Yesterday I managed to register the kids into school. It was not the 30 minute visit I was hoping for. In fact, it took pretty much all day. Around 10am we walked into l’Hotel de Ville (city hall) we passed through security, handed over our bags, went through metal detectors and fumbled a bit with the language barrier. Once we found the department we needed, we learned we had been mislead. A kind lady behind a desk fumbled with us and gave us directions to the education building which was actually quite a walk away (Ok, not really, everything is within walking distance). We made our way through a maze of narrow roads, checking out all the shops along the way. Once we found the education building (Not as simple as it should have been) we made our way inside and tried to decipher what to do and where to go according to all the signs facing us. We needed to see whatever person was in charge of our secteur (district). Ok, that was also not an easy feat to figure out. As we fumbled with our maps and addresses, an employee came to help. Sometimes in these situations if you are taken off guard you need to put the foreign words together in your head before they come out of your mouth. As I was once again fumbling with what to say and how to say it, my saviour daughter walked right up and told the lady why were there and what we needed. Phew, thanks kid. She took a look at our addressees, checked on a computer and told us who we needed to see. She also told us the first piece of news that would shatter us, Kyla and I, though close enough to throw rocks at each others apartments, did not live in the same school district. “Could we change schools and put the kids together?” She didn’t know, she worked with a different district. That part I understood.
We grabbed a seat and waited for the person we needed to see to be done with the person before us. The person before us was very interesting. Yelling, crying, hollering, crying and generally making a scene. I really couldn’t tell what all the fuss what about, but I took the time to imagine all the scenarios in which I myself would be so upset. I have quite the imagination.
After a while we met the gentleman who would be taking a large chunk of his day to register all 4 kids into the public school system. He was obviously a little stressed out from the people before us but despite being frazzled, he tried his best to speak english, some of which he has been learning from his girlfriend. We tried our best to speak french, it was a good compromise. Why don’t we have copies of everything, he asked. We sent in copies, we were told to bring in originals. Ok, so the poor dude spent at least 25 minutes just standing at a copier. We went over before and after school care (Of which we were not needing, but I was surprised at how much care was offered) and cafeteria options (Um, yes please! Hot lunches everyday, no more cold sandwiches? We were ALL on board for that). Then he said he wanted to go for lunch and asked us to come back in a few hours, he said he’d work on our files, probably. I’m coming to learn that attitude is king around here.
Ok, Walk back across town, lunch, coffee, laundry, DO. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP. Walk back across town, again. We asked again about having the children in the same school, again he said “Maybe” after a while he spoke with a lady and most of the fast paced, frustrated sounding conversation I could understand “There just isn’t room” “They can barely take the two in this district” “I will check in the other district” “No, there just isn’t room, maybe if they came at the start of the year” Damn. Kids, bummed out. As he was finishing up my kids registration he picked up the phone to call the principal and let them know about the 2 new students. Totally unexpectedly he turned to me and said “Can you please go meet him at 3:45?” Umm… I showed him the clock, it was 3:30. Yes, he said to the principal, he would send us. Here, take these papers and rush across town, RIGHT NOW. By the way, your new principal doesn’t speak a lick of english. No problem, that’s what we want to encounter. Rush, kids, rush. “Bonjour, je suis ici pour M. Pxxxxx” his response was something along the lines of “SATEAMNE ET BLOSEDUNC PROFA ICI” Oh, shit. I turned to Kaylee to see if she understood, she shook her head. “Attendez” he said. So I did. After a few minutes waiting at a giant gate he brought us back to his office and we exchanged words, slowly, and as clearly as possible. The children were quiet and didn’t move from hiding behind me. He gave me some paperwork he told me to bring back in the morning. He told me in France, it is NOT ok to be late for school. Since we’re still up wildly early and live 5 minutes away, I didn’t anticipate problems. I asked him if the children needed to bring things, he didn’t understand. I asked what the children should take to school, he told us to walk. OK, we’ll see… I THINK he told me the kids will be put into classes based on their year of birth and moved after a week of evaluation if necessary. He showed us the courtyard where the children played, he showed us the lunch room where the children must go each morning to tell the cook “Je Mange Aujourd’hui” I asked if the kids could eat lunch together, he said no, they eat with their class but for the first day only, pas problem. He escorted me back through the giant gates and said the teachers would greet the children in the morning. “Bon Journee”. And that was that.
Once I got back to the apartment I filled out the papers to the best of my ability. What the hell is student insurance anyways? I was sacred and nervous, the kids were tired and hungry. Thank god for pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. Ignore the fact that they have feet on them and just make a salad, pour a glass of wine (Booze, hella cheap here, it’s not a wonder we see so many day time drunks).
Today, the kids are at school. I found a supermarket and bought some pantry and fridge supplies, I got a pull cart. I got a french phone number so tomorrow I won’t spend all day thinking the kids may have cracked their heads open and the teachers have no way to get ahold of me (Getting a french phone number by the way, NOT as easy as my research lead me to believe!) . I’m going to try my best to stay up past 7:30pm so I’m not waking up so damned early, but we’ll see how it goes. Yawn.