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Loretta Beyer’s Journal Article – January 30, 2021

Being brought up as a third culture child had both advantages and disadvantages.

The education system was totally different, on the one hand. We were wearing K-12 uniforms, got up when a teacher entered the classroom. I went to a high school for girls and white people. We never had a seventh or eighth grade at all, but rather, after grade six – which we called standard six – we took a high school entrance exam that put us either in Stream A for obtain a diploma in four years, either in the B. stream, which lasted for five years, or C-stream, which included all remedial classes.

In the first two years of high school, I took nine academic subjects, and then I was allowed to drop two (physics and chemistry). I chose French and Latin as foreign languages ​​because I didn’t think I would ever use Afrikaans in America.

At the end of high school, we took O-levels, comprehensive final exams on these seven academic subjects. The exams came from London, were administered over a two-week period, and were sent back to London for grading. What we received for each exam was our grade for the whole high school! We’ve never had a graduation ceremony, and certainly no open house for that either.

I did one more year in my high school called M-levels, similar to the first year of middle school. These, along with my credits from passing the eighth grade music theory and piano final exams at the conservatory there, allowed me to enter college here in grade two.

British academic standards were much higher than here, in my opinion.

In American schools, everyone starts 100% and goes down. There you start from nothing and have to try your way in life, 70% being considered excellent.

We had compulsory sports twice a week after school and our choices included tennis, swimming, field hockey, cricket, rugby, or track and field. We always went to school by bicycle, because there was no bus. School was held from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. due to the hot weather, and we always had a lot of homework

Of course, we’ve never celebrated an American holiday – no Halloween, Thanksgiving, or July 4th. I remember the first time I was asked to send cards for Krystal’s Valentine’s Day party in kindergarten. I sent the biggest and most beautiful card I could find with it, not realizing that I was supposed to send a small one for each child.

Cutlery was used in a totally different way. We would turn our fork over, stab a piece of meat, then stack the potatoes and vegetables on top.

Many words are spelled differently. There I had to write my letters from top to bottom, but in America I was taught to tilt them forward. I like to attribute my illegible handwriting to these differences. Naturally, I chose the only vocation where I had to write everything by hand in my students’ notebooks. Someone told me that unreadable handwriting is a sign of genius – I’ll take it.

Our money was totally unique, too, initially using pounds, shillings, pence, ha-pennies, and farthing (a quarter penny), with which I could buy a liquorice whisk in our school snack store. In music, we have used the terms breve, demi-breve, crochet, eighth, and eighth note, rather than full, half, quarter, and eighth notes.

We have also had some unique pets that have grown up. We kept the silkworms in a shoebox and fed them with mulberry leaves. We would cut out different cardboard shapes, such as circles, crosses, and hearts, and then when it was time for them to turn, they would cover them entirely first, then spin their cocoons.

We also had a pet monkey named Jake. It would climb all over the roof, then fall over your shoulder as you walked by. When we were trying to potty train him, we would pick him up, hit him on the buttocks, and then throw him out the window if he did a mess. Soon Jake would do some damage again, hit his butt, then jump out the window.

I feel so lucky to have had this amazing and multicultural childhood. Because of this, I feel like God was able to use me to connect me to a much larger section of society, and them to me.

I am so grateful that he is the master weaver who sees and perfects and makes an exquisite tapestry from each of our lives, when often all we can see are the knots on the other side.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called, according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

This column is published posthumously with the permission of the family. Young missionary Loretta Beyer grew up in Zimbabwe. After graduating from college in the United States with a degree in music and psychology, she joined her parents in Alpena, due to the terrorist war in her African country. Over the past 40 years she has made Alpena her place of ministry.

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