Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 1...Into the Fire (Immersion 101)

As I mentioned in my last post, Josh went to work on day 1.  I could have killed him - angry doesn't even come close on that one.  I felt incredibly alone and abandoned.  There is nothing like being thrown into the fire and start our new lives by myself.  What could I do?  I couldn't stay home.  The kids had to go to school and I had to figure out how to function. And I had to unpack and get back to work.

Josh left at 7:15 - the kids and I didn't need to leave until after 8.  I suppose on a positive note, we get an extra 30 minutes in the morning that we didn't have in Barcelona.  It was raining off and on again like it did when we arrived.  An hour of sun, an hour of rain, an hour of sun, an hour of rain.  It goes on and on like that.  It's sunny one moment and pouring the next.

Aidan woke up and said we need to turn the heat on.  In August.  I can't say that I totally disagree (sadly it has since been turned on... in August I must reiterate).  Barcelona this is not.  Unfortunately I didn't anticipate it to be this cold in August and so hadn't located their cold weather clothes yet and shipped anything I had purchased.  In Barcelona they are normally in shorts until November.  Even in Boston, they would have been in them at least til mid September!

Breakfast in our new kitchen

In front of our house ready to go - notice the raincoats - good investment!

In front of their new school

Aidan's new classroom

Liam in his new class

Regardless, I had to send them to school in shorts.  Driving wasn't a big deal thanks to my GPS. Thankfully Josh had pre programmed pretty much anywhere I would need to go for the foreseeable future into it, including school.  Unfortunately the GPS got the school address wrong (the school was on the right and it told me to turn left - but at least it was the same street, though we were lost for a few minutes trying to figure it out) but thankfully had built in a few extra minutes into our trip to school not knowing what traffic would be like, etc.

I can honestly say that right off the bat, I felt better about getting the kids to school than I did in Barcelona.  I remember clearly the desperate feeling of not knowing how to navigate the public transportation to get Aidan to school his first day in Barcelona (the school had recommended he not take the bus the first few days but for me to bring him and pick him up).  In the end in Barcelona, I took a taxi.  On Monday, I drove and I felt pretty good about it.  We were there in 15 minutes even with getting lost.

Knowing that their school is also a Dutch school, I wasn't sure where we had to enter or where to go. We never received information on what to do upon arrival.  The good news is that it's a small school, only grades pre-k through grade 5 and only one section per grade.  So we couldn't get too lost.  But they had everything under control and very easily corralled all the new students into a lobby area - we must have all had that lost look on our faces.  Liam looked incredibly nervous and I don't blame him - this is his first new school.  Aidan looked in control, typical of him and maybe it's because it's the second time around he feels like he can handle it.  They then brought everyone upstairs to their classrooms where the other students and teachers were waiting.  Parents were allowed to go up with the kids - a challenge for me with 2 kids and only one of me.

There are 14 kids in Aidan's class, a switch from last year where he had around 20.  Liam, on the other hand, who had always been in the small class (last year was 14) was now the opposite, with the largest class in school of 20 kids.  And I thought Benjamin Franklin was small in Barcelona!  So there are 14 kids in grade 5 (year 7 at this school) and 20 kids in grade 2 (year 4).  That's it.  I'm going to say we will get to know everyone really well here.  The school doesn't feel like BFIS did but it's only day 1 so we'll give it time.  Apparently they have a ton of after school activities so that would be different from their old school in a positive way.

I met a very nice couple who had also just moved here as we were getting ready to leave.  Their son is in Liam's class and they have been living abroad for a while as well.  I chatted with them for about 45 minutes.  Lovely people and hopefully a connection made already.  It felt really good to meet people off the bat as I don't feel quite as alone and it's only day 1.

I was feeling pretty good considering the circumstances and the day before knowing that I successfully dropped off the kids to school and met a new family.  So far so good.  Then I got home.  And I couldn't open the front door.  Induce meltdown in 5, 4, 3...

I called Josh freaking out.  He offered to come home.  I told him I didn't want to see him now or any time soon.  I think he realized that he should not have gone to work on our first day.  He admitted as much.  Didn't make me any less angry though.  I spent a good 10 minutes trying to open the front door, practically in tears.  And of course, it was raining out.

Finally, I gave up trying to open the door and went next door hoping perhaps someone would be home that could help me.  I figured maybe there was something different about these Dutch doors as compared to any other door I've ever used?????  The benefit of being in a country where many people speak English is that I suspected that my neighbor would speak it and in fact, he did.  And coincidentally, he had also lived in Spain with his wife for 6 years and had just returned back about a year ago.

He helped me with the door - turns out that something is weird with our lock and you have to pull it towards you as you unlock it and then push it in.  Very strange but now I get it.  It seems that the door automatically locks when you close it too so I need to be conscious of making sure I always have a key when I leave the house.

I chatted with my neighbor for a bit.  Really nice guy and felt like perhaps I made a second connection for the day.  All in all, not bad for day 1.  But by now it's 10:30 and I had to leave at 11:30 to pick up the kids at noon since the first day was a half day.  I accomplished basically nothing on day 1.

I picked up the kids and they had a great first day, a huge relief for me.  I'm not sure what I would have done if they'd had a bad day though.  And don't get me wrong, we've still been having meltdowns about how sad they are that we are no longer in Barcelona - it's all a part of the grieving process for each of us.  And we went through the same thing when we left the US years ago as well.

I'm still not feeling great about everything but much better than I did yesterday.  I feel like we made a lot of progress in just one day and we're already more immersed than we were in Barcelona at this point.  It feels less scary than Barcelona did early on and so I need to take that as a positive.  There are still many things left on our to do list such as BSN numbers (social security), getting signed up for sports, converting my license, etc etc and so I don't think we will really feel settled for several more weeks but we are making progress.

On a random note, I found out that while some stores are open on Sundays here (nothing in Barcelona was open on Sunday other than restaurants), most places don't open til 1PM on Monday, everything closes by 6PM during the week except Thursday where they are open later.  So we'll have some new schedules to get used to here as well on top of everything else!  But on a positive note, I won't have siesta to contend with!!


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