Monday, October 27, 2008

A Nice Weekend

This Monday is a national holiday-- kind of. It's the "dia de servidor publico," so everyone who has a public (government) job gets the day off. Alexandre goes to a public university, which means it's closed. My job wasn't, but since I only have private classes on Mondays now, I just did some rearranging with the students so we could have a 3-day weekend and visit Alexandre's family.

Before we left on Saturday morning, I substituted for a class at The Old Job (the one with the name that Kristin likes). I still sub there every once in a while, but I don't have any classes of my own. I dropped most of them back when the boss at Primary Job had promised me that raise and all the other stuff that turned out not to be true. Then I dropped the last of them the at-home schedule was going well. Well, neither of those thing have panned out as well as I would've liked. I was chatting with another teacher at The Old Job, because she also had a stint at Primary Job, so I could rant to someone with first-hand experience with the madness that is the boss.

She said that they were friends in school, and he made her all the same promises when he opened the school. She had a good job as a translator for a big company, but he convinced her to leave it to be a sort of co-coordinator with him at his school. He told her he had all the classes and students lined up for her.

But when he realized that opening a school was more expensive than he first thought, he decided that he would teach almost all of the classes himself (to save money), and left her with just a few hours of work a week. It messed up her career and ruined their friendship. It sucks that she had to go through that, but at least I know that I'm not the only one who was silly enough to fall for his promises.

Anyhoo, this teacher told me that she had nailed a new job as a translator and language coordinator for a different private company (good for her-- a big deal!), so she'd be leaving some of her classes at The Old Job. She asked if I'd be willing to take over her classes-- she hadn't told the boss at the Old Job yet, and she could put in a good word for me. The schedule is good, so I told her I would like the idea, but that I figured our boss was tired of me being so back-and-forth about my schedule. She said that the boss likes having a native speaker teacher, and also would prefer to have me back than to have to find and train someone else. So I said she could mention it to the boss, and that I'd call on Tuesday when we got back from our little vacation.

It was really nice to talk to this teacher-- we could compare our experiences, and she gave me good advice. It was also nice because she always says, "and I was like/ and he was like" instead of "and I said/ and he said." :)

I know I was trying to leave the schools and be more independent class-wise, but private students are just so unreliable, and I can't make a living like this-- at least not yet. I make less per hour at this school, but I make more in the long-run because they're big classes and never get cancelled. This school is also really nice in that it pays me even if students do cancel.

This teaching experience over the last few months has taught me to re-examine my job priorities as an English teacher abroad. In the beginning, the most important things for me were schedule and textbooks. I originally didn't like Old Job that much because the textbooks are pretty bad and the school has a lot of rules. But after having more experience at Primary Job, I can see the value and respect that Old Job gives to its teachers, and how much more important that is overall. They pay us for meetings-- we're working. (Plus, the meetings are actually valuable, not just the boss ranting, "this school is so disorganized!") They pay us when students cancel-- if the students have to pay, we get paid. The boss is understanding if we have to drop a class or change our schedules-- she knows that it's hard to be successful in the EFL industry, and that we can't revolve our lives around her school if she's not offering us full-time. I've never had to lie to her about why I couldn't work or why I wanted to drop or needed to add a class. But I still think schedule is important, and I'm willing to sacrifice 1 or 2 hundred reais a month for a consistent sleep schedule-- because I don't teach well when my sleeping is out of whack.

So yeah. The only problem I can forsee is that my trip home may overlap with the end of the semester at Old Job. But hopefully we can work something out... either that, or I can go back to the school in January.

Babble babble. Anyway. We had our lonnnggg 5-hour bus ride to Alexandre's parents' house. We stopped at a big rest stop/restaurant/hotel place somewhere along the Sao Paulo interstate. I learned that Saturday afternoon is not a good time to try to go to the bathroom at a highway rest stop, even if it's a big bathroom, and even if you are a woman. One thing I have consistently appreciated about America, every time I travel, is the Americans' ability to FORM A LINE. We are SO good at making respectable lines. We make it into an art. We may complain the entire time we're waiting, but at least we wait respectively, giving people their personal space and waiting our turn and all that.

The bathroom at this rest stop was jam-packed with stinky fat women (most of whom had just spent hours on busses without air conditioners). There was no organization. Some were lining up in front of stalls. There were scattered groups trying to push in front of each other next to the sinks. There were people blocking the entrance. A kind of 2-way street had formed at the entrance, but half of the women just pushed in between everyone. Most weren't flushing the toilets. Women from poorer cities didn't change their habits of throwing their used toilet paper in the trash instead of in the toilet. Many had the brilliant idea of trying to cool themselves off by splashing sink water all over their bodies, except their efforts were haphazard so the floor was covered with water and sweat and mud. I could've been in a cattle arena and I wouldn't have known the difference.

