Sunday to Thursday I wake up, shower, get dressed, go to school, teach next to nothing, come home, shower again, talk to Shujie online, eat dinner and watch a movie and read a book. To shake things up on the weekend I go shopping in Barka (30 minutes away) on Fridays and on Saturdays I dust, sweep, and iron. What a life.
I’ve been told (and who knows how believable these people are) that my visa will be ready on Sunday or Monday and then all I need is my medical exam before I get my resident card. Once I get my resident card, they can apply for the “family visa” for Shujie which only takes a couple of days. I don’t want to get my hopes up (but I am) and perhaps she will be here in 2 to 3 weeks. Then I can start doing things. I’ve been holding off so we can do them together.
Why am I here? How did I find a country where the students are a bigger pain than the Chinese students. Now I only have fond memories of the Chinese kids. Their schools are awful but the kids are decent. Here, the schools are stupid run by stupid people producing stupid graduates. As another teacher put it to me (and he is much wiser than I am), if I don’t like it, just finish the year and do something better next year. The work is easy (it’s brainless) and I should just relax. He’s right. I’m trying.
The head of the English department is a moody psycho who for some reason appears to dislike me. The day we met he was so nice. Now I get ignorant emails from him with lies in them. I sent him an email response to one of his and he got all huffy that I had sent it to everyone. I would have if I had hit “reply to all” which I didn’t. I confirmed this and he’s a bozo. Then the head of the E-learning at the school told me he’s leaving at the end of the school year and he’s told the powers that be. I asked him if it was okay with him if I wrote the head of the department to apply and he assured me it was, but the job was probably going elsewhere. So I wrote my email and I got back a response telling me he didn’t know this person was leaving. That was a really stupid lie. So my new plan is just to keep my head low, only ask questions when I have no choice, and when I find out he lied to me about the courses I’ll get next semester I’ll just ignore it and just finish the year here. These people who run these schools don’t know what they are doing.
If you have a PHd they think you must be a brilliant teacher which any teacher knows isn’t true. Teaching involves many skills, the most important of which are communication and empathy. Here they like to walk around calling the Phd’s “Dr. George” or whatever. I never call anyone Doctor. If I have heart surgery again, I might call the doctor, doctor. I am not calling a Phd in English “doctor”. Maybe that’s why the head of the department hates me. Maybe he thinks I’m disrespecting him. Well Jack (I mean George), I’m older than you so perhaps you should respect your elders. The man is psycho.
The car is riding fine but I haven’t gone far in it. I’m still waiting for Shujie to do that. I think we’ll have fun discovering the country. My new insane plan is to do 2 years here and then drive back to China. That would be a hell of a trip. Of course, I’d have to go through Iran, which doesn’t thrill me, but it would be fun.
The foundation program (which is what the student’s must get through before they start their real University classes), whose purpose is to get them to learn English has 4 levels, A, B, C, and D. You take an exam when you start here and they place you. Most students start in C or D. Classes B, C, and D have their entire mark based on the exam so as a teacher, you’re pretty useless. You have no say in how they do. If they don’t do their homework, so what? All they care about is that they’re not absent 20% of the time or they are thrown out. I keep telling them the truth as I see it, which is that it’s up to them to do well on their own because no one cares about how they do. They’ll just be pushed up the ladder until they run across a teacher who has a say in the mark and expects something from them. I have a level C class (all exam) and a level A class and their mark is all based on their research essay and presentation. I’ve told them that many of them will be failing based on what I’ve seen of their draft copies so far. I’m a hard marker, but if you do well in my class you know that you’ve accomplished something. Do any of them get it? Maybe 20%.
I find the girls fascinating. It’s probably because of the culture being so different and having them all look like black crows. When class finishes, the boys leave first and then the girls can go. They used to wait for me but I told them they could leave before me because many times I cleaning up my computer and things. (They will have multimedia classrooms by 2015 and I will be able to fly then too). The girls are comfortable with me now so I learn some interesting things and get to ask things that normally aren’t asked.
On Thursday I asked the girls whether Muslim boys had circumcised. Of course you have to handle these topics very delicately. It started when I was asked if there was anything special we did in Canada when a baby was born. I said there are many cultures and some do different things. I told them that in some cultures the male babies are cut when they are 8 days old. They asked me, “Cut where?”. I said that I really didn’t want to tell them so they all knew. I then asked if the same thing happened to Muslim boys and they said yes, at 8 months. I said “Ouch” and that was the conversation.
At the end of the class after the boys left one of the girls said she wouldn’t be here on Sunday to do her speech so could she do it right now. I knew her game, which was to do the speech with no boys in the class. I called her sneaky and she knew what that meant and she smiled. I figured if she’s clever enough to find away around the rules, you should be rewarded. So I let her give her speech and 8 other girls volunteered. Their speeches weren’t speeches as they were just basically about themselves but all I wanted is for them to speak in English in front of the class. So the boys were gone. The girls are totally different when there are no boys around. They’re goofy, funny, and fun. I told them that and they said they couldn’t be that way when there are boys, because the boys will make fun of them. STUPID! I want to be a teacher at a girl’s school.
They told me that some of them like to play basketball and football (soccer) and I asked them where did they do this. It seems their dorm area is cut off so they can play on the field in privacy. They wear jeans and t-shirts and no headscarves. I said I’d love to see that but I knew I couldn’t. I just know them as the black crows and I’d like to see them in some of their other guises. I admit, they fascinate me and I will never understand them (because I’m not a girl in this culture), but they do entrance me.
So it’s Saturday afternoon now and tomorrow begins another week of the same old. I’m tired after class, but I’m tired because I’m so bored. In China I was tired after class but it was because I actually worked. I prefer teaching in China. I just didn’t like the lifestyle anymore.
So that’s it for now but the future looks like it might be a lot brighter as I will have a life and see some of this country which I’m sure is beautiful.