Saturday, November 20, 2010

Part VII, Eid Al Adha Break, A Half-Term Assessment

Dear Family and Friends:

The Best News
This week  the man in Personnel in charge of our visas arrived in my office--perhaps Monday or Tuesday--with my resident card and passport.  That allows me to leave the country and I will.  I will come to Nebraska for Christmas, Dec. 23rd-Jan. 3rd. It's not long but as pleased as I am, I guess it must be long enough!

I know it's been awhile since I updated this blog and it's taken me awhile to try to figure out what I would like to say here about my experiences.  I have heard it said that failure to meet expectations can result in depression.  I cannot speak for all my colleagues here but amongst the expats and Westernized Lebanese there do seem to be many who have feelings of hopelessness and depression that appear to me to be chronic.  Of course, I'm always intrigued by the "why" of something but there could be so many answers to the question of why my colleagues, and I at times, are depressed.

Professional Life
The students are probably the most discouraging aspect of professional life here.  What I'm  about to say will sound like overgeneralizing and hyper-critical.  Sadly, it's just the truth for 80% of  the students in this school.  They are not serious about their studies, they are rude, immature, and difficult.  The 20% who do care get short-changed because class management issues take up so much time and energy.  I've resorted to sending people out of class.  I have heard of teachers who've left their classes but I refuse to leave my own class!  I got the Skype address of  the father of one particularly lost young man who cannot seem to get his act together for more than 2 minutes at a time.  They are not all spoiled, rich kids but a great many are and perhaps an equal number at least have been raised by nannies.  The profs sit around and discuss this problem, what they do in class, and try to come up with reasons for it.  No one has a definitive answer but I can tell you this:  This would doubtless be the first time in my career that I would be described as an Old Battle-axe if they knew the words. 

A Visit From Marlene

I was so delighted when Marlene, the Academic VP and Acting President  at LCC came over her fall break for a visit.  From my standpoint, it was just about perfect.  I taught every morning and we went sight-seeing every afternoon but one.  Because I'm sharing a car with the Leighs, I have mentioned them before (Americans, U Wisconsin, 1-year appointment), I was able to pick Marlene up in Beirut from the airport and drive up to Mt. Lebanon to see the Cedars of Lebanon, among other things.  Lebanon is a small country so, we were able to see much of it.   We did not venture into the  famed Bekaa Valley nor south of Beirut, two places not considered entirely safe. Her last weekend we went to Beirut and walked all over the downtown area seeing the Grand Mosque, which is incredibly beautiful, a Maronite Cathedral, the Martyr's Square, and the famous American University of Beirut.  , It was just so good to have a friend here and have the chance to process, with someone who knows higher ed and who knows me some of my observations.  She was asked to speak to faculty, meet the Chair, meet the Dean and talk to the MA TESOL faculty which she did on Tuesday.  I have heard great comments since of her talk.  Perhaps there are a few who were not so depressed for a day or two. I have a few pictures here:  Lebanon, October 2010

The Oven Blows Up, Part II
 For those  folks who missed Part I, see Jordan Journals; yes, Part I was also in the Middle East.  From the first time I tried to use the oven, I had told the Housing people that it did not work well.  The obvious issues are that you have to have the flame on top, as in broiling, or on the bottom but never both for all-over even heat.  Furthermore, the dial has increments of High or Low,that is all and Off, I thought.  I bought a counter-top oven/toaster and so haven't used the gas oven since the first time, when I burned the bottom of a pizza crust.  Today, I thought I'd get up my courage and turn on the oven, using the top flame for a few minutes and then the bottom flame to finish the baking.  I turned off the gas to the broiler and tried to light the bottom flame.  I couldn't.  Finally, I gave up, turned the gas off and closed the door, deciding to use the broiler flame and finish as well as I could.  I lit a match and leaned over to open the oven door and turn the gas back on.  I never got that far because as soon as I opened the oven door a sudden"whoosh" of flame blew out of the oven, burning my left arm and singing my hair and eyebrows.  It wasn't worse because I pulled back quickly, remembering what had happened 5 or so years ago in Jordan.  I turned the gas off on the cylinder and showered to get rid of all the burned hair., gathering up my courage to look in the mirror.  It's not as bad as it sounds.  I can show up to class, I can go out in public. 

Well, it's Eid again, another holiday.  At the beginning of the week, Monday-Wednesday, I drove to The Bekaa Valley to see Baalbek, Ancient Ruins, Anjaar, and the Ksara Winery.  The ruins were amazing.  I have pictures and will share them here soon.  I am off until Tuesday of next week and am spending the time marking and looking at possible positions for next year.

Love and hugs,