Saturday, September 14, 2013

Teaching on September 11th in Saudi Arabia

 I decided not to speak, to go as far and for as long as I could without uttering a single sound.  This day, for the next nine hours in my desert classroom, I would be silent.
 What set me off was Ahmed, the spy.  He was not the smartest nor particularly the most hard working student.  He was just a scowler.  A real hard Saudi case.  A sharia law thumper.  He stood up in class and said, “Teacher…?  Teacher…?  You know what tomorrow is… huh?   (He looked around at the other Saudi faces in the room, then crossed his arms) tomorrow… your country is …die.  Tomorrow… is a good day, yes?”
Today was September 10.  
 I looked at Awed who’s father had wept in my hands and he said nothing.  I looked at Hassan who hugged me after he scored a goal in soccer and he said nothing.  I looked at Raaed who had driven me through the night in the desert and he said nothing.  So I decided I would not speak either.  The problem, of course, was Flintstone.
 Flintstone was determined to make me talk.
 During the first morning bell Flintstone kicked in my door and said in his best Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller voice:  “Ahmed…?  Ahmed…?  Ahmed…?  Ahmed…?”  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Hartenstein going to use his voice today?”
I held up my hand with the word “NO!” written on it.
Flintstone turned and walked out the door.
 Just after the lunch bell sounded Flintstone kicked in my door again.  “I’m going to do impressions from the 50’s and 60’s when TV was black and white and America was asleep.”    Then he cleared his throat and said in a smooth voice, “Of all the gin joints and towns in the world, she had to walk into mine…”
I scribbled and held up a white board that said:  Bogie!
Flintstone hunched over and shook his big snooze and screeched, “Ah!  Cha!  Cha!  Cha!”
I held up the white board that said:  Durante!
Then Flinstone grabbed a belt buckle and said with swag, “Howdy Pilgrim?”
I wrote and held up:  The Duke!
Flintstone raised his hand and screamed, “Why I oughta…!”
The word I wrote sent Flintstone kicking and screaming back out the door:  Moe.
 At afternoon break Flintstone kicked in my door again.  “This time,” he explained, “I’m going to say my favorite words that start with your initials.  Are you ready?”
I held up my other hand with the word “YES!” written on it.
Flintstone nodded and said, “B.H. stands for  ‘Bonner Hemorrhoid’.”
I shook my head and put up the hand that said “NO!”
Flintstone nodded and said, “B.H. stands for ‘Booger Hippopotamus’.”
I nodded my head and put up the hand that said “YES!”
Flintstone tried to slam the door on the way out but it wouldn’t slam.
 At the end of the day, when the final bell sounded, Flintstone kicked in my door once last time.  He put his CD player on the floor, hit play and an ENYA song started.  “Interpretive dance time, Hartenstein.”  And then he proceeded to frolic and twirl and somersault and pirouette to the melodious sounds of the chants.  So I watched him, dancing in the room even after the song stopped playing.
Afterward, when Flintstone was out of breath, exhausted from trying to make me speak today in class, he said, “You know… ain’t nobody gonna win, ain’t nobody gonna lose this.  It’s all just… sand between ya ears!”
I crossed both my arms and walked out the door.

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