Half a Day Naguib Mahfous
Pre-class Work I
Read the text once for the main idea. Do not refer to the notes, dictionaries or the glossary yet.
I walked alongside my father, clutching his right hand. All my clothes were new: the black shoes, the green school uniform, and the red cap. They did not make me happy, however, as this was the day I was to be thrown into school for the first time.
My mother stood at the window watching our progress, and I turned towards her from time to time, hoping she would help. We walked along a street lined with gardens, and fields planted with crops: pears, and date palms.
"Why school ?" I asked my father. "What have I done ?"
"I'm not punishing you, " he said, laughing. "School's not a punishment. It's a place that makes useful men out of boys. Don' t you want to be useful like your brothers?"
I was not convinced. I did not believe there was really any good to be had in tearing me away from my home and throwing me into the huge, high-walled building.
When we arrived at the gate we could see the courtyard, vast and full of boys and girls. "Go in by yourself, " said my father, "and join them. Put a smile on your face and be a good example to others. "
I hesitated and clung to his hand, but he gently pushed me from him. "Be a man, " he said. "Today you truly begin life. You will find me waiting for you when it's time to leave. "
I took a few steps. Then the faces of the boys and girls came into view. I did not know a single one of them, and none of them knew me. I felt I was a stranger who had lost his way. But then some boys began to glance at me in curiosity, and one of them came over and asked, "Who brought you?"
"My father, " I whispered.
"My father's dead, " he said simply.
I did not know what to say. The gate was now closed. Some of the children burst into tears. The bell rang. A lady came along, followed by a group of men. The men began sorting us into ranks. We were formed into an intricate pattern in the great courtyard surrounded by high buildings; from each floor we were overlooked by a long balcony roofed in wood.
"This is your new home, "said the woman. "There are mothers and fathers here, too. Everything that is enjoyable and beneficial is here. So dry your tears and face life joyfully. "
Well, it seemed that my misgivings had had no basis. From the first moments I made many friends and fell in love with many girls. I had never imagined school would have this rich variety of experiences.
We played all sorts of games. In the music room we sang our first songs. We also had our first introduction to language. We saw a globe of the Earth, which revolved and showed the various continents and countries. We started learning numbers, and we were told the story of the Creator of the universe. We ate delicious food, took a little nap, and woke up to go on with friendship and love, playing and learning.
Our path, however, was not totally sweet and unclouded. We had to be observant and patient. It was not all a matter of playing and fooling around. Rivalries could bring about pain and hatred or give rise to fighting. And while the lady would sometimes smile, she would often yell and scold. Even more frequently she would resort to physical punishment.
In addition, the time for changing one' s mind was over and gone and there was no question of ever returning to the paradise of home. Nothing lay ahead of us but exertion, struggle, and perseverance. Those who were able took advantage of the opportunities for success and happiness that presented themselves.
The bell rang, announcing the passing of the day and the end of work. The children rushed toward the gate, which was opened again. I said goodbye to friends and sweethearts and passed through the gate. I looked around but found no trace of my father, who had promised to be there. I stepped aside to wait. When I had waited for a long time in vain, I decided to return home on my own. I walked a few steps, then came to a startled halt. Good Lord! Where was the street lined with gardens? Where had it disappeared to? When did all these cars invade it? And when did all these people come to rest on its surface? How did these hills of rubbish find their way to cover its sides? And where were the fields that bordered it? High buildings had taken over, the street was full of children, and disturbing noises shook the air. Here and there stood conjurers showing off their tricks or making snakes appear from baskets. Then there was a band announcing the opening of a circus, with clowns and weight lifters walking in front.
Good God! I was in a daze. My head spun. I almost went crazy. How could all this have happened in half a day, between early morning and sunset? I would find the answer at home with my father. But where was my home? I hurried towards the crossroads, because I remembered that I had to cross the street to reach our house, but the stream of cars would not let up. Extremely irritated, I wondered when I would be able to cross.
I stood there a long time, until the young boy employed at the ironing shop on the corner came up to me.
He stretched out his arm and said, "Grandpa, let me take you across."
