Where the Story Begins

Sometimes it’s important to go back to where the story begins.

The call to prayer awoke us at the first light of dawn in the village where my family made our home.  It was hauntingly melodic and it was loud!  It was not yet summer but the heat of Sindh, a southern province in Pakistan was felt even in those early morning hours.  To keep cool my parents had us sleep on rope beds called charpais set on the flat roof. There we would rest, shrouded with mosquito netting, our gauzy weapons against the insects known to bring about raging fevers from malaria.

I was 4 years old and this is my earliest memory.  A faded black and white photograph confirms this memory as I, smiling beneath the white netting look at the camera while my older brother Tommy, positioned on his bed beside mine, looks at me.  With the growing light and sounds from the mosque down the street we would try and keep quiet as long as we could but it was a losing battle for any parent.  Maternal pleas of “try and get more sleep kids” met with muffled voices and eyes wide with the wonder of morning until finally my mother would give in and allow us to fully wake, contributing our sounds to the roosters, birds and Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

In the hall of an old Inn by the ocean is a sign that reads “Home is Where Our Story Begins”. For a third culture kid who questions the definition of home, this is both reassuring and sad. If home is where our story begins, what happens when we can’t go back?

Key to the quote is the word ‘story’, for one thing third culture kids have are stories. Detailed stories of travel between worlds, forging cross cultural relationships and connections; grief and loss and more loss; goodbyes and hello’s and more goodbyes.

There are many examples in the book of Exodus where God tells the people of Israel to remember their story, their beginning; to remember who they were.  They couldn’t go back to Egypt, but they were to remember the stories – stories of wonder and deliverance; of the power of God and provision. They were to remember the beginning.

There are times when it’s important to go back to the beginning.

And so I started this post by going back to the beginning. Back to those first memories that I am never quite certain of – was it a memory because I saw a picture and heard a story, or was it a real memory? I don’t know. All I know is this is where my story begins. Home.

Where did your story begin? No matter who or where, your story began somewhere.  I invite you to take us into your beginning in the comment section. Take us home to where your story began. 

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Safety and Success

Today I continue the So.Many.Stories project with a wonderful piece from Kimberly Burnham. Kimberly grew up as a third culture kid in Colombia, Belgium, Japan, Canada and yes, even Cleveland. You can read more about Kimberly at the end of the piece. For now, enjoy this challenge to do what you love.

Do what you love, what you are passionate about, safety and success will follow.

It is hard to imagine I paid money, a lot of money, to step onto this stage. I chose to speak through the fear, sadness and, yes, elation coursing through my veins. In a moment of insanity, like the time I roped up and walked face first off a cliff in Utah’s Western desert, I chose to storm this stage in front of a room full of entrepreneurs.

“Own your power. Stride on stage like there are lions who will eat you if you waver,” says Bo Eason, professional football player, storyteller extraordinaire and actor in Runt of the Litter. “Move on stage like a lion. Make the audience feel if they look away, you will eat them,” he coaches.

At 14, I walked face- forward off the edge of a cliff. I trusted the strength of the repelling ropes, around my waist, to stop me from crashing a hundred feet down to the tree lined canyon floor. I trusted the survival trip leaders to ensure my safety. As I walked down the cliff face I controlled the speed at which the rope slid through my hands. I felt powerful. I felt safe.

At 54, I repeat to myself, “each day is about the peak moment, when supported and encouraged by others, I feel powerful.” I am the master of my destiny, I remind myself as I take this stage.

“I am here!” I plant my claim to the stage, to my life, to my story.  I have begun to convey my experiences. Now, there is only forward. There is no turning back, running off stage and pretending my inner introvert no longer wants to share my message, the story of how I use complementary and alternative medicine to contribute to peace and health in the world, the way I walk the tightrope between passion and safety. Through the nerves and love of my life, I tell the story.

“I am here!” No one wants me here but the Egyptian shop keepers whose stalls line the edge of this much fought over beach. I am here to scuba dive in the Blue Hole, my dream since I was a child listening to Jacques Cousteau, the most famous undersea explorer of all time. The jagged coral, the poisonous lion fish, the deadly rip tides, it is the Red Sea, where waves of deep blue water meet the red sands of the Sinai desert. Cousteau describes, “the most beautiful place on earth.”

