Well, Tuesday morning we had two things to accomplish – we had to get the kids bed assembled and to get to the school to register them (because Easter break was finally over). Sounds simple enough. We scheduled the assembly to 8am and the school to 11am. We thought we were so clever.
The kids and I arrived to the flat at 8am, and Hidai went to work until they arrive to do the assembly (we had to order the assembly, all our tools are still in Berlin waiting to be shipped).
At 9am we called the shop to see where they are.
At 10 am they were “on their way”.
At 10:30 they were lost.
At 11:15am they showed up.
It took them an hour to assemble the bed. An hour. For one bed.
At 9:00 when we started sensing there might be a problem with our timeline, we called the school to tell them we might be late. They said sure, no problem, you can come anytime until 1:30pm – because that’s when school is over.
We got to the school at 12:45.
All we wanted was a short tour and the registration forms, and we were just getting ready to start filling them with the secretary when the head-teacher showed up. She was so warm and welcoming and of course she remembered us (she didn’t), and please come to my office and let’s chat a little. Sure, we went in. We all sit down and she turns to us and says – so, remind me which classes we’re talking about (told you she didn’t remember us). We tell her year 4 and year 8 (they go by the British system here, and that’s for the next school year). She looks at us real calmly and says – oh. No. We don’t have a place in year 4. We look back at her and say – sorry? You what now?
No. We don’t have a place for year 4.
Yeah. That really happened.
She starts explaining about how she thought it was year 3, and how we never talked about year 4, and so on and so forth, and we stay really calm and tell her again and again that we did talk about year 4, and that she did say they have a spot open, and then two more assistants come in and they all start opening folders and talking Maltese over our heads, and Hidai and I look at each other and I can’t even think my head is buzzing so hard. And in the middle of all this mess sits Yon who is the one that chose this school and he doesn’t understand any of what is happening, and we don’t want to alarm him, so we start speaking Hebrew (these are the moments I am most grateful for having a secret language) real calmly, like it’s nothing. And they keep opening more and more folders and throwing out names of students, and speaking Maltese. We decide not to panic, we can put him in year 3, so he’ll be with kids a little younger, it’s not the end of the world, and besides it might be good for his emotional development, and Malta is not our final destination so he won’t have to go back a year when we leave like Ron, and besides what’s most important is to get your foot in the door and when someone leaves in year 4 we’ll get him in. No panic.
But then they find the student from year 4 who is leaving at the end of this year, and the reason we had a spot in the first place, and everyone clams down.
Then she calls the senior school to make sure Ron has a spot. He does.
Everything is peachy.
If I remember correctly, she says to us then, you said one of them has issues?
She did remember us.
And here they come – Yon’s official papers. It’s not that I am ashamed of Yon, or embarrassed by his conditions, it’s the way they look at him differently when they see the papers. Suddenly he is not the cute-slightly-weird-glasses-wearing-blond kid, he is just weird. I am so proud of Yon and the way he deals with his Albinism and Aspergers, but I also know that for other people, especially those in charge of schools, it just might be too much to handle. And I am afraid, afraid that they will send us to a public school run in Maltese, or to a special school for kids with “problems”, or accept us like in Berlin but we will always be “on probation”. I don’t want to be grateful for a school for accepting Yon, I don’t want to feel like they are “doing us a favour”. I don’t want to have to explain, promise, beg, and be afraid all the time that they will throw us out if he shows signs of “differentness”.
I give her my papers. It’s one of those make or break moments – I want her to see the real Yon through the papers, I want her to not look at them at all, and I wish I never gave them to her. She sat there and read each and every one of those pages. Every word. And I sat there, fighting all my demons, and all my fear, and not knowing what to say that will make her understand and accept Yon.
Well, in the end she just said she thinks we should update his Aspergers diagnosis because the things written there were not relevant to his behaviour today (it has been around 4 years, so true enough) and offered to give us some names.
And then she said both kids need to go through the assessment test. This week. Let’s do Thursday.
