Xandie's Xcellent Xperiences, No. 1

A closeup of the Karlsruhe palace with the Ferris wheel behind it.  I
was trying to get interesting motion blur on the wheel, but it turned
out to be difficult and all I wound up with was a picture that looked

Geoff and Xandie in the beer garden just outside our apartment
building.  Photo taken by a camera phone.

Xandie poses with her "new" bike.  When we arrived, the head of the
International Department offered to let us have the use of some
abandoned bicycles.  The first one we found for Xandie turned out to
be irreparable, but this one was actually better.  Note that it only
has one training wheel.  It took no time at all for Xandie to learn
that all good cyclists lean to the left!

Our apartment.  This picture was taken from a corner of the living
room.  The windows are all double-paned for the winter, and also
double-hinged so that they can either lean out (as shown) or swing
open like a door.  The kitchen is tiny, but adequate.  The
refrigerator is the lower left "cupboard" and is about the size of a
hotel or office mini-fridge in the U.S.  The cabinet on the left was
intended for a stereo, but is now our pantry.  The coffee table was
intended as a TV table; the "coffee table" provided was so tiny that
we use it as an end table.  Note the wine bottle on the table, a
necessary fixture in any Kuenning household.

Xandie plays a card game with her friend Hurria (R, in brown) and her
sisters and cousins.

Xandie standing (somewhat grumpily) on top of a dry fountain in front
of the European School in Karlsruhe on the first day of classes (the
day before she started).  This shot shows the administration building
to the right and the high-school building behind the field.

Flags in front of the European School in Karlsruhe on the first day of
classes (the day before Xandie started).

First day of school!  Xandie's giant backpack, cone, and other gifts.

First day of school!  Xandie ready to go.  She's not really asleep,
she just blinked when the flash went off.  But she certainly was a bit

First day of school!  Xandie and Pat at the nearly deserted tram stop.

Many of you have asked after Xandie & how she'd been faring in a strange new land. It's such a contrast from Claremont that I'm amazed by her speedy adjustment to the previously unknown.

The first real difference is adjusting to urban living. Our building, as most of you already know, is just across from a palace. It is a typical-for-Karlsruhe multi-use building with an inner courtyard. The exterior ground floor space is composed of small shops, U of K International Dept. offices, and a cafe/biergarten (handy for Geoff) on the corner, appropriately named "Multi-Kulti". The inner ground floor has studio apts. mainly occupied by post-docs w/small families (X is learning one doesn't need to speak the same language to make friends and play), a courtyard with lots of bicycle parking (including our 3 bikes), a large area with gravel and small trees/vines (to throw things around and get dirty in), the laundry room, mailboxes, stinky trash bins, and the underground lecture hall/movie theater which shows movies in English every Thurs. & sometimes Tues. nights, which is great because we have no TV here. (occasionally they show kid flicks & X has already submitted her list of requests, mostly Disney of course)

The upper floors (1-3) are dorms & professor apts. Luckily we are in the latter. The entire apt. is furnished with IKEA stuff & at times I feel like we're a living catalog photo. Some new things for X: the kitchen is a wall in the living room & the fridge is kid-sized. (good for X / bad for Mom) Her room is equipped with two beds (having one for the stuffed animals & toys is nice), a very large office desk, and clothes go in the wardrobe. There is a bathroom & a "toilette". (One of the first things X is finding here in Europe is that there is an infinite number of types and ways to flush a toilet.)

Before school began X helped with me with many chores, like the daily shopping, & so we instituted a weekly allowance for her to learn the value of a Euro. It's sort of working and she now owns 73 keychains for hanging on her backpack...which brings me to the story of going to school in Germany. The first problem was getting into a school. We were strongly advised not to send her to the closest school (an inner-city school situation) and began frantically calling/emailing around to private schools. We had investigated a few from afar (US) & contacted our first choice,the European School which is located in a very pretty area outside the city called Waldstadt, where most visiting professor type families send their kids. We were told X would have to "sit for an exam" & that "the headmaster would decide if they had room". And so with only one week before classes, she did & they did & we were ready for the first day of school. Or so we thought.

We had heard & observed that even very young children wear huge square shaped, satchel-backpacks to go to school here. The reason is due to the size of the books and it also needs to hold all the additional required stuff you will soon hear about. Since we live in a major shopping district it was not hard to find these special backpacks at a very special price of €89.00 (almost $100). Eventually, 10 stores later, Mom found a good deal at only €29.00.

After visiting the new school to pay for the tram pass & attending our first parent night meeting the shopping continued; first of all one needs lots of shoes to go to school here. There are the shoes you wear to school, then you put on your classroom shoes/slippers/clogs (to keep the floor clean), then if it's sports day you need indoor sports shoes (to keep the gym floor undamaged & clean), outdoor sports shoes, and finally, it might be raining when you go home so you need rain boots! After another €100. we walked out of the shoe outlet with enough shoes for a year, except Xandie's feet are still growing & in 3 months I'll probably get to do this all over again.

All that was left to buy were bags: the German class supplies (workbook, folder, art stuff) in a hangable bag, gym clothes/shoes in a wearable bag, and because twice a week she has long days, a lunch bag. I have taught in public schools for a lot of years & have never seen a kid so laden down with so much stuff to carry! Truly amazing.

There is a very old tradition for the first day of first grade in Germany. What looked to me like decorated dunce caps in all the stores turns out to be "school cones". A paper cone is filled with candy & school supplies & presented to the kid on their very first day of primary school. Actually it turned out that the result of having a cone is one of great anticipation and excitement instead of the usual first day of school jitters. We needed that as it turned out.

We had taken the #4 tram three times now to go to the new school for preliminary visits & so with the cone goodies, extra shoes, & snackbox in the giant backpack, her tram pass in hand, we were ready to send Xandie off to school on the tram. (Some of you have read Geoff's "How not to go to school" bit & know what's coming) It turned out it wasn't the #4, it was the #17 (a special school tram)...In the heat of the moment (Pat & Geoff screaming at each other in confusion while trying to pull Xandie into two halves) Geoff got on the wrong tram, X on the right one & eventually she had a good first day of school. Whew!

Here's another little twist which I had only partly considered. Even though X is taking her subjects in English, she is attending a European school and so it is British English (or Scottish English as her new teacher likes to say). I was ready for that part, but didn't think about the writing component. Seems she has to relearn all her letters! They all have funny little "flicks" on them. She'll have the best penmanship in Claremont when we return home.

All is going extremely well considering what a culture shock it is for all of us. I know how disoriented I felt at the parent meeting when we went to the German class & of course the teacher explained the curriculum "auf Deutsch". I now know how an immigrant mom feels; good thing Geoff was there to take notes & translate for me. (I did the same for him with the Scottish teacher.)

All for now, hope you enjoy the pix.
Pat, Geoff & Xandie

P.S. If you haven't already seen it, you might be amused by Geoff's how not to get to school Web page.