Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Tale of Nina and Nita

That's me looking through the archway of the remains of
the Bahrain Fort dating back to 2300 BC.  Don't ask me who
the fellow is next to me.  I just remember that he was a 
British friend visiting from Saudi Arabia, which is just 
twelve miles away across the Arabian Gulf.  But I do 
remember that moment and I was thinking to myself ~

Wow what an adventure!

This journey of three years of my life holds many 
happy, exciting and adventurous memories for me.  
I could keep you entertained with many stories about
those days, and I will one day.  But, today I am going to tell
you about my days there as a First Primary teacher at
the Sacred Heart School in Isa Town.

Here are some of my students.  I had 45 of them!  I started out with 43, but 
Sister Giacinto convinced me in her sweet and very persuasive manner, to
take just a couple more.  

The two boys in the front of this picture are Savio on the left and Ismael on
the right.  They were my best students.  Ismael was a handful!  As bright
as a young boy can be and would easily get into trouble if he wasn't kept
busy every single moment.  I learned quickly that I needed to keep these two
challenged and occupied.  When I did, all was well.

Do you see the little blonde haired girl a couple of rows back on the right?
That is Nina.  She was from Finland.  Her dad worked for a construction
company that finished their assignment early and they were waiting
for their visas to come through for their next job.  Nina was one of 
the last minute students that Sister Giacinto persuaded me to accept.
Oh and by the way Sister Giacinto said as she winked at me ~

Nina does not speak English.

How on earth was I expected to teach her without an interpreter?
Sister Giacinto was convinced I could figure it out.  She had faith ;-)

After finding an interpreter to help me communicate with Nina's parents,
we decided that I would take Nina home with me each afternoon.  That way
I could teach Nina to speak English through an immersion method.  She
would follow me around the house and I would teach her the English name
of the rooms, the furniture, etc.  She would have her lunch with me and we
would work for an hour or so.  Then she would nap in my guest room and 
later in the afternoon I would take her to the beach or shopping at the 
grocery store and then drive her home.

She loved it!  And she also loved ….

Charlie my Golden Retriever.  Sorry about the pic, it's blurry.  
I brought Charlie over from NYC.  Here he is in the Arabian Gulf.
He loved to go there to swim and run after sticks I would toss in the
water.  I will write a whole blog post about this wonderful dog.

Nina loved Charlie and he loved her.  I really think that he helped
Nina to learn the language faster.  I would have her repeat phrases to
Charlie and she was always so anxious to say the words and phrases
correctly because she wanted Charlie to understand.  

As our tutoring sessions were progressing nicely, I was suddenly
aware of another little problem in class.  Nina's best friend Nita was
feeling very left out and jealous that Nina was spending so much time 
her teacher.  

Let's go back to the picture of the kids and I will point out Nita to
you ….

Nita is that adorable little girl just to the left of Nina.  Not the one with the
white collar, but the one grinning next to her.  I wish I had a better picture
to show you, but this is all I have.  

Anyway, Nina and Nita were about as different as two little girls could
be.  Nina was blonde, blue eyed and from Finland.  Nita had an olive
complexion and beautiful long black hair.  Nita's parents were from India.
Both girls were as cute as cute can be and they were best friends!

So what is a teacher to do?  Talk to Nita's parents about their daughter
coming home with me every day too.  They said yes.

So each day we would come to my house for the afternoon.  Now that
Nita was learning to speak and understand English, I had to help her
with her reading too.  Nina, Nita and I would sit around the dining room
table and I would help them with their lessons.  Nita decided she was 
a junior teacher and began acting quite professional.  Actually, the
competition between the two stimulated Nina to learn even faster.

The girls would take a nap in the afternoon.  In reality they were
not napping at all, because I could hear their giggles coming from the 
guest room and Charlie was always in on the fun.

I was really sad at the end of the school year when I had to say goodbye
to these darling ones for the summer.  They were all being promoted and
I would have to pass them on to a new teacher the next year.

Nita and her parents got another assignment.  At the far right corner of 
the picture is little Nita wearing the white hat.  She was sad that day
because her best friend had already moved away.  Yet I knew that
Nita was a strong and happy little girl and a new best friend would
come into her life any day.  

When all the kids were loaded onto the bus that day, I did what I 
always did.  I would wait back in my BMW and let the bus get ahead
of me.  Then I would catch up alongside the bus and wave and the
kids in my class would wave too.  Then I would step on the gas
pedal and zip away.  And I knew all my kids would be 
saying ….

There goes our teacher!  She's from California and she is bionic!!!

The kids saw the Bionic Woman reruns on TV and they told 
everyone I was bionic and I was from California.

Of course I am not a Californian ~ but who knows,
maybe I am bionic ;-)

Big Texas Hugs,
Susan and Bentley


  1. Delightful story, Susan. I never taught overseas, but I can certainly relate to this scenario. Isn't it amazing how quickly children can pick up a new language when immersed in it? Over 30 years in the classroom, I had many that came to me speaking no English and by Christmas they were reading and speaking fluently. A joyous experience to witness.
    I suspect ALL your students adored you! Blond, bionic, and BEAUTIFUL. '-)

  2. Now that is a wondeful story.. Tell us more!!!

  3. I loved hearing about your teaching adventures and these precious students, Susan! i once had a little Hispanic first grader who spoke no English.At first, he hid under his desk, but he soon became friends with the other children and started learning some English words. Looking forward to more of your stories.

  4. GREAT story!!!! You make all of the children come alive. Did you manage to keep up with any of them??
    I taught in Germany for a few years, and loved the kids there. They were so eager to learn and have new experiences....unlike a lot of their American counterparts!!
    Have a good weekend and blessings to you,

  5. What a heartwarming story, Susan! Now retired, after 35 happy years teaching in the primary grades, I love looking back on those sweet memories in my classroom scrapbooks. This spring, I went to two very special weddings. Both brides had been students in my second grade classroom long ago! I'm positive that your students still remember you, Susan! Do you keep in touch with any of them? Hope you will share more classroom adventures! ♡Dawn@Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes


Bentley and I LOVE and read every comment.


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