Global Nomads and TCKS- 6: The difficulty of fitting in at new schools

Edward Said on the global nomad’s struggle to fit into a new school:

It was as an American businessman’s son who hadn’t the slightest feeling of being American that I entered the Cairo School for American Children (CSAC) in the fall of 1946, the first day made easier by the fact that the Greek bus driver who picked me up early on a sunny October morning in Zamalek and drove me with a lot of totally unfamiliar, loud, unself-conscious American children in gaily colored shirts, skirts, and shorts was a driver at my Auntie Melia’s college. He recognized me at once and always treated me—as no one did—with deferential, if familiar, courtesy. I had never seen such an assortment, or concentration, of Americans before. Gone were the uniforms and subdued, conspiratorial whispers of the GPS’s English mostly Levantine children; gone too were English names like Dickie, Derek, and Jeremy, as well as Franco-Arab names like Micheline, Nadia, or Vivette. Now there were Marlese, Marlene, Annekje, several Marjies, Nancy, Ernst, Chuck, and lots of Bobs. No one paid any attention to me.

 “Edward Sigheed” did pass muster, and I was soon able in some way to belong, but every morning when I stepped on the bus I felt a seething panic when I saw the colored T-shirts, striped socks, and loafers they all wore, while I was in my primly correct gray shorts, dress white shirt, and conventionally European lace-ups. For the class I’d settle my inner consternation into an efficient, albeit provisional, identity, that of bright, yet often wayward, pupil. Then at lunch, as they unwrapped the same neatly cut white-bread sandwiches of peanut butter and jelly—neither of which I had ever tasted—and I my more interesting cheese and prosciutto in Shami bread, I fell back into doubt and shame that I, an American child, ate a different food, which no one asked to taste, nor asked me to explain.

 Out of Place: A Memoir

Originally posted Wednesday, March 3rd, 2013

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