School has begun, Term 3 to be specific – the halfway mark of the school year here. We hadn’t anticipated the children jumping into a school routine so soon after our arrival. But after meeting with the principal and seeing the campus, we all felt it would be better to begin with the other classmates coming back after their winter break. (Yes winter! This is the Southern Hemisphere afterall and boy are we feeling it these last few days with nighttime temps in the low 40s.)
First there was an important stop at the school shop for the required uniform.
These Americans sure had a lot to learn about uniforms! Not only are there many pieces (white shirt; shorts/pinafore; socks; black shoes; red “jersey”= sweater; sunhat; backpack; “P.E. kit” = gym shorts, top and white sneakers; track suit for afterschool sports) but specifics about just how, when, and where to wear it all. Thankfully, everyone has been very understanding about our mistakes along the way. In our defense, there are an awful lot of unwritten rules and expectations that are new for us. For example, when wearing track suit pants the jacket must also be worn on top; if the jacket is removed then the pants must come off as well but not vice versa. Simon was surprised to receive a gentle scolding about standing with his hands in his pockets. That is a no-no apparently and a tough one for him. His teacher even suggested that perhaps we would need to sew the pockets shut. (“What’s the use of pockets then?” he wonders.)
The first day upon us, everyone rallied early. Simon mentioned with some hesitation while dressing, “I keep thinking maybe this is a joke. I mean, I just can’t imagine all those kids wearing THIS!” When we got there, sure enough they were.
The school days begins at 7:30 with about 20 minutes to play outside, talk with friends, return books at the library, etc. We were so impressed with all the cheerful students eager to greet us, “Good morning Mum/Sir!” Several offered to help us find the classrooms and show the children where to hang their backpacks. There are two classes of about 25 students for each of seven grades, making it similar in size to our elementary in Fargo. Simon was moved up to Grade 5 and Elsa Ruth up to Grade 2.
Scott and I arrived at the “Big Break” (lunch and recess). Grades 1 and 2 conclude then, while older students continue for another hour finishing at 2:00. We hadn’t considered how challenging it might be to locate two specific children when they are all dressed the same! Students were spread out on the beautiful grounds- socializing, playing, eating, running, swinging. It wasn’t long though before we located Simon playing a pick-up game of soccer on the field and Elsa eating in a cluster of classmates.
Here are some reflections each shared after the first day:
Elsa Ruth: At the assembly in the chapel everyone greeted the principal in unison: “Good Morning Mr. White” (which comes out like “Mr. Whaaat” due to the accent). She learned part of a hand clapping game from some girls. She had drama class today and chose to be a rabbit in a play. Many people were curious about where she is from and wanted to hear her talk.
Simon: Everyone was super friendly and helpful. It was sometimes hard to understand the teacher. Everyone has everything, even their pencils, labeled with their names. Math was easy; Zulu was not. “All, I mean ALL, the notebooks need to be covered!” Which led us to this afternoon covering 11 notebooks:
We’ll conclude this post with two pictures of things that we are watching.
Something that excited the kids about our new home was that we could have a “puzzle table”. What were the grown-ups thinking, purchasing this super-challenging and not very colorful 1500 piece one to start us off!? The progress has been slow!
And here is an interesting bush (tree?) that we pass on our way out the gate each day. It looks so naked having just been pruned back, doesn’t it? There are a few leaves just coming out. We’re looking forward to watching it grow in as we move into spring!
(And a note to people who get posts in an email – there should be a link at the bottom you can use if you ever want to go to the blog itself. Good to know in case there are any snags with pictures loading or you want to read the archives!)