There is nothing like returning to one’s elementary school after fifteen years to find it closed and on the verge of being expanded once again into a larger school because the current size can’t accommodate for the current population. Talk about perfect timing.
I spent four years here when the school was only half this size or maybe even a third. There used to be a wall on the left side of the building you see above. This wall marked the school border and that was as far as you can get on this side.
When I attended this school, the building exterior was blue and there weren’t any murals on the wall, let alone encouragements like 我行 (wo xing) – which means “I can” – and 我能 (wo neng) – which also means “I can” but in a different sense. Apparently, those words have become a thing in China.
In my time, the exterior of the buildings were just a plain muddy yellow. The chairs around the columns also didn’t exist in my time neither did the little shelves nailed to the columns.
In fact, it wasn’t until I arrived at this very spot did I finally recognized the school I used to know. It was those stairs in the back. Seeing them brought back only one memory – the day I fell on those stairs and broke my chin wide open. I ended up getting six stitches that day under my chin and still have the scar the prove it.
Also, how can I forget this stage? It’s the same stage I walked across the day I received my red tie in second grade. Getting a red tie in China is quite a symbolic event for a student. It’s like getting initiated into a club. Once one gets a red tie, you’re supposed to never take it off.
The side wall also didn’t exist in my time. The entrance used to be at the other side of that wall and a stairwell existed behind the stage. Beneath the stairwell was a little office. It was the office of my gym teacher. It was the place he sold extra notebooks and supplies to students at a steep price.
This part of the school didn’t exist in my time. This spot was the one place I would never step foot in, not unless I had no choice. It was dark, dingy, and dirty. It was the school’s cafeteria and library. The library had walls that looked charred as though the place had recently burned down. There was hardly any books in it. The only time I’ve ever been in the library was when it was mandatory. Oh, and let’s not mention the cafeteria. The food was dreadful even when we were paying for the meals. Now that I’m thinking about it. Yuck!
This blacktop is also new. The school used to end at the blue pole at the far left of the picture. I don’t remember the apartments across the street existed either. The only thing I can remember that was outside the school was the smelly outside market. The pavement was always wet with reddish water as men and women did live butchering and slaughtering of ducks, chickens, fishes, and a wide variety of meat. At times, I would be able to smell the dankness coming from the market from the classroom. It was not pleasant.
After spending four years here, stuffing my brain with tons and tons of knowledge while spending all my free time completing the pile of assignments the teachers had assigned. Reflecting on it now, It was a difficult yet unforgettable experience and one I do not wish to repeat.