If you had asked us in March (when we learned of our Fulbrights) about what sort of school we wanted for the boys, we would have told you that we’d like to find a school that instructs in English, but that has primarily local kids in it. We weren’t particularly concerned with the quality of the curriculum; I know that sounds somewhat callous, but our thinking was that the real learning the boys will be doing this year will be in what they’re experiencing as they travel and navigate through a completely different part of the world.
However, in all of our searches for English language schools here in Hong Kong, we really only came across ex-pat schools, so that’s what we focused our search on. And in April, we thought we had everything nailed down with the American International School (AIS). It wasn’t ideal in that it wasn’t close to where we were located and it was an expat school, but it had spaces for both boys (almost no other school did), so that was that. Then, of course, came that fateful e-mail that awaited us the night we landed: no space for Berkley. That set off a frantic three weeks of trying to figure out how to make this work. We looked at schools all over Hong Kong – even farther than AIS; almost none had spaces and the ones that did were so far as to be unworkable. We begged and pleaded with AIS; we had the Consulate call over for us – to no avail.
So, with a heavy heart, we sent Quin off to school on Monday alone. To be honest, I was a total wreck. Not only was I sending my baby off to a strange school all by himself; he had to get up at 5:45 a.m. to make his bus – and school didn’t start until 8:15. And the bus didn’t bring him back until 4:45 – a long day for anyone, let alone an 8 ½ year old boy. To make matters worse, after we sent him off, I was faced with a day of home schooling Berkley. Now, don’t get me wrong – I think home schooling can be a great option. But (to be blunt) I am not temperamentally suited to home schooling – at all.
We never gave up though. We started exploring public options; apparently, there’s a quasi-public Islamic school near us that instructs in English. Of course, no spots. Finally, some hope; on Tuesday, the secretary of the department that Doug works in sent him a short little email with a URL in it: You should try this - http://www.gigamind.edu.hk/PRI/EN/Overview.htm.*
We called and our call was answered – there were spots. So the last two days have been somewhat frantic. I spent all of yesterday lining up paperwork and filling out forms (thank goodness for online home-schooling activities which occupied Berkley all morning as I did this). Berkley and I went up (only 35 minutes there and only 1 form of transportation!) to drop the forms off; I fell in love. It was just the school that we had hoped for; almost all of the children are native to Hong Kong, but they’re learning in English. It’s located next to this beautiful little park, with pagodas and koi ponds. And did I mention: they had spaces for BOTH boys.
So today, we kept Quin out of school and went up for the interview. We sat through it with baited breath; I almost burst into tears when the principal finally said – would the boys like to start school tomorrow? Thus, at the 11th hour of the 11th day, we have finally secured two places at a nearby school for both of our boys. If we had found this school right off the bat, it’s the school we would have chosen above all of the others.** I can’t help but think that God or Allah or karma or whatever you want to call it works in mysterious ways. If Berkley were never wait-listed, we never would have found this school. I suppose I wish s/he would have led us to this school without all the stress, but I appreciate it all the more for the hard work and grief that it took to find it. We don’t know what this semester has in store for the boys, but we are confident that it will be a tremendous learning experience for them. And it’s a huge weight off of our shoulders to know that the boys are in a good school with a normal commute and that Doug and I will both be able to fulfill our work obligations. Right now, as I sit and enjoy a cocktail on the eve of the boy’s first day of school (well technically – this is Quin’s second first day of school of the week!), life is good.***
*At this point, we owe so much to Carol (she’s done so much for us aside from the school tip) that I don’t know how we will ever thank her. I’m thinking about changing the boys’ middle names to Carol, but for some reason, they aren’t on board with that. I’m sure we’ll think of something though.
**In a strange twist of fate, Doug met another new faculty member at orientation today who is sending his daughter to Gigamind as well; she’ll be in 6th grade. He is originally from Hong Kong, but came to the US as a child and now teaches at Ithaca College. His wife speaks fluent Cantonese, so she managed to persuade the bus company to create a bus stop for the three kids at the Lingnan gate. So, we’ve gone from having to get up at 5:30 to make a 1 hour round trip to take Quin to meet his bus to waking up around 7:00ish to make a 8 minute round trip walk to take the boys to meet their bus. And, the bus for this school will cost $1800 LESS over the course of the semester – JOY.
*** I can’t help but finishing off this post by adding how much all of your comments, thoughts and prayers of support have meant to us. It’s been a trying three weeks in dealing with this school situation, and it’s meant so much to us to know how many of you are routing for us. Thank you!