I’d crossed the desert by bus over an hour and was standing in the square classroom all alone in the morning light. There was a seating chart on the board and bright tapestries on the walls I’d bought in the market to liven the place up. A map of northern Africa next to one of the Kingdom, and another of some scarves I thought were cool. The students were arriving. I could hear them nervously outside the door.
I’d been humming to myself the last few days preparing for this moment. The first day of school. And now it was here.
This was my twentieth year as a teacher, and I mark these first days by singing to my students. I know not every teacher sings on the first day. Believe me, I know that no teacher in Saudi Arabia would be singing that morning. My voice bounding against the walls, falling deaf around my students faces staring back at me in bizarre wonder and through the open window onto the endless mounds of sand beyond.
But sing I would. Nothing would stop me.
And all apologies to “Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the cloud are far behind me…” and perhaps the most beautiful lyric in the catalogue… “Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops that’s where you’ll find me…”
In this place where art was illegal and movies forbidden, where books did not exist and songs were never sung. I sang that first day to those dusty glaring eyes. Sometimes there are no words and dancing makes you fall weakly to the floor. But other times… it’s the memories that count most.