The most important right of passage for a teenager is his or her school and for the first time in our lives, Brian and I would have to pick one. The first fine institution subject to our detailed inspection was the Lycée Franco-Péruvien, near Avenida Primavera and the Panamericana Sur. It was an ideal location as it was about 5 minutes away through the morning traffic from our SQ. The greatly revered Proviseur (the equivalent of a Superintendent) gave us the five-cent tour of the grounds and facilities, mentioning that as we were older, we were not required to wear uniforms. That was a relief, as we had not needed a uniform for school since 1992. The buildings seemed lifeless and the sports facilities were limited to a cement basketball court/soccer field heeding a warning of conflict for sport. It is somewhat difficult to play soccer and basketball simultaneously. Afterwards, he sat us down in his office, looked at our grades and proceeded to explain that the school curriculum was based on the Southern Hemisphere. As this was mid-year for them, we would be obliged to repeat half of the year we completed back in Ottawa. This meant that Brian now had 2 and half years to go to finish school instead of 2 and just add two more years to that to figure out my conundrum. Since the scholastic year ended at Christmas, Brian would have to wait until September to start university. In effect, we could lose even more time. We left with a bitter taste.
|Colegio FDR Media Centre|
The next school was where most of the Canadian Embassy kids were enrolled, Colegio Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was an American high school, home to children of diplomats, foreign business executives, political figures and Peru’s elite. The neighbourhood seemed somewhat friendlier in comparison to the Lycée, and the property was immense. It resembled a country club with the downside of having to go to class. The administration had organized an orientation meeting in the media centre, where the staff had prepared a presentation for parents and potential students alike. Everyone was in awe of the quality of education, allowing kids to graduate with an American High School Diploma (great for us as these studies are generally recognized by Canadian Provinces), and the prestigious International Baccalaureate. The presenters focussed on the great spirit of camaraderie, honesty, integrity and discipline. They further mentioned that a student who had recently stolen a painting during an art event sponsored by the school had shocked their community, as these sorts of events were unheard of at this fine institution. We were all very impressed and I am sure everyone was ready to sign up.
Afterwards, Brian and I met individually with the Principal, Mr. Brian Weinrich – who looked exactly like Dr. Frasier Crane - for a brief interview. I suppose this meeting was for him to judge our moral fibre. I was really nervous after that eye-opening presentation and I hoped that I was good enough to join the student population. Brian was in the office and I waited, thinking about key personality traits I should highlight and my previous record of academic excellence. I was not sure this would be enough. Eventually Brian came out and I was unable to ask him for any pointers or how the conversation went. It was my turn now. He suggested I sit across from him and I followed suit, sitting as straight and confident as I possibly could. I concentrated on creating a halo over my head that could be visible to the world. He threw in some questions to break the ice and up to this date, I was so nervous that I was unable to remember a thing we talked about. All I can recall is that once we finished, he smiled and said I was a great kid and I would do great in this school if I felt it was a fit for me. He put the ball in my court so I assumed I must have said something impressive to be given such a privilege of having the option to choose. I was proud of myself. He further commented that if I should encounter any problems, his door was always open for everyone. Wow! I really made an impression! I met my brother who also had a smile on his face and my parents, and we were ready to celebrate our victory.
The following step was to meet the guidance counsellor in his office, next to the Media Centre building. He would be our secret weapon in achieving scholastic excellence. This was Robert Piper, an older gentleman from New England. I felt that I had the momentum to walk in there and seal the deal for my next two years. Once more, after Brian, it was my turn to schmooze him up and bring him on to my team. As we sat down, we spoke about my previous school, the courses I liked and what living in Canada was like for me. He immediately mentioned there were many Canadians in the school so I would feel at home. He suggested that in order to smooth my transition into this school, I should be enrolled in grade 9 to be among my age group – according to the Lycée system I should have been in grade 10. He gave me the choice and I followed his suggestion as I figured he was my fountain of knowledge. Afterwards, we spent about a half hour talking about NBA basketball where I mentioned I was disappointed to miss the first year of the Toronto Raptors franchise. He responded that he was a Celtics fan and I could not understand how he preferred them to the Lakers. I explained the beauty of the Lakers and their potential to come together and return the city to its deserved place in the league. It was just a matter of time.
|Section of the High School buildings|
Long story short, Brian and I eventually picked Roosevelt over any other school in Lima. We did not have to look any further. No one in the school’s administration appeared to have any concerns that we had never actually studied in English before. Sure we spoke English at home with Dad, but that was it. We had never written the language before or had to study in this language. I knew I was going to have to work very hard to keep my place in a school that promoted excellence and represent my country properly among my peers. The first day of school was right around the corner and things just seemed more complicated than ever before. I knew other students again had the advantage of having shared many years in the same school and perhaps it would be hard to find my place among them. I had no idea what to expect in terms of my classmates, as I had little to no exposure yet to kids of my own age in Peru. I was confident nevertheless that I had made the right choice in Roosevelt and having my brother there, I knew we would look after each other and form a stronger bond. The Bickford boys had always triumphed in the past and this was just another test we would have to overcome.