I was invited to a surprise birthday party for one of my students who was turning 7. In Kuwait you’re allowed to go to these things and the students and their families love you and genuinely want you to attend. Her mum has been planning this since September when it was actually her birthday, but she waited about a month in order to make it a ‘real’ surprise which was cute. In Kuwait if you’re going to have a party or a function you go all-out, so a hall-type movie theater was rented out for this occasion which was like ohmygyashshesonly7! There was a stage for the other kids to dance and play on and clowns to entertain them alongside a Dora life-size impersonatorthing (forget what they’re called!) Bless her little heart when she walked in all dolled up thinking she was going someplace else and everyone yelling surprise! She was overjoyed and changed into a princess outfit and these silver sparkly hightops as a gift from her grandma to complete the look. Dinner was what we’re used to having at a wedding lol buffet style ofcourse, but it was an opportunity to sample traditional Kuwaiti cuisine which is similar to most of the Middle East I presume; tabouli salad and shish tahouk with some hummus, rice and chicken etc etc etc.! The night ended with a fabulous cake on top of the stage (literally; there was a top stage above the normal stage) and everyone singing Happy Birthday/Sana Hilwa! xx
This isn’t reaaallyy meant to be just a school blog lol so I figured I would include some pictures I’ve taken over the past few days of Kuwait and my surroundings in general! We haven’t been able to travel around Kuwait much yet just because you need a car to do that and there’s only so much money one’s willing to fork out for a taxi lol but inshallah we’re planning on hiring one out soontime! The week after next we’ve got a week off for Eid (yay Muslim country lol) so we want to go explore and do some sightseeing! A lot of people, including teachers are travelling because everything is kinda sorta nearby (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain etc.) but I personally want to get to know Kuwait first before I go elsewhere. It really is a beautiful country and I want to see more of it!
The sunrise in the morning when I’m up getting ready is amazing! I don’t have the best view from my apartment, but if I step onto the balcony I get a good enough glimpse of the gulf and a few palm trees and it does the job in satisfying my ickle heart lol
In my pursuit of finding a hijab style that I could bear wearing in the Kuwaiti heat, I’ve kinda sorta adopted the infamous ‘turban-style’ which is commonly seen out here than in Canada which works for me! I haven’t been on instagram for too long, but one of the first people I ‘followed’ was a Kuwaiti fashionista/turbanista/whateveryouwanttocallher [@asciaakf] and shes just really cool! She’s a fashion designer and a model (I believe so!), but she’s been one of those people you follow and think to yourself ‘it would be so neat to meet her!’ alongside ‘I want to know how she ties her turban!’ lol a couple weeks ago she had posted some pictures of turban designs that would be making a debut at the Avenues (a mall here in Kuwait) and I was so on it! I had planned for Shaheer to go out and get one for me because I was at school and to take lots of pictures etc etc. but it was soon understood that only 6pieces had been designed in collab with Halston Heritage and would be auctioned off for charity during the evening. There went my chances of actually owning one, simply because my in-debt-student-self cannot (and probably will never be able to) compete with a Kuwaiti salary lol but I figured I might be able to get a glimpse of Ascia herself! (eep!!) So off we went, all giddy and excited like never before lol (it was quite sad actually) and we had a chance to see the turbans upcloseandpersonal with people speaking to us in Arabic about how to bid on one etc. thinking we were wealthy Arabs (yes we can pull that off haha) but Ascia was running late so we left and came back; as we left a professional looking paparazzi camera man stopped us to ask if he could take our picture which was uber cool so we said yes lol but I have no idea where the picture is or who he was…anyways, upon returning to Halston after a walk around and a bite to eat, there she was lol (this sounds ridiculous I know) she and her husband were mid conversation with some other woman and I tried to take a sneaky pic and basically got caught and ended their chat, but that’s okay because then Ascia started speaking to me! (yay!!) she shook my hand and asked me what my name was and I was kind of at a loss for words, but we took a couple pictures, shared a moment and a couple laughs, hugged, and that was it. (and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the night :D)
In other news…! People sometimes underestimate the power of wealth here in the Middle East I think. In Kuwait at least; sometimes I feel like its one of those things where people have so much money they don’t know what to do with it (besides buying fancy cars, houses, chalets, shoes, bags, jewelery, sunglasses etc.) Obviously that’s not everyone, but you get my jist! We’ve heard stories of people owning tigers and cheetahs and monkey just as pets and keeping them in their garden, but they’re just stories and seeing is believing right?! One night Shaheer and I were crossing the street after leaving H&M (I only bought one thing mom) and a car stopped to let us pass. I’m a looker and love looking at my surroundings etc etc. so I just happened to glance at and into the car as we crossed. As my eyes darted from the driver to the passenger, I kid you not, there was a cheetah.on a leash.sitting in the passenger seat. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like a real animal cheetah. A freaking well-behaved with a red leash around its neck and its head held high posing for National Geographic casually chilling with its owner kind of cheetah. I’m accustomed to dogs behaving and being treated like that, but I was gobsmacked! So much so I forgot to take a picture, alongside the fact I was trying to cross the street without getting run over, but nonetheless it was pretty awesome-ish! I will no longer doubt any Kuwaiti-pet stories I hear!!