Every cell in my body is listening as I tell the tale. “My friends and family feared for my safety. My life insurance company called it high risk behavior and that is just the scuba diving, not this Egyptian beach. To get here from my hotel, I had to jeep through three check points manned by soldiers carrying machine guns.”

“There in the distance,” I paint the picture for one person in the audience. I can get through the emotions I feel. I can tell the story, if I focus on one person. I look for the light in the eyes of one person hungry to hear my story of hope, of ways to thrive in this world.

“Way in the distance across the Red Sea, I can see Jordan and Saudi Arabia. And back beyond the checkpoints and my hotel is modern-day Israel.”

Standing on the stage, I know where the story is leading. Emotions well up. Tears at the very edge of my eyes, I say, “It is a good day when you can cross something off your lifetime to do list. I went scuba diving in the Red Sea among the alligator fish, a pride of lionfish, and their deadly cousins, the stonefish, small terrorists of the sea.”

Telling the story, I start to recognize the patterns, the openings to joy and connection. I say the hardest words for me to say.

“A week  later, I watched on a big screen TV in a downtown hotel room in Tel Aviv, Israel as the Twin Towers burned. I understood that day,  September 11th, Tel Aviv was safer than New York City.”

“There in the Middle East for three weeks, I worked in a physical therapy clinic, helped an Israeli soldier live pain-free, supported a child to walk with more balance. I explored treatment options with a much-loved Rabbi, committed to finding ways to deal with cancer, without fighting terror with terror.”

I believe people who feel better, make better choices for themselves, their families and their community. I can contribute to peace by supporting healing and decreasing pain.

As I talk to large audiences and individuals, I share my experiences and the stories of my clients, not because it is easy but because I am grateful for the ability to inspire hope and offer real solutions in the form of knowledge, self-care exercises, visualizations and treatment approaches from Integrative Manual Therapy, Matrix Energetics, acupressure and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine.

A lot of people ask themselves, “how can I thrive, make a difference in my community and contribute to a peaceful world?”

On my desk is a heart chakra green and white postcard which says, “Do what you love. No excuses.”

Do what you love, what you are passionate about, safety and success will follow. Building a wall and locking the door is not the way to keep yourself safe. Not doing things because of fear, doesn’t increase your safety.

Perceive the opportunities. Live passionately. Contribute to quality of life in this amazing world.

More about Kimberly: Born in Provo, Utah, Kimberly Burnham has a BSc in Zoology from Brigham Young University ’82 and a PhD in Integrative Medicine ’96.Kimberly is the author of several books and a chapter, “Fractals:  Seeing the Patterns in our Existence” in Jack Canfield’sPearls of Wisdom, 30 Inspirational ideas to Live Your Best Life Now! (2012) as well as  “The Eyes Observing Your World” a featured chapter in Christine Kloser’s Pebbles in the Pond, Transforming the World One Person at a Time (2012). Her upcoming book is The Nerve Whisperer. Kimberly’s goal is to change the face of brain health and how each of us experiences this incredible world. She lives in West Hartford, Connecticut with her partner, Victoria Carmona. Find out more about Kimberly at http://www.KimberlyBurnham.com  and http://www.NerveWhisperer.com,

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Primary School Pentecost

Many who read Communicating Across Boundaries live in communities where the world is at their doorstep. This story takes us to a classroom with representatives from all over the world and one woman’s interaction in that classroom. Enjoy this post by Allison Sampson who writes about everyday things at www.theideaofhome.blogspot.comWorld map depicting Africa Esperanto: Mondmapo...

Every Tuesday I spend time in a classroom with kids from all over the world. Most are from the Horn of Africa; others are from Burma, Pakistan, China, or Afghanistan; and a few are Anglo or Indigenous Australians. We all speak Strine; most of them speak Arabic; and many have a third language up their sleeve.

