(Fortunately we ran into some friends we’d met with Nicole, Charlotte and her son Xavien, and that helped me feel a little more at ease.)
We ate breakfast, and fortunately my mom was still here so Richard and I left the littles with her so we could ride the bus up to the school with just Cam and Eli. We left with plenty of time, which was a good thing because we got a little mixed up about which bus stop we needed, and then the one we chose was closed so we had to back track a bit. But we caught the bus and rode it up.
When I refer to the bus here I’m not talking about a school bus, there are no school buses here. To get to the school we ride a public bus, the red double-decker ones you think of when you think of London. Because it’s a public bus Cameron and Eli aren’t quite old enough to ride alone so I ride the bus to school with the kids every day, and then we either take the bus home or walk home. It’s about a 10 minute bus ride to the school and a 25 minute walk home. But school transportation deserves a post of its own…
Schools are so different here in that you don’t automatically go to the school that is closest to you. So every day on our way to school we pass kids going in the opposite direction to three or four different schools. I can recognize the uniforms now of Morden Mount, Grinlin Gibbons, Ashmead and St. Matthew Academy (my favorite- they are so smart looking!). But on the bus on the first day there were a few other kids going to Lucas Vale and Cameron and one boy made eye contact and gave each other a shy nod.
We walked to the school and found the boys’ teachers, Miss Mustafa for Cameron and Mrs. Hassan for Eli. This is when I got emotional- Mrs. Hassan has to be the kindest teacher I’ve ever met. She took one look at Eli and his timid nature, and “got it.” She paired him up with a little Chinese boy named Kaden, who has been his buddy ever since. She tells me now that they are two peas in a pod. It was such a big deal to me that it was someone Eli’s size, literally. Both of the boys’ teachers, and really everyone we met, were so kind and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
I almost started crying, a little bit from nerves I think and a little bit from gratitude. Cameron took the bull by the horns and really jumped in with both feet. He’s brave and sociable and quick to make friends. And I could take comfort in knowing that Eli’s teacher was 100% committed to making his transition as comfortable as possible.
We watched them go into their classes and then we took the bus home and I waited in great anticipation for the day to pass.
I hope I never forget Eli’s enthusiasm when my mom and I showed up at the end of the day to pick them up from school. Both he and Cameron couldn’t stop talking. Eli was thrilled with the international make-up of his class
“Mom! My teacher is from Turkey, I mean actually Cyprus, and there are there is a kid from Albania and Cameroon and Singapore!”
And Cameron was an automatic celebrity because the school Headmaster made a point of introducing him at the welcome assembly, and telling all the children to ask to hear his accent. Nothing could delight Cameron more than being the center of attention.
Cameron’s teacher is young and fun and perfect for his personality. She had great things to say about him and his schoolwork. Both Cameron and Eli just need to work on “connectives” which are like cursive writing I guess. They do all their writing this way, so no more printing for these two.
Eli’s teacher is seriously an answer to prayers. She has personally been aware of him and his needs. She has let him eat lunch with her and has spent time on the playground trying to help him integrate. On the day of our meeting she said that she had heard him laughing for the first time in class and it warmed her heart. She considered that his biggest success so far. I didn’t know from anything Eli had said that he wasn’t quite fitting in socially, but I don’t think he was miserable at school either. He is just quiet and deliberate and cautious. It took him awhile to make friends and learn the names of the other kids. But the idea of him wandering around on the playground alone kind of broke my heart, so I’m really grateful to hear that he is finally interacting and getting involved. Today he made me a loom band bracelet that was a new pattern that he told me Kaden had taught him, and I was so excited for him. Mrs. Hassan also said that the kids are as interested in Eli as they are in Cameron, but Eli isn’t quite as open and friendly with them as Cameron is. Which is just Eli and he will make friends on his terms, for better or worse.
I really love the school where the kids go. It’s a melting pot in the truest sense of the phrase and even if Simon and Miriam don’t remember specifics of the school after we move away, I think the diversity will help influence their character and view of the world and it just makes me feel really blessed and grateful.