My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Packing up

Instead of packing up the last of Jed's things, I am blogging.  I have almost finished anyway.  Surprisingly, all of his things still fit into one big suitcase.  He has outgrown a lot of his clothes so we are giving those away, and he also gave away some toys.  

This is a photo of the only thing that we are fighting about.  Jed wants to take all of these rocks back to America.  We spread them out on this table, and he chose his favorites, but when I left for the grocery store, Sam told me that he put them all back into his backpack.  Those things weigh a ton!   

Jed's last day of school

Nine months ago, I took Jed's photo on the balcony of our apartment before taking him to his first day of school.  He has grown up in so many ways since then.  I can't begin to express how proud I am of him.    

Jed took vases of roses to his teacher, to the principal, and to an assistant who helped him with his homework during the week.  We ordered a big brownie and took coca and limonade for his classmates.  

I picked Jed up after his last sports practice, and Bénédicte was there to get her boys.  She has been saying all year that she just wanted ONE kiss from Jed.  Unfortunately, he refused until the bitter end.  He was willing to give her a hug and to let her kiss his cheek, but he did not reciprocate.  I could tell that the goodbyes were awkward for him, but he did his best.    

Lorenzo often walked with me to pick up Jed from French lessons or sport.  Then the two of them would race home leaving me far behind.  Today was no different.  Jed has loved this kid like no other.  I'm going to miss hearing them talk and giggle and play in the courtyard.   

Dom always thinks of ways to make my life easier.  Tonight, she invited us over for pizza and salad.

Knowing how FreeGun-obsessed my child is, she, Néo, and Eytan gave him a FreeGun t-shirt as a going away present.  Look at that smile!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Going-away party for Jed

Where?  Récréa9
When?  Wednesday, May 30th 1:00-4:00
Who?     The boys:  Mattéo, Kylian, Néo, Sofiane, Lorenzo, and Jed
               The mamas:  Dom, Bénédicte, Margaret
               The papa:  Sam
               Absent:  Ange

Photos coming soon.  I have papers to grade first.  Boooooooooooo!

OK, here they are!

Six boys in a ball pit.

Mattéo, Lorenzo, Jed

Ready to slide.

Kylian and Mattéo made Jed a really nice banner.

This reminds me of the note that Mattéo wrote to Jed when he first arrived asking if Jed wanted to be his friend.  What a nice friendship it's been!

Kylian and Sofiane

Lorenzo and Sofiane

The stinky shoes under the parents' table!

Sofiane gave Jed something that we all agreed was a great idea:  a France soccer jersey.  Jed was thrilled!  


On Tuesday, we said goodbye to Geneviève, the volunteer who has helped Jed on Tuesday afternoons all year.  He thought that she was too strict at first, but he came to appreciate her in the end.  He certainly has her and his main French teacher, Françoise Estival, to thank for his progress.
Unfortunately, we will not see Françoise before Jed leaves.  I called her this morning, and she is in a meeting in Valence tomorrow and will not be able to go by Jed's school.  We have a present for her, which we will leave with the principal.  I blubbered my thanks to her over the phone, and she told me how proud she is of Jed.  She said that he really opened up at the end and made lots of progress really quickly.
 I hope that this will lead to a lifetime love of learning languages and that he will continue to speak French.  I've told him that the next time I come back it will probably be to visit him while he studies here.    

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today we celebrated Pentecost (and my forty-fourth official day off!!!) by having a picnic at the Base de Loisirs.  We feasted on sandwiches, camembert cheese, cherry tomatoes, potato salad, and cantaloupe.  The boys played frisbee and cops and robbers and skipped stones on the lake while Dom and I talked and Sam read and stretched out in the sun.  It was a pretty relaxing day.

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

Dom and Eytan

  The big boys were too rough for Eytan so he sat on the bench with Sam for a while.

Jed wasn't jealous, was he?  He ran up right as I was taking the previous photo.

