Chris Salako has been an online writer for more than seven years and enjoys sharing personal experiences.
My Story: The Picture of My Early Life (Part 1)
I was born on the third day in the month of April, in the year of the snake, 1965. I'm the fourth child in a family of seven children, including four boys and three girls. I don't remember much about the early years of my infant life, as I never heard nor asked about it from my parents, and I also don't have proof of it because there aren't any mementos from my infancy.
Important Memories: Family and Festivals
The most important memory from my early childhood that still exists in my subconscious mind is how one day my father brought me along to the paddy field on his broad and strong shoulders, like I was a young king.
The second memory that still influences me happened during one of the many festivals that we have to celebrate according to our custom. I fell sick, and I was given special care by the many guests that came to our house for the celebration my parents held. On this special occasion, I was freely roaming around, sitting on a big laddel made of wood. It was as though I was riding a motorcycle, with the sound of an engine running, although I wasn't familiar with motorcycles at that point in my life.
My Experience With Circumcision
Another picture from the past that still lives prominently in my mind is a celebration that every male has when they reach the age of puberty. As is custom in our culture, boys have to undergo a circumcision. As for myself, I went through my circumcision in a modern way; it was done by a Christian evangelist, an Anglican priest from Scotland by the name of Canon Eric Scott.
Traditionally, the celebration for circumcision starts early in the morning, when the boy has to soak himself in the cold river for about one hour, starting as early as 4.00 am in the morning. After that, the boy has to be carried home by an adult because it is stated that the boy should not walk on the ground before the circumcision starts. (I don't know the reason for this.)
The circumcision is done outside the the house, at the berandah or what we call "pantey," a big open space built in front of the kitchen that's usually used as a place to dry paddy or other things. The boy has to be seated on a banana trunk, and the circumcision is done by a skilled specialist. After the circumcision is done, the boy has to lie down wearing a sarong, and the sarong is tied to the ceiling with a string, taking the shape of a mosquito net right in the middle of the sitting room. For about seven days after circumcision, the amount of food the boy eats is strictly regulated.
During this seven-day period, there will be a lot of guest coming to congratulate the boy. After the seven days are over, then the parents of the boy will celebrate. From that time onwards, the boy is seen as mature person, although his age will still be 12 or 13 years old. For the celebration, a big pig and dozens of chickens are prepared (depending on the financial capabilities of the family), usually to feed the many guest that have been invited.
I didn't have the chance to experience these traditions because my circumcision was done in the modern way, and afterwards I was able to roam freely without any taboos or strict food regulation. My two older brothers are luckier than me because they experienced the traditional method.
My Story Continues: Going to School (Part 2)
1973 is the year when I began to have deep memories that I can still clearly remember today. This was the year when I started my schooling at a small primary school that was built by the Christian Evangelicals in 1800-something. The school's name is Holy Name Primary School, and it still exists today. This school consists of four rooms: three classrooms and another room for the teachers. During my time at the primary school, the intake was, alternately, once in two years.
I started my formal learning not in my mother tongue, nor in our national language, but purely in English. I started to pronounce the alphabet, words and numbers in English. In primary school, I somehow created a bit of history: From primary one until primary six, I received #1 every time we had school exams! The sad thing is, as far as I remember, my parents never acknowledged my achievement. Since they treated the achievement as a routine result, that meant I didn't care much about it, either. If you ask me why they were so uninterested, I don't have an answer.
Hardships During Primary School
I had a hard time during my primary school days. Every day, I had to walk about two miles to school on a gravel road, starting as early as 6.00 am in the morning, and then I had to return home around 2.00 or 3.00 in the afternoon. The funny things is, I never brought my lunch box to school, and in the morning I would only have a cup of coffee.
I also didn't have any shoes. My parents could only afford simple rubber slippers, and when the slippers tore apart, I had to go to school barefoot. Also, it would've been nice to have a belt, but I never had one. The only "belt" that I had to tighten my school shorts was a plastic string. As for a school bag, unfortunately I didn't have one of those, either. I always put my school books in a plastic bag that I tucked inside the backside of my school white shirt. I tied the end parts of my school shirt tightly, and off I went.
Reflections and Gratitude
That was the reality of my primary school life. I don't regret it, because I now know that I am always grateful for what I have, and I treasure it. I learned a lot from this simple way of acquiring a formal education. I will never blame my parents for what I have experienced, because I know it was the best they could give me. I am grateful to them because they are the ones who gave me the chance to live in this beautiful world as a creation of the Almighty God.