Photo: “pages” by Bill Selak is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Reading off the pain

Lesson 1: Ugly is just a useless adjective

The strong wind was blowing in my face as I walked towards her apartment and was reminded that November was here. I wasn’t really sure why I was heading to my former teacher, Sheyla’s apartment; was it because I loved her?; or maybe I felt sorry for Sheyla?; or this just seemed to be a very good reason to make some time to actually read books (I always find excuses to leave books on my shelf for months)..I can’t tell.

“Abbas, I’m so sorry, it was my fault that I decided to go to the bathroom on my own and fell on the ground. I’m so sorry, I know I look very ugly right now.”

I held her hand and looked her in the eyes to express how much I loved her. The fall made her feel guilty for something that I didn’t quite understand. Sheyla felt beholden for inconveniencing others and her way of processing this burden was to further disparage herself. As I looked into her sorrowful eyes, I came to realize that ugly was just a useless adjective. I hugged my teacher and to change the topic, asked her about the mysterious Russian lady.

“Abbas, can I pay you for our reading sessions? I don’t want you to waste time reading books with me for free.”

Sheyla thought of our reading sessions as classes. She believed that without the payment my spending time with her would count as misuse and she didn’t want to abuse my generosity in such a way. Sheyla also believed that by paying she would feel more responsible as a student and do the homework for our sessions.

“You could only pay me if we finish the book and end up watching the movie together.”

Sheyla smiled and had no comeback to my offer. She agreed that this was a good deal. I continued reading the chapter from the book where Julie Powell muses about her attempts to reconstruct Julia Child’s Potage Parmentier. Sheyla stopped me every time she couldn’t remember a word or didn’t understand the context. There were numerous times I was clueless as to what was happening in the book. She felt embarrassed when the words didn’t make sense to her or she didn’t understand Julie’s references. But one thing was clear: as we read, the former Sheyla that I had known slowly started to come alive, piece by piece…

PhD Student, Teachers College, Columbia University #highered #access #internationalization #postSoviet l lifelong learner, curious educator, outgoing introvert

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store