Trip through hell, part two. So, then in April, my contract is up. My supervisor tells me they are opening a new center in another district called Songjaing. Why don’t I take my girls out there, look around, and see if I want to work there. It will be cheaper and better for the girls. Plus, I would get a big raise if I take it. The next day, a girl named “Raine” was sitting next me. She was a part-timer going through training to be a full-time teacher. She lived in Songjiang. I talked to her all day and exchanged info. Then she gave me pictures of her apartment and her realtor’s info.
So, on my next day off, we took the subway an hour south west to Songjiang. On the way, we saw hills and rivers and lots and lots of green space, farms and single houses. I think our jaws stayed open. It was so beautiful. The realtor met us at the metro station and showed us Raine and her husband, Sandy’s apartment complex. Surrounded by rivers, cute little bridges and walkways through willows and flowering bushes, and great children’s playground right outside her door. I asked the girls if they wanted to move out there, and they had a resounding YES! I didn’t blame them. We walked back to the metro, and out in the public square area, they had what looked like a children’s festival. Bumper cars, painting, sandboxes, bouncy castles, and that sort of thing. I asked if it was “children’s day” or something, and Jack (the realtor) laughed. “It’s like this every day.” He said. We were sold.
I went back to work and told my supervisor that I absolutely would love to move. Also, Raine and Sandy were moving that week, and we could take over their very apartment which was GORGEOUS! Huge flat screen TVs in every room, rain shower, window seats in every window, huge cushy couch so big we could all nap on it, just luxurious –oh, and 1500 cheaper than our walk-up downtown that didn’t even have a chair. The decision was so easy. Also, Raine and Sandy were just moving across the street, so I already know some neighbors. And my friend Mayne was out there somewhere.
So I told my landlord I was being transferred. Freak out number two. Almost worse than freak out number one. Well, in some ways, not and in some ways a lot more worse. First he insisted I had to be out by pay day. Ok, that was no time to plan, but we have a place waiting so I guess I can swing it. Then it was this demand and that. I had to take a day off of work to pack, and lost 1000 RMB just for that.
Jodie watched the girls and found the best moving company EVER. I didn’t even have to pack. They had had everything packed and moved and UNPACKED between lunch and dinner time. I had never seen anything so efficient and helpful. They were used to foreigners, and it took the stress out of the actual move. The only casualty was a box of grits from America, but that’s not bad at all. Our clothes were hung up, put in drawers Food and dishes were in the cupboards and even the bed was made. Really, never saw such full-service movers! That was the only good part. That and Jack found a nanny for me.
The now, ex-landlord –even though I jumped through EVERY hoop he threw at me, and lost a lot of money doing it, still managed to get an ENTIRE month’s salary out of me, through a day full of crying with no chance to save myself. It was true Chinese torture. Once again, it’s the way they do things, and I had absolutely no rights since I broke the contract. I expected them to keep the deposit. Fine, no problem, I don’t care. But I got pressured into signing a document that said I would pay them almost 6000 more after six full hours of crying. It was truly horrible. Had I left the keys on the table and disappeared, I would have avoided the whole situation. But I was trying to be up-standing and nice. The lesson learned is: leave the keys on the table when you move.
There was one more horrible situation that I have been very deliberately not been talking about, involving “she who must not be named.” But after her apparent deliberate stealing of several thousand American dollars from me, disappearing as soon as my money ran out, and just turning truly psycho, and then all of this, I really went through a huge depression. I had to borrow money from friends every week just to eat. I was beyond burned-out, and about ten levels of stress higher than any normal person could handle. To make things worse, it was a very long, cold, hard winter. The girls and I spent most of it in my bedroom with the door closed, heat on, watching movies and playing card games.
Well, this move came at a perfect time, and changed EVERYTHING. The night and day difference was such a relief, it’s hard to explain. I could breathe again. I could feel the sun. I still owed people for about the first two months, but this month, I finally have my monthly salary free and clear. It took a year and half, but I am finally on the plus side. Thus begins my ascension.
Now our life is so different. As a happy coincidence, the center I am working at is just across the river from where we live. I can go home if I forget my jacket. The girls can come meet me for dinner. It’s so easy. I had to get them a cell phone, because the nanny doesn’t speak English, so they can call me and I can call them easily. Our nanny is, however, a fantastic cook. I’ve had to teach her how to laundry and a few things, but the food is SO good. I kept thinking I would get sick of Chinese food at some point, but I haven’t reached that point and neither have the girls.
