Saturday, February 28, 2009

And Then There Were Uniforms

(The school saga continues ...)

Today the kids and I took a taxi downtown to the store where we were told to purchase the girls' school uniforms. Let me start by saying a word about school uniforms in Chile. They are a BIG deal. Unless you attend a public school (and many - if not most - Chilean families scrimp and save to avoid that at all costs) there is no standard uniform. Whereas the public school uniform (for girls) is a simple blue jumper, white shirt, blue socks and black shoes which can often be bought at the grocery store, the semi-private and private schools are an entirely different matter.

Yours might be the school with the gray pleated skirt with red plaid ... or maybe the gray pleated with purple stripes ... or maybe the skirt with the one big pleat as opposed to the skirt with the multiple pleats ... or maybe the red skirt with the black trim ... and the list of specificity goes on.

To combine with that skirt, most likely you will have a polo shirt - monogrammed, with the proper color edging around the collar. Knee high socks in the proper color and black school shoes (different from everyday or church shoes) complete the ensemble. Only, let's not forget the monogrammed fleece in the proper color and even the hair barrettes and ponytail holders in the required color. Also - and I actually think this is a fantastic idea - there's the white lab coat (at least that's what it looks like to me) which will be worn over the uniform during class activities to keep the uniform clean.

Moving on to physical education clothing ... Be sure and buy the monogrammed sweatsuit in the school colors for the cooler months, and the monogrammed t-shirt and matching shorts for the warmer months. Of course, this and all of the above is dependent on one very important thing ... the uniforms actually being available.

Ahh. Now that is a problem.

Today the kids and I walked no less than twenty downtown city blocks in search of uniforms. We entered no less than half a dozen different stores - some large, some small, some hot little offices with several women sweating over sewing machines working at breakneck speed. Most of the time, we ran into customers at the next store that we had seen at the store before. We all seemed to be in the same (leaking!) boat ... that of last-minute purchasers of school uniforms that had all sold out. Sigh.

It was hot. It was exhausting. It was frustrating. I really, really, really dislike shopping downtown with the kids. It makes me nervous - the rush of people, the rate of theft, the risk of danger, the raunchy smells, the racy pictures at the magazine stands.

Things I can ignore when shopping alone, I can't ignore when shopping with them. The smell of human and canine urine and feces in the air. The filthy walls, which one of them thoughtlessly touched despite multiple reminders not to do so and ended up with grease all over his hands (Owen.) The dog poop inside the store which one of us stepped in (Mommy.) The accident on the escalator when one of them fell down and couldn't get back up while her skirt nearly was sucked into the machine (Isabel.) The scary, strange man on the motorbike who spooked one of them by staring and barking like a dog multiple times before speeding off (Eva.)

It's a weird, wild place out there with kids!

In the end, we found one - and only one - uniform for Eva in her size. We found one uniform for Isabel in mismatched sizes - it was the best we could do. And we found winter PE uniforms for both girls, but no summer uniforms. It definitely wasn't what I had hoped for when the three of us took off this morning, but three long hours later it was at least something!

But the highlight of the day was this. We ran into another mom and daughter at one of the stores, and her daughter will probably be Isabel's classmate! The three girls laughed and played and talked while the two moms struggled to find clothing in the proper sizes. Neither of us did and both of us opted for bigger-is-better-than-nothing, but the other mom knows a seamstress and shared her contact information with me. Eva and Isabel were SO thrilled to know another girl from their school, and it made my day to see them so excited!

I also ran into a teacher at one store, and she knows the director of our girls' school. She spoke very highly of her, which confirmed the good impression I had during our interview. This was another great, unexpected affirmation today.

So ... it was another adventure in the life of the Garcia family. One I hope to not repeat anytime soon (at least not with three children in tow!) But one we will probably shake our heads over and laugh about for years to come.

Life is good. :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember alllllll of this from when I lived in chile. Being there only for grade 12 I was quite angry at the idea of weraing a uniform... but just think of how esy it is in the end.. you will never have to struggle to find clean clothes or pick out mathching outfits and half the time they will be tired after school so they wont even care to chnage into regular clothes anyways. I left Chile being sad that i hd to go back to a choice in what I wore to school. It really is a god sent even though it wont pay you back those 3 crazy hours for a while to come.