This is not my story to tell, but I knew that you, loyal readers, would love to hear it. So I have received permission to share it with you.
You all remember Jamie (cat is out of the bag that Jenny was not her real name in the apartment series). Well she’s settled into the apartment across the hall quite nicely and we have a pretty sweet sitch of almost-but-not-quite communal living. We call it “Sister Wives Without The Weird Part”.
Jamie has a 13-year old son and 10-year old daughter. Following along with her concept of “We’ll have what the Shermanos are having” she was seeking a school for her kids to be enrolled as “asistentes” or “auditors”. But having a boy and a girl, instead of 2 girls like we have, proved to be a little more of a challenge. Most schools in this area are boys-only or girls-only. That may not seem so difficult. “Just put them in different schools,
Jenny Jamie!” you might say. Easier said (even in Spanish) than done.
Having a kid in a local school can be a full time job for a gringa. Even with a strong command of the language, keeping up with my kids’ stuff in school is a lot of work. If Jamie had two kids in two different schools, she’d need a full time assistant just to juggle all the transportation, communication, uniforms, supplies, schedule, lunches and the endless but random holidays. And then there’s the day that parents are supposed to send something, which we usually find out about 15 minutes into that school day. Weekly. I kid you not, our handy delivery service takes stuff up to the school that Zoe or Haley (but mostly Zoe, not gonna lie) didn’t know to bring.
So Jamie’s goal was to enroll both her kids into the same school. A secondary but almost-as-important goal was to have the school close by. Transportation is one of the biggest challenges here. Even if we had a car of our own, the city can become very congested for no particular reason. In addition, the minute water falls from the sky, the taxis either all head inside or all the people who can predict weather patterns get them before us.
So Jamie starts looking around at schools nearby that will accept both girls and boys. She found one within walking distance and I went with her for a tour one afternoon. The students were hanging out of their classroom windows like monkeys at the zoo, trying to talk to Cameron and Coco. Coco was excited (although the thought of roller skating at breaks seemed to pique her interest a bit more than the academics) but Cam was not too impressed with the chaotic nature of the classrooms and the 1 – ONE – other boy in his grade. And this boy was planning to leave at the semester break because hanging out with all the girls was too much for him. Cam said he just didn’t think being the Justin Beiber of the school was up his alley.
So Jamie continued to look for other schools. She found a music school that seemed to be a great fit for her musical kids, especially Cam who is particularly talented at the piano. The music school was not so sure about this gringa family who showed up unannounced asking for a spot in the school, but they advised Jamie to fill out the online application and “we’ll call you”. Well, after a month of NOT receiving any calls and Jamie calling THEM each week and getting the same “We’ll call you” answer, Jamie gave up. Word on the street is that it takes years – and knowing someone on the board personally – to get into that music school.
So one day we just decided to go up to the school where the Shermaniñas are attending. It’s not a perfect fit for her kids. For one, we felt like with our kids all living almost-together already, that some separate space at school could be important. For two, our school is girls-only after the 4th grade. They are only just now integrating boys and have accepted them at the lower grades only for the past 5 years. So Cam being in 7th grade was probably not in the cards. But in typical FSO (figure sh!t out) fashion, we showed up. We had suggested he be in 7th because that is the grade he would be entering in Gilbert, Arizona right now (yes, the Cate family is also from OUR SAME TOWN in Arizona, although we did not know them when we lived there). At first the school was not at all sure about enrolling Cam in 7th grade. They were concerned that he would not know anyone. So then we suggested to the school that Cam be in 6th grade, with Zoe. They were very pleased with that idea and arrangements were made to show up the next day for a trial.
That next day happened to be a welcome breakfast for all the extranjero families who attend the school. So I dragged Jamie along and acted like she’d been here all along. Most of the foreigners were Venezuelan or a few from other Spanish speaking countries. Jamie, our friend Aurora, our friend Joyce and I were the only ones from the USA. When it came time to introduce herself, Jamie did a great job in Spanish and everyone clapped for the blond, translucently white lady who clearly felt out of place but did it anyway. After a nice introduction to the school, singing the school anthem, a long prayer in English and Spanish, breakfast and rosary bracelets as a gift, we went on our way.
After a few days with the kids at the school, Jamie and Scott and the kids went in for their interview with the directora. Just like our experience, the directora was extremely sweet and happy to meet them. At one point when the administrators still seemed unsure about Cam’s attendance with all the girls, the conversation went something like this:
Directora: We aren’t sure how it will work with a boy in 6th grade.
Jamie: OK well maybe we can just try it until school ends in November.
Directora: Or perhaps you’ll love it here and stay forever?
Jamie: Yes, that too.
After that the directora learned that Scott works for a well-known technology company and asked for his advice on a recent hacking hostage situation that has happened at the school. That conversation went like this:
Directora: Oh you work for <major technology company>? Can you advise us on what to do about these hackers that are holding our data for ransom?
Scott: Oh yes, that can happen. How terrible. Best to just re-install your info from your backup.
Directora: We don’t have a backup.
Scott: You’re screwed. Better pay the ransom.
Directora: Oh that’s a lot of money.
The interview ended with hugs and kisses and a presentation of The Tin which seems kind of like the final pledge in a sorority. The kids hurried off to join their new friends and the Cate parents declared it a successful entrance into a new phase of their life here in Medellin.
So how was it? How was their first week? What did all the Latin Girls think of this BOY (and gringo at that) in their classroom? Did Coco find the friends she was seeking? More importantly, will she be able to roller skate? Well, in true LJT form, we will save that for the next blog post, where I will interview Cameron and Coco about their thoughts on the school. But I’ll whet your appetite with this picture that Haley snapped at lunch.