My First Day Teaching English to Refugees/ Asylum Seekers

Respect is a rare bird in the world!

I found a post a couple of weeks ago asking for volunteers to teach English classes to the refugees and asylum seekers at Croix-Rouge Luxembourgeoise (Red Cross). Today I had my first class and it was enlightening and enriching. I have been wanting to help out with the refugees since I arrived in Luxembourg last summer. I was able to donate clothes and toys and also help out at the sorting center, but this was my first opportunity to help face-to-face.

After a few e-mails back and forth with other volunteers I found a time to meet up with Mairead (a kind and gentle Irish woman that has lived in Luxembourg for many years) this morning for my first class. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only note I received about the classes was that many of the people spoke little to no English and would only be in this transitional camp for a few weeks to months.

Mairead sent me an e-mail telling me how to get to the camp, an old industrial warehouse that many don’t know about, just a 3 minute drive from my house. Drive past the supermarket parking lot and stop at the gate for the guards who will need to see your ID and usher you in. Upon arrival I saw a few men going from building to building and a couple of security guards. It was very laid back. There were beautiful murals on the walls outside and in the building. We met in the parking lot with her husband and she proceeded to show me around and give me the history of the building, the murals and how the Croix-Rouge has been housing the refugees here since November 2015. It was a point for families and men but is not just a camp/center for men. There are other camps in the area that cater to families.

As we walk into the building there are men milling around, saying “Bonjour” or “Moin” – hello in French and Luxembourgish – with a smile.

Mairead explains how many men are housed here, around 150 now, and how they go about their daily routine, which includes language lessons onsite in English, French and Luxembourgish if they wish. Language is very important since you can’t get a job unless you have one or more of the national languages – French, German or Luxembourgish. English is also very well-spoken in Europe.

At first we only have one student, an 18-year-old boy from Montenegro in the Balkan countries.  He has been in Luxembourg for a few weeks and hopes to stay but knows it is unlikely since primarily true asylum seekers (Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) are getting completely through the process. Years ago refugees from the Balkan countries were granted asylum but nowadays not. The boy came here in hopes of finding work. When he returns to Monte Negro, which he is sure will happen, he wants to go to school to become a police officer.

Next a 42-year-old man from Iraq joins us. He knows very little English and only speaks Arabic. After introductions Mairead sets me to teaching him one-on-one as other men start joining the class. He is soft-spoken and earnest and really wants to learn English. He is a welder by trade and we have worksheets that have pictures of tools and workers with the names in English and Arabic underneath. We work on his pronunciation. As the class progresses we start to talk more. He shows me pictures of his wife and children, who currently live in Germany. He has only been in Luxembourg for 4 months but his wife and family were able to leave Iraq six years earlier and start the immigration process in Germany. His family visited him here in Luxembourg last weekend and he shared his pictures of their picnic. I told him how beautiful his family is and he continued to share pictures of them including his daughter’s 11th Birthday party. I could see a sadness in his eyes that he wishes he could be with them now but knows it might still be a while before they are reunited.

Close to the end of the class a few more men show up and work with Mairead. A young man from Afghanistan joins our group. He has been in Luxembourg for just two weeks. He shared with me his route here and what it took to get here – trains and bus rides. At the end of the class I talk with the other men too. Some of them have been here a couple of weeks, some a few months. They are from Monte Negro, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and other countries.  I didn’t get a chance to talk with all of them and we are using limited English.

There is one thing that did stand out with all of these men. They are happy to be in Luxembourg but sad to have left their countries. They have left behind family and friends and lives that they could no longer live. Some of them were laughing and joking while others were quiet and contemplative. Who really knows what they have been through to get to where they are today. One thing is for sure, they all have kind hearts and want to start a new life in Luxembourg.



Container Gardening in it’s Simplest Form

I bought a wooden garden box and starter veggies last week while I was in France.  I thought it was bigger than it ended up being. As I only travel to France from Luxembourg every couple of weeks I knew I needed to find a solution to my poor little veggie starts. I was hoping to find another box for my vegetables yesterday in Luxembourg but apparently they don’t sell them here. Plastic window boxes and pots abound but no wooden garden boxes. So, it’s Sunday, and nothing is open in Europe on Sundays and my poor veggies are wilting in the extreme heat this week.

