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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Not mine, just like the shot

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:35 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Friday, December 10, 2004

Good Friday to you all.

Well this is the last day of my too short weekend and tomorrow I got back to the chaos that is teaching Middle School boys. Sigh, I am not looking forward to it, but for the four or five teaching weeks we have left until exams start, I can survive. But the first week back will be chaos, as all the discipline we thought we had established in Middle School, has been blown apart by a week of field trips to Burger King. As an aside, I bumped into Neil, my car pool buddy, who was in Malaysia this past week with a group of Middle School boys. He said the week went well, altho it ended with a kind of "Lord of the Flies" vibe and some sort of fire getting started while the plane was 10,000 feet above the earth. That's all I know, but I'm sure I will find out more. See, you're surprised, thinking "A kid started a fire on a plane???!!??" and yet I am not, which just goes to show you how desensitized I am to the Middle School boys.

I went and picked up my ticket to London yesterday, parting with the envelop of money I had stashed in my apartment for the past 4 months. Even buying a ticket in this country is an experience. First we drive to Kuwait City centre, which is a ways, about 45 minutes at 120km/hr. Then we wander it and sit down in a nice little place of business where everyone is smoking like their cigarette intake is some sort of race. Nidal, the travel agent, seems like a good fella, a Palestinian who has lived in Kuwait for the past 20 years, except for when Saddam invaded and all the Palestinians got tossed out because Arafat supported Saddam. How do I know all this? Well, when you sit down and have coffee with the guy for two hours before he even gets around to looking at his computer, you find out a few things. Seriously, he hasked us (me, Alex, and Robin) if we wanted coffee. Sure. Turkish coffee? Eh, what the hell, sure.

Man Turkish coffee is strong, the kinda stuff that could possibly tar a road. Loaded with caffenine too. So we sit there, shooting the breeze and getting buzzed off the coffee, for two hours, before he finally gets down to business. This was one of the coolest experiences I have had yet, as it was so unlike anything that would happen in North America. The actual time spent dealing with our various tickets was probably 20 minutes. Weird. Anyway, say good bye to my now-good friend Nidal and mosey back to the apartment. Then I went to the Hilton with Jan, bought her a coffee from Starbucks (dammit, I hate that the only decent coffee I can get is from Starbucks) to thank her for walking poochy on occasion when I can't get home in time from school. So that was relaxing. Came home, had supper, chatted with Meg and went to bed.

Today I am gonna lay low, do some marking and planning, and mess about on the internet, so it should be okay. And we'll see what tomorrow brings in terms of English department organization and general staff morale. Still happy, relatively, but looking forward to January. Enjoy your weekend and be safe, keep warm as I hear the temp has dropped to the minus 20s in Edmonton. Its about 15 degrees here today, but the country is still ugly, so don't be too jealous.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 1:41 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The week has ended and I am glad.

A week long field trip is much too much and despite all the planning and the 'down from above' changes, we came back with every kid intact, altho with some kids that may have been a failure on our part. But I digress. Generally accepted opinion is that this week was an academic write off and if we had known then what we know now (that Kuwait is devoid of anything remotely cultural unless it is about war) we would have changed our ways. When the kids end up at Burger King for an hour and a half long luch as 'filler' three out of the five days, I think we can safely say that academics was not a primary focus. But it is done, everyone is tired but happy never to do it again.

Big news is that my dean, Scatterbrain Susan, was fired yesterday. I am really of two minds about this, which you may find odd considering all the ranting I have devoted to her. I will explain.

Optimist Jay thinks that this is a good thing, both for the English program and his mental state. Perhaps more guidance will come, perhaps more structure and organization, perhaps more direction. Less maze-like conversations that go nowhere, less 'you're a junior teacher' commentary, less frustration (much less) as my ideas fall on deaf ears. So this has its ups.

Pessimist Jay thinks of a few things. One, more chaos over the next few weeks as we attempt to get the new teacher (yes, already hired) up to speed with exams looming in January. Interlude...

Yesterday morning....

