The weather here has been a bit funny, or so the locals tell us. Instead of typically warm, 70 degree October days we arrived to relative gloom and chill. One of those where it was okay if the sun was shining but the minute it disappeared, an icy chill wind would blow through and freeze you. We only left with summer clothing and so have, out of necessity, had to acquire more fall and winter appropriate clothes. I had hoped to find funky, 80’s era clothing here which we would feel okay ditching at the end of the year, but alas, it wasn’t to be. The shirts and jackets were all of the truly ugly 80s variety, think bright yellow with small pink and green isoceles triangles. Moreover, I had the opposite problem I had in Japan – everything here is about four sizes too big. I did find this cool leather jacket for $10, but everything else has come from H&M. The kids have new weather appropriate shoes, the thin Chuck Taylors having worn out with so much wear and growing too small for them anyway at the rate their feet expand. I’ve started knitting for need as well as pleasure, making hats, fingerless gloves, and scarves to shield us from the cold.
It’s been sunnier lately, and the other day was a crisp sunny fall morning. I think often of the Ray Bradbury short story about the Mars colony, where the sun only comes out once every seven years, focusing on a classroom of kids who lock a girl into a closet and forget about her, dooming her to miss the sun for another seven. Not to lock my kids in the closet, though I have often dreamed of it for other reasons, but to make sure that we enjoy these days among the gloom. Our days here are relaxed in general. We wake up around 8, and the kids snuggle in the living room under duvets and read whatever they’ve lately downloaded from the library for fun.
At some point, we have breakfast (eggs & toast for the boys, Toast & yogurt for the girl, granola & yogurt for me). Eric and I have coffee, drinking instant nescafe. I’ve always quite liked nescafe, it reminds me of being in Mali, where breakfast was hot sugary milky nescafe and fresh baguettes under a canvas tarp outdoors, waving away flies who wanted a taste too. After we’ve all settled ourselves, we have the kids read their assigned reading – thus far we’ve read “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Mae Brown, “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, and are currently reading “The Shakespeare Stealer” by Gary Blackwood. We’ve downloaded lesson plans and have the kids write out answers to them. Sometimes they have to rewrite the answers, and then there may be tears and wailing. I do my best to ignore those, but sometimes fantasize about the aforementioned closet locking.
They then switch to math, we’re using an online program called Dreambox which both kids like, though the boy will sometimes change to Khan academy instead. This needs occasional supervision but for the most part they’re on their own. We also do Geography, using online maps and quizzes, and while my kids now can identify all the countries in Europe and South America, this is the one place where I struggle in that there’s a lot of screen time involved with this type of learning.
At some point during the day, we’ll sit down and have a discussion about the book, usually in the morning after math time. Eric is much, much better at the literature teaching than I am, given that he actually knows how to guide them to think and write and I just stare at them goggle eyed and say helpful things like “I know you can do this, why aren’t you?” Still, it’s where we try to mix in history of the times and places of the books – so far Civil Rights and Black Panthers in the 60s, World War II, and now Elizabethan England. Next up we want to read “the Wall,” a graphic novel about growing up in the Communist Era. The girl protests, saying “I’m SO SICK of learning about Communism! It’s always just communism in Vietnam and communism in Cambodia and bad things happening to people!” We will persevere.
Afterwards we took advantage of the lovely day, playing in the fall leaves at Kids Park, picking up ice cream, wandering through the open squares and painted alleys, and finally finding our way to Viniloteca for a taste of a delicious IPA homebrew and some good conversation.