Adult Appropriate ESL Archives

Desperate Liaisons in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter.

There is a lot of loose information exchanged on the back channels at embassy parties. Harry Nicolaides, an Australian writer in Saudi Arabia, lives in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh where today’s gossip – like the location of the 15 British Royal navy personnel abducted by Iranian forces – is often tomorrow’s headline.

On a bridge over a highway in Riyadh there are 22 flags heralding the countries represented at this year’s summit of the Arab League. The flags of Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon flutter wildly next to the flags of Sudan and Somalia. The Libyan flag has fallen to half-mast. The rest lift and drop with strong, vacillating winds saluting the intermittent motorcades of consular vehicles as they cross the bridge and then zigzag around large concrete barriers towards the fortified gate of the main entry point to the largest, heavily secured cluster of embassies and ambassadorial residences in the world: Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter.

Typically, every single day Saudi anti-terrorist security forces check vehicles before they enter. However, a few days earlier – for the first time ever – vehicles were stopped and searched on the way out causing significant traffic delays. With 5 of the Arab League member states engulfed by civil war, the South Korean president visiting town and Condelezza Rice in the region the delay was unsettling. Naturally, rumors abounded: Was a foreign spy caught, a rogue general planning to defect or perhaps a homesick diplomat preparing to flee a hardship posting?

It is more than a rumor that the 5 member nations – Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan & Somalia – are at the top of the agenda of meetings held in Riyadh over the next few days. Saudi leaders are determined to end the civil war in Iraq, revive an old Saudi peace plan to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, work on restoring stability to Lebanon and placate an increasingly marginalized, nuclear-armed Iran.

“Is Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi attending the summit this year?” I couldn’t resist asking the Arab politicians I met at the Greek embassy on Greek National Day. “Who knows? Maybe yes. Maybe no. No one can predict what Colonel Gaddafi will do. In fact, he may be here tonight!” It was true – the gadfly of the Gulf was a mercurial politician arriving and leaving previous summits in accord with a timetable of his own. He was also notorious for insulting other Arab leaders, making preposterous suggestions (former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was a Palestinian agent) and hatching assassination plots against Saudi’s King Abdullah.

Greek national day was celebrated like any other embassy function. The usual cast of ambassadors, diplomatic attaches, Arab royalty and European nobility in all their elegant finery gathered around an infinity-edged swimming pool expressing cordial greetings and paying homage to each other with generous compliments while grazing on a lavish buffet of haute cuisine served by cordon bleu chefs.

It wasn’t long before I saw the wife of a senior African diplomat with whom, unbeknown to her, I share a private driver. Evidently, she likes to shop. In fact she likes to shop so much she periodically fills a massive, freight shipping container full of women’s clothing and fashion accessories and has it shipped to her African home where the massive consignment is sold at a considerable profit at weekend markets.

I also encountered the political officer from a southern European country who utilizes the sophisticated intelligence gathering infrastructure of his embassy to conduct surveillance on several young Philippine women he has befriended on the internet. He spends hundreds of hours on the web to communicate with the girls. Often liaising with his diplomatic counterparts in the Philippines, he has compiled extensive personal dossiers on a select group of the women with the object of evaluating them as potential wives. He told me he was leaving for Manila in the next few days – to get married.

Behind him was the economic attaché of an Asian country who is the president of the secret Single Malt Scotch Whisky Society of Riyadh. Every fortnight he invites connoisseurs of single malt whisky – foreign diplomats, British, American and Australian expatriate lawyers & bankers, senior Saudi government officials, prominent Saudi businessmen – to his apartment in a Western compound to consume dozens of bottles of the finest whisky in the world. Gelenmorangie, Glenffidich, and Glenlivit are lined up next to the 30-year old Glen Moray. Under a cloud of Cuban cigar smoke business cards are exchanged, secrets shared and deals made.

Emerging from the crowd I thought I recognized the Iranian military attaché whom I met at the Australia Day function at the Australian embassy some months ago. He was a cardboard cut out of a Cold War Politburo figure, pressed, starched and embellished with a thick golden lanyard, bristling epaulets, assorted medals and military decorations and small brass badges shaped like jets on his broad lapels. Short, stocky and barrel-chested he pushed his way through the crowd until I came toe-to-toe with his grisly, lantern-jawed face.

