Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life in Saint Germaine, Paris, France

Family fun with Andrea, Tommy and Monica
Though I spent nearly every day touring Paris, each evening I returned to the Ruggeri household in Saint Germaine-en-Laye. With three children, aged 7, 12 and 14, there was always something going on. Homework was done at the dining room table, and lessons were done in both French and Italian. The older girls, Virginia and Camilla, go to Lycée International de Saint-Germain-en-Laye ("International high school of Saint-Germain-en-Laye"), along with about 400 other Italian children. French children do not attend the school, but there are students from many European countries, as well as other countries around the world. Children have language and history classes in their native language, but all other classes are taught in French. The school provides a rich multi-cultural experience, and for Europeans, the school is free. 

Andrea and Virginia discussing her homework
Every evening when I got back to the Ruggeri home, the children were busy doing homework around the dining room table. Virginia and Camilla speak Italian, English and French, and are now starting to learn Spanish. Tommaso, who goes to a French elementary school, speaks Italian and French. He even has a French accent when he speaks Italian. 

Tommy working on English
During my stay, Tommaso and I gave each other a few language lessons: I taught him English, and he taught me French. He was an avid student, and we had fun with it. He was a baby when the family lived in the U.S. for three years, so he didn’t have the advantage of learning English in school as the girls did. However, Italian is the main language used at home, and English was rarely spoken while I was there. Full immersion for me!

Market day in Saint Germaine-en-Laye
I spent one Sunday at home with the family, and in the morning, I went shopping with Monica and Virginia in the town center, where a large market takes place in the main piazza. When we got back to the house, Andrea was grilling meats in the back yard for a sumptuous pranzo, or lunch.

Dinnertime with the Ruggeris
During the afternoon, I stayed home with the kids while Monica and Andrea went to a large antique market, hoping to find a dining room table for their new house. 

More family fun!
When they came back, Andrea had a new treasure, a collection of 3D slides with scenes from the early 1900’s. The device was similar to a stereoscope (which later evolved into the Viewmaster), but its images were mounted on glass rather than cards. It was fun passing around the viewer and making up stories about what was going on in the scenes. I enjoyed being included in the family activities, and always felt welcome and appreciated by everyone.

Monica and Camilla
I’m truly grateful for the warm hospitality I received at the Ruggeri home. Staying with them allowed me to not only experience Paris at length, but to also share their new life in France and enjoy the company of their warm Italian family.

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