special guest students

The kids went back to kindergarten today. They are attending this week as “special guest students” which basically means that they are unofficial – we are not completing any paperwork, paying, etc. Since the beginning this has been my plan but there was always the uncertainty of working it out. We knew we couldn’t contact the school in advance because the bureaucratic hurdles to getting them in formally would be stupendous. Once we were in town, I considered having our friend Becky, who is a person who knows how to get things done, walk by with me and try to finesse the situation. As it turned out, I was able to handle it on my own. It went like this:

On our second day here we were walking past the school in the afternoon – right before 4:30 dismissal. Our goal was to see some of the kids’ friends. For all their shyness when visiting on the previous afternoon, the kids woke up asking to go to school and were devastated when I told them that they weren’t going to. As we walked past, the assistant principal was outside. She doesn’t really speak English. She expressed her happiness on our return and asked if the kids would be coming back to kindergarten. I said that we were only in town 2 weeks. She acknowledged that was too short a time to come back to school. Then I mentioned that the kids missed their kindergarten very much and that they had been asking to come all day. At this point she said that we were welcome to stop by any time. I paused and looked at Jason. The moment had arrived. “Maybe the kids could come to school next week,” I said in Chinese, “for just one week.” Then I added in English “special guest students.” She paused, though a minute, and gave a reassuring look. “We would have to talk to the principal,” she said. “Come along.” We walked around the corner and there was the principal, also outside. The two of them conversed for a moment and the principal nodded her consent. The assistant principal said, “OK. One week special students. No paperwork. No medical exam. No charge.” And we all walked inside to hash out the details.

The kids have asked to go to the kindergarten each morning and today was the day. Jie-jie is with the same teachers and class but they have moved to the 3rd floor and they are called “Big class 3” instead of “middle class 3.” Mei-mei is with the same teachers but her classmates have moved from “little little” to just “little” so Mei-mei is a bit older than the other children. All the same she seemed to enjoy school today –
as did Jie-jie who jumped gleefully into the Monday morning flag raising ceremony and morning exercises as if she has been performing the routine every morning since September.

For the most part, this trip just feels right in large part because it all seems to be coming together. This interaction with the kindergarten is a good example.

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