Today was the first day of school for the kids. There were nerves, and there was bravery. I was proud that they rallied, and with such success! We walked them into the school yard, passing through the gates where all the other parents were standing, accidentally parading them in front of the whole student body. We found the principal and the French teacher who would be working with I. and B. for the day. The principal was jolly; we chatted a bit, and sensing our apprehension he told us, “You can go,” and pointed to the gates. By this time all the other parents had left, and the yard was empty.
Since it was a half day, the plan was to stay in town until the kids got out of school. We had errands: Wash clothes, go to Orange for phone stuff, groceries. Orange wasn’t open, so we went to a boulangerie, and asked where the nearest launderette was. “Near the Intermarche.” We discovered the ingenious thing about this laundry is that it is in the parking lot of the grocery store – literally in the parking lot. You can put your clothes in the washer (which provides its own detergent) for thirty minutes, run into the store and shop, and then come back out and put your stuff in the dryer. While the stuff is drying, you can read a book, smoke, wash your car, get gas, or smoke. Or smoke, again. We put a week’s worth of laundry into the giant washer, and went to grab a coffee.
We went to a hotel about two blocks away, and ordered two coffees with milk. 10 minutes later, someone else came out to take our order. After a third person came to take our order Bryan said, “I think this is going to take longer than 30 minutes,” so he went to put the laundry in the dryer. The moment he was out of view, the coffee came – two espressos. I drank one, and then I drank the other. About five minutes later Bryan returned, so I went inside, ordered another espresso (which she handed me instantly) paid for the three of them and delivered it out to Bryan.
I was totally out of my head. We went back to the grocery, sat and talked about upcoming events until the clothes dried. We folded them, put them in the car, and walked back up to the Orange store.
At Orange, I got a new French phone number and all my questions answered about sim cards. At the end of the transaction, the guy helping us went back over to the computer, and Bryan and I stood there waiting for further direction. After about 30 seconds he looked up, saw us standing there, and said, “That’s it. You can go,” with a big smile. We all laughed.
I drove Bryan home, went to the grocery store, picked up a few things and went back to pick up the kids. I was about 20 minutes early, and saw all the kids on the yard for break. I figured I. and B. wouldn’t be there, but after a few minutes I spotted them surrounded by a bunch of other kids. The bell rang, someone came to unlock the gate, and all the kids streamed out into the waiting buses. I. and B. had had a great day. Everyone was curious about them, thought it was cool they were from SF and asked them all kinds of questions. It provided them with enough encouragement that they want to go back for the full day tomorrow.
With uplifted spirits, we came home, ate lunch, read, and then went to buy a healthy list of back to school supplies, totaling 143 Euros. The cashier looked at me with sympathy as she took my money, but I got a 10 Euro coupon to use the next time I’m in, which is awesome.