The Return

Well, I’ve been back in Suli for a week, and everything looks different since Israel. My life seems…a lot bigger since I’ve returned. I can see a larger picture of what I’m doing here, and I have a better idea of how I what I want to pursue.

Because here, in this city, in this school, with these co-workers, my life can get pretty small. Details start to take precedent. Tiny disagreements get blown out of proportion. Cliques form, gossip happens, dirty looks are shot at you in the hallways, the administration records your every movements, and dissent smolders.

Really – I can find myself getting smaller and smaller as I spend time with these people. And if I try to fit in with them, I become miniscule.

It’s like, when I first get back from vacation I’m outside looking at the horizon. Then a few days later I’m looking at it through a window. Then I can barely see over the windowsill, and after a while I’m just staring at the floor and I’ve forgotten that a horizon even exists.

I’m a fan of the big, grand, sweeping adventure which doesn’t concern itself too much with unnecessary details. Yes, I know this is a very “young” way of thinking, but I think it’s valid, and I see lots of people who stress out over rather unimportant minutiae. When I travel, I don’t like to have a daily schedule. After figuring out transportation (plane tickets, learning how the train/metro/bus system works, deciding whether hitchhiking is safe in this particular place – to me, transportation necessitates the most research) I more or less circle the hotspots on my map and figure out where I’m sleeping most nights.

And then I go.

There’s so much minutiae foisted upon me, why do I have to inflict it on myself?

It’s funny – this is one of the reasons I left the US. People are so stressed out there. People want to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and they think that the only way to be successful, the only way to be a valid person, is to work work work work work. And they can’t relax often, so when they do relax they often overdo it: partying, doing nothing, etc.

I often see this in older adults, but I more see it in my peers. We are trying to figure out how to conduct our lives post-college. We are trying to, basically, bushwhack and create a path for ourselves. And finding this path becomes so all-important that enjoyment falls by the wayside.

So here I am in the Middle East, where days go by in a decidedly slower fashion. People just… chill out more. To Americans this often looks like laziness, and I admit that I’m often frustrated by many Kurds’ lack of work ethic, but it’s also a relief. AND YET here I am working in an international school which is desperately trying to be American, and thus works its teachers to death. The annual teacher turnover rate in our sister school in Arbil, the capital, is 90%. 90%. That’s ridiculous. It’s all work, all stress, all minutiae.

Our actual duty as teachers – teaching children – is forgotten. It’s buried amidst pacing charts, attendance sheets, worksheets, and test scores.

But now that I’m fresh from an adventure, this school just looks silly to me. Really, all the busy work is ridiculous. I know that the longer I’m here, the more I will get sucked into this must-must-must mindset.

But I only have 9 more weeks to go until my next vacation.

Which will, I think, also be spent in Israel. I’m looking at jobs and Hebrew-Arabic programs there, both in Israel and the West Bank. Because…

I’ve DEFINITELY decided not to renew my contract. NONONONONO. It’s liberating!

I have 5 1/2 more months of teaching here, and then I’m GONE! But I still want to stay in the Middle East.

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2 thoughts on “The Return

  1. It is so great to hear you have clarity and a sense of what you want to do. I wonder if this new attitude won’t help you avoid getting dragged down by institutional minutiae. You wisely know that the most important thing is the children. I know you have much more to share with them and I hope you can feel joy in the remaining time with them. I hope, too, that you may consider continuing to work in education. There are a gazillion ways to do that, and I’ll bet you could find a context which is rewarding for you.

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