Rasha al Raisi – Studying science in English language was a life changing experience for me. My first days doing the Scottish Highers were a real torture. I had to carry this huge volume of dictionary from class to class as everything sounded gibberish to me (why is a vital system in the human body called digestive like the red packet of biscuits? How come you didn’t graduate as a pharmacist after studying medicine? Why confuse non-native speakers like myself with incoherent English language jargons?)
The only class I enjoyed fully was biology. We had two lovely teachers who had the patience of saints for people like me. I remember once wasting ten minutes of the class time trying to understand the word faeces: “Miss, what do you mean by food in, food out? I seriously don’t follow!” But things got eventually better after a few months of getting used to English language. I didn’t have to carry the dictionary with me any longer.
The biology chapter that had a real impact on me was animal behaviour. We’d never covered anything about it in our local curriculum. I still remember the picture of ducklings following a man and the heading of “trial and error theory”. So cats were not evil and revengeful after all. Black cats don’t meow back because they’re possessed. They do that because they’re intelligent beings who are trying to communicate something to you.
This new knowledge helped me deal with two dogs that were making my life miserable. The first was my landlady’s neighbour’s dog. They owned a huge dog that kept chasing me whenever I left the house. This vicious dog was nothing like my sweet wadi dogs that I’d kept back home. So one day, I decided to counter attack. When he came running and barking towards me, I ran towards him too, clapping my hands and yelling “Silly dog!”
For some reason, this really scared him and he ran off yelping. He stopped chasing me since and just kept a watchful through his own gate. The second dog to experiment my new learning with was Blackie (either the 3rd or the 4th not really sure), who was owned by my landlady’s dad, Granda. Blackie was a super hyper dog who never stopped running around whenever he came visiting. Sometimes I was left to dog-sit him which proved to be an impossible quest.
Blackie would never stop running from room to room with me shouting after him: “Blackie no! Blackie stop! Blackie sit!” Of course, he never paid heed to my orders and I always had to run after him. I never looked forward to dog-sitting days as I knew that it meant two things: no studies done and feeling exhausted afterwards.
But then I learned that animals responded to music. So when Blackie was left with me one day, I took him into the living room, shut the door behind us and switched on the radio to classical FM. As usual, he started running around and I decided to ignore him. I took out my mathematics exercise and started solving equations.
Blackie stopped running and sat as if resting. And then within a minute, Blackie fell asleep and I thanked God for the power of knowledge. I continued using the trick for months to come. And before Granda’s arrival, I would switch off the radio while Blackie snored. Granda was always astonished to find Blackie — the super hyper dog — fast asleep. “What’s your trick?” He would ask me. I smile innocently and claim that it must be the power of mathematics filling the air, as I feel bored and sleepy too!
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of:
The World According to Bahja. firstname.lastname@example.org