I never thought I would be writing this, but choosing a school from amongst the multitude of Beijing’s international and public schools proved far simpler than the task of selecting the right public school for my kids back in the US. If we were relocating to my hometown, the selection process would be simple since there are only three elementary schools in the entire place. Unfortunately, we are moving to the Redmond, Washington area and neither Savvy nor I know anything about the neighborhoods or schools.
Don’t get me wrong; we are thrilled to be moving to Redmond, we just haven’t figured out which part to move to. It would be great to rent while we hunt for a house to buy without having to change schools later. However, our address will dictate what school our children attend. So I find myself trying to get a mental image of what half a dozen cities in the Redmond area are like while trying to gauge the quality of dozens of schools. Unfortunately, without some time on the ground, I am not getting a clear picture.
If money were no object, it wouldn’t matter. I could pick my favorite school and we could simply buy something nearby. Problem solved. Alas, just like Beijing, housing prices in the Seattle/Redmond area have skyrocketed over the last few years. It is enough to make a grown man cry. Not me of course, but surely other men have been reduced to tears trying to find the perfect home to buy in this market.
Fortunately, I have friends who live around Redmond and they graciously provided me with a wealth of first-hand information about the different towns and neighborhoods. One of my best mates, who lives in a town called Sammamish, described a number of likely places along with a dire warning not to even bother looking at Bothell. Meanwhile, my friend from Bothell told me of some potential spots, while warning me to avoid Sammamish. Who knew that having friends near our new home was going to be so awkward?
Despite the advice of my friends, or perhaps because of it, the app Zillow has been a huge source of information in our quest to find the perfect neighborhood and ideal school. It lets me see homes for rent and for sale, provides data on schools, tax information, maps, even mortgage payment estimates. It is a treasure trove of knowledge and that is all but drowning me in a sea of information overload. What I need is someone to just tell me about a great place to rent while we figure out the lay of the land.
When I reflect on our time in Beijing, we always tried to minimize our carbon footprint – or at least our need for a car – by living close to my wife’s office. For the seven years we lived here, this served us well; so well, that after four moves, we lived across the street from her office. This has me thinking that maybe I should simply choose the school near the Redmond office and look for something to rent between there and the elementary school. At least that would narrow my search and simplify my life as we get ready to depart Beijing. Better still, maybe I should call up my friends and ask them to find the place. Perhaps a heated argument between them would be just the crucible to forge the perfect location of our new home.
About the Illustrator
Zara, 6 years old, is a Blue Bridge Art Lab Junior student at Blue Bridge International Education.
Currently, she is in Grade 1 at YCIS. Originally from Australia, Zara has travelled to many countries. In the future, she would like to be a traveler and an athlete.
About the Writer
Christopher Lay hails from scenic Ashland, Oregon and has lived in Beijing for six years. When not chasing after Reina (age 7) and twins Bryson and Ryder (2), he does freelance architectural and portrait photography. View his work at chrislay.com.
This article originally appeared on page 52 of the beijingkids August 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com.