A Twenty-Five Year Experiment-2

The Red Tapes

Amazingly, my small home school grew rapidly. Everyday there were people knocking at the door to secure a place in our program. It was funny that some parents signed their child up just because they heard Kang speaking English fluently with me all the time. They assumed that I married an American man because Kang looked like an American boy. In two years, our small home school had grown out of our living room and we needed to make a move. Since I never would want to run it as a business, I plowed all the tuition that we collected from the students back into the school. Without making any advertisement, the enrollment continued to grow. In ten years we moved five times in order to get a larger space. It was a blessing to get more students than I expected, but it was a pain to deal with all the red tape every time when we made the move.

As an ordinary citizen, I never believed that the bureaucracy could be so overwhelming. When we moved out of our living room, I applied for a license. The government official picked on everything I handed in and just simply turned down our application. One of the reasons she used was that we couldn’t use the name ‘Community English School’ because community was not a proper noun and couldn’t be used as a school name. I had no choice but to change the name to Cornell quickly, but she turned it down again because Cornell didn’t sound like a Chinese name. According to the law at that time, it was not allowed to use a foreign name as a school’s name. Fortunately, she never knew that there was a university called Cornell at that time, so I just told her I used my son’s name which sounded like Cornell.

Finally we got a name and we continued to use Cornell until one day in 1995 I received a letter from Cornell University. It requested us to change the name because they didn’t want the public to think that they also offered kindergarten education in Taiwan. Again, we had no choice but to change the name. It was definitely a bother and it was hard to change the name since we had built up our reputation under that name. How could we rename ourselves without losing the popularity? Fortunately, my plant pathologist husband, Shyi-Dong was smart enough. He told me to drop one letter ‘l’ out of Cornell and keep the rest. The new name still sounded like Cornell and looked like Cornell but it had another beautiful meaning. It means cherry tree. This was one of the episodes in the history of the school but it explained how famous we were in 1995. Even the Cornell University was cautious about our existence.

The art of dealing with government officials was another thing I learned. As a small potato, I never got my work done the way I wanted. There were many times I had the impulse to twist their necks because they treated me like an idiot. Many people told me that money talks. However, how could I bribe them if I wanted to keep my integrity? There is a saying in Chinese: Water can drip through a stone. Yes, acting like water, slowly but gradually, I finally touched those officials’ hearts and they became my friends. Even now we still keep our friendship.