Monday, March 28, 2011

There is a Downside

Well, part of the reason I haven't been posting is that we are busy. Busy with our day-to-day life, busy with adventures (geo-caching - a great way to get Isabelle out for a hike!), busy with friends and family. I guess you could say we have settled into the expat life. And we are loving it! Mostly.

Today, we had to say good-bye. Now, we did this before - at the end of the school year last year when a few of the families returned to France including one of Isabelle's classmates - not a week goes by without Isabelle talking about Albane and her family.

But this time is a little harder. No, a lot harder. Almost 3 years ago, Paul and Isabelle went for one their first swims at our neighbourhood pool - I took Maggie up for a walk. While I was watching Isabelle swim I could hear a woman speaking French with her children - I wanted Paul to introduce himself but that is not his style. Luckily, she heard Paul speaking French to Isabelle and spoke to him (because that is just the way she is) and that is how we met Radia, Sarah, Rassim and Karim.

Since then Radia has been a friend, a translator, a carpool partner and a guide to the ways of Isabelle's school. Her daughter, Sarah, is a year ahead of Isabelle so whenever I had questions about, well, anything - Radia was my source. When I went away for stamp shows, Radia picked Isabelle up from school and kept her until Paul got home from work. I think my experience here would have been very different without Radia. I will miss her every day and I can never thank her enough for all that she has done for us.

The thing is that while she is all those things to me - she is also those things to many people in the French and Muslim communities here. She is an amazing cook, baker and cake decorator with a wonderful blog about her cooking. Last year, she made a couscous for the graduation at Isabelle's school for EVERYONE in the school. She is an organizer - school events, community events - even a wonderful surprise going away party for her own daughter!

Isabelle will miss Sarah and Rassim terribly - she is used to seeing them almost every day. And I will miss them too - they both crack me up plus since Isabelle is an only child they give her a taste of siblings - oh, the bickering in the car sometimes.
As my mother says: nothing is ever simple so when Radia and the kids were supposed to leave yesterday (a long story) - I managed to get this great picture with Isabelle and Sarah and Sarah's best friend Emma. Hopefully we will get a another one just like it someday but until then it will be facebook, skype and e-mail. Thank you for everything Radia!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Too Late

When I arrived at HGS in the fall of 1986, I was ill prepared. After drifting through public school for 9 years, I decided I wanted to go to private school. Before HGS, I liked history, geography and English; I struggled in French and Latin and was baffled by math and the sciences. Perhaps I was not the best candidate for HGS but I knew HGS was where I needed to be. Luckily, I found myself in a legendary class – some familiar faces, others new. It was the class of ‘3:15’, Strat-o-matic Hockey, the hockey pool and where almost everyone had a nickname ending in –er.

I had exceptional teachers including Mrs. Aterman who, in one fell swoop, both terrified and enthralled me. She did not ask when things happened but why they happened and the consequences – that was a change from public school. She challenged me and I desperately wanted to do well in her class. But I didn’t and by the end of grade 10, Mrs. Aterman said HGS was not the place for me. Well, as another teacher pointed out - I made decisions for myself and I didn’t always make choices that were easy on me - so I stayed.

I continued to just get by for the next two years but (most) every assignment improved. And when I didn't succeed, I learned more about what was expected of me. She spent months years teaching me how to properly research and write a paper. So, in my first year of university when I missed deadlines and exams due to illness my grades did not suffer. I owe this to Mrs. Aterman and her determination to teach me to write a proper thesis statement, to follow through on that statement and to ensure that what I wrote was I meant (DNSWYM – anyone?).

Somehow, she was convinced (along with the art teacher) to accompany our class to Europe in Grade 12 – that must have been JG’s doing! And what better first introduction to Paris, Munich and Florence than with an art teacher and a history teacher – I know I thought, at the time, that if I saw another church I was going to die - but we had fun!

When I read Mrs. Aterman's obituary last week, I finally understood why she pushed me so hard - it is a wonder she didn't just wallop me - she should have! I am proud to have been one of her “heathen lot”. I am sorry I never had the chance to thank her properly.