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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Tutors in Timbouktu

Every two weeks, our boys have a tutorial in Russian. It works fine, except when we travel, which is practically non-stop. Imagine Skyping from the back of a camel or from among the spice merchants of a bustling bazaar.

“We’ll need internet access tomorrow,” I remind my husband.

Their lesson falls just after lunch, which means we must stay in one place till mid-afternoon, or head on our way and hope for the best. Thankfully, we’re not in Timbouktou, stopping in a dessert oasis to take shelter from the midday sun; we’re probably closer to Podunk Junction, USA.

“McDonald’s has free Wi-Fi,” he suggests. “We’ll simply have to figure out where we’ll be and coordinate our arrival near their class time.”

I’m not sure if this will work. I can only imagine our boys reading Russian into a microphone, headset plugged into a laptop, while nearby patrons nosh on Chicken McNuggets, and screaming children cry in Ronald’s Play Place. I wonder if it will raise national security concerns, but I don’t think so, since it’s KFC that has the secret recipe.

“Too noisy,” I reject the idea of a raucous, fast-food restaurant.

“Then all of us can sit in the car, and call from there,” he shrugs.

And thus the six of us (eight including the two dogs) come to rest outside French Fryland in Anywhere, USA, the smell of grease driving the Scotties wild. As the boys discuss the deep meanings of their classical Russian texts, wailing preschoolers and angry parents insist on having messy meltdowns right outside our open SUV windows.

It’s only when I need a few minutes of peace and quiet, that I notice how much noise is in the world at large, homeschoolers often enjoying a haven of tranquility at home. Our urban environment must be more “Little House on the Prairie” than we imagined. In the fast food parking lot, a cacophony of noise envelops us without abating—backfiring cars, roaring planes overhead, trucks rumbling like tanks, and huge trash cans being rolled out to the dumpster. Youth groups surround our car, laughing and jumping with enthusiasm, totally unaware of the Trying Tutorial underway within, while I try to restrain our rambunctious dogs, sweet Scotties who wish to eat the teens alive, unless they toss them a Quarter Pounder with Cheese a.s.a.p.

Can we make it through an hour of this? It’s doubtful. One of our girls has a bad cold, the perfect science lesson illustration of why we don’t put our fingers in our mouth or nose, and as she quietly snorts and honks in the back seat, I hear the gargley, full-phlegm, throaty cough of bronchitis setting in.

I briefly consider whether to take the others inside and do a quick math quiz: three hamburgers, plus three french fries, plus three drinks costs what percentage more than three Happy Meals?” Or, more to the point: “Papa drinks two coffees, then decides he needs an apple pie to go with it. He forgets to buy Mama a coffee, who then needs a cappuc from Starbucks, along with a scone. If the extra stop takes them 8 minutes out of the way, and Mama and Papa’s time is billable at $500/hour, how much did the Starbucks stop really cost them?”

Alas, the math would have to wait. Strange sounds interrupted, and roused me from my reverie. Someone hit their car alarm by mistake, while others walk by, shouting into cell phones. Still, our teens drone on, focused: reading, writing, and answering questions with Miss Natasha, who, for all we know, may be sitting in a café in Karelia, or Irkutsk.

High-tech, international homeschool meets mundane McDonald’s: “Have it your way.”


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