A series of letters from Munchkin’s school exemplifies the manner in which community input is gleaned concerning governmental decisions here, as well as methods by which the government communicates those decisions to those affected. It seems “so typical” that I decided to share. I hate to confess, I had a small mental chuckle imagining the "Americans versus the Chinese" in the meeting described by the newsletter of March 20. I imagined it as a bit similar to our encounter at the top of Hua Shan, or perhaps any other meeting in which expectations about "what is normal" are so different in the two cultures.
For background information, the school has a front entrance and a back entrance, and that is all. In terms of access, those are the only two options. The front entrance is on a tiny lane that will fit two cars, if none are parked. The back entrance is reached from a large, one way road that has three lanes. Though of course there is traffic on the big road, it is not heavy by city standards.
March 16, 2007: “School Approach Road to be Closed – the school received notification this week that our access road where buses park to pick up students will be closed from March 20 to the end of 2007. . . . [The letter then gives detailed instructions on changes to pickup and drop-offs arrangements for children due to the anticipated change.] . . . .”
March 19, 2007: “Over the weekend, a wall closing the road in front of [the school] was constructed without the school being informed. . . . Our school buses this morning started dropping off and picking up students on the main . . . [road] rather than the front gate. [The letter then gives further pickup and drop-offs instructions which are different from those in earlier letter, changes which are necessitated by THE WALL] . . . .”
March 20, 2007: “Yesterday, March 19, the Guangzhou Traffic Police, after a two hour meeting in the evening with school authorities, decided that [school] buses would not be allowed to pick up students at our rear gate . . . . [The school] has been instructed to park its buses . . . [in the location previously designated for car pickup]. Buses will have priority. We ask that everyone cooperate and leave this area available exclusively for our school buses. . . . We regret the inconvenience caused to all our community caused by the closure of our access road . . . . We ask everyone at this time of change to give the highest priority to the safety of our students. . . . ”
[Regular Friday newsletter] March 21, 2007: “School Traffic Disrupted by Road Closure – Last weekend [a governmental entity] built a wall closing off the access road used by the school community for the arrival and departure of . . . students. On Monday, the school buses were allowed to park on [the main road behind the school]. However a problem soon developed as a motorcade for an ‘important person’ passed by. . . . [S]chool buses were not allowed during that time to stop to pick up our students. The . . . Traffic Police then instructed the school to park the buses on [another] street . . . . As this newsletter is written, the school is still looking for the best solution given the very limited parking space near the school. We ask for the support and understanding of the [school] community as we give priority to the safe arrival and departure of our students. . . . “
At the moment, the only access to the front of the school is a road, barely two lanes wide, that now ends at the front of the school gate. There is no place to turn cars around there. There is a private road running off to the side from this road, which could be used to siphon off cars, but it is blocked off. School buses are parking approximately one block east of the school on a side street so that children can walk in at the pedestrian access beside the construction site. Carpool parents (mostly cars with paid Chinese drivers) are coping as best they can, approaching from the west via the small access road.
Walkers like us? We are gripping our children’s’ hands ever so tightly, because the Chinese drivers don’t seem to have slowed down a bit, and they are parking so close to the side of the road that there is no place for children to walk except in the middle of the road. I thought I had communicated and made some progress on the issue of leaving children some room to walk between the row of parked cars and the fence on the side of the road, but this morning three cars were parked so that they virtually touched the fence.