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Saudi Adventure Part 5

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This was NOT my idea of teaching!

Again, remarks had been made that I would live out at the palace, separated from the rest of the teachers from South Africa…was I to be treated as a Philippine servant? Kept at the palace at their beck and call? I didn’t know, and yet the paranoia mounted! Again, I look at my dairy, where I question myself about being irrational. Why was there this fear, why the paranoia…was I losing my head?

“School” began again at 2 p.m. the next day, only this time, I insisted on going home with the other teachers, I was damned if I would spend endless hours at the beck and call of snotty little brats who treated me as if I were some “thing” to be used when and where they needed me.

I flatly refused to write an English essay for one of the girls, who turned out to be most indignant, as she considered it to be part of my job!

What was my job any way?

I certainly didn’t know.

Now to top it all, I was informed by one of the children that they would not see me the following day, which was Wednesday, but that I was expected there on Thursday and Friday…their weekend! What had I let myself into?

On Wednesday evening there was to be a dinner at one of the big hotels in town; a meeting of all the South Africans in Saudi. Luckily I was seated between Dr Jan du Plessis, and hi wife Pat, and Rhona and John Leftwich, friends of Helen Fotiu’s.

Two delightful couples, who did everything in their power to make me feel at home.

On arrival at the hotel, the strangest thing started happening, in that I started stuttering, every time I was introduced to anyone new. The stuttering grew worse, and eventually my ability to talk came and went at will! The people around me at the table were fantastic, as they realised that something was wrong and that there were times when I could not talk, and were quite happy with a nod, a smile or a shake of my head, in reply to some of their questions. When I could talk, it all came out in a rush, just in case I stopped again!

To try and explain the feeling of being unable to talk is very difficult, as well as being almost unimaginable, unless it has happened to you.

One is in a void, somewhere between a dream and the real world.

Thinking becomes a conscious effort, eating, does as well, as one says to oneself, “Pick up the knife and fork, cut the meat, and put it in your mouth, and chew”.

Again, time began to drag, where seconds became minutes, and minutes became endless hours.

Nausea also set in, which did not help matters, and all I can really remember was that I wanted to leave the hotel, but was not too sure how to do it.

At that point I disappeared from the crowd, and was found a while later wandering aimlessly around the hotel corridors, not too sure of who I was, or what I was doing there!

The taxi drive home was a nightmare, as Loueldie, a South African teacher who had accompanied me, sitting in the backseat, kept trying to make me talk, and to remain conscious, I suppose.

On arrival at the hotel, Patrick (another teacher) appeared from somewhere, and he and Loueldie got me up to my bedroom where I finally collapsed on the bed, and allowed them to undress me, and tuck me under the covers.

Was I dying?

Had I had a stroke?

All I knew at that time was that something was VERY wrong, and I had absolutely no control over it at all!

Part 6

The night that I was brought back from the Hotel proved to be a turning point in many ways…I just didn’t know it at the time!

I must have, slept the sleep of the innocent and the dead, as it was not until 10 the next morning, that Loueldie and Patrick finally woke me up to tell me that they had organised to take me to the dreaded Clinic!

Actually, there was no dread involved in the thought of me going to the clinic, just a hope (which may sound very strange) that there was actually something physically wrong with me, and that I might go home.

Extensive tests produced very little, apart from a dangerously low blood pressure, and confirmation that I could not talk…everything else appeared to be fine.

I came back and went back to bed; only to get a phone call to say that the driver was coming to pick me up for extra lessons at the Palace…I got Loueldie to explain to them, in no uncertain terms, that my teaching anyone at that stage, was out of the question.

Days and days went by as I wafted around in my own world.

People at the hotel, started realising that they would get a nod or a smile from me, but very little in terms of conversation!

Constant visits from the teachers, as well as the headmaster did little to improve my speech, but it was made very clear to me that the authorities thought that I was bluffing, and fully intended getting me back to school, whatever it took.

During that time, my thoughts were incredibly disjointed, and along with a total loss of realisation of time, I simply bumbled around the hotel or went for very long walks through the city, without purpose or direction.

Possibly a week later, I was visited by Hassim, and told, in no uncertain way, to pull myself together, as he expected to see me at school the following day…victory number one for me…I did not have to go back to the Palace with its resident brats!

The familiarity of walking back into a school situation was actually good, as I sat in the “staff room” set up for foreign teachers and watched the school days play out around me. There was initially no attempt to get me to go into a classroom at that stage…just hours of boredom as I tried to go through English preparation, for teaching English as a second language.

Two weeks of this, and I was finally asked to sit in on several lessons to see how I could cope. My speech was returning to normal, as I relaxed, and we had to see what I was capable of, in the classroom.

Finally I was given Grade 3, 5 and 6 English to teach…a piece of cake in normal terms, but a monumental hill to climb in my eyes at the time.

The first class was to be Grade 3, and I was greeted with a milk carton on my head, as I walked up the stairs towards them…a sign of things to come!

Each class had an Arabic “minder” who would try and maintain some semblance of control, as we attempted to teach the children. A thirty minute period was an absolute joke, with respect to actual teaching time. The boys knew that we had absolutely no way of controlling them, as we were not allowed to punish or admonish them in any way. Boys being boys, they obviously thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and after questioning me as to whether I was a Muslim or not, soon discovered that I was a “Kafre” or non believer in their eyes, and as such, free game!

Every class began with the boys pounding the desks and shouting, ” Kafre! Kafre! Kafre!” As I walked in…that would then be followed by ten or so minutes of trying to calm them down, followed by perhaps five minutes of peace, as the lesson began. It seldom took longer than that for one of the boys to stand up and shout,

“Mr Paul! Mr Paul! I need water!!”

That would then start a process whereby they would wait for the first boy to drink, then start shouting in unison that they all needed water.

Lessons usually collapsed in a rather undignified way from that point onwards.

Some of the classes of better behaved boys went quite well, but what it did do was make my stuttering and stammering worse as each day went past.

My misery simply grew, and I grew to dread the call to early morning prayers that wailed out across the city every morning, as I knew that I had to face yet another barrage of teaching hell.

Teaching under those conditions might have been acceptable, but added to that was the pressure that was starting to build up against American appearing foreigners in Saudi, at the time, September 11 and its spin offs was starting to take hold of the Arab world, and we were right in the middle of it!

To be continued....

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  1. Stokstert's Avatar
    Thanks for a nice read. I am waiting for the next part.
  2. Fazda's Avatar
    Thanks very much, I might try and continue now that I have been capped this month!!
  3. kilobits's Avatar
    Yes.. Yes... do not stop.
    It is an excellent read indeed.

    Do continue!
  4. Fazda's Avatar
    Thanks..I'll have to get off my backside and start writing again...the whole thing was so traumatic at the time that it is a mission to get past this point!
  5. kilobits's Avatar
    Yokay... will try and wait.

    Okay... finished waiting!
  6. Fazda's Avatar
    I am sitting cracking my knuckles and thinking, as we speak!