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Linda's Letters of the First Week

8 September 2001

One of the benefits of having to take the boys at various times throughout the day the last few days has been that I have met almost everyone in the building who were doing the same thing. I now know something about all of our neighbors.

Our ground level occupant does not seem to be as colorful as the one Stan and Yvonne Pine had thirty years ago on this same street. If any of you had missed the story, Stan and Yvonne Pine, long time friends of the Saeta's lived on this same street 30 years ago when Stan had a sabbatical year in Strasbourg. Their children went to the same elementary that ours do now! However, their ground floor occupant seemed to practice the oldest profession while the rest of the family was at work or school. We have a little old lady who keeps herself busy watching who goes in and out of the building. Usually she leaves her front door open which is right at the base of the stairs. It you have to spend anytime in the hallway there, like to look for mail or dump trash she will come out and pass the time of day as long as you let her. Yesterday I took the trash out and we discussed that the back door didn't need to be locked because she knows who comes by during the day. She then wanted to go on and on about how she has all the keys to the storage spaces etc. I'm glad I had to get the boys.

I still have not met the people on the next floor up.

The next floor is occupied by this crazy American family with three boys. After yesterday everyone knows we are American. That seemed to be the question of the day.

The next floor up is occupied by a couple and some children although I'm not sure of the ages. I met the woman as she was carting in tons of school supplies and we were on our way out to get them. I asked her for a good place to get school supplies. She said it was cheaper to go to the suburbs and she was sorry I didn't tell her earlier as she would have taken me. She then asked where I was from and where I learned French. When I said Togo she laughed and said her husband was a Cooperant (like a Peace Corps worker, but the service replaced his military obligations). Then she said that it was a long time ago, and I said same for me. As it turns out her husband was there in 1982, the same year as Peter! He lived with a Peace Corps worker in Mango in the North of Togo. We are sure we must know who the American is but have yet to remember. She said she would have us for coffee, but we may beat her to the punch this weekend. (Another thing to add to the small world stuff).

The next two floors up are the Feldermans. They have at least one daughter, Sarah, who seems to be Brennan's age. However, she does not seem to go to either of the neighborhood schools as she left going the opposite direction. We have seen another girl with Sarah, but we don't know if the other is a sister or friend. We heard from our landlord that they have some older sons who have left for the University somewhere. In the last few days I have seen the parents, Georges and Veronica enough that we now great each other by shaking hands.

The kids are also making friends at a surprisingly rapid rate. Ethan has snagged the first play date. He met a french boy in his class who invited him for an afternoon next Saturaday. (Once a month or so, they do not have class on Saturday and this month it is next week.) Arthur's mom wrote a note in English that Ethan read. When I picked Ethan up I asked Arthur for his number. We were then able to set the date over the phone. Arthur's mom said Arthur was so happy to have an American friend and has as his goal to teach Ethan all about France! On the first day of class, the British student in Ethan's class, Saul, went home and told his mom that there was an American in his class. He has lived in France all his life so he is excellent in French and English. His mom sent a very nice note back to Ethan with him after lunch inviting us to use them as a good resource. I have called her and we are all invited to lunch at their apartment on Sunday. In Saul's family there is another son one year ahead of Brennan and an even older girl. Most importantly Jessica has assured us that they have computer games, Playstation and Legos! We are all looking forward to Sunday.

Brennan has found an English speaker who is also fluent in French, also. On the first day of school I noticed that this boy, Brennan thinks his name is Jefferson and I think he is from India, was one of the other students who was standing around alone. They we placed as table partners for most of their classes. (I don't think this was just by chance). Anyway, he has been very helpful and Brennan has his telephone number but has not yet called.

Ryan, after the first morning with a few tears, goes happily to school. When I dropped him off this morning we looked for his tablemate (Paul) on the playground. After we spotted him, Ryan was off. After he left the parent standing next to me started to try to speak to me in English. We quickly switched to French. I found out that he is with the Spanish military and is stationed here as part of the Eurocorps. (Whatever that is) In any case, he has a daughter in Ryan's class who only speaks Spanish. We both feel that it is going well in that class in spite of the lack of language ability of our children.

10 September 2001

Everyone has left for work and school and I have a few minutes to bring you up to date on the weekend.

Saturday morning was busy as all the boys have school. The two younger ones go from 8-11 and Brennan goes from 8:15-12:15 which includes two hours of French. All the boys came home happy and we all felt like it was a very successful week.

Peter decided, and we all agreed that it was time to look for a car. So in the pouring rain we went off to a used car lot that many people at Peter's work had mentioned was pretty good. Luckily we did not get there before 2:00 as it, as well as most of Strasbourg observes the two hour lunch break. It is very hard for me to get used to, but in some ways its a nice way to remind you to slow down and enjoy the people you are with. Anyway, it was just opening up and we ducked into the huge garage/showroom area to get out off the rain which seemed to be getting colder and colder. We looked around and got a little discouraged at first. We then got the attention of a salesman, and he pointed us in the right direction, which meant we had to go out in the rain and look in the back of the garage in the very small by American standards lot. We found a green, 1999 Daewoo station wagon with a one year guarantee on parts and labor. As Peter explains, we could have gotten a real junker, and then not even worried if we couldn't resell it in the end. Or, we could buy something that we would be willing to resell at half the price in a year, but would be a little nicer. I liked that this one had airbags, nice rear defroster, ABS breaks and other features. Now I have to figure out how to get auto insurance before we can pick it up on Friday.

After putting a deposit on the car we still didn't feel like going home so we went to the main section of town. Peter looked for more books to read on his commute and I went to find touring books to go with our car. I found on that has 100 suggested outings withing 4 hours of Strasbourg geared to families. Besides a great Car Museum about an hour from here, there are suggestions on skiing in the Austrian Alps that they book says is only 3 hours and 20 minutes from Strasbourg!! The first place we will probably go is to some of the big department stores in the suburbs and buy some winter clothes!

Sunday was another rainy day which we didn't mind as we spent a 5 hour lunch with a British family whose youngest is in Ethan's class. I hope we didn't overstay our visit, but we had a great time. They have lived here 11 years and have a huge apartment with lots of toys, many of the electronic version and they were full of hints on living in Strasbourg. It certainly is nice to have them nearby.

We came home to finish homework and pack the school bags, which seemed to take forever. Then off to bed.

We hope all is well with all and that everyone had a good start to school.

This page was last modified on Sat, Sep 15, 2001.