(click on the audio title 08 Hello And Welcome for music/song accompaniment).
Bernard Foong (a.k.a. Young) is ranked amazon.com International Best Selling Author.
A Harem Boy's Saga- Book I - Initiation
A memoir by Young
"A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success."
Professor Sherlock Grjotheim and Professor Mark Jobeck, (the school's performance arts teacher), organized a field trip for a few of the freshmen and their ‘big brothers’ to the local marketplace, or Souq.
The purpose of the trip was twofold. Professor Sherlock wanted to enlighten us about healthy eating, so he decided a good place to start would be with delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, at the Souq. Professor Jobeck wanted us to practice speaking what little Arabic we had learned. This was a chance to apply our knowledge and practice communicating in simple Arabic with the stall keepers and street vendors, at the Souq.
On a Saturday morning, three of the Freshmen, their big brothers and our two professors climbed into the school's air-conditioned minibus. We were blindfolded, with padded eye masks which completely blocked light from entering our eyes. These masks were fastened behind our heads with leather buckles, secured with a tiny lock. Each blindfold had its own individual key. They could not be removed, easily.
For me, it was an exciting experience; I had never been blindfolded. Our BB’s were sitting next to us and we knew and trusted our professors; there was no reason to be afraid. The over land journey, as Andy had mentioned on the plane, was rough and bumpy. Against the window ledge, I could feel the stifling dryness of the desert heat seeping through the windowpane. Three hours passed before we arrived at the Souq, which was located a little outside of Dubai. When our professors released our blindfolds, the sudden brightness blinded our eyes.
We heard Islamic prayers repeated over loud speakers strategically placed on prayer towers, throughout the course of our field trip. Only our two accompanying professors and our bus driver, Abdul, spoke fluent Arabic. They directed us to the best places in the marketplace. When it was close to lunch hour Professor Grjotheim suggested a restaurant at which we could fill our hungry, rumbling stomachs.
When our local waiter brought us the menus, we looked cluelessly to our professors for guidance. "The Nejdi Kabsa is popular among the people of Dammam,” Professor Grjotheim said. “This dish is made with chicken, instead of lamb meat. The Yemani Mandi is also popular.”
He ordered Shorabah Hareira (Hareira soup,) Madhbi (chicken grilled on stone,) Madfun (literally meaning buried,) Ma'asoob, Magliya (a Hijazi version of Falafel, and Hummus.
All the students looked at our professor with blank stares, not knowing what he was saying. He might as well have been speaking Swahili for all we knew! Our professor continued our education. “Hejazi cuisine is also delicious. Grilled meat such as Shawaman, Kofta and Kebab, Sambousak and Ful are the most popular meals during Ramadan, eaten only after dusk and before dawn. These foods are usually found in Lebanese, Syrian, and Turkish restaurants" continued our teacher.
As soon as the waiter had taken our orders, our Grooming, Nutritional & Diet Professor, Sherlock, continued, "Getting in shape is important and it is especially necessary for all of you who are being groomed for a special task. Two vital aspects of being in good shape are proper nutrition and eating habits.”
He continued, "There are a number of different things that can be done to ensure one gets the vitamins and nutrients necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Nutritious meals, combined with an exercise regimen, ensure that one maintains a healthy weight throughout one’s life.”
Mr. Sherlock advised, "The first tip is to eat a variety of different foods every day. There are over forty different nutrients necessary for proper health. Fruits, whole grains and vegetables should be eaten on a daily basis. Many people do not get the daily, recommended servings of these foods.”
He added, "Many times portions are exaggerated and it is all too easy to overeat, especially when dining out. Consider ordering half of a serving or splitting an order with a friend.”
Dr. Grjotheim continued to speak, "Between meals, snacking is a helpful way to get needed calories and energy. But snack smartly. Sweet snacks are acceptable as long they are eaten in moderation and in reasonable portions. Moderation is the key."
Finally, our teacher said, "For you to eat properly and have good habits, know your strengths and weaknesses. Know your problem areas. Then, you can monitor yourself, and improve your habits. Keeping a record of what you eat is a good idea.”
After a hearty lunch at the Mata'am, the freshmen and their accompanying ‘big brothers’ were permitted to wander around the Souq. Nikee and I decided to walk with Professor Sherlock, because I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask him about vitamins he had recommended in our health and fitness class.
While Nikee was browsing at one of the stalls I asked Professor Grjotheim, "Sir, in class you had talked about the benefits of different vitamins. By the end of your class, I was confused about which I should take since there were so many you spoke about. Can you recommend the ones I should take daily”?
My professor replied, "Young, at your growing age, the easiest and best approach is to consume an already packaged multivitamin each day. Then, you have all the necessary supplements you'll require and you won’t have to worry about which ones to select."
I replied, "Well that's easy. What exactly do the multi-vitamins do for me?” I inquired further.
Dr. Grjotheim smiled and said, "They will assist your digestive function, boost your brain function, give you added energy and help you with weight management (not that you require that at your age, Young). It will also increase your immune resistance and shift hormonal balances in ways which actually slow down the process of aging.” He kept on, “Again, this doesn't really apply to you right now, since you are still growing. But when one reaches my age, one must begin paying attention to the balance of hormones.”
Professor Sherlock wandered off to purchase some items, leaving Nikee and me to explore the Souq on our own. My BB seemed to be struggling with his words.
"Young, you know I have applied to several Universities to further my studies. I just found out that I have been accepted to Saint Andrews, in Scotland. The semester commences in a month's time."
"Are you leaving the Bahriji then, for good”? I asked, incredulously.
"I'm afraid so, my young chap. My duties of looking after you are coming to an end. I know you will be placed in good hands after I leave," replied Nikee.
I knew that Nikee’s departure was close at hand because BBs only accompanied their charges to settle them into the Bahriji, for the first three months. After that, a new Valet takes over, when the freshman goes into service at the Households.
My bond with Nikee had always been extremely strong. It was difficult for me to hear my BB say that the time for him to leave was near. I thought my chances of ever seeing him again were slim.
The bus ride back to the Oasis was a welcome relief. At least I could drown in my sorrows behind the blindfold, and no one would notice. For the rest of the journey I said very little. Nikee tried to cheer me up, but I just wanted to be left alone to release the emotional pain within me. I needed to be alone by the Oasis' creek to scream and cry, to let out the heartache and frustration of never seeing Nikee, my beloved big brother and first love, again!
A Harem Boy's Saga - I - Initiation; a memoir by Young is available at: