Saturday, August 31, 2019

The End + 1

Well hey. So what's new?

I turned 50 recently. Here's a half-century update.

I gave up on China.

And I gave up on international schools, also.

I was working hard, actually, and I finished a Master's in Education summer of last year.

But I wasn't happy.

I was sleeping badly, grinding my teeth, and constantly on edge. (Sober though, if that means anything.) The school I was working for was pretty undeniably bad; very few teachers stayed more than a year, and even fewer stayed for a third year.

I managed to stay two and a half years.

Academically, the school was a mess and seemed to get worse rather than better each year.  Curriculum changed at the whims of managers, and I had three different managers in my two and a half year tenure. My teaching hours went from 18 to 20 to 24 or 26 in my final 4 months, when they were unable to hire enough teachers to fill all the classes, as they were offering new teachers about half the salary I was being paid. I was getting paid overtime, but it wasn't worth it when you added in all the assemblies, the after-school activities that all the students hated, and the evening study session I had to do every two weeks.

There were a lot of conflicts about teaching methodology, though the students usually liked me. Management disapproved of using things like videos and games in class, and model lessons I was exhorted to emulate usually had the students sitting quietly writing worksheets. (Problem was it was nearly impossible to get them to sit quietly and do anything.) Doctors of education from the head office demonstrated lessons that would get them kicked out of a budget TEFL course for being too teacher centered. In general I felt a lot of culture clash -- not just West vs. East, but Teachers Who'd Worked at High Schools vs TEFL teachers, Old Whoremongers vs. Young Married Hipster Couples, etc. It was understated, but I felt it.

I was going to try to do a third year, but I saw the writing on the wall. The last semester I was there, they decided that the students needed weekly hour-long tests, and each teacher was responsible for writing his or her own -- each week, an original five or six page test with listening, reading, grammar, and vocabulary. The school was also hiring Eastern European teachers to get the white face for half the salary they paid the Canadians, Brits, Australians, and Americans.

As I mentioned, many of the kids were problem students, who were angry, occasionally violent, and quite rightly resented being sent to the school with its reform school environment.

But I realized recently -- the good students disturbed me even more. The nice kids were getting bullied constantly, the cliques, the kids with autism and special learning needs who weren't getting any specialized help at all -- it was triggering me, as the hipsters say.

So with tariffs and sanctions and everything else looming, I realized I just didn't have the emotional capacity to handle teaching kids anymore. Remember that post about Costa Rica, where I climbed Rincon de la Viejo mountain, but realized it hadn't been worth the effort?

So I fled.


I looked at other jobs in China, but I just had a bad feeling about them, fearing more of the same, and the salaries were about half or maybe  60 or 70 percent of what I'd made at my first job.

So I went back to an easy university job in the Kingdom.

The usual package -- a bit more than 4000 US bucks a month plus an apartment and paid holidays. Same as I was making a decade ago, though prices have gone up considerably. Still, in this day and age, I'm glad to get it.

I started, worked for four months, literally working about half the hours per day I 'd been working in China, and then immediately got a three and a half month paid summer vacation.

I spent 2 weeks in America, 2 weeks in Kenya on my dream safari holiday, 2 weeks in Turkey waiting to get a Russian visa, and then 3 weeks in my old home of Vodkaberg, also known as Samara, Russia. (My book about it is free this week on Amazon.)

Wow, has it changed.

They had the FIFA World Cup there last year, so they tried to make it look modern and progressive. Nice toilets. A new international airport. Coffee shops. Bike lanes. Hipster barber shops. Signs in English. No alcohol on the street.

I saw the girls I used to know; most of them are now 35 or so, most of them with kids. A few were still trying to play at being party girls, but the stress of that was showing. Those days are dead as disco, that was my impression. In our hearts, and on the streets that used to be full of drunk teenagers but were now full of happy young couples pushing baby carriages.

Still, it was a nice visit. The weather was nice, and the beach and embankment is still beautiful, and my friends there were glad to see me, new cold war or no new cold war. And with the value of the ruble being low, it was cheap.

Then in August, the Girlfriend and I went to the Seychelles and got married.

I mean really, why not, right? I could drop dead any day, like Luke Perry or the guy from Soundgarden. Half a century old! The girlfriend just turned 36, also. No spring chickens, we.

So what are we going to do? What will happen? Where will we live? What will we do?

I mean, there's plenty to worry about out there. The world is on fire. Is this happily ever after, or the beginning of the worst part of our lives?

Well now, the answer to that, I guess you'll just have to use your imagination ...

just like we will.

Like Private Joker at the end of FULL METAL JACKET, I'm in a world of shit, but I'm alive, and I'm not afraid.

And I'm not alone.

Do svidoniya!