Friday, February 18, 2011

Thanks Mom!

We were sitting quietly in our dimly lit living space, each working on a separate task, when Tom got up to get more firewood and discovered a slip of paper from the post office attached to the door; a package had arrived!

Immediately, the calm working atmosphere I had struggled to create erupted in a flurry of “I’ll get it!” I announced that as Rhys and Julia were working on their schoolwork, I would pick it up. “I’ll open it!” was next. I announced that we would not open it until the time for working on school was finished. Aren’t I cruel?

As I traipsed happily off to the post office, I pondered why we hadn’t heard the post person. We had been there all morning. When other people had arrived at the house we had heard them. Guiltily, I wondered if I had been in the middle of my fishwife screaming routine when the notice had arrived. I know it probably surprises you to hear life isn’t just one happy event after another, and even more so that I would raise my voice. I’d like to remind you that I am traveling with two teenagers.

School has been most difficult this year. I had heard before we left that Europe was very well connected and finding Internet would not be an issue. This was important if the kids were going to do correspondence online. It seemed to be true when we arrived in England. A mobile internet stick cost about $50 and lasted the entire month we were there. We were told the stick would work throughout Europe and it seemed this was going to be the answer. We could get internet anywhere, even while driving, although that was sporadic. It was still August, though, and the online teachers were on holiday. The kids couldn’t get started until September.

After we left England, Internet became a whole new ballgame. In Greece, we spent two days and five whopping hours in the Vodaphone shop trying to get the newly purchased mobile stick to work. The one from England simply would NOT work under any circumstance, even with a new card and although the Vodaphone technician was a computer guru with the patience of a saint, we only managed to get the brand new $75 mobile stick to work. On arrival in Turkey a few weeks later, the Greek stick no longer worked and the English stick remained silent as well. It appeared this was not going to be the simple process I had anticipated.

We decided we would have to rely on Internet connections in our various apartments but as I hadn’t included that criterion when I booked them the previous summer, it was hit and miss. We also found that the pace of travel left very little time to focus on assignments. We would awaken at around 7 or 8 in the morning and return to the apartment around 5 or 6 in the evening most days. After dinner, emails and the occasional Skype call we’d all collapse into bed to repeat the process the next day. Life was a whirl of the new and unfamiliar. Information was bombarding our brains but little of it was the kind one answers questions about.

By Christmas, things were getting a bit intense. Very little school had been accomplished and I realized that we had to PUSH school during the weeks we stayed in one place for longer. Over the Christmas “holidays”, the kids worked on school every morning for a few hours. This routine seemed to work. Then we left for Paris and the whirlwind sightseeing schedule was back.

We had been able to find Vodaphone stores everywhere in Europe but apparently France missed the memo and has only Orange. Fine. We went to the Orange store to get a new chip for the sticks. I don’t know why I figured this would be as easy in France as it was in England. More fool I. The $60 chips didn’t work. I returned to the store and spent two hours with the technician to finally be told the Orange chips would not work with the Vodaphone sticks. One new stick would cost $130. Uh-huh. Once you buy a computer chip, you can’t get your money back so once again we had spent a fruitless $60. Were we going to make it a fruitless $320 for two new sticks? I don’t think so.

Now, we are in Provence for a month and there is Internet at our apartment. We have decided that the kids will do four hours of concentrated work each morning and we’ll sightsee in the afternoon. On weekends we’ll take the longer full day trips. This is an excellent plan. If only the two students would agree. It seems that waking up to do school is completely different from waking up to sightsee. I have never seen such exhausted specimens of life. Rhys can barely open his eyes and Julia appears to be getting a cold.

The day the package arrived was day two of our new plan. I had spent the morning using various tactics to get Rhys downstairs to work; many of which included loud verbal barrages. It would be just my luck to have the post person hear this.

I handed over the postal slip to the clerk at the office and she quickly retrieved the package and released it to me; no id, no questions, nada. Obviously, they didn’t realize the value of the goods inside.

The package sat on our counter in the kitchen, calling loudly to us all. The children focused studiously, giving the package and I furtive glances for the rest of the morning. Finally, the great moment arrived. Julia was elected to open. The rest of us grabbed our cameras. This was the biggest excitement since Christmas! As she opened the box, three cameras flashed furiously before we had to ask her to turn the box around so we all could see what was inside.

Oh, the treasures! Tom had his new glasses. Rhys had his new 5 block Rubics cube. Julia had her new book, Terry’s chocolate and Kraft Dinner. There was even a new t-shirt and article on Italy for me. We all shared the chocolate and the kids ate the Kraft Dinner for lunch. Rhys hasn’t put the cube down since it arrived and Tom announced his glasses to be perfect.

Thanks Mom!


Steve said...

Good to know that some "normalcy" can be found across the Atlantic in a castle nestled in the middle of nowhere. The lessons you have learned appear to be threefold:
1) Never take for granted that any thing will be easy
2) History is fascinating, especially when you are able to experience the relics first hand
3) No one ever likes doing schoool work

I definitely get a good strong visual that life on the road having slowed somewhat, may have reintroduced a more typical family experience again for you all! Blog enjoyed, as always.

Anonymous said...

Hi All, Loved the blog...I'm sure that Julia and Rhys will get their work done. With all they've learned, applying the knowledge should be a piece of cake. GREAT talking this morning and seeing Rhys' completed Rubik. I will let Ian know. And your trip and artistic day in Italy sounds better than excellent. My thrill for the day was completing a proper table on an evaluation sheet! :-) Love Mom

Mynnette said...

Holly- hang in there- this is not the place to tell you that a Tampa mom is in jail because she shot her son who "mouthed off" and later her daughter who WAS doing homework, but irked the mom. Both kids teens, now dead, father back from Iraq, seeking a divorce. BUT- your teens are lucky to have you and Tom. Love all the blogs. Do not lose your sense of humor...Hugs for your great restraint...Mynnette