The Merry Family

Merry Mission Journal

September 20, 2004

School Days

The alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and Heather gets out of bed and heads for the shower. Everyone else follows during the next half hour. Beth cooks breakfast (eggs, pancakes or just toast and jelly –cereal is very expensive so we rarely have it.) By 6:30 Dan has the girls and their bookbags packed in the car and drives them the two kilometers to school, then goes to the Synod office to begin working (everyone else shows up at 7:45.)

The girls’uniforms are navy blue skirts and blue and white striped blouses. They have to wear white anklets and black shoes. Their gym uniforms are white shorts and white t-shirts (with all this dirt and dust!) On Monday afternoon they have “house uniforms”which means that they wear yellow t-shirts with Chiradzulu symbols on them, in the afternoon. They have navy blue swimsuits for swim class.

Brooke has been placed in level 9. She is supposed to be in eighth grade at home, so she thinks it is a riot that she has been promoted a year. She is taking a much different course load than she would at Independence Middle School (IMS) in Bethel Park. Her 35 minute classes during the morning are: History, Math, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Developmental Technology, Music, Drama, French and Physical Education. She finds math easy and Physics challenging. She was taking Spanish at IMS, so French is a change for her. She is making lots of new friends. Her after school activities are band (an “orchestra”of about 10 faculty and students will be in the pit playing for the upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.”) Her favorite activity seems to be one of her afternoon electives, cricket. She likes bowling (pitching the ball) and thinks that she now understands how to keep score.

Heather has had a rockier time at St. Andrew’s International High School. When we met with advisors just before school began, they told her, “you should go back to the USA for school this year.”We did not realize that in the British system, year 10 and 11 are done in tandem, with the coursework starting in the first year and continuing through the second. At the end of the second year are huge tests that determine a student’s academic future. Heather, who would be in grade 11 at home, is coming in the middle of everything. For instance, at home she was going to take Chemistry this year. She can’t take it here because she has already missed the first half of it. So she is taking another year of biology. (She may take a chemistry course on-line at some point.) When we told the school officials that she would be staying in Malawi for the year, they were very accommodating and developed a schedule for her. She has Math, History, Geography, Spanish, Food Science, Music, (she is also in the play’s orchestra) Physical Education, English and Biology.

One of the things that the girls like is that all their coursework is done by 12:30 (except on Fridays when school finishes at noon!) However, on most days they have after school activities, which are required. On Mondays they have “House Activities.”The entire school population is divided into “Houses”(the boarding students actually live in these houses, which are named for the four mountains which surround Blantyre) These activities are athletic events ranging from swimming races (both girls have been asked to join the school’s swim team), to netball games. Heather really likes netball, which is similar to basketball. These games last until 3:30.

On Wednesday they have “club activities.”These are electives which the students choose. Brooke has chosen cricket and band. Heather did not have to choose any because she is required to do a two hour Food Science lab on Wednesday afternoons. Last week they made curried kidney beans and rice (not your standard Home Economics menu in Western Pennsylvania). She brought some home for us to sample, and it was delicious! Both girls stay after school on Thursday for band practice. Brooke did not bring her bass clarinet, so she is now playing the xylophone. Heather will play the clarinet.

On Tuesday, they come home from school, eat lunch and then do volunteer work with handicapped children in Ndirandi. (We will write about that in another journal entry soon.) So, as you can see they are very busy.

I wanted them to do this journal entry, but they had too much homework over the weekend. With the exception of a Math teacher, they seem to like school, and be doing very well. On Sunday afternoon Heather and I went to see a Zimbabwean play at the French Cultural Center (Dan was at a worship service and Brooke was studying). She left me sitting with Irish missionaries, and went to sit with her new Malawian friends from school. I think that says it all!

Beth Merry

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