During my short stay in that magical land where I am an arts & crafts teacher and I love my job and everything will be fine, I successfully led several girls and unmarried women of a marriageable age into a deep love affair with silk ribbon embroidery. I feel like I am helping to sprinkle the neighborhood with beauty, with a few innocent homes as collateral damage along the way, soon to be decorated with uninspired ribbon knots embroidered into random cloth-covered publicly displayed items. Not everyone has the dexterity required for needlework, but ours was mostly an issue of lack of experience, which made my job easy because then I could just say "ok now you try!" and then they poke themselves with the needle and they will have learned something new. A few of them kept accidentally sewing their projects to themselves, but that was the worst of it. No poked-out eyes, Alhamdullilah, and only one disheartened spirit.
In Tangier we would call her a shakhseeya qawiyya. In America, a free spirit. There was one giving me some trouble at the visa office yesterday and her sympathetic colleague jokingly referred to her as a "hard girl."
I have been unsuccessfully tutoring the former in English using a children's book about the Titanic. I do not especially enjoy teaching this book because I am never quite sure if I am meant to be teaching a moral to the story. We can speculate, but really we don't know anything about why the Titanic sank from a retribution standpoint, and so I would rather leave that interpretation of events alone.
The book is not meant for beginners, but I was confident that I could explain the difficult parts to her in Jordanian Arabic. I learned too late that the Arabic terminology I was using to explain the sequence of events was somewhat archaic and specific to the Quranic story of Noah's Ark, and not all ships and voyages. She has convinced herself that she cannot learn English and I spend most of my time with her in a state of mime, searching for signs of life behind a blank stare from eyes lost in a sea of issues with authority. She adopted a similarly hopeless stance on her capacity for ribbon embroidery after the first failed attempt at a rose. I tried to convince her, also through mime, that if you get enough twisted ribbon knots all gathered in one small space there is bound to be a flower out there somewhere that looks like that, at some point in its life cycle, or postmortem. She rolled her eyes, but couldn't deny it. We worked on it over the four weeks and eventually, she came to me with a perfectly shaped red-ribbon rose that she had completed.
"It looks beautiful!" I exclaimed.
She rolled her eyes and in Arabic, replied, "it looks like a sinking ship." And then she imitated one of the weird faces that I make all the time, according to my students. The one that means to say: "Why so serious? Let's be friends."