So, I must come up with a plan. I had been throwing around the idea of using my large compost bags that are for garden waste to plant potatoes. My neighbor in Seattle used something like this for his potatoes. I thought, why not use my grocery bags, which are smaller than the compost bags but the same plastic material.


So this afternoon I dug out all my grocery bags to see if I could fill them with my veggies. Thankfully I had plenty. There are no plastic or paper bags here in Europe so everyone brings their own bags to the market when they go shopping. And, the best part is that they are very inexpensive, only 50 cents. Each bag fit one 40L bag of soil perfectly.  With the bags only costing 50 cents each and the 40L potting soil only costing €2.39, I paid less than €3 ($3 US) for each container.


In total I planted six tomato plants, six beet plants, three swiss chard plants and one hot pepper plant.

I also have a very artistic garden that can be mobile as well. Now I just need to replenish my grocery bags with some new ones (the prettier the better) and start my Spinach seedlings.

Universal Healthcare “Socialized Medicine” in Luxembourg VS. the US

So, the big question, is universal healthcare better than the system (very broken) in the United States? I would say hands down yes with my experience in Luxembourg. I had my first visit to the doctor yesterday. I am running out of my thyroid medication and need to get a new prescription. You are not allowed to ship prescription medicine from the United States.

Thankfully I met a wonderful woman a couple of weeks ago during the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg’s discussion on medicine and how the system works here. Dr. Nana Ikoko and I hit it off right off the bat and of course I wanted her to be my GP (general practitioner). She is an amazing woman. She grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, and moved to Belgium for university. After university she moved to London, where she practiced medicine for five years. Oh boy the stories she told me about her experiences in London. She has been in Luxembourg for a year now. It has been hard for her to establish a practice here since most Luxembourg people go to the same doctor from birth to death. She is fluent in English and French but not German and Luxembourgish so that has limited her.


I went for my first visit yesterday. Upon arrival there were no forms to be filled out, you simply show your Securite Sociale card. I went directly into her office where we discussed what medicine I was on (a natural form of thyroid medicine). I had done some research and since alternative medicine/naturopathy is not available here I knew we would have to look further than Luxembourg. She was not familiar with my medicine. I had a print-out of pharmacists in the UK and she got on the phone and called them up right then and there. Within 10 minutes she had set up an account with the pharmacy and had ordered my prescription. She also wrote up a long list of blood tests I have been wanting to get for a while to see how my thyroid and other mineral absorptions are doing. Although I haven’t been to a primary doctor in the United States in many years, I know I never had an experience as great as this.

Upon check out, I paid just €55 (about $60) for my half-hour visit. Most of this will be reimbursed by the CNS. To give blood is a little more tricky since there are only a few labs in Luxembourg and most of them are only open from 7-9 am. Thankfully they had a lady that comes to this clinic on Thursday mornings so I was able to go this morning. Upon arrival this morning I was immediately wisked in and gave blood in less than 10 minutes. I gave six vials and was dreading what the bill would be for so many tests. I am guessing in the US it would be almost four figures since one thyroid test alone has cost me $300 in the past and I was getting 26 different tests today.

I asked the technician how I should pay. She said, “CNS pays for it. You pay nothing.” As I left the office, I was ecstatic. How could this be?

So, both times that I have had experiences with the medical establishment here it has been great. My son’s antibiotics cost less than €3 (post here) in the fall and now this.

I did find out some interesting information during the AWCL talk that American’s would find alarming, but overall I will take this system over the American system every day.

Interesting ways they do things here:

There are two hospitals in the city of Luxembourg. There are two more in the country (north and south). At any given time only one of the hospital’s emergency rooms is open. You have to find out which one before you go. They do have an after-care center (urgent care center) that you can go to after hours (8 pm) but you also have to know which one is open on which day. During regular hours you see your GP.

911 in the US or 112 here: If you call, very few will speak English so speak slow and simple. This is also the number you call to see which hospital is on-call and which pharmacy is open. You can also ask about a directory of doctors and specialists. It is not just for emergencies. So, if you do have an emergency they will ask a couple of questions. If it doesn’t involve blood and not very urgent they will send out an ambulance as transport only. This will be followed by a doctor who has all the medicine and materials in his/her bag. If it is a true emergency they will call for another ambulance that has more advanced materials for transport to the hospital. In the rural regions of Luxembourg they will send a helicopter instead of an ambulance since it is hard to get to places with the windy roads and can take too long. The doctor follows the ambulance to the hospital. The ambulances are nowhere nearly as advanced as the US and the EMTs are volunteers and are not trained in life saving.

