Friday, April 10, 2009

Who here knows what a piranha is?

Jess and I have been teaching English through a program called STAR (Student Action for Refugees). Our class is a mix of Iraqi, Ethiopian, Guinean and Sudanese nationals. At first they would sit segregated according to their country of origin, but they have now begun hobnobbing with the others, too.

There's Mustafa, who's 21 years old and from Iraq. Cairo is just a sojourn on his way to the U.S. He and his father worked as engineers for the U.S. army for five years. His uncle and two other family members were killed, so apparently the Americans told them to leave, promising to get them into the U.S. Now Mustafa is learning English and American football in his spare time. The latter, he says, so he can get a scholarship for college.

The other Mohamed is from Ethiopia. He's working for an Egyptian petrol company here and gave us a ride home from class in his brand new company SUV last week. He complains about the Egyptian food and says that it's impossible to fast for Lent here. When he and Kebre, who is also Ethiopian, found out I'm Orthodox they invited me to come to church with them.
When we told our class about our eviction and our cockroaches, Mohammed laughed and noted, "Well, this is Africa!"

Thierno is from Guinea and seems to have taken a liking to me. One of his sentences for a homework assignment was: "Anna and I are going to the cinema next week." He writes in beautiful, loopy handwriting.
I sometimes use French to explain English words to him. Often the exchange will go something like this:
"Anna, what is this word, 'adventure' en fran├žais?
"Um, aventure."
"Ah, aventure!"
And he nods vigorously.

Abdel Aziz, might just be my favorite student. He hasn't missed a class yet, he always does his homework, and he isn't afraid to ask questions. He's an Iraqi gentleman from Baghdad, probably in his early to mid sixties. With his wire frame glasses, leather jacket, beige sweaters and brown leather shoes, he's the snappiest dresser around. He used to have a bushy mustache, which was half red and gray at the roots, but he just got a haircut and trimmed his beard.
"Your hair looks good!" I told him.
"I know," he said.
When he wants to get our attention, he yells, "Teacher!" across the room, and then he argues with us about the meanings of words and sentence structure.
After class, around eight p.m., he goes home and to bed. Then he gets up at six every morning, even though he doesn't work.
As he leaves the classroom, he waves and says, "Thank you, teachers."


  1. Wait, I thought the young Iraqi was Mustafa? Have I been clueless all this time?!

    Also, I love your re-telling of both Thierno and Abdel Aziz. :)

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  3. Your students sound charming. You're charming. Miss you.