Posted tagged ‘first day of school’

“School bells are ringing loud and clear; vacation’s over, school is here.”

September 6, 2016

I got home around 1:30, let Gracie out, fed her and tried to take a nap. I was too restless so I came downstairs, ate a few anise cookies, read my e-mail and here I am.

The sun is out. The storm was a bust. Now I have to put my deck back together. The furniture and the deck are covered with leaves. The table has about an inch of rain on it. Pine tree branches have fallen in the backyard. They fall easily, even in an every day wind.

The house was stuffy when I got home even with the windows open so I put on the air conditioner. It is now much more comfortable. Gracie has stopped panting, Fern is lying beside me and Maddie is on the same chair as always.

The kids were standing on the corners of my street today. They were waiting for the bus. A couple of mothers were waiting with them. I don’t remember any buses when I was a little kid. I didn’t need one as my walk wasn’t all that long, but some kids walked a couple of miles or even more. No cars were lined up dropping kids off in the morning or picking them up in the afternoon. One of my neighbors was a widow. She was the only mother with a car. When it rained, she always drove or picked up her daughter. I was jealous, especially on rainy days.

I never see kids walking to school anymore. They either take the bus or are driven. Mothers are waiting at the bus stop to see their kids off or to welcome them home. In the winter or when it rains the mothers wait in cars. That brings to mind the traditional beginning of the school year exaggeration passed from one generation to another. I walked to school in three feet of snow, during tropical storms and on the coldest of days when we didn’t dare stop for fear of freezing to the spot.

“Education is wonderful – it helps you worry about things all over the world.”

September 2, 2013

Today is damp and cloudy. Maybe rain, even a v, is in the forecast. The whole weekend has been the same. I don’t think we had as many tourists for the weekend as usual. The forecast was spot on.

In kids’ parlance today is not Labor Day. It is the day before school starts. The buses roll tomorrow morning. My neighborhood has kids now, little kids, and four of them are headed to elementary school together: two to kindergarten, one to first grade and the oldest to second grade. They’re outside riding bikes now. I suspect their heads are not filled with images of new clothes, buses and the first day of school. They still have the look of summer about them.

The red spawn of Satan got the hose treatment again this morning. A short time later it was back but ran as soon as I walked on the deck. It didn’t take long for the hose and me to have an impact.

If I were to go back in time, to my elementary school days, I’d choose the fifth grade. We got bused for a while to the next town while the new school was finished. It was an adventure which also shortened the school day. We had the same hours as the rest of the school so we were on the bus for a part of the morning and a part of the afternoon. We always got back just as school was letting out for the day. In the spring we moved into the new school. My room was on the first floor. The nun I had that year was a jovial sort. She used to hand out pieces of candy as prizes. Seldom did she leave her desk chair to walk around the room so she’d toss the candy to the prize winner. She periodically had contests like who could list the most homonyms, now called homophones. I remember that contest because I won, and this was before computers. My prize was a miniature book with Bible verses. I was intrigued by the size of the book and not so much by the verses. I don’t remember what I learned that year, but I figure it was pretty the same as all the other years. Nouns and the other parts of speech never seemed to disappear and once we hit decimals and fractions they followed us everywhere. Columbia and coffee are forever linked. There was only so much geography. As for history, I have no idea what we studied in the fifth unless it was the Pilgrims, but in those days history sort of hopscotched all over the place.

We were still young in the fifth grade. We jumped rope during recess and giggled about boys. Fifth grade was when I punched the boy who constantly teased my friend and wouldn’t stop when asked, even nicely asked. That is probably my favorite memory of that year. I learned to stand up for friends and I learned I had a strong right.

Bolika ( Good Morning in FraFra)

September 4, 2012

My favorite place to sit in the morning is outside the gates of the house on a concrete slab of a bench under a baobab tree. The yellow birds no one can name fly around a tall palm tree and at the fruit of the tree. Their fluttering wings as they eat remind me of humming birds those these birds are larger and more easily seen. As I sit, I see small boys carrying buckets of water on their heads to and from the bore hole. Everyone stops to greet me with good morning in FraFra. I have learned to reply, to offer them a good morning, to say I am well and thank you in FraFra. If I forget a work the small boys says it for me and waits until I repeat then he smiles. The women in the compound beside my house come out to greet me every day. They are pleased when I can answer them in FraFra. I can hear roosters and see goats foraging in the tall grass. I can also hear the mumbled voices from the compound beside me. This is the nicest of all mornings.

Sunday was market day, and I had arranged to meet a few of the volunteers who are posted near here. I said the magic word, cheese, and they all came. I had bought the cheese in a obruni (white man) store in Tamale expected to share. When I was a volunteer food and recent diseases were our favorite conversations. They devoured the cheese and even took pictures of each other eating it. I totally understood.