If you show up yourself at the emergency room of the hospital that is not on-call they cannot take you in. It is closed – doors shut and lights off. You will need to go to the other hospital. There was a case recently where someone died outside the hospital in this circumstance. The infrastructure of this fast-growing city has not been updated and it is obvious if you go to the emergency room I have heard. People can wait hours to get in. Luxembourg is slow and Old World with regards to this. Although I have to say there are probably areas in the US that do not have adequate facilities either.

If you want to know more, here are nice articles by expats.

Public Health System in Luxembourg by Expat Mum in Luxembourg
Using The Healthcare System In Luxembourg – A Short Guide For Expats

Just Two Hours from Brussels but Safe

For those of my friends and family that are concerned about our families welfare living in Europe – Don’t worry! I feel perfectly safe. Yes, it is a travesty what is happening, but nothing new … as outlined in the shared post below… all over the world, not just Europe … these suicide bombings are happening … there are coups.


People display a solidarity banner in Brussels following bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. The banner reads “I am Brussels” in French and in Flemish languages. Charles Platiau/Reuters

I made a new friend a couple of weeks ago who is a doctor from the Congo in Africa. She moved to Belgium for University (still has family there) and most recently lived in London for five years and now Luxembourg for the last year. We met again today and shared our plans for vacations in the next couple of weeks and discussed current events. She is still going to Turkey for vacation despite the bombing in Instanbul because it can happen anywhere. She is not worried about her parents or brother and sister who life in Belgium. She has no plans to cancel her vacation and said we cannot run away scared because it could happen anywhere at any time. We must live our lives and not give in to the terrorists.

These things happen every day in Africa and on a smaller scale throughout the world. But in America it is so hyped when it happens in an anglo saxon country (or Europe) that everyone is told to be afraid. I try not to follow the American news too much because it makes me said. Especially this morning, when I saw that there was an alert out in America to “Not travel to Europe.” Seriously, does America know how big Europe is? Let’s stop the fear mongering and take care of the real problems .. which are plenty… that America has.

We are going to Mallorca, Spain during our Spring Break in a couple of days, we will travel through Paris on our way to Bordeaux to see family later this spring and we plan on traveling north through Belgium (just 20 minutes from home) and the Netherlands and Norway this summer. This will not stop us from exploring and seeing the world and all the beauty and people that it has to offer. We will continue to live, laugh and love instead of putting up walls and cowering in our home.

Controle Technique Car Inspection – Will I Pass?

IMG_0338We received a notice at the end of November about the yearly Controle Technique inspection that needs to be done yearly on the car. I put it aside since it seemed so far off. The holiday break began and I found the letter. In fact, instead of a deadline of the end of January, the inspection was due by Jan. 2.
In the US this would be no big deal, we would have two weeks to get it done. But, in Luxembourg, everything shuts down during the holidays. It is a ghost town the whole month of August and the week of Christmas was the same.

Dynamic websites in Luxembourg are lacking, to say the least. Websites are the same as you 10 years ago in the US. Usually there is little more than a homepage. The Societe National de Controle Technique has a quite interesting website. It shows you the multiple papers you need to bring with you and the four, yes just four, stations in the entire country, where you can get your car inspected. There is a tab for “Prise de Rendez-vous” or make an appointment.

On the letter we received it does not give you any information about where to go to get the inspection or how it is done. It is suggested that you make a reservation/ appointment but does not say it is mandatory. We looked for the first available appointment and it was for January 23rd. So we decided we would go without an appointment the next day and just wait in line.

Well, guess what, it is necessary to have an appointment. And how did we find out? We got up early Dec. 23rd and drove a half hour to sit in line for about 20 minutes, after trying to figure out where in the line we should be. We finally asked for directions and were told that we MUST have an appointment. Nowhere on the website or letter did it say this. There were about 20 cars in line and nothing seemed to be moving. We thought we would try to see if we could sneak in without an appointment.

