The past couple of weeks, as I’d mentioned earlier, had been eventful – in fact, they were a crash course in writing, typing, reporting, people skills and learning. Something that, in retrospect, I feel I had really needed. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, though. To be in the presence of some wonderfully knowledgeable and committed people, listening to them talk about their work, watching them interact with children – it was amazing.
But then, it was not all excitement, thrill and wonder. Working eleven hours a day for fourteen days, (alright, it was less on the two Fridays that happened in between) in a media room fitted with a centralized air conditioner set at below freezing point posed its own challenges. Add to that the need to be on the alert at all times to pick up anything newsworthy that is going on, typing them as press releases two or three a day, and most importantly, to be politically correct at all times in that writing – that was no picnic. The most testing part, however, was the barely hidden animosity and distrust with which I was viewed from day one, purely because I did not come from an Arabic speaking background.
It took a while for my colleagues to decide that I did not bite, that I am not toxic, and that I had not come with the intention of pulling off a bank heist. However, by the time the event was over, I had made some casual acquaintances, some smile-hug-and-greet acquaintances, even a young friend with whom I had late lunches – and I forgot to mention, a girl who found my name fascinating: whenever she saw me, she would chant ‘Mini-Shiva, I like your name, Mini-Shiva’ with a huge smile.
Initially, however, I had cried – well, almost. At my age, no less!!
The first two days of my project was to report on the first CANA conference of IBBY – International Board on Books for Youth, the UAEBBY chapter. This was immediately followed by Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival that lasted twelve days. In the course of these fourteen days, there were dozens of talks by experts, workshops, cookery shows and a lot of other very interesting things happening. Which is what I want to share with everybody here.
(To be continued…)