Joan Hugo Burley has lived in Auckland for seven years. She participated in the “First Chapters” life writing programme mentored by Deborah in 2010. Her story was selected for publication in the accompanying collection Translucence: Life Writing from Manukau and Papakura edited by Deborah.
Going to boarding school in England was a very exciting prospect. There were new clothes to buy and we ticked them off the official list: three navy viyella shirts, two white cotton shirts, two navy tunics and so on.
Everything had to be marked and my mother, sister and I sat for hours sewing on embroidered name-tapes, red for my sister and green for me. Finally, the task was done, and two trunks were packed and left by the door, waiting to be taken to the railway station.
My parents dropped us off at school, and suddenly, they were gone. My sister was in the junior school across the road as she was only nine. I was eleven, and old enough for the senior school. We could only see each other on Saturday mornings, after mending our laundry and washing our hair.
I stood by the jungle gym, watching the other girls go past. Most of them were older than me, and they seemed very big. I didn’t know a soul, and felt very alone. It was hard not to cry.
Up in the dormitory, there were six iron-framed beds with purple counterpanes. I knew which was mine because my eiderdown and rug lay folded at the foot.
In the next-door bed was another new girl, unpacking her suitcase. She smiled and told me her name was Judy. I showed her some photos of home, and the teddy bear I had brought for company. She shared her sweets with me and asked if I would like to be her friend.
My parents had gone back to Africa. I was on my own now, but I thought if I had a friend everything would be all right.
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