Updated: Jun 13
By now we have established that I am an only child and that my parents are pretty cool.
Since I was an only child, and as mentioned earlier, since it was my mothers dream to make sure that I got the best of the best education. My parents enrolled me at the International School of Choueifat (ISC). Now back in the day, ISC was the best of the best that my parents knew of. So that's where I got my identity of Sara Haseeb.
Little background about ISC for those that do not know about it. It is a Lebanese school, with a British-American education system, and a lot of Irish teachers. Talk about diversity eh? It is spelled as Choueifat which is the most complicated spelling in this world. We had a running joke that if you knew how to spell Choueifat correctly then you should be able to pass the grade with ease.
I was in Choueifat from KG1 till Grade 12. I never changed schools and never regretted it because my school had the right amount of happiness, stress, craziness and drama that one required in life at that age. I'm a happy Choueifati. All Choueifat kids are Choueifatties, please get on our level of coolness and/or lameness.
I say coolness solely on the basis of our uniform. As an OG Choueifati, I have seen a lot of different uniforms on other people and always thought mine was the coolest. Some schools required their boys to wear brown pants and a pink shirt, some schools required girls to wear pinafores regardless of them reaching the certain age where pinafores should not be worn. Schools required students to wear blazers, ties, saches, badges, you name it. Choueifat asked you to rock up in the comfiest light grey baggy pants and a cotton shirt. Your choice of warmth can be an oversized navy blue jacket or jumper. Basically, we would not mind going to sleep in our uniforms, that's how comfy they were. You see any kid walking around the street in that uniform, you know they're super comfy in what they're wearing but they are probably dying inside, so you are tempted to give them a hug and tell them to hang in there.
I say lameness because I am aware that we have the weirdest sense of humor. Probably because we spent all our life studying and thinking that learning directly from Hitler might have been an easier task than to pass a grade in Choueifat. I love my school but it's my school so I'm allowed to banter. Others aren't though. Every Choueifati must protect his/her branch at all times. We had the craziest week of having minimum 7 exams every week. You had to be prepared for all exams over a two day weekend and magically remember everything and do the exams throughout the week. Again, minimum 7.
In the beginning of every term, we would have diagnostic exams. All Choueifati's love these exams. You did not have to study for them, you did not have to do anything with them. You could pass them or fail them, it would not count towards your grade. Was that the best thing ever? Yes.
Again, was it really the best thing ever? No. Diagnostic exams were done so that the teachers would know who's smart and who's not. At least that's what I thought it was. It didn't convince me to study for them but that was my understanding of these exams.
Every Sunday or Monday, you would have periodic exams, they would vary from 2 to 3 back to back exams depending on the subjects you were taking that year. We called them weekly exams. As per the real name, it was an exam regarding a specific subject you took in a period. As per the name we gave, regardless of what the subject was, you had to give an exam every week so it's a weekly exam. As the years went on, and you would have the rare possibility of having a free period instead of those exams, which you probably spent in the cafeteria hogging on some french fries or in the Student Life Organization trying to find some kind of job so that you don't get told to go back into the exam hall and sit quietly.
We would do our exams in this massive exam hall and would have all these invigilators walking around staring at you like they know you're cheating, even if you're not. You cannot help but look guilty when they look at you. Quarter of your time gets wasted in trying to not look so guilty. You would spend so much time looking at the cameras turning from one side of the exam hall to another, and at times it would stop at you. You had no idea how to convince them that you were not waiting for the camera to move away to begin cheating and that you were genuinely just looking at it move from left to right. The remainder of the time, you spend guessing what the answer is because lets be real, there is no way you were going to study for 10 exams over a weekend. How did I change the number from 7 to 10? Because I remembered what these exams were called. These were the AMS exams. Academic Monitoring System they would call it, or at least I think that is what it stood for. We had so many of these a week, along with Homework exams, which, till date, I don't even know what the purpose was. The passing grade for all was 80% or you would have to do a makeup exam. Sounds normal? No, not when the makeup exam is afterschool, which by the way ended at 4PM or on a Saturday. My blood is boiling just remembering how torturous it was.
