First time in boarding school

It was raining the day we were heading to Rethy Academy. Rethy Academy was a boarding school for missionary children. Rethy housed students from grade 1 to grade 9. The school and mission station was located in north eastern Belgium Congo. It was miles from any town or city. Nestled on top of a hill surrounded by valleys, it was a beautiful place with pastures, orchards and gardens.

I stood on the porch in my new shorts and sandals mom had bought me, watching my dad pump gas out of a 45 gallon drum, filtering it through an old brown felt hat into our old land-rover. We were living at a mission station called Nyankunde in the north east corner of the Belgium Congo. It would be a long drive to Rethy Academy.

The rain was splashing my legs washing off the dust in little rivers running down my legs. I was afraid to leave home and was crying. I would miss Mom and Dad. I had never been to boarding school. I was scared.

The land-rover was full on suitcases, boxes and baskets of fruit and other treats mom had made for the trip. I climbed into the front seat and sat on a box between the two seats and my legs straddled the hump in the middle where the gearshift was. I leaned on moms shoulder as we pulled away and started down the muddy road road for the long trip ahead of us.

Ron, Janet and Harold all older than me were in the back seat. I moved my knees back and forth to avoid the gear shift as my dad shifted gears. The windows were rolled up due to the down pour and dad kept wiping the windshield with his arm. He pulled the leaver to engage the wipers which wiped from the top down, and opened the louvers to let some air in. The damp air was cool but my legs were warm straddling the warm transmission.

Our first stop would be a town called Bunia, but before we would get there we would travel over rough washboard roads and over rattle bridges, a name we gave them because they were made of  metal which rattled giving you a sense that they may come apart. Below these bridges were rivers infested with crocodiles.

Bunia was a busy town filled with shops run mostly by Greeks. The stores had large bags of grain and there were canned foods , chocolate bars, which were a rare treat and then there were the toys. Big cars and planes with lights that worked. I used to make many trips with dad to shop for the mission station. I would always stare at the toys inside the glass case. There was also a large market which had fresh fish, meats, fruits and vegetables. The highlight was always the restaurant dad took me to. The food was so good. We always had soup in large bowls as part of the 3 course meal. There was a grey parrot which was always chattering and whistling and a goat or two tied to a tree in the court yard.

We pulled in to a gas station called Dag. We needed to change a tire after the rough trip. I sat on a rim watching the men work. By now the sun had emerged and was baking down. I could smell the stench of the stink bugs that were crushed by vehichles. They gave off a horrible smell. By now I was hungry and this trip we would not be eating at the restaurant. We would stop later for a picnic lunch but mom gave me a sandwhich. I stayed close to dad as I always did. I loved my dad. He was strong and I was proud of him. I followed him everywhere. I walked like him , stood like him and I was his little shadow.

Back on the road, now the car was hot and the windows were down. I was in the very back now sitting on the hard seats that landrovers have. landrovers are not made for comfort. I was feeling sick now but we had to move on.  We bumped along for a while until we had to stop for a check point. There was a soldier with his sleeve rolled up tight around his muscled arms. He wore a beret and dark glasses. His skin was real black and he looked mean. Harold and I were terrified of soldiers because they would hang around the hospital at Nyankunde and chase us or laugh at us.

With some negotiating we continued on through hills and valleys, terible roads where we would get stuck, though villages with kids, chickens and dogs running about. The kids cheering as we went by.  By late afternoon we would pull into rethy.  I was already sad and sick that I would be left alone and clung to my moms side as they greated my dorm parents. They were german and they had a scary looking german sheapard called rex.

The dorm was a brick building with windows that had a concrete border. The glass panes were separated by metal forming a number of squares. at the top was a window that opened outward. There was a larger common room separating the dorm in half. The girls on one end and the boys on the other. I was shown to my room. It had two beds that had a spring mesh with a foam matteress on them. There was a cupboard to hang out cloths. The curtains were striped grean white orange and peach.  Mom helped me get my things put away while I cried and cried.

Mom and dad left and I watched as the landrover drove down the road. I ran to the fence to wave as  I cried and cried some more.  Once they were gone we were all brought to the dining room for supper. I didn’t want to eat. I just missed my mom and dad so much.  The lady in charge, Mrs Klien made me stay behind and finish my meal. She was kind and comforted me.  We were allowed to play out side and I met my room mate and had fun for a while until I remembered mom and dad were gone. I climbed on the swing and swung and sang and cried.

It was getting dark and we were brought in for group meeting and devotions. The dorm parent told us about god and hell and where we would be if we were not saved. I was really scared. He seemed mean. Soon the station generator would be shut off and it would be dark. We all had flash lights so we could go to the bathroom.

I climbed in bed and began to cry again. I was scared and homesick. The lights went out and it was so dark. I rocked in my bed to try and calm my self. I could hear weird noised and drum beats from the African villages. I finally rocked myself to sleep.

Then I woke up and my bed was wet. I didn’t know what to do. … To be continued.