Thursday, 28 April 2011

Easter on the Island of Lemurs

We spent this Easter in Nosy Komba - the island of lemurs.

The island of Nosy Komby (pronounced nossi koomb)

The dining terrace of our hotel.  

The very unsafe balustrade of the dining terrace.  Tripadvisor will be hearing about this.

The Mozambique Channel

The Bambina took delight in holding a chameleon.

The Bambino loves tortoises, turtles, dinosaurs...pretty much all reptiles, actually...

The Bambino meeting the locals.

We took lots of photos of the lemurs too but the Frenchman has them on his iphone and I haven't had the chance to download them yet.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The positive side of expat life in Madagascar

Expat transfer season is coming up soon.  With that in mind, we can't help but wondering whether we'll stay or be sent somewhere else.  We've had our fill of Madagascar and love the idea of moving to yet another country, but as I contemplate our last two years here, I realise that, however much we complain about the dirt, the pollution, the poverty and the lack of choice for schools in this city, we still have it pretty good.  So if we do end up staying (and the chances are good that we will), at least there'll be more of these positive aspects of life in Tana:

 We live in a residence (some people call it a compound) with streets that are paved and guarded, and kids can walk, run and ride their bikes anywhere they want within the residence.  The residence gives them a freedom that they would never have back home in Paris or in pretty much any other modern city.  My six-year old Bambina leaves the house by herself and takes off on her bike and I don't have to worry about it.

Horse-back riding lessons for children and adults of all ages, at reasonable rates and not too far away from where we live.  The Bambina has a lesson every Sunday morning and the Bambino likes to try out a pony whenever we go. 

Lots of rain and every now and then a rainbow.
 A heated swimming pool in our back yard and lots of opportunity for friends to come over and play - school gets out at 12:20 three times a week.

 Lots and lots of yard space.  

Very cheap manicures, pedicures, massages and haircuts.   A haircut for the Bambina costs about 2 euro.  A pedicure costs about 10 euro.  A message costs about 5 euro for an hour!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

English class at the French school

I've already posted once about the Bambina's English class at school.  She is in "CP" (first grade) at the French primary school here in Antananarivo and her class has "anglais" twice a week - English for French kids.

I stated in my previous post that I believed that this class would be, at best, a complete waste of time for the Bambina and at worst, harmful to the Bambina's French-English bilingualism.

So now I'm reporting back.  The times that the Bambina has talked about her English class at school, she has said that it is very very boring.   That was to be expected. But she has also said that the teacher makes mistakes.  Last week, she said that the teacher, a Malagasy who almost certainly learnt to speak English at a French school, is teaching the students the parts of the body in English.  In doing so, she points to her head and says "ED".  "Repetez, les enfants : ED".

So the teacher is telling the children that the word for "tête" in English is "ed".  Not "head" - "ed".  And she is getting the children to repeat this word over and over, thereby engraining this hideously incorrect pronunciation into each child's brain.

Ever wonder why the French speak English so poorly?  Now we know.

But not only does this teacher drop her "h's" when she shouldn't, she adds one when there isn't any.  The Bambina has an Australian classmate, Ella.  The English teacher calls her.... you guessed it... "Hella".  What the hell?

All of which leads me to conclude that these English lessons aren't just harmful for my little Bambina's bilingual capacities.  They're not doing the other kids any good either.  The children are learning some English, yes, but bad English.  English that later on will cause listeners to think, "this person doesn't speak English very well."

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Questioning our school choice

I'm feeling anxious today. Recently, the Bambina has seemed not quite herself and her teacher at school agrees that something is not quite right.

Sunday night, I reminded the Bambina that tomorrow there was school and her face went from content to crestfallen within a second. When I asked her what was wrong she said "I don't like school".

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because" was all she could answer. And then "I can't explain".

"Okay, let's review your typical school day and see what it is that you don't like. What do you do first?"

"First the teacher reads us a story. I like that."

"Okay", I say. "Then what."

"Then we read and write. I like that, too. Then there is recréation. That's okay but kind of boring because there's nothing there." (There's no playground equipment at the Bambina's school, if you can believe it.)


"Then we have mathématiques. I don't like that."

Uh-oh, I think to myself. She's not even seven years old and she already is having problems with math...

"I don't like working on the ardoise. I hate it. I want to do math on a piece of paper with a pencil."

The ardoise is a little slate that each child has, just like in the olden days, to do quick sums on. I had no idea that this could be an obstacle to learning.

"Then there's sport. I don't like sport. It's boring and tiring. Then English - also boring."

No surprise there. The Bambina is bilingual and has to sit through English lessons for beginners. Yawn.

"Then we have théatre. That's also boring."

I actually think that the Bambina could like a theatre class if it was done properly but in this case, judging by what they have "performed" for us, I can see her point. In the last performance, they stood around acting like sheep for ten minutes. And that was it.

And then there's art but we don't do much art like we did in kindergarten. We just learn about artists.

I'm happy that the French have taken it upon themselves to imbue knowledge of Kandinsky, Picasso and Robert and Sonja Delaunay, but it sure would be nice if they would also let the kids actually do some art!

"Mommy, if they canceled everything else, even recreation, and just let me write all day, I would love it. I just want to write."

Not sure what to do with this was. Academically, she is doing fine. Her grades are good. But she seems bored or at least uninterested. Is she in the wrong school system? Maybe I should take her out of the French School and put her in the American School? At least she would get to do more art and would be allowed to do math with pencil and paper instead of on a slate.

I'm afraid that if we continue in the French School it will be more of the same, year after year. On the other hand, I might switch her to an American school, and the problem still might not be resolved. And then if we ever do want her to switch back to the French system (say, because we move back to France and we can't afford a foreign private school), she may have a very hard time reintegrating.

And then there is always the possibility of putting her in the Primary Years Programme of an international school (when we move to another country, that is. There is no international school here in Tana). But having read the description of I'm not sure whether to love or hate it. (Any thoughts most appreciated, of course).

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Why we love visiting Paris

The Bambino and I just returned from Paris less than two weeks ago.  As usual, we enjoyed every minute of it.  Here are some reasons why.

Carroussels abound.  The Bambino liked riding on this one right beside metro Jean Jaurès in the 18th arrondissement.   He went on it at least six times a day!

And the one in front of the hotel de ville was also a real treat, for the ride and for the gorgeous surroundings.

You can find a clean, safe, and fun public playground in pretty much every neighbourhood in Paris.   There are no parks or playgrounds where we live.  We rely solely on our own and other people's houses for this kind of recreation in Madagascar.

Flower shops, boutiques, ice cream stores,... civilization!

...and of course bakeries.  The Bambino asked for a croissant every single morning of our trip.