Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Is this thing on?

To be expected, this entry begins a recap of all the little odds and ends that have happened over the past few weeks.

Let's start with books. Anyone have recommendations? Sure, I have stacks and shelves waiting to be thumbed, but I'm always up for suggestions. Katherine and I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. It was good enough to purchase the second installation, Inkspell, for her birthday. I also picked up the first Artemis Fowl and found both Inkheart and Artemis Fowl nice deviations from the standard fairy tale.
Beyond youth fiction, I finally completed King Leopold’s Ghost, the true story of the conquest of central Africa. It’s a distressing read and I’m taking time off before starting Continent for the Taking. Reading the destruction of the Congo exhausted me, I think the entire continent might lead to counseling.
During my break I switched from African tribe to Jewish genocide in The Pianist. Not exactly light reading, but it’s short and I already knew the story from the movie. Now, I’m rereading To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic Ian hasn’t attempted though I assured him it’s a great read. After this, either The Science of Harry Potter or Holy Blood, Holy Grail will grace the floor next to my nightstand.
New books are popular Christmas gifts and this year was no exception. Katherine was introduced to a new series, The Magic Attic Club, not unlike American Girls, while Rebecca received the completed set of wizard Step Into Reading books. Nicholas now has plenty to keep him busy with additional Now I’m Reading sets, particularly attractive for its sticker rewards. Jonathon’s assortment included a castle cutout book with glimpses into the different areas of castle life.
For Ian and myself, my parents bought us a comprehensive Larousse dictionary and a French review and practice book. I think the absolute most helpful items are the children’s “magazines” they brought from Paris. I say “magazines” because they are compilations of short stories in sturdy book form, issues that will last years on a bookshelf. One entitled “Petites Histoire” is rated 18mo and up. The other “Histoires pour les Petites” is for 3yrs and up. The latter will have to wait for now, but I’ve already got Ian’s OK to order a subscription to the former.
This afternoon I looked up the words I didn’t know so I could translate correctly, and tonight at bedtime we read the first short rhyming story about Kokola the koala who doesn’t want to do anything. With repetition common to all young children’s books, and the familiarity between so many French and English words, the kids picked up the storyline and remembered words from one page to the next. They all enjoyed it, which is saying a great deal. At the end, Rebecca stated she learned more from this first story than from any of her French classes.
The Larousse has earned its place next to where ever I happen to be.
To feed off this intense desire to become comfortable in this language, and to instill confidence in the kids, Rebecca (during her current chickenpox quarantine) and I are sticking labels to everything in the house. We’ll make a memory game. We’ll cover new vocabulary over dinner. The Rosetta Stone computer program is available to all the kids. Katherine plunged in over the weekend and is soaking up the lessons. And we’ll continue reading stories in French each evening. After 13 years in French speaking countries as a kid, I should be fluent in a second language but I’m not and I’m going to try my best to make French part of our everyday life. Ian can help too.
Christmas wasn’t all about literacy and learning, of course. A Barbie carriage, jewelry box, matchbox cars, glowing Spiderman head and more packed the floor under our tree. The best gift couldn’t be wrapped though. On December 29th we made a special trip to pick up the biggest surprise. My parents arrived in Lomé for a weeklong visit. We didn’t tell the kids where we were going (Katherine already knew, I had to enlist her help to get the house picked up without too many complaints). For as many airports as we’ve been in, you’d think they’d figure it out quick, but even after Rebecca commented the building looked rather like an airport she still thought we were going to a party. She’s usually the quick one.
We ate out quite a bit, Coco Beach, L’Okavango (which I’ve discovered is the name of a river in Botswana), Marox, and Le Nuit D’Orient. All the food was excellent, of course. One thing the expat community has done well here is provide awesome dining experiences. At home, after having fresh baguettes from Coin Chaud with our lunchtime meals, the kids and my parents swam loads in the pool and we created a new game, marine Quiddich. In house teams, we vied for the snitch, a small hard rubber bouncy ball that became notoriously difficult to spot amidst splashes and flailing arms. New Year’s Eve we enjoyed the first night swim resulting in some eerie photos and fun memories. Ian and I went to the DCMs NYE party and were home well before midnight in order to ring in the new year with our family, but not before meeting Nigel, the drama teacher at the British School. More on that in another post.
At home, there were hours spent with legos, magnetix and matchbox cars. A road with border crossings at each end became the beach road right here in Lomé, populated with dozens of lego people both from the new airport set, and Nicholas’s favorite gift, the lego chess set. Speaking of chess, I’ve (almost) sworn off playing Jonathon. Yesterday he checkmated me in less than 15 moves.
Today I vindicated myself. In more than 15 moves. He’d promised this time he’d go easy on me.
I think he was distracted by Bugs Bunny on TV.

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