Growing up in a military family, I lived many different places over the years. The longest time my family ever lived anywhere was Mons, Belgium: 1979-1983. I’ve mentioned this here before, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned some of the perhaps surprising parts of this experience.
First, in an age before the Internet and widespread European cable tv, we were a few years behind the times when it came to American culture. For example, I wore bell-bottoms much longer than I should have. I was still listening to ’70s rock bands when people back home had moved on to New Wave. My family had a tiny black and white tv that only picked up one station: the Armed Forces Network. I think we watched maybe an hour or two a week of the meager offerings, which were usually a year or more old. We listened to AFN radio, too, which was a very eclectic mix (hour-by-hour) of pop, rock, and country…oh, and Paul Harvey.
In the northern half of Belgium Flemish is spoken while French is the language in the southern half, where we lived. For some reason, it was deemed a good idea when we arrived to put me immediately into a French language school as opposed to the American high school all my friends attended. Mind you, I didn’t speak any French. I’m not entirely sure what the logic of that particular decision was, but it should come as no surprise to you that I did not do very well at math, Latin, social studies, and my other courses. Why? Because I didn’t speak French. Yet the reaction of the adults in my life was that my failures in school were due to my bad attitude rather than to the experience of constantly listening to lectures and discussions that sounded like Qwerpoiua apodsq po poiasduq jpqpoi dkopqrq jkp. When I manage to remember in an affective way what that experience was like, I empathize with students who have learning disabilities or who are dealing with other crises in their lives that get in the way of understanding course material as easily as others do.
This was the year of the really bad stomachaches. I began to have my first inklings that adults were not all they’re cracked up to be.
to be continued…