8 Chapters
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7. Honor

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM JORDAN

 

Yasmine speaks …

I was not exactly thrilled when the biology teacher teamed me up with Wafa Ar-Rahman. We’d be working in pairs, she said, when we started cutting things up—a learning experience I really did not look forward to one bit. And now I had to do it with Wafa. Not that she was obnoxious or stupid, but she was new in school, and so conservative and quiet and shy that she really sort of stuck out.

When I got home, I told my mother that my biology partner would be this girl Wafa, whom I could hardly even see, she was so covered up by her hijab. “She wears her head scarf over her eyebrows, and she doesn’t say a thing. She’ll be so boring, Mum,” I moaned. “I’ll hate that class.”

But my mother was the wrong person to complain to. She was a hard-hitting investigative journalist, and she saw opportunities for social change and noble struggle in practically everything. She was so good at her job, in fact, that she’d won a special fellowship to study in London the previous year, and we’d all spent six glorious months there.

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8. The Plan

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM A PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMP IN LEBANON

 

The moment the new art teacher walked into Rami’s classroom, he and every other boy bounced up straight in their seats. With her cheerful smile and green eyes, her shiny brown hair and pink smock that said “You Gotta Have Art,” she looked like all the flowers of springtime.

“We are very fortunate, boys,” announced the principal in his best speech-making Arabic, “to have Miss Nuha Trabulsi to teach you art for the rest of the term. Of course, she has to go to other schools in the camp as well, and therefore she can come here only one day a week, on Thursday. But she will make you learn many things about art—how to draw and how to paint, and maybe other things.” He glanced at Miss Trabulsi for confirmation.

She smiled. “Definitely,” she said.

Rami thought, only one hour a week? And he’d have to share Miss Trabulsi with more than a thousand other boys?

Others might have been discouraged by such odds, but not Rami. After one good look at Miss Trabulsi, he decided on his life’s mission—for the next three months, at least.

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1. Santa Claus in Baghdad

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM IRAQ (2000)

 

Amal listened gloomily to the little speech that Mr. Kareem had prepared. He spoke in a halting fashion, almost as though he were making an apology, but clearly he was as happy as a bird.

“And I know,” he concluded, “that my students will greet their new teacher with respect and helpfulness, and will show how well Mr. Kareem has taught them about our glorious literary heritage.” He laughed awkwardly at his little joke, and some of the girls responded with polite smiles.

A shy bachelor, Mr. Kareem inspired more respect than affection among his students. Many complained of his tough assignments and rigorous grading, although Amal thought he was quite fair. In any case, no one could deny that Mr. Kareem taught with competence and, in his stammering way, enthusiasm. He loved the works of the old poets and tried valiantly to convey to his students the richness of Arabic literature.

Another teacher leaving us, thought Amal. How many—four this fall?

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4. The Olive Grove

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM PALESTINE

 

Hustling along behind the other boys, Mujahhid stooped to grab a stone, then quickly caught up. About halfway across the open square they stopped. Right next to the military checkpoint was a two-story stone house that the Israelis had taken over. The boys could see the olive-drab helmets of soldiers behind sandbags on the flat rooftop.

“Take that, you dogs!” Mujahhid shouted in Arabic, hurling the stone toward them. “Get out of Bethlehem—it’s our town!”

Shouting with every throw, he then flung whatever he could get his hands on … chunks of plaster, pebbles, concrete rubble, worn bricks from the older streets. The soldiers, of course, had every other kind of missile—bullets, stun grenades, tear gas, shells. Today they weren’t firing, though, not yet. The boys grew bolder and started making dashes to throw from closer range.

You can get near enough to see faces, thought Mujahhid, but not what’s in their eyes. Anyway, they’re all the same … they all hate us. Even the young guys, just three or four years older than us, hard as their rifles.

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6. Scenes in a Roman Theater

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM TUNISIA

 

With a sigh, Hedi plunked himself down on a stone seat in the Roman theater. As the last of the afternoon’s tourists straggled off and disappeared among the ancient walls, he stared dully at the grand view of the ruins and the green hills of the Tunisian countryside beyond.

He hadn’t done very well today. Only one hat sold. His mother would be disappointed, and he wouldn’t blame her … having to make those hats every night after her day’s labor in the fields, weaving straw till her fingers were sore. Tomorrow he’d try harder. Midwinter break from school gave him a few days to earn money, and he couldn’t waste the chance.

It’d be so much better, Hedi often thought, if he could be a guide, more interesting and more money. Once in a while he did manage to latch on to a friendly couple and show them a few sights … the temple, the theater, the baths and marketplace—and best of all, the communal toilet where twelve people could sit at a time. That always got a laugh, and Hedi would get a few small coins. But that was all. A real guide had to be older and know a lot more.

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