Thursday, January 7, 2010

Easing into the Routine

Hello everyone,

I cannot believe that it has been a week since we arrived on the farm just outside of Eymet (which is about a half hour south of Bergerac and an hour east of Bordeaux). We arrived on New Year's Eve and made a quick stop at the local Carrefour for provisions before it closed, namely, Bordeaux wine. Oh, and food of course. Hank is like a kid in a candy shop. When we first arrived in France and were still spending euros like drunken sailors on leave, he bought a few Grand Crus for about $20 each (that would retail in the States for over $100+). They were great and all, but when I put him on a stricter shopping budget, he began focusing on the $5 euro local wines which were actually even better tasting most of the time. So, that's where he is now. Driving through snow (yep, snow in the area described as "mild in climate" when I researched it many months ago) and shopping yet again for our "provisions." This time Caleigh and her new best friend, Hannah, are with him as they are all going to pick up another friend, Skye, for a double sleepover tonight. Caleigh is doing great after having survived her first week of all french school. We could not have asked for a better situation. But first I should describe how she began her first day already having local friends. The proprietor of our wonderful house here, Isabelle, not only assisted us in getting her into this wonderful school (by letting us use her parent's address so we were in the right district, including a free ride on the bus every day), but she introduced Caleigh to a local girl named Solene that we would be carpooling with (to drop 4 kids off at the bus stop). By way of facebook and ichat, etc., Caleigh was able to meet numerous kids - French, British & Kiwis, and with the internet translation sites, she has been able to communicate with the French kids for months. Then Isabelle hosted a nice little afternoon fete last Saturday afternoon where we met the other three families that we would be carpooling with. Nicalas' parents, Sophie et Olivier own the local winery (what luck!). They may not have known much English and we certainly cannot speak proper French yet, but we most definitely spoke the same language with regards to vin although I’m pretty sure Hank insulted the winemaker when he asked if his wine was filtered. “Of course, I filter my wine.” To which Hank replied that he kind of enjoyed the less refined wines; wines that still had residue. Then there was Solene's parents, Fabienne and Jean-Mare who farm barley and sweet, shy, Matthieu's parents, Agne's et Jean-pierre who are raise vaches (cows). They were all so pleasant and kind and we have even been invited to join them for Thursday night volleyball games. That's right, volleyball. I cannot wait.

So on Monday we get up in the dark and take Caleigh the 20km to Duras and are unfortunately quite early so that all of the kids of the school (and I really do mean, ALL) are able to check us out through the fishbowl-like windows for about a half hour before the first bell. Caleigh was mortified, but luckily some of her new friends were there to greet her and give her the double kisses. Soon after, we all met with the principal and vice principal, M. Polegato & M. Bonotto (or Mister "B"). They were incredibly gracious and after reviewing Caleigh's near perfect grades (hey, I'm a proud mom) and she promised not to chew gum in class (that was of the teacher's comments from Paul Revere Middle School), they decided to put her into 4 eme verses the 5 eme which is equivalent of putting her with the older 7th graders/young 8th versus the 6th/7th scenario we were originally planning on. We will see how this all pans out of course as the language will continue to be a barrier. But she is excelling in Maths, Anglais and Sports already (who knew that they would be focusing on gymnastics this term?). Now, French, Spanish, Physics, History and so on might prove to be very challenging, but she's a hard worker so I am confident she will be fine, especially since she does not want to lower her grade. But at least in this school of only 250, there is not as much distinction between the kids' grade level as in the states since they all hang out together and apparently the boys like you no matter what grade you are as Caleigh found out this week with I don't know, about 5 or so boys asking her out in French mind you. Merde!

So, while Caleigh has been at school all week, Hank and I have been trying to figure out how to open a bank account (check. we did it after 3 attempts once we knew the exact paperwork necessary). We also came oh, so close to purchasing our local mobile phones with a basic plan. We even did so in our limited French as the saleswoman did not speak English. I was quite proud of this feat until we realized that we actually had to have our carte bancaire (French bank debit card) which would not actually arrive for another week. So this was about right as everything we have done has taken at least 3-4 attempts and we definitely learned new things every time. In between getting settled and setting things up, I did suffer from a few bouts of anxiety when I finally realized that we were not returning home from "vacation" any time soon (nor could we even if we wanted to as there is a family living in OUR house), that neither one of us had jobs in probably one of the worst economies since the depression, and with all of this togetherness time, I could not help but wonder if we were going to drive each other frickin crazy after a few weeks. Thankfully, that feeling has subsided as I look at my stack of books you all have given us and I actually have time to read; I sign up to take a local french conversation class so I can really get to know our neighbors; and for the first time in my life, I actually have the time to admire the beauty around me. I'm sure it will rear it's ugly head again, but for now, I'm feeling pretty confident and good about this decision. It's just kind of scary at times too.

anyway, I'm going to go sit by the fire with a book and have some pg tips (thank God for the Brits in the area). Take care. Know we love you and miss you and stay in touch. Oh yeah, "magic jack" is indeed magic so please call us every once in a while at 310-XXX-XXXX. just remember that we are 9 hours ahead.

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