I became a very spiritual person at a very early age. I remember getting the beating of my life in my second week of school. It was break time and we were playing in one of the forbidden gardens https://maraboutessogbe.com/
or sanctuaries the nuns used to frequent for prayer. It was the most exquisite little garden I have ever seen. It had a fish pond teeming with brightly coloured goldfish, there were little waterfalls and water fountains, and the sound of running water and the singing of the birds was like a symphony at an orchestral performance. There were flowers everywhere, mostly sweet-smelling roses, and the aroma they exuded hung in the air. I remember standing in front of an exquisite statue of the Virgin Mary and, looking up at her as she held her little baby at her side, I thought of my mum and my new baby brother Joe.
The moment was rudely interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps. Then I remember looking up and seeing a great big, fat, red-necked old nun charging at me. Unknown to me, all my friends had seen her coming, and had scattered in all directions. Before I could even explain that I had only come into the garden to play, before I could even activate my short little legs to run, she had picked me up by the arm and, small as I was, she hit me. It was the hardest and most brutal beating of my life. She hit me so hard, to this day not even my own parents have done that to me. Then everything went black. I must have passed out for I remember waking up in the sickbay in the hands of a gentle-looking woman, another nun with gentler, brown eyes. This was not the one who had assaulted me; her eyes were a cold, icy, cobalt blue.
I could hear shouting coming from the office behind me.
“Why did you do that?” asked an angry voice.
“She was being naughty so she had to be disciplined,” came the answer.
“And what about the other three, did you hit them too?”
“No, they ran away.”
“Look, this is the first time we have had black children in the school,” I heard the first voice say. “What do you think this will look like? It will look like brutality and racism and that’s something we are trying to discourage here at the convent.”
“There was nothing, absolutely nothing racist about my actions,” the old nun replied with dignity.
There was a pregnant silence; and I could hear heavy breathing.
“Sister Magdalena,” came the stern voice. “Times are changing, and what you have done today is unacceptable. Please report to Mother Superior immediately.”
“I really think you are being unfair,” came the angry defence. “These Africans need to be taught discipline at an early age.”
“I said you will treat all the children the same! Now, report to Mother Superior.”
A hand touched my brow, making me shrink as far away into the corner of my bed as I could. It was another nun bending over me, maybe she wanted to hit me too?
“How are you feeling?” the nun with the gentle brown eyes asked me. I noticed that she was not dressed in a nurse’s uniform. She still wore a veil, but she looked different. All the nuns at the convent dressed in white and they all wore black veils bordered with white headbands. That was why the children called them ‘the penguins’.