concluding the travel school project

This story/blog needs an end. In many ways though, I feel like we've opened doors and widened horizons. Sure, we miss family, friends, pets and home. It would be sad if we didn't miss the life we have. But, for all the quick strangers and fast friends' paths we've crossed (Bullingtons & McGriffs) who've asked us who we are, where we are from, and what we are doing, hopefully we've shared seeds of a different way of schooling and our kids have had the opportunity to see different ways of living. 

Explaining "virtual school" in a simple way and finding basic words to manage an often non-fluent conversation, stripped the concept down and most often we heard the response, "we'd never be able to do that in... France, Italy, Spain, England".  We have so much gratitude and praise for the two virtual school programs. Baldwin County Virtual School (BCVS) and Decatur City Virtual School helped us seamlessly jump into the start of the second semester of the school year.  Both virtual schools did a great job with their curriculum. The school work was challenging.  Our kids had to adapt and gain skills that they typically don't use in regular bricks and mortar school.   They had real online teachers for each subject, and from the start, they were provided a course syllabus for each class. They had to grow in self reliance without a teacher standing in front of them. Note-taking became extremely important. Learning how to read and digest class material was important. There was constant stress of finishing and staying on pace. All done well by each student in the end.

For celebrating the accomplishment of school being finished for the term, we had an end-of-semester class party -- Mediterranean style. Pizza and cake on the beach with a rock skipping contest. It was bittersweet. Our time all together in Nice came to a wrap a few weeks ago. Both families started their journeys back home, flying in different directions in Europe.  The McGriffs wrapped up in Venice and the Bullingtons have toured the UK for the past two weeks. 

Often I was asked, what is your favorite thing you've done or seen? My answer was uncertain because we hadn't made it to the end. But now at the end of the journey,  I'm still not sure I have a one favorite thing.  It has been a 4 month experience that fits all together. It's the Travel School Project. In the spirit of reflection, now that we're packed ready to go home, I asked each kid what they enjoyed the most out of the experience-

The travel opportunities. We could take trips and work around our school schedules. I got to go places and see things that otherwise I probably would have skipped because of time and monetary restrictions.
— Wilson
I got to look at the world from a different perspective. I got to see how other people live. In many ways we are different, but I also saw similarities. I can look at the world with new eyes now.
— Anne Lois
It makes me realize how special my home really is.
— Abigail

This time was a blessing. We are thankful for safe travels. We've met interesting people- some investing time in us. We are truly thankful for our traveling friends and for our family and friends back home that have sent love notes, emails and texts while we've been away. We return home tomorrow, travel weary and ready to be home. Ready for hugs and face to face time with others. Life is short. Life is good. 

a dad week- eze and monaco photo highlights

*If you only check out one of my photos below...... look at the last one. It shows Monaco setting up the bleachers for the Grand Prix. It's real people.

Last Wednesday, PB landed in Nice at lunchtime! Man, we were so happy to have him join us. We had meals planned in the neighborhood, close by sightseeing adventures and a weekend road trip to Provence. 

But before we did all of the above, I'm putting it down in the blog for the record (even though I'm really trying to suppress the memory) my required and assigned medical appointment at the OFII (French Immigration Office) last Thursday morning. Truth be known, I had no idea that it was a final requirement of the French visa process. I was bothered for a few days upon receipt of the appointment by email. I had lots of dramatic and detailed public/socialized medical heath clinic visions (I'll blame the nurse in me). All made me want to buy a plane ticket back home and forget about the visa need. But after some quick online research, (thank you Google) I read a few testaments and realized it wasn't so scary. My appointment was at 8:30am. Paul went with me and the kids stayed home to work on school. We left them with lunch money- I had no earthly idea how long it would take. After a cab ride there, a long line in a plain unassuming hallway, then a security, paperwork and passport check- I found myself waiting in queue for the exam. I passed! Including a chest x-ray to evaluate for TB. I was out of there in 45 minutes with my official stamp added into my passport. 

Now, I could let the fun plans begin!

We had a reservation for a dress up dinner, hard-to-get-in spot Thursday night. I had a reason to celebrate. On Friday, the kids worked on school until lunch, then we set out by bus to a hilltop town called, Eze-le-Village. Existing since ancient times, Eze caps a high peak above the coastline. Today, it survives off of tourism. From there we rode a bus to Monaco to give PB a whirlwind pass through. He loved it. The fast luxury cars were still there! I love how the crowd lights up  when they hear a loud engine rounding the corner. We left Monaco by train, and stopped off in Villefranche for a cozy dinner at sunset. They were filming a movie right outside of the restaurant's doors. I could see it from my chair. Anne Lois had to get close and stood outside of the door to watch them shoot a scene. Not sure the day could have been any more perfect.