Grey Skies.

Grey skies with black and white clouds.
I remember it like it was yesterday.

          I always remember it like it was yesterday. God, I hated that place. I don’t even know how to begin to explain how much I wanted that place to burn, turn those grey skies black. Wow. I thought I was over it. Guess not. It was a while ago; like over ten years ago. But…. I remember it like it was yesterday.

          My parents say that they didn’t have a choice. Money was tight and my dad was on assignment in another country and it was just my mom and my siblings and etc. etc. etc. So, I had to go to a boarding school. Boarding schools aren’t common here, as I’ve been told and seen. 
Do you know what it is? A boarding school?

          Google’s definition is that “A boarding school provides education for pupils who live on the premises, as opposed to a day school. The word "boarding" is used in the sense of "room and board", i.e. lodging and meals.” Sounds about right. Technically.
My definition is that “A boarding school is the hell-like destination for children in order to prime them for a life of trust issues, deep hatred and the ability to Hold. A Serious. Grudge. Oh, and to lose half of their weight in a month and look so deformed that their dad doesn’t recognize them at the airport.” 

Yeah….. that sounds about right. Oh no. I’m not exaggerating. Don’t worry. I’m getting there. I don’t think it’ll be a long story, but it's a real one. One that I can’t get out of my head and my system. But I'm still not too mad about it….. I think ….. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

           This boarding school was in West Africa, I won’t say the specific country, not that it matters…. I didn’t want to go. I distinctly remember begging my dad not to make me go. I was about 10 years old at this time, and really did not want to go to this school….. or to another country. But, that didn’t matter, coming from a patriarchal family and country and all. My next memory after that was being dragged…. yes, dragged - through the airport to my new home for the next 3 and a half months. Kicking and screaming and crying that I didn’t want to go. Not that it mattered. The child’s opinions never mattered. At least not this child’s own anyway. Then, I’m in some stranger’s house. My dad is talking with the man, and they’re laughing and reminiscing. I can vaguely remember my dad’s deep voiced laugh. Then I was at my new school.

             I have to admit, I don’t really remember being taught anything at this school. I mean I remember sitting in the classroom, at the back, with my other female classmates (oh, yeah, this was an all girls boarding school) and taking notes and looking out the holes in the walls at the, almost always, grey skies. Absolutely. But actual content? Nada. What I do remember, what I can tell you, is how we had to be up by 6 am. Now, I wake up at 5 am now, in my twenties, as a grad student, looking for a job while in school, and trying to incorporate a healthy lifestyle all in one day at time. It’s completely understandable. As a 10 year old, in a foreign country? No. Hell no. Then, we had to take care of our personal hygiene. And do our chores. Then get to the dining hall on time for breakfast and attendance. Then class. Then whatever stupid activities they thought would keep us occupied until night time. Then sleep. Then repeat. All underneath the same grey skies.

              Now, imagine this: you have to make sure you wake up before almost any of the other 19 girls sharing your room with you. Try to not hit their bunk beds lining up the walls of y’all’s bedroom. So, you successfully got your shower caddy, walked out your room without the squeaking of the metal door waking anyone. Good.
Now, if you were smart, you got your bucket of cold water for your shower(bath) last night, and stored it somewhere where it won’t be stolen. Probably by some female puppy not as smart as you. If you weren’t that smart, you better get to that tap. Like now! Cuz’ I promise you, you will not be the only one in that situation. Hence, the former being the smart one. So, you were either smart, or you have stood in a line for 10 to 15 minutes for your half bucket of water. Now, run…. yes, run to the ‘bathing area’. Ignore the grey skies. No. it’s not a bathroom, because there aren’t any stalls, or at least, shower heads like, you know, in a prison. 
No. Just drains, sporadically placed across the floor of a massive, empty space, with four aging stone walls, and a hole big enough for a human to pass through. Watch out for that turd. Bath next to a different drain.

              Now, hurry back to your room and get dressed in your uniform. You need to get your chores done so that you can get breakfast. Ours is cutting the grass right at the entrance of the dorms; that separates them from the classroom buildings, and one or two professor’s houses (yeah…. just picture that). Use that cutlass well. That grass can’t be taller than, oh let’s say, 2 inches.  So bend low, and swing, swing, swing! Can’t leave here until it's low. And you can’t miss attendance. Chop chop. Pun intended. Don’t mind the others or the grey skies. You got your own work to do. If you didn’t get it done on time, oh well, you tried.
If you did, then it's breakfast time. All of a couple hundred of us gon’ squeeze unto rows of benches next to tables, in alphabetical order, then eat - I can’t even remember what - while the teacher calls us by last name in order (as if we don’t live there, but okay). Then it's off to class. Once again, to learn what? I have no idea. 

              Hold your pee for as long as you can. Unless you have your own roll of tissue, in which case, knock yourself out. I hope you can squat though….. that hole in the floor definitely isn’t coming up to meet you. Then it’s off to activities. Which ones you ask? Who knows. It’s different each time: group stuff, activities per class, more chores per room, you name it. I don’t even remember eating lunch or dinner, just breakfast. I think I ate three meals a day. Pretty sure. I think. 

              Or not, because finally came Christmas after three and a half months of this routine and it was time to go home. To my real home. While walking through the airport looking for my dad, I spot him and go to him. I don’t remember smiling. I remember standing in front of him, but not smiling. Maybe because I would stand in front of him for about 10 minutes while he would walk back and forth looking for me. Yeah. My dad did not recognize me. I have a picture. I need to look for it though, of what I looked like after those couple of months. Dried up. Skin and bones. Sunken eyes. Skeletal-like. He did not recognize me. At. All. So yeah, I don’t think I ate much. Just looked at those damn grey skies, wishing to go home already. 

          Finally I did. And man, did that cause a whole new chapter of my life that I really wish didn’t happen either.

But screw it. It did. 

And so did those grey skies.

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