Today the female students linger, instead of rushing out the door as soon as class is dismissed like they usually do (the men never stay longer than necessary). Then only one remains. She is smaller and quieter than many others, rarely speaking with her friends even after the boys have left. During independent work times, she has tried to teach me Chinese – words and phrases I can no longer remember; I am horrible with learning new languages, making my love for travel somewhat at odds with my talents. I let her know how impressed I am that she is mastering not only three languages, but three different alphabets.
Now she writes a message in Arabic on the board I have just erased. The blue marker she uses has seen better days.
“What does it say?” I ask.
“It is poetry. I write poetry sometimes. I like it.”
“So what is this poem?”
“I am not sure how to say properly.” She struggles to translate the symbols she has written into something I can understand, tracing the writing as she goes.
“I see the sad color in your eyes. I wish it will go away.”
My student looks back at me, seeking approval of her translation. Or her writing. Or something.
“Beautiful. Thank you for sharing what you wrote.”
She smiled, looked down, and left to find her friends.