After an exchange of pleasantries and small talk I made a joke: “Comrade, do you have the 15 British sailors in your Embassy?’ Astonishingly, he thought I was serious and began addressing my question in some detail. He explained that the group are guests of his country and are being treated lavishly. They are staying in a 5-star hotel in Tehran where they are enjoying fine dining, entertainment and companionship. Moreover, the group will be home as soon as a debriefing session is concluded and after the position of the international border between Iraq and Iran is mutually agreed and reaffirmed. On their repatriation to the United Kingdom they will speak very highly of the high level of hospitality extended to them by their Iranian hosts.

I know what you are thinking. It wasn’t Colonel Gaddafi playing a joke.

Harry Nicolaides

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Saudi Students Seize the Day: The Beginning of a Cultural Revolution.

On the night of the 27 th November 2006, while millions of Saudis were sleeping, a handful of students in the capital unknowingly started a cultural revolution. Life imitated art when a stage play, “Wasati Bila Wasatiya” (A Moderate without Moderation) at Al Yamamah, an international college in Riyadh, triggered a violent confrontation between the Islamic religious police, the Mutawa and hundreds of students, ex-patriate teachers, actors and audience members. As cinemas and theatres in Saudi Arabia are outlawed this was the first time that a theatrical production exploring contemporary social issues was ever shown. The onstage struggle resulted in props being destroyed, lights smashed and actors battered. A firearm was discharged with live ammunition. The play was about social change in the kingdom.

Heavily armed government special forces carrying Kalashnikovs stormed the college auditorium and apprehended dozens of the ultra conservative Islamic protesters who disrupted the event and seized their cache of weapons and vehicles. The play subsequently received royal support with the Governor of Riyadh, HRH Prince Salman Ibn Abdul Aziz Al-Saud requesting to attend a special presentation of the college production. Hundreds of students also signed letters of support for their beleaguered college president, Ahmed M. Al-Eisa who resisted petitions and calls to resign. The parents of students also mobilized to support the college through social networks, business relationships and public advocacy. Within a few days Arab newspapers, Reuters and the New York Times reported on the incident.

“I felt so proud that I was a member of the play. In fact, I had the feeling for two reasons. First, because I was working with responsible students, who believed in the message they were trying to send. The second reason was because we were trying to send this critical message for the first time in Saudi Arabia” said one member of the cast and crew.

While the government shut down the college intranet preventing students from discussing the incident, throughout the region Arab news websites and internet discussion forums were inundated with emails. Many of the Mutawa-backed websites posted photographs of the president of the college identifying him as an enemy of Islam. In the prominent Arab newspaper Al-Riyadh, writer Abdul Aziz Al-Zukair criticized the incident at Al-Yamamah College mocking the heroics of the students and lamented the absence of respect for the opinions of the Islamic conservatives present in the audience on the night of the incident.

Other websites reportedly made threats of reprisals against the faculty and staff of the college. Ex-patriate teachers from Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, America and Europe while expressing concerns about their security demonstrated their support for the students by showing interest in attending the show when it resumed a few days later. Many mosques across the city condemned the college and its cultural week activities.

In a lecture before school principals, Mohammad Al Nojaimi, a prominent Islamic jurist and member of the Islamic Fiqh Council responsible for interpreting matters of Islamic jurisprudence and extracting religious rulings on practical issues, singled out certain writers and apostate scholars “for making non-believers out of everyone”. He called them traitors who are on the payrolls of foreign governments. “I suspect they have links with foreign embassies – I didn’t want to say this but Prince Naif (Saudi Minister of Interior) said it too”.

“We are afraid of nobody” said the president of Al-Yamamah College in an interview with another Arab newspaper Al-Hayat and stated that the college would continue to develop and promote its cultural programs. A week after the original incident the stage play was shown again in the same auditorium. Ominously, two bullet holes from a firearm discharged during the opening night of the play a week earlier were still clearly visible in the high ceiling.

Following a long, rousing musical score in the darkened college auditorium the first scene of a young man entwined in a rope and being pulled left and right was greeted with triumphant, rapturous applause and cheers from hundreds of Arab students and guests. The two worlds the provincial student inhabited – the traditional Islamic culture of his family and village and the modern graffiti-splayed Western-metro scene of his new friends – formed the stage backdrop. It was against this milieu that the young student fought to find his place as his village friends armed themselves with semi-automatic rifles and suicide bombs for a looming Jihad while his city friends found freedom of expression in English, tolerance of homosexuality and reveled in Western clothing and music. Tragically, the student collapsed in the no-man’s land between the two worlds under the strain of the cultural tug-of-war.

