Monday, 29 September 2008
Hevs: "I am becoming a real West Indian, cooking soup for your lunch!" [It has taken me a long time to get used to the idea of hot soup in the Caribbean!]
Bertie: "We never have soup at lunchtime, only in the evening...."
CassCass: "I don't want lunch NOW"..."I want to go there NOW"...." I am not hungry NOW"...." I don't want to tidy up NOW..." - no idea where she got this use of now as a reinforcing word from!
Baby JoJo: "chuckle chuckle chuckle AIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!" Boy can he screech!
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Recycling food is not an issue, as it all goes to the pig. It is very satisfying knowing that all our peelings and leftovers are going to such good use!
Speaking of the post office, when we were there for Environment Day recently, I was very frustrated that along with the croissants and cafe, they were giving us plastic plates and cups! These are so frequently used here, and it was very ironic to seeing them piling up in the rubbish bin next to the posters telling us how long items take to degrade!
Items get recycled quite well. Did I mention my BIL collects the glass doors from washing machines on the side of the road and makes them into pyrex dishes for his wife? And there are 101 uses for the front part of the ventilator (the girls love playing with them to serve food or store dolls) which is a good thing as they break so very easily and quickly there are plenty around.
I visited an organic shop this week called Biocoop and was delighted to find the Ecover range, as my stain remover had run out. I also found eco friendly washing up liquid, powder and toilet cleaner in Carrefour. Plus I found recycled toilet paper. Did you know one of my biggest hates in this world is pink toilet paper? It is rife in France, but I am delighted to tell you that this paper is white (with pretty pictures on it and very soft, a big bonus for the girls!).
Carrefour has a whole aisle dedicated to organic food, though I don't see many people in that aisle! Other shops have a few products here and there. And there are a few of the organic shops around. I haven't really found anywhere that sells fruit and vegetables though. The Biocoop sells seeds so perhaps Bertie will plant these when he has finished preparing his land at Pika.
With all the sun and rain, there is such scope for solar power and reusing rainwater, but I am not sure how many people have taken advantage of it. When we visited the future in-laws of the family last Sunday, they showed us two wind turbines on the hill opposite their house. The people there are so remote that they don't have electricity yet, so have to rely on these, which is not a bad idea.
As for the simple things such as turning off the plug, well the annoying thing with french plugs is you can't turn them on and off, you have to pull them out. Plus they are a bit stiffer than UK ones, so they are usually left in, even in our flat I am sorry to say. It is quite funny to watch Bertie's Dad, who has a real thing about the light on our stairs being off, so he is constantly turning it off after us. But then he leaves the tv on as well as the light in his room!
One of the least green things here is the reliance on the car. Bertie's sister will drive to work...which is opposite LissaLou's school and therefore 5 minutes or less from our house! And she is not alone. The number of cars outside the school gates is horrendous, and a sight repeated all over the island. Do not try to drive here between 7.30-9.30 and 3.30-6pm. LissaLou often asks why we don't go to school in the car!
All the electrical goods (and some others) sold come with an eco tax included. This is quite helpful for seeing how much your purchase will affect the environment. So for example the tax on fridges is €10 but on washing machines is about €4. Funnily enough they do sell tumble driers here but they are not really a necessity, although the rain does mean drying time is longer.
Whilst there are definite moments of homesickness for me, for example reading about autumn and thinking of apple season coming up and the leaves getting ready to turn colours and fall, there are also moments of sheer delight here - floating in the warm Caribbean Sea watching the coconut trees against the blue skies and the golden sand is definitely one of them! As is hearing the girls screaming and shrieking in delight as they splash and swim and shout "you can't catch me!" then laugh joyfully when I do!
Bertie is building up his clientele very successfully, so he has decided to invest a bit in his "business" by buying a board and pens. The girls have enjoyed this investment too, drawing intricate pictures then rubbing them all out. Unfortunately CassCass jumped on it this morning and it is not quite the same. That could be said for a lot of things that have the misfortune to fall in to her hands. Everything is pulled out of cupboards, boxes, folders, envelopes, and poor mummy spends her time clearing up after her. The funniest bit is when I come up to her and she says "don't come in here mummy, don't look"! Who says children don't know right from wrong?!
