My family moved around. We’d spend about three years overseas and then come back to Canada for three years before moving again. We started when I was about three years old and stopped when I finished grade 10. My parents moved abroad again a few years later, but neither my brother nor I went with them.
Grade eight and grade nine were at the International School in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Grade 9 was at Cairo American College, in Cairo, Egypt. The school in Riyadh was very isolated. grade nine was as high as it went. It was surrounded by a wall and no one ever left the property unless being picked up by bus or parent.
Cairo was also surrounded by a large wall, but you were free to come and go. Lots of students left for lunch and lots walked to and from home. Despite being in another country and not at all typical, geographically, I see CAC as a very TV high school. It was the first time I remember seeing clearly defined groups of students, cliques and such. There were Jocks (with letter jackets), Artsy students, Skaters (both straight edge and not), the D&D crowd, a sorta hippy type sect, the band kids, well you see where I’m going. Either this wasn’t happening in grade 8 or I didn’t notice.
In both Riyadh and Cairo I swam competitively. Thought it’s called a swim team, it’s not really a team sport, so you don’t really get to be a part of the Jocks. But it did mean that I was at least a part of a larger group within the school. In Cairo I wasn’t particularly close with anyone on the swim team, but at least they were other people that I knew. (and I got a letter jacket out of it)
I developed close friends at the school in Riyadh. In younger grades I remember clearly having close male friends, but grade eight was different. I really don’t know why there was a shift, but my closest friends were all girls.
Three in particular, Diana, Mel and Dawn. There were a couple others but they always seemed secondary. That’s not to say that there weren’t male friends as well, but they were never as important to me as Diana, Mel and Dawn were. Actually, if I’m being honest, Diana and Mel were my best friends. Dawn was close with them and I was in love with Dawn. To this day, I remember pining for her. Nothing ever came of it and I got over it.
My friends in Cairo were male. There was a pretty constant group of us. Some I got along with better than others. There was a rec centre in Cairo, run by an ex-pat. We’d watch movies there or skateboard on the home made ramp out back.
Before grade 8, I don’t think I ever wondered if my friends “got me”. As grade school ended and high school drew closer, I remember, vividly, feeling that my friends did. Most of the people during grade 8 seemed to be pretty much on the same page. I wonder if this had a lot to do with the shared situation we were all in. Away from home base and isolated together at the school. Cairo felt different. Felt closer to what school in North America would feel like; although, even in Cairo, I felt that the friends I had “got me” and I felt like I fit. I had close friends in both countries and acquaintances as well.
Girls are less threatening to me than guys. That’s how I feel now and felt back then. I like their personalities better. I have never given a shit about football or about cars and never saw dating as a competition. I also never saw other guys as competition not did I ever see myself as their competition. I know now that a lot of guys did see things that way.
Girls smell better, look better, sound better, talk better and listen better. They, seriously, look better. That’s mostly what I think these days and it’s served me pretty well. I probably thought it back then too, but wouldn’t have been able to articulate it.
Here ends Part Two