Cultural Integration Realities
While Bert and Bashir were attending to move in issues such as utility connections, banking and city regulations Tess and Baraa investigated schooling for the three Khoury children. Amir and Angela would be attending the same school Lucas and Emma attended. While they’d be in different classes the Sheffield kids could keep an eye on them to see there were no problems in their integration with the student body and give support in the event they had problems. But Kaci would have to attend another school nearby and Baraa was naturally anxious. Doubts placed in her mind by relatives who didn’t want them to leave the community back East were still in the back of her mind despite kindnesses shown them by the Sheffield family. Next day would be the test on whether their youngest would be able to cope in her new environment.
At the end of the day Bashir did an inventory of things accomplished and what still had to be attended to. It would be another day before power was connected so when Bert urged him to use the guestroom for another night stay he thankfully accepted. Any reserves he’d had about Sheffield intentions evaporated during their day together and he’d been glad of Bert’s help as he seemed to know important people around the city. There was still the cultural taboo to be addressed about having men not of the same family around his precious daughters and that troubled him still. Bert sensed this discomfort and made a mental note to talk with Lucas and see the boys camped out again for the night. He hoped the novelty had not worn out and Lucas would continue to be enthusiastic about camping in the RV with Amir. He marvelled at the speed these culturally diverse teenagers had bonded so quickly.
It was on the third day Khoury’s moved into their own bedrooms in the evening. Getting things set up was exhausting and it had to be done in a rush as Bashir was expected to commence his teaching role at the start of the new month.
Bert was not able to help Khoury’s much after taking two days off. He had products in the development stage and needed to be spending time with his research team during this critical stage. Enormous amounts had been spent in testing and setting up production and marketing for the new products. That money had to be recovered as quickly as possible through country wide sales and a test of foreign markets. Bert’s input was required now at all levels of his company. However, there were times when Bashir came to a roadblock in setting up in his new community that Bert helped him by making important calls to get things unstuck for the family.
It was customary for new arrivals to be welcomed into the community. The Sheffield family were considered most prominent and had all the facilities to entertain on a large scale, so Tess usually took the initiative in arranging a new family orientation. Explaining this custom to Baraa she suggested they visit each of the neighbours and she’d introduce her to wives. This community were all prosperous enough with their husband’s earnings and investments, so wives didn’t have to work. Each had a wide circle of friends and were involved in society interests. Tess set up appointments in advance to make sure they’d be at home and one by one introduced Baraa to her community. That was Tess’s usual plan and it was always followed up with a party at the Sheffield’s at a time mutually agreed on when husbands and children could meet the new arrivals. There’d been good reactions to this in the past.
Meetings with wives in the community had been pleasant occasions this time too so Tess confidently commenced sounding people out for a community gathering at their place as she’d done in the past. Everyone usually attended these gatherings and they were looked forward to. But this time every date suggested didn’t seem to fit in with the community at large. Tess spent a week phoning around trying to get everyone together but this time without success. She shared this with Bert who was equally puzzled. This had never happened before. At the next bowling evening he shared with some of the men in his community he mentioned how difficult it was to get people involved this time. He noticed glances passing between some of the men there, but no comments were made apart from having pre-planned engagements. It was at the dinner table things became clear. They were sharing appointment difficulties with Lucas and Emma and noticed their teenagers look at each other.
Bert who was astute at reading silent messages confronted them. “Do you know something about this we should know?”
Emma spoke. “Some of the kids at school say their parents don’t like having foreigners living among us. They feel unsafe.”
Bert whistled in surprise. “These so-called foreigners are citizens. Baraa is a second-generation citizen and Bashir was born in the country. How can they be called foreigners Emma? I hope you don’t feel that way?”
Lucas answered. “We don’t feel that way and we always defend them at school. Most of the kids like them but there are a couple that give them a bad time. The parents of those kids are trying to get the other parents not to come to the party Mom’s trying to arrange. We feel sorry for poor little Kaci in the other school as one of the girls there bullies her a lot. She won’t tell her parents though because she feels that will make things worse.”
Emma interrupted. “Lucas caught the brother of that girl at our school and whipped him. He said if he heard another report that Kaci was still being bullied he’d give him another whipping. I think it’s OK now, but the girl is trying to persuade other girls to bully her instead. She doesn’t want her brother to be whipped again though. I think Lucas is sweet on Angela too, but Amir warned him not to get too close.” She laughed and pointed to Lucas as his face reddened.
“It’s not true!” He said shooting dagger looks at his sister.
“Yes it is, look at your face because it’s turning red! Lucas likes Angela!” She laughed.
Bert looked at Tess and tried to protect his son’s ego by not laughing.
“Emma that’s quite enough! Do the Khoury’s know this?”
Emma shook her head and returned attention to her lunch plate.
Next day Tess went house to house on a mission to find out who dissenting parents were and attempt to reason with them. She’d grown fond of Baraa and didn’t want to see her hurt. Out of that visit she was able to persuade the majority to come to the orientation party. She’d work on the rest of them over time as she was confident they’d eventually see their error of judgment and accept the Khoury’s.
On the night of the party most of the community showed up and while a little reserved at first warmed up as they found the Khoury’s personable and open. Dissenting families began to soften their attitude as a good report was given from those who’d attended. News from the University that Bashir’s professor status was being firmly established quickly also helped. Only a few had registered for his first class as he was unknown. But the lecture and plan for the duration of the course he offered was so eloquently and brilliantly presented by the time of the next lecture his class size had doubled.
Tess continued to work on those who’d not attended and eventually the Khoury’s place in the community was fully accepted as good reports about them continued. Kaci’s bullying problem was bought under control and she excelled in studies.
To be continued.
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