A deflated bouncy castle, lying on the floor of the central community area was probably the last thing I expected to see when I walked into work today, at the East Ring Female campus of King Saud University.
Today is Children’s Day in Saudi Arabia, and as several of my students explained, they would not be present in my class because they would be busy all day. They had on white t-shirts with a colorful design. They were setting up tables, activities, games and food for the children. Somewhere between 50 and 100 orphans came for the fun. The students who were involved were doing so as a project for their Communications class (in Arabic). They brought me a signed excuse and cupcakes, decorated with chocolate frosting, rainbow sprinkles and a cookie-thing sticking out. Wow!
I told my supervisor that if she needed me I’d be in the bouncy castle, but I actually missed that window as I was teaching. (Or maybe they never got it inflated?!)
Since we had a small class of nine today (instead of 24), we played some games. The first game is a name game that’s a little fun, but mostly helps me learn their names. When I taught it in Korea with a group this size, we’d slap the desk twice, then clap once. On the clap, you’d say your own name. Repeat then say someone else’s name. If someone messes up or repeats a name, they’re out.
Today when I was describing it to my girls, they said, Oh teacher, can we wait? Just one minute? Listen.
Then I realized that at that moment there was a call to prayer (or maybe announcing the end of prayer?). This would be the Dhuhr prayer time, which occurred at 11:39am in Riyadh today. In Saudi Arabia, music in public is also banned. You are also not allowed to set the call to prayer to music. So, I’m not sure which part was offensive, but we changed it to a quieter rhythm of clap, clap, snap (fingers). And waited until the sound of the imam had faded away, really just one minute.
We also played the game “Change Places”. I wasn’t sure if they’d be up for it. They’re all wearing the required black skirt, and most wear little flats or sneakers. Our classroom has carpet and desks that you can swing the writing surface away. So we put nine chairs in a circle. I stood in the middle and said, If you’re wearing black shoes, change places, go! As they stand up, the one in the middle dives for an open chair. Someone ends up standing, then they call out the next direction for changing places. They participated and we had lots of fun.
Next was a spelling bee with words like: carefully, easily, recklessly, automatically.
With only nine students, it was a good time to learn some names, do some teacher/student bonding, and have fun!