Sunday, March 18, 2012

Manchas' pretty manicure. This is an old picture and for awhile we matched but now she's gone back to hot pink and I've turned to blue.

The pup and I are just having a quiet girl's-night in. Me with my book and her destroying the dried flesh of some poor fool animal that's been killed and salted and rolled up into a bone shape for the sake of puppies everywhere. I had a really great vegetarian dog treat thing going on with her, but then the grocery store ran out of stock or something and she's converted to blood, guts, and horseshoes.

Speaking of which, happy belated St. Patrick's Day. I wore a green shirt on accident, but it's not really celebrated here, anyway. My primary acknowledgement of the day was to go on Facebook and silently criticize all the P-day posters. Like, oh my god, this beer's green. I've never seen that before in my life.

Last year I met some guys from Ireland at a Cuban bar in Madrid (pinche globalization!). I realized it was my first time meeting a genuine Irish person and not just some person sloshing a Guiness and acting cheeky. (--> I don't know exactly what this word means, but it seems to have Irish connotations). Anyway I thought that they were lying and I got a little annoyed with them. "Your accent's horrible, you don't even sound Irish." Huff and scorn. They were though, and I learned a lesson:

I'm a douchebag.

I moved on from it and now only criticize Irish impersonators on anonymous online social networks. I don't know why I have a problem with this.

. . .

Anyway, that was before. Time has passed and it's 4 in the morning. I've been awake against my will since 1215am, so I'm doing the next best thing to sleep - sipping Diet Coke and playing online solitaire. My interview for Greece is in three and a half hours, so I'm glad I'll be well-rested and alive. As I write Manchas is making particularly cute faces next to me, probably in an attempt to make up for the puddle of wizz she left outside the bathroom door. I can't clean it up because the mop's out back. Normally in these occasions I'd wake Mono up to go get it for me, but he's at the base and there are bugs out there that I'm not prepared to deal with. In any case the place is already a mess, with three of Mono's shoes scattered on the floor. I leave them there after I smash bugs beneath them, and then Mono throws the bastards away when he gets home. It's a system.

I have a one week vacation for some Saudi holiday I don't know about but I'm sure it would be in good taste to look into. Put that on the to-do. Our last day of work I subbed for a class and one of the students told me he has five wives. I'm really not sure if this was true and I had a wild-eyed look in my eyes (I could see it in the video screen) for a moment while I pondered whether to laugh at his joke or simply nod politely. Evidently I thought the spooked horse expression was an appropriate balance of both.

In elementary school I remember a book series about horses called the Saddle Club. If you bought a book, inside you'd get a little card that said you were a member. There were also lots of other horse books not in the series, and horses were always an option on folder covers and notebook designs and whatnot. I always thought there was something very weird about that particular subject as an obsession among girls my age (9?). Why horses? Why now, when you have so much going for you, are you choosing to identify yourself as a "horse girl"? You do realize you live in the suburbs, right? I think I thought horse girls were out of touch with reality. This is New Brighton, woman, horses are of another era! I might have also been sad that the horse girls didn't let me into their club since I didn't have a card from the book.

Life is a very sad thing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Already three days into the job and still going strong on my positive attitude because as we all know I'm not one to complain about my job.

My supervisor Rosemarie emailed me last week to arrange a time to chat and she told me that the company had decided to make a new position called Senior Control Room Coordinator, and they were picking ME to fill the role. Initially I was going to be a regular teacher with two two-hour classes per night. Now I don't have any fixed class at all, but I'm the all-purpose sub when there's a technical problem or a teacher falls asleep during her break (this happens). For the times where no fill-in teacher is needed, I'm helping develop materials for the other teachers, helping with marketing stuff, etc. I am also now a soon-to-be-published author for the staff newsletter coming out next month. I like it because I get to meet a bunch of different students - so far I've taught five different classes in the last three days, and I also like looking for lesson ideas since there's so much good English language stuff out there on the internet and I lack the genius and creativity to think of things myself.

