Wednesday, October 23, 2013

London School Daze

For me, the best travel experiences are ones we get to share with people who actually live in our vacation destination. For our trip to the UK, we were very fortunate to stay with our friends, the Braden family. As mentioned before, we've known them since 2005 when both our families lived in Hong Kong. They had a profound effect on us and our expat experience, and I credit them with being our inspiration for continuing to live abroad.

I love being able to see the average, everyday things they do wherever they happen to live. When they lived in Manila, our first day of visiting them we got to go help out at the health clinic where Glen served some of the poorest of the poor, and then visit some of the patients in the neighborhood served by the clinic, which consisted of dangerously constructed lean-to dwellings all stacked together, housing an impossibly enormous number of people in conditions which were shocking to say the least. But you know what? All four of us would say it is one of the most memorable travel experiences we've ever had. So when Glen said he had some errands to run around town on our first morning, we were all more than happy to tag along.

Our first stop was at the school where the Braden's daughter attends. Their daughter and our son
H & Nat, both age 10, 2011
Nathan are the same age, but unlike Nat who was overdue and weighed almost ten pounds at birth, H was a miracle micro-preemie who could fit on the palm of a hand when she was born. It's been interesting to see the two of them growing up over the years, Nat at one end of the spectrum and H at the other. This time around, H had recently gone through a growth spurt, trying to close the gap.

H is super smart, and we were really excited to see the international school she attends. Funny story, there is an international school here in Shanghai which made some list of the top ten most beautiful school campuses in the world, which people keep posting on Facebook. Sure, it's a nice campus. But clearly the people who made the list did not visit H's school, because it truly blows every other school away.

I don't think we'd even left the parking lot before Nathan said for the first time (of many, many times) "Can we please move here? Today?" We strolled all over the campus with Glen, stopping in to check out the theater department and meet the assistant head of the middle school. It was so enchanting that I thought I would have made a very poor student had I attended it in my youth. I would have spent all my time daydreaming instead of studying!

I mean, wouldn't you? Parts of the school are older than America. One part, some arches on the exterior of one of the buildings, are over 400 years old. Amazing, right?

The school is both a day school and a boarding school (hmm, maybe Nathan can move there today?). This pebbled pathway my children are frolicking on leads to the houses where the boarding students live.

And yes, the thatched-roof cottage below is one of the boarding houses. Not sure what springs into your mind when I say "boarding school", but I know this is not among the images I think of.

It has a pond, with playing fields beyond. Glen says there are usually geese and swans hanging out to make it postcard-perfect.

Here's the backside of one of the buildings, taken with the pond above at my back. The cafeteria is the low sun room on the right. There's even a little coffee shop serving Starbucks coffee in there.

Amazing, right? The boys just wrote postcards to the Braden family, and unbidden they both wrote to H: I like your school. Me too, boys. Meeeee too.

P.S. For privacy's sake, I'm purposely not writing the name of the school. If you are an expat moving to the greater London area and found this page because you're searching for an international school, I can put you in touch with people who can give you recommendations. Just email me. Thanks!

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