Upon reaching the first inspection stop it was pointed out to us that we did not have an up-to-date insurance card. So, it being a holiday week we called our insurance company and raced into town to get a new insurance card before the holiday break. So, two hours later we trudged home to see what appointment would be available or if there were alternatives. The attendant also mentioned that we could just come by the next week on Monday at 8 am and take a chance to see if there were any cancelations.

Bright and early Monday morning my husband went to get the inspection and came back as he was turned away and told we MUST have an appointment. We came upon a page on the website that listed “partners” that could also do the inspection. Yeah! … Not so fast… After the few garages within a half hour radius, the best we could do was for an appointment on Jan. 6th. Technically you cannot drive your car in Luxembourg without a valid controle technique. But, what could we do?
My husband made the appointment for me (his French is much better than mine his being French and all) and I take care of the inspection myself.  We had an address and where told to come at 8:30 am on the 6th. There were two garages with the same name listed near each other online and I wasn’t sure which one to go to. The garage is for trucks – big industrial trucks – and is located in an industrial park that I had been to when I changed the winter tires.

Our GPS is outdated (area unmapped) so I went on Mapquest to make sure I knew where the two garages were located and hoped to find the right one first. The only problem – there are not road signs on all the roads. Thankfully after making three different wrong turns and 10 minutes of circling the same roundabout I found the one garage, there were not two. It was a huge complex that was at least a block long. I could not find the entrance through all the trucks parked outside. I found a truck stall and saw a mechanic inside. I knocked on the window and asked in my fabulous French where the controle technique was. He told me and I pretty much understood what he said but in fact not really. I drove to the next part of the building that looked like it was the right place half way around the building and stepped into an office where they do truck rentals. They again gave me directions that I fouled up. There were dozens and dozens of trucks parked everywhere. I finally found the small sign that pointed to the controle technique.

There were multiple trucks in line and a car. I parked to make sure that this time I was in fact in the right place. Yes! Again my limited French worked and the man behind the counter took me outside and guided me and my car to a scattered line of trucks to wait my turn. Shortly after, an Italian man in his car drove up and he asked if I knew where the line was or where the truck stall was for the controle technique. I told him that the man had told me to wait here in my car and and pointed out the spot where I believed the inspection would be. He spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where he was supposed to go with his car. I had faith at this point that I would get my turn. Trucks continued to go in and out of the lot. Multiple times myself and the trucks and car behind me had to move for the big rigs coming through.

Finally I was up – only one hour later… As I pulled up to the garage, the door shut and the men left the building for a coffee break for 15 minutes. I was just happy to be next at this point. I was also just hoping that the car would pass inspection. I had heard stories of how difficult it can be to pass and when we had the tires changed they told me I had to put digital sensors on in order to pass. I hoped it wasn’t true.

When it was my turn, three men speaking Luxembourgish asked me to put on the lights, wipers etc. and I did not understand and tried my French again. They were very nice and helpful and probably loved hearing my broken French and watching my flailing hands. If they had been speaking in French I would have understood their banter as they checked the car over for loose brakes, suspension, etc.

At the end of the inspection I was wringing my hands.  I told them it was my first time with the controle technique and they just smiled. As they finished I asked, “Ca bien?” “Oui!” they said. Ahhhh. I finally let out my breathe. Now I just had to walk back through the truck/inspection stall to the office, pay, come back through the parking lot and inspection stall and get back out to the car. It is definitely old school here.

As I got in my car and tried finding my way back home – unmapped area – I felt a small victory of making it through the dreaded controle technique after only 2 1/2 hours.

I Found €50 – Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Man

50EurobillI found €50 on the sidewalk today during my neighborhood walk. It was just 20 meters away from my house on my way back home. There have been workmen across the street building a new house and there are men coming and going every day.

When I found the €50 bill I looked around to see if anyone had just gone by and dropped it. No. So, I went to one of the workers and asked, “Parlez-vous Anglais?” (Do you speak English?). The answer was no so I switched to my best French and explained, with plenty of gesticulation, that I had found the bill on the sidewalk and wanted to know if any of them had lost it. They looked at me puzzled. Why was I asking them if it was there’s? I had been lucky enough to find the €50 bill. They said “No.” They smiled, shrugged their shoulders and said, “Bon chance pour vous,” in French and “Boa sorte para você,” in Portuguese. Many of the construction workers in Luxembourg are Portuguese.


