Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fun and games, grit and grime.

The boys in my class held the edges of a big parachute and shook it, making waves in the rainbow material. The delight on their faces grew when I threw a heap of colorful balls on the parachute. Plastic balls bouncing over an undulating parachute provided an exhilarating burst of color. Some boys crawled underneath the parachute for the thrill of being in a multicolored, chaotic hiding place. I joined them underneath the parachute and sang the ominous Jaws theme, my announcement that I was a shark and all of them had better scramble or else be eaten by me. Well, my “Da duh da duh da duh” must not have sounded very frightening, because my prey turned on me. The boys decided they wanted to be sharks too, and performed a swift attack, jumping on me from all angles until we all lay buried under a floppy parachute, my glasses sitting at an odd angle on my face and my barrettes falling out of my hair.

This is a typical day for me. I find great joy in my work and I love the boys in my class. Entering class one day, a boy turned to his friend and said, “Miss Meri is drinking milk!” as if that were big news. If only the comments people made about me were that innocent and true. 

Lately, I've been interrogated by co-workers about my interaction with a male co-worker, who happens to be British. Apparently, it’s unbecoming for a woman to be seen walking down the hallway talking to a man. Telling these women that my life is none of their business and I don’t need to explain or defend myself does nothing to quell the prying questions. These interactions have left me exasperated and wishing I could click my heels together three times and magically go home to Portland, Oregon. I suppose I should consider the source, before I let any negative comments get me down. 

The same woman who has become suspicious of my nonexistent love life paid me a backhanded compliment on my first day of work when she said she was sure I was English and not American because all Americans were ugly. She then contorted her face and hobbled around the room like a hunchback to show me what she meant.

I’m finding the rules of the culture so difficult to conform to. I have the most boring social life, and yet I’m characterized as some kind of party animal. In the staff room last week I was warned by a well-meaning co-worker to “Be careful,” even though I was simply sitting at a table, waiting for my third cup of coffee to kick in. Well, my co-worker told me that a certain notorious Arab man whom I've never met has a hankering for Western women. 

Another co-worker wearing an abaya nodded her head and warned me that “fornication is illegal under Islamic law.”  “What fornication?!” I wanted to scream. “I live next to a deserted wasteland filled with abandoned school buses. Abandoned school buses aren't exactly conducive to fornication. And really, did you seriously just use the word fornication?”

I tell myself that I've been through challenging times before and that I’m a strong woman. I used to box and was pretty good at it. I've knocked the wind out of sparring partners twice my size. I can get through this.

I’m going to leave you now with a funny cat video. Au revoir.