Read the text a second time. Learn the new words and expressions listed below.
adv. take sb. ～: take sb. to the other side
adv. side by side; next to
n. a group of musicians, especially a group that plays popular music 乐队
v. to hold closely; rdfuse to let go
n. a person who dresses funnily and tries to make people laugh by his jokes or actions 小丑
n. a magician 魔术师
v. to make sb. believe; to persuade 说服
n. one who makes sth. for the first time 创造者；the Creator（宗教）造物主
n. a place where two or more roads cross 交叉路口
n. the desire to learn and know 好奇心
n. a condition of beging unable to think or feel clearly 晕眩
n. effort 努力；尽力
n. a quick look at sth.
n. a stop or pause
n. strong feelings of dislike
v. to pause 犹豫不决
adj. very complicated
n. present for the first time 介绍
adv. very happily
v. 抬；举；weight lifters: those who compete in contests of strength by lifting heavy objects
n. （常用复数）feelings of doubt and fear 顾虑
n. a short sleep during the day
adj. careful to observe (rules)遵守规则的
n. a chance
v. to see a place from a building or window 俯视
n. 棕榈树；date ～ : 椰枣树
n. heaven 天堂
n. to keep trying to do sth. in spite of the difficulties 顽强拼搏
adj. of material substance; often refers to human body 肉体的；身体的
n. a line (of people)
v. to move or turn in a circle around a central point
v. to angrily criticize sb. , especially a child
adj. only one
n. , v. The noun means a kind or a type; the verb means to put things in a particular order
v. to turn round and round
adj. surprised and often slightly frightened
n. a natural flow of water; anything that moves on continuously; a ～ of: 一连串的
v. 伸展；～ out: 伸出
n. the time when the sun is seen to disappear as night begins 日落
n. a person one loves
n. a sign that sth. is there 迹象；痕迹
adj. without any cloud, clear, untroubled
n. a special set of clothes which all members of a group wear, especially in a school, the army or the police
n. in ～ : without result
n. different kinds of the same thing 丰富多彩；品种多样
adj. several of a variety
adj. very large
v. to say something very quietly so that other people cannot hear what you are saying
v. to shout loudly because you are very excited, angry, or in pain
The Edge Kathleen Louise Smiley
The night before I left for Israel was spent in the same kind of conversations that had filled the previous week. "But why Israel?" my father would ask, in the same tone he used when he asked "Why China?" or "Why Russia?" or "why" any other country I had announced I wanted to visit. "There's war over there, you know," he would add. "Yes, Dad, I know. There are wars everywhere," I would answer. He would ask why I insisted on going to such dangerous places. Finally, I would hear the words I've heard all my life: "Well, you've never listened to me before. Why should I think you'd listen now?" In typical fashion, he would close his eyes, heave a long sigh and shake his head.
When these "discussions" took place, my sister, Kristy, would always try to diffuse the tension. Although she realized long ago that it would never work, she' d try just the same. "Kath, " she' d suggest, "why don' t you go to England for summer school. It's not dangerous there. " But as always, she didn't understand.
None of my family has ever really understood me. I've never fit my family' s idea of the way I should live my life. England was not exciting enough. I wanted to go somewhere and experience something different. My soul has always been restless to venture into unknown places. My mother has always said that I have "gypsy" in my blood.
My sister and I are three and a half years apart in age, but a world apart in the way we live our lives. She is conservative and quiet. I take too many risks, and the only time I'm really quiet is when I'm asleep. I've spent most of my adult life apologizing to my sister and the rest of my family for being different, for embarrassing them by something I wear, something I do or something I say.
Since my sister is so different from me—or since I' m so different from her—we aren't very close. The older we get, the busier we become, and the less we see of each other, even though we live only half a mile apart. When we do get together, I feel that she's holding her breath and waiting for me to do or say something "wrong" while I'm walking on eggshells and praying that I don't. But inevitably, I do.
Because my sister seemed the least upset with my summer plans, I humbly asked her for a ride to the airport. "No problem, " she said casually, "but don't tell Dad! " I smiled and agreed. It's not that our father is some kind of tyrant. We know that he loves us very much; that's evident from all the sacrifices he has made for us. I would not have gone to law school if it weren't for him. He's just worried and has a hard time separating his worry from his love.
On the way to the airport the next day, my sister was quiet as usual. But for the first time since I'd decided to go, she started asking questions about my trip: where I was planning to travel, where I was going to stay. She seemed truly interested.
My family is not big on emotional goodbyes, so with a "have a good time" and a quick "love you too, " my sister was gone. I was sad because I felt she just couldn't understand. I wished at that moment that she could come with me, but I knew she wouldn't.
I checked in, took my seat and started to get organized. I glanced inside my bag which my sister had loaded in the trunk before we left for the airport. There, along with my passport, traveler's checks and other important items, was a small white envelope with "Kath" written on it in my sister's handwriting. I opened the envelope and found a bon voyage card. It was a lighthearted, funny card with a cartoon on the front. Most cards my family members give are funny cards, and this was no different—or so I thought.
When I opened the card and read what was inside, I realized that my sister—who I had decided just couldn't understand—actually did understand. It seemed there was a small part of her that wished she were me, maybe a small part of her that always had wished she were me. The card was blank except for what my sister had written:
I really admire you for experiencing life in such a full way.
I love you.