Rasha al Raisi – Viktor is a young Russian wrestler who attends the same language school as me. He’s a red head with a great height and built. We bonded immediately despite the fourteen years of age difference between us.
Everyday we’d walk to and from school together, a distance of almost an hour that made me discover Viktor’s true passion: food. Viktor would spend this time either eating, talking about food, shopping for food, staring at the bakery’s display oohing and ahhing at pastries of 800 calories per bite, and most importantly: sharing stories of his wrestling mates eating habits (my favourite one is where they went to McDonald’s and ordered nine double cheese burgers, one big fries, one big drink and an apple pie EACH.)
Sometime I would catch Viktor watching a wrestling match on his phone and muttering in dismay. He’d then thrust the phone in my face saying: “Look at him! He’s fighting like a girl!”. To be honest, all I could see is two guys lying on top of each other, struggling to get up as if they’re glued to the floor. Nevertheless, I nod in agreement while wondering who was meant by Viktor’s comment.
One day while walking back from the school, we saw a middle-aged woman struggling with her heavy shopping bags. She’d dropped them on the floor and started shaking her hand while wincing in pain. Without speaking a word, Viktor strode towards her and said one of the few words he knows in Spanish: “ayuda” meaning help.
The woman was startled by the sudden appearance of us the odd couple, a European young man followed by an Arab woman. I smiled sweetly, explaining that my friend would like to carry the heavy bags for her. She gave us an embarrassed smile and started to protest but before she knows it, Viktor picked up the heavy bags saying: “let’s go!” The poor woman didn’t have a choice but to follow his long strides, while I chatted with her to assure her that we meant no harm and that my friend is genuine (despite his height and built).
I informed her that we’re language students from the same school up the road. She asked me how do we like it here and what do we think of the weather? I told her that compared to where we come from, it’s perfect. Then she told me that she’s from the Dominican Republic and that she works here as a cleaner. That of course, explained the heavy bags of detergents that Viktor was carrying.
Viktor on the meantime, kept turning his head and asking: “Ask her where she lives.” Or “Why doesn’t she buy detergents from the supermarket next door? Why does she have to buy it from the one further up the road and struggle to carry it later?” Of course, I ignored the last question as it wasn’t my business to interrogate the woman about her shopping decisions.
We arrived to a hilly area and the woman smiled apologetically saying that she lives up the hill, and that we can leave the bags here — while her eyes begged us no to. Viktor continued walking and I followed him struggling to catch my breath. We reached the woman’s door and she thanked us profusely. While coming down we saw an old Spanish woman with shopping bags. To my horror Viktor offered again: “ayuda?” And the woman blurted out: “No! Gracias!” Viktor shrugged and I followed him smiling, secretly praying that the road is clear from more dames in clear distress.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. firstname.lastname@example.org