Together, we read, write and tell stories; and this year, we are experimenting with journaling. What this means is that I read a picture book aloud; we sit in silence for a minute; we ask some wondering questions; and then we write.

On a recent Tuesday, we delved into a story about a ‘half’ birthday. Afterwards, a girl and I wondered. I wonder how the family crossed the busy road? I wonder why the birthday boy fell asleep? I wonder where their dog is running through the trees? I wonder why they celebrated a half birthday? I wonder why his sister took her dinosaur back? I wonder what we celebrate, and how?

After a bit more wondering, the girl decided that we would each write about one of our own birthdays. While she scribbled away, an arm crooked around her work, I remembered turning four. My mother asked me what sort of cake I wanted. ‘A crooked man cake!’ I said. My mother rolled her eyes, then squared her shoulders and set to work. She baked a slab cake, then sliced off a wedge so that it sat crookedly. She iced it and set Lego doors and windows skew-whiff. A path zigzagged from the front door to a lopsided stile, where she leaned a bent Lego man. She found a small curled cat and made a mouse with a pipe cleaner tail (crooked), and added them to the scene; and finally she placed a snapped chocolate coin next to the stile. Thirty-odd years later, the memory still makes me smile.

I wrote it all down and, when our time was up, I read out my piece through the small lump in my throat. Then I taught the girl the rhyme ‘There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked sixpence beside a crooked stile. He had a crooked cat who caught a crooked mouse and they all lived together in a little crooked house.’

She repeated it over, committing it to memory. Then she read me her piece, a story about too many lollies, some extra television and a very late night.

As she read, I reflected that we were communicating across so many boundaries: age, religion, family background, country of origin, income and culture. Our stories may have been about small things, but they were about the special times which shape our identities; they were stories of our lives.

As I looked around the classroom I was taken back to a time long ago when boundaries were crossed; a time when Christianity was just beginning.  I reckon the earliest Christians looked a lot like the children at my primary school. Just like the residents of my inner-city neighbourhood in Melbourne, Australia, the earliest Christians came from all over the empire, places we now identify as Greece,Italy,Palestine, the Middle East, and North Africa. Most spoke the language of an earlier empire – Koine Greek – as well as their native language. And many years ago, on a day that is commemorated by Christians around the world during the Festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended like fire on a gathering of disciples, bringing with it the gift of language; and we are told that they began to communicate in each other’s mother tongues.

Reflecting on what a great privilege it is to be able to speak and listen to all, I gave thanks that I belong to a tradition which continues to share stories across boundaries, whether it’s with children at my local primary school or you who read with me now; for it is in these stories that we learn to love one another, and bridge the differences which threaten to divide.

About the author: Alison Sampson is a mother, a writer, a dreamer, a cook. She writes about small things at www.theideaofhome.blogspot.com

So.Many.Stories is usually posted on a Friday but this week I’m posting early because of a family birthday. If you would like to participate in So.Many.Stories read all about it here and send an email. We want your story! 

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International Party Crashers

I love this story from Anne Bennett that gives a great recipe for adapting to a less adventurous life once you move to your passport country. Enjoy this piece on international party crashing!

I’ve lived in some pretty exotic places.  Places where a nightly blast from a cannon rattles all the windows in the neighborhood and signals that it is now time to eat after a day of fasting.  Places where your sweat begins to smell of curry after a week of eating street food.  Places where even if you were blind and deaf you would know that you are in a different world because of how the air feels on your skin.  Now we have moved back to the land where football is called “soccer”, tea is served with ice and where Coca-Cola is delivered by truck and not on the back of a donkey.  How are we dealing with the loss of our exotic lifestyle?

We have become international party crashers.

We have chosen to live in a neighborhood highly populated with immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America.  This means that even though most of my children’s friends like Sponge Bob and pizza, their parents still prefer Bollywood movies and samosas, (or couscous or tortillas).  Friendships among children inevitably lead to the biggest event in a child’s year – the birthday party.  I always throw big birthday parties for my children, not so that they will get more presents, but so that I can show hospitality to the parents of these children and develop relationships with people who might otherwise not invite me into their life.  (Yes, I know that I’m using my children, but since they end up with more presents, they don’t mind).  Our big parties lead to invitations to the parties  of others and with that a glimpse into the culture of my fascinating friends and neighbors.