In some ways it is quite a different batch of students to be working with, but I'm also surprised at how alike they are to any student I've ever taught. Here's a picture - not my student but a typical Riyadh man. All my students so far have been men, and I'm expecting that's all I'll ever get. Saudi Arabia is among the most lucrative countries in the world in terms of teaching ESL, but it seems to be generally agreed in the business that a teaching position there is for the money rather than the experience or the fun of living in Riyadh. Quite oppressive and isolating, particularly if you are a foreign woman, and I'm not sure that speaking Arabic would really improve matters.

Anyway I knew this going into my first lesson and I was interested in how it would manifest in terms of classroom dynamics and the fact that they'ed be taking lessons from a younger foreign female. Well it's been great! I've had not problem students, they've all been engaged and eager to learn. Lots of laughing that goes on in class and students are very respectful - thanking me repeatedly throughout class and at the end for my help, and just generally having very good attitudes. Some things are unique - yesterday our lesson was on theater, art, and music. I asked one student about his favorite art form, and he told me he disliked art. I don't know what Islam has to say about performing arts, but I know that there visual art isn't supposed to represent anything real - if I'm not mistaken it's to protect against idolatry. That's why Islamic art has all those gorgeous and intricate squiggles but nary a stick figure in sight. Like this one to the left, for example. Another cool thing about that: the blurry picture you see below is from I can't remember which mosque in Istanbul, and that little kid was violating sacred rules and doing carpet yoga while the rest of us walked around being reverent. Anyway I learned that the carpet in a mosque (or at least in this one?) has a certain design for prayer. It's all flowers and whatnot squigs, but the form of the flower mimics the form of the body when Muslims kneel to pray. The knees rest on the leaves of the flower, for example, and the head at bloom. This way they can also space people out evenly and avoid feet-in-face-of-person-behind-you, since you can't wear shoes in a mosque. Well played, Islam.

Point being this guy said he didn't like art and then he got a shifty-eyed look on his face so I thought it better not to press and went instead with the seemingly innocuous, "Okay, so you don't like art, but do you have a favorite color?" He told me white. Or sometimes black.

They weren't all anti-art, though. One of them even told me I could call him Elvis Presley since there were two Mohameds in the classroom and it got confusing. His classmate Abdulleh also apparently was a big fan of film, as he lamented the fact that there's not movie theater in Riyadh. "But teacher, I have a big screen. I invite you to my house to watch a movie." After that Elvis started calling me Mrs. Abdulleh. It was funny though and not like "Hello, I'm scary and you are my bride." Just funny and the kind of dumb shit that you hear in any culture, but for some reason I didn't expect to find among this group.

Who da dumshit now?

I'm still also working out my zombie kinks with the job. The new position they gave me has the same hours as all the administrative people, so 8am to 3pm Riyadh time meaning 11PM TO 6AM COZUMEL TIME. This morning I finished work and was NOT TIRED aka I was in a good part of my book, so while the boys were leaving for working I was firing up the kindle (get it?) and changing out of my work uniform consisting of long-sleeved professional black blouse or blazer and boxer shorts - hot pink or leopard print depending on my mood (hahaha, yeah right, totes depends on recent laundry habits). Anyway after an hour or so witmybook I finally napped for two hours which is worrisome since I feel like I might die right now.

Anyway, Manchas is doing wellI'msureyoucare. This morning I walked and saw a little neighbor doggie that is nothing but skin and bones and I saw him when he was just a wee baby a couple months ago and the cutest thing in the world except Manchas. I asked Mono if we could have a second dog and he said no so I went and put on some make-up and asked again but he still thought I was ugly. Right now he's four hours away on bus so I'm sure that when he gets back he will be so happy to see his wonderful girlfriend that he won't even notice that it's not just me and Manchas licking his face. Anyway we voted and Manchas agrees with me.