Thursday saw Baby JoJo and I wander along to the Post Office to cash some cheques and finally send my camera to the UK. I couldn't get it insured without the original receipt so I will just have to have faith in the French postal system! After our previous visit, I expected the worst but we actually went straight to the front of the queue. Unfortunately, nothing gets done speedily here so we still had a ten minute wait whilst the cashier was in deep conversation with a man...turned out that he was from the snack bar parked outside and he was taking their lunch orders! Depositing a cheque was surprisingly complex - no swiping cards here, you have to fill out a form and put all your details and the name of the person and bank from whom the cheque is, before signing the back of the cheque for some random reason. Once completed, we collected CassCass and wandered along to the boulangerie. On the way, I was asked by a random man if I was on holiday. When I replied that I lived here, he asked if that was with my husband. On hearing the affirmative, he smiled and went off. I am still wondering what his motives were! Bertie said he would never stop and chat up a lady with two kids, she would obviously be far too much work!
Friday was our return visit to the dispensaire. You may recall our three hour wait last time, so I went prepared with writing paper and book. How disappointing, this time there were only 10 of us and I was seen fourth, and back home within an hour and a half! The lady who saw Baby JoJo also saw Bertie at the same age, and was delighted to see his son! He is now 7.8 kilos (I think he hasn't put much on as he was not eating much due to his cold) and 68.5 cm. The doctor checked him all over again and he has no laryngite no bronchite no otite or any other ite hurrah! So he was able to have his first injection for Hepatitis B.
Today we were going to go to the shopping centre whilst Bertie was at work but it rained (surprise surprise!) so we stayed home and painted instead. The girls produced some lovely displays and clearing up was great fun as we used the water collected from the rain!
Mamie brought a few more chicks home and Bertie and Papy were meant to be making a coop for them, but apparently they just sat chatting, father and son style. So the chicks (now 12) are still here and very smelly! Reading Handa's Hen took on a whole new perspective as we realised that's what we had downstairs!
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
The change in temperature has brought most people out in colds, we could hear them coughing around LissaLou's school, Papy has a huge new box of medicines to add to his ENORMOUS existing collection, and the children have all been coughing and spluttering away. Poor Baby JoJo has been very pathetic, even to the point of throwing up his food from so much coughing. It reminds me of his first months when he was snoring and snuffling constantly. I see what they mean about babies with siblings at nursery getting more colds! They are all on the mend now though.
In the pouring rain yesterday, Bertie took a shower, cousin Steeven skidded and breakdanced on the floor and CassCass managed three changes of clothing as she played in the water, not to mention wandering out in a towel, presumably in an effort to keep dry!
Not really rain-related but Mamie brought home some new chickens for her flock? brood? and they are very cute. One managed to escape its box and headed upstairs to visit us. The others laughed at me as I tried in vain to catch it - in my defence, I didn't want to hurt it, or vice versa, and after all I am a Londoner born and bred and have never held a chicken before! Bertie did the honours in the end and now they are waiting in their box to go to Pika. The chickens there do produce eggs, but these are often eaten by mongoose (mongeese?). So many linguistic queries this morning, Bertie and I will be discussing them for hours!
Our current old banger belonging to Bertie's brother Richard who is working in St Martin has a small leak and needs a pipe replacing so we are borrowing another one and getting ready for our weekly beach trip. So many beaches to choose from, which one shall it be...?!
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
La Maternelle is NOT a creche, it is a SCHOOL.
They no longer want children behaving like bebecadoms - isn't that a great word? It means cryababy I think.
She then told off the parents for sending kids to school who didn't know how to put their shoes on, ask for things, put litter in the bin... I felt reasonably smug during this, until I mentioned it later to LissaLou and she admitted that she doesn't always put things in the bin! The shame of it!
The most important job they have is of training the children to be good citizens in the future. She made many good points about the importance of teaching children now and the impact they will have on society in the future. Unfortunately, she didn't actually say much on what they actually do all day.
We got to look at their work - LissaLou had some great pictures of the family complete with eyelashes and ears! I love seeing how her drawing progresses! There are 26, soon to be 27 in the class, and they are seated according to ability. LissaLou is on the green table right by the door, so I reckon we could see her with binoculars from our bedroom window! Her friends are mainly on her table, but she has made friends with the neighbour's daughter (he was Bertie's friend at school!). I asked how she knew they were friends and she told me that the other girl had said "tu es ma copine". I just love hearing her speak french! Every now and then she will sing some of the songs they learn too.
Finally, the maitresse thinks it scandalous that these island children can't swim, so she would like to take them to lessons on a Friday morning. I am trying to convince Bertie to volunteer to go along with them.
