February 7, 2010

Holy Rosary Convent, Edenvale, Gauteng.

This week I found myself looking for my primary school on the Internet. I was clearly drinking from a full cup of nostalgia and I was not alone, because the next day there was a nice fat letter amongst my mail from my primary school friend, Paddy. She too, was looking back. Birthday's tend to bring this on.
There isn't much to be found about our years at Holy Rosary Convent but I did discover things I did not know. 
The order was established at Killeshandra in Ireland and the sisters were sent to Africa as missionaries. First to Nigeria, but later in the 1940's, as the order grew, also to Transvaal (now Gauteng), where they started a school in Edenvale, to support their missionary work in Vereeniging, where the Sharpeville Massacre took place in 1960.
As I remember it, our classrooms were, at the time in temporary buildings under some tall pine trees. While I was there a new building was built behind the brick schoolhouse in the photo.
So much for the history, because what captures my interest are the women who were our teachers. They were such a mystery to me, in their crisp white tropical habits, of linen and cotton, and when it got colder, unbleached woolen cardigans. I can still imitate their soft, Irish lilt and belt out the Irish songs we were taught in music class. They formed a little Irish island in the middle of the African veld.
After having seen Walt Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty" I could never escape seeing Sister Mary Gemma as Flora, the strong, benevolent leader, Sister Mary Genevieve as Fauna, sweet and timid, and Sister Mary Teresita as Merriweather. Although my relationship with Sister Gemma was the strongest as we corresponded for many years, well into my adulthood, it was however Sister Teresita who fascinated me most once I was well out of her reach. She was all too slap-happy with her ruler or pointer, and when angered, her face would redden from her collar up to her coif, and there were times when I feared that she would erupt like a volcano and I would see molten lava spouting out of the top of her head.
Regardless of Merriweather, I had a wonderful time and still think I was fortunate enough to get an excellent start in life because of the good, though somewhat old fashioned schooling at HRC. (We called ourselves Hot Roasted Chickens). When I left for high school I had already had a year of Latin, a nice little foundation for math, had read Shakespeare, Dickens and many other great authors. I had been taken to musicals, eisteddfods, and learned song (can't say I learned to sing, but that had to do with my own limited abilities) and dance. I could write bread-and-butter notes (check this link if you like entertaining, etiquette and the finer side of life), knew which knife and fork to use at an elaborate dinner and walk up straight and elegantly. 
None of these skills are particularly helpful in the life I live now. Manners are not really required much these days and tableware has been reduced to a single fork. Long, newsy letters on fine stationary have been replaced by emails and Latin, I believe is no longer required in any academic direction. 

We cannot prevent change and progress, but we can regret the loss of some of the finer things in life. Therefore, Paddy and I are going back to writing letters (even though the first one Paddy wrote got lost in the mail from South Africa to Arizona). No more quick exchanges zipping along the web, but letters that take longer to write, longer to arrive, but are sure to be savored longer by the recipient.
Listening to: Appalachia Waltz, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Conner.

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