And on the way out don’t forget to take the registrations forms to fill for Thursday, and you can pay the fees today. Or tomorrow. Or bring it all in cash on Thursday.
And that was it.
We stood outside the school for 20 minutes waiting for the taxi and trying to figure out what just happened.
On Wednesday we only had one thing to accomplish – we had to get through the pre-cleaning visit. We found a cleaning company that was able and willing to come on Friday morning and clean the flat so we could move in, but they still needed to come see the place and close all the details. We set the visit to 10am, so the kids and I came over around 9 armed with iPads and a decision not to stress about the test on Thursday. Let’s only do fun and easy stuff I told them, thinking it will boost their confidence before they have to sit for their first test in more then a year. Yeah, the cracks in that particular plan began to show when Yon said than organising words according to alphabetical order was hard and Ron decided to learn about Roman roots. But at least the cleaning company guy arrived at 10. ish. He came up the stairs, looked around for all of five minutes, and by the time Hidai showed up he was already on the phone to the company to say it was ok, and getting ready to leave. And what about a contract? Or a receipt? Or an email? Naah, it will all be ok. The cleaners will be here. Because we shook on it.
The kids and I went back to the temp flat through the supermarket, and things got even more distressing because we couldn’t agree on the difference between adjectives and adverbs. 5 Minutes after we get in the phone rings. The landlord has decided he wants to sign the contract now. As in right now. As in get out of the temp-flat and walk back the 20 minutes to the new flat, with the kids. But at least we’ll have the contract, and get rid of all the cash we are carrying around all day. So we did. Honestly I think that like getting the rent not in cash, it is the first time he properly signed a rental contract, and he only did it for us. And that was that. 30 minutes, 4 signatures and 2 keys later, we were officially renters.
We celebrated with a hipster cafe sandwich and smoothie.
And then we remembered that we don’t have a blanket. Or bed sheets.
Then came Thursday, and we really only had one thing to do – be at the school at 9am and get through the assessment test.
Our taxi was only 40 minutes late (which we mostly used to get angry at the taxi and try to get the kids relaxed and unconcerned about the test. Both did not go well). Luckily we ordered it enough time in advance to only be 15 minutes late. But don’t worry, it only took them about 40 minutes to get the test papers ready and get the kids to sit, together, in an open office that had lots of people coming in and out of. Not at all like the test they had Ron sit for in Berlin, in a closed room, for 3 hours. We used the time to pay for the registration and get copies of all our documents done, check out all the other parents coming in looking for a place for their kids (all were dressed really fancy) and the parents coming to pick their kids up from school (none was dressed fancy), and try to get a straight answer as to those pesky little questions like, what happens now? When does the next school year begins? When and how do we get all the info for things like uniforms, books, transport? Yeah, we got nothing. Everything will be sent by post sometimes in the summer. Because the school year starts sometimes near end of September. Very helpful.
Meanwhile, Ron took his test very seriously and because they told him he doesn’t have a time limit, he took triple time the time for each question (like when he had to write a 200 hundreds word essay and he actually wanted to count the words). Yon, on the other hand, popped up every few minutes next to us to say that “he is finished” and was returned every time so he can actually turn the page and answer the questions on the other side. It wasn’t that he didn’t know the answers, or that he found it difficult, oh no, apparently all my worries about the progress they’ve made during homeschooling and that maybe I wasn’t teaching them the right things were baseless. It was that Yon just doesn’t really care. So I just made sure he answered all the questions, and made him rewrite his story, and picked to see that he got it all correct, but that’s all. Hidai wouldn’t let me really help him, because apparently we are people of integrity. I have no idea where he got that one from.
But there we were, 3 and a half hours later, integrity in check, receipt for the obscene amount of money we gave to the school in hand, and 40 minutes to wait for the taxi home. I still wasn’t sure (nor am I sure about it now) that everything is ok. But the kids swore the tests were easy, no one actually said that the test is important for anything, and they all looked at us really really funny whenever we expressed some concern (this is Malta. Concern is frowned upon). After all, we shook on it.
So we went to the cafe next door for a chocolate brownie.