Thank God it's Friday
It's Saturday and it's not just the Poms who are whingeing. I'm abroad. I am teaching English at a university and the working week begins on a Saturday. Three in the morning your time finds me among ex-pats from all over the world on the baiza bus, grumbling.
We've a solid week ahead of us, teaching English as she is taught in the heat out here, by rote and drill, repeat after me. You know what day it is by the page you're on in the textbook. Today we're on page one. It must be Monday.
I won't tell you where I am exactly. Here people are easily offended. I'll drop you hints instead. It started last year. I saw an ad in The TES which promised a tax-free income, a house, a blue sky and a coral reef. What they didn't mention was the E word. Here education means "drumming in" not "leading out". I look around at all these well-qualified people who work their way through an out-of-date coursebook, and think what a waste - for them and their students.
I spend a fortune in the evening calling friends in the UK. I tell them, miss you, miss culture. Tell them don't miss the snow or education cuts. Tell them that I can't always say what I want because mail is opened and censored.
Lightning slashes a tropical sky, hot even at midnight. At first I think it's divine retribution on us ex-pats for our liquor licences, decadent lifestyle and heretical gear under the long black compulsory cloak, the abbya. My fault perhaps. I'd even thought of wearing a T-shirt with an educational logo: "Stay in shape. Don't spoon-feed." Over-night the wadis burst their banks and some students can't make college. What in Allah's name have they been wearing?
I taught in a large inner-London furtherhigher education college before here. There, male and female students mingled freely. Here, men sit one side, women the other, and there's definitely no mingling. I'm thrown when one of the women changes her scarf - I knew who she was by its colour.
The students lighten up when they get to know me. They laugh at my jokes. They tease me. You are fun they tell me, we like learning with you. You make us laugh. But they gasp when I go too far and skip one page in the textbook. Go back to page four, they remind me. I tell them the storm made me bold.
Thank God it's Wednesday. In this country, the weekend starts here. Tonight is the night a single woman can innocently sit in a hotel and amass a pile of business cards all promising gold, money, air tickets, camels. I favour snorkelling this weekend and afterwards a barbecue. What are you hungering after Amanda? asks an American friend. I'll have to teach him English. He means what do I fancy for supper - I think.
Amanda Kavanagh is back in the UK