The girls started school at the neighborhood preschool/kindergarten on July 1st. We were thrilled to introduce a semblance of a schedule into our lives again, and both S and H were very excited. Of course the events leading up to school were another story. We had to go and get physicals for them, so last week we all loaded up into a (typically) seatbelt-less taxi. The second taxi, mind you–the first one rejected us…this after no breakfast for anybody except DiDi (aka Little Brother) since blood was going to be drawn and it had to be on an empty stomach. (Papa and I fasted out of sympathy for the girls). H began to wail that she wanted breakfast, and sobbed for at least 20 minutes on the floor in our apartment, and we had to go, so had to carry her into the elevator kicking and screaming. It stopped on a floor, and as soon as the person got in, she was silent–until we came outside in front of our building, and she began wailing full force again. Since our pronunciation is unintelligible for the most part, we showed the taxi driver a slip of paper with the address written on it, and he said no and motioned to the guy behind him. The second driver was much friendlier, and lit up when he saw the address. Aah! He smiled, and made like he was giving himself a shot in the arm, and nodded very understandingly at the screaming child and let us into his vehicle. (no carseats either, obviously, since there are no seatbelts). He repeated the word for (presumably) “shot” many times during the trip, and tried to cheer up the sobbing one.
He let us out, and pointed up the street. We headed that way, and asked a man with a young kid (with our paper) where to–we overshot and crossed a street to an official-looking building, but the nice guy chased after us and motioned to the right building. Inside was commotion with all kinds of kids lined up for the same procedure. The ladies behind the window did not speak any English, and we no Chinese, but another parent managed to help us out. Did we have Chinese names for the kids? Oh, no. Guess we need to do that too. Well, we paid the fee and lined up in the hallway with about 50 other families and waited.
As we waited, we saw numerous kids come down the hall with a bloody cotton ball on their ear–although we did not point that out to our girls. They apparently draw the blood using a razor blade to nick the skin on the edge of the ear, and squeeze out a few drops like we do with a fingerstick in the US. About the lines–here in China lines (queues, for you Brits), just like lanes of traffic on the roads, crosswalks and other markings are very optional. So, whoever squeezes in moves through the line, and the polite westerners with another definition of personal space end up being last (in our case, second to last) in line at the end of the morning. We were impressed with the exams, by the time our turn finally rolled around. Vision (well, it works if the child speaks the same language as the examiner), hearing, height and weight, a brief ENT and chest exam. Of course, in the middle of it all, H had to go potty, but managed to hold it until we were done. We were shuttled to another room where the dreaded ear pricks were done. Both girls were very brave and got snacks from mama’s bag as soon as the deed was completed. On our way out, we even got the money refunded where we had overpaid for 3 kids instead of 2 (DiDi is not going to school yet)!