Jay: Hey Susan, are you still co-teaching that G6 class with me next week?
Susan: No, I've been fired, effective tomorrow. In the future, when you have a problem with someone, come talk to them, instead of going over their heads to admin and getting them fired.
Jay, shocked, recovers nicely: Susan, if a first year teacher, with one complaint, gets you fired, perhaps everyone should quit. If it makes you feel better to blame me, fine, blame me. But we both know that my one little issue with you is not enough to get you fired.

That was a brief conversation yesterday, probably the best comeback I have ever had. Put her in her place without me stooping to name calling/smacking her. I mean seriously, blaming me seems a little extreme. Firstly, I am not so important, nor did I think I was/am, to be able to get her fired. Secondly, altho I did complain about her, in private to my principal (after trying to get through to Susan), I had no intention of ever getting her fired. I may have wished it privately, and on the blog, but never did I bring this idea up to anyone. So, back to Pessimist Jay....

Secondly, I was worried about what she might have said to other teachers, especially after the above conversation. I thought that perhaps she had broadcast me as the main culprit, and thus grew a little concerned about my reputation. However, today I sent a few little trusted 'ears' out and about, as well as me talking with admin, and have been reassured that my issues with her were only the tip of a Titanic-sinking iceberg. My name, to my knowledge, has never come up, which I am thankful for. We'll see, but as she is gone tomorrow, I think I should be okay. Still, I will play dumb on the issue, lay low. Fuck I hate the politics of careers, its days like this that I can't wait to be back in Canada and pumping gas for a living. Ah hell, it doesn't matter too much anyway, every little crisis that I have experienced and worried too much about in my life has passed in time, with no lingering effects. It's not like I'm headline news, teaching at a school in the Middle East. This too, will pass.

Finally, Pessimist Jay has a conscience, and as such feels a bad about whatever size role he had in this whole debacle. I am not out to get people fired, I try to steer clear of politics as much as I can, and I don't like confrontation with peers. So when this all happens in a week and someone, no matter how incompetent, gets canned, I do feel some responsibility. I rest now, knowing that I am a minor player in this whole affair, but still, I am not out to ruin people's careers and lives, that's not who I am.

So I do feel a little conflicted about this whole thing, but in time, it will be a good thing, both for me, the English department, and the school. And hey, if you'll bear with me as Capitalist, Moving-On-Up Jay makes an appearance, you don't get anywhere without making a few enemies and stepping on a few necks. Sorry, that's not very nice, but I did say a while ago that I feel myself getting more conservative over here.

So that rounded out my week, a week where I gained a lot of life and caree experience. I am blogging for you, a rum and coke sitting beside me, and later tonight a bunch of us are going out for dinner, so that will be good. And tomorrow I buy my ticket to London, so that's even better. I hope your week ends quickly, keep your nose clean, and ciao for now.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:51 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time. - Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), 'Sir Walter Scott', Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839)

After a week of Middle School boys on field trips, plus the fact that my Dean got fired, I need silence. Too many people talking but they have nothing to say.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:06 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Monday, December 06, 2004

Good Monday morning to all you Westerners.

Oy, this week is accurately described by reading Dante's descent into hell. Schools without Walls, a week-long gluttony of field trips is wearing very thin. The worst thing is that despite the hours of planning and prep that a core group of teachers put in, the plans have been changing so much and so quickly, that despair is now making a home in our staff room.

I can't blame the teachers who planned this, mainly cause I was one of them, but also because we did try our best. Well most of us did. I could blame the admin, but their role in this has been too minor to note, except to say that perhaps they should have offered us a little bit better support from day one. But blaming them doesn't solve much. So I will blame, by and large, the Kuwaiti society, which is so lacking in anything 'field trip worthy' that is really makes one wonder about what kind of history books they will have in 50 years.

Day one was Saturday and my group, consisting of 28 middle school Satan Jrs. went to The Arab Times newspaper, which was kinda neat but most unorganized and smelling of ink, in the morning. Lots of moving machines for children to lose a finger in, which was stressful from the teacher standpoint as I watched out for lil' arabic Cadrins. Then we went to KDD, or Kuwait Danish Dairies, which was organized and clean, but boring and smelling of sour milk. Fine, day one is done, go home.

