A rainy, overcast day dawned in Suzhou. Martin left for inset at 6.45am, and Eleanor and I set off for school at 7.35am. Eleanor got up, had her breakfast and donned her uniform. No need for her sunhat, but it was proudly put on.
From our apartment we can see the entrance gate, I was periodically looking out for the school bus as I wanted to know for tomorrow where it would go from. At 7.20ish it arrived and by 7.30am it had gone. Eleanor and I were going to get a taxi to school. We had the obligatory photos – hat on, hat off, cardigan on, cardigan off and down we went in the lift. We opened the gate, walked through and looked in the direction of traffic to find a taxi. I was soon accosted by a lady asking if I wanted the school bus. It was Miss Jessie the bus monitor. I ascertained that not as many students had turned up for the bus as was expected, they had done a circuit and had come back to check if there were any students waiting. I asked if I could go on the school bus with Eleanor and was told yes I could. The bus was very different to the blue school Ulster bus that I used to get from the countryside of Ballypollard Road, Maghermorne to Larne Grammar School, a port town in Northern Ireland. The bus that Eleanor has is bright yellow, seatbelts are obligatory, as is their designated seat, there is no standing in the aisles and it makes about 4 stops before arriving at school. Eleanor is the only year 1 on the bus and the only, hmm how shall I put it… European.
Eleanor found her peg with her name on it at school, and without a bye or a kiss she was gone. I exchanged numbers with an American lady, and then I went to have coffee with another mum, who is also a colleague of Martin’s. Her daughter is in the same year as Eleanor but sadly not in the same class. (Rebecca and Sophie – 4 years on we said goodbye to them as they have now moved to Wuxi – and honestly – we are very glad that they were never in the same class – they were for Mandarin, but neither Rebecca nor I pushed for same class – they spent more than enough time together outside the class!)
In the junior school there is a coffee shop (there is also one in the senior school as well). Coffees bought the socialising commenced. We then went into the city in a car owned by another Mum, Nicky. Nicky has been in Suzhou for many years. She took us to Times City and to the Lifestyle Mall. We went into the food store which identified itself as one that imports goods… SPAM, Heinz products, Tyrells crips, pringles, shortbread, numerous types of pasta, chocolate, swiss cheese for fondue (mental note as fondue will arrive in shipping 4 years later – the fondue set was moved to boarding and still hasn’t been used, Australian milk, Irish cheddar and I am sure lots more. I wandered around, bought milk and then attempted to walk home. With a vague idea of where I was I pieced together the journey, crossed many roads and didn’t dice with death too many times. Having left home at 7.30am, I arrived back at 11.45am – lunchtime.
Now if this had been a day where I was working then an M&S sandwich would have gone down nicely. No such perks here – though there is a Marks and Spenser in downtown Suzhou at Lindun Lu near walking street (It has since closed down as M&S pulled out of mainland China completely. If you asked me, and all the other expats in Suzhou then it was in the wrong place!). Back to what I actually had for lunch – an omelette. Then I took to cleaning the apartment – after all I am a housewife.
Before I knew it, it was time to go and get Eleanor. I left a bit earlier to get a taxi as by now it was pouring with rain. Bad mother alert – did I send Eleanor to school with a water bottle? No. Raincoat? No. Umbrella? No. Will I do better tomorrow? Almost definitely.
Eleanor appears to have had a good day. She made a spinning top, which is now home, and just before she dropped off to sleep she was making noises that sounded Chinese. Whether it is Mandarin will never be known, but it sounds right.
Her home/school contact book confirms she settled in well, and her homework is to bring in 5 things about her. My homework is to write a piece about Eleanor detailing what she likes, what she is good at, why we are proud of her etc. This has been our first day homework for the last 4 years. We have written it, but I have to say it sounds as if I am boasting about her. I suppose I am, and I suppose that is the whole point, though I have told Eleanor’s teacher her weaknesses as well. I am sure she will find those out for herself. But as strangers and family continue to complimentary about Eleanor, I have shared those comments too.
The other thing we have to do is bring a picture in that shows something that Eleanor is good at. So, now I am going to have to venture into a photography shop and try to get some pictures printed since all pictures are on my phone, on a memory card in the camera or in shipping and we haven’t invested in a printer yet!
Her 5 things? A picture of her baptism, her school picture of her class from Leweston school, a small dream catcher, a photo of her and her friend Connie with their faces painted and her Rainbow promise badge.
All in all it was a good day for Miss Crozier. Mr Crozier came home at 6.45pm. A long day, but he has sustenance which I lovingly prepared for him from 3 ingredients : noodles, chicken and mushrooms. And a bit of soy sauce (the first time buying soy sauce we actually bought vinegar – rookie mistake 1)
Mistake of being a housewife – was not knowing what food I had in. I thought I had vegetables – turns out I didn’t. The housewife is learning on the job.