Saudi Arabia is a country in transition. Under the sands of its vast deserts Islam and secularism are grinding together like two monumental tectonic plates. Outwardly, almost every aspect of life in Saudi Arabia is governed by Islamic laws and customs. For example, all Saudi men are cloaked in the white thobe while women are covered by the abaya. There are strict rules preventing men and women from being together in public places. Before dawn the first calls to prayer are made from powerful loudspeakers on mosques and continue intermittently throughout the day while businesses cease to operate, shops close and streets are emptied of people and vehicles. However, inwardly a new voice is being heard.

While the Saudi government has been preoccupied with the implementation of its Saudization program effectively reducing the number of foreign workers in the kingdom, Saudi college students have been listening to podcasts on the BBC, defying strict national Saudi censorship restrictions and downloading the latest international films and communicating with each other using the Bluetooth network on their mobile phones. They eschew the ten hours of compulsory Islamic studies and instead share the latest music files, place orders with Amazon.com, watch satellite television and seek to form relationships with foreign nationals and expatriates. They spend the summer in New York, Paris and London where they improve their English and see a world beyond the old fortress walls of Riyadh.

The Arab world for Saudis is polarized between the excesses of Dubai and the rigorous asceticism of Riyadh. The theme of the play – the conflict between Islam and secularism – revealed how fractured and shifting Saudi culture really is. Ideally, many Saudis would like to find something in between. This cultural dissonance has survived because the Saudis have two lives – a public life and a private life and all the heavy, carved wooden doors of Riyadh ensure the two never meet. However, this may soon change as there are rumors that the stage play “Wasati Bila Wasatiya’ may be adapted to Saudi television and broadcast nationally.

Act one has finished. Act two is about to begin.

Harry Nicolaides is an Australian writer and teacher.


Valentines ESL EnglishYou may not carrot all for me

The way I care for you.

You may turnip your nose

When I plead with you

But if your heart should beet with mine

Forever lettuce hope

There is no reason in the world 

Why we two cantaloupe.

Author Unknown

Look at the words in bold. Can you figure out which words have been replaced by the fruits and vegetables?

Try by yourself and then work with a friend!

 Happy Valentines Day!

Listen and watch the video below.

or click here for PDF Printable Version for handouts: PDF

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Find the following words and expressions in the text and work with a partner to figure out their meaning.

 

Adore

____________________________________________________________

 

“Sweetie Pie”

____________________________________________________________

 

Honey

____________________________________________________________

 

“Apple of Your Eye”

____________________________________________________________

 

Soulmate

____________________________________________________________

 

Partner

____________________________________________________________

 

Catch

____________________________________________________________

 

Match

____________________________________________________________

 

Crush

____________________________________________________________

 

Date

____________________________________________________________

 

Video Credit: http://www.colloandspark.com

 

Alpine Skiing at the Olympics – Winter Olympics vocabulary

Alpine Skiing, also called downhill skiing, consists of four main events in the Winter Olympics.  These events are slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and the downhill.

Slalom:  The slalom event is where the skier skis around poles from side to side in a short downhill in zigzagging manner. The object of the event, as is with the others too, is to complete the course with a faster time than the other competitors.

Here is a video of a slalom event:

Giant Slalom: This is also known as the “GS”. The GS involves the same zigzagging skiing around poles, but on a slightly longer course, with the poles more spaced apart, and thus a GS skier will reach faster speeds than a slalom.

Super Giant Slalom: The Super Giant Slalom, is also known as the “Super G”, which is even faster, with an even longer course than the GS. Again, the poles are more spaced out and this event is faster yet than the GS.

Downhill: The Downhill is the fastest of the alpine skiing events, and the skier must simply complete the course in the fastest time possible. The downhill racer doesn’t ski around gates, but the skier must atay within the boundaries of the course, which is marked by poles (called gates).

Slalom again:

 

Winter Olympics ESL Vocabulary & Conversation Starter (Winter Olympics)

Beginner Olympic English – This is an easy conversation model starter activity based on the Winter Olympics theme.

  • Jon: Did you watch the Winter Olympics on TV?
  • Teri: Yes, I did. My favourite event is figure skating. What is your favourite event?
  • Jon: My favourite event is freestyle skiing.

*note: in Canadian English favourite is often spelled with ‘ou’ – favourite. However, it is also correct to spell it ‘favorite’, as spelled in the USA.

