After birthday excitement, where presents continued to be very successful choices, foot high roaring dinosaur for Louis and noisy truck for Ali, and appreciative boys for grown-ups, the next day was Thursday 1st September and first day of new school. Now, the ‘old’ school was just five minutes boy-walk from our door, so was very convenient, and the new one has been granny-tried every which way, and the distance was going to be half-hour if we walked, half-hour if we went on the bus (walk to stop, wait, bus goes three sides of a square, walk from other end) and if-it-rains we will get a taxi – unknown wait time at 8am? Granny solution (bike and boys on the back chinese style) has understandably been vetoed by parents, so Cindy and I thought we would do the first day by taxi, so the would arrive happy and fresh. She had been asked to bring them a little late, as ‘new’ boys, and had arranged to go in to her work late so she could come with me and do the necessary talk to teachers etc in chinese, without mis-understanding.
Well, you have heard about best-laid plans I am sure. On Thursday all was fairly well as arranged except that Granny had not yet been informed that they began school late on their first day, so was saying no play with new toys till after school, and then had to change mind and say Yes play with new toys because Mummy is not ready to come with us yet and we are going later. The effect of this is very happy boys, Granny you were wrong, and they had a very nice time playing. When Mummy said she was ready and Time to go, Zou ba Zou ba, they were keen to put on shoes and get out the door to ‘get in the taxi’. But, on the street, not only one taxi, but loads of them and cars and lorries and all, all totally immobile, and honking horns as loudly as possible as the chinese drivers do, and Cindy and I just looked at each other and said “Walk!”. The cause was an accident further along, and with sympathy for whoever was involved it could not have been better for us. The walk was instant enjoyment, going past all the horn-honkers, dodging the bikes and motor bikes which also took to the pavement, and generally losing their (minor) apprehensions about new school in talking non-stop about the mayhem which lasted all the way to school.
So, it also became clear that ‘walk-to-school’ was not too hard for little legs. The walk home, which we had not had any worries about because there would never be any urgency about getting home, has also been even better than anticipated. There are three landmarks they know well. From the school, ZiWei Shanghai Experimental Kindergarten in Guilin Street East, we walk to the Guilin Road crossing, a big big road with traffic lights and the ubiqitous red man green man which no driver in China pays any heed to whatever, but we look for him anyway, and manage well enough in the torrent of bicycles which go on green. Next stop is ‘the river’ which has a nice bridge to cross and look through or over, shaded walk-ways and parkland to the PuBei Road bridge on the East, and a market running alongside the river on the west. After that, still on Guilin Street West, which is one-way and mainly residential, we come to very familiar territory, our favourite “running track” recreation ground. Louis and Ali could find their own way home from here, but they do not, they stop and in we go for lots of energetic play and fun so that when we got home yesterday it was nearly 6pm and they were very happy to settle down and play with the new toys. Just as well, as Granny was feeling ancient.
The recreation ground was buzzing with just-out-of-school children, and we met some of their previous classmates from KidCastle kindergarten. Louis was brilliant, sharing his new dinosaur with them all for playing, and Ali thoroughly enjoyed a see-saw and a lot of running around with some other kids. I hadn’t seem them interacting separately with others before, great to see. They still get a huge amount of attention from the other parents and grandparents, and both boys are now answering confidently in chinese, but are puzzled and ask Donal and I why everyone talks to them so much. (Maybe they will get fed-up with it like I do.) We try to explain why people always ask ‘where are you from?’, ‘do you speak chinese?’ etc. Half British, half chinese, half New-Zealand boys, Louis always says he is a New Zealand boy, but they sometimes want to be American like Ruby and Rory and Fiona, and we only mention Ireland now and again, where grandpa George lives, or Scotland where Uncle Neill is. It is just as well they do not do math yet, too many halfs all round. Cindy has just come home with a world-globe.
Whatever they are, they do seem happy.