Thursday, 21 July 2011

In the beginning


As September approaches and we get ready for the first day at school, I am taken back in time to another time, another place, and another first day at school.

Getting dressed in my pink and white gingham dress, waving goodbye to my mother, clutching my father’s hand as we left the house.

Walking to the end of the road, to hail a taxi.

Climbing into the back seat, leaning foreword to look out of the car window.
My father sitting in the front. After the customary Allah Bil Khair, extending his hand with a questioning 7ely 7elgek? as he offered his hot mints, a lifetime legacy of previous smoking.

Driving thorough the streets, the roundabouts, the road with all the doctor’s signs, in the tunnel, and round the large square to enter the garage of the school, getting out, and standing silently as my father paid.

Listening intently as he spoke with the drivers gathered in their room, beside the large yellow busses, and being directed to Jwad the driver who covered our part of Baghdad.
A friendly chat, the directions and times exchanged and then it was time to enter the school proper.

Passing through the side gate, and into the playground. Smiling as I saw the slide and the swings, walking across to the assistant headmistress Sister Suzanne’s office.

I would be having lunch in the school canteen, but in addition I was given my 25 fils, enough for a drink, plus a sweet or maybe some crisps.

Standing in the playground with the teacher, waiting for my turn on the slide and then realizing that my father was not with us anymore, hot tears of betrayal coursing down my cheeks, and being unable to find the words to convey my loss.

The kindly teacher taking me across and introducing me to a girl one year my senior, Layla who was to be my mentor for that day, and who ultimately became a lifelong friend.

The day coming to an end, walking with Layla out to the big yellow bus, gratefully munching the ring of سميط that had cost me my final 5-fils, sitting in the front row in the hope I will call out when we arrive close to our house, and I see my mother standing by the gate.

The image is from my first year at school in Baghdad.

I can still remember some of the girls’ names, نجود is the bright eyed girl with the braids in the front row, غزوة is sitting in the second row trying hard to make sure she is seen (she studied medicine), نادية and كارولين share the centre front desk, and just showing behind her thick fringe to their right is another doctor to be سهير, the cheeky smiling girl in the second row was calledلينا and I think the two rather serious looking girls in the back row are دينا and غادة .

I feel I should remember them all, and I wonder where they all are.

If you recognize anyone here and you know they are well let me know, otherwise please leave me in blissful ignorance.

Treasure of Baghdad said...
This is such a lovely photo. I had something similar from my kindergarten.

Who's this "ma suer"? Did you study in Dijlah "Rahibat"? It looks exactly like it. My sister studied there and my mother taught there for more than 20 years until a suicide explosion rocked the school and killed students, parents and bus drivers in 2005.
17 August 2007 23:18
3eeraqimedic said...
Spot on Treasure
"Ma suer" is that how it is spelt? yeeeesss "Ma suer" Suzanne was our assistant headmistress at Al Rahbat, I dont remember her Arabic name, it was a great school with wonderful teachers and staff, although the Ma suerat left when I was still in Dijlah.
I guess your mother joined after I had left in 1982, what did she teach?
18 August 2007 10:17
Yasmin (Blanche) said...
dear 3eeraqi medic,
such a lovely post.. lovely memories.. i found a similar old foto with my first yr in school a few weeks ago..
it was in another world, the good schools, the good freinds who lasted forever, the strict but kind teachers.. if only one can go back in time..
did u have to talk about Semeeet?? now i wish i have one in my hand.. i always was a Semeeet fan..
by the way , its spelt : ma Soeur..meaning (my sister) ..
19 August 2007 09:55
3eeraqimedic said...
Glad you enjoyed, yes another time another world, and very special teachers (with one exeption but I will not mention her here)
I used to think simeet was a bit dry but very tasty, the seller had a tray on his head and we would reach out of the bus window to buy then from him on the way out of school!
I should have asked you about the ma soeur, my french teacher of six years would be horrified to find I remember nothing of what she taught us!
19 August 2007 21:20
Yasmin (Blanche) said...
3eeraqi Medic,
What have u done ?? i cant stop thinking about Semeeet and remebering its lovely taste.. wish im eating one rightttt now..!!!
22 August 2007 09:27
3eeraqimedic said...
I don't think I want the simeet as much as everything I associate with it! The time, the people, the innocence, the ignorance.
But as I can have non of the rest I will make do with a simeet for now, hot crispy, with simsim on the top, stacked in a ring, above another ring, above another, on a wooden tray, on a roll of cloth on the head of an Iraqi, is it any wonder at such a height that it is so special.
23 August 2007 21:08

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