Did this teach me anything? Yes. It taught me to be the best in what I give, even if I don't know what I'm talking about. Because I had to give that 80% whether I studied or not. If I studied, good for me. If I didn't study, I used every cell in my body to work in a logical manner so that I would be able to solve for the correct answer. Does that make sense? Probably not, I went on Saturday's quite a lot for these makeup exams. Good thing about makeup exams was that there would be 10 questions and you could do it endless times, so at some point you run out of combinations and you'll get the right answer. Thankfully, the rules changed after I graduated and you only had a set number of times you could do the makeup exam. Not sure what those consequences were but I'm glad I wasn't around to find out.
Another thing the school taught me is my Choueifati accent. What is that you may ask? I have no freaking clue. If you have gone to Choueifat, you apparently have a Choueifati accent. All the mothers would say aww our kids have the same accent, and we're all sitting here like no, sorry, Pakistani Sara does not sound like White Pamela or Arab Abdullah. We all sound different! But no, we have been blessed by the Choueifati accent. Once you graduate and connect with people that are not familiar with the UAE, they would just call it a fake American accent. You just have to smile and say thank you?
What else did Sara, Pamela and Abdullah learn at Choueifat? The recorder! Yes, you read correct. A recorder. We had music classes, in which we learned about Mozart, Beethoven and we played the recorder. It was an off-white recorder. Whoever had their own recorder was judged hardcore because why did they have a different one? Were they playing the recorder elsewhere? Where did they get this time when there were 10 exams happening in one week, every week? I know the real answer is probably that the recorder they had was probably cheaper than the one being sold at school, because lets be real, the school wanted to make more money and thought let's make them buy this additional thing. That should cover certain costs. Also, I'm pretty sure I haven't made this up. But there was a certain time when we had to come home and play our parents what we learned in class, and then have our parents sign the back of our book. Obviously, many students just forged signatures but thinking of it now. What parent would listen to their children suck at playing the flute and then say oh how brilliant, let me sign that for you. As a Pakistani kid, I would probably be told to play it properly before getting a signature out of my parents. Stressful times, I must tell you.
The next big thing at Choueifat were the advising classes. Oh how we all wanted to sit back and sleep during those classes. An important character of advising class would be Mr. Germanos. Now I cannot speak for all Choueifat's around the world, but I'm pretty sure all of UAE's Choueifati's would know who Mr. Germanos is and would not know what he talks about. He would video conference, from God knows where, to all the other schools and give us advice on our careers. If it weren't for teachers or supervisors in that room with us, I'm pretty sure none of us would have stayed in that room. We were convinced that this was a recording from the 1980's that is played to every student in every class on a weekly basis but then you would hear him ask a student in the 14th row to stop talking to his classmate. That was enough to keep us still and in shock of how he had just done that.
Sounds like I just ranted for a whole chapter right? Yes I did. But I am allowed to do that. If you're a non-Choueifati reader, don't hate on my school. It is what made me who I am today.
What is it that I am today?
I am someone who still has her navy blue jumper that she sleeps in at night.
I am someone who does not panic when told to do 10 tasks because that is always going to be easier than studying and passing 10 exams.
I am someone who has experience of dealing with strangers by sitting in the Student Life Organization and that has brought me a ton of confidence.
I am someone who absolutely LOVES french fries, regardless of how soggy they were at Round Table Pizza.
I am someone who does not consider Round Table Pizza as a restaurant chain, that is school cafeteria okay? Don't try to teach me things.
I am someone that knows how to sacrifice weekends for non-leisure activities.
I am someone who has a fake American accent.
I am someone that knows how to play BINGO! and Frere Jacques on her recorder.
I am someone that will sit patiently and listen to someone speak for hours if I have to.
I am a Choueifati.