Saranda closely watched the girl sitting next to her. She was also new, in this country, in this Islamic College. Doha was her name. She was quiet and shy always hiding behind her white scarf. Sharp featured and dark-haired, Doha was aware of her fragile features and tine figure and liked to keep to herself, hiding behind other girls in their study group. Although it was well accepted in their College that girls didn't voice thier opinios only if asked, Doha avoided any opportunity to be noticed. In contrary Saranda had to often bite her lip not to shout her disagreement with her teachers.
She was often criticised to be too wordy and other girls whispered behind her back that her confidence had boosted ever since her father was appointed a Deputy Principal at the College. It surprised Saranda enormously to see Doha join her to accompany the studetns from the Lower Primary school nearby to the Perth Museum. Saranda saw it as oportunity to escape the dully routine of prays and learning and worndered why Doha had joined her. Before she had a chance to ask their bus stopped in front the Thornlie Lower Primary Islamic College. Two groups of boys and two groups of girls have been already lined up waiting excitedly and as soon as the door opened the boys came rushing inside. Saranda was asked by their Islamic teacher to show them their seats on the right side.
"Hi, Saranda, we are going to the museum in Perth, imagine we will go to see a real skyscraper..." One of the boys shouted excitedly in her ear. Saranda smiled at him and pushed him on the the back seat. Suddenly she heard a giggling from the left side where the girls had been seated. Doha was seated among them and her face was unusually bright.
"Now, let's go," another teacher, an English lady came last: "I'll hope we haven't forgotten anyone." She smiled and quickly hid the loose strand of her hair under her scarf.
She had to be new one, Saranda thought to herself, not used to wearing a scarf, like me. She felt a sudden empathy with the teacher, who was already walking through the bus pointing to the boys telling them to behave themselves. The bus moved and the boys yelled with excitement.
"Come on everyone, look carefully in front of you, I wonder who will be the first one to spot a skyscraper?" She said in the microphone as the bus ran smoothly along the highway passing many suburbs with thousands of identical homes with shiny green lawns at the front.
"I can see them, look." Once boy pointed through the front window where the three skyscrapers shone in the blue sky in the distance.
"Huaaah, that's fantastic, look at the bright boats." Another boy exlaimed as they drove over the Swan River. White two story buildings lined the shore surrounded by fresh lush parks.
Soon they reached the city centre and every kid in the bus pressed an excited face to the glass to catch a glimpse of the sleepy capital city of Western Australia. The bus stopped at a huge car park and the teachers guided the children through the glassed in walkway, which ran over the quiet colonial streets and the bustling shopping alleys. The boys stopped every minute and looked through the glass under their feet at the passing cars and colourful shops.The English teacher counted her children all the time with a worried look on her face.
"Saranda, please, watch out for these boys on the back," she said and then turned to Doha surrounded by the girls.
"Don't worry Ms Page," Doha smiled at her confidently and stopped to be the last one pushing the giggling girls in front of her: "Come on you."
As they walked through a colonial train station, the boys begged Ms Page to come on the platform to see the city train. Ms Page soon realised the danger when some of the boys ran to the moving stairways blocking the way so people couldn't pass.
"Come back at once!" Ms Page screamed in panic and rushed to bring them back leaving the girls with the other Islamic teacher. Saranda and Doha stood patiently nearby. They watched a group of teenagers gathering on the station, drinking, riding skateboards and laughing. Their clothes were fancy but dirty. Most of the teenagers were black, some whiter but with the same hair like Kathy. Suddenly two of them noticed them and started to skateboard in their direction. Saranda quickly moved in opposite direction to avoid them but Doha stood there watching them with a stone face. They circled around her pointing at her dress and scarf when the Islamic teacher approached them. They skated back, pulling faces and screaming something.
"What did they say?" Doha asked the Islamic teacher when they joined back the group. Ms Kawa was standing there watching the leaving skate boys with a stern look. Saranda joined them and felt embarrassed at moving away.
"I thought I could understand anything, I have been learning English for 8 years..."
"Don't take notice of those unbelievers," the Islamic teacher patted her arm looking closely at her: "Our god always protects you."
"I know that," Doha answered seriously: "He always did."
"Now quickly to the museum and back to school, I think I've had enough for today."
They had recess near the small fountain outside the museum. Then the museum staff took them inside. Saranda couldn't concentrate very much on the long list of information and pictures about the discovery of Australia becuase the group of boys hanged on her asking millions of questions. Later on, while the whole group admired the replica of the first ship, she slipped quietly to the other room, where their teachers decided not to take them because of some explicit pictures unsuitable for children.
In the centre stood statues of a group of naked slim, dark people with kind, smiling faces. They looked like they were on a walk. The women were holding children and sticks in their hands. The men proudly held their spears and one of them was showing a lizard he had killed. She was struck with the statues. She slowly spelled the information under it: Native Australians.
They looked similar to the people in Kathy's family, this older one could be Uncle Tom, but the statues looked much happier.
"Now we enter the old way of life of Aboirginals before the white people came. They were peaceful people who shared everything and travelled a long distance to survive in this harsh empty land. We still admire their art and special ways of dealing with people and nature..." The group of people entered the room and the deep voice of their museum curator echoed on the walls.
"Oh, look a cave man," the couple of boys from their group had sneaked after her.
"Come on, we have to go back," she pushed them in front of her out of the forbidden room and together they ran through the museum to find their class.
She was tired after the excursion and annoyed by the endless chatter of the children around her. Doha seemed to enjoy their company and looked more relaxed than ever. The kids touched everything excitedly in the museum shop until their teachers ushered them outside. Doha in one corner was looking at some T-shirts.
"I wish I could buy one." Saranda stood next to her looking at one with the small painting of an Emu like from Uncle's Tom dotting picture.
"I want to buy one for my brother, who is still in Iraq, missing, only God knows what happened to him..."
Doha sighed and looked at Saranda's choice: "Impressive, these strange paintings, but our pictures back home are more colourful and joyful."
"I like them, they reminds me of our old legends..." Saranda touched the empty spot on her neck and reminded herself to find Kathy. Suddenly someone grabbed her hand. It was one of the lower school's boys.
"Come on, Saranda, we are leaving, the bus is here," he pushed her long school dress impatiently: "Come on you two or you will be in trouble."
Saranda looked at Doha, who smiled at her mysteriously: "I will be there in a sec, just make some excuse for me, will you?"