7 Reasons to move to France… or not

I received the Versatile blogger award from VinylEraser a while back… and now again from Chaumierelesiris. : ) Thank you to both of them!  The awards are just a friendly gesture among bloggers to encourage and acknowledge each other.
VinylEraser is an art blog. Go and have a look at his lovely art here on his blog. Chaumierelesiris is written by a lady who lives in London and now owns a house in Normandy, where she spends holidays with her family. You can read about their visits to this lovely cottage here on her blog.

For the award you are then asked to tell seven things about yourself and send the reward on to other bloggers. I will send it on later.

As this blog is about our move to France, I will give you seven reasons to move to France… or maybe not to move… : )
(Just a friendly warning: These reasons might not all make sense to you if you don’t live in South-Africa.)

Reason 1: Move here for Nutella crêpes, or don’t move and still enjoy cinnamon pancakes… 

Cheaper Nutella could be a good reason. It’s half the price we payed in Cape Town. With Nutella you have to mention crêpes of course. Crêpes Nutella
Or maybe don’t come for Nutella… You know that crêpes is just the fancy French word for nice South-African pancakes. Because Nutella is so sweet, I always order the Crêpe Sucre. A pancake with white sugar. It would be so much better if they knew to add a little  cinnamon.

Reason 2: Move here for self-help tills, or don’t move and enjoy the friendly talkative packers at Pick a Pay…

Supermarkets here have tills where you can scan your items yourself… really. This is now if you buy less than ten items. You go to your till, pick up the scanner, beep, beep, insert your card and off you go after the voice told you that you can now remove your items.
Or maybe don’t move for self-help tills, because on the day that you buy a trolley full of groceries, you have to pack it yourself. Normally you are not able to do it fast enough and you have to pay in between and the next client is waiting for you. Then you miss the friendly Pick a Pay woman who used to pack it for you and might also have said: ‘Mevrou, hoekom gaan kry jy nie liewer die 750g boks nie, hulle is op special vandag!’

Reason 3: Move here because France is a beautiful country, or don’t move because you will never see a brown countryside…

That could make a good reason, because it is just so green, even flowers don’t need any encouragement to grow. In the past year I did not have to water the garden once. Everywhere is beautiful with so many trees and green as far as you can see.
Or maybe don’t move here for green, because you might just want to see some brown some day and you won’t! If you come from the drier regions of South Africa, you might just miss the brown…

Reason 4: Move here for the beautiful language, or don’t move for the language… they conjugate, you know…

When we told people we are moving to France and have to learn French, many people reacted with: ‘it’s such a beautiful language’. Well, you can move here to learn to speak French, because you will for sure. The French really only speak French. It’s a small miracle if you come across someone who can speak English. : )
Or maybe don’t move for the language… as I said… they conjugate! Nouns are also either male or female. How is one suppose to remember a table is female and a carpet is male. Do you say le or la, une or un… And conjugation… this means that for each pronoun the verb has a different form!  And just as you know the rules, you hear about all the exceptions. : )

Reason 5: Move here for the cheese, or don’t move for the cheese, you might not find Gouda…

Yes, the French are known for their fromages. Even the packaging is so pretty. I sometimes buy it just for the little wooden box. : ) You can try a new kind every day and can be busy with that for a long time.
Or maybe don’t move here for the cheese…  you might walk up and down the two aisles filled with cheese and you can’t find normal Gouda. In Pick a Pay Gouda had it’s own aisle! You know… we have to make a braaibroodjie sometimes. : )

Reason 6: Move here for the bread, or don’t move for the bread, you might need gewone blokbrood

A Frenchman with a baquette under his arm… that picture that you sometimes see is really true. French people buy baquettes from their local Boulangerie. And yes, the bread is really nice and they bake all day, so mostly your baquette is still warm. Then you have to add to this the croissants and pain au chocolat, and more. Not a bad idea to move for the bread…
Or maybe don’t move for the bread, because normal sliced bread is not popular at all. The sliced bread you find here can last for a month.  You can work out how much preservatives that takes. Its still the thing of being able to make braaibroodjies… : )

Reason 7: Move here for PARIS… 

Yes, this Paris, not the Freestate one… The one with la Tour Eiffel, la Seine, les Champs-Élysées… So what can one say against this… Let’s not say anything more…

Or maybe if you don’t want to move here, just come visit! : )


This year and next year.

It’s still the confusing thing of ending a year (school) in the middle of the year. We almost can’t believe it, but we are really at the end of our first year in France and the end of the first schoolyear. The boys are on holiday already. A 12 week holiday till they start the next year in September. (Not to forget that there are also 8 more weeks of holiday during the year.)  They did spoil my previous post I must say…  I had all these nice words about them repeating this year, but it is actually good and then they came home with reports saying that they’ve passed! I had to change the post and now it does not read so nice anymore. But, it’s ok   : )

Let me explain a bit about French schools. They don’t write exams. Kids are evaluated through the year with tests; announced and unannounced, and also receive marks for participation in class. The next interesting thing is that parents have a say in whether a child should pass or not. At the end of each term; before you receive the report, you can ask for pass or repeat. The school will respond with what they think and you can accept that or not. At the end of the year if you and the school still don’t agree, you can appeal. What I appreciate about schools here is that they look at the whole picture. The boys chose to do Premier S next year. That will be the direction with maths, science and computers. Because they showed that they are good in maths and science, they were passed to Premier. They had a good mark for their FLS french (Special class for not french speaking children), but no mark for the normal french class. Because they are going in the science direction and will do much less french and history next year, and no biology, they could pass. It makes a lot of sense. They will have to still work hard, but at least with ‘nicer’ subjects. And they could finish school in two years time.

