Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Donkeys, and horses, and pigs...oh my!

On Monday, I accompanied Maylin and her class on a school field trip. We all arrived at school at the usual time, 8:30 am, and an hour later, took a 40-minute bus ride outside of Paris to a delightful goat farm in Rambouillet where we saw and petted mommy and baby goats, tasted goat milk, learned about the different stages of goat cheese production, and enjoyed some incredible cheese of various ages (Maylin had thirds!). What lucky kids! Afterwards, we drove to a larger farm with all your typical farm animals. First, we lunched together in the "salle pique-nique" on the site. I was hoping for a real picnic outdoors, but we just sat all the kids down on the floor and served them their sandwich lunches. Three kids tipped over their water bottles and I ended up being the spill-recovery lady. This way, I got to meet some other kids from another class. It was so cute -- they'd ask me whose mom I was.

There was no time or place for a nap after lunch, but we had a few minutes of waiting before our tour of the farm. The kids were getting a little restless, so I rounded up a few of them and did a few French and English nursery songs. They taught me some French songs, and they learned "Ring Around the Rosy." I must have given Maylin's teacher an idea because before long, we had the whole class in a circle singing a French song about a rabbit who hops and has to find someone he loves to take his place in the middle of the circle (the "rabbit" chooses another child by kissing him/her on the cheek -- very French!). It was very similar to an American song I learned in my Kodaly music education program at Holy Names University, except for the kissing part.

It was a very long day for the children, so they did not pay attention very well during the tour when the guide was trying to teach them about the animals. There were goats, sheep, horses, a donkey, rabbits, and pigs. They got to pet the littlest lamb, the donkey named Madame Gigi, and a bunny named Caramel. I took a quick survey of Maylin and her classmates, and it seemed the rabbits and pigs were the favorites of the farm.

My French was better this time than when I accompanied the class during their first field trip in September, so I felt like I fit in a little bit better with the other moms and could communicate more with the children. I also learned a few things during the tours, even though I had to chase around one of my charges who never wanted to listen to the talks. A goat produces three one-liter bottles of milk a day, while a cow can produce 354 of them -- daily! It's unfathomable! Several of us mothers gasped in shock. The very large bales of straw that are used to help clean the animals' stalls weigh 150 kilos each (worth the weight of ten kids)! It was an awesome sight to see these bales stacked in towers of four looming over us.

I think the field trip was run pretty much like a field trip in the States except for one thing -- the number of trips to the restroom! They had the opportunity to go to the bathroom five times -- before we left the school to get on the bus, after we arrived at the chevrerie, after the cheese tasting, after we arrived at the other farm, and after lunch. Maybe they do this in the States, too, but someone will have to confirm this for me. Are little kids' bladders that small? Maylin only had to go once during the school day.

I enjoyed making some new little friends that day. It's funny how the kids who like Maylin were drawn to me, too. One pretty girl gave me a beautiful drawing, and a precocious boy, who wasn't in my designated group, chose to sit next to me on the bus back to school and talked to me for a good while until he fell asleep. I also finally got to meet the special boy Maylin is always talking about. Maybe she has a crush on him. He was pretty cute -- and one of the tallest boys in the class.

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