Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

I owe, I owe, So Off to Work I Go...

One of the eternal, blasted paradoxes of the universe, right up there with youth being wasted on the young, is the tendency for time and money not to co-exist. There you are, slaving away at a soul-sucking job that consumes most of your waking hours -- all of them, actually, if you are one of the unfortunate sorts who is unable to emotionally detach -- amassing piles of wealth...for what? A meager yearly two-week holiday? The ability to view exotic vistas from the comfort of your wheelchair in your dotage? You've got the money, but you are a slave to the work machine. You daydream about all the great things you'd do if only you had a few free hours here and there...

Scenario 2. You are blissfully unemployed. You have all the time in the world, the luxury of waking up in time for lunch, taking long walks, learning the basics of knitting or fly fishing. The impediment, of course, is lack of funds. No money for yarn, let alone for the fishing rods or the wheels to take you to the fish. The bliss gradually erodes, and you spend your days cursing your free time, because you have nothing to do with it except ponder 1001 ways to scare up some cash. You become inconvenienced by frequent and malicious decisions of the power company to discontinue your service, and you quickly learn how to be as silent as a forest animal on alert when there is a knock at the door -- the Big Bad Landlord again, teeth drawn and hungry for rent.

By what cruel rule of the universe are we permitted to have either money or time, but not both?

Long days of navel contemplation take their toll. The soul-sucking, cash-earning alternative starts to sound mighty appealing when compared with empty, aimless days, and so the job hunt begins.

In Izmir, if you're a native English speaker, particularly one who's TEFL certified, work as an English teacher at language schools or as a private tutor is abundant. Pay ranges from miserable (10 YTL an hour, or about 7 USD) to spectacular (150 YTL an hour, or over 100 USD to tutor chidren of well-to-do families). Regardless of pay, freelance English teaching can be a hard row to hoe. There are no benefits, clients can cancel 24 hours prior (with no compensation for the teacher), and typically teachers need to schlep themselves all over town to various different jobs to make ends meet. It is also a lonely profession -- there are no colleagues, no after-work happy hours, and socialization with students is not only bad business practice, but generally undesirable -- it feels too much like work.

After a couple of years of doing the freelance teacher gig in Germany, and learning firsthand how dry it can suck you, I was dragging my heels at the idea of getting back into the racket. Just as a return to the business was starting to seem my inevitable fate, a friend by chance passed on a job advertisement from a school in Izmir. The American College of Izmir, the most prestigious private school in the city, was seeking an ESL teacher. My first thought: job security! Second thought: Children. Ewww. Still, on a whim I applied for the job, was invited in for an interview the following week, and shortly afterwards received a job interview -- which I was required to accept or decline within 24 hours! Talk about pressure.

What tipped the balance? Was it my empty, friendless days of cruising the waterfront and making silent conversation with the pelicans? Or was it the coincidence (cleverly arranged by Fate?) that that very week we had received another hit and run visit from our nemesis, the nefarious power company? Whatever the reason, I accepted, and as of the start of School Year 2007-2008, I am officially employed as a full-time ESL teacher at SEV (the Elementary divison of ACI), teaching a class of 25 5th graders. My sleep is sometimes haunted now by echoes of shrieking childlike voices, running feet, the stifled urge to scream. But mostly it is a better sleep, knowing that my days of navel contemplation are numbered.


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