The End

26 January, 2010

All of this occurred by the end of our first week. We racked our souls for a while, having tortured conversations about whether or not we were simply being thin-skinned Westerners and should push it out, or if this was truly an unworkable situation. After consulting with our friends, families and other teachers in the area, we decided to leave.

We figured that giving our “We’re sorry, but we’re leaving” speech would be akin to gently letting down someone who you went out on a date with on one day, and found out they were picking out drapes for your new home together the next. We decided to base our decision on the very reasonable logistical challenges of working at two places: we’d already signed an actual contract with Amideast, we would be working six nights a week there, and we had been up front with the administration that we had accepted our position with Amideast before we started working for QLS. Simply put, the kids wouldn’t be getting the caliber of teachers they deserved, and you wouldn’t want angry parents in your face, would you?

So, when we delivered the actual message, it was pretty quiet in the principal’s office. She thought for a second, and we braced ourselves for a shouting match. Instead, she simply asked us if we could stay out for the rest of the semester just for the 3rd and 4th grade, or another three weeks. We would even be offered the same pay as before just for working with the 3rd and 4th grade. We politely demurred.

The principal paused, and asked if we could find a replacement. We stated that there wasn’t really any way we could do such a thing. Then, in a way that conjured memories of the scene in “Dumb and Dumber” in which Jim Carrey exclaims “YOU MEAN THERE’S A CHANCE!” after Lauren Holly states that there was almost zero chance of them ever being together, the principal exclaimed “Oh, that’s so nice of you! Send us their resumes.”

We were informed that we couldn’t be paid until we turned in all the books we were issued. When we first started, we were issued more textbooks per pound than your average paratrooper just prior to the Normandy invasion, yet we only were able to use one to keep pace with our newly redesigned curriculum. The rest of the books were languishing on a shelf we had staked out in our first few days, untouched since we got there. So, we stood in front of the librarian as she went through our respective books, checking off each item as it was turned in.

Unsurprisingly enough, there were two books missing, so we were informed that we would not be getting paid. It apparently was school policy that paychecks were held unless all materials could be accounted for. The books in question were a practice book from my class, and the obliquely titled “Grade 3 English” from Set’s class. Exasperated and thinking of our pending Amideast classes in three hours, we told them to call us if the books reappeared, and stormed from the school never expecting hear from them again.

Two weeks later, we were surprised when they called us. Apparently, the books had magically resurfaced, and we could come by the school’s main building to collect our earnings for the day we’d worked. After collecting our salary and leaving, I half expected to turn around and see a vacant lot where the school used to be. I imagined that I would look incredulously at the date on my watch and see that the entire experience was some sort of mutually shared fugue state, and in actuality, it would be the day before we started. Instead, we left the looming building, and we climbed aboard the last cab out of that neighborhood. Our time at QLS, brief and disturbing as it was, was finally over.

Subsequent conversations with our colleagues at Amideast indicated that our experience at QLS was in no way unique. One teacher told us that he had to more or less organize a general strike amongst the teachers in order to get paid at the school he used to work at, and others said we were lucky to get paid at all. Our fears of being arrogant Westerners or foreign crybabies were assuaged: we’d been through the teaching equivalent of a meat grinder and survived. So, for those of you who wondered why posting had been light recently, or why we seemed so drawn out and pensive if you caught us on Gchat or Skype, that’s why. It’s all over now, so expect our musings/rants to return with greater frequency. Amideast has been a wonderful place to work at thus far, and we look forward to regaling you with tales of a more positive tone.

To any prospective TEFL teachers who are considering QLS and happen across these blog entries: Consider yourself warned about accepting employment there. I hear Korea’s way nicer at this time of year.

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2 Responses to “The End”

  1. laura nisbet said

    I’m so glad you’re posting again! I’ve missed your entertaining and thoughtful musings! That, and I was due for a few good laughs!! Thanks, Kenny!!

  2. Jesse said

    Hey! Glad you guys updated this! It’s good that Amideast sounds like an all right job, because they seem to be hard to find. I keep thinking of coming back to Egypt to teach, but then I hear from the people who are still there… I mean I like the place, but re-adjusting to all the mayhem isn’t something I want to do right now. Hope you’re keeping away from the trash cats and avoiding laptop thieves!

    -Jesse

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