Sunday, October 16, 2011

This One's for you Boomba!

I've had a special request to throw in a few pictures of  Parker and Addison.  I've been spending more time focusing on the images and observations about life here - there are some people who want a tiny update about Parker and Addison.

They are settling in quite well - and I must say - have done a much better job than me in the beginning but I'm making my way too now.  School has now been in session for 4 weeks for them. They attend school on M/W/F from 8-12 and on T/Th from 8-3:15.  While it may seem like a short day on M/W/F - there is no lack of homework that they must do. While it sure seems like alot - my guess is - that it could be about the same but when at EB it was done 'in the classroom'.  Let's just say though there appears to be a 'slight' disparity on the amount of homework given.  Perhaps for the first time Addison is having a bit of angst over the fact that things are 'not equal' with his brother.  We continue to work with him on that. He has a Senegalese teacher and Parker has a French teacher - so who knows if there is some aspect of that in terms of approach to homework. We keep them in school and pay for the canteen on T/Th for them for 2 reasons - so we don't have to go pick them up at noon and take them back at 1:30 (we need those 2 long days to eventually devote our time to the volunteer work) and we know  it's important for them to eat lunch with their "copains".  And the result of this has been good because they do have one friend that we discovered lives about 2 blocks away.  When leaving the school one day we just happened to be taking the same route as "Henri" and his brother "Charles" as they were being brought home by their nanny.  I ended up talking with her and asked her as the boys wanted to play if we could literally follow them home to see where they live. So we did. I met Henri's mom and the rest of the family and I suppose the rest is history...

Parker, Henri, Addison and Charles

We've  had a few playdate swaps with them because we can and it's easy to do since they are  a few blocks away, yet I have to say coming from Berkeley, it is a challenge when you don't have a yard or a park because they just don't exist. A few times there's been games of monopoly or water gun fights outside in the courtyard and the watching of  episodes of "Panthère rose" - which can be watched in any language. Yet I have to say I've had the amusement and delight of watching our English version being played and talked about all in French.  At Henri's house I've been told - they 'play'. Okay so with a little more interrogation I've come to find from  out Parker that includes watching some tv and building things with something they have which is like legos.

Besides Henri and Charles they've also made some friends at the pool.  These kids "Audray" and "Laura" - we found out attend the same school as Parker and Addison - Audray is in Addisons' class. 
Parker, Audray, another boy always at the pool  ,Addison, Laura

As it turns out the girls mother is the manager of the Gymnasium - the gym/pool facility that is close to the apartment (thank god and a post on that is coming soon) - so while the girls spend a fair amount of time there - when Parker and Addison either have all their homework done on a weekday or we just want or need a respite from the madness - the pools the thing! and it's a guarantee all those kids (and others) will all find each other there. Now of course you'd think with all of Dakar and surrounding suburbs being on the coast - you might conjure up images of beautiful beaches and coastline - sadly - while there are public beaches some better than others (and resort beaches which is something all different)  - there are issues with safety, theft, sanitation, pollution, and encampments - it's unknown what if any kind of coastal protection or conservation exist - but it's not a priority from what we could see. 

Over time we hope we will be able to extend out more invitations as they make more friends and give us the names and number of their friends. It's an interesting dynamic at the school because - kids are either dropped off by parents, nanny's or chauffeurs (parents who live far enough away they pay someone to drive in the horrible traffic to get their kids to school) - or even during the pickup. And while there is some mingling - neither Manning or I have been able to insert ourselves as easily - mainly because we are the outsiders in a school and system people are familiar with. It becomes up to me and Manning to strike up a French conversation when the situation presents itself. And when it has - it's been very pleasant. People are super nice and helpful. But it will take some effort on our part for sure.  An example of that was the back to school night - no socializing, no introductions - the perfect opportunity to do something like that -  all these nice parents in the room and the teacher got right down to business.  One interesting thing to note, this school does not elicit the help of 'room parents' who are are conduits between the teacher and parents perhaps for asking to help with some event in the classroom. And neither do the teachers use e-mail to communicate with the parents. At EB back in Berkeley - the school has all kinds of community building activities - at least once a month it seems to bring parents and kids together. An example of what I mean is even an after school picnic at the park. But here the issue is there is no park or playground so where would one 'host' this event with 25 kids for free?  Nor a distribution list of parents to even send a notice out too. Of course you can still do things with paper so that's really not the barrier. It's clearly a cultural aspect quite different from home. So Building 'community' is interesting  prospect for us here so we'll continue to try and get creative with how to reach out to parents for playdates for P/A.

As it turned out - for example - a woman I met whose kids go to the Anglophone school in Dakar (mainly attracted by foreign service workers, Embassy or UN who want their kids to receive an American like education) reached out and invited our family to her sons birthday party. That was extremely generous so we went. And as you can see the kids made more new acquaintances. So let's just say Parker and Addison had no complaints speaking a couple of hours of English (even though French was spoken around us at this event as well) the unifying language was English.  So we are also realizing perhaps we will need to straddle the divide between our all French school and the Anglophone ex-pat world to ensure the existence of a community for us.

And when there are no playdates - there's always the comfy, cozy space at home with Manning reading a book!

Fortunately soccer (one after school activity we've signed them up for starts tomorrow!) - that may be a nice spring board to more school connections.


  1. It looks like Parker and Addison are social magnets. I'm so happy for them.

    I remember one of the EB mother's from France told me she loved being able to go into her children's classrooms. She enjoyed speaking to the teachers and other parents. She felt it was a community. She was sad to go back to France because she would just drop off her children at the front gate of the school. She would never get to know the teachers and other families. We have a special community at EB.

  2. Kames will be so happy to finally see more pics of Addison and Parker. He was just asking about them earlier today (yesterday). If you can send me an address so he can write them.

  3. It is true about here in terms of dropping them off at or within this gated area that separates the dropoff area from the playground - it clearly discourages parents from going any further. Today I saw a woman and thought she looked familiar - and we figured out it was from Le Gymnasium. It will be easier to talk to her next time since we now have the gym and school as a connection. The cultural barriers are there with the school but I'm determined to chip away at it myself when the door opens like this morning.

  4. Good for you, Hil! Keep chipping away... it will be so worth it. I am SO happy to see this blog about P/A. I was thinking about them too and wondering how they were faring in this foreign land. Yes, children usually are more adaptable (Thank you Lord), but knowing a bit more about their homework and friends helps me to focus my prayer for them too. I finally got caught up today on your family's adventure. So exquisite! Hugs to all!