Wednesday, January 11: This morning I drag my boys out of bed and take them to my final class for the fall semester at the University of Nizwa. I still have to go over some final exam strategies, especially on writing, as I have already reviewed with them the other components of the final exam: language knowledge, reading & listening. On Tuesday I reviewed brainstorming and outlining, and today I go over thesis statements. I tell them NOT to write things like: “I am going to write about TV.” I put a giant “X” over that statement and tell them I see this too often in their essays. I beg them to PLEASE NOT write a “topic sentence” such as this, as it doesn’t tell me anything!
I tell them a better statement is “Watching TV is a good way to learn English for 3 reasons.” But the best statement of is one that outlines the 3 reasons. “Watching TV is a good way to learn English because conversations take place at a normal, realistic pace, different accents are heard, and one is able to learn about culture.” By writing a thesis statement such as this, the essay is practically written. Each of the 3 reasons you list becomes a topic for the three succeeding paragraphs, which you fill in with supporting details. Then you write the conclusion tying all these thoughts together and giving your final thoughts.
Alex and Adam are sitting in the front row and Adam pipes up: “What my mom is saying is really important! In America, the thesis statement is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we ever learn! Honestly, I’m not kidding you. This is really important.” He’s so enthusiastic I can’t help but hope that my students will pick up on his enthusiasm. For a few minutes I revel in his support and my students’ one minute of enthusiasm.
But. I start to notice some shifting in seats, some giggles, some whispering. I say, “All right. What’s going on? Are we not in the mood for this?” One of them says, “Teacher, party!!” I know now the futility of trying to go over anything useful on this last day of class. The students have planned a party, organized by my dear student Habiba, and they are anxious to get on with it. Habiba has gone off somewhere to get the food, and the others start blowing up balloons, which are popping with loud bangs right and left.
I have 26 students in my class, 24 of which are girls. The boys aren’t even here yet. The girls are shy around my boys, as I knew they would be. I also know them fairly well after spending 16 hours a week with them for 10 weeks. I know that it won’t take them long before their shyness wears away. Adam is his usual social self, talking to them as if there is no barrier between boys and girls. The barrier that is usually ever-present in Omani society between Omani boys and girls disappears quickly between my students and my American boys. Before long they are all batting the balloons around, laughing, joking, writing things on the board. Some other girls come into the room to join the party, one in particular who is a friend of my student Thuraya. Her name is Sherifa and she is not the least bit shy. She is conversing easily with both the boys.
The boys, Badr and Saud, still have not arrived but the girls want to know where they are. “Teacher, do you have Badr’s number?” I say no, sadly I don’t. The girls have come to love Badr. How could one NOT love Badr? He’s the sweetest guy imaginable, and very smart as well. We all ask around and someone remembers that my older student, Batool, who is absent today, has Badr’s number. We text Batool, get Badr’s number and call him. He says he’s on his way.
Badr and Saud have prepared a little play. In one play, Badr and Saud both come in different doors and bump into each other. They begin to exchange words, which of course I can’t now remember, but basically the whole conversation is a play on words using the English language in a way that seems way above their level. It’s hilarious. They do another play as well using the various forms of the verb “to be.” Saud writes on the board: I am, You are, He is, She is. Then he asks each student to use these in sentences. Christian, my friend and colleague who has dropped into the party, says, “I am a model.” Adam says “He is a professional football player.” Alex says, “She is also a model.” Then Badr says something, which of course now I can’t remember, that is a play on words and is hilarious.
Wow, there is nothing worse than someone who tells a story and then forgets the punch line!
In the meantime, I think I am recording a video of the play the entire time, only to find out later that no video is on my camera. Bummer!
Habiba’s food spread is great, with pizza, sweets, chicken pastries, and sodas. A huge colorful bag contains gifts for me. It has a royal blue and pink shayla or headscarf, a shirt and pair of pants from Batool, some perfume and a cute teddy bear picture frame. The girls all want to put the shayla on me, and I protest, insisting that I look horrible in headscarves. I know this already because when I attended Al Azhar University in Egypt I had to wear one. I have one of the biggest heads on the planet, so adding a bulky headscarf only makes my head look like a hot air balloon. They insist on putting it on though, and I prove myself right. 🙂
Next I have to go to Voice. Meanwhile, Sherifa takes the boys on a tour of the campus. I arrive at Voice to find the door locked, and I realize when I turned in the keys to my villa, I must have given the key to Voice to the university’s housing guy by accident. We have no key to get into Voice, but there is a crowd of girls waiting to have Voice and I hate to let them down. We go into an adjacent room that just has desks, no comfortable couches as Voice does. We all sit around and talk. The cute girl from my last session is there and she talks about how she wants to be the star of a movie. Soon my boys come in with Sherifa and Habiba and another girl I don’t know. The conversation becomes even more lively with the boys in the room. I think these girls are thrilled to talk to American boys their age.
The girls have a long conversation about music. They say that if you meet a person who likes the same kind of music that you like, you can immediately form lasting bonds of friendship with that person. They also say that if you put a criminal in a room and read the Qu’ran to him, even if he doesn’t understand Arabic, he will immediately become a better person. We talk about words they say like Masha’Allah, which means something like “excellent or wonderful” and is a word that makes people feel relaxed and comfortable.
I look up this word for a greater explanation. Masha’Allah means “As God has willed.” This phrase is used when admiring or praising something or someone, in recognition that all good things come from God and are blessings from Him. It expresses appreciation, joy, praise or thankfulness for an event or person that was just mentioned. It accentuates the essential Islamic doctrine of belief in destiny (Qadar). It is generally said upon hearing good news. Another reason people use this phrase is to protect themselves from jealousy, catching the evil eye, or jinxing.
I leave Voice at 11:00, at the end of my allotted time, and the boys continue their tour of the university with the girls. Later, I see them sitting at a plastic table outdoors chatting away with that same group. Sadly for them, I find a problem online with my bank account, and I pull them away quickly to accompany me to Bank Muscat since it is almost closing time and I want to sort it out before the weekend.
We leave the university and speed down the highway to Bank Muscat, the most incompetent bank on the face of the planet. It gets my blood boiling every time I have to set foot in that bank, especially as no one ever seems to know what they are doing and each “employee” (if you can call them that) wants to pass off any problems to someone else. They tell me I must contact my bank in the U.S., and my bank must initiate any action. Basically, Bank Muscat’s mistake has cost me 100 rials, or $260 USD, which I cannot afford to be without right now!!
What is the opposite word for Masha’Allah? I need that word and NOW!