Small town business owner of Keith’s Restaurant, Vilma, compiled a series of (short) stories written by Fonthill locals upon her request. She sweetly asked me nearly seven years ago if I would contribute. And contribute I did. June, 2009:
The heat could be unbearable, so I believe schools asked their students to get up unbearably early to bear their classes before the heat became all consuming. We attended the British International School of Jeddah which was also more familiarly known as Continental or Conti. I would get up at 6:30 a.m., get washed and dressed, feed the cats and Molly, grab my lunch from Mila and head out the door with the boys by 7:20 a.m. School started at 8:00 a.m. and was over by 1:30 p.m. for middle schoolers such as myself. The campus was quite extensive. It consisted of many buildings, three of which were: lower school (pre-school to grade 2), middle school (grades 3-6) and upper school (grades 7-11). There were about five to six classes making up a grade and I was in Y5-1 with England native, Mrs Barraclough. I loved school and don’t recall ever dreading it, although I’m sure my mother would disagree. I had a lot of friends, most of whom were from the Middle East and Asia, and only a few close to me were from England. My best friend, Kimberley, and I were huge fans of stationary and on numerous occasions would go on outings for all things pertaining to school supplies. One favourite: the tricked-out automatic pink pencil case. It contained an array of coloured buttons that when pressed a secret compartment would open with such a satisfactory spring, the pencil case was more show and less practical.
Every break (aka recess) offered a variation of fun: you never knew what game you would play. A favourite was Red Rover; I was always good at breaking the human hand bond on the other team (likely because I was twice the size of some peeps). Out of all the Skip-Its, tag, hopscotch, double Dutch, etc., one game, if you could call it that, was slightly more unusual. It was very repetitive but at the same time, very addictive and inclusive (because kids that you would normally otherwise not play with would join in) game, we called ‘Hippie Hippie’. Everyone would form a circle. Sometimes the circles consisted of six friends, and sometimes, nearing the end of a break, we would have up to forty kids.
It doesn’t take much to entertain a child.
After a circle is formed everyone claps to the beat of the song:
I went to California,
to see a football match,
I saw a senorita with flowers in her hat
It is here you stop clapping and with your right hand draw an imaginary circle over your head to indicate a hat. While this is happening there is someone skipping to the clapping beat inside the circle and when ‘flowers in her hat’ has been sung that person stops in front of whomever he/she happens to be closest to, faces them, and everyone starts singing with their hands on their hips:
Oh, hippie hippie hippie turn around,
oh hippie hippie hippie, touch the ground
When you sing ‘turn around’, you turn around, and then touch the ground too at the appropriate time. The two children facing each other then switch places, and the whole thing starts again. Oodles of fun.
School ended at differing times between each level of school. I was finished at 1:30 p.m. and Jonathan was already waiting by the main gate. Because Jason finished 10 minutes later I sometimes would run to the refectory, another separate building located near the previously mentioned central fountain, and purchase for one Saudi Riyal, a Popsicle—or as they were known to me then, an ice lolly. Delicious. That cafeteria must have gone through massive quantities of icy treats.
Armando would then take us home promptly. Before doing homework we would make ourselves a snack, usually an instant ramen dish, a Mirinda and watch some after school TV. Now, we didn’t have satellite at this point so we would watch local TV which means there was only an hour to two-hour block of old cartoons in English and after that, it was religious programming. I have seen episodes of things that either my parents grew up on, or that my peers in Canada have no idea what I’m talking about. Mighty Mouse and Bionic Six as examples, oh how I loved Bionic Six. Usually what was on though were Merry Melodies. Afterwards, and sometimes we would skip the TV altogether, we would go jump in the pool for a couple of hours, then when we were good and pruned up, we would towel off, get changed and start our homework. It was a great life.
For some reason grade 5’s had the opportunity to participate in a sporting event in Bahrain. Bahrain is a small island country to the east of the peninsula where there existed another British international school, St. Christopher’s. They had a sporting event week where all the British schools would come and join in the competition. So, my schoolmates, a handful of us from Y5.1, with Mrs Barraclough (and other students and teachers) flew together to this island. I recall Sarah and I sitting next to each other on the plane daring everyone to eat lime wedges. Beforehand, we were all placed with other families of children from the school. I stayed with the Hannah’s. Very sweet family. I was picked up by mum and daughter, Lucy. Mrs Hannah explained how she knew the island like the back of her hand and that her daughter was a chocoholic. That was my first time ever hearing that word. That night was terribly quiet and a little awkward for me as Lucy and I were fairly shy. I didn’t know how to load film into my Minolta camera I got for my birthday, so Mr Hannah helped me sort things out. They had a little three-year-old son, Edward, whom I adored.
Every day I went to school with Lucy and met up with the Conti kids and did various activities with them. One day it was a museum, the next, a skating rink(!). Come the days of competition I don’t think Continental did all that well. Though I recall scoring some obscure shots in netball. What I am most familiar with, however, was the high jump. I suppose my teachers figured I had an advantage due to my height (I towered over my Asian friends). It was a moderate advantage—we only had maybe two weeks of actual training prior to leaving for Bahrain. It was one of the last sporting events, and so all the teachers and kids were done for the day and were lined up on either side of the apparatus. They were cheering. I was so nervous. The bar kept getting set higher with each jump. Then, with a Fosbury Flop, I hit it. I walked back, again, nervously and embarrassed, and as I was getting ready for another attempt, I saw a blonde boy I had a mild crush on sitting cross-legged and to my right, and thought, must show him. But I didn’t get to. Second chance and I didn’t make it. I came in fourth.