Flower photo

I've been enjoying this bouquet since Friday night when Mr. Galléa recognized me along with the organizers of the performance.  He gave each of us pink roses, and then Jed added the daisies on Saturday when we went to Poët Laval.  I love the combination.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last Fencing Tournament

     We've reached the time in our exchange when everything that we do is a "last" rather than a "first."  Most of the time, we get through these events without a lump in our throats, but today was emotional.  We travelled to Aubenas (about 45 minutes from here) for Jed's last fencing tournament.  He has been looking forward to it for weeks because he wanted to impress Sam.
    He won only one match today, but he remained upbeat and competitive throughout all five.  He ended up placing 21st out of 27 competitors, and he received his first fencing medal since this was also the last tournament of the year for this particular club.
    Jed did not want the day to come to an end because he didn't want to say goodbye to his coaches, Clément and Max.  He and Sam got cards for both and a Free Gun (what else?) certificate for Clément.  We also attached a South Carolina flag pin to each card and gave them to the guys at the end of the tournament.  I could see that Jed felt like crying and so did I when when we finally said goodbye.
    It's been a wonderful year for my little boy despite the challenges that he faced in the beginning, and I am grateful to everyone who played a part in making it meaningful for him.  As we left the gym, with Jed singing a made-up song about how much he loved his medal, Sam noticed a beautiful rainbow over the mountains.  It was a nice way to end the day.

Jed's last fencing class on Wednesday.

The elimination round.

Boys with hardware.

Clément, Jed, and Max
These guys are coaches and counselors.  They had to console crying kids all day.

Jed LOVES his medal!

A proud dad moment.  


Poët Laval for the third time

On Saturday afternoon, Jed and I went back to Poët Laval to show it to Sam, Dom, Néo, and Eytan.  It was sunny and hot, but up in the hills it felt nice.

Even though it was out third trip to the old village, Jed and I still saw some places that we had never seen before.  This is the entrance to a free art gallery.  The woman there was very nice.  She refilled our water bottles and even let the children touch a few things.

Behind the boys is the gallery owner's outdoor seating area, which is closed to the public.  It looked very inviting.  Eytan made us laugh all day.

Me and my adventure buddy.

Jed enjoyed showing his dad around.

There were lots of flowers in bloom this time.

At the top of the dungeon.  We threatened to leave the kids here, and they said that they wanted to lock up the moms.  They were willing to spare the dad, for some reason.

Jed in front of the ruins of a chapel.

Jed trying to further ruin the chapel.

I lightened this up using Photoshop, but it looks strange now.  Oops!

My other adventure buddy.

Spectacle de fin d'année

Even though it's not really the end of the year, the school had its big end of year show on Thursday and Friday night.  I have been attending chorus practice on Tuesday at lunch all year so I sang with the kids and tried to hide out in the back so that I would not look like the world's oldest eighth grader.

At our dress rehearsals on Monday and Thursday, I took a few photos of all of the acts.  Our chorus sang several songs written by the students of the collège in collaboration with the composer Vincent Gaffet.  We also sang "The Rose" in English, which made me cry almost every time.

Sweet Marie-Lise allowed me to sing with her group, and I am so grateful.  It was a lot of fun.  Her maternity leave started Friday night after the concert.  We were glad that she made it that far!  Anne, Marie-Lise's assistant, was happiest of all, I'm sure.  She was ready to take over, if necessary, but she preferred to sing in the chorus with us.

The theme of the show was "Un Musée Pas Comme Les Autres."

The "sixièmes" did a butterfly dance.

Frames were used beautifully in many of the numbers.  The gym teachers, Brigitte and Marianne, choreographed all of the dances, and the art teacher, Sylvaine, worked on costumes and set pieces.  

The "troisièmes" girls.  Their routine was my favorite.

The "troisièmes" boys were impressive too.

A cute trio from my quatrième un class.  (I'm not putting names in case their families would not approve.)

Waiting "en coulisses."  I teach two of the three girls.

Girls from my cinquième trois class.

Two more girls from cinquième trois plus a new little friend on the right.

The girls who sang near me in the performance and made sure that I did not have a cheat sheet with the words to the songs.  

Three boys from quatrième un.  These three were part of a group that interviewed me for the school newspaper earlier in the year.  They've also helped me with technology and have just been nice to me in general.  

Some girls from quatrième un and boys who jumped into their photo.