Monday, March 12, 2007

First Day of School for Zoe and Maya

Every time the girls start to drive me crazy, I’m going to have to remember how completely uncomplaining and brave they have been about this huge change – leaving their beloved Mimi & Grandpa, their home and all their friends, to live in this country that is now so strange to them. They were simply amazing today, happily walking into a new school where no one could understand them, and where they could understand no one. And they did it with nary a tear. I’m the luckiest mom in the world!

We walked to school today and met Tracy, who managed all the beaurocracy to get the girls enrolled. Zoe decided she wants to use her Chinese name at school, so she is now Yi Ling. And since Zoe said she wanted to, Maya said she wanted to, too, so she’s Bing Li.

Everything was going swimmingly until Tracy told me that tomorrow everyone in Maya’s class would get a measles booster. I said no, she’s up-to-date on all her immunizations, look at her shot record. Well, the school (or city or province or whoever) rules say that if you haven’t had the measles shot since January, you need a booster. Again, I said no. So everyone tries to convince me she needs the booster, that measles are very bad in Xiamen in the spring, I say no, she has life-time immunity, it doesn’t matter how bad measles get in the spring. Finally, someone calls someone-or-other at the health department, who says since Maya is a foreign student, she doesn’t need to have the booster! Still, I had Tracy write a note in Chinese to that effect, and I’m going to safety-pin it to Maya’s shirt tomorrow!

Then off we go to Maya’s classroom. The teacher seems very nice, and very young, and there is a grandmotherly lady who seems to be the teacher’s aide. When we get to the classroom, the teacher is playing the piano (all of the classrooms have pianos!) while the children sing. The class is huge – I counted 33 kids! Then everyone gangs up on Maya – ok, it only seemed that way! – the teacher, the aide, the director, all jabbering at her and Tracy and me in Chinese, to show Maya where the potty is, where her cup is (each child has a metal cup, and they each have a different sticker on the shelf to tell them where to put it, and the same sticker to show which hand towel is theirs, and to show them where to put their slippers (more about that later), where the water dispenser is, where the squat potty is (ok, it’s a long trough instead of separate porcelain holes in the floor), where her mat is in the resting room, until she starts to look a little glazed. But she gamely followed along, showed them that she knew how to wash her hands, etc. She gave me a hug and a kiss, and Zoe a hug and a kiss, and sat in the chair the teacher indicated – right in the front.

Then off we go to Zoe’s class. Her class is smaller, only about 25 kids. Again, a young teacher and an older aide. I guess they decided Zoe was old enough to take care of herself, so they just sat her down and said bye to me!

The director told me (through Tracy) that each girl needed to bring slippers, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a plastic cup. They apparently have an elaborate bedtime routine after lunch and before nap! The nap room is connected to the classroom, and is essentially a huge U-shaped bunkbed with individual little sleeping bag/mats. Looks pretty cool! And each girl has to bring a ball for the playground – they’ll go into the communal ball holder.

Then Tracy and I went to the bank to pay the girls’ tuition. Apparently that’s how it’s done here – you don’t write a check, you don’t give the kindergarten people the money, you go to the kindergarten’s bank and pay cash there. The bank then gives you a receipt to show the tuition has been paid, and you take that back to the school. As usual, there was a very long line at the bank – it took about 45 minutes to get through it. And then since I was changing money to pay the 6,000 yuan (about $800, but that’s for both girls through the end of July), it took 15 minutes to accomplish that!

I then went to the supermarket to buy the things the girls needed for school, and then back up the hill to the law school for the afternoon. I went to pick up the girls around 4 (school ends at 4:30, and I’m not really supposed to pick up early, but I used the bank receipts as my reason to get the security guard to unlock the door! I get away with a lot as the ugly American!), and found Maya’s class playing on the playground. Maya was happy to see me, but not overjoyed to leave, so we threw a ball back and forth while all the little kids giggled and spoke to me in Chinese. I pulled out my camera, and took pictures of them and then showed them their pictures – always a hit with the younger crowd. When the teacher said it was time to go back to the classroom, one of the little girls came up to Maya to take her hand – they walk in pairs holding hands, it seems. Up in the room, the aide told me with Chinese and sign language that Maya did really well, that she slept during nap and ate a good lunch (Maya later told me lunch was noodles and it was good!).

We then went to get Zoe. Zoe was happy to see us, and ready to leave. I think it’s harder for Zoe at her age than it is for Maya. She said she mostly just watched today, and didn’t do much or play much. But she said everyone was nice and no one made fun of her for not speaking Chinese. She says she thinks she’ll never learn Chinese. I told her it was a little too early to say that, since it was only her first day! And when I asked if she wanted to go back, she said yes!

Like I said, I’m the luckiest mom in the world!


mimifrancoise said...

Oh, I am so proud of our girls. It is usually scary to go to a new school, but one where you do not understand the! As long as other kids are not mean to them, they will be fine. And they will learn the language! Zoe is too much of a talker to stay all day without saying anything. Tell the girls Mimi and Grandpa are so proud of them. What did they wear to school and what did the other children wear? Were all the kids all bundled up with several layers of clothes?
We love you. Thank you for posting. We eagerly wait for them, always, and love to read them.

Rachel Johnson said...

I LOVE reading about your adventures! It makes me feel like I'm there. Well, kind of. Haha. I'm glad to hear that things are still going well, and that Zoe and Maya are adjusting to things so well. Tell them that Miss. Rachel says hi and she misses them!!!! Can't wait to read what happens next.
*Miss. Rachel

Lesa said...

Melinda, what brave little girls. I know that you are very proud of them! Like your mom said it is hard enough to just change schools let alone one that you can't even speak the language. That is awsome!
I sure enjoy reading your stories, Malinda.

Lesa Lambert and family

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is awesome! We would love to see some of the pictures that you took at school! Sue, Maggie, and Meredith