Friday, July 4, 2008

A tale of two schools

So I grew up in the bush right? I mean, like reeeally in the bush. My sister and I were home schooled and made entertainment out of very little. Sausage tree fruit were made into dolls. We painted little rosy cheeks and red lips on them and they lasted just long enough for you to get attached to them and then they’d shrivel up like an old person, and you’d have to go off and choose another likely looking sausage fruit. My sister, it seemed to me, was born with a book in her wee hands and my assignment in life was to try and stop her reading. When this got boring (she was very dedicated to her task, and I to mine, but I usually gave up when 30 minutes of kicking and biting got no reaction. She was (and is) a saint. Any other sibling would have - literally – fed me to the lions). When I bored of this my friend Johnny and I would spend hours trying to trap elephants with upside down bottle tops and toothpicks (coz the camp elephant had chased us one night and scared the bejeezus out of us. Tit for tat).

At 7 my parents decided to try us in a school in South Africa. (when I was 7, not at 7 o’clock…ha) In retrospect the school was pretty strange. I couldn’t understand why we had to stand in line before going into class, wear uniform, speak when you’re spoken to, sit straight, speak Afrikaans (that so didn’t happen). The weirdest – and I see why now – was at break time. Just before the bell rang to signal end of break, a PRE end of break bell would ring and everyone would have to FREEZE. For five minutes. And a monitor would come round and check that you weren’t moving. Is that not a little strange?

It seemed I was not well versed in the social nuances of 7 year olds and got taken for such a ride by my fellow cherubs. I didn’t mind though. There was the girl who convinced me that it would be a good idea to hide in this locker for an hour. “Oh, okay. What about lessons?” “Oh don’t worry, about those. Lets just hide.” “Oh. Okay.” We got caned which I SO didn’t get. It didn’t hurt (I stopped crying the moment the headmaster smacked me on the bum. “Is that IT?” I thought) and I was truly puzzled by this behaviour.

My favourite was the fat girl who befriended me and kept eating my lunch. I came home one day and said to my mom “ma, can I have two sandwiches and two liquifruits to take to school today coz Jacqueline (I remember her name!) ate mine. That evening I came home and my mother asked if Jacqueline enjoyed her lunch. “Yes, she ate mine again too! Can I have three sandwiches and three liquifruits today” And so on. Every day! I didn’t seem to mind - I think I was more fascinated than anything else. The whole thing was like some kind of social experiment. I was generally happily mystified by everything (especially the sandwich eating girl). I felt like an anthropologist studying a long forgotten tribe.

It was a rural school (just outside Jo'burg) and we didn’t have to wear shoes to class, which was good. One day they had a school fete and my sister won a sheep. Yes a real live big wooly white sheep with a black head. Tied up to the tree next to us while we waited in the shade for our parents to come and pick us up in the clapped out maroon volvo (that for some reason people coveted. We found a scrawled sign once on the windscreen that said “I wand this car” A hobo used to live in the car. Really. The side window was broken and he used to sleep in there at night. In the morning he’d shuffle off with his blanket and come back in the evening. I think we used to make sure we didn’t get back too late or leave too early so as not to disturb his sleep!). Anyway, my sister sold the sheep to the maths teacher and we bought a pair of roller skates each. Oh now THAT is another story for another time.

So despite these excitements or possibly because of them we didn’t last long. Just over a year. A miracle in itself. It was all just too much. Too much. So back we went to being schooled at home. In the bush. Where we had other challenges but ones we were better equipped to handle. In our pole and thatch classroom where the great sweeping, twirling, sparkling, humming South Luangwa National Park was our playground.

3 comments:

lorix5 said...

amazing photos Miranda! what an incredible life you've led. have you thought about writing a book about your childhood? it's just all so interesting...

GoneBackSouth said...

That is really interesting stuff. Great that you've got this way of preserving those memories.

Miranda said...

Thanks you two! Really appreciate the comments! Funny I always think that these stories of growing up in the bush are so ordinary and that tales from life in the city are more fascinating. Ah well. I'll keep them coming then!