So Carina told an interesting story about a French lecture she attended where she was taking notes with a ballpoint pen. The lecturer saw what she was doing and stopped his lecture to ask her how she could dare deign take notes in HIS class with anything but a fountain pen. He found it insulting that she would use a crap ballpoint pen to take note of his words. Wow.
I had heard some nightmare stories of the school supplies here and how you have to buy lots of them and how complicated and confusing it can be. Well, at least so far, it is true that there are lots to buy and it is complicated and confusing, but no worse than in Boulder. If I had arrived in Boulder and didn’t speak the language and tried to understand what the teachers were requesting, I would find that a nightmare too.
Since I expected worse, it hasn’t been too bad. And I have mellowed significantly over the years since my boys take about zero interest in school supplies and see their pencils, erasers, paper clips, and tape as more raw material for sculptures and weapons than as precious, appealing tools. They rarely use everything I provide because it’s overwhelming. So my motto in that department has become: less is more. I do it more for me than for them.
The biggest problem I had with school supplies here is that I planned to buy them on a Sunday. We got the list on Thursday and Friday and Saturday were filled with other obligations (like banks and insurance and making a gluten free cake that Greg volunteered me to bring to a dinner party Saturday evening). Little did I know that the huge hypermarchés are all closed on Sundays. It was so hard to imagine on Friday, when I was hurrying past one on my way to the bank, that this giant complex with a parking lot full of cars would be a dead zone one day of the weekend. But it is. Sadly, fermé.
So I would do it Monday. I had to write a note in Kadin’s cahier apologizing that we had only been here a week and his mother did not realize the stores were closed on Sunday. He was a bit nervous going back to school without supplies, but what can you do? (Besides, I think he has sort of been taken under the wing of this sweet, precocious tri-ligual American girl who translates for him and shares her supplies with him.)
True to Carina’s story, the strangest thing on the list for me was the fountain pen. Seriously? For nine year old boys? The French, as Carina so painfully experienced at a much higher stage of education, take their pens very seriously and they start with fountain pens early. Students Kadin’s age are expected to use pens almost exclusively (and write in cursive). Pencils are only for drafts. The quality of the fountain pen is apparently important and you can find a huge range in prices from 3 euros to 100s of euros. I think Kadin was taught handwriting but never taught to CARE about his handwriting. This will be something new.
Now I know that fountain pens are nice to write with and more expressive. I also know they help you form your letters consistently from the top down. And, I guess in a place where many documents are still hand written, handwriting is important. But for me, the thought of young boys with cartridges of ink is just bad feng shui. All I can do is envision exploding ink!
Carina said that the upshot of the professor’s ridicule was the students rallying around her saying they were horrified by his behavior and telling her where and how to get an affordable fountain pen. And she said she still has the jeans that have a big stain on them where that first fountain pen she purchased leaked.
And what do you know? Rees is psyched about his fountain pen and is practicing his signature for the first time in his life. Kadin too seems to be trying to make his letters consistently from the top down. Two minor miracles as far as I am concerned. I'll take it while it lasts!