The life of a “koshuis brak”

There comes a time when you look back at your life up to this point. The good times, the bad times, the downright hilarious times, the cringeworthy times. All that you have experienced that has shaped you into the person you are today. 

This is part of the story of how my life was shaped. Some say we “koshuis brakke” (hostel mongrel dogs) formed a culture of our own. And I agree. So, join me on a memorable journey through the life of a koshuis brak. 

“Please Kill Me” week

In eighth grade, the start of high school, things got interesting. The first week of our first term, it was “insouting” (initiation) week or, as we called it, PKM week aka “Please Kill Me” week. We eighth graders were outnumbered 2 to 1 by the senior years. To make matters more hilarious, I was the only girl of my year group in the hostel, with a handful of boys. We were assigned our names for that term: Rafiki, Askies (excuse me), Toilet Scooter, Twakkie (rubbish) and Sog (sow). It was the five of us vs at least 12 seniors. The odds were not in our favour. 

One of the most memorable events was when we had to catch a piglet that escaped. It was a mess from start to finish. We tried to tackle this little piggy – five kids trying to catch a single pig. We managed to do so somehow, but man, did we look a mess! Dusty, muddy, mixed with who knows what else; you could only see our eyes at the end of it. Our House Mother gave us one look and said, “March”. We stopped near the girls’ dorm. With a hose pipe in hand, she sprayed most of the dirt off us and ordered us to the showers. It took a while to get the scent of pigsty off my skin and out my hair. Thinking back on it now it is hilarious, but, at the time, it felt like the worst punishment one could get. There are other stories, such as “pypkar stoot” (pushing a box-cart), kleilat games (in which balls or pellets of clay are flicked at an opponent with a flexible stick), illegal (out-of-bounds) swims to potjiekos championships. You name it, we did it.

“We pushed our luck to the limit.”

In grade 9, most of us were 15. So, like most 15-year-olds, we pushed our luck to the limit. Egos ran rampant among the gang. For most of the year, we snuck out after hours. The plan was easy – pick the lock to the dining hall, climb through the large window, and then we are home free. What we didn’t expect was nearly being caught by one of the teachers. We rounded the corner, saw the teacher and hit the deck. Luckily, she didn’t see us. It took us nearly 30 minutes to leopard crawl the rest of the distance to the boys’ dorm. We spent the rest of the night just talking and hanging out with the guys. Around 3am we snuck back to our dorm. Luckily, this time all was quiet, so it was easier getting back in than it was getting out.

“Double the kids, double the trouble…”

Tenth grade was something else entirely. In some way, we were seen as seniors, but not really. By now the gang had grown from 5 kids to 10 year-mates. Double the kids, double the trouble, as our luck would have it. We were a bunch of crazies, make no mistake. We snuck out again, got caught this time, got punished for it. On most nights during study breaks, we would make “katsterte” (dishcloths rolled to form whips with a point) and have a game of tag with them. They stung if you got tagged. Up and down the hall, running between the tables, grabbing someone for a quick turnaround. It was fun, until someone slipped, then it was hilarious. To most, it may seem childish, but to us in that moment, we felt free from the pressures of school and life around us. 

“For my senior year, things got… epic.”

Unlike my previous years of being a “hostelliet” (hostellite) I was back in my home town. In our first term, we weren’t allowed to have a kettle in the room, despite being seniors. So, we smuggled one in. We told ghost stories to the younger years and then pretended to be the ghosts. Mid-winter was orange season so we played orange soccer in the corridor. We had so much fun we forgot the orange was becoming softer and softer. The next moment, you saw pulp and juice dripping from the ceiling! 

Farewell to childhood

On our final night before our “uitstap” (farewell, literally “walk out”) ceremony, we decided to walk to our teachers’ homes and thank them for all they had done for us. At sunset, we met up at the school. Our first stop was at our Afrikaans teacher’s house. We sang a few songs, and he burst out in tears. At first, we thought our singing was that bad, then he started to say how he would miss our bunch. From there we went to the rest of the staff’s homes. Our English teacher lived near the edge of town. When we showed up at her home, she also started to cry. She gave us some advice that I still carry with me after all these years. She said to follow our hearts, our dreams, most of all just to live our lives the best we can. To make memories.

As we walked back with heavy hearts, knowing that this will be our last outing as a group before our finals. We walked past this old, ruined and abandoned clinic. The lights started to flicker on and off. That was the fastest I have ever seen my year-mates run, and most of us played sports, so that’s saying something. By the time we reached the main road we were out of breath. We were silent for a few seconds before we burst out laughing at the craziness. 

“I wouldn’t change a second of it.”

Thinking back on all my time growing up in the hostel, it is the adventures and misadventures that will remain with me for the rest of my life. It shaped me into the person I am today and even if I could, I wouldn’t change a second of it.  

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