One month and five days ago, France experienced their ‘rentrée’ (RAHN-tray) for 2016. The word translates to ‘the return’ and they use it for what we call ‘back to school’ but also for much more.
It’s the time where the people of France return to their rhythm of life. Stores open again. School starts. Church services are back to normal. We get a little bit of this in the states, but it’s highly unusual to go to your favorite taco place in the states, to find they are closed for two weeks for their annual vacation in August. Just a paper sign on the door. ‘We’ll be back for the rentrée, September 1.’
You have to register your child for school before August 15th, because the school offices are closed from the 16th-30th.
Another interesting thing to me is that the open houses for teachers and schools happen AFTER school has already started. Oliver’s open house was on September 18th. The teachers and students have already had a little time together, so that is good, but there’s no preview beforehand. By this meeting, they already know if your kid is the troublemaker.
The perception can sometimes be that the French don’t work a lot, due to their long lunches and vacations that can last from two to four weeks. But la rentrée marks the restarting of a very charged daily life. After a few weeks taking the kids to and from school, you can see a little of this.
School hours are from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 4:30pm. We are part of the minority of parents who pick their kids up from lunch, at least at this school. There are about 350 kids at Avonlea’s school, and maybe 30 are picked up at lunch. Most kids stay at the school for the ‘cantine’. They school also has an extracurricular program available from 7:30 am to the start of school, and after school until 6:30. School starts at age 3, so the schedule is the same for Oliver, though a few more parents pick their kids up from school at lunch.
For working french parents, often they drop their child off at 7:30, fight the commute into Toulouse to work, work from 9:00 to 6:00, likely with their two hour lunch, but not always, fight to come back, get their children, feed bathe and bed before 9pm. This is not unlike the american schedules I remember. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. If both parents are working, this makes for a busy life. Also, for us, it means evening bible studies start at 8pm and go until 10pm, and session meetings can go past midnight. Avonlea once had a ballet performance, including four year olds that started at 9pm on a Friday night. We left at 11:00pm, because she’s a five-year-old.
Another big difference here, in my opinion, is the lack of other conveniences. Grocery stores often have the same working hours as these parents, so if you’ve found you are out of butter at 8pm, there’s no running to the store. They are usually closed on Sundays as well. Need your oil changed? Probably not on your lunch break because the mechanic is also closed from 12 to 2. Life takes a little more preplanning.
October is part two. In September, all the clubs and associations have their marketing and registration, and in October, they all start up. We’ve enrolled Avonlea in gymnastics, and it starts tonight. It’s a way to meet people, and for her to maybe find a few friends.
We are hoping to find a location to begin worship this month. We’d like to start worshipping Sunday evenings before the French dinner hour, 5 or 6, so that if we wanted to share meals afterwards, it fits. It’s also the least busy part of the French week, and allows us to receive more help from our sister church in the city which meets in the morning. Please pray for this; we’ve had a few dead ends, and one clearly shut door. We know the Lord has something in mind for us, and we needn’t worry because it will be revealed in His time, but we are hopefully anticipating this next step.
In the meantime, we are getting involved around here. Making connections and getting to know the area. Chris is cooking again during the Fall school break, visiting and preaching at some regional churches, we have Evangeline’s baptism coming up, a pastoral retreat in the mountains, and the MTW European Team leaders coming to Toulouse. I believe we are at the starting line of a very charged fall ourselves. Please pray for energy, health, and perseverance.