The Harju family visited WAB on Thursday morning. Sami and Sophie Harju were Elementary School students here from 2006-2009, but have since returned to Finland.
The family chatted at length with Elementary School Principal Ms. Cosgray, telling us how much they missed WAB. Catherine Harju, Sophie and Sami's mother, told us, "Our good friends moved to Beijing, and their children are now at WAB because of our recommendation." Although the Harjus have been gone for six years, they have fond memories of teachers and staff.
Catherine was the librarian at the Finnish School in Beijing years ago, when the school was hosting second-language classes at WAB. "Six years ago, we had about 800 Finnish books (in the Sabina Brady Library), and now look, there are so many," she said pointing at the shelves.
As the family walked through the campus, memories sparked and ignited more memories. As they walked passed the learning kitchen, the family reminisced about cooking classes and preparing food for International Day.
"The gym and the art rooms and the music rooms are the same," Sophie remembered in a voice with contagious excitement. "I remembered hearing all about the steel drums and being impressed by the fact that we were the only school that had them. The maze, the Secret Garden, the swimming pool: I remember all of this!"
Sophie and her family saw her former Grade 2 teacher Ms. Kelly in the hallway, and they reconnected immediately. When Ms. Kelly introduced Sophie to her class as a special guest, the current Grade 2 students became excited and imagine themselves returning to WAB Elementary School as older students.
On the way to the High School to meet with the Harjus' friends from six years ago, we ran into so many staff the family recognized from their time at WAB, and conversations continued as if they had never ended. It was a moment that made it clear that once you are a WABbie, you're always a WABbie.
The end of the Harjus' visit brought mixed emotions. We were happy to have visited again with our alumni students and parents on campus, but sad to once again have to say goodbye.
A visit like this one is inspiring. It is always a pleasure to open the WAB doors to the people who made memories in these buildings, with these teachers and students.
As she was departing, Catherine was excited at the possibility of sharing the WAB experience with anyone she could.
"We already recommended WAB to our friends, but now we will make sure we tell all of our friends moving to Beijing that they should come to WAB," Catherine said at the end of our visit. "Maybe you can even kidnap us and bring us back here to stay," she joked with a wink. "I miss Beijing. This is my hometown."
Before leaving WAB again, the Harjus stopped into the JingXi Shop to pick up some WAB merchandise, like sweatshirts to stay warm on the flight.
This time if they had to leave WAB, they'd be sure to bring a piece of WAB with them.