(Big) Raine doesn’t work here with me. She works at another center just a short bus ride away. I’ve worked over there a few days to fill in for vacationing teachers, so I know the staff over there, which is nice. We also have the same days off, so we often do things with her and Sandy. And every week or two the girls still have playdates with their friends in our old neighborhood, and Jodie always tells me I can go off by myself and come back for dinner, and we all have a big family dinner together, and I get a whole day of “me” time. This week, I spent it in a book store, truly heaven! My friends Andy and Melissa have come out to visit us. Andy is Polish and from Ohio, so we spend holidays together eating ethnic food. Melissa is from Australia, and her boyfriend, Gideon, is from Cleveland –I know small world, right? She just loves doting on the girls.
Homeschooling has been interesting. At first, I thought maybe I started Raine in kindergarten too soon. Her birthday is September first, so she’s a very young five. And she’s definitely ADHD, so I have to keep her engaged, and she just wasn’t able to make a lot of connections. After some research, I have come to the understanding that she is dyslexic, and what part of the spectrum, I’m not sure, but it’s not just about reading and writing, it’s about the way brain processes. It’s supposed to be more common in left-handed and ambidextrous people –especially if they have ADHD. Oh, yes, this is her all over. But she is SO creative and has an outstanding memory of what she hears. I have a friend, Paul, who’s an actor (he’ll be the Persian king in the next Jackie Chan movie). He said she should keep this up, because she can make so many different voices, accents and characters. She could be a voice actor so easily. But also, I need to find a jazz dance class for her. She has this natural talent for the dance moves and choreography.
Rumi , is growing so fast and so much I can’t keep her in clothes or shoes. I know that doctor that called Children’s Services because she labeled her “failure to thrive” lost her license, but I just want to go back and kick her. Not only that, but Rumi is so strong she has actual cut muscles in her arms. I still have to figure out how to get her foot x-rayed. Why this is so difficult, I have no idea. There are only 2 children’s hospitals in a city almost the size of Ohio, and they are so picky about having foreign patients. It’s just an x-ray, so I don’t get the problem, but it is. Her school is taking off in leaps and bounds, though. Our Science and Social Studies is way beyond their level. Reading, writing, and math is at level, and I’ve been teaching them to read music, we do a lot of different types of art, from water colors, to poster paint, to chalk, to clay, to collages, construction, and even sewing and fabric arts and of course, singing, dancing and drama. Sometimes, I wonder how I do it, but really it doesn’t seem that hard.
Neither of them have the love of reading I had as a child, and it surprises me. They do read. They are proud of their reading ability, but they need to be told, “now is reading time.” They will bring books when we have to take the metro, which amuses the other passangers. They love being outdoors, roller-blading, climbing trees, playing on the playground. They miss swimming like we did in Thailand.
My job is interesting. For the moment, we have no students, so I have A LOT of free time. My internet is very limited, but I was able to finish the book I’m writing, and work a lot on next year’s home-school curriculum. Basically, I can sit here for eight hours and talk to my co-workers, make powerpoints, do whatever I want. I heard I won’t have a real schedule until about Christmas, and I won’t have a full schedule until after that. It’s very nice to have down time.
In addition to down time, we had our first real vacation ever in their lives (that didn’t involve visiting people). It was only two days and one night, and it was in our district, but it was a beautiful lake resort with hot springs and hiking, and it was so luxurious! The cost was crazy, because even with food I didn’t pay $100. (Big) Raine found this place on-line. I may have to do this at least once a month. The food was organic and farm to table. There were at least 20 springs that were all gorgeous with little water falls surrounded by jasmine bushes and other aromatic flowers. There were ginsing, green tea, rose, jasmine, lemon, coconut milk, and fish springs to name a few. The fish one is where the little fish come and nibble your dry skin or something –didn’t try that one. I loved the mineral spring, the girls loved the “cold spring.”
So through the craziness, struggles, desperation and depression, came a lovely happy place that we can call home. We have plants, and a kitchen garden. We are settled in. We are comfortable.