In exchange, I taught them Filipino words: Nanay (mother), Palengke (market), Suki (customer-pal), and Bayong (native basket).
And I read them my book with its new title, “A Day at the Souk” (above), using the Arabic words:
Today, I woke up early.
I was still sleepy when Yamma helped me get dressed.
I will spend the day with her.
Today is souk day!
Yamma and I each carry a sellah.
Yamma’s sellah is big and colorful.
Mine was small and yellow.
I told the story using slides. There was an awkward moment of silence, as I clicked and showed them this scene (below).
I had told this story a hundred times. I had forgotten it was there.
A little boy, whose name I would later find out, is Abdulrahman M, raised his hand, and exclaimed: Teachur, der ees a P. I. G.!
His outburst caused the class to titter. I felt faint, and flushed all over, about the faux pas.
I remarked to the Head Teacher: I apologize for that oversight.
She smiled, gave a little compassionate nod, and waved her hand, as if to say, “Don’t worry about it.”
Then I explained to the children that it was a typical scene in a Philippine market, unlike in a souk, where the meat they sell is halal.
After the storytelling, I told the children that it was only my second day in the UAE and so I’ve not yet been to an Arabian souk, and if they would be so kind as to draw me a picture (below).
The activity made them quiet for about five minutes, hahaha.
The Head Teacher thanked me. “You were wonderful with the kids,” she smiled.
“The pleasure, really, is mine, Ma’am, ” I told her.
We took some group pics, but Amie took my pics for my camera from the side, huhuhu.
As the kids formed lines and waited to exit the library with their teachers, Maha came up to me, stood on tiptoes and gently pulled me toward her, to whisper in my ear: I drew your picture at the back of my drawing, Miss May! (Maha’s drawing of me as Miss May Buterskawt, below.)
Was overwhelmed, because I believe I gained more than I gave of myself in this storytelling session.
Thank you, Sharjah Book Authority. Thank you, Al Jalila Cultural Center for Children.
It was a truly unforgettable experience.