My local work colleagues are so nice. I forgot to mention in my last post that when I arrived at my new apartment, I found that they had provided a few basic groceries (eggs, milk, bread, sugar, salt, cooking oil and a 6-litre bottle of drinking water), as well as a personalised welcome card. It’s clear that they’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making sure that we international employees are reasonably comfortable so that we make a smoother transition to living here. On top of that, they’ve been thoughtful and helpful in other ways that make settling in easier, for example, showing us nearby restaurants and shops that will be useful on a daily basis and taking us on tours of local attractions (more on that another day).
As to my international work colleagues, I’m still trying to get a handle on them. They seem friendly enough but I haven’t bonded with anyone yet. The ones I’ve already met are far, far more experienced at teaching English as a foreign language than I am; in fact, I’m a rank amateur compared to them, and if this was my former life I’m absolutely positive that I would feel inferior because of my own perceptions and comparison of myself to them. However, this is a new day and I am a new person and I know that God has brought me here for a reason that has nothing to do with feeling insecure. I know that I’m inexperienced and that I have a lot to learn but I’m a committed and hard worker and I’m sure that I’ll be a great teacher. All it means is that I’ll have to work harder than everyone else to get where I need to be fast.
Most of last week was spent in administrative activities of some sort – singing paperwork, meeting with our big boss, getting initial work schedules, meeting administrative support staff, learning more about our company’s goals and how it operates, and other things like that. I got an overview of my initial work schedule, which gives me Thursdays and Sundays off. Tuesdays will be my longest days, as I work from 9 am until 8 pm but with breaks between classes. As of now, I’ll be teaching eight groups of young children aged three to nine years old. In my very short teaching career thus far, this has been my least favourite age group to teach because I feel most incompetent with them, but I’m looking at it as a challenge that will help to highly accelerate my growth as a teacher and as a person; I’m hoping and anticipating that my patience, tolerance and focus on and awareness of others’ needs will grow in leaps and bounds. On the plus side, my employer provides a proper syllabus and course materials (unlike at my Indonesia gig), as well as proper teacher improvement and development support.
On our first work day last week, after all the paperwork had been signed, the founder of the language school, who is our big boss, took us newly arrived international teachers out to lunch. I am happy to report that this woman is clearly a sensible and savvy businesswoman and not a nightmarish, mentally disturbed drama queen like the last one I had to deal with. That, along with the obviously professional way in which the business is run, made me feel particularly good about my decision to work there.
Lunch was at a restaurant that serves traditional Yakutia (pronounced Ya-koo-tee-ah) cuisine. We had two different fresh salads, one with cow tongue and the other topped with shaved and lightly fried potato; both dishes were yummy. Our next course was a dish called stroganina, which consists of large strips of frozen-solid raw fish; to eat it, we broke off pieces of the frozen fish and dipped them in a mixture of salt and black pepper. It was alright but the fish lost its frozen-ness quickly once it hit my warm tongue and I didn’t like the resulting slightly slimy texture before it went down my throat.
Our main course was horse meat prepared in a rich sauce and served with potato wedges, and reindeer meat that was cooked with carmelised onions. Yes, people! I ate Tedroy and Rudolph! Rudolph’s taste vaguely reminded me of liver, which I love, and Tedroy was kinda chewy. I hear that horse is more delicious when prepared with just salt and maybe onions, because the meat is flavourful enough without additives. Whatever…I enjoyed both! Lunch was served with cowberry juice (that’s a real thing, look it up) that was not at all sweet, and we ended the meal with hot cowberry tea infused with rosemary, thyme and honey. It was lightly flavourful and my palate felt cleansed after drinking it. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first local dining experience. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures for you guys but I purposely didn’t take any because it seemed crass in that particular situation.
Oh, and by the way, last Wednesday I appeared live on a local TV morning show. Boom.
This was my first proper TV appearance ever in life, guys! Well, that’s if you don’t count the time that Emma and I were recorded for CNN Indonesia last year when we happened to visit Masjid Istiqlal, Southeast Asia’s largest mosque. But I’m not counting that because I have no proof that we actually made it onto TV. In this case, I know I made it onto TV. Anyway, the marketing manager at work asked if I could do a promo spot for them and I said yes, because why not? I suspect that they asked me because I’m their first Jamaican and I definitely look foreign, which should attract clients to the school (one of our big selling points is that we have teachers who are real native English speakers). I was happy to do it. I wasn’t nervous and I felt like I did a good job representing my new employer while not shaming my Jamaican compatriots.
For the rest of the week, various local colleagues took us on a few excursions, which I’ll share with you in the coming weeks. To be honest, I started off the week feeling a little bit awkward at times – I didn’t know anyone and I don’t have any really relevant working experience to speak of – but by the end of the week I still felt very positive about this big move.
So that was last week. This week is all about getting ready for classes, which, for me begin in two weeks. Generally speaking, getting ready for classes means attending in-house training seminars. For me specifically, it means reading up on the techniques that I will need to use to teach my classes of little ones and getting mentally prepared to do so. With my obviously very small amount of teaching experience (they have my résumé, they know), I suspect that my classes will be closely monitored and evaluated and that I will be given feedback frequently. All of this will perhaps make me even more nervous at first but that’s all OK with me because it will help me to improve faster. I suspect that I’ve been given the youngest groups to teach because of my lack of real teaching experience but it helps to know that my employers see potential in me, or else they wouldn’t have hired me to come all this way and be a part of their very professional organisation.
So, that’s my working situation. Next time I’ll give you my first impressions of my new city.