Sunday morning Bertie's friend popped by before 8am! That is just not normal! Unfortunately our downstairs neighbours know that we are in and awake so we can't even pretend to be away or asleep and not answer the door!
Sunday afternoon we went to see the future in-laws of Bertie's younger brother who is due to get married in December. In France, grr - we keep missing weddings due to being on the wrong continent! We were invited for 3pm so we arrived around 4pm, then made our excuses around 6pm...only to have them very firmly rejected and to be kept for another hour whilst food food and more food was plied upon us. They even had an electric gate to ensure compliance!
Monday morning a man selling pineapples visited the house and my MIL (belle-mere is so much prettier!) kindly called me down to purchase some. She is always very concerned about how much we get charged for things and that we are not ripped off - I used to never buy anything for fear of her disapproval of the price; now I just buy things and sneak them upstairs without her seeing them or look vacant when she asks me how much it was. Anyway, these pineapples came with her approval and at the stunning price of €1 per kilo, I was delighted to get 5.
Friday, 19 September 2008
All last night and this morning the rain lashed down so there was no house painting for Bertie. Instead we set off the Post Office. I had been warned about the queues there but didn't really take it seriously. However, we did wait about 40 minutes to be served! On the plus side, today was Environment Day and they had a group playing lovely music throughout our wait, plus you were served a croissant and coffee, mmm! The rain meant that it was ever so chilly - a mere 23 degrees according to our town thermometer! I was tempted to put on a cardigan (except I didn't bring any) and I am not surprised we are all down with colds, baby JoJo has it the worst.
Last week we went to Ste Anne and realised on arrival that we had forgotten the sun tan lotion (I suffered for 5 days!) and the water to rinse ourselves afterwards so we paid great attention to our packing this week...and arrived to realise we had forgotten the carefully packed sandwiches! Fortunately Bertie's sister was well supplied!
Here are some web photos to show you how beautiful it is there - I just discovered the beach is called Plage du Souffleur - as ever click on them to find where they originate from.
Generally, the sea really is that blue and the sand that white. However, yesterday was not the brightest of days. As we sat on the beach we could see the rain falling on our home town across the sea, and whilst we didn't get any rain ourselves, it was a lot cooler than normal, with much bigger waves than we are used to. Well, Ste Anne has no waves, so they came as a bit of a shock to the girls! LissaLou was moaning and demanding to leave within minutes, but in that wonderful way kids have, she went off to play with her cousin Stella, and had a fantastic time. By the end, the sun had come out and she didn't want to leave the water!
We took Baby JoJo in but between his obsession with drinking the sea water from his floater, and the waves popping over his head, he took in plenty of salt! Then we propped him up in his Bumbo to watch us all and he started leaning over and tilted the whole thing over - luckily Bertie noticed he was upside down!
We also had great fun covering our little nephew in sand up to his neck - perhaps I will get the photo from my SIL.
The beach was absolutely deserted which was very pleasant (the €2 car park fee may have something to do with it?) and they provide huts with tables and benches all along the sand so it is a much more sophisticated way of picknicking! On the down side though there are a lot of mosquitoes and other biting things there.
It was lovely driving through Grande Terre to get there - this is sugar cane countryside and you can see the remaining fields all along the route. Bertie as ever told me of how the island used to be covered in cane and there were five working factories when he was a boy (his grandpa worked for one) now there is only one and all the fields are rapidly turning into construction after construction. I feel his loss, then wonder at islands being dedicated to producing something that rots your teeth...
Firstly he was offered some hours teaching in the English School here. Then his friend asked if he could give her private english lessons. Then she put him in contact with several other friends and acquaintances all wanting private lessons for themselves or their children. Now the word of mouth is working well, and we are drawing up little adverts and trying to fit people in here there and everywhere. Learning english is extremely popular, which contrasts strongly with the attitude to language learning in the UK! Regarding his hours, it is the kind of job where everyone is free in the evenings so I shall have to face the dreaded tea and bathtime alone!
Deciding what to charge was quite tricky as we had simply no idea, but Bertie asked around and it seems that €15 an hour is a reasonable price. Seems very cheap to a Londoner (and probably won't get you far here - in fact, it won't even buy you a pack of nappies!!). Now we have to look into how self employment and tax etc work over here.
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
He is now happily rolling onto his tummy and stays propped up for a while watching the world around, although he still hasn't learnt how to roll back again! He can also sit up for a while, unless he decides to reach for something or sway, in which case he collapses flat.
