Every day seems like the same day except for this one. It’s raining maize, that’s what they called it here. A flood of blue skirts flocks to peer the windows at the spectacle. Excitement – mostly because the teacher dismissed us a fraction through the class. She dismissed the class because we couldn’t hear her over the hail hitting the iron roofs. Dismissed, but with nowhere to go, really. The school schedule takes precedence. So we remain in class until the bell rings for recess.

Outside the mud forms – thick and red, puddled – a mess. It plasters, later on, from bulky gumboot soles to the roughened dining room floor to which I am assigned, to clean after every meal for the term. A pail of water, a rug – my tools. And sometimes, a much-needed machete. After. Every. Meal.

The girls rejoice – more water for their bath and daily school chores, but for me, hell just broke loose.