Thursday, January 8, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

(Has that title already been taken?)

Well, let's start with the good. The American School was really, really amazing! The facilities are incredible. If you have ever watched "High School Musical" with your kids and said, "yeah, that's not what schools really look like," you should see this school. My school had crowded halls, no open spaces (unless you count the field), and was antiquated. Or maybe it's me that's antiquated. Anyhow, this school was beautiful. I was very impressed. And I was impressed with the kids and classes I saw as well.

We are taking the plunge and going to turn in the application and enrollment forms. I'm nervous. Not about how they'll do there. They both are very smart and very social. I'm nervous about stupid things, like their handwriting. That's not something I've really stressed over the years. I mean, come on, how much of real life is handwritten? Notes to yourself. Shopping lists. That's about it. Most of what we do is electronic now, right?

I'm nervous about the social effects it will have on my kids. While I trust them to make wise choices, I know how strong peer pressure can be.

I'm dreading the homework. I don't even want to talk about the homework.

Jennifer asked why I was opting to put them in school. It's not that homeschooling isn't working for us. It is. But having moved across the world, it's a different situation. There is no active homeschooling support here like we had in Miami. We have made only one friend who homeschools and she has a 6 year old son, so there are no peers for my kids. There are no activities, no field trips, no friends who "get" what your life is like (for either the kids or me). Also, we live in a completely Arab neighborhood, mostly conservative Muslim. They pretty much ignore us, so there are no friends in the neighborhood for the kids. The only place they've made friends is at church and even that has been a slow process. They need more of a life.

Also, they need more than I can offer them here. This school is amazing. The entire 8th grade is going to Malaysia next week. The electives they offer, the after school activities - all of it are things I can't provide for them here.

We were told to get our applications in first thing tomorrow morning as there had been several withdrawals and we might be able to get both kids in within a week or two.

Now, the actual process of enrolling them in school? That has not been so fantastic. A medical exam is required. "It just takes 10 minutes," the registrar told me. "Go to you local clinic," she said. Well, that was a big mistake.

Medical care is subsidized here. You pay about $30 a year and receive almost free care at the government run clinics. Unfortunately, the old maxim "You get what you pay for" is true. Here's how it went.

Being that most everything shuts down from 1 pm until 4 pm, we arrived at the clinic around 3:45 so we could get in and out quickly. Ha!! At 3:57, they opened the doors and I walked up to the window. The women, completely veiled, were talking amongst themselves on the other side of the glass. Finally, one manages to take note of me and harshly says, "4:00! Go sit!" I tell her I just want to ask if I'm in the right place and she shouts, "It's not 4:00!"

Keeping my mouth shut, as I've learned to do here, I sit down for the next two minutes. At 4, myself and several other people walk up to the window, only to be ignored again. Finally we are told around 4:10 that the doctor isn't here. "Wait," one of them says to me. I cannot tell if it's the same woman or not. Wait where, I wonder. Here at the window, or go sit down again? Finally she takes my children's health cards, makes a note and hands me two laminated numbers - 4 and 6. "Go down there," she says. Down where? There is a whole hallway of "down there." Some man walks up to me and takes my numbers and points to a door that says Pediatric Clinic. I go there but the door is locked. I sit to wait. A minute later another man walks up, tries the door and walks in with his three children.

You aren't called. The numbers mean nothing. It's just whoever gets to the door first. The doctor sits at a desk and waits. Finally we make our way in, I explain to him why we are there and show him the required form. He scribbles something in Arabic on a piece of scrap paper, hands it to me and tells me to go next door.

Next door they take my children's vital signs, check their vision and weigh and measure them. Then they look at the Arabic writing and begin to write orders for blood, urine and stool tests. Uh, wait? All this is necessary? Yes, I'm told. I notice that they have recorded Daniel at weighing half the weight of Emily, when he is actually a couple of pounds heavier. I point it out to the nurse (?) and she tells me not to worry about it, the machine adds a little bit. I repeatedly explain to her that it's a huge difference and impossible. Finally, she relents and calls him back in to be re-weighed. When she realizes her mistake, there's no acknowledgement of her mistake. She merely whites out the incorrect number and walks off to take care of other people while I wait. Yes, wait for the White Out to dry. For 15 minutes. Finally the other nurse (?) notices I and the piece of paper and picks it up and reminds the other woman to finish it. We are then told to go back to the doctor next door.

Where we are told to go to the lab. We make our way down to the lab and she hands us empty vials and says she needs first, ahem, fruits of the morning, shall we say? She opens at 7 and we can turn in our samples and see the doctor at 9 am. Hubby wanted it done NOW, so he took the kids back over to the clinic and asked the doctor to fill out the papers right then and there. Of course, that was a no go, but he did learn that we needed some kind of Qatari official card listing their immunizations. Oh, and by the way, they'd have to be immunized for TB. Which leaves a scar. And isn't given in the US. I had a fit at the thought of scarring my kids for a vaccine they don't need.

This morning I trudged off to the National Healthy Authority to get the card. After figuring out the right place to go, I got the joy of sitting and watching the lone woman there continue her filing for 10 minutes while I sat ask her desk. Finally she asked what I needed. She quickly filled out the card and told me that Emily would not need to be vaccinated, but Daniel would because he was under 12. No other explanation, no listening to me. But the mandatory TB test? Oh, that's only done some other place and only on Sundays. Then the test would be read three days later and then the doctor could sign off.

Finally Hubby announced he wasn't waiting until next Wednesday. He went back to the doctor and convinced him to sign off on everything else but the TB test. So I trudged back to the school and turned it all in. That "10 minute visit" turned out to take hours and hours of time and frustration.

Anyways, the papers are in. We've been told to expect a call next week for placement tests. We aren't sure yet if Emily will get in at the same time due to space limitations, but we will see. Thanks for you encouraging words and support!! I'll keep you posted!


ValleyGirl said...

Well, I'm glad our subsidized healthcare works a bit more smoothly!! Yikes, that sounds like quite an ordeal.

I checked out the school's website yesterday and it DOES look amazing! I think your kids will love it there, once they've adjusted a bit and made some friends.

I know this must be a very difficult decision for you, but I think, given the reasons you listed, it's probably a wise one.

Anonymous said...

Well, better to find out what to expect at a dr. visit before anyone is sick. I don't blame you for not wanting the vaccine. Good luck with getting both kids in to school!

Nancy M. said...

That just sounds so frustrating! I would have gone insane going through all that. I hope they get in soon, and that they will end up loving it!

Dawn said...

I hope all goes well with the kids getting into the school.

I can relate to the heartbreak of sending the kids to school. I felt that way with my kids, especially James. I actually cried for a week everyday after sending him. That doesn't mean you will, of course. My decision to send him was somewhat sudden, so I didn't have the time to process it beforehand.

Lizzie @ Lizzie's Home said...

I will never feel affronted at a 30 min wait at the doctor's clinic EVER. AGAIN.

Good golly, how do you keep your mouth shut? LOL.


stacey said...

wow, my head is totally spinning from your experience. i think it's a good thing i don't live there. i would probably be arrested-i am not good about keeping my mouth closed!!!

Claire said...

Ack, that was awful! So sorry it was such a did Emily handle it? You've mentioned she's anxious.

I had a friend who moved to Israel some years back. Her husband learned Hebrew fairly quickly, but she and her homeschooled children struggled. They decided to put the kids in school, and they have learned the language, and her oldest has become a great evangelizer. :)


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