He goes to any admirer so happily, which is handy as there are so many of them around! He lies cheerfully on the floor playing with the toys we have brought along, but never stays on the mat for long. No idea how he gets off though! His favourite amusement is still watching his sisters, especially when they go crazy around him. In fact, it is the times when we warn them most to be careful that he is the happiest!
Baby JoJo sits happily in his bumbo eating breakfast and lunch now. We have tried carrot, sweet potato, pear, apple, banana and baby rice, all goes down pretty well. But he still can't keep his eyes off whatever we are eating! It is still such hot work feeding the poor boy and watching him sweat away.
I have got his sleeps a bit more organised which is great, so now he wakes usually around 6.30am then sleeps around 9am for an hour and after lunch, between one and two pm he will sleep for 2 hours or so. I have been trying to get him to sleep in the evening but not successfully yet, so usually he goes to sleep around 8 or 9pm for the night.
He can be such a noisy baby! During the prayer meeting I went to, he was babbling and gurgling at the top of his voice! But there was worse to come...time for his latest trick of blowing raspberries! They really enhanced the meeting!
I am very glad that our shipping has just arrived as he is really growing out of his 6-9 month clothes and the new ones are (hopefully!) in one of those boxes!
Amazing to think of all the changes that take place during the next six months!
Friday, 12 September 2008
He has also delivered our new cooker today - hurray! I think 3 and a half weeks is quite sufficient time to wait! I am looking forward to taking charge of my cooking, sticking in a few more veg, taking out a lot of salt, and not getting odd looks for all the pasta that we eat!
And to complete the trio, Bertie brought home our boxes of shipping. I am looking forward to unpacking and seeing what I put in during those crazy final days - I have no idea now! I do hope I brought my lovely recipe for banana cake, courtesy of Mei-Li's mum, as I am looking forward to making one with all the bananas around me.
Bertie got on fine at his teaching post on Saturday and we survived without him! I went to a women's prayer meeting after and he took the girls shopping and got LissaLou some very pink noddy trainers.
I am a bit concerned about LissaLou's obssession with shopping (and bemused as to where she gets it from!). On Wednesday we went to the beach for the morning then Bertie took the girls with him to the shopping centre. That evening as we went through our things to say thank you for during our prayers, LissaLou listed "going shopping, buying sugar cakes there, going on two escalators, one steps the other flat..." In response to my "didn't we do anything else?" it was finally CassCass who mentioned the beach!
LissaLou still cries when we leave her at school - twice a day, sigh! But she tells us she is fine after a few minutes. She now has three friends, Leah, Jade and Emma. It is funny hearing her tell us what the maitresse said and lovely hearing her french. She was translating for CassCass today!
CassCass woke this morning at 5.30am (ouch) and came running into our room crying that there was a bee in her bed. Bertie went to investigate (not very seriously, as anything from a flea to a moth could be a bee for her!) and ended up swopping places with her. A little later, I asked what the bee looked like, and she looked wide-eyed and beaming at me as she replied "like a princess!" The mind boggles.
We have not had any hurricanes, unlike the poor Haiti, but we have had SO much rain. You seriously can't imagine how much it is unless you have been in a monsoon! Our routine is Bertie drops LissaLou at school and I collect her, and it always seems to fall when I have to go! It is incredible how quickly the roads become rivers which I wade through. Equally incredible is how quickly the water goes. On the downside, we haven't been to the park as much and it is all dark upstairs when it rains, as we have to close the shutters (no glass!).
Bertie has been working at Pika with his dad this week, which is a great encouragement for his dad and a pleasure for him. He has been working on a vegetable patch which should be fruitful in January.
Look out for the next update on Baby JoJo who hits six months on the 16th!
Friday, 5 September 2008
LissaLou has managed three days at school. Her french is getting so much better, which is lovely to see, but she leaves each mirning (and afternoon!) in a rather tearful state. It is reassuring to know that she is fine when she is there! She has made two friends called Leah and Jade (she thinks) and she understand some but not all of what they say! Alongside the teacher, each class has a Tatie and LissaLou's is a lovely lady called Marie-France who she likes a lot.
CassCass was able to follow all of Papy's instructions and carry them out obediently. It is great to see the relationship that is building up there, with the help of some biccies and chocolates and guavas slipped their way! (Grandparents are alike world over!) After many days of silence, it is lovely to hear their bright "Bonjour papy! bonjour mamie!" each morning.