Thursday was dubbed ‘Princess Day’, and literally looked like it sounds. Instead of students, we had princesses. Cute little girls dressed up as their favourite Disney princess, with dresses that lit up, tiaras to match, and a hint of rouge on their lips. It was a half day due to teacher accreditation meetings so the school decided to do something fun which worked out well! Before school started, a couple teachers and I peered through the window from up above looking out to the playground and it was princess mania! There were princesses of all heights and colors and wigs and crowns and bags; basically like an all-girls Disneyland a la Kuwait. Instead of the usual morning routine, there was a princess assembly in the playground consisting of a grade-by-grade princess catwalk, Ariel and Snow White oversized bobble heads (?!?) dancing and lots of photos.
We had to get through some ‘work’; essentially just a spelling test lol but I found a cute princess wand DIY which was a cute craft we all made together with loads of glitter and markers (my girls favorite!). We spoke about princess ‘etiquette’ and qualities of a princess (they help others, they are nice, they tell the truth, they don’t hurt people etc.) and then we waltzed! So cute! I put them in pairs, one partner with the hand on the hip, the other with the hand on the shoulder and dancing as if we were at a royal ball which equated to adorableness all around! Our classroom song at the moment is the ‘kingdom dance’ from Tangled (Disney movie) which was a perfect song to waltz to. Some of the girls had brought in food (fattayah and za’attar; fattayah is any sort of bread/pastry stuffed with something [cheese, olives, etc] or like mini pizza’s, and za’attar is kind of like an unspreadable spread; mixed herbs with sumac and sesame seeds sprinkled on bread and baked) and doughnuts and I had promised them a movie with another class so we watched Tangled, and ate, and felt sleepy, and went home (my girls anyways!). All in all it was a cute day, a first for me lol but one I don’t think I’ll ever forget!
[One of the girls in another class brought in princess cake pops for the teachers which were so cute and delish so I’ve added a picture below!]
