice again.