When they had left, I decided to walk to the internet cafe. My back has been horrendous since last week, and I walk as if I were a mobile question mark. I walk and rest then walk and rest again. I sat down on some steps, and the man at the stall beside me offered his stool, and I sat down. He asked where I was going and i told him. He offered to take me on the back of his motorcycle, and I accepted. It was wonderful, a ride up the whole street. I was reminded of my easy rider days and remembered how much I loved the wind as I rode.

Today was the first day of school. Here punctuality is in the mind of the beholder. I went to Kantia Primary with the crayons, pencils and sharpeners I had brought. Some students were still walking to school, some were sitting and eating while only a few were at the school. The bell was rung so they started drifting in. I went to primary 1 and gave then each what I had brought. Then I went to the pre-primary or nursery school as they call it here and did the same. The kids were thrilled at the new school supplies.

Last night all the lights went out in the village and a few neighboring villages. It was pitch black. I used my iPad for light and went outside on the porch. I could hear voices and the usual night sounds, and I sat there taking it all in for the longest time then dragged myself inside the hot house. I had brought a hand fan with me so I arranged it on my face and fell asleep. A couple of hours later the light and the air came on.

I am going shopping for cloth today and may be going to Kongo to see the chief, but mostly the day is still in the planning stages. I’ll finish here and wander the town a bit.

I have noticed that it is all familiar to me now.

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

August 23, 2011

The air is crystal clear and the sun sharp. Today is as lovely as yesterday though maybe a bit cooler. The back of my house, the last place the sun hits each day, is usually my refuge from the heat. This morning it’s chilly. Gracie just came inside for her morning nap. I’m surprised she didn’t sleep on the deck lounge. Earlier, the breeze was blowing the chimes hanging from trees in the backyard. I heard the sweetness of the smallest bells.

Yesterday I went to Staples. The place was crowded with parents holding lists, filling baskets and dragging kids from aisle to aisle. One mother asked her son if he wanted red or blue three ring binders. He told her he didn’t care. The boy had back to school blues and buying school supplies was about the last thing he wanted to be doing.

My mother bought the usual for our return to school. We always got new shoes, usually Buster Brown’s which were sturdy and lasted most of the year. If we had grown out of our uniforms, we got new blue skirts and new white blouses. My brother got new pants and white shirts. We wore ties with our uniforms, blue clip-ons that looked like cowboys might wear them to a hoedown for the girls and bow ties for the boys. We always got new ones because the old ties had been tossed at the end of the previous year. They took a beating because after school every day we’d stuffed them in our school bags for the walk home, and there they’d stay until the next morning. Pencil boxes and school bags were next on the list. I always liked shopping for those. My favorite pencil boxes had everything except duct tape: regular pencils, colored pencils, a small thin 6 inch ruler, a half circle ruler, a pencil sharpener and an eraser. My school bag had both a handle and a strap for over the shoulder. I used to try it on to see how it felt. We’d buy lined white paper with red margins and one Indian tablet. I remember I’d put all my supplies in and out of the school bag until I thought they were just right.

It didn’t matter whether we liked school or not on that first day. It was exciting to put on new clothes and shoes and walk to school. We’d discuss the teacher we were getting because we always knew. We alternated: one year a nun, the next year a real person.

“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”

September 7, 2010

On my way to an early morning meeting, I saw mothers on the corners waiting with their kids for the elementary school bus. I was reminded of my first days of school, especially grammar school.

There were only eight first days of grammar school, a small number, but those eight days had so many different feelings attached. I remember regret for the end of summer, for the end of days filled with fun and adventure, but I also remember excitement, getting to wear new clothes and new shoes and finally getting to use my new schoolbag with the pencil box and crayons tucked inside. Walking to school, I’d carry my lunchbox with one hand, and it would sway back and forth as I walked. Getting closer to school meant getting nervous. I always wondered which teacher I’d get. There was always a good one and a bad one. I remember running into the school yard waving and shouting at my school friends, and I remember the bell. When it rang, we formed our two by two lines  and we walked into the school one grade at a time. The nuns walked with us. That part never changed year to year.

I had forty seven total first days of school. I remember fear, nerves and excitement the first few days of my freshman year in college, and I remember being really nervous, butterflies in my stomach nervous, my very first days of teaching ever, both here and in Ghana. After that, first days were nothing extraordinary though I did wear new shoes and a new outfit. Some traditions were worth continuing.

This is the seventh school year without me. I didn’t have to buy new shoes or new clothes, and I didn’t have to set my alarm for 5:15. It’s still summer for me and it will continue to be summer no matter how cold it gets.