Evil penguins

Sunday 30th April 2006
Hello hello everyone!
Another long one, so prepare yourselves!!
Am now back at school after my fantastic holiday in Sri Lanka, working hard, and we’ve just had “fun day” (on a weekend of course!!) where we all had to put in eight hour shifts selling raffle tickets and having sponges thrown at us etc.
Last night and tonight are parents’ evenings, and most of the parents have been lovely so far, and very keen to be supportive etc (one mum asked me for photocopies of all my lesson plans so she can keep up at home and help more with the homework!!).
I found that a bit scary, and ever-so-slightly like she might be trying to keep tabs on me, although it is nice to see parents getting involved!!
Sadly, another mother was a bit more difficult. Her son Y is really sweet, but clearly has some very severe learning difficulties, and even though he’s been moved up into year three, he can barely manage Year 1 work. Basically he can only read and write if the word is “cat” or “dog”, and can’t add or subtract at all, while the rest of the class is learning about magnets and ancient egypt and fractions etc. He should never have come up and is now drowning in a class where I’m completely unable to help him. His mother however, insisted that he’s been to the doctor and there’s nothing wrong with him – he must just be lazy!
I spent a good hour trying to explain that a learning difficulty doesn’t actually mean he’s disabled, nor does it affect his IQ, and it also doesn’t mean he’s lazy. She wouldn’t have it however, and started harping on about paying all this money for private education and he should be getting A’s etc.
It was a hellish meeting, and I seriously hope we can work something out for the poor kid, (his mother wouldn’t allow us to move him into the special needs classrooms, because she thinks SEN is a bunch of handicapped children dribbling on each other!) While we do have quite a few kids in that category, I wasn’t able to persuade her that SEN is a wide-ranging department aimed at actually HELPING the students!
So there we are.
In other news my techno-phobia has reappeared after last weekend when I was unable to operate even the most basic of machinery!!
I went out and bought a tv and dvd player, feeling very grown-up and important, as I’ve never bought anything so mature before!! I was also really bored of sitting around in my flat for hours staring at the walls.
Anyhoo, I bought the stuff, took it home, asked a friend of mine to help me hook it all up, as I’m useless, and it turned out the dvd player was broken. It plays the soundtrack music but not the voices of the movies. All of the movies we had to test out were cheap copies of my flatmate’s, but even so. I took it back to the store and asked them if I could exchange it for a different model and pay the difference. The guy got all pissy at me because I had slightly ripped the cardboard on the box when I opened it and said he wouldn’t take it back. Then he said if it really was broken, I’d have to take it to a warehouse across town, (at my expense, by taxi as I don’t have a car) for them to assess if there really was a fault. I got really mad and explained that this was their problem, not mine, and they should at least give me my money back. The manager came over and started having a go about how it wasn’t their fault if I ripped the packaging, and as I looked with incredulity at these guys who were busy trying to make me feel like crap after they sold me a faulty item, it slowly dawned on me.
There was something about their snotty little smirks and utter disdain in their eyes, and I realised all of a sudden that if I was a man, we simply would not be having this conversation.
Throw in the fact that I’m white on top of my female status and I think you can picture their total disgust and lack of interest in customer service.
Then to make matters worse, he looked past me to the guy behind me, and just started serving him as if I wasn’t even there!
I thought for a couple of seconds about calmy placing the dvd player on the counter, carefully removing it from it’s slightly ripped box, and smashing the guy’s face in with it, but in the end I opted for glaring and storming out in a fit of rage.
I realised I will have to get used to this kind of behaviour if I’m gonna be here next year, but it seriously fucked me off.
Then after that my computer’s modem died, which I’m told is a bad thing, and means I can’t use the internet at all at home, my ipod refused to turn off for some reason and then my key snapped off in the lock of my building.
Technology beware!!
Seriously though, I have an actual condition where all technology dies around me. Someone should study me.
I was going to finish this email there, but have just got back from a weekend in Beirut for Betty’s birthday and it was AMAZING so I’ll have to stick in just a little bit more (sorry!).

View of Beirut

Beirut was awesome – it’s like the Paris of the Middle East, which, if you compare it to Paris, is quite crap, but compared to Kuwait is beautiful!!
It’s very French, and fun (they’re big on partying there), and the centre has almost completely been re-built now, and it looks good. We wandered around shopping and drinking (coming from Kuwait, a weekend in Lebanon is solely about drinking!!), and sat at a lovely cafe on the pavement watching the world go by with a glass of wine.
And guess who went by.
As we sat there, some guys in suits sat down a couple of tables over. Then some more guys in suits came over, and some military guys with large guns, and some more suits, more guns etc. Eventually when there were close to twenty of these guys sitting next to us, we asked the waiter who they were, thinking they were probably ambassadors or government officials, but clearly very important people.
The waiter said something in Arabic that I didn’t understand, and I said “Who?” and Bryn said “I’m sorry, did you say Hezbollah? As in party of god, Hezbollah?” and went completely white, and I said “Who?” and the waiter smiled and said “Sa, sa, Hezbollah.”, and I said “Who?” (being incredibly uneducated), so Bryn explained to me, as all of the colour literally drained out of his face, that we were sitting next some of the most feared Iranian-funded Shiite terrorists in the Middle East.
“Oh.” I said.

Hanging out with Hezbollah…

Then we watched in astonishment as no less than 18 (we counted) big, black, brand new range rover-type SUVs drove up full of armed military with big big guns pointed out the window to escort them wherever they were going!!
Poor Bryn was terrified, but thankfully, being as ignorant as I am, I just thought it was totally awesome.
Anyway, they all drove away and it was all fine, and I’m back in Kuwait at school teaching kids about saving the environment and endangered species (“Don’t hunt wales” and “Don’t kill penguins because they are dangerous” were my favourite posters from that class so far!!)
take care
tons of love
Beirut-lovin’ Maya

Sunset over Beirut

Enjoying the sunset on the balcony

Cocktails at the Hard Rock cafe, Beirut

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