Is it still a school reunion if only two ex-students turn up? I like to think so. Today I met up with friend from the boarding school I attended in West Africa — which seems like a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Hannah Bebarfeld lives on the North Shore of Auckland and is working as an accountant at a local hospital. She invited me to her home, and it was neat to see what local, beach-side suburbia looks like.

Lauren Bissett Fisher and Hannah Bebarfeld, ICA reunion in Auckland, New Zealad, May 2012
It's a pleasure to spend time with Hannah who was my dorm sister for a number of years in Baraka.

In the eighties and nineties, International Christian Academy catered to about 200 students from ages six to 18, providing a North American education in rural Côte d’Ivoire. I spent ten years schooling at ICA, where I shared a dormitory with between 20-30 other students.

My parents lived about five hours away by bus, so occasionally I would go home on the weekend, as well as spending three vacation-times — Christmas, Easter and the North American summer-months — with them in Abidjan. Hannah and her parents lived in the neighbouring country — Ghana — so it would take them a day or two to reach the boarding school at the beginning of each term.

Lauren Bissett Fisher and Hannah Bebarfeld, 1996
This is what we looked like when we last saw each other in 1996.

Lauren Bissett Fisher and Hannah Bebarfeld, ICA reunion in Auckland, New Zealad, May 2012
We agree that we have become both older *and* wiser in the intervening sixteen years!

Hannah and I spent hours reminiscing about our school days together and discussing how we’ve changed in the interim. We agreed that we’ve changed more in the past year than in the fifteen years prior as we’ve learned more about ourselves and how to get along with others.

A major turning point in both our lives has been when we realised that Christians don’t have a monopoly on righteousness, although we may have liked to have thought so. It’s been wonderfully freeing to realise that we can connect with so many people — regardless of their religious beliefs — if we stop labelling people and sorting them into the categories “one of us” or “not one of us”.

My time with Hannah was precious, and I’m glad we could finally get together. Now that I know where she lives, I’ll be sure to stop by in the future so we can continue our small group therapy session as together we work through the angst of teenagerhood, being a third-culture kid and growing up in legalistic, religious traditions.