First week of teacher training
Tuesday October 4 – Taking the train home after Day 1 of teacher training, pulling into the station at Brussels North past shy behemoths of office towers loitering outside the station, waiting tragically for some executive to come make them feel loved. Their profane expanses of reflective glass look best when punctured and shattered in the post-apocalyptic cityscape; it will take the end of the world as we know it to make them interesting. I mean that in a good-natured way. Those institutions are not a means for the growth of human happiness and wellbeing. I promise I’m not listening to Marilyn Manson and wearing big black boots with lots of buckles right now.
Class was a pleasant event. Looks like work, and that’s a good thing. Looks like quality people, and that’s a great thing. My online TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) class was too easy/boring/non-practical, and learning is always worthwhile.
Cruising above traffic-constipated highways in a train that hums in a language fluent in speed is just plain fun.
Wednesday October 5 – I screwed up my demo lesson in class today worse than I’ve ever screwed anything up. It was even worse than that time in freshman year of college when I didn’t prepare a Spanish presentation on Sor Juana based on prior “knowledge” of a book I (didn’t) read for another class, and tried to stretch the statement “Sor Juana was a nun” into a 5 minute presentation.
Luckily it was the best possible scenario for a failure, with an instructor who can frame it as a mixed bag, and a class who can benefit from it as a learning experience. It wasn’t just me who flailed, it was us who learned… Though it just felt like me at the time.
I spent the next couple hours uncomfortable and tongue-tied.
The commute-time train is full of businessmen in their fresh black/navy blue suits; the air smells like a clothing store, not real life, and has a unique hush of lots of people uninterested in talking to each other, or maybe they’re just as tired as I am.
A woman who looks like Joe Torre with greasy hair to her chin reads a famous Dan Brown novel on a platform as we slide past, standing apart from the businessmen. She doesn’t look up as we pass by. Neither do they.
The graffiti is scattered politely across warehouse sides and farm field fences, colorful, legible, and uninspired. I’ve never tried that, seems like it would be fun. Maybe if this teaching gig doesn’t work out, I’ll give it a try… Your homework: tag 5 Starbucks. Starbuckses.
Thursday October 6 – The vagaries of human ebb + flow reliably defy comprehension and stubbornly exist, so I’m the only one to get off the train at my small station today, and I ride home in a patiently-complacently peaceful suburban silence, luckily with Chet Baker’s Almost Blue in my ears. In a backyard glimpsed between brick houses made entirely of 90-degree angles I see a brightly colored pinwheel spinning-shouting over bulgy plastic yard toys abandoned on their sides. It is the only motion, outside my own, in a world that has been eaten by long work hours and television. The former has relinquished its hold for the day, and the people have embraced the anaesthetic of the latter, which blink idiotically through window after window.
It’s a zombie movie, and I’m the only survivor of the plague, only the monsters refuse to leave their houses.
Friday October 7 – I can’t quite tell if I’m exhausted or eager in class, I think both. All I know is a very unexpected degree of nervousness. I’m uncomfortable in my own skin like I haven’t been since adolescence.
I’ve gotten off planes with no idea what to expect on 4 continents, and it never felt like this.
I find myself in a state of witness, detached, that I associate with physical danger. When the infamous California riptide is keeping me away from the beach, and my limbs are getting sluggish in the cold. Walking alone through a jungle that shivers in the rain to look for a rhino that the guide said was here before he disappeared, and my own feet look so small when I step in the tracks of the animal that could be behind any bush. Walking, alone alone, through an unknown city at night where I know no words in the language and no people in the country and have no place to sleep tonight and am 90% sure those guys from the alley are following me now. Walking alone alone alone through a village that seems abandoned other than the half dozen dogs who are surrounding me in growls and barking.
Those all felt fun, my heart smiling as it beat faster. This classroom detachment is more like nausea. Logically I find it unwarranted.
In the crowded train station I play the familiar game of trying to spot the pick-pockets among the crowd, college kids heading home with bags of laundry, and the businessmen with panic around their eyes as they negotiate sanity in an existence where they look forward to Friday all week, then get here and realize it’s just waiting in mild annoyance for Monday morning, when they’ll settle back to complaining about work with a sigh of relief.
(Oh, and that one businessman whose pants are way-hay-hay too tight. Maybe he’s Italian…)
But that’s not quite right, I don’t feel anger or depression at these facefree hordes with briefcases in hand, instead I feel empathy and respect for the tragic and unimaginable sacrifices made with varying degrees of willingness to a system of profane selfishness, desperate need, and idiotic exigencies. I wonder what the smiling poverty of Nepal would say on this subterranean platform.
But riding home I am filled with a screaming love for the world that wants to caress and smash the lot of it. I love my fellow man but he needs a kick in the pants and a hug.
Saturday October 8 – When I heard it was a two week training, I kinda dismissed it; how much can you expect to learn in two weeks? I am surprised at how tiring it is, especially when logically I understand it all, but just can’t manoeuvre it into anything functional. But enough is enough for now, so I spent Saturday without a thought for this job, instead trying to catch up with the world through the forum of an email each to my mother and brother, and 64 emails of political/environmental/social causes and newsletters. There are amazing and horrible things going on every damn blessed day.
My Saturday was with two of the amazing things.
My Saturday was with two of the amazing things.