Here are a few of my favorite parties that we have either been invited to or just crashed since they were held on our communal playground:

The Bangladeshi birthday party – As my children ran around on the playground, oblivious to the fact that they were the only white faces at the party, my “American-ness” was confusing to the other adult guests.  They were all polite, but were obviously not used to the idea of an outsider wanting to participate in their activities.   When I showed an eagerness to try their food and even eat rice with my hands, their confusion turned to appreciation at my efforts to honor their culture.  We, in turn, received honor in a wonderful custom when the birthday girl fed each guest a bite of cake before feeding herself.   The fact that it was a Tres Leches cake bought at the Mexican supermarket made it all the more fun.

The Kenyan birthday party – Even though this party was held in a beautiful home in the American suburbs, it did not mask that it was very Kenyan.   The older aunties busied themselves in the kitchen stirring rice and cutting lamb while the younger aunties played with a large group of excited children.  The uncles and grandfathers sat in the living room swapping stories.  The fact that half of the people there were not technically related made them no less a part of this extended, cultural family.  This warm and accepting group of people called me “Mama Jasmine” (my daughter’s name), and made me want to be part of a Kenyan family.

The Palestinian birthday party – This simple party of cupcakes and juice boxes was mostly an opportunity for the mothers to talk while the children played by themselves.  Unlike most conversations I have with immigrant women, this conversation turned to the subject of politics in the Middle East.  Instead of trying to figure out why Palestinians think and act the way that they do on the conflict in their homeland, why don’t we just ask them directly?  This birthday party gave me the chance to do just that in a non-confrontational way as we munched on neon-colored cupcakes.

And then there was the Mexican birthday party, the Vietnamese birthday party, the Afghan party and the party where the other children recited the Qur’an for the video camera while my daughter sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Spanish.  We could choose to raise our children in a neighborhood surrounded by white, middle-class Christians like ourselves, but where’s the fun in that?

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Anne Bennett is the pen name of an American wife, mother, follower of Jesus and friend to Muslim women.  She has lived in Pakistan and North Africa and is now living in a unique corner of the Bible belt where she is happily surrounded by Muslims.

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If you would like to take part in the So.Many.Stories Project please feel free to email communicatingblog@gmail.com!

Becoming a Third Culture Adult

Bettie Addleton has been in my life since birth. Growing up she was mom to my best friend, hostess of holidays and fine parties, decorator par excellence and so much more. In this post Bettie takes us into her journey of becoming a Third Culture Adult. I think her journey will resonate with many of you. 

Hoping to understand my three third culture kids (TCKs), I began reading about this subject some years ago. Most adults my age cannot imagine why/how such a culture exists. A generation or two ago couples married  from within a few miles or at least within the county or state (and for sure their own country!) where they grew up, then settled down to follow in the footsteps of their forebears.  Their children followed, building family foundations and traditions on earlier generations. What happened to change this cozy and predictable scenario is worth researching.

I will not delve into the dynamics of this societal change, I’d rather tell you my journey into a multicultural world and on to becoming an adult who belonged to a third culture.

Born during the Great Depression and growing up in the rural south  being or doing anything different from those around me was not a thought.  Though poor, we didn’t realize it as others around us were in the same circumstances. Blissfully happy and satisfied as long as there was food on the table, clothes on our backs, and shoes on our feet, we lived out the mantra “Ignorance is bliss”. We enjoyed going barefoot so much that having shoes was not  important!

A long and circuitous route took me from that humble beginning to a life of constant change, going from one sub culture to another. First it was the county seat consolidated school where all the children in the countryside were bussed over dirt roads and educated by learned and dedicated teachers. A peep into a larger community opened our eyes and we wanted more and more knowledge. Education that included art, music, reading, and travel became a part of my world.