It was a short experience, but one of the most disgusting and frustrating moments of my life. Plus, I had to pee! That can make anyone grouchy. I wasn't going to write about it because I didn't want to come off as pompous, but Alexandre thought it was so funny and insisted that I share it with all of you. He can be so supportive! ;oP

On the bus, we chatted a little with a nice police officer who offered to change seats with Alexandre because our tickets weren't together. Alexandre joked that he was the only nice cop in Brazil. I said that maybe he was just new at the job. Maybe they all start out nice and with good intentions, just like the women in the bathroom, but when they see that their efforts at being ethical are futile, they give in and adopt the every-man-for-himself attitude. And then I was a little sad.

We got to Alexandre's parents' house and took advantage of the summer heat by jumping in the swimming pool. It was my first time in a swimming pool since... I can't remember when. A long time. It was my first time in a large body of water since we went to the beach during my first weekend here back in April. Fun. :)

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying English TV, since our secret illegal cable operation at the apartment was found out and turned off. :( Sunday morning, we went to an early lunch at Alexandre's aunt's mansion house. She has an ADORABLE puppy that reminded me of Madison in her stockiness and hunger for attention. She immediately rolled over for us to rub her tummy, and when we stopped, she started whimpering until we started up again. Some friends of the family also came to the lunch, and included a little girl named Isadora. She was about 8 years old and was really excited to practice the English she is learning in school. She asked me "what is your name?" in English, and told me that her favorite colors are yellow, blue, and pink, and that her favorite animals are snakes. Then she tried to tell me a joke in Portuguese, but I had to explain that jokes are really hard in a new language. I asked if she could teach me a hand game instead. (You know, those "down by the banks of the hanky-panky" things.) Then she told me that her dream was to move to England and meet the kids from Harry Potter, and while she was there, she would study at Hogwarts and then become either a singer or a doctor. Hahahaha.

After our lunch, Alexandre and I tried to go to the local (free!) zoo. But we were only there for about 15 minutes before they closed and kicked everyone out. But we managed to get a couple of pictures...

...before I we dropped my camera and broke it. Sadness! The thing was on its last leg anyway. The lens didn't go inside and the battery compartment didn't stay closed without tape. But now I am camera-less in the land of 800-dollar cameras... so if anyone's going shopping on Black Friday and sees something small and simple for me (100-150-dollar range... 6-7 megapixles is all I need), I could pay you back. :)

We spent the rest of the evening at home with the family, and good times were had by all. We head back tomorrow. Only this time, I'm peeing outside.


  1. You are so fricking funny. I can't read your blogs without laughing. I just got back from camping, where I had to pee outside as well. They actually do have a bathroom (a hole in the ground with an actual toilet over it) but they stink sooo bad, and, of course, I always think of that X-files episode with the creature in the toilet sooo yeah, I will not use it. I love that peacock. When we were young, Auntie Lynn used to take us up to P.V. to see the peacocks (at that time they were everywhere up there). It brought back some nice memories. Don't worry about work. You know you're not happy unless you're working so go back to both jobs. Make the Old Job the priority and screw the Primary Job. The boss there is a jerk anyway. Then you can steal all his clients for your private tutoring. :) That's it (that's enough).
    Love you both,

    Call you manana

  2. Your bathroom horror story reminded me how immigrants who've been living in America for several years already still throw their used toilet paper in the trash instead of flushing it. I remember some of my immigrant cousins doing that when I was younger, and more recently even unnamed exroommates and friends of boyfriend still do it. They just don't realize that plumbing in major US cities can withstand the toilet paper, unlike the plumbing or lack thereof where they're from. And when they do realize it, some are still too stubborn or stuck in their habits. It's kinda like how many people, immigrant or US born, don't realize that it's safe to drink water straight from the tap in major US cities. And when they do realize it, some still insist that buying bottled water is somehow better. Ok, I couldn't help but pitch in my 2 cents on sanitation and people.

    All that aside, toda la suerte sorting things out with the jobs and hope you and the boyfriend and the cat have a splendid rest of the week. :)

  3. OMG! As I read ur blog, I couldn't help thinking how u adjusted there... And then I see u guys at a Dodgers game! That was it, I had to comment on it... Seriously, I'm Brazilian and I have been living in Los Angeles for almost 9 years, considering going back home for good with hubbie and 3-year-old son... But I just freaking love this How to survive without pancakes in the morning, stand up comedy, and grey goose apple martinis... Btw, my husband is nuts about The Dodgers (even thought he's never seen them winning,lol) Darn Yankees! That's all! Let me know if u wanna visit me on Orkut!


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