More from our time in China…
Yesterday afternoon found us heading to an art gallery, the Jiangsu Art Gallery (if you want to search for it and see, this link take you to an architecture site – it’s an interesting building.). Lilly called and invited us to go to an exhibition that would be closing on Tuesday, but was worth going to see. Apparently, among his other talents, Jang Guo is an art critic and writes reviews. So we went. I had our girl bring her sketch pad with her and she drew and drew. I’ve posted pictures from the exhibition, probably more than what most folk will be interested in and they won’t be as “up close” as I’d like, but until I can get them up elsewhere it will have to do. On the way out there was a gentleman who stopped to look at the drawing that AEB was working on and admired it greatly. He told her, through Lilly, that he had high hopes for her artistic future, which was nice of him. Later, on the way back to our flat, Lilly told me that he was one of Nanjing’s most famous artists. I’m not sure whether that is true as so much of what one is shown in China is “the most famous”, “the best”, “most renowned in the provence”, so it’s hard to know for sure when dealing with a people that use such accolades for descriptions of places, people and other things. But since Lilly has spent a lot of time in the USA and we’ve known her since 1998, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt since she’s a friend. So, as a mum I’m more than a little proud of my girl.
I’m about ready to start charging people for taking a photo of our girl! “Can I take your picture?” “Yes, that will be 5RMB, please.” Or maybe we should just move to Shanghai and get her into commercials! I think we’d do well. She is lovely (a mother’s bias and truth), and the Chinese admire her where ever she goes, mum and I are hardly glanced over with her around. Inevitably when we go out and about people want to take her picture or have their picture taken with her. Poor thing is getting very tired of all the attention. I’ve told her she’s a little US ambassador. Is that better than telling her she’s a star?
Today we hope to find out if our girl will get into school. Friday had things rather in an awful tangle. Mrs. T. is a woman who is looking out for the flat that we are renting while we are here. Somehow, and I can’t quite figure out how, she got involved in the helping to get AEB placed. There is a primary school directly across the street from Gardens where we are living and she went over to get her enrolled. The principal said, “yes” and then she went back over with her daughter (she teaches Chinese to foreign students at Nanjing Normal University and speaks English to the degree that is needed for teaching foreigners Chinese) in the afternoon to register AEB and spoke to the vice principal who asked them lots of questions about AEB’s abilities. They had no clue about AEB’s academic abilities, and somehow did not bother to think of having us join them with Lilly to speak with the powers that be, so he said, “no” and that was that as far as Mrs. T. was concerned. However, Lilly was so angry with Mrs. T. for getting herself involved and mucking things up for us. There is some speculation that Mrs. T. was wanting her daughter to teach us Chinese and so sabotaged the school admissions so that they could get the money from tutoring. Who knows for sure, except Mrs. T. So, Monday, Lilly expects Mrs. T. to go over and make things right over at the school. That’s a tall order! She has to go over and “loose face” by admitting a mistake and smoothing over things so Lilly looks better, and so that the university doesn’t get a bad reputation as well as making mum, the university’s “famous” foreign professor looks better, too. I don’t anticipate heading over today, but maybe. Sounds strange, perhaps, but all that is tangled up in one person getting involved with something she never should have in the first place. What’s the saying, “cast your bread upon the water and it comes back soggy”? I think Mrs. T. was trying to make herself look good, but in doing so ended up creating a whole mess that she ended up having to clean up in the end. Maybe mum said something that made things more complicated in the interpretation of our desires for school for AEB, it’s hard to know for sure.
Ah ha! A call from Lilly. Mrs. T. has spoken with the principal and our girl can go to school! He is worried about her safety – like eating lunch, so we will pack a lunch for her each day. So we have a meeting at 2.30 with the principal, Mrs. T., our interpreter (a graduate student that Lilly will find to help as she has to teach all day over at the new campus of NNU) and AEB, mum and I. Our girl is actually, maybe even surprisingly, excited about getting go to school. I think a lot of it is has to do with wanting to learn how to communicate with her friends on the playground and also having a school routine. Whatever the reason, I’m so happy that this will be happening.
2.30 pm found us over at the primary school across the street from our community of flats and in the principal’s office talking over AEB’s enrolment. A delegation of Mrs. T., Huang Yuan (the graduate student who was to interpret for us), mum, myself and AEB up against the principal and all the other vice principals ready to argue their case. AEB had a panic attack which made it difficult to participate in the debate over letting her into the school for the three weeks we have left here or not. Mum did the debating – she good at that – VERY good. And I had to take our girl outside the office to calm her down. I’m not sure the buttons on my sweater would have survived had we stayed in the office. She has a tendency to grab my clothes when she’s nervous, or mad, or a meriade of other emotions, and put them in her mouth, usually between her teeth making them vulnerable to holes. Anxiety is a tough foe to fight off. The principal argued that he was not sure he could keep her safe – being unaccustomed to the water, the hygiene, etc. he did not wish her to contract anything. He was worried that we were starting too late in the semester and that she would not be able to keep up and it would cause the teacher to spend too much time with her and not her other lovely students. Mum countered every argument. The main reason for putting her in school while here was for her to experience other children, a bit of the culture, make friends, pick up the language with no expectations of taking exams or burdening the teacher with anything but making AEB’s time lovely without the grading or the work load. Finally it was all agreed and our girl was enrolled and ready to start on the next day with the expectation of either bringing her own lunch or going home for lunch and coming home later in the afternoon. As we went to meet her new teacher students were being dismissed for the day and a crowd of curious students (mostly girls) gathered around AEB. One gave her a book/magazine of Zombies vs. Vegetables? I don’t know anything about them, but AEB seems to and was enormously pleased with the gift and was determined to go home and make her a thank you note. As we were able to extract ourselves from the admiring throngs we went to buy school supplies that she would probably not need, but the thrill of buying school supplies out weighed other thoughts on the matter.
I hardly slept. I had doubts about her experience, the shortness of it all, time better spent doing other things, and all the rest. Mum has been a pit bull about having AEB do this and I understand her rationale for it, but I was loosing hope of bicycles and rides to adventures and I wasn’t sure I liked that at all. I knew that AEB would enjoy the other children and that they would enjoy having her in the class, but I was worried about the teacher feeling too burdened or not doing the sorts of things with her that would help her in the unique situation. All doubts would be eased in the morning, but I didn’t know that at the time so sleep rather eluded me.