I go to physical therapy for my shoulder about 2-3 times a week. Almost every time I have been in there recently, I have seen a man dressed in the traditional middle eastern Muslim attire that looks a little something like this:
He is usually with his wife who is dressed in the long black robes and walks behind him. They don’t smile or make eye contact with me, and I feel a bit intimidated by them, especially the man.
Now when I visit the physical therapist, I look a lot like I just finished running 5 miles. I always come in my running shorts, an old rowing t-shirt and my hair pulled back into a ponytail. I’m also pretty sweaty from the walk over.
At first glance, I didn’t think we had much in common, but one day last week, both the man and I were waiting on the doctor and were sitting in arm chairs next to one another (quite close in proximity, I might add) and he started a conversation with me that went like this: (Note: for visualization I was wearing an old Peachtree Road Race shirt, workout shorts and running shoes, he is in the above outfit)
Dubai Man: “Hello.” (thick middle eastern accent)
Me: “Hello.” (American accent)
Dubai Man: “Are you from Malaysia?”
Me: “Ummm, do I look like I am from Malaysia?” (kinda of joking, smiling at him)
Dubai Man: “No.”
Me: (seeing that he didn’t get the joke, or was choosing not to laugh) “Oh. No, I’m from the United States.”
Dubai Man: “Oh, United States.” (I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing.)
Dubai Man: “I’m from Dubai.”
Me: “Oh, Dubai.” (I don’t really know a lot about Dubai, plus I didn’t want him to have the upper hand.)
Dubai Man: “I come here for 10 days. For treatment.”
Me: “Wow.” (I remember now that my doctor said there was this guy that was flying in from Dubai to see the doctor. Who flies to another country to see a doctor? People from Dubai, that’s who!)
Dubai Man: “What are you doing in Malaysia?
Me: “I’m a teacher.”
Dubai Man: “A teacher?”
Me: “Yes, a teacher. I teach little kids.”
Dubai Man: (looking away and shaking his head) “God help you!”
AMEN BROTHER! (I mean, I didn’t say that last part, but I was thinking it. Especially as the days creep towards summer.)
Later on when I walked out of the office, he was waiting for a taxi with his wife and he gave me a huge grin, a big wave and said, “See you soon friend! Have a nice day!”
I’m not saying I’m getting an invitation to a Christmas or Ramadan dinner, but I think we had a moment. I hope we get a chance to talk again next time and I think we both agree that no matter where in the world you do it, teaching can be a pretty hard job.
On a related note, last week was Teacher Appreciation Week (or the week before, depending on who you ask) so make sure that you take the time to thank a teacher that your kids have now or maybe one that inspired you earlier in life. There was a write up about one of my favorite English teachers of all time last week which was a wonderful tribute to him and all that he did for so many kids over the years at Milton High School. My top three teachers were Mr. Friedman, Ms. Hammock, and Mrs. Serkedakis. I loved that they made me think and wonder about not only the subject area they taught, and the world around me. They gave me confidence to do things I didn’t think I could do and I loved going to their classes (most) everyday. Do you have a favorite teacher that you still think of and smile? What was it about that teacher that you loved? Do they know how much you enjoyed their class? Drop them an email or letter to let them know. I bet it would make their day.