Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here Comes our British School Girl

This past week was the last week before school starts.  Monday night we got to meet our new friends in person.  When we were on our house finding trip in China, Jamie and I looked at the current ISE (international service employee) list and saw one name that looked pretty familiar.  We didn't actually know the family, but we had friends that did and through life's crazy way, we connected with another company family before arriving in Suzhou.  I had talked with the mom via Facebook, email and a random voice mail (on my part), so it was nice to meet each other in person!  We ate dinner at Casa Zoe, the Mexican place (yes, yes the one we had eaten at the day before for lunch), but we didn't stay quite as long this time.
Tuesday was a partial "home" day, a request by LBean.  We did meet two other mom's at a preschool across the street to take a look around.  In the States I had enrolled EBean in a Mom's Day Out program for this fall at a church in a near-by town for two mornings a week.  When we moved here, I wanted to find something similar, but it is a bit of a challenge.  Chinese "Kindergarten", which is basically day-care, can begin at 6 months of age and is typically full-day, five days a week...not what I was looking for.  I was excited to learn about this preschool from another mom, and it has a morning program for three days a week.  Perfect!  The teacher is Phillipino and there is an assistant teacher and an Ayi (helper) in the class.  No more than 15 kids in a class and the class registration was in Chinese and English (a plus for me).  My only hesitation was the lack of Chinese instruction.  Jamie and I want both of the girls to learn Chinese but the class teacher speaks English to the kids because all of the Chinese moms want their kids to learn English.  However, the Ayi will speak Chinese and just walking into the class reminded of a preschool back in the States.  It's a difficult balance to decide when "comfortable" is a reassuring and positive thing or when's it's refusing to step out of the box because of fear.  
While I was at the preschool I started talking to a mother there.  We discovered that we lived in the same apartment building (not just the same complex) and swapped telephone numbers.  Of course there's more to come there.  
Tuesday night it was back to the pool at the apartments across the street.  Jamie joined us when he got back from work.  The pool is right in front of the building where the preschool is located, so the girls and I showed Jamie where EBean's preschool might be.  We ordered the buy-one-get-one free deal from Melrose pizza again, but instead of eating at the pool we had it delivered to the apartment...alas, summer is coming to an end, no more eating by the pool!
The next was a big day for LBean.  We had the driver for the day and thank goodness because it was pouring.  We went to Dulwich, LBean’s new school to pick up her uniforms and purchase a lunch card.  It was also a good excuse to take LBean to her new school and look around without the pressure of classes and all of the students present.  We were required to purchase a summer uniform (we got 3), a winter uniform (we purchased 3 polos & 2 dresses), a summer P.E. uniform (1 set), a winter P.E. uniform (1 set), a “house” uniform (the students are divided into houses, LBean’s house colour is purple), a cardigan to wear over the summer uniform when it get’s chilly (maybe in October at the rate this weather is going), and LBean chose a Dulwich school bag, some white socks and a pair of leggings.  She is required to wear black leather shoes with her uniform.  We did pass on the very Harry Potter-ish striped scarves.   LBean is going to be the cutest little British school girl that I’ve ever seen!  We got all of her uniforms for just over $200, which I think is a pretty good deal since I won’t have to buy any other “back-to-school” clothes.  And, unless LBean has a major growth spurt, she should be able to wear all of her uniforms next year as well.  I can really see the benefits of a school uniform.  No arguing in the morning about what to wear, no teasing based on what you’re wearing and each age group has a different uniform, so if a student is somewhere he/she shouldn’t be, it’s pretty easy to tell.
LBean was so excited about her uniforms (she will laugh at this blog entry some day), that she took everything out of its packaging in the van and tried to stuff it into her school bag.  We celebrated our successful shopping trip with a trip to the nail salon (LBean chose pandas for her toes this time) and lunch at Singa Plaza.
When we got back to the apartment LBean neatly arranged her uniforms and insisted on wearing her summer uniform to play at the play ground.  She was so excited when Jamie got home from work that she made us sit in the living room for a fashion show, complete with a curtain and a runway.

Winter Uniform
House Uniform

Summer PE Uniform
Winter Uniform

New Dulwich bag
Summer uniform

Panda toes

We had no plans for Thursday, so I was excited to get a text from the mother I had met at the preschool on Tuesday, asking us to meet downstairs and play at the play grounds.  (I love that about being an expat here; there is not hesitation to reach out and be a friend because we're all in this together).  We ran from playground to playground (something that I love about our apartment complex) for a while, but it was so hot & humid that we were invited to go up and play at our new friend’s apartment.  Morning turned to lunchtime and we ordered pizza (thank you Sherpa-man) and had a girls’ lunch.  
Friday was another important day for LBean.  It was open house at Dulwich and we got to meet LBean’s teacher and tour her classroom.  She was pretty shy and wouldn’t talk to her teacher, but we spent quite a while playing in her classroom, finding the restroom, playing on the playground and looking at books in the school library, which I think helped.  She insisted on wearing her uniform to school, which was not required, but it sure was cute!  I talked with LBean’s teacher about volunteering in the classroom and there should be an opportunity for me to be in the classroom at least once a week (or more if I wanted) helping out with reading groups.  We also found the bus schedule before we left.  LBean will be getting on the bus at 7:30 a.m.  It will be so early for the both of us!  She’s like her mama and she needs her sleep.  I predict a very early bedtime from now on.  The good thing is, it should give her and Jamie some time together in the morning and Jamie might take her to the bus stop to see that she gets on the bus okay.

The glassed off area is the parents' lounge.
Looking towards the front doors and the eating area.

Where LBean will eat her lunch.

LBean has Mr. Lund this year.
Already trying on the costumes!

The students will mark where they
are from on the big map.
Some of the outdoor play equipment,
smartly covered to block out the sun & rain.

EBean wishes she was in Kindergarten!
Lunch was a celebratory Happy Meal at McDonald’s with the friends from our building that we had met earlier in the week and a new mother/son from our building.  As we were talking, I mentioned that I needed to run some errands after we left and that the girls wouldn’t be thrilled about coming along.  The mother that I had just met that day offered to watch the girls at her apartment while I ran errands.  In the States, I never would have considered it, but for some reason here, it’s okay.  The girls were thrilled to play at their new friend’s house and I got to run errands quickly.  The only thing I made me a little nervous was EBean...we started potty training this week and I was praying that she didn’t make a mess in this mother’s house that we had now known for a total of 3 hours.  I’m happy to report that it was just fine!
One of my errands was to drop off the paperwork at the preschool for EBean.  Jamie and I decided that this would be a good place for her to start.  She will be close and it truly is a half-day program.  At most of the local Chinese preschools you can pull your child out whenever, but there isn’t a specific half-day program.  EBean will actually be one of the older children in the program, but she’ll be with lots of other little girls from expat families, so I think it will be fun for her to see friends outside of class too.  In the future we might put her in a local Chinese preschool once her Chinese (and mine) is a little better and she’s accustomed to a school program.
Whew!  This week’s entry is long, I’ll leave the weekend for a separate post... 

1 comment:

  1. School is one of my biggest concerns for the kids. Those uniforms are cute! I hope M gets something adorable too!