Monday, May 31, 2004

Thoughts on school I

I love school! If I had my choice with money as no stumbling block, I'd be a perpetual student.

I didn't go to Kindergarten; there weren't any in the area, maybe not even in the whole city. Two years later there was a neighbourhood Kindergarten; my sister attended and I was jealous of the fun they had. I did go to a small preschool for 1 year and I have a few memories of it. I remember playing in the courtyard, painting, singing, punishments, snack, and the day the government sent nurses to give us our BCG vaccinations. Preschool was held in a house (not used for living) across the highway from our neighbourhood on the outskirts of the next quardangle of the city. Either my mother or our housegirl walked me to school. At first they walked me to the door and watched me inside, exchanging "Jambo" with the teachers. Later my adult would cross the highway with me and then watch as I crossed the field and knocked on the door. I was the only white child in attendance and it was both a joy and a trial for the women who ran the preschool. Special care was taken to keep my clothes clean (if only they had known my terrible reputation for tearing and messing my clothes). Punishment, for the other children, was the application of wooden clothespins to fingers, lips, or ears. It may have been that I was a quiet and biddable child or that my skin colour protected me but I was never punished and was not allowed access to the clothespins. I thought the clothespins looked marvelous and spent my afternoons at home using them as earrings and creating fringe around the bottom of my skirt. Our snack was digestive biscuits and warm milk. Ugh! Warm milk! The pasteurized but not homogenized milk was brought to a boil in a large pan and then ladled into plastic mugs. The mugs were covered with waxed paper (to deter bugs) and set on a warming tray until snack time. By the time we were washed and seated a thick skin had set on top of each cup and the temperature of the milk was less than hot but several degrees warmer than room temperature. I was accustomed to having homogenized milk straight from the refridgerator and couldn't manage to drink the warm stuff without gagging. After several scenes and a note home, my mother visited and ensured that I was allowed to drink my milk pre-heated; I had to promise that I would drink it no matter how much nasty cream floated in it. There was quite a muttering about young mothers who just did not understand that cold milk was a danger to the health of m'totos (small children). The BSG is a vaccine for tuberculosis; it is given in the left arm breaking the skin just below the elbow. The needle used is, I assure you, humongous. We were all lined up in the courtyard and then funneled into the doorway to the livingroom of the school where nurses catalogued us and then administered the vaccine. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I did not get the promised lollipop for not crying. Life is not fair. The fallout from that vaccine is a growing allergic reaction to tine test for tuberculosis that has left me unable to be tested in simple ways for the disease (did you know that teachers and other public workers must be tested yearly and that health insurance is not happy to pay for x-rays when a cheap tine test is available?). When I lived in rural areas of America I could not convince doctors that I had been vaccinated against TB and was given several tests. The last time the site of the test swelled to the size of an apple, threw red streaks up and down my arm, and my breathing grew inhibited. The ER doctor in the large city nearby told me that next time I might die and I should vehemently refuse all attempts to administer a skin test.

To be continued....

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