Maja started preschool last week! Really? This is going to be my first entry on our past month in Thailand? Yes, simply because I think I can do it in 45 minutes or less and I need something (SOMEthing) finite to start and finish before taking on how to sum up the past 30+ days in new country. Plus I owe grandparents some pictures.
So here goes: we knew we wanted Maja to have some type of ongoing immersion opportunity with peers her age to help her adapt and begin to embrace Thailand. (Emerson too, but he’ll have to wait until he turns 2.) Our colleagues’ 4-year old daughter (and Maja’s first little friend here) goes to Sunshine Kindergarten, and along with other reasons, we decided to go for it. Also, it’s nicknamed “Sunshine” in our family, the same nickname for our favorite preschool in Durham, Sunshine Smiles Academy, where the kids attended one day/week to help us in the flurry of closing up shop in NC.
Sunshine is a bilingual program, with English lessons in the mornings and Thai in the afternoon. About 1/3 are Western children, I would guess. She’ll go two days each week. We have to drive by it to get to the house we are staying at, and even from a distance, Emerson (and Maja) spot it from the backseat and we hear his little voice singsong “shun-shine.” The couple times we visited, Emerson bolted immediately for the playground and sandbox and pitched a fit when it was time to leave: he’ll be ready for it come October!
For days, we talked with Maja about starting there, and the night before she went, Maja said there’d probably be a lot of toys there. Brenden added, “…and Thais.” And so she was ready on start day.
A couple Thai things are going on in this picture: First, the expectation that shoes are removed before entering a house. Here’s Maja putting on her shoes as we leave for Sunshine. This is actually a great success for us: our first week here, as we went to several different homes (either to visit teammates or to check out homes to rent), Maja was NOT happy about having to take her shoes off every time. So in addition to trying to calm a tearful girl, we were crouching down in the heat trying to buckle buckles or tie ties–4 to 5 times or more each day. Enter Thai observation 2: character slip-on shoes. 99 baht (about 3 dollars): Hello Kitty for her, Winnie the Pooh for Emi. And she can put them on herself. (We ran into another family who had just arrived from America, and their 2-year old had the same shoes as Emerson. The mother commented, “So Thai.” My thoughts exactly.) We chose a day and went “all-in”, so that all 4 of us take our shoes off every time we go in or come out, even at our own home, even for a minute, and since then, both kids know the drill.
And in case this seems more modern or Western or fill-in-the-blank for how you may have been picturing Thailand…
Maja went right off with the teacher, Kru Fang. (Kru means teacher.) She met other kids and as we left, she was walking toward the morning gathering, where they sing the Thai National Anthem to start each day.
I picked her up (my first time driving without Brenden! I got in the wrong side of the car from the steering wheel, which is on the right.) and her first words were “I had so much fun today.” Or something like that. Woohoo. On the way home, she and I leisurely drove through the neighborhood looking at gate colors for ideas (almost all homes here have a gate around the property) because the house we are renting is in need of a good coat of paint on the gate. I got to practice making lots of turns in the neighborhood, looking right first instead of left–we drive on the opposite side of the road as in the States.) She was all jazzed up for about an hour after we got home and told us all about various Thai friends (whose names or sounds we had never heard or said before ourselves) and also that “Red means stop and green means go.”
Day’s end verdict: happy. And rainy. Rainy season is trying to start. Apparently it usually rains the whole month of June, but we are grateful to have had the past month sans rain as we’ve learned the city and how to drive, and so far we enjoy the short bursts of rain when they come.
And while Maja was at school…
…we signed a contract on a house to rent! But that’s another story. (No, really, it is.)
Note: Day 2 was not as smooth for Maja. She cried when we dropped her off and relief-cried as soon as she saw me when I picked her up. That’s more like my Maja. But she still concluded she wanted to go back next week. Sometimes I have to remind myself, “They’re still in transition. They’re still in transition. We’re still in transition. I’m still in transition.” (As if it’s hard to forget, at this point.) Let her go at her pace. One day’s response doesn’t predict the next day’s. (Unless it’s Emerson, who will never turn back 100% of the time if there are new toys or playground in sight.)