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.


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