Saturday, February 12, 2005

A week in the life...

An exhaustingly hot day today, but the end of a week of boarding duty for me, so a sweet reprieve all the same. Boarding duty, for the lucky uninitiated, involves supervising the girls from the moment they get up (5.50am) to the moment they go to night study (6.45pm), and all the work in between. Fortunately this year we share the duty with another teacher, so I didn’t have to be down at school until their breakfast (7am) – but even so, a 7 til 7 day in this kind of heat, when 2 hours in the afternoon is supervising work parade in the hot sun, is not the kind of day you want 5 in a row of. Especially when I also had night study duty on Thursday night (til 9.20pm) – some bad scheduling there. Needless-to-say I ended on Friday evening with a huge sigh of relief, followed by an even bigger sigh of exhaustion. And didn’t get up until I felt like it this morning!

And I thought playground duty was bad…

But as draining as it was, boarding duty does mean you get to know the girls better, and they get to know you. So all the little grade 9’s who were staring at me with semi-fear at the start of the week, and whispering about who I was after I peeked in to check on them studying in their classrooms, by the end of the week were greeting me with a smiling “good night Ms Conolly!” and wishing me a nice weekend. And I guess the same could be said in return - the shy Ms Conolly who waited around outside the mess hall while the girls had breakfast on Monday and Tuesday mornings, not really sure of the routines, was by Thursday nights calling out for the girls to hurry up and get into bed after they were late to evening prayers, and scolding the Grade 12’s at breakfast for not setting a good example to the new girls!

Some of the highlights of the week included being asked by Nita and another Grade 12 if they could go to Mrs Andrew’s house to top up their vial of holy water for the dormitory as they had run out. When I asked why they needed it, I was told it stopped the girls from having nightmares. My response of “Are you serious?” elicited a very solemn declaration that the dorm was haunted by the ghost of a girl who died in there years ago, and that they needed the holy water blessed by the priest to protect them against it at night. All you have to do is trace a cross on your forehead with it, and you’ll sleep soundly and sweetly. I wondered aloud if I should invest in some because I could never sleep at night – but we concluded that it probably wouldn’t work for me because I didn’t really believe in it. If I had more faith, then it would work.

Then there were the reports of clothes stolen off the clothes line, confirmed when the 2 Grade 10 classes overlooking the laundry saw a shirtless man sneak up to the washing and steal shirts and shorts in the middle of their maths lesson. They yelled, he ran – but Mary still lost her favourite shirt!

Or the doling out of daily punishments to one of my 10 Yellow girls who lied to me to get out of work parade by saying her class patron wanted to see her and 4 other of her classmates for being noisy in maths. Sounded suss to me, so I followed them and saw them disappear around a corner, and when asked, sure enough her teacher knew nothing of it. Neither did the other 4 girls she included in her story, so I set all of them extra grass to cut, and the choice to either help her finish it, or leave it to the one girl to do by herself. The wreaking of revenge was almost pacifying in itself, but the bit I loved best was the next morning when I walked into their classroom and asked for the girl with the Word of the Day to introduce it to us (a new game this year, to have one girl a day teach the class an interesting new word she’d looked up as) – and Grace strolled up the board, picked up the chalk, and printed out ‘mollify’ – giving me a grin as she told the class it meant to do something to stop someone being mad at you. I was very impressed, and am continuing to believe (hopefully accurately) that it was more than just coincidence, but some real insight and dry humour on her behalf. Certainly the class appreciated the example I gave of Henrietta cutting all the grass up the hill to the convent just to mollify me yesterday!

But the best of all was Tuesday (I think) morning, when I came down to a school already rife at 7am with rumours that a tsunami was coming. Apparently the people living on the villages on the water noticed the tide go out way past normal at around 1am in the morning, and immediately concluded that a wave of water was coming – so they started packing up their possessions and heading up the highway to the mountains. I discounted it when the first girl told me – but all morning the girls were talking about it, and when our builder drove in the gate he reported that literally thousands of people were flooding the highway, trying to get away from what they thought was an imminent tsunami. When the day students came, the stories were repeated – many by girls who had been woken up in the night to leave their houses and flee. Apparently entire villages were evacuated by 3am – and people were only straggling back to their homes by late morning, when the tide started coming back in as per normal.

It’s not every day you get interrupted in the staffroom by a student apologising for not bringing her journal to school that day because she’d been up in the night hurrying away from a rumoured tsunami, and didn’t have time when she found out it was a mistake to go back home and get it before getting on the bus!


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