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Tales from the 9th grade in a Liberian village

28 Sep 16
Ruby Jones

Greetings! I’m sorry I have been so inconsistent with my writing, but I feel like there’s not much to talk about! I’m experiencing so much but it’s so hard to summarize. Tomorrow I will be starting my third week of school, which has been all new ups and downs. I wake up at about 6am, do chores, get ready, eat breakfast, get an umbrella for the rain that I prayed wouldn’t come, and embark on a trek to school. The walk is usually enjoyable. I get to be surrounded by beautiful green palm trees and lush plants as far as the eye can see. If I stay still and listen I can hear birds and bugs, and I can nearly feel the life that is growing before my eyes.

The walk is about an hour, and every once in a while when I have to literally wade through the middle of the dirt road, knee deep in water, it feels like a whole lot more than an hour. I walk to school with Diamond, Leo, Moses, Bintu, and sometimes Decontee and Felicia. It’s wonderful quality time that we use to: sing, discuss school, discuss politics, discuss fears and hopes, discuss goals, discuss our pasts, and tell jokes. My favorite is when the boys give me koloqua lessons. It’s always a diverting way to pass time 🙂

At school, all the grades have their own classrooms, K-9. There are 14 9th graders, not including me. I think I am the youngest, and the oldest is my friend and neighbor Morris, who is 19. The classroom is small, hot, and worst of all, dim. It is SO hard to stay awake when there is a boring teacher giving a lecture that I can’t understand in a dark room. I end up drawing or passing notes, taking notes, or even falling asleep. No one cares really. In class we just copy the notes written by the teacher on the blackboard (with horrible spelling and grammer errors), and listening and mostly not listening 🙂

The uniform is a white button down shirt every day, a green skirt every day, and black shoes. I have no clue why this is the uniform and why they make it sound so mandatory even though nobody in charge enforces it. There’s a boy named Abraham in my class that has never worn uniform once and literally nobody has mentioned it. It is probably understood that he cannot afford one, and his grandpa is one of the teachers.

At about mid-day when some teacher feels like it, they will bang a bell with a spoon signaling lunch break. The break can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. The length just depends on when a teacher remembers to ring the bell again. On recess, most kids go down to the small shops by the road to buy a snack. Lots of days I walk with Bintu or the boys down the street just to get “fresh air”, but sometimes I stay by the school and read The Secret Garden. Everyone is interested with my book, but I have to be careful not to let it out of my sight so it doesn’t get stolen or damaged. When I read or walk, I have a large entourage of small children holding my hands and my skirt, just following me everywhere. These are my friends, these first graders that I end up spending lots of time with. My absolute favorite tiny human at school is a little girl named Sata who loves to loosen my plat (braid) and do it up again.

My classes are honestly based on which teachers show up that day. Sometimes it’s 2 or 3 subjects, sometimes it’s 7. In between, the students take turns telling jokes, messing around, literally saying prayers as a class, and rarely but possible, just leaving school entirely. This is always a lot of fun, and I feel like it’s sometimes more educational than if a teacher was present.

Anyways, my time here is just dandy in every way and I miss you all so much! Thanks for reading!


  1. Brittany September 29, 2016 at 4:16 am

    Ruby, it is so crazy delightful to read about all of your experiences! I read your post out loud to Pete and we laughed and laughed. My heart was filled with delight at your mention of The Secret Garden!!!! We miss you all of the time, but wouldn’t have you come back for the world…at least not yet. 😉 So proud of everything you are and are becoming!

  2. Gramma Jones September 30, 2016 at 4:32 am

    What an adventure you are having. I can tell that you are embracing the cultural differences and sharing that innate kindness that you have with others. (letting Sata undo your hair and re-braiding it) I am soaking up all of the details you write about.

    I find that interesting about the school and the teachers. Kind of a laissez-faire attitude they have isn’t it. I am surprised anyone really learns.

    I will be watching for more episodes in your ongoing saga.

    I love you!

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