Friday, 29 May 2015

Whirling On The Whirligig Of Time ...

What a dizzying academic year this has been! And it has finally come to an end. School closed yesterday for the summer break and today is the first time in many months that I feel I can sit down and catch my breath. Life is rushed for everyone, of course, these days but with a daughter who just finished 11th grade in the American system and a son in his last year of Elementary school, things can get really busy.
At the beginning of the year I made a list of all the exams that my daughter had to appear for during the course of the year as a pre requisite for college admissions. Unlike India where we feel rushed after the 12th grade results, here the students start applying to various colleges right at the beginning of their 12th grade. She converted the whole list into a wall chart and we realized she would be giving some exam or the other practically every month! The beauty of the American system is that either you can choose to do the bare minimum required or you can do it all! No prizes for guessing which way most Indian parents and students go! And being Juniors this year, they also had to organize and host a number of social events for their Seniors, the 12th graders. For two major events they even had to raise money on their own, through bake sales, beverage sales and goody basket auctions.
Work life balance is an important part of this system. We, back home, cannot imagine that our children will be running around organizing the decor for a banquet when they have a major exam just the following weekend. But, as my daughter succinctly pointed out, their national level exams like the ACT and the SAT do not test what you learnt 'by heart' the previous night! It is test of your cumulative learning throughout your school life, specially your high school years. And the amount of work that you do besides academics counts for a lot too, as it is the school teachers who give recommendations, which form an integral part of your college applications. No college wants a student who cannot pull his or her weight, along with the rest of the class!
Add a couple of Art courses to this jamboree, which were allotted to her in the same term this year, and neither she nor I fell asleep before 1:00 am on any given night! She, because she was busy perfecting that illustration or completing the painting assignment and me because I cannot rest till she is safely tucked into bed and asleep! We could have filed a patent for raccoon eyes in humans! The other good thing about this system of education is that you have to complete a certain number of sport, art and technology credits to graduate from high school. Can you imagine Indian students in India doing this, unless they specifically want to enter those fields? Even my extremely vivid imagination fails me here...
My little one who, I realize from time to time, is not so little any more, was a busy bee this year. He was chosen to be a part of the leadership team in the Elementary school and had major parts in two plays. He went on his first Cultural Field Studies Trip and to a Leadership camp too. He started drum lessons and started learning his fourth language, French, too. It may not sound like much when it is put down here, but try planning and scheduling these events and classes, gathering props and shopping for necessities for camps and overnight trips and it added a new dimension to my life altogether!
This was also the year of the health scare. My husband was diagnosed with multiple gall stones (yes enough to make a pretty yellow necklace and a matching ear rings set)  and flew to India for a quick surgery. He was diagnosed just when he had been transferred to Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Emerald Isle. So it turned out to be the year of a Big Decision too! An offer from a British company dropped into his lap just then. So should he move and should I stay in Kenya with the kids till our daughter finished 12th grade became the moot question. Moving her in her final year of school was not an option at all. Had he been transferred a year later it would surely have been 'Kwaheri (Goodbye) Kenya for us! Finally we decided life was too short and too unpredictable to stay apart when we could choose to be here together. Also it will be our last year as a family as she moves away to college next year and then will come home only in the vacations. And, as we all know, it's never the same again...And so it was onto a new job for him! All those prayers that were said for us to continue in Kenya till she finished 12th grade had, indeed, wrought a miracle...A heartfelt thank you to all who prayed for us.
Club all this with my students in India who I teach on Skype, managing the education franchise that I own back home and the volunteering I do in school here, I really felt as if I was on a top that spun rapidly and just kept on spinning with increasing velocity! This month saw guests from India coming here on a vacation and planning their trip to Tanzania and then the Equator and taking them around sight seeing and shopping in Nairobi added another fun element to all that was already on my plate! When three of the four ladies adopted baby elephants at the Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage, I felt it had been worth the efforts I had taken to ensure an enjoyable holiday for them!
The last few weeks of school saw me attending the drum recital where my son showcased his new found drumming skills, my daughter's induction into the National Honor Society, her academic prize program and  the art event where she won a second prize for her painting 'Beaded Bystanders' in the mixed media section. I missed my son's group dance at the talent show as my guests and I had to be in another part of town that day but did manage to make it for his Promotion Ceremony where he and his classmates graduated from Elementary School and have now moved on to Middle School! He is growing up!
The final event of the year was a huge one that is a tradition in the American School system. We, the Mothers of the Junior Class, along with our children, host the tea that follows the High School Graduation ceremony which marks the end of school life for the 12th graders. It is a land mark event and we catered for six hundred and fifty people all by ourselves! It was exhausting but with everyone willing to pitch in and help we pulled it off very successfully!
Once that event was over day before yesterday, I could feel the whirligig slowing down but only until the next academic year, of course! All this just made me realize that time is flying, the children are growing up and away...As my daughter says, imagine now WE are the Senior Class! No, I cannot imagine, looks like my imagination has failed yet again!

                                     Time is Whirling! Elementary memories are swirling!
                                         Suited and booted, ready for Middle School
                                                         Drumming away to glory!
                                                          And the award goes to.....

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