For all of the frustrations and difficulties we've run into trying to get set up in Madrid, our experience so far with the kids' school has been wonderful.
It's a private school that advertises itself as bilingual, but is mostly Spanish-speaking. They have a team approach in which some classes are taught in Spanish by one teacher, and then an English speaking teacher will instruct in other subjects.
The Spanish teacher doesn't speak English at all, which surprised me a little. There are very few English-only kids in the school, so Alex and Derek will have to learn if they want to get by on the playground.
We are so thankful for the Army family we were introduced to online before we arrived, and who have become our new friends here in Madrid. Like I mentioned before, their 2 kids are in Alex's and Derek's classrooms and that has made a huge difference for them in getting settled in and feeling comfortable.
The bad news is that their family is going to be out of town for a couple of weeks, so we'll see how they do without their connection to the English speaking world.
This assignment is very different from a typical overseas military assignment. Usually there is a base, which functions like a mini-America, with most of the resources you would find at home. There would typically be a department of defense school as well.
Since there is no base here, and no school, the military provides us with other resources that help make up for the difference. There is a school program that allocates funds to give the kids an education that is comparable to what they could receive in the States.
We are given a budget to work within, and have some freedom in choosing what type of school we want the kids to attend.
There is an American school in the suburbs of the city, but we thought this would be a neat opportunity for them to learn a new language, so we opted to go with a Spanish school.
The program will pay for their tuition and fees, and we pick up the bill for the ridiculously priced uniforms, as well as the school lunch program.
I could tell you how much that costs, but I don't think you'd believe me.
We arrived in town last Wednesday, had a meeting at the school on Thursday, and chose Monday for the kids to start classes. They welcomed the kids in mid-year, worked with us on Derek's food allergies, and addressed all our questions and concerns...and they haven't even received the registration fees.
The schools program I mentioned is a little slow in getting things set up, but since the school has worked with them before, I suppose they know that they will eventually be paid. I just find it hard to imagine a private school in the States that would do anything without some sort of deposit or fees being paid.
So we've been impressed with them, even when we sometimes have to pantomime to communicate. ;)
On Monday I was definitely nervous. Mostly about Derek's food issues, and whether Alex would be too overwhelmed. We wanted to come have lunch with them, but were told that's just not done here. They administrators gently shooed us off, telling us to enjoy our day.
At least I think that's what they said. ;)
And so off we went, with no cell phone for emergencies yet, and an 8 hour school day. Yep, 9 to 5.
Josh had a meeting scheduled, so I had coffee with my new friend, Rachel, and she showed me her piso and neighborhood to get an idea about the housing here.
Then I went on a long walk around different parts of the city to see some sights.
It was nice to be on my own for a bit, but I was still nervous. I walked and prayed.
We were so relieved to see big smiles at pick-up time! They both said they had a good day, and we celebrated by letting them play with their friends in a plaza in front of the Reina Sophia art museum. It was full of uniformed Spanish schoolkids playing futbol and running around, so neat to see.
After that, we grabbed dinner on the walk back to the metro station, and headed back to the hotel.
Their second day seemed to go smoothly as well. It's such a blessing to have this very important part of our time here in Madrid get off to a good start!
Here are some pictures...
Here they are after breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Alex looks sleepy-- it was our earliest wake-up since arriving.
She wears this gym uniform 3 times a week, and her dress uniform 2 times a week.
Derek dresses up like an itty-bitty-wittle-man every day of the week.
You'd better like his pants.
This is the tiny street the school is on. See all those people on the right? That's the door to the school at pick-up time. It's a little bit crazy. I think the school is 4 or 5 stories high, so when it lets out, kids just pour out the front doors.
There's a lot of graffiti in Madrid, but it definitely feels very safe.
Part of the Plaza de Reina Sofia where the kids were playing.
Riding home on the Metro
Loosening up the tie at the end of the day
Here are just a few random pics I quickly took while walking around. I will have to get my good camera out one of these days!
These types of old buildings and structures are everywhere! It's really a fun place to walk around.
Okay. All for now!