Thursday, September 20, 2018

Back to school

Yes, the kids are finally back in school! Finally, because in our town school doesn’t start until after Labor Day. I should add that we finally figured out the late start here and that out this year- squeezed in a quick trip over that long weekend. It is all a bit funny here with high school sports starting in August and competitions starting before school does. In fact, Tori had her first varsity tennis match the day before school (a win in tie break).

All a bit funny too as we realize this was Tori’s last first day of high school!Her teary-eyed parents held on tight to most traditions. We had the schuletutes and lots of photos. We forgot to write the poem for each kid’s first day but we copied an internet thing and made a sign that said the year. (All those first day pictures with the same schuletutes was getting confusing). The only real difference was that Tori invited 10 of her friends over for brunch as school had a delayed opening. We loved seeing all the senior girls dressed up. Adam didn’t mind all the fuss. He came downstairs, saw all the food and said “a houser breakfast!” He meant the big breakfasts we used to make with international student athletes housed with us in Munich. Definitely more fruit, bacon and baked goods than the usual morning around here.
The other big difference is that senior girls drive. Tori drives she just doesn’t have a car. But as they all drove off to school and she climbed into our car, I could tell she wanted to. All of a sudden I realized the school day was different with the seniors leaving campus to eat lunch. The twins are thrilled as they move up the lunch space ladder at the high school. I think they are now in the gym and aspire to the cafeteria as juniors. But Tori is a free bird. And as it should be, I suppose. Every thought that pops into my head is along the lines of- she will be even more free next year.

Of course, she is ready and of course she will do fine. Somehow it is lunch that pulls at my heart strings. Thinking of the kids first eating in their classroom in Hong Kong and graduating to the cafeteria for the later years. Of Royce writing me the note- “I am the one who doesn’t like pesto in my lunch!” In our Munich cafeteria, I used to peek from the cappuccino bar to see if the kids had someone to sit with for the hour-long break. In the states, lunch is more fluid, with kids sitting with different friends on different days. And now apparently so fluid it is no longer at school. But I will keep writing notes on their napkins. They don't need a note but I need to write one.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

London and beyond

Bigger, better, hotter- our London summer vacation! We are bigger, taking up more space with three teens in tow. But with our London friend’s recent row house expansion, we easily fit in. And with her guidance, we fit in more museums and navigated public transport smoothly. And all this in the middle of the UK’s heat wave. With temperatures in the 90’s, London was dry and brown, looking more like Italy than the UK. Long ago, coming to London from hot humid Hong Kong, I bought a sweater (that I wore for years and years) and remember huddling around a fireplace at a restaurant and loving it. This time, no sweaters or fireplace. Instead, we finally swam in the bathing ponds of Heath. We’ve seen a few swimmers over the years but never figured out which pond was for males or females or the mixed pond. This year, properly motivated, we figured it out. Multiple times!
With our London friend organizing and leading, we forged new paths in the UK. We let the kids pick some things they wanted to do. Stonehenge was a desired destination for all and we did it. We loaded on to the tour bus and drove north to the Salisbury Plain. (I only remember that as Tori did- we were since reading a book that mentioned it and she clued us all in). Stonehenge itself was stunning and the kids were sufficiently awed. I seem to recall that we got a lot closer to the actual stones when I last visited twenty years ago. Phil first visited forty years ago and remembers walking between the stones, touching them, picnicking there etc. Plans are underway to move a highway that goes by Stonehenge. We told the kids we would return in another twenty years for that different perspective. But not before. Or at least not during a heat wave.
Another highlight was the musical Hamilton. We were excited walking by the venue prior to our performance, taking pictures by the posters etc. Once we actually got in side (and enjoyed the VIP Lounge – all thanks to our London friend) excitement was sky high. Tori and Royce started crying during the first song and maybe never stopped. (As background, our family was an early adapter to Hamilton music as we got the CD in 2015 after donating some money to NPR). A funny aspect to watching Hamilton in London; the crowd cheered for King George.
As this is the summer before Tori’s senior year, conversations typically circle back to college. And hence the idea for a new London day trip was born; Cambridge! A super easy and fast train from King’s Cross to Cambridge and then an easy walk to the campus. We did the local thing and took a boat trip around the campus. A bunting boat which basically means pushing. The water is shallow and someone pushes the boat along with a pole, pushing off the bottom. The kids wanted us to do this ourselves but we went with the guided tour. Good call because we got the trivia, the lore, the Cambridge student pranks. Stephen Hawking taught at Cambridge- and since we went to see his new gravestone in Westminster Abbey, per Tori’s request, we thought she might be interested in applying. All we got out of her- maybe. Stay posted.  Tori may be coming to a university near you!