Thursday, July 30, 2009

Disorientation Day at the New School

Yesterday we went to Orientation at the American Nicaraguan School. Angel was here to drive us very promptly, but we weren’t ready of course. The kids changed their clothes several times because Jonathan and I were each telling them to wear different things. It is a big cultural shift from an elite public school in Seattle to an elite private school in Managua.

We made it to school in 35 minutes which was a great relief, even though there will be more traffic earlier in the day. Maybe the kids will actually be able to sleep until 5:30. The school is surrounded by a giant green fence with guards patrolling the perimeter. There are security cameras and it is one guard's job to watch the televisions. We pass through a big gate with a guard. Angel parked the car and I told him we probably wouldn’t be done until 2:00. He said, don’t worry, whenever you’re done, I’ll be waiting.

We check in with the guard at the school entrance and he sends us toward the orientation room, but I only understand the first two turns. We get lost. I ask some young American teachers, but they don’t know where the orientation is. We find the room and Jules’ new high school counselor comes running over to meet me and discuss his classes. The kids go in and get settled. When I go in the room, I see that Thelma, the one parent I know at the American Nicaraguan School, isn’t there and I panic. Deep breathes and I join the kids. Conchita (Jules’ counselor) starts the welcome spiel with the ANS mission – multiculturalism, rigorous academics, world citizens, blah blah blah. Finally Thelma and Hobbes come in and I can relax a little.

Next, parents are separated from the children. I hate when they do this. Thelma and I schlump over to the library where there are about 100 chairs and 10 parents. Most of them are rather well put together. All of the presentations have been in English and when the parents start to introduce themselves, the First One who is Columbian starts in English so Thelma and I follow suit. Then the next parent speaks in Spanish a little apologetically and all eyes turn to me and I feel like I am the reason everyone has to speak in English. So I explain that I am perfectly capable of understanding Spanish, but nobody believes me because I sound so terrible. Most of the parents sort of simultaneously translate themselves and I feel very monolingual. Although I’m not. There are only few a questions and most of them concern the school uniforms so we are allowed to rejoin our children. Fortunately, we get first crack at the empanadas and coffee before the kids join us. We are supposed to mingle, but I just talk to Thelma about how unsocial our children are.

Next is the school tour. I send Jules with the high schoolers and I go with Noah with the 8th and 9th graders. One mom is saying, Carlito, stand up straight to an impeccably groomed 13 year old. Another mom has just moved back from Miami after 30 years. She is very friendly to me and very interested in the security measures of the school. The tour is in Spanish. Noah and I don’t ask many questions.

After the tour, Noah has to take the Spanish as a Second Language Placement test. I leave him in the library and go to find the head of the middle school to discuss his math placement. Happily, he will be allowed to take Geometry with the high school class because he has already done the curriculum for Eighth Grade Math. The Head of Middle School is a friendly fellow who studied Marine Biology at McGill and he is happy to make this exception. Profuse thanks and I go find Noah in the library.

Jules is there, too, facebooking. He is IMing with Sabina Bloom in Seattle. Noah is still taking his test. The Spanish teacher comes to do the oral part of the test and Noah won’t say a word in Spanish. I try to concentrate on my email.

Jules has heard through the rumor mill that there is an AP English assignment for over the summer. He is very bummed and even though the ever attentive Conchita has found a friendly Nicaraguan girl who is in the same boat to help him figure it out, he is getting more upset. We sit down to do his schedule and he finds out that there is an assignment for AP US History, too. He almost starts to cry and lets us all know that staying in Seattle would have been much better. Conchita wisely suggests pleading ignorance of the assignment and going to get lunch. She tells me exactly where to get the school uniforms and we try to find our way out.

We walk out of the school entrance and I search for my cell phone to call Angel, but before I can take it out, he is meeting us and opening my door. I ask him to take us to the Metro Center shopping mall. He drops us off and I give him some money for lunch and tell him I will call him when we are done. We head straight to the food court. The kids get 2 pieces of Pizza Hut pizza each and I have French fries. We find TricotTextil and buy 6 gray polo shirts with the ANS school insignia and one really awful pair of polyester Kelly green gym shorts. The crotch hangs halfway down Noah’s leg, but it is better than exposed thighs. Jules doesn’t have to do gym. We are done and even though I really want to look for a few things in the shopping center that I can’t get in Granada, I take pity on the kids and head out the door. Angel materializes in front of us when we walk out.

Long ride home and I feel terrible about making the kids make this trip twice a day. I feel guilty about making them move to Nicaragua. I feel so happy it is them and not me that has to read a book, write a report, get up at 5:30 to go to a new school in a foreign country a month before their summer vacation is supposed to be over. I feel like a bad mom.

1 comment:

  1. I totally understand that you are feeling guilty about getting the kids outside their comfort zone. They are going to come home with some great stories and an improved world view.