Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1990 - Part 4: Winchester School

This is far from an exhaustive list as it seems that everything I write down reminds me of 2 or 3 other events, but I want to get this posted now, and will just have to leave the rest of the memories for a later entry.

There's more than this, obviously, like the class play and the class camp, but I'll write about those later, as I felt this was long enough as it was ;)

Random memories from school
* The school had a wonderfully big playground as well as a HUGE grassy area for all sorts of ball games (and chasing butterflies in the summer - it was filled with white ones) and several paved courts for roller-skating, playing hopscotch, skipping etc. Among other things the playground had several bares at different heights. I learned how to swing myself up on one by standing on the ground, holding on with both hands, throwing myself around it legs first and ending up holding myself upright on top of it. An even greater trick (to me, at least) was learning how to sit on one, throwing myself backwards with enough momentum that I ended up right back where I started. I practised this for WEEKS on end in every recess, and could barely stand for pride when I finally succeeded :-) I also learned how to climb up a fireman's ladder and swing myself from bar to bar across the length of the playground. I was probably in better shape then than I've ever been before or after.

* We always had lots of fun playing at recess. One day some of my friends got the brilliant idea to spin around and around until we got too dizzy to walk straight. Against my better knowledge I played along, resulting in getting so motion sick I had to go home from school. I was too embarrassed to tell my teacher why I felt sick, but I'm pretty sure she had a good idea ;-) The principal met Mum and me as we left school, and told Mum I looked like I needed some TLC... that's just the kind of man he was :)

* Other games we'd play were clapping games of various sorts, so naturally Nina and I taught them some of the ones we knew from Denmark - the ones with no words or made up words so that the language barrier wouldn't be a problem. Nina's teacher was so impressed that she got a bunch of us to get up in front of the entire school to perform them at an assembly.

* Being taught in English when you only understand very few words is difficult! Maths was my best subject as I was already pretty good at that, and fortunately the language of maths is international. Most words kinda 'sneaked up' on me, and I managed with the help of a simple dictionary, but one day we were asked to draw an "ad" for something... I was completely lost as this word did not exist in my dictionary, so I had no clue at all what we were meant to do. Fortunately, this was during first few weeks where Mum would come pick us up after school and could talk to our teachers and translate the essentials, (after we moved to Pahiatua street school was only a 10 minute walk away, and we thought we were too old to be picked up by mum that way) so it all worked out. I never thought about it at the time, but it must have been a chore and a half for the teachers to teach kids who spoke as little English as we did. The first few months I didn't say much, then suddenly it all clicked and I wouldn't shut up ;-)

* Related to the above. Since Nina and I were old enough to *need* to know English in school (unlike Rebekka and Mixi who were in small enough classes that they learned English and reading at the same time - a picture of a house and the word "House" written underneath is almost as easy to understand as a picture of a house and the word "Hus" written underneath) we had a few extra English lessons each week. I remember absolutely nothing of these lessons except the very last one. The guys teaching us were room-mates and they were pet-sitting a friend's two rats - "Shy" and "Uhm". Thanks to them I've never been able to see rats as gross pests, because these two were adorable and gorgeous white creatures and incredibly affectionate :-)

* A couple of the boys in class (Germain and Andrew A. in particular) found it funny to pretend I was a dangerous "alien" and run away when I came near as if it were contagious. All these years later I don't understand why I wasn't deeply hurt by it, but there must have been something to tell me it was all in fun which I don't remember any longer. Whatever the case, I thought it was a great joke, and they kept it up until one day we had to find words starting with "anti" and Germain yelled out "anti-Maria". Again, I just laughed (and as far as I remember wasn't even hurt on the inside - oh, to have that kind of self confidence now!), but Mrs. Gilliland was pissed!

* During the year my class was taught various first aid modules: dry land rescuing (how to save somebody from drowning while not getting into the water yourself... yeah, not quite sure of how well that'd work either, but we were a group of 10 year olds, so I guess they thought us too young for anything else), basic resuscitation etc. I most vividly remember the basic resuscitation module - we had to learn how to give others mouth-to-mouth and mouth-to-nose. I think I've told this story before, but my teacher was very keen on always splitting us into boy/girl pairs, but this time she said that if anybody had preferences, she would listen to them. A bunch of the braver kids put up their hands. I didn't, because while I would have loved to be together with Daniel (whom I had a crush on at the time), I knew that I wasn't the only girl in class who liked him, and I didn't want to upset anybody. Daniel DID put up his hand though. I was fully expecting him to pick one of the more popular girls in class, that I almost missed it when he said my name. I must have looked completely shell-shocked, because my teacher looked at me, and asked if that was ok with me. Was it ever! :) To this day I'm glad that I know some basic first aid. I should probably take a refreshing course, but at least I remember a few basics.

* I was in the last year of primary school, and as a special privilege the smartest/most well-behaved children were allowed to get out of class one day a week, in order to go to the staff room and do their dishes (amazing what was considered a privilege at that time. Everybody wanted to do this! I guess getting out of class was more important than having to do dishes ;) ). Eventually it became my turn, and by some stroke of luck I was paired up with Daniel! This gave us the perfect opportunity to talk and get to know each other better, and I loved every minute of it. The very last time (I think we had a month or so) we got talking about people in class, who we liked and disliked. That's when Daniel made my year by saying: "I think you're the nicest girl in class." I walked with my head in the clouds the rest of the day :-)

* One last thing about Daniel, I think many girls had guessed. One day Monique (best friend to one of the other girls who had a crush on Daniel - he was one of the two most popular boys in class) came up to me and said, "Daniel likes you." I tried to play it casual and just replied, "Oh, what makes you think that?" "I asked him, and he didn't say no." Ah, the logic of 10-year-olds ;-) It was still A Big Deal to me though.

* Every day we'd have a "read aloud" session where Mrs. Gilliland would have us all sit on the mat and read to us from some book or the other - usually Roald Dahl if memory serves me right. This was actually a great way for me to learn how to read, as I'd make sure to take the same book out of the library and follow along in the book while she read. I blame my love for Roald Dahl and Margaret Mahy on these reading sessions :)

* Unfortunately, not everything was pleasant that year. I had a class mate, Jeremy, whose younger brother, Byron went to Nina's class. One day they didn't return to school after a vacation. A couple of days went by before our teacher told us that Jeremy's brother had been killed in a car accident during the vacation, and Jeremy was (understandably) staying at home until he felt up to coming back to school. I'd been good friends with both and was completely shocked. This was the first time I'd really understood that children could die too. A good lesson to learn as not long after another of Nina's classmates died (I forget her name - Monique I think). This death was more expected however, as she died of cancer and had been going through chemo (I never knew she was wearing a wig, but Nina told me she once took it off to show them), so their teacher had been able to prepare them.

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