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Strangers in a strange land.


We had settled into some kind of routine now, with me working during the week and She and Missy organising the flat to their liking, making occasional trips out to the shops, getting to know the neighborhood a little and adjusting to, well, everything really.
It was fun to find that a lot of everyday goods we take for granted as being somehow universal, just…aren’t.
Orange squash for instance. Or any other flavour for that matter.
I’ve never been anywhere which hasn’t got its own local variation on the dilute-to-taste liquid fruit concentrates, but it’s apparently not a thing over in the good ol’ U S of A.
There were many other examples of this type of thing and I suspect it’s the origin of the cliché of Brits needing to take Marmite and teabags on holiday with them in fear that these will be unavailable in “foreign parts”. Her particular version of this affliction is the fact that Graham Crackers can’t be found over here, (an essential ingredient in the teeth-achingly sweet American invention called S’mores) but I think she’ll cope.
Despite the potential for culinary-induced culture shock, all this would only be an extended vacation until they began to put down some kind of roots however and the next thing to do was to get Missy into school.

Originally we’d thought that she wouldn’t be eligible for state schooling until her mother and I were married, making her my official dependant, but minimal research (my sister works as a teaching assistant and knows about such things) revealed that a child of her age was pretty much obliged to get into full time education as soon as possible.
This kind of made sense; after all, there are many people whose professions take them and their families all around the world to work and their kids need to be able to get educated whenever they find themselves relocated to some far-flung corner of the globe.
So we got in touch with the nearest primary school – actually an integral part of the housing estate on which we lived – to find out if they had an opening for a six year old.
But this late in the term, just a month before the Christmas holidays, we weren’t overly optimistic they’d have a place and sure enough the class was full up.

Our initial disappointment at discovering they were unable to take Missy at such short notice didn’t last long however, as we found that the smaller, community-based school on the estate just a half hour walk from home would be happy to take her, so we made an appointment with the headmaster and took her down there for a look round.
Missy was a little shy at first, but soon her natural inclination to talk to anyone who would listen got the better of her and before long she was asking the headmaster questions about the school uniform, (she hadn’t been required to wear one at her school in the States, so this was another new and interesting development for her) grilling him about the size of the playground and finding out which year she would start in, as she was insistent that “I have to finish first grade you know, that’s what I was doing in America”.
On the way home from our first visit she seemed slightly anxious – perfectly natural of course and something we’d been fully prepared for – but after we went back that Friday to meet her teacher, then into town to buy her uniform, she was showing all the signs of looking forward to joining her new classmates on Monday morning.

The fact that she would begin this new and exciting experience with two weeks of Christmas build-up; parties, special meals, movies and a visit from Santa, probably didn’t hurt either.
Missy even posed for Facebook photos, sent to friends across the pond, proudly modelling her new uniform, a sweater and grey cotton trousers combo that marked the very first time she had voluntarily agreed to wear anything but leggings, much to the amazement of her mum.
She and I were delighted at the enthusiasm Missy was suddenly showing and if anything, she now seemed impatient for the weekend to be over so she could embark on the next stage of her Big Adventure.

The three of us walked the route from home to school a couple of times so that She would be able to find their way on the first day. I would have already left for work by then and She wanted to have plenty of time to get Missy dressed and ready to leave.
As it turned out She needn’t have worried, Missy was so keen to meet her new friends that she was there in plenty of time, despite a small navigation problem, easily solved by asking a friendly native for directions.
And off she went, on the first leg of her own personal journey of discovery, full of new people with new accents, new ways of doing things and lots of questions about the new girl from America.

As for Her, She could now enjoy a day on Her own, completely by Herself for the first time in over a fortnight, since before the two of them had boarded that plane, nearly four thousand miles and a lifetime away, something She had been looking forward to for the last few days and I can’t say I blame Her either.
It had been quite a full-on couple of weeks for all of us.

Missy’s first impression of the English school system?
I think one particular conversation says it all.
As she was getting ready for bed on Friday night of her first week she asked; “What day is it tomorrow?” and when she was informed that it was Saturday, her next question was; “So how many days until I can go back to school?”, the same thing she kept asking all weekend.
And now, at the end of the second week, the living room wall is plastered with Christmas cards from her new friends and she even yawningly wrote a dozen or so in return on Thursday night, which she distributed on the final, ice cream and movie-filled day of term.

So that was one more thing successfully crossed off our list.
One more thing to strengthen those tentatively questing roots, another foothold on the shores of a strange land which I so wanted them to consider Home.