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As I was lying in bed this morning, I randomly started thinking about the first time I taught ESL.

It was 1998. I had signed up with an organization in Atlanta that sent (mostly untrained, but eager) volunteers to teach English to local refugees. My first student was an Iraqi woman who had fled to the States with her husband and two young children.

During our second session, as I was fumbling my way through teaching her how to ask for someone's full name, she learned that my first name was an Arabic one: 'Karima'. She suddenly got up and embraced me, then made me sit down while she made me some food. From then on she was much more open with me. She welcomed me each time with an embrace, and insisted on teaching me some Arabic after her English lesson. About three weeks later she showed me a picture of a little girl, held in someone's arms and looking at the camera.

"Karima", she told me. "In Iraq. Dead."

I kept up lessons with her for about six months, then her family moved. I never saw her again, nor did I ever find out exactly who this other Karima was to her. Or what had happened to her.

This morning as I thought about her, I felt a chill. It's hard for me to imagine what flip of the coin made me the Karima that I am, and not the little girl whose blood was left in Iraq.

I wonder just how narrow the chance is that we could have been reversed.

Comments

wednes
Apr. 6th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
LOL

Yeah, that happens.

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