We get the keys to our (very old) new house in three weeks, which is just to say that we are moving. That meant changing schools. (Which everyone was happy to do.) As we are moving to a new department, we got the news that we have to work through the Inspection Academique again. That’s the schools department. The first time we waited six weeks for them, and we had the help of the relocation company, so we were not really excited to hear this.

We don’t give up, so we grabbed all our french and went to see them. Unbelievably with the first visit the lady made an appointment for us at the girls’ new school and we were there last week to register them. All sorted. Then a next visit for the boys and tomorrow we will go to register them at their school. I must say we understand most of what they say now and with a whole lot of grammar mistakes and wrong words, they actually understand us, so we get to organize it all. And people are mostly very appreciative and friendly about our efforts. : )

The girls did really well this year. The negative side of the FLS class is that they are not really taken seriously. They attend some of the normal grade classes, but are told to sit at the back and do their FLS work. They also didn’t get handbooks. But these two girls changed this a bit. : ) Mandi was working hard at home, trying to understand. Doing maths with just the bits she could write down in class, so at the end of the first term I asked the teacher to give her books and let her at least try. The same for Franci. And they surprised the teachers. There were still subjects like history and biology that they did not do it all. They also missed many classes being in the FLS class. But by the third term they were both doing the best in their normal french maths class. Franci enjoyed it so much when monsieur Hanin, the maths teacher told the class (with a smile) that everyone that has less marks than Franci, has detention after school. And there it was the whole class. : ) And he asked Mandi’s class if they are not ashamed that a FLS child is doing better than them. : ) The new school was impressed with their reports and the teachers remarks, and they were also quite excited to have ‘foreign’ children in their school who can speak english. This school does not offer FLS and have only local french children and no immigrants like the previous school. The school here in Cergy consisted mainly of immigrants. Most of the kids speak Arabic at home. Many kids from Turkey and Africa as well.

When they were tested last year, the academique actually moved the girls up one year, compared to where they were in South Africa. I think if we really asked for it, the girls could pass to the next grade, but they both chose to repeat this year. Franci need to improve in reading and writing french. The speaking is going well. Mandi would have gone to highschool which adds some other difficulties, so we were all happy for them to repeat.

Apart from schools we do have summer now. Its just that it happens only every fifth day, or maybe seventh… : ) Ok, we have summer days every now and again.

We could have a nice picnic at the water park here in Cergy…

and the poppies are really pretty now…


A year in Enghien-les-Bains

It is hard to imagine, but the boys have finished their first year of school in France. A year in lycée Gustav Monod.
A nice experience, which was not always easy, but still a lot of fun…
When we arrived last year June, they spoke afrikaans and english and a few words of french, well, maybe only enough french words to greet someone. Now, one year later, they are not yet fluent in french, but can have a good conversation with friends and cope well with school.

Before we came to france, my biggest concern was where the boys would go to school and only because they were 16 already. The international schools around Paris has fees that you could actually buy a house with. : ) € 27 500 per year (per child) and just a ‘small’ initial payment of € 10 000 to register. As we are not expats and the work does not pay for schooling, that is a ‘little’ over our budget. The other problem with children in the international schools are that they never really learn to speak french, which is again a problem if you want to go to university here.

So, they had to go to normal french public school. The french schools actually do cater for immigrants like us. They have a program for non french speaking children called the FLS classes. The one problem was that there is only one high school in our department that offers this program and that was why the boys had to travel an hour every day to school by bus and by train. They were in the special class as well as attending some of the normal classes in the beginning.  As the year continued they attended more of the normal classes. They received their reports and passed this year and will be in premier (grade 11) next year. We are moving closer to Danie’s work in July, so the next year they will be in another school in Villiers Saint Fréderic.

I believe that what they experienced this year just added a very special extra year in their school life. They were a group of kids from all over the world who had one thing in common: we can’t speak french, but now have to live in a country where people only speak  french.

We are really proud of how they handled this year. Always positive, getting up at six some mornings, working out train times, working hard and making friends. For them it was nothing big, you just carry on and do it… and still have fun.

On Tuesday their FLS class had their farewell party and as I looked at their photo’s I realized what an adventure this year was for them.

some of the boys: from left, Javuz from Turkey; Pieter; Micheal & Miquel from Portugal; Pathu &Vasikanth from Sri-Lanka; Zi from China and Jaco

the class with madame Herrerra (in the flowery dress)

and again with mademoiselle Alves (with the orange top)

They made a book that will be kept in the library of the school. Each one had to do a page about his country. The list of countries from where they all come from reads like this…

Livre d’or  (visitor’s book )

Pieter’s page… (click to read)

Jaco’s page… (click to read)

The eats represented the international class…

They were all asked to show their talents at the party. Some sing, some do magic tricks… Pieter made an animation and Jaco of course recorded some drums. (Our recording and editing still need some upgrading: ) ) You can see them here on Youtube.  : )

Jaco playing Born for this…

Pieter’s animation…

Tuesday their school closes for the year and they will greet their friends and the two teachers, Madame Herrerra and mademoiselle Alves, who organize the FLS class. On Wednesday they are going on a fun outing to Paris with Madame Herrera and that will finish off this experience. A year in Enghien les Bains, in the Northern suburbs of Paris…