TEACH Bahrain: Stay Curious and Ask Questions

For the second day of the TEACH Bahrain Fellowship, I wore my shiny dress shoes and navy necktie. The agenda was a mix of cultural highlights and professional meetings which warranted more formal attire. Events included a mosque tour, a luncheon with our sponsors, and a Q & A session with diplomats at the U.S. Embassy. It has been just two full days since first arriving on Bahrain Island, and the memories are stacking up as if I have been here for weeks. The Fellowship is giving me a totally new perspective of the Arab World. I am finding the culture complex and fascinating.
Al Fateh Grand Mosque
Bahrain is a great Middle Eastern country to visit, especially for those like me who have never been to this part of the world. Bahrain is one of what I hope are additional journeys to the Gulf.

Our first stop of the day was at Al Fateh Grand Mosque. Built in 1987, Al Fateh is one of the largest mosques in the world. The building can accommodate 7,000 worshipers at one time. Like most mosques, Al Fateh makes a call to prayer over outdoor speakers five times a day. It is often a very crowded place.
Top Left: A minaret is a slim tower originally used as a high point from which to make the call to prayer.
Top Right: Muslim prays in the direction of of the Kaaba in Mecca.
Bottom Left: All Muslims, regardless of nationality, recite prayers from the Qur'an in Arabic.
Bottom Right: Our tour guide is pointing to the second call to prayer. In Arabic, information is read from right to left.

Photo Credit: Sukejna Kovacevic
The majority of the day was spent visiting the TEACH Fellowship’s sponsors: Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co. (GPIC). Executives, engineers, and directors met our van at the curb of the building’s entrance. We were given a cordial welcome with hearty handshakes, carrot juice, and dates. GPIC is a highly successful company in the Gulf. Over 50% of their goods are shipped to the United States. They claim that their greatest commodity is not their product, petroleum and methanol; it is people. The business invests in their workers by providing education opportunities and programs that support their overall well-being. GPIC’s devotion to knowledge and learning is evident in their support of the TEACH Fellowship. For that, I am extremely grateful.

At GPIC, we were asked to leave our phones and cameras behind. Not to worry. I do not think I can forget my visit to the fish farm where sea bass are bred or the bird sanctuary where flamingos search the shoreline for food. And I will definitely remember lunch. I had a fully cooked fish, lamb, sheep, chicken, shrimp, and a pistachio “cheesecake” with ice cream for dessert. GPIC gifted each Fellow a bag filled with souvenirs and tasty dates. It was a generous gesture by a company that has been so generous already. The TEACH program in Bahrain would not be possible without GPIC’s support.

U.S. Embassy Bahrain
We left GPIC and headed toward the U.S. Embassy. There, we met with the Deputy Commissioner. She willingly answered all of our questions pertaining to Bahrain’s politics, economy, safety, and education. I learned that the online giant, Amazon is planning to build three huge data centers in Bahrain by 2019. These 'availability zones' will use cloud computing technology to store big data, cutting costs for companies and supporting private and public sector growth (Arabian Business).

It were fun facts like this one that made the meeting so interesting. The Deputy Commissioner concluded our visit to the embassy with some advice for students. She said, “Stay curious. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” I will cheerfully relay the message to my first through third grade students who are inherently curious. Educators teach content and provide resources but they also inspire. We inspire by making students’ learning meaningful and authentic. Meaning and authentic are two words that describe the TEACH Fellowship. The experience has motivated me to learn more about the Middle East. I think my students will be as equally eager to discover new parts of the world when I tell them about my trip through images, stories, and classroom activities.
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