The past several days have been a whirlwind of emotions. In keeping with the theme of opening a new school in a country with no sense of normality, it was happiness one minute then frustration and anger the next, with an ever present sense of sheer disbelief and bewilderment looming overhead.
Life at the Boys’ School has fallen into a regular pattern. Each day I arrive at the building with only the slightest idea of what’s in store, I make my way through the day in small patient steps to get through each strenuous hour, and by the end of the day I’m faced with the continual realization that I’m entirely unprepared for whatever tomorrow will bring through no fault of my own. Schedules change on a daily basis, depending on the time of day the majority of staff members disappear for prayer or coffee, and parents stop by two or three times a day and stay to chat for twenty minutes during the middle of a subject. I’ve welcomed two new students in the past week who lack any English abilities, and seen several others stop attending because their parents pull them out without warning. I’ll be greeting one more new student tomorrow morning, and have been told to expect another at the beginning of next week. Days that start off well turn sour relatively quickly, while others that make me question my decision to come here have resulted in some of the most rewarding teaching experiences I’ve ever had. This life is manic.
The mania extends beyond the classroom. I attempted to supplement my currently non-existent income by venturing into the world of teaching English to adults. I spent an evening meeting with one of the Vice Presidents of our company and was genuinely excited to learn more about teaching at the Men’s School. After arriving there I was backhanded with the same routine of smoke and mirrors and dangerously subtle false pretenses. This was not the type of situation I needed. I came to my senses and decided to forgo this moonlighting adventure, but was unexpectedly shooed out of the building in haste, left by myself at the side of a major highway with no phone, a limited amount of cash, and no idea where I was. I got back to the compound and laid floating in the pool, staring into the dusty glow of Al Khobar at night, feeling particularly uneasy about being able to come to terms with what I’ve gotten myself into.
A different Vice President paid us a visit this afternoon. He stumbled into a fight on the football pitch, and after unsuccessfully trying to find a staff member to help him resolve the situation, he suddenly realized how ridiculous this school had become. In a relatively short meeting (by Saudi standards) he gave us full reign to restructure the school to better fit the needs of our students with our limited resources. He promised more help and more staff, and started making phone calls during the meeting (it’s incredibly impolite, but it’s how they accomplish things here in the Kingdom). I felt the weight lift from my shoulders and tried to process a flurry of ideas of how to utilize these new gifts. Then, tilting his head and lowering his voice he uttered “Inshallah.” It pulled us back to reality in one shared anticlimactic sigh. The bus ride home was very quiet.