When my friend’s mum discovered the extent of his only son’s treatment at the hand of our teacher, she became enraged and demanded an explanation.
She complained to the nuns, the headteacher and even to my mum since her and my mum were the only black parents from the whole class. She vowed to remove her son from the school once the academic year is finished.
My mum and my friend’s mum spoke at great length about how her son was treated. My mum was gob smacked since she was still clueless of the extent of my own abuse at the hand of my teacher. Once confronted, my mum was in complete disbelief and didn’t know what to say to me. Her look was of disappointment. I didn’t make a big deal out of it since I couldn’t fully understand it. I somehow wanted to make excuses for my teacher’s appalling behaviour towards me. I know it sounds crazy, but all I wanted from her was her approval. I didn’t hate her like I should have. If that makes sense, I was waiting for her to praise me, treat me like the other classmates. I was willing to wait and suffer in silence when that day would eventually come. Sadly it never came. I felt like the way I was treated was my fault because of my own struggles with understanding French as well as my behaviour. I was becoming more and more notorious and terrible each day. I wasn’t easy to handle, even for my poor mum who would receive complaints on a daily basis about my behaviour in class and with others. As time went by, my teacher still gave me the cold shoulder, but she no longer shouted nor pulled my hair anymore. She didn’t humiliate me either. It was strange as I was so used to this treatment daily. My grades didn’t improve however. She acknowledged me with a rare neutral expression. By that I mean she wasn’t frowning nor disappointed but for me it meant a lot. I know it sounds weird. I felt like that was the closest to finally get her approval I have been waiting for what seemed like a lifetime. For my soon departing friend, it was the same. She no longer treated him poorly. Finally some changes in the classroom.
The end of the year, looming ever closer and to my horror, I found out my American friend not only was leaving the school, but he was also leaving Geneva to return home to America. I was so distraught yet knowing there was nothing I could do. He would return home. Somehow, I started to feel at home in Geneva despite my rocky beginning. My parents worked timelessly to make me feel this way. They also ensured to teach me French so I can understand the language more. I did better with hearing French and eventually orally too. My struggle was writing French. Everyone can agree that the French grammar and vocabulary is very hard. Still is. I accepted Geneva was my home. The beautiful city, which enchanted my eyes full of its lovely landscape and mountains, was never enough as I was selfish enough to want more. My mum would take us to hike mountains, visit other cities and regions of Switzerland. My dad seemed to enjoy it too. That was crucial for us to familiarise ourselves with the whole country and take in the culture.
We didn’t forget our own origins and cultures of course. As we had access to a big garden, my parents hosted many parties and barbecues. We invited relatives and friends of my parents especially from Guinea-Bissau. I enjoyed the countless parties as I was able to feel accepted and around people sharing my culture and heritage. My dad, despite being white, fitted so well among the guests for he knew the culture of Guinea-Bissau so well. He enjoyed travelling so much and he met my mum in Guinea-Bissau. He spoke the language, enjoyed the music from there too. It was so odd in a way that I tried to fit in my class dominated with white classmates but somehow I could never be accepted no matter what I did. My dad, effortlessly didn’t have to try at all. Each times my mum organised parties, my dad was always the only white person there. Sometimes I used to envy my dad. The parties we were having regularly enabled me to forget the hell I was going through at school.
Sadly, we would be moving to our new place soon and our frequent get together would be less and less frequent to my own chagrin.