Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Megan's First Day of Dutch School

Yep, that's right- DUTCH school. For those of you who read this but don't speak with us on a daily basis, we decided months ago to put Megan in Dutch public school instead of an American or International school. Mostly because it is butt-expensive ($15K-21K per year), but also because we were going to be here for a long enough time that we thought it wise for her to have friends in the neighborhood and pick up Dutch along the way.

On her first day, Meg and I walked the 3-4 minute walk to her new school and sat in the classroom together. (On her first day the director told me I could come and stay with her as long as she needed me.) Several other parents (most, actually) came in with their children, sat a minute and visited with their child or read a book with them, and then left instead of dropping them at the door. Meg's classmates range in age from 4-6, so there were a few hesitant students- I think the parents that stayed belonged to 4-5 year olds.

Class started at 8:30, and Megan's teacher, Luz, called roll while the students sat on benches in a circle centered around a small desk. When she said each student's name they had a chance to share a little something with the entire class, or could say they had nothing to say. There were a few kids that had new items (backpack, shoes, jackets) and when they shared this news with the class they went and retrieved the item (if it wasn't already there in the class) and marched around inside the circle of students while they all sang a song. Meg and I were totally clueless, of course- it's all in Dutch. EVERYTHING was in Dutch. I was totally overwhelmed, but Megan seemed just fine.

After roll call, Luz read a chapter from a book to the students and took pause every page or so to clue Megan in on what was happening in the story. Not an in-depth bit, just a "they are painting a picture" or "that's the teacher's name" kind of thing. Again, I was lost, but could pick out little words ("blau" blue, "rood" red, "meische" girl, "jouen" boy, etc.). Then after story time they separated into groups to do activities. Luz put Megan with a group who were coloring pictures, and told her a few color names and said to color whatever and however she wanted.

I have to take a second to try and describe Megan's teacher with any matter of justice. Luz is probably late 40's to 50's, and not typically Dutch in her appearance- she has brown eyes and hair, and is not super tall like a lot of the women here. She is by no means short, but she is about my height (5'7"-ish) and medium build. Her physical description by no means describes her character- she is delightfully warm, nurturing to the children in her class, and yet at the same time is no-nonsense about running her classroom. She is a Dutch version of your favorite grandmother, with a little less of the stuff that makes them spoil their grandkids. In short, Megan instantly was at ease with her, and the more I watched her interact with the class the more I admired her. She has the patience of a Saint with those kids- not that they were bad, mind you, just that they were kids 4-6 years old.

Oh, and the kids- they were so CALM and well behaved! I don't know what it is, but there was only one kid that seemed distracted while Luz was talking or reading, and even the boys were able to sit still during the circle time. When they split into groups, the boys played calmly and quietly- I don't understand it, but I will be paying more attention to the parenting here. (It could also be diet- there were no spaz-inducing American snacks at snack time, mostly breakfast bar type fruit and bread snacks, which are far less sweet than those from the US, and mild juices, and WATER, believe it or not!)

Megan managed to NOT talk to any of the students for the longest time- she shyly reached for colors and walked around the tables for things instead of interacting with the other kids. There is a boy who is bilingual (Dutch and English) who Luz paired up with Megan, and only then did she start to talk a little. After I noticed that she was trying to get me to do the talking for her did I think it was time for me to leave, so I did. She objected at first, but after a minute was ok with the idea when it was time to change activities. I ran into town for things like a hair dryer and coffee. VERY important.

When I came to pick her up at noon, Megan looked exhausted but happy- she really has missed being with other kids, and I guess I didn't realize how important that is to her. When I asked how the rest of her day was she said "Fine" and when prompted for details I got an "I don't remember" which is totally normal. I figured more of her day would come out in conversation the rest of the afternoon.

We ran back into the shopping district for lunch and to grab some clothing items for her- she managed to make it to the Netherlands with only 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of pants, 1 skirt and a pair of overalls. And I think the skirt is wayyy big on her. She has plenty of shirts and sweaters, mind you, just not many things to cover her lower extremeties- nobody's fault but mine, as I didn't pull out the dirty laundry from the hamper before the movers grabbed it and packed it. Aarrgh. If you can help it, NEVER MOVE LIKE I DID. (ie, poorly planned) Anyhow, we picked up several pairs of cotton leggings for Meg, which all the little girls here wear a LOT, and got lunch at a little cafe before we headed home.

When we got home, we did some laundry, I worked some on the computer while Megan played, and then when Kip got home everyone in the house had a total nuclear meltdown. It was UGLY. Don't get me wrong, it is 100% normal- our stress levels are high, what with not speaking the language, not having furniture or anything normal in the house, Megan not eating anything because of xenophobia regarding food, and Kip not getting paid and our expenses starting to stack up. We made it through, a little worse for wear, but we all still love each other, and we managed to get Megan to try some chicken lunchmeat at dinner time, which she ended up actually liking and wanting more of at bedtime, and we all went to bed at a relatively decent hour.

Stress. I think I have had a lifetime of it since May, most of it in the last 2 weeks. It is much harder to handle now that it's just the three of us- we are so used to having more outlets and more of a network to hold us up, and now that it's just us 3 holding each other up, I expect us to fall more often that we have in the past.

But good news- Kip got an email from the shippers Monday night, they have all our stuff packed in a 20-foot container, ready for departure! We should have our junk before the middle of October!!! Nothing like a little good news to brighten a mostly cloudy evening.

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