Day two was Sunday. In the morning we went to the Kuwait Oil Company, or KOC, which gave me an idea of how much money this country truly has. They have an entire city, including housing, shopping, etc etc built around the KOC, which is a sprawling mess of buildings and offices. It was immense, so immense that the group that went there on Saturday got lost and spent an hour and a half tryng to find the visitors centre. Watched a movie that went waaaayyy over the kid's heads, but I enjoyed from my nerdy documentary standpoint. Then a brief tour. After that we went, or tried to go, to the Al-Qurain Martyrs Museum. It should have taken us 20 minutes to get there, but because direction signs, if they exist at all, are in arabic, and the fact that our driver must have stepped off the boat from India that very morning, created a hour delay of driving around various residential streets and traffic circles, over speed bumps and through parking lots, all the while with 28 very excited Gr 6-8 boys crawling all over the bus. Jay was not happy, getting a little carsick and more than a little tired of answering questions about Canada.

Mouth Breather: "How big is Canada?"
Jay, Embittered Field Trip Teacher: "Let's just say that we could take your crappy, garbage-covered, pimple-on-the-world's-ass country and lose it very easily in PEI, which is our runt province, okay junior?"

Anyway, after a brief pitstop in an empty parking lot for the kids to run around in, we finally get there. This museum is actually pretty cool, as it is housed on the site that saw some of the most serious resistance fighting during the war. One house is kept as is, and is totally shot up and crumbling, surrounded by burnt out cars and trucks. The actual museum is good too, with lots of info. Got back to the school in 20 minutes, no detours this time.

Today was day three and we went to the other Iraqi Invasion Museum, which was more museum-ish. Kinda cheesy but whatever. I will say this though, the Kuwaitis, as all victorious countries are apt to do, have since forgotten anyone but the US for the help they recieved. Watching the videos and listening to the tours could easily give one the impression that the Kuwaitis bitch slapped Saddam back to Baghdad, which was totally not the case. No mention of Britain or any other major powers, much less Canada. In fact, after the war the main issue was the capping of the oil well fires, over 700 of them. And I know that Canada provided one of the best teams of firefighters, from a company called Safety Boss, out of Red Deer. But who capped the wells? Well according to the speil I heard today, the Kuwaitis "with outside help" did the job. Kinda glossing over the truth, hey? These kids are gonna grow up believing it, which is not only a societal failure, in my view, but generally sad overall. This really irritated me, the history buff that I am.

After that tour, because all of our times have been thrown out of wack due to the lack of worthy, lengthy cultural institutions, we were done about an hour and a half before we were scheduled to return. No plans in place. Hmmm. Well shit, this week is already an academic write off, so lets take the little bastids to Burger King, let them eat and run in the play area. A total waste of time, not educationally sound at all, but at this point we don't care.

Tomorrow is another museum tour that will end too early, and Wednesday is beach clean up day. I'm expecting about 5 minutes of cleaning before they start whining for the maids, and another 5 minutes of whining until the teachers crack and give them a soccer ball for the next 3 hours. This week is down the drain, entirely, which is sad because we did put some much work into it. I am waiting to see how it gets portrayed by admin, but if they never mention it again, I'll be okay with that too.

Two more notes, on this a long blog. One is that I will be teaching (again, I'm a fool) the G6 boys as the teacher left the country for visa reasons. Can't blame her, the alternative was being deported. I dunno, I'm gonna be bagged come the end of this semester, but I did negotiate a raise, so that is good. I am shamelessly doing this for money, no other reason. These kids are getting a shite education, and although I will do the best I can, this will be a wasted half year for them. I have been told that the new teacher will arrive after our January break. I'm a sucker, I know, and I know that as she reads this my mother is worrying that I am stretching myself too thin. (Insert fat joke here jerks). But that's what I am gonna do, so let it rest, it's only another 5 weeks of actual teaching before exams start.

Number two point is the recent news that there was an attack on the US consolate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia today. Kinda close to home for me, but no reason to worry. It would be like if there was an attack in Seattle or something, close but still far away. So no worries okay? Kuwait is safe, so relax. Plus I have the yet-to-be-disproven Theory of Invincibility to back me up. And Dog Monday, she's a tough yet sleepy dog. 44 days until London, take care of yourselves....

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:10 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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