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Passing away

  Tue 6th March 2018

Saturday 24th February, Budapest.

It's 11am and I am drinking luscious Soproni IPA in the capital city of the country in which it is made. I have told a unnecessarily big, old lie to get here.

I woke up and checked the time. Ten o'clock, so plenty of time to have a bowl round Budapest before getting my flight to Manchester. Put the lights on and thought the little studio apartment might face onto a forcibly collectivised wall.

I look outside; a few brassy stars making it through Budapest's cloak of electrification, and wonder how long we will persist in the nostalgia of calling the stars' competitors "artificial light". I realise that it's dark because it is 5am, my phone and my body both still on Kazakh time.

Tuesday 6th March, Astana.

Living here feels like being in some sort of KGB stress test experiment: once you get however shaky a grip on a certain level, they invent new tests. There isn't much teaching in what I do. Sometimes I feel humiliated and small, a plaything for the children to belittle. I find it difficult to cope with the anxiety that accompanies me every day: she's the only thing that sometimes gets into bed with me.

On Thursday of last week, after a humiliating "lesson" with Year 5, many of whom completely ignored me, I started jotting down some short and medium term escape plans. Eventually, I self-pitied myself into thinking that even having to wait until pay day on 10th March would be unbearable. I emailed my brother, asking if he could get in touch with my mother to take her up on her offer of loaning me at any time, the fare home.

By the time I had sloughed off the day, the not inconsiderable sum it takes to leave Astana quickly was in my account -- a gift, he said, not a loan. I then stupidly yoked myself into one of the inept and cowardly lies to which I am prone to resort: I told school that my mother had died. Just before I arrived, I rubbed some snow into my eyes in order to induce a tearful, reddened visage appropriate for someone recently bereaved.

Back in Lancaster on Monday, I had a rare moral qualm, as everyone at the school sent condolences -- tempered with a couple of unsubtle requests that I deal with my mother's demise as quickly as possible. I felt guilty about shifting all my work onto Lidia and Hera, who already work harder than me for a quarter of my salary. After a few days, I invented a Saturday funeral and told them I would be back today to resume teaching on Monday.

Meantime, I fell back into the same easy ways of Lancaster. I saw Wendy. I had almost forgotten how headily enjoyable it is to be in her company and how I much I love looking at her; little moments of still wonder, staring at her when she had her back turned to me at the bar, the slow seconds of stroking her all along her back -- my only regret being that I can only use my eyes to do this.

I arrived back in Astana on Sunday, tempted to wait an hour and get straight back on the plane. I rang Lidia to let her know I was here, and after a few pleasantries, she alleged that I had agreed to work through the forthcoming week's holiday. I would never have agreed to such a thing. Lidia said that she would talk to the Director about it, but there's no "discussion" possible.

Yesterday morning, wide awake at 4.30am with the fear rising and shading into a despair about my powerlessness in school, and faced with the prospect of losing my longed-for holiday, I resolved to throw in the towel, but to do it properly this time: tell no-one.

Yesterday, everyone was far more pleased to see me than I them; and by the end of the day, their kindness had worked again and I had conditionally, and temporarily, shelved my plan to leave the country this weekend: whilst it would be greatly helpful for my future to get a reference from the school, I'll be on a plane to Manchester this Sunday if they insist on me working through the single week of holiday I get in a six-month contract.


What a load of turmoil! At least you’re not bored. Boredom is the worst with turmoil a close second. Did those little monsters display any kindness in light of your mother’s “passing?”

Re: Wendy. #relapse.

Tue 6th March 2018 @ 17:42 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

There’s a really nice lad who came over and asked me how she died and offered his “condolences” – quite a good word to know when you’re 15 and speaking in your third language. His very first approach to me was after class once and he said “Sir, do you like the Plantagenants?” :)

The disruptive ones don’t care, and I care not for them. Their lives are untroubled by me; mine is greatly troubled every day by them.

Tue 6th March 2018 @ 20:23 Reply to this comment
Comment from: daisyfae [Visitor]

my stress level went up just reading about this… i’m wondering if a ‘truce’ with the disruptive students would be possible. let them do what they want - quietly - and you continue to teach any students that are interested in learning?

Fri 9th March 2018 @ 07:57 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Yes, I was thinking something along those lines. Divide and conquer somehow. I spend all my time trying to quieten the class so that anyone can actually speak and be heard. I’m supposed to be concentrating on getting them to speak, but without some basic manners it’s impossible to do that. I had no idea it would be like this, and I’m not coping at all. It’s just a question of getting through every interminable 80-minute lesson then going shaking into the next one. I don’t like it affecting me like this. I’m not prone to stress yet feel under a great deal of it six days a week. The one day off isn’t enough.

Fri 9th March 2018 @ 09:33 Reply to this comment

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