“I have learned less about writing and received less encouragement from English instructors than I have from reading or listening to a working artist relate how a single creation- poem, play, short story, novel- was brought to life and to maturity and to its public place.” Irving Wallace
Growing up in a small Armenian village in Lebanon, I went to a private school. The village only came into existence in 1939 as a refugee camp at first, when the entire population of Musa Dagh was displaced by the Turks and brought to that place with the help of the French. It was only natural that the church lead and guide the people.
Hence in our village, in the east of the Bekaa valley, near the Syrian border, there were and still are to this day three high schools. All three are private. One for each religious community: Armenian Orthodox, Protestants, and Catholics. My parents being Orthodox it was only natural that I attend ‘our school’.
In school we had a tough curriculum to follow. Up until grade six all subjects were taught in Armenian and Arabic, while English was taught as a third language. In grade six we switched to English for sciences and mathematics, and everything else we continued in both Armenian and Arabic.
Hence during language classes we had to write essays in all three different languages. Which was sort of fun because we had different teachers with different ideas and different styles of teaching. For example we never studied Shakespeare in high school because our English teacher didn’t like teaching it and found it a complete waste of time. But from that teacher I learned how to critically read a piece of fiction and analyze it.
For my Armenian essays I produced writings with perfect sentence structure and grammar. Though I wish we had focused more on analyzing the writings of the authors rather than learning their biographies.
As for the Arabic class we had the kindest and gentlest teacher ever- at least I did. Every week he used to get me a book from his own library to read. Most of them were hardcover. At night in the privacy of my room, when I opened those books to read it was like flying on the magic carpet. And in my mind I can still see and smell those books. That was the most magical thing in high school.
And in that ordinary small Armenian village where people lived ordinary lives, my life became extraordinary.