Sunday, 4 December 2011

Storytelling Sunday

                                                        
                
This is not my story, but it deserves to be told, especially at this time of year.

You may know that I teach English to Speakers of Other Languages, many of whom are Muslims. More and more, in recent years,  the British Government has been misguidedly trying to avoid giving offence to non-Christians by denying the religious significance of Christmas. However, I have never had a Muslim student who is offended by my Christianity. In fact, I have received more Christmas cards (and gifts, including bottles of wine) from my Pakistani students than any other ethnic group I teach.

My story concerns a 24-year old Saudi woman, whose name I am sorry to say I have forgotten. I'll call her Saha.

Several years ago, I was teaching in a private language school and running the children's summer school programme. The school was exclusive and expensive and the management rubbed their hands in glee when an eminent Saudi family signed up their 5 children for 3 weeks.

They arrived with their father and mother, who wore a black veil from head to toe. With her eyes cast down, she did not speak a word and left her husband to make all the arrangements. Then he returned home. However, she was staying with the children as the youngest was below our minimum age.

As soon as he left, Saha came to me and asked if she could join the English classes as well. I had no idea she spoke even a word of English, but of course I agreed.  Asking the usual questions to assess her level of English I found out that aged 24, she was a second wife (his first wife lived with them) and already had 5 children. She was worried that her husband was considering taking a 3rd and that would make her life more difficult.

I placed Saha in an adult intermediate class and over the next 3 weeks, she joined in all the summer school activities. Still wearing her full length black veil, she ice-skated, played football, watched cartoons and visited museums. She had the time of her life and was so friendly and open with me that I know she couldn't wait to return  the following year.

Fast forward a year to the beginning of July. I was looking foward to meeting Saha again. However neither she nor any of their chidlren came back to Summer School. I don't know, of course, but my gut feeling is that she enjoyed herself too much and that her husband disapproved. I hope I'm wrong.

For more Sunday-told Stories, go and see Sian at High in the Sky

13 comments:

Miriam said...

Oh Kirsty what a haunting story. There is no doubt in my mind that she will never forget you. I bet she is thinking of you especially at this time of year. x

heart.hearth.home. said...

I too, hope she remembers you. We take our freedom so much for granted here in the West. Thank goodness she had that special time with you.
Have a very special Christmas.

Sian said...

That was a compelling story Kirsty. You have got me thinking now too. Giving a thought to other traditions at this time of year is a good thing to do.

Thanks Kirsty! I think your blog has gone from strength to strength this year. This is a fine post!

Jimjams said...

An intriguing and thought provoking tale Kirsty - thanks for sharing.

Merry Christmas ♥

Scribble Monster said...

What an interesting story Kirsty, I am sure she does remember her time with you.

scrappyjacky said...

A very powerful story,Kirsty....and I do hope you gut feeling was wrong!

Barbara Eads said...

That must be hard--to not know what has become of this family. It just goes to show that people do move in and out of our lives, briefly, but leave an impression that stays with us.

Melissa said...

How difficult it is when we don't know what's become of someone. I'm so glad she had those weeks of fun & was able to be a part of the school. Thanks for sharing this story.

A very Merry Christmas to you!

furrypig said...

what an interesting thought kirsty, hopefully she is well and 3 weeks with you will have given her a fantastic opportunity for learning. Thanks for making me think today xxx

Amy said...

There are so many themes and issues to be taken from your post today Kirsty - thanks for this insight.

Merry Christmas to you and the family!

Lynn said...

Lets hope she is still happy and well. It does make you realise what freedom we have. Merry Christmas Kirsty.

S said...

Maybe one day you will discover the answer to this mystery. Thanks for sharing the story.

Fiona@staring at the sea said...

What an intriguing tale Kirsty. Thanks for sharing it. Wishing a very Merry Christmas xx