After a short sojourn during my toddler years at "Mrs Goh's school", where I miserably failed to impress anybody with my lack of Mandarin, I turned four and was enrolled in the Hollandse School or Dutch School.
At Mrs Goh's school I got to wear this lovely white floaty dress (most probably a pleated pinafore) and danced around in circles with my class mates. Altough this might have just been the yearly show we put on, as I remember lots of parents watching us benevolently and clapping. Also, in my mind I see us at Mrs Goh's school sitting in rows on the floor. Once, I was asked to sing a song (or, quite possibly, I volunteered). I sang "poesje mauw". Silence ensued.
Current expat favourite among nursery schools is Pat's School House, founded by Mrs Patricia Koh. It's quite unlikely that she was my Mrs Goh, but I do like to think so. Just as I still keep an eye out for a maid agency founder by the name of "Delia", our last amah, who wanted to set up her own shop after we left. Small links to connect the little red dot to my current self.
The Hollandse School has moved house since we moved home. In 1984, the year we left, it left its prime Orchard Road premises and re-established itself in the leafy suburbia of Bukit Tinggi Road, a green hill liberally strewn with modern villa's in large landscaped gardens.
It's a wonderful location, I discovered when visiting neighbouring Dutch nursery school Jip en Janneke to see if it be nice for E. There are four huge class rooms, mixed groups between the ages of 2 and 4 years old, lots of outdoor space with fans and shade and sand and toy cars, lovely bilingual teaching staff, wooden toys and aunties for diaper changing duties and the like. Also: lots of blond children, which might be a good reality check for our little white haired and pampered one.
So yes, it'd be nice for E. It'd also be about a third more expensive than her current preschool and I'd have to let the two year old ride a bus. Which on the one hand sounds lovely (really, walking the same route four times a day does take any charm out of it, especially if half of those times are filled with cajoling the toddler one into actually moving forwards), but on the other hand, she's only two! She'll be on a bus! On her own!
I have vivid memories of riding the bus to school, which include running around, faking notes to teachers to be able to get off at a different stop than my own home, and generally uncivilised behaviour. Lots of fun, yes. Also, the kind of fun that I'm busy pretending I never had to my child.
I'm dithering about the school. That's okay. We like to dither about stuff in the Tamtam household. This is why we still haven't fixed a return date for our trip to the Netherlands even tough I'm leaving next week. We trust our unconscious to come up with answers.
While dithering I went to jog my memory.
Apparently, part of the building the Hollandse School used to occupy is still there, enclosed within the Shangri La Hotel compound. So I took a taxi, went in to the GINORMOUS lobby, past the mooncake stall, down the escalator to the pool and the restaurants, past the hotel wing, through the walkway in between the tennis courts and reached this unassuming building:
Do I recognize this, I wondered. But the question is the answer. No. The school used to be on a hill side with a busy road in front of it, where Sinterklaas would arrive in a riksha (there are no riksha's in Singapore anymore).
So I circled the building, getting buried in tons of old leafs (snakes! spiders! scary!) and almost falling through the grate covering the rain gutters. But then I saw this door and I felt one of those little tugs between myself and the Lion City, silently letting me know, that yes, I have come back. I have roots here.
Even though history will always repeat itself differently.