Well… In our case, that’s not entirely true. School is actually back in session for winter during YOUR summer, since the seasons in this hemisphere are flip-flopped and out of control!
I can’t even begin to tell you how much the kids and I miss warm weather. By the time November rolls around (the official beginning of summer in South Africa), we will have endured nearly an entire year of winter weather. It’s as close to living in the White Witch’s Narnia as I ever hope to get! Combined with that fierce, freezing ocean air? Whooo! Perhaps this is why all of Westeros was so concerned about the arrival of for the past 5 years on Game of Thrones.
“Winter is coming! Winter is coooommmiiiiing!!!!”
Winter is not game.
So anyway, it is against this backdrop that the kids have begun their schooling experience in the great nation of South Africa. We’ve – and when I say ‘we’, I mean Marshall, as I insisted that he personally handle their back to school apparel and supplies so that I cannot accused of purchasing excess as I have been in the past – kitted them with the necessary knee socks, sports uniforms and boarding school grade backpacks. We’ve prayed over them. We’ve implored them to listen to their teachers and be nice to the other students. And on Monday we sent them on their merry way! Based on a matrix of their placement tests and/or ages, Nadjah skipped to 6th grade (which means she’ll be a 7th grader come the start of the new school year in January), Aya is in 4th, Stone in 1st and Liya is in KG. Essentially, everyone is on track with the exception of Nadjah who will have to work hard to advance with her age group.
Initially, I was concerned about how they would adjust to not just a new set of cultures (because there isn’t just one South African culture; there are several), particularly since the word ‘conservative’ has been tossed around like a bean bag with regard to how things are done in these parts, but they have been embraced warmly by the primary school’s faculty and staff. It may be too early to call it, but I would venture to say that they love their new school! Some of that has to do with the fact that they are the American kids. Nadjah and Aya’s classmates are much more impressed with the fact that they are from Beyoncé’s America than Stone and Liya’s classmates are– and understandably so. The possibility of having met Beyoncé is very important when you’re in middle school. No…for real. Remember when Oprah opened her Leadership Academy and one of the girls asked if she lived next to Brittney Spears? That’s a real thing. The other reason they like their school is because a number of the kids have readily taken them under their wings, so there isn’t that awkward initiation period when you have to prove how cool you are by showing off and doing something stupid to earn street cred or whatever kids have to do these days. It also helps that the boys are – as Aya says – “so much nicer than they were at my old school!”
Stone has made his friends on the merits of his love for trains, Legos and collecting Angry Birds stickers, which is all the rage for Spar customers right now. And Liya? Well…she’s just being Liya. Yesterday she said one of the kids demanded that she give him a colored pencil she was using, to which she retorted ‘I don’t have to. You can’t tell me what to do because I’m bigger than you!’
She did give it to him in the end though, I assume to keep the piece. I told her I was proud of her for standing up for herself, especially since we live in such ‘conservative’ society now; one which I am sure is replete with domineering patriarchal norms. It would serve all concerned well to know that Liya Grant is not to be trifled with. Hear her roar!
Hair is a point of major concern at this school; Or Black hair, at least. When we first arrived for our interview with the principal and one of the board members, the older girls had extensions with a few bits of purple and/or blue hair weaved in. It had to go, much to the girl’s horror and my chagrin. I am the only African on the planet who can’t cornrow, and the only African American woman who has the special skill of making hair MORE frizzy with a flat iron. If you can’t understand what I’m saying, in plain words, I’m saying I’m hopeless with hair! So the idea of waking up every day to brush and style three heads in order for the hair to appear “natural” inspired a feeling a queasiness in me. But God is faithful! There is a spa/salon no too far from the house that has done a great job with their hair, as you have seen from their first day of school pictures.
Although the kids were dreading the return to school and lamenting such a short and uneventful summer break, they are much happier now that they are in the company of other kids. I’m happier because no one is calling me by my pseudonym: Mommy(!). I just asked Marshall how he feels about back to school. He says he’s not “happier” (Because I was never sad in the first place, says he) but he is relieved that they have something constructive to do.
“And also because they’re not at home eating up all my food!”