I smiled and said, “Oui, bon chance pour moi.” (Yes, good luck for me.)

It is the Christmas season and I just came back from my  walk where I was listening to a Ted Talk on compassion and just being a little nicer. I have decided that I am going to take the €50 and buy goodies for the workers across the street, the mailman, my neighbors, delivery drivers and anyone else I may come across.

My birthday was last weekend and Christmas is coming up. The kids kept asking me what I want for my birthday and Christmas. I always say, “Peace on earth.” The kids are getting kind of sick of it. So, since I cannot actually make peace on earth, I have decided that I will up my game and work even harder for good will toward man.

The Differences Between School in Luxembourg and the US

The kids have been in school here in Luxembourg for three months now. They are settling in pretty well at the European Union school considering how different things are here. I will break them down.



I feel that learning additional languages is one of the perks of being in Europe. It is also very hard. There is not one person you meet who doesn’t know/ speak at least two and usually three to five languages. I am in awe every time I meet someone new and hear their story.

I feel embarrassed that I can only speak English, un petit peu Francais and un pequito Espanol. And I was lucky enough to at least be introduced to another language in school – German and Spanish in high school and French and Spanish in university. I can remember the German alphabet and count to 10. I have picked up a little bit of French over the years with my French husband. Most American’s do not learn anything but English; seems a little backward to me now that I am here.

There is no such thing as a second or third language in the US. “Foreign languages” are electives. We were lucky in Virginia that the kids were able to attend a French immersion class for 2-3 years when they were younger. It was a lottery system and we were lucky. Fairfax County is one of the largest school districts in the country and was able to give some kids a second language. Were were in Washington the last three years so no second language. In Washington, Juliana would have had the option to take Spanish or French this year (8th grade). In order for her to take the French class she would have had to take the high school bus (one hour earlier) to the high school, take the class and then take a bus back to the junior high school to start her regular school day. This is not exactly something kids want to do in order to learn a language. She would not have been able to take French during the regular school day until she was in 10th grade.

Children here attend a creche (day care) and there are at least three languages spoken (Luxembourgish, German, French). Then they move on to maternelle (pre-school) and continue with multiple languages and then in primary school they start actively studying a second language: usually French, English, German or a language of their parents if they attend the European School.

Since my kids did not start school here until secondary school (Luca is first year secondary and Juliana is third year secondary) they are quite behind in their second language and a third for Juliana.

Both kids have to catch up with their French quickly, but Juliana in particular. She is taking her French classes four periods a week, her Social Science (geography) and Morals classes in French four periods a week and her German class three periods a week – 11 periods. On top of that she is attending make up periods to catch up. She is taking two extra periods of French and one of German. That makes a grand total of 14 periods of French and German in one week. She is not happy about the extra classes but realizes that it is necessary for her to pass her classes. I am very proud of her. She stays late on Thursday afternoons and is quite excited when I pick her up to share her new words as she quizzes me.

Luca needs to catch up in French too. He takes French classes five periods a week and has a catch up class during his short day on Tuesday. I pick him up early two days a week and we can share his school day. He is just starting his third language, German, which is twice a week. For Luca it is a grand total of 8 periods of French and German in one week. He had a hard time with French at the beginning. It is frustrating when you don’t understand.  But now he is more excited to learn. Both kids spend time with Papa (who is French) in the evenings doing homework, which helps greatly.

School Schedule

The school schedule, now that it has been finalized, is much different than the US. It was amazing to me that the first three weeks the kids did not have an even remotely finished schedule.  I came to find out that a math teacher (yes, one person) was in charge of putting together the schedules for the entire school. Apparently this teacher was not able to get it done before school started, unbeknownst to the administration. This is a school with 2,400 students and seven different language sections with each secondary student having 45 periods a week. Now let’s have one math teacher take care of scheduling during their free time. I was told that any changes to administration procedure must go though the European Union system so it is very hard to change things.

So, when school started, the kids were given schedules that were changed multiple times the first month. Finally after six weeks they had a final schedule on paper. It makes me dizzy just trying to read schoolid2it because the type is so small. Their final ID cards and schedules were sent home two weeks ago (mid-November).

It took more than two months for us to get additional French and German support for the kids though. We even met with the director of the school and it still took four more weeks to get them the support they need to catch up in their second and third languages.

