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Susan Dopp


I was in Pinetown, South Africa, a suburb of Durban, a coastal town.  Pinetown was a small town, like Geneva.  I was there for the year 1978 - from January to January, and completed the last year of high school there at Pinetown Girls' High School.  Like ours, their school year follows the seasons with summers off so because they are south of the equator, their school year starts in January. 

High school there was VERY different from GHS.  The boys went to a separate high school and we were all required to wear uniforms.  The word "uniformity" takes on a whole other meaning there!  There was a strict standard of what was and wasn't acceptable.  No makeup, hair up, specific uniforms for specific seasons.  And punishments for infractions of the dress code. 

Students there choose their main subjects in Standard 6 (9th Grade) and study those subjects for 4 years.  By Standard 10 (12th grade) they are at a very high level of learning.  Math was one of my better subjects here, but I needed some tutoring in my "Maths" coursework there. 

In December I took the lengthy battery of tests they take to graduate (3 and 4 hour exams in every subject) and matriculated with an Immigrant's Pass, meaning that I did not pass Afrikaans which was required at that time for all South Africans.  My family and community spoke English as a first language, so my practice with Afrikaans was rather limited.

Since my return to the states 23 years ago, I have kept in touch with my South African family.  My father, John Rigney, and my grandmother, Ruth Bender, have since died before I was able to see them again.  My mother, Pam Rigney, came to the States in 1981 and visited with me for a few weeks and my sister, Heather came with her little boy, Gareth, in 1988.  In August 2000, my mother, Pam, came back to the States and spent 7 weeks with me.  My "little" sister, Tracy who is 39 hasn't been back here to visit, but we
exchange mail and photos.  I also keep in touch with one of my favorite teachers there, Jean Glenister.  The advent of email has made keeping in touch with them all easier and more frequent.

I'd love to go back to visit.  Things have radically changed politically since 1978, but I do miss the family and friends I made there.  I can't say enough for the wonderful experience AFS allowed me.