Saturday, 11 April 2009

A Tale of Two Jobs

This week has mainly been about work. After spending months trying to find side jobs with no success, I’ve suddenly found myself with almost more than I can cope with.

It started on Wednesday night when I went downtown to meet with Peter, a guy who has just started a business linking individuals and schools with native speaking English teachers. He used to work for a no good toerag called Mickey, who I was meant to work for, although luckily, seeing as he’s skipped town without paying any of his employees, including me, he actually gave me very little work.

From the start, and for a variety of reasons that are too tedious to elucidate, I felt Peter’s attitude was towards me was off – especially as he tried to pressure me into doing ‘demo classes’ for half the going rate that native English speakers normally receive. He offered me a job on Saturday mornings teaching at a primary school, and I felt that I should take it, mainly as I really want to save money for travelling in the summer.

However, after keeping myself awake that night agonizing about whether my doubts were idleness in disguise, I decided that, even though I need the money, if you take a job (especially here, where side jobs come with no employee rights) because you feel you 'should', with someone you fundamentally distrust and when your every instinct in screaming at you not to take it, then you are basically asking to get screwed over.

On Thursday I taught my regular morning classes then took a cab through torturous traffic to an English school in the centre of town, which prepares people for the Ielts English language test. The students at the school mostly want to study in Britain or Australia, and need to get a good pass in the test in order to do so. The cab ride alone ate up an eighth of what I was getting paid, but it was a one off job covering for a friend who is away, and I hoped that perhaps it might lead to more work. Luckily my hunch paid off, as Eric, the London educated manager, was delighted to find himself with a real, live British person as a teacher, and has asked me to teach at the school regularly.

I, meanwhile, am delighted that for once being British has helped me find work rather than otherwise, as there is quite a prejudice against British people in this city. It’s not just a preference for American English over British English – one of my friends tutored a woman who also needed elementary French instruction, and I was all set to start tutoring her after Spring Festival, but as soon as she found out I was British she backed out of the arrangement!

I’m also delighted that the job is great – really small classes of eager, intelligent students who are hungry to learn. I actually feel that I’m teaching them rather than babysitting, as I often do with my ‘own’ students. Hopefully I’ll teach there twice a week from now on.

I taught there again this morning and the two hours of class flew by in interesting discussions. After class some of the students invited me to eat lunch with them, so I we went and had this great noodle dish. I don’t normally like noodles, but these were rice noodles and I loved them. Naturally, they also seem to be the most expensive kind of noodle!

You get a tray of various different foodstuffs, which you then tip into to the broiling hot broth. I don’t know how the students could eat theirs straight away, I caused a commotion by repeatedly burning my mouth. No doubt they now think all foreigners have severe difficulty with the physical act of eating!

On the bus home I managed to get a seat all the way, I had a nice stroll back through park, a good work out at the gym and have just spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out and eating fruit, so even though I have to get up early again tomorrow (sob!) and go to teach at another private English school I've been working at (more about that tomorrow), I'm feeling happy and relaxed: long may it continue!

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