I was resigned to stop my schooling at this stage.
Did I have a last exam to enter the last two years of my school education? Not the slightest recollection.
All I can remember is that the night before this pass exam I just happened to find in a book of science a few chapters on the skin. I read avidly all the pages, fascinated. I was lucky as one of the questions in the exam was THE SKIN. I wrote and wrote and produced an excellent paper on the subject that permitted me to pass to the MISSION LAIQUE FRANCAISE. It has changed name since .
A French family came to live two storeys above us.Their young lad had been entered in the Lycée also and in my class. It was decided that we would go to the school together to reassure my parents about my crossing the rough area where unveiled women were not welcome. This arrangement was soon abolished when the headmaster advised my father that the young lad was rather unruly. I had to take the long round way on the tram….
I was determined to follow the paths of my brothers and chose the Math’s option. … Little did I know. In the second week I caught a couple of male students in the playground discussing our next math’s work. I realised that the task involved three dimensions and that I just could not even start thinking in three dimensions. I decided to go back to the Science option.
I enjoyed my 2 years of study but not as much as the new atmosphere of freedom and the new friendships.
The first female student who had to leave our class was a beautiful, smart, tall woman. We learnt that she had to leave because her family received an offer of marriage for her. We never heard of her again. A few months later the same fate struck a student I got friendly with. Before leaving the school she invited me to her house. She received me with her mother around a brass brazier (same shape and colour as the one my grandmother possessed in Aleppo) . Grandmother, aunts and mother gathered round after they were told I could understand Arabic and the questions went on for a long time. The feminine atmosphere was so comfortable I relive it even now. Alas it was the last time I saw the welcoming women.
My memory of these two years in the mixed class is rather vague but my social life was very rich. It is bizarre that the regular activities, ( I was in charge of a group of young women meeting and camping regularly ) have left only one impact. On night while camping it started to rain heavily. I gathered all the women from their tents to make our way to a safe place. One of our group was missing as well as the chief in charge of the whole group. I went around all tents with no success. In my innocence it never occurred to me that the situation deserved further investigation.
My brother introduced me to a Jewish friend of his. He thought I would get on with his sister who was the same age as me. It was my first meeting with a Jewish family who lived in the Jewish quarter of Beiruth. The mother was the only one with fluent French. Like so many Jewish Women who needed a living in the Middle East she had been trained as a school teacher while every other member of her family spoke Arabic only. She was addicted to French Newspapers games and often won prizes. I never realised why the young man was in bed…. Finally there was Aviva my age and student at the the College Protestant Francais, a woman only school …..Later I saw her from time to time but she could not go out with me as her family was very strict and did not allow non Jewish friends.
I remember that she managed to visit family in France and met a man on the boat back . They fell in love. It broke her heart that she was not allowed to pursue any relationship with him.
During the summers I use to work in my father’s shop/office. He was dreaming to make me his help and contribute to the success in his growing enterprise that eventually became a big concern with Turkish interests.
Mother was delighted to be in contact with the
Turkish language of her childhood and some families she knew. They decided to take me on holiday to Istanbul in the hope of finding a man to marry.
Although the man they chose for me was an excellent water surfer and showed up to me he was , I was not impressed.
Back in Beirut I had made a friendship with a couple and very much in love and fit together couple. He had a very powerful motor bike. Their friend on bike was looking for a companion for their long rides over the mountains and I fitted very well. I got to know more of Lebanon than all my stay there.
I continued to ride behind the friend until my father was told that I was seen riding back a man on a motorcycle on the way to Tripoli. ….. I do not want to see you going after men just because they have a car he said…..
It was the end of the school years and I was ready to enter the Nursing School. I must say that I admired my father for supporting me even against his wishes. I do remember that he told me once that during his business travelling he met many working women as opposed to the women he knew in Beirut.