The first thing I noticed about the schedules was that Juliana had four free periods built into her schedule. Luca had one. First year secondary students have early release days on Tuesday and Thursday while third year students have an early day on Thursday. Ironically, Juliana had only three periods scheduled on Thursday, her early day, and two free periods. Of course that has changed now with additional French and German help. Luca has one free period, Wednesday, at the end of the day so I pick him up early.

There are nine periods in the day. School starts at 8:40 and each period is 50 minutes. There is a 20 minute break in the morning and lunch is one of their middles periods. School ends at 4:30 and the kids get home at 5:20. On Thursday Luca gets home at 1:40.

I get tired just looking at their schedules…

Their schedules:



Monday – French (2 periods), English, ICT (Information Technology), lunch, Art (two periods), Gym, Math

Tuesday – German, Music, Science, English, French, lunch, Extra French class

Wednesday – Human Science (History), Science, Morals, Math, lunch, English (two periods), French, free period (go home early)

Thursday – Science, Math, German, Gym (two periods) – Early release

Friday – Human Science, Science, English, Math, lunch, Morals, French, Music

I pick up Luca from school two times a week – after his extra French class on Tuesday and because of his free 9th period on Wednesday.



Monday – Gym (two periods), Science (two periods), Math, lunch, French, German, English

Tuesday – Art (two periods), French, Music, ICT (Information Technology), lunch, Human Science (Geography), Morals, English

Wednesday – German, free period, Human Science, Gym, French, lunch, English, Science, Math

Thursday – Extra French, German, Morals, free period, Math, lunch, Extra French, Extra German – free period to go home early

Friday – French, free period, ICT, Human Science, Science, lunch, Music, English, Math


Teachers are very different here. First of all, think of the stories you hear about Catholic schools and nuns – strict, non-encouraging, calling kids out on mistakes – you are close. No rulers on the hands though. It is definitely old school here. The teachers come from many countries since it is an international school. Our kids are in the English language section and have teachers from Ireland, England, Scotland and of course France and Germany for second and third languages as well as art, gym and ICT (information technology). There are no American teachers here. The teachers almost seem to enjoy calling the students out. Juliana comes home with stories about teachers chastizing kids in front of the class and making them do things over in gym class in front of the entire class. There are no warm, fuzzy teachers here, at least that I have heard of. I have met some encouraging ones though. It is even more difficult for Luca since he was in an elementary school setting where you have a homeroom teacher and stay in the classroom most of the time. Now he is in a school with 11 to 18 year olds all together switching periods nine times throughout the day.

And if you have special needs, you won’t find it here. There are no pull out classes or special education classes. If there is a problem they simply send the kids to the nurses office or the director’s office. Teachers are not really trained to work with this sort of thing. Thankfully we have only had a few episodes this year with Luca and the teachers and concierge (counselor) where able to help. I wrote a letter to each teacher explaining his PANDAS and possible anxieties in case they come up again. I have to say that all of the teachers were wonderful and understanding. But they are definitely not familiar with “issues” like the US teachers are. Perhaps because there are not that many kids with problems like ADHD and autism in this school system. That I will address another day.

Teacher Absences

One of the things that drives me crazy the most is that when a teacher is absent there is rarely a substitute. The first three weeks of school Juliana had four teachers out for multiple days with no substitute. She didn’t have her first Art class for three weeks. What happens when a teacher is out? There is a digital reader board at the secondary school building entrance that reports what teachers are out for the day. I think there was only one week so far that there was NOT a teacher out in the classroom at least once. So, what do the students do? For first year students like Luca, they go to a study room and check in and study – pretty loud and chaotic I’ve been told. For third year students like Juliana, they go check in at the study room and then can wander the campus. This usually means going to the cafeteria with their friends to get a snack and chat. The school does not seem to even try to get substitute teachers, despite what they said at Orientation Night. Luca’s math teacher was out for more than a week and no one filled in for him despite it being his vacation days and the administration knowing about it. If there are teacher training or absences for illness – no substitutes. So, some kids use it as an advantage to study or some, like my daughter, use it to buy snacks (i.e. Mars bars) from the snack machine or pastries from the cafeteria. Her payment key runs dry way too often because of snacks throughout the day. So much for me keeping her on a healthy diet with the vending machines.

