Tuesday, August 25, 2009
When life sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown
You know that teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons who sounds like “Wa-wa-wahwa-wa-wa-wa?” Well, I’m pretty sure that’s how the kids are viewing life right now. It is obvious that we are not going back home any time soon and that this living in a strange land with people speaking another language is their reality and they are not particularly pleased with the situation.
Brian is fluent in Portuguese and is the reason we are here in the first place (on sabbatical from Boise State, to do some research, a Fulbright helping fund our time here). I have lived here one other time but should be much better at the language (for me it sounds a bit more like “wa-wa-a word or two I recognize-wahwa-wa,” as I smile and nod, but for Bas and Ginger, it might as well be a cartoon for all they understand at this point. Now that the novelty of our move is behind us, the real part of living abroad begins.
The kids had their first day of ‘school’ this morning. After spending last week visiting pre-schools in the area (public education does not begin until first grade), we discounted all that required the kids attend daily for 4 1/2 hours or more as well as requiring students to wear uniforms. As far as I can tell, most middle-class families have two working parents, so the pre-schoolers play with their maid in the morning, and attend a more ‘academic’ program in the afternoon. We really don’t see the need for our 5- and 3-year old to be asked to sit at a desk for such long stretches so opted for the morning session of the one school that didn’t have a uniform requirement (at least not in the morning session) about 20 minutes away by foot. As one parent described Colibri, it’s ‘after-school’ but before school, meaning one big playtime in the morning (their academic segment is in the afternoon as well). Once Bas and Ginger realized that they would be attending something akin to ‘kid-watch’ at the Y or Ginger’s Mom-and-Tot class at Wesleyan, the kids were quite happy to spend the morning romping around the playground and going in and out of the dress-up playroom and the like.
The one major drawback is that there aren’t many kids there in the morning. The director of the school says it’s because it’s cold season (there are signs everywhere about N1H1 and the importance of washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough), and as the weather warms up and kids are in better health that there will be more kids in the morning session. We’ll see. But at least we have a place for the kids to begin to hear Portuguese from others and attempt to make some sense of it in a nice, safe place a couple of days a week.
On the plus side, we spent last weekend out in the country to celebrate Brian's birthday. It must have agreed with the kids, because Bas said 'I didn't like coming to Brazil, but I like this (spending the morning walking along the rocky banks of a river with lots of little waterfalls).' It's a start!