Intermediate/Advanced Olympic English – This is a slightly more advanced model of a conversation starter activity based on the Winter Olympics theme.

  • Evan: Hi Zoe, what do you think about the bob-sledding event?
  • Zoe: I think it is exciting, but dangerous. Do you like the biathlon?
  • Evan: It looks very hard, but boring to watch.

*When using this sentence pattern, be sure you choose word pairs that work together well. Opposite words will not work in this pattern usually. For example, something cannot be both, ‘exciting’ and ‘boring’.

**add qualifiers: a qualifier can indicate your opinion on something you say that could be open to challenge by someone else. The last line said boring (to watch). This qualification is used in the second sentence because not everyone would agree that biathlon is boring, in every circumstance. If you are an athlete doing the biathlon maybe it is exciting, but if you are watching it, your opinion is that it is boring.

Qualifiers can also be used as follows: It is exciting, but looks dangerous. (in this case, the speaker appears to like it, however, due to it being dangerous, would not likely want to try, or participate).

Some of the best advice you’ll receive today.

(This requires advanced listening and comprehension skills).

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1. What does the speaker mean by the word, “closet”? What is a ‘closet’?
2. What are some examples of a ‘hard conversation’?
3. What does it mean to be “real” with someone?
4. What are some ‘hard closets to come out of’?
5. Can you think of some people in the news who have experienced some ‘hard times’?
6. What does it mean to stay in your closet?
7. What are some of the risks of staying in your closet according to the video?
8. What are the 3 steps to come out of the closet and explain how to do each.
9. Do you have a ‘closet’ to come out of? Consider if you are ready.

Topic: Being able to face your fears and make admissions and state truths about yourself you held inside.

Keywords: face your fears, coming out of the closet, acceptance, self love

Click on Video and Listen:

Thanksgiving is a wonderful Fall holiday celebrated in North America (Canada and the USA).  However, although very similar in how it is celebrated, it is celebrated on different days in Canada and the USA. We hope that this Thanksgiving ESL Lesson will help you to enjoy this holiday and learn at the same time.

This is a list of common vocabulary used for the Thanksgiving theme. ESL teachers and students can use this as a warm up or backdrop for further ESL lessons and activities about the Thanksgiving ESL theme, an enjoyable ESL themes to teach. Printable PDF of this Halloween ESL lesson

Thanksgiving is on different days in Canada and the USA. In Canada, thanksgiving is on the 2 nd Monday in October every year, while in the USA it is on the 4 th Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving VocabularyThanksgiving is the day reserved to give “Thanks” for what we have. Traditionally, the purpose was because when the pilgrims came to the “new world” to start their new lives, they depended on the earth for their food. They planted vegetables and raised crops and animals for food such as turkeys, chickens, cows, etc.

In order to pay respect to the ‘creator’, “God”, they celebrated thanksgiving for the good harvest. This type of holiday is celebrated in many countries. In South Korea they have “chusok” which is a harvest festival and also happens in the early fall in Korea.

New world: this is how North America was described by those settlers from Europe, also known as the pioneers and pilgrims, because it was a new world compared to the very populated Europe.

Pilgrim: these were the first Europeans to come to the new world to settle and start new lives. The aboriginal people, or first nations people were already here of course and they and the pilgrims learned from each other and traded goods and services with each other.

Turkey Dinner: traditionally and today still, we all look forward to a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving. It is delicious and served with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato, gravy, vegetables and pumpkin pie for dessert. After we eat our turkey dinner we are always tired because we ate too much and because turkey makes people sleepy.

Fall /Autumn: this is the season in which Thanksgiving takes place. The leaves change colour and are very pretty in autumn.

Pumpkin Pie: this is a common dessert at thanksgiving. It is delicious and made from pumpkins.

Stuffing: this is a potato, bread, sage and other spice combination which is usually put in the turkey while it is cooking. It is really delicious and has lots of good flavour, it is one of the best parts of the dinner because we only have it on the special occasions when we have turkey.

Mashed Potatoes: potatoes which are boiled and smashed and mixed with a little milk, salt and butter are called mashed potatoes. To mash means to crush and mix.

Gravy: this is a fatty sauce which is often made after the turkey is cooked and some people like to put on potatoes and turkey. It isn’t very healthy, in spite of its good taste, luckily people only have it on occasion and in little portions.

Cranberry sauce: sweet sauce or jelly made from boiled cranberries. It is red in colour and put on turkey, potatoes and stuffing. Most turkey dinners have cranberry sauce served together.

