The Big Apology et la Piscine
OK, I have to just get this off my chest. I feel so badly that I haven’t been able to keep up with my blog. I have been writing notes everyday, but I never have enough quiet time to actually type and post them. Plus, I have dialup access to the internet and after reluctantly converting to DSL at home, it is excruciating to go back to dialup. Not to mention the 3 meals I must shop for, make, clean up after (the girls are starting to do the dishes, thank God) and the 5 loads of laundry to wash and hang on the clothes line (this I love, I am a laundry person, not a dish person.) Our busy social schedule, checking in with Basic French everyday, combined with a myriad of other things, et en plus having to stay on top of the frequent invasion of les petites betes (ants, serpents and earwhigs), makes me the inconsistent but ever hopeful blogger that I have become. Time just seems to be whizzing by and each day here is filled with experiences I never want to forget, that I want to eventually record. Wish I could just download my experiences directly. We have been in France five weeks now, and my life and thoughts have turned around in circles, it’s so amazing. The girls are flourishing too. They have changed so much and I see them becoming independent and confident in ways I never could have anticipated.
I could sit all day at the pool, spacing out, dreaming, reading french home decorating magazines. It’s so different from my life in Red Hook that I find it thoroughly relaxing, not boring. And, here in St. Galmier, a beautiful walled town in the department de la Loire, about 23 minutes from us porte a porte, we’ve discovered the best piscine. It’s a funny place, with all these crazy rules that at first I found intimidating and arbitrary, but now find comforting and logical. You can only bring towels and drinking water into the pool area, you must wear a swimming suit with NO cover-up into the pool area, boys/men must wear Speedo-style mini suits and expose all (as Henry found out the first day and had to rent one the second, buy one the third.) No shoes in the pool area, you must wear the key to your locker around your wrist and oh yes, no running IN THE POOL AREA. Anyway, it’s a fabulous place and now that we have befriended the Maitre Nageur (how do you say lifeguard?) we feel right at home.
The girls are taking swimming lessons, half in English, half in French (moitmoit, je dis) and it’s great for all of us. The instructors are learning the English words for reach, stretch, arms, kick, straighten and we, their French equivalents. The technique is different and I find the girls have improved their strokes. They are actually learning butterfly and flip turns. I didn’t even realize that they actually swam strokes until I got here. It’s a bit military though, the instruction. My new friend Judith said that Fabrice, le Maitre Nageur, most studly one, actually threw her unswimming daughter into the water screaming and taking in water each time until she learned to keep her mouth closed and overcame her fear of being underwater. Now that is what I call radical. But it works and the girls have become complete water bugs.
We love Yoann, the young, career Maitre Nageur from la Haute Loire, who moved to St. Etienne to be with his copine, Delphine, a beautician who works for a salon in St. Galmier. He is so earnest and genuine and interested in learning about America. I have given him a Daniel Pinkwater book of the girls called “Dorkula” for him to practice reading English. I keep teasing him that there will be a big exam when he’s finished and he dutifully is underlining words so that I can clarify passages for him. He dreams of coming to the states and going to Auburn University, just like a top French swimmer he has read about in his swimming magazine. Is that Auburn, NY? Cold there, I imagine. Anyway, he is dedicated and I love that about him. (I have since found out that Auburn University is in Auburn, Alabama...thanks to one of my patient readers.)
I have watched the girls change from unconscious little girls to self-conscious young ladies overnight. Abbie has an arduous suitor a la piscine named Jason (not exactly a French name, je dois dire.) He is smitten and runs around the pool saying, “Abigair” and then shooting her with his hands as pistols when she looks his way. She, of course, pretends to find all this annoying and awful, and runs back to me every 4 minutes complaining that he is driving her crazy. Yet, she can’t take her eyes off of him as he does goofy dives and belly flops with great abandon off the diving board, all the while screaming, “Abigair, regarde-moi!” And Hallie too has admirers. I see the boys her age hover around her and nervously talk amongst themselves, then try to catch her attention with flips and turns and silly things. They must wonder who these 2 exotic girls are. They do stand out in a crowd. What am I going to do with them in two years when they are truly blossoming bilingual preados, je me demande?