by Yafei Zhu, October 8, 2018
My goals for taking Xaria to China include letting her see my homeland and the area where I grew-up, expose her to Chinese culture firsthand, and let her experience a preschool to further improve her Chinese language skills and have the opportunity for plenty of interaction with children of her own age.
Xaria at a Play Area in a Nanjing Shopping Mall
Before leaving San Diego, I connected with a friend in Nanjing to check what kindergartens might have openings close to my parent's apartment. The feedback was not that promising - all the government-owned schools were already full as the school year had started. I knew kindergartens had become popular in China because of the new saying, "Don't lose on the starting line." Basically, parents want to provide the best early education to their children as they can and they're willing to pay for it. With these increased expectations from parents, kindergartens are taking the opportunity to raise the bar in terms of standards and good schools are asking for sponsorship or registration fees, in addition to the regular monthly dues. Residential real estate prices are also shooting up in areas close to any good kindergarten.
Fortunately for us, in addition to government-owned facilities, there was a private school just five minutes walking distance from my parent's apartment named the Yueya Lake Kindergarten. They said they had space and that Xaria could start a probationary period on October 8th. During this time the teachers will assess her integration into the school but unfortunately, she would need to return home during the afternoon school nap until they were confident she would settle in. This was disappointing but hopefully, it will only last a week or so until the school gets familiar with their foreign visitor.
All Packed for School - Even Got Her Tiger
Xaria woke up 6:15 am on Monday, October 8th super excited at the prospect of going to school. There was none of the usual fussings and whining about cleaning teeth and having a wash! Xaria ate breakfast quickly, and unbelievably she ended up waiting for me. Xaria urged me to hurry up while watching a Chinese kid's program on Youku (China's largest video streaming company). Xaria had packed her special suitcase with a water bottle, some snacks, a spare set of clothes and a jacket.
We left the apartment at 8:10 am and we were soon waiting to meet the Vice Principal at the main entrance. We watched staff members greeting each child and checking their throat with a flashlight. No child can enter the school with a cold or fever, and if one is found the parent has to take them home again. As such, parents wait for their child to be ushered off in the direction of the classrooms before leaving. The rules are strictly enforced.
With throat check done, I took Xaria to her new classroom. She looked around curiously while I was talking to one of the main teaching staff, Miss Gong. There are twenty-six children including Xaria in her assigned class. It has two teaching staff and another staff member to help out. When I turned to leave, Xaria showed a bit of reluctance to let me go but then she was distracted and her nervousness evaporated.
Yueya Lake Kindergarten Main Stairway
One hour later, Miss Gong texted me that Xaria was doing well and playing with other children. I was relieved. At 11:45 am, I picked her up and Miss Gong said she had followed the instruction in the class and for toilet time and had eaten a good lunch; except she did not like the soup. I let her watch a Chinese kid program for 10 minutes on YouKu as a reward for her good behavior. Back at the apartment, Xaria was cooperative about taking a nap - sadly not always the case back in San Diego. I dropped her back at the school at 2:45 pm. A mom with a little boy was waiting for us at the main entrance. The little boy took Xaria's hand and they walked in together - it was pretty cute.
Xaria's New Friend
Xaria in her Class at Yueya Lake Kindergarten
Ninety minutes later I was back at the school again. Many parents and grandparents were gathered in front of the main entrance waiting eagerly for the kids to finish for the day. The gate opened at 4:20 pm and adults went to the different classrooms to pick up their charges. Xaria was excited to see me and gave me a big hug. She then showed me a small jar with colorful candies. The children had celebrated a classmate's birthday, and they had all got candy. Xaria had given the birthday girl a big hug. I allowed Xaria three large candies for a successful first day at a Chinese kindergarten - I was so proud of her.
Done for the Day - What A Success!
Unfortunately, what I didn't realize was that fifteen minutes later she would turn from an angel to a monkey with the sugar rush from the candies. As soon as we got home she was on top of grandparents and jumped all over the place. My mistake, I'll be more careful with dishing out the candies next time.
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