Today I thought I would describe my backpack that I carry to school each day. What I carry is different from what I carried in the U.S., and my school supplies are different too.
My backpack is grey. I bought it in the U.S. at REI. I had no idea when I bought it how heavy it would be in the school year to come. Each day I carry four to six notebooks/binders filled with papers. Each of the binders has plastic sleeves that we put printed documents in (the documents without holes). I have many small notebooks, like one to keep a list of French vocabulary words, and one that’s an agenda. Another one is called a carnet de liaison, which has my picture and my schedule and which I have to show to get in and out of the school each day. In addition, I usually carry two pencil cases, one with pencils and pens (to be described later) and the other with paints, paintbrushes, and colored pencils for art class. I carry an umbrella because it rains a lot in fall in Marseille. I carry a locker key that is attached by a hair-binder to my lunch card, which is a magnetic card that gives me access to the cafeteria. (If you forget it, you have to eat with the last group of kids. That means waiting an hour and a half to get lunch.) I have a water bottle and a purse (it’s pink and I love it). In all, my bag probably weighs about 15-20 lbs. Crazy, right? ;D
Here’s my pencil case.
It has items that I never knew existed.
First, my fountain pen. which is called a stylo.
How often in the U.S. do you walk into a school and see everyone writing with a fountain pen? NEVER. Those things are for movies. We don’t use pencils here, except for first drafts and math exercises or questions that are going to be corrected later on in the same class. Here, the fountain pen is the most common writing tool. When you write with a fountain pen, it’s really nice. It has a flow to it. The ink comes out very smoothly. If you make a mistake with a stylo, you have to have an erasing-rewriting pen with you. You use one end of it to erase the fountain pen ink, and then the other side is a pen that writes over the erased part. (The fountain pen can’t write over the erased area.) The funny thing is the rewriting side of the correction pen doesn’t erase. So you can’t make two mistakes! Actually, there is a way to erase your second mess-up. It’s a tape that’s white and you slide it and it sticks to the paper, like white-out tape. Everybody has one.
I also carry a compass. My brothers each have one too. I used mine in math in the beginning of the year. Also the ruler is a very important tool in French schools. It’s used for precise underlining and also highlighting. We had a homework in science class, and we had to underline some words in a text and then put those words in a graph. I underlined them with a pen, and the teacher wrote in RED underneath my work, USE A RULER. I’m not really used to using it, so sometimes I’m a few seconds behind everybody, as I keep remembering, Oh yeah, ruler! I also carry four highlighters, yellow, pink, orange and green. I use them in German class a lot to highlight new vocabulary words.
Glue is very big here. In the notebooks where you don’t have pockets or folders, you glue your documents to the pages. We don’t use glue quite as much in the U.S. (My glue stick that we bought in the supermarket is Scotch Classic Glue, by the way, which is made by 3M, which is in Minnesota.)