Bertie found himself some work! It is a private school that teaches English, run by a Zimbabwean lady. He will be working...Saturday morning, groan! "I've never worked saturday in my life" he exclaimed! There may be additional work on...Wednesday. Of course, it would be LissaLou's day off, sigh! Furthermore, he went to see the owner today, criticised her method of painting, and got a job repainting the building! Go boy!
Bertie has also taken our social security application a step nearer completion and applied for a bank account at La Poste. This required...proof of address, his mum's ID card, both our passports, our livret de famille, a final payslip...and that was just to get a card that lets you withdraw money and no more!
We have started rearranging our upstairs flat and it is feeling very homely. We have a tv now, ooerr! Not very good for us I am sure, but thankfully there is very little to watch on it and I have been lent some more books so I have no time for it anyway! Unfortunately for Bertie it won't show the Ryder Cup, coming soon.
As part of this work, we have got rid of lots of poor Mamie's junk! The rubbish truck passed at a very opportune time this week. And the big event...we finally have our own room! So exciting! Baby JoJo is in with us but in a corridor section and with a stand separating us, so it hardly feels like he is there. The girls were reassigned to their lot by their pink and green mosquito nets and the masses of space they now have to play in.
All the kids are back at school so it is very quiet here. Several of them start at...gasp...7am! I don't know how they do it!
On a sad note, the mango season is finished until next spring, but we are delighted to be enjoying guavas, cerises de pays and cythères. Yum!
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Unfortunately, we never got a letter from the Mairie about LissaLou's school; nor are we very organised! So LissaLou set off to school this morning missing a few essentials. Ah well! On our shopping list are umbrella, raincoat, trainers. Oh, and enroll at a doctor!
Her school is La Maternelle, for 3-6 year olds. School is not obligatory until 6 here, but everyone goes anyway. The hours are 8am till 11.30 and then 14.00 till 16.30 - no tardiness please or we get suspended for a week! It is quite a big school with three classes in each year. LissaLou is in Section Moyenne, class 7. I was a bit concerned about her and the teacher, as Bertie warned they can be less strong on the pastoral side here, but hers seems very nice and friendly. The headmistress was here when Bertie was 30 years ago! Apparently she is very stern!
We turned up at 9am today and joined the chaos of parents filling out forms. We were rather embarrassed at all the blank spaces on ours, but the teacher didn't seem to mind too much. Another thing they have here is assurance scolaire which appears to be obligatory. We paid the school €45 but you can get your own too.
LissaLou was delighted to see a home corner and it was a very pleasant classroom. There is lots of space to run around outside. And we can see the school, in fact her classroom, from our bedroom window!
We left her to it, sad but not crying like a few others. Heartwrenching to see them in tears, or trying hard not to cry. Bertie picked her up for lunch and she said that they sang some french songs and she made two friends whose names she had forgotten. She seems to have understood everything but it's just the speaking that lags behind a bit. Unfortunately she wasn't so pleased to go back this afternoon (I left it to Bertie as she is less likely to cry with him!). We will see how it goes. I could have signed her up for the canteen and not disrupted her day, but that would have meant a very long day for her so I hope she will enjoy coming home and going back again.
It is pouring with rain today. All the windows are shut to keep it out!
We also got a cupboard which makes the kitchen look a bit more like one. Now we just have to work on CassCass' new habit of helping herself to whatever is in the fridge or cupboard! Today she turned up with a very chocolatey face having found some truffles left by Bertie's sister... The problem with fridges here is they all have the icebox/freezer at the top, which makes the fridge a) very accessible for kids b) very inaccessible for adults! I will be constantly bending down to get water and things from the bottom. I definitely prefer our UK style with freezer on the bottom. I am further justified in this as I read it is also the most environmentally friendly style too!
On Sunday Bertie's sister and her family set off back to France so it was a flurry of activity all day as they packed, said farewells, had a big family lunch... Those familiar with Bertie's family and their luggage won't be surprised to know they had too many kilos and had to send stuff back with Bertie! It is now waiting for the next traveller to take (be warned mum!!).
How quiet it was once they had set off and everyone gone home! Two sisters played scrabble - they play at such a speed and in french that I don't dare join in and slow the game down! So instead I made a nice yoghurt cake with my niece Stella. Delicious!
We went to the house church run by the Texans in the morning and having no car, I suggested walking. Twenty five VERY hot minutes in the burning sun on the hottest day for the last month, ouch! Thankfully a lady gave us a lift up the hill at the end and then a lift home again. We keep our eyes peeled for a car!
Still waiting for our cooker to come - two weeks since we ordered?!