In Which We Find a School
The next school we see, Dyatmika, looks promising. It’s got a good mix of local and international students; the elementary level is taught in Indonesian and English; they have Mandarin on the syllabus (fortunately for Zac, perhaps, I have yet to discover there’s a Chinese school in Denpasar); and they’re academic (last year’s head girl made it into Brown). It feels… Well, it feels school-y.
Or, as Zac puts it, “I’m going to get learned here.”
Yet, at the same time, it feels a bit too school-y. The blocks of classrooms could be anywhere. There’s not a great deal of green space, although the area around it feels firmly Balinese.
There is something about the place which feels, after four years of close to total freedom, a little too restrictive for where we are right now. A GCSE science lesson appears to be mainly drilling from the blackboard.
Further, I don’t really know Sanur, which is popular with retirees and well-heeled families, but I’ve got enough of a handle on it, I think, to know that it’s likely wrong for us. I don’t like the sprawl, I don’t want to do the bypass on a bike twice a day for school, and I very much suspect that the ranks of the ropily self-employed and loafers that I’ll need to join to fit in here live elsewhere. (Mr Travelfish suggests, should we choose the school, that Ketewel might fit.)
Anywise, there’s another school we want to look at: Canggu Community School. I know nothing about Canggu, but there’s nothing quite like school and house-hunting for getting to know an area, and a friend has told me that’s academically good too, and so…. Off we go!
“So you like science?” the teacher asks, à propos of my forms. “I don’t know,” says Zac. “Yes, you do,” I say. “I haven’t DONE any science,” he says, accusingly.
For reasons that are mysterious to me, but probably related to puberty, Zac is quite spectacularly sullen on arrival. I explain our situation to the head of secondary, who is brisk and bright and likeable, and hand over the requisite forms with academic history, strengths and weaknesses, a summary of what he’s learnt over the last four years in lieu of a school report and some examples of his writing.
There’s a film script, from when we visited a movie set in Jordan; there’s an essay on 1984 and Fahrenheit 451; there’s some token bits of science, including a turtle project from when we went to Pulau Derawan; there’s a story, a couple of blog posts, and a charitably fictional report from his school in Harbin.
One of many advantages of Bali as a place to re-enter from long-term travel, I realise, is that “We’ve travelled the world for four years, we’ve kind of made it up as we go along, and he’s learnt a tonne of stuff but undoubtedly has some random gaps” doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Not that there’s a vast mass of longterm travellers at the school, but alternative education, home-schooling and years off are legion. Not sure how many unschoolers they see, mind.
“So you like science?” the teacher asks, à propos of my forms.
“I don’t know,” says Zac.
“Yes, you do,” I say.
“I haven’t DONE any science,” he says, accusingly. We leave the topic, and his contributions from this point are limited to grunts.
Has he really chosen this particular day to enter his teens for real, I wonder. And will we have five more years of this? Oh god, I hope not.
One kid, three or four sizes up from Zac, though for all I know he could be the same age, has even more hair than Zac.
We tour the school, Zac deteriorating from grunts to active, looming silence. I like it, a lot. It has the general hum of a well-run, happy school; there are teak joglos for sculpture and lunch; there is plenty of grass and greenery; there’s an open gym, plus a pool and sports space at the Canggu Club above.
There’s an art room, with kids at work on a digital and paint fusion project. There are several science labs, and a computer room. There are classrooms, with posters on the wall, and evidence of project work. Some kids are doing drama.
Both big and little kids seem happy, the littlies in turquoise aertex shirts and shorts or skirts, the bigger ones in white short-sleeved cotton shirts and navy shorts or skirts. Everyone seems to be wearing trainers, and, if a school has to have uniform, that’s a nice, easy uniform to have.
Further, one kid, two or three sizes up from Zac, though for all I know he could be the same age, has even more hair than my spawn.
We visit one of the forms Zac might be joining. God, some of these kids are huge! Several already have facial hair. He’s on the shrimpy side for 13. I am daunted for him. But then… It can’t be worse than joining Chinese school, can it?
I ask a lot of questions. I try and engage Zac in discussion. No dice.
Bugger. It looks like I like this school, and my spawn doesn’t. Back to the office again.
I buy three shirts, two pairs of shorts and a PE kit from the school shop, take away a list of stationery supplies, and start surfing the Facebookz for another place to live.
“So…” says the head of secondary. “Would you like to do a trial day?”
“Oh,” says Zac, in a flood of articulateness that leaves us both gobsmacked. “I don’t think that’s necessary. I’ve already decided that this school is the right place for me.”
“Right,” says the head of secondary. “So when shall we start?”
“I think best get on with it as soon as possible,” I say. “Monday?”
And so it begins. I buy three shirts, two pairs of shorts and a PE kit from the school shop, take away a list of stationery supplies, and start surfing the Facebookz for another place to live.
“Are you sure you don’t want some trainers?” I say.
“Nah,” he says. “I like sandals.”
“Everyone else seems to be wearing trainers,” I say.
“Nah,” he says, again. “I’m fine with sandals.”
“OK,” I say. I’m not sure whether to be pleased with his obliviousness to teen fashion or concerned with his lack of desire to fit in.
I’ve been working my butt off on the basis that settling down is going to be expensive, so, highly unusually for me, I actually have six thousand dollars on hand. But I don’t have very much more than six thousand dollars.
Back at base, which won’t be base for much longer, I stare in awestruck horror at the invoice for first term’s fees, admission fee, refundable deposit and, ya know, some other stuff. Six thousand dollars straight off the top. Ouch.
The money fairy has been kind, and, in between looking for houses and looking for schools, I’ve been working my butt off on the basis that settling down is going to be expensive, so, highly unusually for me, I actually have six thousand dollars on hand.
But I don’t have very much more than six thousand dollars. And, it appears, to settle in to expat life in Bali, I am going to need very considerably more than that.
That evening, en route to Taco Casa to celebrate, the two of us fall down a storm drain, an intrinsically comedy accident that buggers my ankle and leaves me incapable of riding a bike for the incipient 1.5 hour commute to and from school.
Oh well, I figure, hiring a driver. At least he’ll get to school on time, and dry. And I can sit in a cafe and work. Plus, he’ll know the way to all the messageboards I’ll need to look on for houses.
My ankle, trivial though it is, is the first item on a run of bad luck.