Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Different Flavour

One thing I can say about my job – it’s never boring.

For last two months of school I taught math and science in the morning, and did curriculum work in the afternoons, but this week I found myself unexpectedly shifted back to the ESL department until a vacancy can be filled. Putting the lack of notice aside, I was pleased. I’ve missed working with these women.

One thing I find fascinating is the contrast between the way our students – all young Muslim women in their twenties – dress in public, and what they wear in private. Long coats, hijabs and, for some, veils cover skinny jeans, low-cut tank tops, make-up and jewellery. The ones who are the most modest outside school are anything but in a women-only environment.

For some, the same can be said about their personalities. One student in particular – I’ll call her Miriam – is, to put it plainly, a firecracker in the classroom. She loves clothes, makeup, movies and popular music, is always laughing and teasing, and doesn’t hesitate to let go of her temper. She lives life with incredible zest.

This afternoon the sun came out after three days of rain and fog, so we took the ESL class down to the Halifax waterfront. We strolled along the boardwalk, enjoyed the festive atmosphere of the waterfront in tourist season and checked out a few stores, one of which was a confectionery.

Browsing the shelves and trying to ignore the smell of homemade fudge and ice cream, I came across something different. Remember those multicoloured candy necklaces you used to buy as a kid? Well, someone has taken the idea a bit further. I found this on Wikimedia Commons. Apparently, one size fits most. All I know is, I’d have to wear two of them. There they were, in neat little boxes next to the gummi bears.

I couldn’t resist showing one to the students. I handed the box to one; she puzzled out the label, then her eyes got big. “It’s CANDY!” The others gathered around, giggling.

Miriam burst out laughing. “What size? What size?” They examined the box, trying to find out. A hurried discussion in Arabic took place. Then Miriam, wearing a big smile, marched up to the cash with the box.

I get the feeling her husband probably enjoys a little something different, too.


  1. What a fabulous story, Jennie! I can just imagine the culture shock most immigrants go through when they come to Canada - and I can imagine how hard it must be to be a woman exposed to the relaxed norm of Canadians.

    And I had no idea they made a bra top out of candy necklace candy! Now that's a shocker even for me - and I am Canadian :)

  2. Janet, it was so funny. I have a lot of admiration for the adaptability of these women. I don't think I'd cope well at all in their culture.