Eleanor had a late night on Thursday evening not because we were out painting the town red, but because she decided that she didn’t want to go to orientation day and that it would be hard to make new friends.
Orientation day was not what Martin nor I had expected. The letter said it was 08.30-12.00. Like good people we turned up at 08.20 as the taxi got us there super speedy and knew where he was going. We sat in the reception of DUCKS (Dulwich College Kindergarten Suzhou) – people came in, people went out. At 08.40 we realised that people were disappearing into classrooms. We had been told prior to arrival that Eleanor would be in class 1S Other classes were 1D, 1C and 1Z – it only took Eleanor being in year 3 before I realised the classes in each year were named D, C, S and Z! And finally in Year 4 Eleanor collected all the initials (1S, 2C, 3D, 4Z and in Year 5 she will be 5Z) A quick look on the map told us that 1S was upstairs and we went to find the classroom. There was no welcome speech, it was just find your classroom and talk to the teacher and so we could have arrived at 11.30 and had just the same experience. We found her teacher, Mrs. Aspinall and her mandarin assistant teacher, Miss Betty. A shy Eleanor quickly came into her own, she started dressing up, doing jigsaws and playing with two other boys from her class, Reed (an American) and Marco (an Italian).
Those two boys also have siblings starting at the school, with mums, like me who aren’t working. We then went into the music room and found Miss Kong who showed her and then let her play with boomwhackers (hollow tubes of different lengths that when hit produce different sounds), Japanese boards, that when you jump on them they make a noise. It is fair to say that Eleanor appears to like her new school and I am much more content.
I will take her to school on Monday, and on Tuesday we will go on the school bus. The school bus that no matter how far along the route you are, you pay the same flat fee. An expense not covered by Martin’s school, and an expense that is actually quite expensive. We also clarified the name of her stop as what we call our compound and what the school call the compound are two different names.
Lunch was had before we then went to Auchan for food (a massive French supermarket, but decidedly Chinese). Must haves today were store cupboard things, dinner and tonic, to go with the gin I was given by one of Martin’s colleagues.
More crockery and cutlery were bought – we can now have dinner for 6 people rather than just the three of us. We ventured into the food section. Martin had sussed out the meat and dairy counters out in the week, but we all agreed we wanted fish. So far so good, until we walked into the fish section, live crabs, live fish, live shellfish – all ok. Looked down… toads. Lots of toads. Look to the right and saw something in red netting (the type of netting you would get mandarins (pardon the pun) in. The netting moved, looked a bit closer – terrapins. I focused on the prawns with Eleanor, she is fascinated. I don’t feel comfortable. Eleanor thinks we are in an aquarium.
Finally Martin returns from the chilled area with pre-packed white fish, most certainly dead and cut up. I will not be returning to that area in a hurry – well until I have the Chinese to ask for gutted and filleted (I still don’t have that Chinese).
We return to our apartment to find that the internet isn’t working as well as it should. Martin attempts to, and succeeds in fixing it, but reports the problem to our agent. Within minutes she has organised for an engineer to come at 7.30pm. He arrives at 7pm, takes out a laptop and does whatever a geek does, then he phones someone. That someone is Ginger, our agent, who then phones Martin, the problem is explained and confirms the geek will be back tomorrow night at 6.30pm with a router and some other gadgetry. I don’t think that level of service exists in the UK – on a Friday evening – for 20 quid.
And now tonight we find out the issues of apartment living. When Martin and I lived in a converted Methodist Church in Milborne Port we were on the top floor. Now we are on floor 14 out of 18. Flat 1502 likes to scooter or some such across their floor/ our ceiling. Would I say something if this was the UK – absolutely! Will I here? No. Need to learn Mandarin first.