Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Aboard the TEFL Ship

This is the last week of final exams. Everyone has been in an utter panic over exams, grading, absent students, and office relationships. I have stayed away, as I have learned to do throughout my year hear. At first I was a hopeful beginner—unable to grasp that being in a tizzy will affect nothing at all. No amount of fussing or yelling or arguing will get you anywhere here. All the hectic running about has led me to reflect on who we’ve actually got here in this esteemed bastion of academic excellence.

TEFL faculty are a crazy bunch, attracting the weirdest from across the globe. Terrifyingly Eccentric Forgotten Losers. It's a sorry sight most of the time. Nevertheless, much can be learned from them.

If I have learned anything so far here, it’s how to deal with irrational people and situations. There is very little room for logical argument and calm chronological thought. It’s something of a binding element, an emulsifier of sorts, for this heterogeneous and diverse group of people here at the college. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to—my attitude is usually the same. It could be the Omani Islamic extremist with a long chin beard, the Alabama girl turned conservative Muslim, the schizophrenic British man who hides in the dark recesses of locked classrooms, the slimy former Bath Party informer who likes to chillingly flirt with me, the quirky Iraqi man who never has anything to say except that he was fine in Iraq and the Omani environment is killing him, or the rail-thin disease ridden British zombie who got deporting within a week (I actually didn’t talk to that one). Or last but not least the incomprehensible Irish woman, who doesn’t comb her hair, wears lipstick on her teeth and regularly gets irate with the very nice guards. Oh, or the “Parisian” woman who speaks to everyone in French, students and teachers alike, at staff meeting and while proctoring exams. I could go on, really, I could, for a long time. But now I will mention a few of the gems in the bunch.

And then there are the ones that, though thoroughly bizarre in their own right, I actually enjoy talking to. We have a flamboyantly gay Brit who we all lovingly call Papa Bear and who wears magenta corduroys to work, a deceptively sane and hard-working South African woman who wears a different ethnic costume everyday just to mix it up, a Southern gay guy who wears really pointy shoes and has a little crush on my husband, and the talkative young Omani man who is head of students affairs and the theatre director who gets harassed by the other Arab staff for fraternizing with the hell-bound westerners. He couldn’t care less.

I have grown here. If only in my ability to not laugh at inappropriate times, to not try to reason with the insane, and to calmly sit in my little bubble while the office goes to hell around me.

It’s an interesting world, friends. I do feel a little bit sorry for the lifers though, even if they did get themselves where they are.