Rees opts to stay home, the rest of us make it to the school in plenty of time. Early. Kadin is remarkably calm. It is all a bit grim at the school and all business. There is only one other family there, French speaking, when we arrive. Finally the headmistress appears and gives us a numbered card. A few minutes later she asks Kadin to follow her (in French). He doesn’t understand a word, but he goes. She reappears. No reassurances, no attempt to give us more information, like, for example, what this test is or how long it will take. More families have arrived. More children are given cards.
The headmistress makes a sort of announcement explaining something about times and results. I only catch something about 3 o’clock. Kadin is going to be here until 3:00? We are hopeless, unable to understand. The headmistress does not speak English, but adeptly finds another parent to translate. This turns out to be a godsend. The other mother is Carina. She is American, a French professor at Swarthmore, and is in Grenoble supervising the Swarthmore students' year abroad. Her sweet, shaggy haired son, Sam, is 8 and also waiting for his test.
Carina too has just arrived, but has lived in Grenoble before, about 3 years ago. She is obviously fluent. She translates some complicated instructions about how we will be contacted with results later in the afternoon and how we need to get some papers, bring some papers, get some signature at the town hall, bring them back, sign up for lunch. etc. The 3 o’clock I heard was actually 13 o’clock or 1 pm. And that is when the testing of all the students will be winding up. Results come after that, but the test itself is only about 20min. The headmistress will contact us via email in the afternoon.
Another dad standing nearby, Dave it turns out, has, on the whim of his Francophile wife, just moved the family to France. They were on vacation, now they are here for awhile. He speaks no French, so Carina briefs him as well. His wife, who does speak French, is meanwhile off signing their French lease. His older son, Dominic, is 7 and also plans to attend the school. His younger son will be in preschool. The three new American boys all have t-shirts that are too big and sport long, shaggy hair. They hit it off immediately. So sweet to see! So funny that they all have stubbornly kept their “locks.”
Then it turns out Carina and Sam live just a block north of us so we discuss possible “carpooling” or (really) bus/walk pooling. Carina answers many many of our questions and we take the bus back together. The test, which I thought was sort of a formality or a placement test, turns out to be a test of how well the students know English and it is possible a student will not be admitted (it is the only international elementary school in Grenoble and has tracks in English, French, and German). So glad I didn’t know that in advance! Not that Kadin doesn’t know English…
Strange that even though there is a great variety of Americans in the world, the first two we meet here are ones that we feel we know or have known. They are somehow like us and there is a common feeling of understanding and familiarity. Really great to talk to them and really great company.
Dave cracked me up after he took his younger son to the bathroom at school. He inquires of Carina, “And so what is up with the bathrooms? No toilet seats, just a hole in the ground, and the toilet paper is outside the stalls?” “That’s pretty common.” “What if you don’t have enough? What if you need more?“ “Make sure you take what you need,” she replies. “I saw that down south and I thought maybe it was a beach thing, but no. You're in, the toilet paper's out...” Too funny and good to know as I could totally see myself being caught out by that toilet paper thing!
Next mission: lunch and internet access. We had read about a good, relatively inexpensive restaurant in the old town that also had internet access, so we head there. The review was right, it was pleasant and had good food, but unfortunately, though we are surrounded by people working on their laptops online, we are unable to log on. We inquire about a code or how to log on, we are assured there is none. We are assured that the internet is working. We try three computers an iPod and and iPhone. Feeling shut out again. I am hungry and frustrated. I eat a huge salad of grilled veggies and dried ham and feel a bit better. We wait and wait for the bill. Greg finally leaves with Rees to find another nearby internet friendly café with the unfortunate name of “French Coffee Shop.” Turns out the bill was on the table all along. Kadin and I pay and leave.
At “French Coffee Shop” we have success! We get the needed “clé” (that's the word we've been looking for) and we’re on! I reopen my Etsy shop and answers emails, etc. I do this for the next 2 hours. The boys are antsy, so Greg takes them back to the apartment where he would like to nap. I tell him I’ll join him in about an hour and then we’ll finally do the grocery shop we’ve been meaning to do since we arrived.
Now that it’s Monday, the town has come alive. Honestly, it was a bit grim when we arrived. It was the end of August and the weekend so in the center city many places were shuttered. Only the dregs remained. All much more cheerful and inviting now that things are open. Instead of taking the tram home, I decide to walk and take a shorter route I remember seeing on the map. I have to pee but someone is in the bathroom so I just head out. Shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
In no time, I am completely disoriented and have no idea if the street angling slightly to the right or the one angling slightly to the left is my best bet to get home. I had in mind that I would eventually hit one of two main cross streets that would lead me back to the apartment, but I don’t find either one. If I were in Boulder I could just use the mountains to get my bearings. Here, there are mountains all around and I try to recognize if they are the ones to the east or the west. However, at the north end of town is a good landmark, the Bastille, the large fort in the bow of the river Isère. Finally I spot the Bastille and adjust my course.
Then I get the idea to look for the trees of Cours Jean Jaurès. Then I see trees everywhere. My need to pee has increased dramatically. I find a big Habitat store but press onward. Finally, I spot the elevated train tracks that run above the market. I am not far! Just a few more blocks and I’m home. Mental note to self: don't leave home without a map. Pee at every opportunity. Near the train tracks I spot a discarded table…
It’s not that we don’t have everything we need, it’s just that I stole the table out of the kid’s room and put it in my room to set it up as my jewelry workshop. The kids have taken to cutting paper and making things on their floor. So, after a pee and a brief rest at home (where I find a map and locate the circuitous route I took), Rees and I go to check out the table.
It is a small gate leg table with a white laminated top and metal legs. One of the leaves of the top has come off its hinges. That looks pretty fixable to me, so Rees carries the leaf and I carry the table, scanning for screws we might find in the sidewalk. Thanks to the tool box in the closet and a supply of screws found there as well, the table is back in shape in no time.
The kids set up shop and start making their paper creations on the table. I have an enormous sense of satisfaction at my first scavenge.
Finally, we make it to the grocery store and cook up our first home made meal in weeks: rice, curried lentils (dal), and a salad with iceberg, maché, and two colors of tomatoes. I am so craving this simple food! Chocolate and a glass of wine top it off perfectly.
After diner we watch something on French TV called Plus Belle La Vie. It is a soap opera, but we like it because we can see the people talking and they speak relatively clearly and slowly, not like on the news or a faced-paced reality show where the voices are clipped and often off screen. Still, I can’t understand a thing, but I’m hoping that will change with time. I’m thinking this will be our show as it ends at 8:40, a perfect bedtime.
Even though I left the internet café at around 3:30, I never did find out the test results. Hope that doesn’t mean he didn’t get in. Too tired to hike back the café tonight. Tomorrow.
Seems there is plenty to do, but we don’t feel rushed.