Moving to a growing city opened up another world and culture.  Finding a place in a church community offered further growth and change.  It was in a small Baptist church that I found my anchor, my north star.  With my whole heart, mind, and being, I made a decision to follow Christ, His teachings, and His directions for the rest of my life. And that has made all the difference.

College in a different city and state, meeting other young people from other states and cities was unreal.  Accepting this cultural change propelled me into a world of continued adaptation and adjustments.  Who was I, where did I come from, and where was I going? Although I hadn’t crossed an ocean, I had in these short years gone from one culture to another, constantly changing and taking on new identities wherever I went. As I think back on it,  it looks like I had lived across cultures all along and didn’t know it!

Leaving the United States as a young married woman with an adventurous toddler put me smack into a culture I hardly knew existed.  Excitement and a steady flow of adrenaline can get one through a host of new experiences, not all of them pleasant. I learned at an early age that life throws a lot of curves, some high and some low. We cried and we laughed.  I had graduated!  I was now a full-fledged TCA (Third Culture Adult) on a journey that would last a life time!

Traveling by sea and air, crossing time zones, hearing other languages, eating peculiar foods, seeing people dressed in “different” clothes (and beginning to wear those clothes myself); these were just a few ways that I crossed cultural boundaries. And there were more to come.

Settling into a life in Pakistan that spanned 34 years was not easy.  But I made every effort possible to accept life in a totally foreign culture. And I wanted acceptance. One adjustment followed another; learning the language, adapting to the clothing style, facing a gender segregated society, bringing up children with a  passport foreign to the country in which they would grow up, being a parent who was now a TCA,  and on it went.

I cannot say that I “achieved” the ideal in the cultural divide.  My language ability was never the level I really wanted.  But I communicated. I made friends; very close friends.  There were times I felt I had failed. I made mistakes.  I got homesick. Hunger for food I had grown up with was insatiable. Close and intimate friends were far away, unreachable. Family and loved ones were not around to gloat over my newborns.  Longings for children away in boarding never abated.  Lack of modern conveniences, serious health issues, and more cropped up to challenge the very core of my being. Despite this, and though I never became Pakistani, it was a happy and fulfilling life.

Retirement brought me back to my passport culture, my home where I grew up and where many life-long friends and relatives continued to live. While I felt as much “at home” in Pakistan as anyone could, now I wanted to feel “at home” where we  retired.

The culture that I am now part of is not the one I left back in 1956 and returning home has not been “a piece of cake.”  Rather is has been, and continues to be, a challenge.  I still can’t throw anything away!  I want the kabadi walla (junk man) to come around and take it off my hands!  My friends laughed when they found out I recycle plastic Ziploc bags. My verbal expressions are sometimes not quite southern enough and I may have to re-define an explanation.  But I learned well how to do that in Pakistan.

Comfortable in who I am, the unique human being God created me to be is enough.  I’m not finished yet, nor have new and exciting cultural adventures ceased.  Being “at home” for me simply means accepting every experience, both new and old, where ever it comes from, walking with fellow pilgrims along the way. I have learned whether TCK or TCA, let life be life.  Celebrate with JOY.

Bettie is the author of The Day the Chicken Cackled: Reflections of a Life in PakistanAt 25 Bettie took the long journey by sea from New York to Karachi on the coast in Pakistan. For over 30 years she made a home for herself and her family in the Sindh area of Pakistan.

It is a joy to graduate from being friends with her daughter to calling her my friend.

For more about the So. Many.Stories project take a look here.

The Trunk That Traveled the World

Today’s lovely post comes from Annelies Kanis. Annelies is a fellow third culture kid and we share Murree as a common denominator, all be it a generation apart! In this post she looks at a piece of luggage that has been on the journey with her. Read on….

The trunk that traveled the world now sits in our bedroom. It’s retired. It holds extra pillows for kid’s sleepovers, a sleeping bag that once went up the Kilimanjaro and posters from museums that will never find a spot on the wall, but that I can’t bear to throw out.

