99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall ...
This, dear readers, is my 99th post on Living a Quotable Life. And, as I am not overly fond of milestone celebrations (I tend to ignore my own birthday.), I am choosing to recognize post #99 instead of post #100. It just seems more my style to do so and the title was just itching to be used. Yes, the lyrics to that good old children's "let me annoy the driver on a long road trip" standard popped instantaneously into my brain as soon as I realized this was post #99 and along with it came more childhood memories.
There were three American curriculum schools in Kenya while I was growing up and I attended two of them. My junior high and high school years were spent at RVA (Rift Valley Academy) and I am sure at some undetermined point in the future it will feature heavily on this blog. RVA is a boarding school and I lived there nine months of every year. It is part of who I am. From first grade through sixth grade I spent my school days at Rosslyn Academy and my memories of the daily drive to this campus near Nairobi are quite entertaining to me. I make no promises on how amusing anyone else will find them, but there you are. (Incidentally, the third school was the International School of Kenya -ISK- where most of the embassy kids studied. All three schools were great rivals of one another.)
Brackenhurst, the conference center where I grew up in Tigoni, Kenya, was some miles from the capital city of Nairobi. In addition to being a conference center it was also the location of the language school where all incoming Southern Baptist missionaries to Kenya and Tanzania spent six months mastering the basics of Swahili before moving on to where they would be working. Because of this, I had a steady stream of new friends coming and going on a semi-regular basis and they all attended Rosslyn Academy with me during those early years. The distance to the school, combined with the sheer brilliance of Kenyan roadways (please note the sarcasm), necessitated that we all have some single method of getting to and from school. It made no sense to have three to ten sets of parents driving thirty to forty-five minutes (one-way) each day to individually transport their children to school. So ... we had a van. A tour van. Well, it did not have the pop top that you see in pictures of the tourist vans that dot Kenya's roads and national parks but it was still the same type of vehicle.
There were rules. On the van ... there were rules. Some rules instituted by the adults: no hitting, no screaming, etc. Other rules were simply understood: older kids sat in the back & younger kids were banished to the front where we weren't supposed to know what was going on the mere few feet behind us. Our parents took turns week to week driving us into school every morning and picking us up each afternoon. My mother inherited the job for a full year or two as she was working in the school library. Poor woman. At any given time there were at least eight kids in said vehicle (this being about the standard number for those who lived permanently near Brackenhurst and their siblings ... like me) plus however many more "culture shocked straight from the United States" kids there were whose parents were studying their way to passable Swahili.
So, there you are. Road trip! Every morning for school ... road trip! It had to be a nightmare for the one adult driver trapped in that vehicle with us bumping down the pothole filled road between Tigoni and Nairobi.
"Children frequently sing meaningful phrases to themselves over and over again before they learn to make a distinction between singing and saying." ~David Anton
See? While there was to be no screaming or picking on one another or fighting or any other such nonsense ... no one every said a thing about singing. Sing, we did. Loudly. We sang everything. We would sing as many commercial TV jingles and theme songs as we could remember from whenever our last trip to the U.S. had been. Occasionally, real songs with real lyrics made their way into our repertoire. But, most often, we sang long ... annoying songs like: "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" or "They Say That In The Army" or "Pop Goes the Weasel."
(I know this is a cultural thing that will likely fly way over the heads of some of my international readers ... knowing how utterly annoying these songs really are. Children's songs are different from culture to culture and decade to decade. But, I hope you get the general idea. Google always helps if you feel the need to see the lyrics. I'm sure someone has probably even been annoying enough to post audio & video on YouTube.)
Singing passed the time and we sang the same songs day in and day out and day in and day out. Oh .. there would be the occasional disagreement and usual childish rubbish. And ... more than once we passed by horrific auto accidents that sent older siblings diving over the seats in front of them to cover the eyes of the younger children proving that they really did care about them. Randomly, and quite infrequently, a game of "I Spy" or "20 Questions" would break out, but mostly ... we sang ... the entire trip to school and the entire trip home.
Let me take this opportunity to send a great big "Thank you" out to all those parents who put up with our nonsense. Truthfully now - were you all wearing earplugs?
"Children's singing games allow a more profound insight than anything else into the primeval age of folk music. Singing connected with movements and action is a much more ancient, and, at the same time, more complex phenomenon than is a simple song." ~Zoltan Kodaly