So, like, I told you guys already that I had to leave Georgetown pretty much at the drop of a hat and come to Tokyo, but I didn't really tell you why.
This is because, quite frankly, when I wrote that last blog post, the situation was still occurring and in flux, and since it all really really angered me, I felt like I should wait to blog about it until I could do so more objectively.
Now, before coming to Tokyo, we researched schools online. Just like everyone. And we chose one. Just like most people. Because you have to have this stuff in place before you arrive at post in October (way after school has started) because you want your 9th grade son to not miss a single day more of the school year than he already was going to be missing.
It didn't take us long to choose. We chose what I will refer to as "Sexy Website School" (SWS) because, well, their website was sexy. That and, in our defense, it really did look to be the best fit. Most of us end up having to blindly make a school choice before we get to post armed with only the website and a bit of other knowledge. Y'all know how it is.
So Zachary started at SWS and, from the first day, he hated it. Actually, that word deserves caps: he HATED it. There were problems all over the place and really, there's not much point in my getting into any of the specifics as to why. Just trust me: SWS wasn't a good fit. Now, Zachary LOVES school and LOVES learning and LOVES having friends at school, etc. So we just didn't see this coming, Zachary hating a school. But there it was. With James here in Tokyo (with no wife) and me back in DC.
As the school days went by, Zachary's school misery continued (and increased). Only... only... only the RSO shop here is super wicked crazy insane busy - far, far, FAR busier than anything that ever went down in Chengdu - and SWS is super far away from our home (and we don't have a car here), and James was finding that he didn't have the time to do everything: work a super busy and very demanding job, mess with the school issues, look for other schools in the meantime, go food shopping, cook meals, clean, do laundry, help with homework, etc. (It's Japan so household help wasn't happening.)
So one day it became obvious that SWS wasn't going to be able to be our school of choice. That Zachary was going to have to be withdrawn from school and that other schools were going to have to be looked at, etc. And so I left Georgetown, got on a plane, and came to Tokyo.
I met with the SWS administration and teachers when I got here. There was little that could be done to make the situation any better, but I knew that I had to try. Again, I'm not going to bandy specific complaints about the school around all over my blog, because that's tacky and no one cares anyway. Suffice it will to say that even with my meeting with SWS, the whole thing didn't work out and a few days after my arrival in Tokyo, I pulled Zachary out of school for good.
Which is when it all super mega hit the fan.
Now, back a few weeks ago - pretty much the day that Zachary had started at SWS - the school had sent the Embassy a bill for Zachary's tuition (for the full year) and the fees related to his enrollment. This is standard, I'm sure - sending the Embassy a bill for everything pretty much the very first day. But it's noteworthy to point out that the total for the full year tuition and all of the one-time fees was somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. Just keep that big ol' number in the back of your mind.
Since Zachary had hated the school from the very first day, James had seen that huge bill for the whole year of tuition and proceeded to ask The Management/Money People at post to hold on to that bill and not immediately pay it. This is because my husband is brilliant and savvy. The Management/Money People sat on the bill as requested because they are awesome here.
A few school days later (Zachary actually attended SWS for fifteen school days total) and our family pulls Zachary out of school. So what happens next, ye bureaucratically-knowledgeable people who read my blog?
The money wars.
Almost exactly like a divorce, and I'm not kidding, except that there have been divorces far more amicable than this.
Upon receipt of our polite email withdrawing Zachary, SWS calls James. Calls James and tells him over the phone that they're confident that the huge $30,000-40,000 bill for the whole school year (that they previously mailed to the Embassy) has most likely already been paid. That the Embassy has most likely already cut the check. That the check is most likely already in the mail. And that, if the check is indeed already in the mail, that the school will cash the check and keep every penny. Which, SWS (correctly) points out, will keep Zachary from having any funding left over with which to switch schools this school year.
James is silent, though he already knows that that particular bill has not been paid. Since he had ASKED for it not to be paid.
Cue the Management People Being My Heroes Thing here. Because, quite frankly, a State kid at any post only has a certain pot of money with which to fund his or her education per school year, and if SWS got their hands on the whole pot of money (as they wanted), our family would be screwed.
The Management People call and email SWS. Because no one (other than SWS) could possibly think that SWS deserves to keep THE ENTIRE YEAR OF TUITION AND $8,000 IN FEES (again, between $30,000 and $40,000 total) for a child who only attended school for 15 school days.
The Management People sent SWS a fantastic email. Oh Sexy Website School, they began, we all are such good friends. Let us all be friendly friends who help each other in peace and harmony and friendship. Can we not see to it that you receive enough funding that you feel that you have been treated well whilst also ensuring that this child would have enough money left over with which he could switch schools?
And lo, it came to pass. It came to pass that SWS settled for less than the full year of tuition (I think they got about $10,000. For fifteen days of school).
It came to pass that Zachary and I have been able to find another school for him. He starts at this new school at a new semester mark in January.
It came to pass that I have been homeschooling Zachary during this whole back-and-forth with SWS, and I will continue to homeschool him until he starts at his new school in January.
And it came to pass that I have been exceedingly impressed with The Money People here, who have ensured that all is well that ends well and that Zachary could switch schools.
And it also came to pass that I had to snicker at SWS totally underestimating my husband.
O people. When will ye stop underestimating my husband? For though he is soft spoken, and is always laid back, and seems to be a harmless little fuzzball, he is super wicked brilliant, and when you try to match wits with him you will always lose. This goes about triple for you if you're trying to screw over his family.
If James hadn't interceded and made sure that the bill wasn't immediately paid, then Zachary wouldn't be able to switch schools this year and SWS would be permanently in possession of $30,000 - $40,000 dollars. If the Management People hadn't stepped in and interceded on our behalf regarding the charges, ditto. The whole thing, even now, still isn't completely resolved, and when I say that yanking a State kid out of one school and stuffing them into another mid year is much like a divorce, I'm not kidding. I pulled Zachary out almost three weeks ago and we are STILL negotiating back and forth with SWS and with the new school about this and that and money. Always money. Hopefully it will all be resolved before Zachary starts at his new school in January.
So that's the story. Tune in next time, when I talk about goodness only knows what. You never know with me. In the meantime, if you would like to read something insanely awesome, please go read my dear friend Donna's touching blog post (when she refers to Tokyo in it? Yeah, she's talking about me) discussing this incredible article that hit me so hard it has taken me more than a week to talk about it. Gripping. Painful. Astonishing. Breathtaking. Yes, James and I have our own story, much like the poor woman in the article (and Donna's poor Marine), though time has softened the edges... a bit.