The trunk is old. I’m guessing it was made around the 1920’s, but maybe that’s just the period that I would like it to be from. A time when women had just gained their rights and there was a world for them to discover. And when they did, they packed all their lovely dresses into this trunk and danced the night away in exotic destinations.

When my parents moved to Pakistan to work with Afghan refugees in 1985, they needed trunks to carry our belongings. I was nine, ready for a big adventure and ready to discover the world. Not many people move half way across the world with two kids, a blond Labrador and a lot of stuff. Most people go away on trips for a few weeks. They pack a bag and credit card for the things they forgot to pack. My parents had lived in Bangladesh years before and knew exactly what they’d miss. And those were the things they wanted to take along; items that didn’t fit into suitcases or backpacks. But where do you get trunks if people don’t use them anymore?

Before we left, my dad was director of a nursing home. He knew a few other directors and asked them whether they had trunks up in their attics; trunks that were long forgotten, much like the trips they’d made. Eight trunks came our way and on a sunny day my dad and a friend stenciled our names on them and gave each a number. A few months later they were packed and shipped. And after a rather long stay in customs in Karachi (and a very angry father), they arrived in Peshawar with most of our things intact. We were excited and happy to see all the things we’d packed away months before.

Then came March, and my sister and I went to boarding school. Two of the trunks were packed carefully with all the items on the boarding list. Everything had my name on it and all the clothes were clean and whole. We could never take all the toys we wanted, there were restrictions, so it was carefully determined which toy got to come along. The trunks made the trip up the hill to Murree with us and lived in the attic of the hostel once we’d unpacked. I have vivid memories of 8 girls in a room unpacking all their trunks at the same time. I don’t remember who carried the trunks up to the attic, but I do remember the excitement of seeing each other and later the many tears on that first night away from home. I never cried, I loved boarding. But it’s tough hearing all your friends sob themselves to sleep.

The excitement returned at the end of term, when our trunks came down the stairs from the attic and we literally stuffed all our things in them, ready to go home.

After three years of travel between home in Peshawar and school in Murree, the trunks went back to the Netherlands, filled with Afghan carpets, gifts for family and friends and many memories. My parents still have one or two and a drum filled with Pakistani and Afghan clothing.

I don’t think my trunk will ever travel again. While I plan on travel, I don’t plan on moving overseas and I now prefer Samsonite. And though we want to redecorate our bedroom and the trunk doesn’t fit into the scheme, it is staying. Not for it’s beauty, but for the stories it tells.

Annelies Kanis works as director of programmes at an NGO for children in the Netherlands and developing countries. She lives in Leiden with her two sons and husband. Annelies holds a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from Leiden University and has lived in Pakistan, New York City and Zambia.  

For more on the So.Many.Stories project click here.

At the Principal’s Office

Today I am delighted to have Dorit Sasson takes us into a story of cross-cultural conflict and confrontation. I met Dorit through the So.Many.Stories project and you will see her bio at the end of the post. 

The bare white principal’s office is now a place of confrontation. The fact that I am a newly arrived English elementary teacher at a development town in Israel hasn’t sensitized loud-mouthed teacher to collaborate with me. When I finally told Tziona, our mentor, the real deal of our collaboration, I knew that I would have to work even harder to make my silent “teacher” voice heard. The voice I perhaps didn’t know existed.

The aggressive principal speaks. (I can still hear Lina’s voice) “Yael,” Lina says.  “Dorit’s a new teacher. If you’re both teaching the same classes, I don’t understand why you are both working separately. So, ma koreh, what’s going on?” Lina asks. I have to wonder what looks tighter: Lina’s intent expression or her bun.

Yael, the other teacher who prefers to teach English “her way,” doesn’t say anything.  Tziona sustains our eye contact long enough just to reassure what she has said to me before, Yehiyeh besder, “it will be okay.” But we both know it will be a long way. She leans forward, crosses her legs a bit and says, “We need to find a way to work things out together. You both can’t continue working in isolation. It makes no sense.”

Yael looks at me. I nod.

Okay, it’s time to make my silence heard.

There’s more that Lina and loud-mouthed teacher need to know. Much more.

