The unexpected journey

     Thanks to a wonderfully curious student and a fast-thinking tutor . . . . 


COME along on a journey between a tutor and his student.  It started out as a simple writing assignment where the tutor wrote a few opening story sentences to his eighth grade student, Mashal, (from Afghanistan) who then added his own creativity to the story . . . and suddenly revealed his own deep yearning.

Tutor: Once there was an English contest.  The person who could write the best story would win a train ticket to any place he wanted to go.  After the contest, the school announced the winner. It was a boy named Mashal!  The next day, Mashal packed some clothes in a bag, said goodbye to his family, and got on the train to go to . . .

Student: Mashal thought, why go to one place? I will go around the world and maybe meet new friends in my travel. First I will go to Iran our neighbor county and go to take some pictures from beautiful places . . . 

Tutor:  When Mashal arrived in Iran, he got off the train and took some pictures of a large mosque with a garden and lots of beautiful flowers. Then he bought some bread and fruit for his lunch.  Just as he was starting to eat, a young boy his age came up to him and said, “Hello! Who are you?”  Mashal said . . .

[The tutor suddenly realizes he knows nothing about Iran and his turn to write again will be in about three and a half minutes.  While Mashal writes the next part of the story, the tutor quickly Googles “famous places in Iran”.]

Student:  Mashal answered, “Hi, I’m Mashal. How are you? Are you from Iran? We can be friends, OK? I’m from Afghanistan and I’m going for a visit around the world! In our school was an English contest and I was the person who could write the best story in English so I won a train ticket to any place I want to go. I want to visit the world.  Can you show me some good places? What is your name?”  . . .

Tutor:  “My name is Adan. Of course I can help you enjoy your visit!  I will take you to our capital, Tehran.  It is like your capital, Kabul. In Tehran we will go to visit the Golestan Palace. It is one of the oldest places in Iran. Golestan Palace means “Palace of Flowers”.  For many years this is where our king and queen lived. It has many beautiful buildings and gar- dens.  Let’s go!”  . . .

Student:  “OK! Let’s go my good friend. Show me your capital and show me the beautiful palace of flowers or the Golestan Palace because I want to enjoy from my visit many places. I want to take some pictures from your Golestan Palace!  Then I want to see more of your capital, Tehran. Can you help me?” 

[The tutor quickly finds several photos of the palace that will become the photos that “Mashal took” on his trip.]  

Tutor:  Adan showed Mashal the Palace of Flowers.  Here are some of the photos Mashal took. They were really great photos. 

Photo courtesy Nasser Sadeghi

Tutor: When the boys left the Golestan Palace, Adan said, “Now I will take you to the famous Carpet Museum of Iran. We are very famous for our carpets. After that, you can come to my house for dinner and meet my family. My mother is a very good cook!”

Student: OK! I will be happy if you show me your Carpet Museum. It is very good and maybe I could take some pictures of your carpets? Then I will be happy to go to your house and see your family and meet your family and also thank you for your help and kindness.” 

     [The tutor quickly finds several photos and quick facts about the Carpet Museum online.] 

Photo courtesy Reibai

Tutor: Mashal and Adan then went to Adan’s house for dinner.  Mashal met Adan’s mother and father.  His mother gave them tasty rice with chicken.  They also had naan and fruit to eat.  While they were eating, Mashal told Adan’s family all about his trip around the world.  Adan’s father listened very carefully and then said, “Mashal, what you are doing is so inter- esting!  I would like my son to go with you. Then you will have a friend with you and Adan can see the world, too.” 

Student:  Mashal said, “I would be VERY happy to have Adan come with me. Tomorrow I will go to Turkey because that is your neighbor and I want know more cultures of world and also I want to enjoy my visit and I will take some pictures from every beautiful place in the world.” 

* * *

     Editor’s Note: This simple lesson, we learned, turned into a weekly “journey” with both tutor and student learning new things about their world—the tutor becoming more adept at finding interesting places “to show” his student while watching the student eagerly begin to take his first steps into a huge, new, wonderful world.  As of this writing, the two have “gone to” the famous Sultan Ahmed Mosque (or Blue Mosque) in Istanbul and then “to see” Nemrut Mountain with its famous stone carvings. The 28 hour “train ride” from Tehran to Istanbul gave Mashal his first view (through photos and online videos) inside a train. (He has never been more than an hour or so car ride outside of Kabul.)  Just that experience alone amazed Mashal, learning as he did the possibility of sleeping and eating on a train. From Turkey the two “sailed” to Greece, to the site of the first (ancient) Olympics to “play soccer” with boys they “met” there.  We understand they plan to spend the summer touring Europe—learning about the foods, music, and traditions of a world very different from Mashal’s own.  We invite readers to Google some of the places mentioned in the story above and join the journey!


 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - July 2021 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us: