My wife and I travelled to the coast to participate in the celebration of our granddaughter’s second birthday. Breathing in the refreshing ocean air was also a relief for us, escaping the extreme heat of the interior of BC. There is also little time to respond with comments to all the posts my blogging friends published in the meantime. Below is a photo of the beach with a wave causing a dramatic explosion of water over a promontory.
Biene and Her Twin Brother Attending Separate High Schools
Biene wrote this post.
When my twin brother and I were at the end of grade 4, my parents had to decide if they wanted us to attend high school. After successfully concluding grade 13, we would obtain the senior matriculation certificate, Abitur in German, a prerequisite for post-secondary education at a university.
Only a tiny percentage of students would enter high school. Your elementary teacher had to recommend you based on your performance, and you had to pass a stringent entrance exam. While all children by law received eight years of free elementary school education, high school students had to pay tuition fees and finance their books and other educational materials. It was an honour and a privilege to attend high school. You belonged to an elite group if you passed your senior matriculation. Only about half the number of students that started high school would accomplish that goal.
There were scholarships for top students who had financial difficulties paying the tuition fees. My twin brother and I, plus my best friend Gisela, were the lucky recipients after completing grade 4 with top marks.
My twin brother and I would attend different schools for the first time in our life. The two high schools in Velbert were segregated by gender and academic orientation. I went to the modern language branch for girls and my brother to the science and ancient language branch for boys. While the school buildings were nearby, we had no contact with students of the opposite sex for our entire high school life except for a short extracurricular ballroom dancing course in grade 10.
While our school had a high percentage of male teachers, my brother only once, for a short time, had a female teacher teaching at his school. She enjoyed a special status that was “sensational” for the boys. The boys “adored” her like a queen.
To my relief, the school year came to an end about two weeks later. Our new teacher in grade 5 quickly restored my faith and trust in teachers. Although he was very strict, he never lost his temper or control. I loved his exciting lessons, fairness, warm smile, and sense of humour.
This teacher decided to take us on a field trip to meet Vater Rhein or Father Rhine, as it is fondly called the longest and mightiest German river. On a beautiful sunny spring day, we went by train to Cologne. Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany, situated on the Rhine river. We visited the awe-inspiring cathedral, which towers majestically at the river shore. We went down to the banks and immersed our hands in the water to greet Father Rhine. He was starting to get polluted. When revisiting the Rhine river, my friends prevented me from putting my hands in the water because of the dangerous pollution levels. Now Father Rhine is clean and safe again.
Towards the end of our excursion, we walked through the Altstadt, the picturesque historic part of the city. We did window shopping and were allowed to buy some small souvenirs in the romantic boutiques. I remember the fun we had reading the ornate and artistically designed shop and pub signs hanging on beautifully crafted cast iron brackets. We laughed at the often funny and clever names. A butcher shop was called The Jolly Fat Pig; A wine pub was named The Bottomless Barrel. In the Busy Bee Bakery, we bought some honey-sweetened pastries.
Back at school, we had to write about our excursion. Our teacher told us that the best report would be published in our class journal. We all had to read out what we had written and then voted on which one we liked best. I was the proud and happy winner because I described all the humorous signs and other fun impressions of our exciting trip.
On Monday, I invited my wife to look for huckleberries (wild blueberries) in a place at 900 m, where we used to find lots of these delicious berries in the past. Because of the wet and cold spring, we found only a few, barely covering the bottom of our pails. So our focus shifted to photographing the wildflowers that grew in great profusion. Daisies, Indian paintbrushes, tiger lilies, and many others dotted the unusually lush landscape for this time of the year. I captured my wife pointing the camera at some nearby paintbrushes.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was happy to have regular school again and looked forward to classes every day.
Two days after my mom had enrolled us at the Elementary School Am Baum (at The Tree), I woke up with a sore throat. I was prone to severe allergies, especially during the pollen season in the spring. My mother suggested I stay home, sending my brother off at the usual time. I did not want to miss school and pleaded with my mother to let me go until she relented.
I ran as fast as I could not be late, but classes had just started when I arrived. Out of breath, I reached the classroom door where my teacher received me. As I already indicated earlier, he seldom smiled and was very strict. He looked earnest this morning, “Why are you late?”. he asked in a stern voice; still out of breath, I stammered, “I wasn’t feeling well.”
“Don’t lie to me!” he shouted and, without warning, slapped me across the face.
Never before had I been physically punished by my parents or other adults. For a moment, I felt frozen in time. I was so stunned and shocked that I did not know what was happening. Eventually, like a sleepwalker, I made it to my desk and sat there dazed until dismissal time. I felt humiliated by this unjust punishment and very sad. Until then, I had idolized and adored teachers. In my mind, they embodied the highest human qualities like wisdom, knowledge, fairness, justice and kindness. This undeserved slap in my face shattered that illusion.
Only when I got home did I cry. It wasn’t the physical pain of the slap in my face that hurt but the emotional pain of undeserved punishment and the betrayal of trust by an abusive person in authority.
Most people did not own phones when I grew up, so my mother talked in person to the teacher the next day, but the damage was done.