First Class

Even though I had a cultural sensitivity training, I managed to commit a few faux pas during my first class.

On the break between classes from 1:20 and 1:35 pm, I was trying to get my room set up. As I was at the computer, a few of my students donned their abayas and began doing their prayers. A bit strange to stand at the computer and just behind you, your students are bowing and praying. They didn’t seem to mind me being there.

One was finishing her prayers, and the others were putting their abayas back in their bags, when I started the software program that accompanies the student books. Even though the books were designed for the Middle East, there are still several things that are objectionable for Saudis.

And I found one today.

As the program starts, it plays a short musical interlude of about 10 seconds. No problem, right? Wrong.

All kinds of music, with the exception of folk music and in very specific occasions, are banned in Saudi Arabia. Conservatives argue that music and singing are forbidden in Islam and that this not only applies to public performances, but even inside homes.

Fatwa fight rages between Saudi clerics (01 July 2010), Al Arabiya News

The new teacher playing music, especially while at least one girl was praying, caused the students to gasp! “Oh no! Teacher! Oh no!” Then they covered their mouths and giggled and whispered, giggling more to each other. “Oh teacher, it’s okay. Don’t worry!”

Other teachers say that stuff like this happens all the time and you just have to apologize and let them know you meant no offense.

Well, that was bad enough, but I had time for another one.

Here in Saudi Arabia, dogs are considered unclean. As are pigs, and pork is not allowed in the country.

So, when I was explaining “What is slang?”, I said you can say in proper English, “Hello. How are you today?”

But in slang, you might say, “‘sup dawg!”

It was enough work explaining that ‘sup’ means ‘What’s up?’, so I quickly skipped past the ‘dawg’ part. oopsie daisy. I don’t think calling someone a dog would be okay here. Slang or not.

Moving right along…

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