Clara only began speaking the English language at most 2 years ago. And truthfully she is still quite hard to understand so I´m not sure it really phases her much that she is attending school where no one (ok, very few) people speak English. She was SO excited to be heading off for school! No tears or sadness, just smiles and waves. Yesterday, she ran into a boy in her class on the way to school and he wanted to hold her hand. It was cute and they proceeded off to school hand and hand with me trailing far behind with the other two. When they got to the gate the boy´s mom suggested that Clara might want to say good-bye to me. Otherwise, she´d have just gone right in without looking back. She came back that day with a braclet and pronounced that it was from her boyfriend.
Amelia was pretty hesitant at first. And I don´t blame her. She was being encircled by students speaking to her in Spanish wanting to know where she was from, what was her name, how old she was. I watched her through the school yard gate and at one point she just covered her ears with her hands and closed her eyes. Yeah, my heart was breaking. But the bell rang and off she went into the classroom and out she came at lunch pick-up smiling and saying how everyone wanted to know about her and HOW big the group of kids circling around her was. In the days since she has commented how “all day, everyday school” isn´t so bad. So that´s positive.
Violet had tears and was shy. And even now she cries and tries to hold onto me so I don´t leave. But when pick-up comes she tells me with a smiling face how her day went and what she enjoyed. The first day she told me all about how she had her own desk and how she was friends with everyone in her class, except the one boy who has “some problems following directions and getting along.” Ah – yes, there is always at least one.
I had a meeting with Clara´s teacher to go over the rules and recommendations for the class. I also had Amelia¨s teacher give me a list of things she needs and Amelia has come home and told us what everyone else has. Which does include a spinning top, the toy she purchased on her own from the China shop, and is very popular among the kids. I haven´t heard much from Violet`s teacher about what she may need. But Violet did tell me this morning she needs a towel, soap, and spray in a bag for gym class. When gym class is, I have no idea. All of these documents are given to me in Spanish. I try to translate with my little english/spanish dictionary but some of it makes no sense. Now that I know some shopkeepers that speak English, I take my list there to get the supplies. The paperwork I received from Clara´s teacher was the most descriptive and they even had a copy in English! As always there are some parts that get lost in translation or maybe not as much lost in translation but rather the choice of words is hilarious. Here is one of bullet points for Clara´s paperwork:
“Nobody is taking care of the others when the teacher is changing a child. So, if a child pisses day by day, we will call the parents so that they come to school for changing him/her.”
I about died laughing. Luckily, I was not in the classroom as I read this. But Amelia really wanted to know why I was laughing so hard. I tried to explain; but I think it was lost in translation.
Being that we´ve not been in public school I really have no idea how common these things are to have or what kids are expected to bring or not bring and will be provided for them. As I said before, the purchasing of the books and their cost was a BIG surprise. It would have been nearly $600 U.S. for all three kids plus the additional material fee´s paid to the classroom. The school does have a textbook assistance program and we were lucky enough to have the school decide to provide all the books for our kids. Clara needed a smock to wear with her name on it and a ribbon for hanging it; which I finally got yesterday but you remember how each success creates two other problems? Point proven. She also has to have $35 euros and two passport pictures. Amelia needs a tracksuit, trainers, soap and a towel for gym. I´m not sure I can visit 1983 to get her a tracksuit. Shorts and a t-shirt will have to suffice. A “flute” and $7 euros for music class. The flute is a recorder. Four notebooks, three pens (black, blue, red), pencils (which by the way have no erasers here), a see-through folder type thing, ruler, eraser and $8 euro for classroom supplies. Like I said, I have no list for Violet but have heard there is a classroom supply fee.
Yes, getting a smock should be easy. I was told the store to purchase it at. Which after three attempts the store was open. I don´t think I mentioned that most stores here open from 10am – 2pm, close and then reopen from 5:30 or 6pm to 8-10pm. As is standard and expected by now, no one there spoke English. I think I did a fairly good job of asking for what I needed and the shopkeep was very friendly. I browsed as well. And then it was time to pay. And I wanted to use my credit card. Which is not the norm here in this little town but I also can´t just keep paying cash either. The shopkeeper had an issue with the machine. She told me about it in Spanish. I smiled and shrugged. Offered to pay in cash. She shoke her head and told me about the problem with the “paper”. I assumed she was telling me the transaction when through but she was out of paper to print a receipt for me. Okay, fine. But then she tries the machine again and again. I pull out my dictionary to try to ask “Paid?” No go. I eventually figure out that I do indeed need to pay in cash, so I do so and she gives me the little paper that my dictionary translates into “locked.” Now, I assume my account has been locked. Maybe I forgot to tell the credit card company that I moved to Spain. oops. I go about my day, figuring I will call the credt card company with Jeff´s new cell phone later. Meanwhile, the shopkeeper has decided maybe the transaction DID go through and has called Jeff´s school (since it´s a small town and everyone now knows the American is working at the school). To which she speaks with the front office, who then tells Hema (my spelling not hers) who then tells Maria Hose who is working with Jeff that there was a problem with a purchase I had made in town. I don´t find out about all this until I meet Jeff after school. And then I try to call the credit card company but of course I can´t. I either don´t know how to call internationally or there is a problem with the “collect call” number on the back of the card. And I can´t look it up on the internet….because I HAVE NO INTERNET!!!
All and all the kids seem to be doing fine in school. Violet is learning her letters — while at home when we do our American homework she is learning to read, subtract and add. I have no idea what Clara does during the day. She did have music yesterday which she thought was great. And she´s rode some bicycles down a hill and had a fire drill. Amelia just tells me they had gym…again! Then they went for a walk outside to look at trees and then they just sit in the class. I asked her if they did math. She said she wasn´t sure. Hhmm….numbers are numbers?!? The school did start pulling Violet & Amelia out for personalized Spanish lessons. I guess that would be considered special services in the U.S.