Questions:

  • What/who are you thankful for?
  • Example: I am thankful for my parents, they work so hard and care for me and my brother so much. I am also thankful for all of the nice food we can eat everyday, I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to have the same. I am thankful for my health and happiness. Etc..
  • What is a pilgrim?
  • What does it mean to settle? (note – to settle within the meaning of this lesson, i.e. what the pilgrims and pioneers did).
  • Do you eat turkey dinner in your country? When?
  • Do you have a holiday similar to thanksgiving? Tell me about it.
  • What special food do you eat on holidays?
  • What other holidays do North Americans eat turkey on?

Ideas for Halloween ESL Party Planning – Halloween activities you can do with your ESL class

  • Pumpkin carving contest: Make teams of students to carve a nice jack-o-lantern, the teachers can be the judges
  • Halloween Costume Ideas: Your students can get creative and make costumes to wear for you ESL class Halloween Party
  • Halloween costume parade and contest: Make sure yo show all the other students and teachers yuor creative efforts in designing a costume with a parade and contest voted on by ESL students and teachers who has the best costume
  • Bobbing for apples: This is a fun activity we do at Halloween. You can use your hands and you have to get an apple from the water barrel with your mouth. These days it is not as popular of an activity because people are worried about germs, etc. So do so at your own, risk and it is a good idea to exclude anyone who is sick to not spread germs.
  • Haunted House: turn your ESL classroom into a haunted house tour with different spooky stations and slimy guts to touch and guess what it is… have fun!
  • Trick or Treating: you can have a class or school trick or treating event. Each class, or small group can make treats (such as candy apples, cookies, etc.), and give them to the other students if they say the famous Halloween words. (or if treats are limited, perhaps a prize for best costumes).
  • Listen to Haunted Music at the party
  • tell Ghost Stories
  • Watch a Halloween movie (be sure to be age sensitive) don’t scare little kids, and don’t scare adults either, they wont give your class / school good reviews. Keep it fun and use common sense.

Halloween Words / Halloween Vocabulary

Halloween Words – Vocabulary 

This is a list of common words used at Halloween. ESL teachers and students can use this as a warm up or backdrop for further ESL lessons and activities about the Halloween theme, one of the most enjoyable ESL themes to teach.

Halloween: Halloween day is every year on October 31 st. On Halloween day children go trick-or-treating(see below).

Jack O Lantern: This is the most significant / important Halloween symbol. This is a pumpkin which has been carved and cleaned. The most common way is to have a face on it, like in the picture. These days there are all kinds of different designs which people make.

Trick-or-treat / trick or treating: This is when children dress up in Halloween costumes and go to their neighbours houses and say – trick-or treat. Then the people will come from the house and give the children candy. Kids love trick-or-treating because they get lots of free candy (treats) every Halloween.

Goblin: This is a generic name for a weird, half monster creature. Sometimes they are short, sometimes like a human in size. They are always ugly and sometimes have some kind of black magic power. Just about any weird monster costume you make can be called a goblin, if it doesn’t have any other names.

Witch: Witches are Halloween symbols as well, they are scary old ladies with green faces, a mole on their nose and a loud and scary laugh. Ahhhhh, haaaaa, ha ha ha ha ha hhaaaaaa! They fly around at night on their broom stick and wear a black cape and pointy black hat.

Spell: witches cast (make) spells, which are black or bad magic formulas they use to harm people. For example, a witch can cast a spell to turn a handsome prince into a frog until a beautiful princess frees him.

Magic Potion: this is what someone makes in order to drink it to give them magic powers. A witch or a magic wizard will make a potion for good or bad reasons. For example they can make a potion to make them strong or invisible or to sleep for a hundred years.

Haunted house: a haunted house is an old and dark house, usually on top of a hill and it is full of ghosts.

Halloween costume: this is what children wear when they go trick or treating. Many common, or traditional costumes include vampires, witches, ghosts, werewolves, zombies. However, it is also common to see famous superheroes and celebrities as costumes such as batman, superman, etc. costumes can be store bought or home made.

  

Zombie: this is mythical a dead body which walks around at night looking for brains of humans to eat. They are stupid and scary creatures and they walk with their hands and arms out in front of them. In Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, there were lots of zombies.

Black Cat: A black cat is a Halloween symbol. Usually we see black cats with witches. There is a saying that you don’t want to cross the path of a black cat because it will bring you bad luck.

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