For example, what about the time when I introduced myself to her classes and all I got was a Mona-Lisa smile …from one student?

Or when I tried to “socialize” with loud-mouthed teacher and all I heard was the noise of crunching carrots.

There is no cultural-linguistic shield to protect me now. (it’s a confrontation – how do you rely on your Israeli smarts)

I try to discern the “loud-mouthed” teacher’s eyes from her thick rimmed glasses but the light refracts what appears to be a stare. I know she’s thinking “go home you American. I take no prisoners. I’m better than you and you’re not going to change the way I work.”

Since the beginning of school, I’ve honored the Israeli teaching motto of “don’t smile before Chanukah,” and so perhaps I’ve received Lina’s goodwill. But now I have to find the right Hebrew voice. To articulate Hebrew assertively. To undo my silence. But between Lina’s tight-fisted bun and zippered mouth and Tziona’s fidgety look, I’m hoping I won’t need to talk.

Loud mouth teacher is the first to speak. She’s of course the one with “kfiyoot” – the seniority. She moves her hands in and out as if to open an oven. “Tziona,” she says raising her voice. “It’s close to impossible. We teach at different hours in different places.”

Loud-mouthed teacher now points to me. “She teaches small groups. I teach the large classes.”

“Yael, you don’t have to work together on everything. There’s no point if you have the same book and grades and you’re both working in isolation.” Tziona says. Lina nods affirmatively.

Loud-mouthed teacher looks at me. The words don’t come.

“How about if Dorit pulled out some of the lower-performing students from your group and worked with them?” Tziona suggests.

Ze lo ya’avod, it won’t work,” loud-mouthed teacher says.

“Why?”

“Because …they are at different levels.”

            What does that have to do with anything?

I say something that I hope will turn the discourse around. Even though I am still figuring out which word to say, I speak anyhow.
“I think the students I teach are at a lower performing level. They cause problems.” I am both nervous and relieved that I’ve got now everyone’s attention.

“Exactly. That’s why I don’t think it’s good to take my students out.” Loud mouthed teacher says. Her words rise like huge hot air balloons in this small office.

Aval achav hadivarim nirgeo, but now I feel things have settled down.” I say in a calm Hebrew voice.

Ze lo yishaney kloom, it still won’t make a difference,” loud-mouthed teacher says. “It’s too difficult of a situation.” She still won’t look at me so I look to Tziona for support.

“And if Dorit takes the hours she has with the non-readers and works individually with one or two students?” Tziona suggests.

“Still won’t work.”

“”Yael, you’ve got to be flexible here.” Tziona now speaks more emphatically. “This is a very difficult situation.”

“Yael, I don’t understand you. We’re talking about the students here.” The aggressive principal says something I didn’t expect to hear. “Give it a chance.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a try, but I still don’t think it will be successful.” Yael says.

All I hear is the “ani” for “I.”

Tziona looks at me, “How do you feel about that, Dorit?”

“That’s fine. I have worksheets prepared for their level and everything.”

Tziona nods in approval. “That’s a good start.”

“But it’s a difficult group. A harder group.” Yael says.

“Is there anything you want to say Dorit?” Lina asks.

“No.”

We talk it out – in their language.

Not mine.
We don’t really find a solution in their language.
Not mine.

When we leave Lina’s office, I whisper to Tziona, “That wasn’t easy. With Yael, I mean.”

Tziona says, “I know. She’s difficult.”

“Yes.”

“It’s not going to be easy.”

I go home and write about the lesson and the day in my language. This is what I wrote:

Today, I taught another lesson to fourth graders who are learning another language that just happens to be my mother tongue.
Only I’m not so sure if this cultural classroom is mine or theirs.
I’m still trying to figure it out.”

Dorit Sasson is the author of Giving Voice to the Voiceless and a speaker. She uses the power of story to help others create their life and business in story. Download your free MP3, Story Manifesto: A Guide To Stepping into the Authentic Voice and Vision of Your Story, at www.GivingAVoicetotheVoicelessBook.com. When you do, you’ll receive a complimentary subscription to the “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” ezine, including a transformational tip of the week.