School Menu: or, No Wonder We Were So Lost the First Two Years


We sent our kids to a really big mega kindergarten for the first 1.5 years of our China experience.

There would always be signs posted everywhere to inform the parents, but of course since I couldn’t read past the characters for 1, 2 and 3 (一, 二, 三)I got into a big habit of ignoring them.

I had no way to ask anybody either.

If I was lucky, I’d find out about a special Saturday field trip on Friday evening.
[But maybe that’s when the other parents found out too.]

Or that someone was coming to the school to give everyone shots.

The same denial factor existed in our apartment complex.

Now and then posters would go up on the front door, but all I could decipher was the date.

If we were lucky, someone in the elevator would risk their halting English to tell us that the water was going to be off for the next 3 days.  In 3 days?  For an hour at some point in the next 3 days?

That time we filled every tub, bottle, sink and container with water in dread of a prolonged water outage.

4 days later, the water had never been off for even a minute.

I still lived in fear for about a week that the water would go off for an undetermined period of time.

Then there was the time our internet inexplicably (to us) went out for about 2 weeks, and when I mentioned it to my tutor, she said the sign said the tech support people were camped outside the building to handle everybody’s updates.  They were in and out in 10 minutes and we were back online again.

Now, 2 and 3/4 year later, I have several things on my side.

I can ask people what that sign says, and I can understand many of the answers.

I can even read some of it.

My character reading does have some gaps in it, however, that I try to fill with imaginative things.

It goes something like this:

Monday, breakfast.  Good, so far.

Milk, bread, 5-spice chicken something.  Hmm.  looks like the character I learned in my medical book for marrow. Well, they do eat that kind of thing here.

I have had bloody tofu soup, after all.  It was quite red.

Now, go down the column.  Lunch.

Two-grain rice dish?

Five-spice pork something.  Liver, maybe.  (again, draw on recent study of GI tract in language text).

Fish flavored something something.  Never seen those two characters before.

Skip the thing in parenthesis.  It can’t be too important.

Something something something flower soup.

Here’s where you have to use your scope for imagination.

Maybe it’s not really flower, but something else that grows.

Maybe it’s broccoli, which has flower as the 3rd character but I don’t know the first two.

Maybe the thing looks like a flower when it’s floating in the soup.

You have three choices at this point.

This is also how you can easily identify your personality disorder, like one of these magazine quizzes.

1)  Pull out the ipod, write the characters in the invincible Pleco dictionary and find out the TRUE MEANING.

2)  Ask your child what he had for lunch that day.

3)  Ignore it and live comfortably with partial illiteracy and a completely incorrect view of your world.

Nevertheless, I am amazed at the diversity of new foods my 4 year old son is being exposed to.

He actually eats some of it.

I don’t think it’s harmed him too much.

The ipod.

Such a multi faceted device.


One response »

  1. As always, your wonderful sense of humor shines through. thank you for chuckles and smiles to start my work day this morning. Love and hugs!

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