Maturity/Behaviour of Kids

I know we came from a very nice, sheltered neighborhood in Kenmore, Wash. But, kids here have potty mouths (to say it nicely or “worse than a drunken sailor”) like I have never heard. Almost every day Luca or Juliana come home with stories. I know I was quite the swearer in my time (as an adult of course) but the words that come out of some of these 11-year-old’s mouths is downright horrible. Many sexual comments and the F-word is quite commonplace. I guess it’s cool to swear in English here. There is one boy in particular that is outrageously obnoxious and a bully. Luca seems to deal with him pretty well. He tries to rationalize with the bully he says. He calls him out on comments and asks him to “prove it.”

Despite that, the kids are quite nice overall. And everyone dresses quite nice. I haven’t seen any pants hanging from hineys or sweat pants. The kids are not as welcoming as Washington, but it is middle/high school so we cannot expect them to have open arms during adolescence. And, the kids are from all over the world and speak many different languages and have different cultures. Luca has been having a hard time making friends. In class and during lunch the boys only want to talk about Futbol (soccer). He also doesn’t like that the kids are constantly talking in class and he can’t concentrate because of it. I am not sure if that is any different than the US.

Juliana has landed into a group of friends that is full of drama. She is NOT happy to hear about the drama all the time. Two of her friends are Romanian and one is Korean. Romanian kids are picked on at the school so it is hard for Juliana to see it. I am trying to get her to branch out but she is very shy and doesn’t know how to initiate a new friendship. There are no Americans.


I was so excited when I saw the menu for lunch at the school. No more processed, nasty non-food items. Although in the US, my kids brought their lunch from home and were not subjected to it. The menu lists soups, bio (organic), entrees, vegetarian, cuisine de monde (cuisine of hte world), chef’s plate of the day, pasta bar, vegetables and desserts. But, the menu is deceiving. Many times Juliana, who has the second lunch period, is not able to get the plate of the day because it is already gone or there are too many people in line. Plus many kids elbow their way in front and join their friends. So kids like mine, who are quiet and not obnoxious line-cutters, are left to the end of the line.

Most days she ends up at the pasta bar and simple gets plain pasta and some cheese sauce. No veggie, no other side, just pasta. So where are the vegetables and soups and other tasty options? That is something both kids are trying to find. The daily soup seems to be missing. The plate of the day is often already gone and nothing new to serve except pasta. Luca usually has first period lunch and can get it. He tries almost everything, fish included, and enjoys it.

tresseSo, Juliana, anticipating not getting a great hot lunch by fighting the crowds only to be turned away when she finally gets to the front of the line, gets a pastry during the morning break. She gets a tresse – a twisted pastry with creme in the middle and chocolate chips on top. I’m drooling just thinking about it. At lunch she usually gets a heaping plate of pasta which they charge €5 for. And then in the afternoon she goes to the vending machine to get a Mars bar and occasionally a fruit drink. I really wish her American appetite would change into a European palate like her brother. Luca tries everything. The gluten and sugar monster has taken over my daughter.

Here is the menu for Monday.  I hope Juliana gets the Raviolis.

Potage (soup) Potage haricort beurre – butter bean soup

Entrees bio – Salade composee au tomate et coeur d’artichaud – salad with tomatoes and artichoke hearts or coleslaw or tartare de choux fleur (cauliflower tartar)

Plat vegeterien – Poelee de legumes au basilic et tofu (fried vegetables and tofu with basil)

Clin d’oeil du chef (chef’s choice) – Supreme de volaille aux fruits exotiques  (chicken supreme with exotic fruits

Cuisine de Monde (world cuisine) – Raviole ricotta epinard sauce poires et gorgonzola (Spinach and ricotta ravioli with gorgonzola and pears)

Feculents (Pasta) – Fusilli, Riz au curry (Curry rice), Pommes de terre aux herbes (Herb mashed potatos)

Legumes (Vegetables)- Carottes Vichy, Salsifis tomatees (Salsa tomatoes), Fenouil Roti (Fennel sauteed)

Desserts – Yaourt aux fruits bios (Organic fruit yogurt), Tiramitsu maison, fromage blanc aux clementines (White cheese with clementines), Ananas caramelise au sesame (Carmelized pineapple with sesame)