(Hope that’s detailed enough for you Hash! haha x)
So I had my very first open house as a teacher this past week (eep!) ! it was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time and a lot of running around to try and make my class look perfect. Bulletin boards needed to be covered with my students work and it kind of felt like I had to sell myself/my classroom to ‘the parents’ lol butt… it wasn’t what I had initially expected which was a teeny bit of a shame. I think I’m just used to open house or even a meet-and-greet being a big deal at schools back home (Canada) where we typically have BBQ’s and a bit of fun with a huge turnout of parents, siblings, grandparents etc. but it didn’t quite go down like that. 6 parents (out of my 18students) turned up just to stroll around, look at where their child sat in my class and walked out; no one even looked at my boards 🙁 It sounds lame, but I was excited to show my parents that their child was actually learning something in my class aka affirmation that I’m not too shabby of a teacher haha
Anyways, I know my mama is my number one fan so I took pictures to show her and I figured I could post them on this blog as well! Enjoy! X
p.s-my door is finally complete with the travel theme I was going for! I had the girls make their own ‘passports’ into grade2 which worked out nicely! x
The stresses associated with the first day of school and being a teacher for the first time ever in a new country have passed (just a little), but having time to set up my classroom and organize everything helped put me at ease. Teaching at an all-girls school has its perks; everyone loves pink and purple and fairies and princesses and stickers and glitter and shiny things, so I tried to incorporate as much of that as possible! Rhinestone magnets for my whiteboard which is framed in a pink glitter border alongside pink and limegreen pencil baskets followed by ‘student princess’ of the week which includes wearing a tiara and matching earrings for the day kinda sorta excites most girls between the ages of 6-8 which works just fine for me. My girls are lovely little people and each time I stand at the front of my class staring back at their precious innocent faces, it hits me that I am playing a part in each and every one of their lives that may mold them for better or for worse. Little girls grow up to become young ladies who become women who will oneday become mothers inshAllah so I feel a little obliged to teach them some things unrelated to any curriculum. After 2days of school we now know what the word ‘independent’ means. We’re having some trouble being independent as almost all my girls have nannies and maids who literally carry their school bags for them up until they reach the school doors, but inshAllah we’ll get there!
It’s a different system that what I’m used to; there is only one 45-min lunch break for the entire day and school runs from 730am til 230 pm. Yes it’s long considering I have to be up uber early and get the ‘teacher bus’ at 630 when I should really be sound asleep! This has kind of been written in chunks when I’ve got time and saved in a worddoc file until I add some more, so as of today I have officially finished my first week of teaching! (yay me!) I want to come home to a mom-hug and have her share my relief of completing a kind of big step and accomplishment in my life but I have to resort to whatsapp which kind of stinks:(
The most pressing thing on my mind this whole week which confirmed my thoughts and confusion and anger today, is an invisible yet subtle hint of racism amongst the Kuwaiti people. ‘People’ alluding to the mums and dads of my students who have proven that there is definitely a stigma attached to ‘Muslim’ or Arab-looking teachers. Basically if you’re a Muslim or even have a hint of some type of ethnicity that does not match up to what the authentic American or westerner should look like (in other words if you aint white), you lack the skills, knowledge, and English proficiency to teach their child. And lord forbid you also wear hijab 😮 ! On the second day of school I had a father ask me I was the teacher’s assistant…because I looked Arab and wore a hijab. He then proceeded to remind me today that his older daughter has been at the school for five years and has never brought home as many books as his second grader has been and that no teacher has ever done this, to which I responded that I was not stupid to send home a shitload of books to break his daughters back; her failure to listen to instructions given in class seemed to bypass his intellect.
On the fourth day of school, I had a mother interrogate me as to where I was from, if I was Muslim, if I spoke Arabic, how long I had been teaching etc etc. Feeling unsatisfied with, well, me, she proceeded to file a complaint to my principal that I wasn’t qualified enough to teach her child and she wanted her daughter placed in another class with one of the white teachers. (lol). (yes this really happened). My principal, being of a racial minority herself, thankfully stood up to me, but it makes me wonder what would have happened if I had a white-American principal. I don’t mean to sound racist and I have nothing against people of different races or cultures etc. but it gets to me and confuses me because this is something I would expect back home, in Canada. From say a white parent who had something against a Muslim or a hijabi teaching their child. But the thing is, it’s never happened to me in Canada. I’ve actually never felt, or received any time of discrimination based on the way I look in any Canadian classroom, from people who don’t even share the same beliefs as me. Yet people who look like me, dress like me, my fellow ‘brothers and sisters’ in faith, whom I was so eager to ‘salaam’ and befriend have disgusted me in some respect. That might be too strong of a word, but the attitude and demeaning looks I’ve received equate to such a feeling.
It’s been one week and I’ve picked up quite a lot. There will be no more ‘salaam’s’ to parents picking up their children, no more ‘inshallah’s’ or ‘mashallah’s’ to praise their child. From here on in, ‘hi!’, ‘hello’s’, and ‘see you tomorrow’s’ will be played into effect. And when asked if I know Arabic, I will simply smile and state, “no, I only speak English”.