There’s an old Muslim woman at work who is not from here. I don’t know where she’s from, or even what her official job is. She wears blues and beiges and clothing that could be from anywhere in parts of the Middle East, Asia or North Africa. I wish I could tell you her nationality. I can’t even tell you her name (note to self make an effort to learn this!). What I can tell you is that sometimes she is the highlight of my day.
She is not a teacher, but she is almost always one of the first people to shake my hand when I arrive in the mornings. She lights up and wishes us all well. It’s obvious she has the highest regard for what we do, and that while others may not think so highly of us, she thinks we’re something special. She didn’t know English at first, but I think she asked the kids to teach her some because now when she sees me she says, “Good Morning!” Her entire face bursts out into the proudest smile when I say it back to her. She doesn’t just shake my hand, she hugs it. Every work day this woman gives me love, and she too has no clue as to where I’m from or what my name is. She has no idea just how special she is to me, and that when I leave this place her smile will be among my fondest memories. In this new land of craziness I’ve learned that I can love a complete stranger.
A girl at school, who is not one of my students, finds me every so often just so she can tell me an English joke. I first met her while I was on hall duty. Like so many others she was curious about me because of my hair, my eyes, my style of clothing. We introduced ourselves, and she told me the cutest joke. I don’t remember it now, but it made me laugh out loud. That’s all that child needed because I swear she finds these jokes, practices them, and then searches for me just so she can hear me laugh. She found me yesterday, and told me one that included a bar and a beer. I tried not to laugh too loud because it’s not something she should be joking about, but OMG it made my day that this child tracked me down to tell me it — because I will always love a good bar joke.
In the mornings the girls sing and recite snippets of goodness. Much of the time the microphone is too close and my ears cringe at the screech until they figure out how to maneuver the darned thing. Sometimes the girls are off key or don’t know all of the words (funny how even though I don’t understand Arabic I know off-key and lost words when I hear it), but all of the time I love hearing their young voices. They have no idea of just how much beauty and power they hold within themselves. Sadly, neither did any of us when we were young.
There’s an old Indian man who sweeps the parking lot of my carpool buddy’s apartment complex. Every morning he’s there sweeping away the endless sand. We’re in the middle of a massive desert, sand will never not be there. At first I thought what a useless job for a man to have, but then, after weeks of watching him, I realized he took pride in his work. It meant something to him, and, well, since the sand wasn’t going anywhere neither was he. We smile and nod to each other while I wait for my coworker. One week he wasn’t there, and I wondered what happened to him (the photo above is not of him but the person who subbed for him while he was gone). I missed him, but a week later he was back. He seemed almost as happy to wave to me as I was to him. Why didn’t I think a parking-lot sweeper would also get vacation time? And who am I to judge whether a job is worthwhile or not? Ha! there are plenty of people out there who think mine is also a waste of time.
Today, I was at an offsite professional development session. I’m not gonna lie it kind of felt like a waste of time, but it wasn’t. I got to meet and interact with fellow teachers from around the world. I met a lovely woman from Tunisia, a few more South Africans (they can always make me laugh), an Australian who is also an artist, fellow Americans who also made me laugh, and some Facebook friends I finally got to meet in person, and a bunch more. I am reminded once again of just how lucky I am to be doing what I am currently doing. To any of my teacher friends reading this, please do know you are fascinating and wonderful and, yes, talented — you are making a difference and your efforts are worth it. Yeah, I know it doesn’t really feel that way right now, but take these words and enjoy them — they are as true and real as the end-of-term frustrations you’re facing.
And to my former students (since my current ones don’t know about this blog) you too are part of my human gem collection. I sometimes see your updates on Facebook, and I love what you are doing with your lives. If you’re in a funk, remember I know you can do better (as do you), so get to it — also know it’s okay if things went wrong, just as long as you get back to steering your own way (versus letting the uglies do all the driving for you, or something like that). You are all also amongst my fondest memories of ‘back home.’
I must be getting all wishy washy to be writing a post about the good things of we humans, but it’s all good. Thanksgiving is next week, and I’ll be at work during the day (but yay! I also just learned a friend from Abu Dhabi is coming to visit, so we’ll feast on turkey and laughs). So, I guess I’m just getting a jumpstart on listing some of the less obvious things I’m thankful for.
To my long-time friends and family, you know I love you with all my heart and soul. It hurts to be away from you, but I am so grateful that you accept my need to do this and support me every step of the way.
And, that’s all I have to share for now, but National Day celebrations begin next week, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to share then. Oh wait, and I also FINALLY wrote another blog post for Teach UAE magazine — hmmmm, which might be what prompted me to write today’s post. If you haven’t already read it, or not completed bored with my soft side, here’s the link to it: http://teachuae.com/im-still-hereim-uae/
p.s. I’m pretty sure I have some serious fun coming up, so I’ll be sure to post pics and anecdotes, which is probably what you really want to see in a blog.