Thursday, March 10, 2011

Presuppositions

My biggest fear on this trip was how the in-laws would behave. If you've read the beginning pages of the blog, you understand that my in-laws could never be considered "fans." I kept running scenarios through my head where I was separated from my husband for too long or where they were just plain mean.

I convinced myself that this was the absolute best trip we could have ever planned. The baby was eleven months old (and terribly, terribly cute.) I figured there was no way they wouldn't like her, and thus she would turn all of the negative energy they had for me, into positive energy for her. Since it was my first intercontinental trip, we were to visit for only ten days. This was another thing that worried me, since M's last trip (scheduled for two weeks) lasted nearly five months. M did not tell them how long we were staying, and this scared me. I had this nightmare that they would push M into staying longer or refuse to take us back to the airport causing me to miss work and/or lose my job.

What actually happened was amazing. When we arrived, Karachi International Airport was not nearly the huge, busy airport I had imagined. M had told me stories of the separate lines for returning citizens and for foreign citizens, and those lines were nothing like what he had described. The officers spoke a funny kind of English asking jumbled up questions that they expected me to understand. M finally tried to just talk to them in Urdu and they resisted, jumbling up more English phrases. One example, "What is your good name?" It literally took me four repetitions to understand what he was saying. I mean, when was the last time someone asked you for your good name? I had also been up for hours and must have looked like I had been run over by a train.

I had changed into salwar kameez on the layover in Dubai and felt very, very out of place in my sandals. It did not matter that everyone else was wearing salwar kameez, I felt like an elephant in my bright, new shiny outfit as compared to the normal everyday wear around me. This is always exacerbated by the fact that my husband insists on wearing western slacks and outfits, EVERYWHERE, our home, our wedding, PAKISTAN.

Each officer was dressed in green uniform that resembled the Pakistani army uniforms I had seen on television. The biggest surprise was that one of the customs agents was a hijab wearing woman. When we got to the desk, in my muddled Urdu understanding, I could tell that the male customs agent next to us, while interviewing someone re-entering Pakistan, was on his cell phone, trying to finagle a visitor's visa to the United States.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Trip

It's been almost a year now since I first traveled to Pakistan. By nature, I am a planner, but I am also a procrastinator. And I can tell you two things I've learned about my husband in the last eight years: He does not pack for trips, he does not plan ahead.

The night before our trip I was packing until 2:00 in the morning. I then got up at 6:30 am to go to work. I left work early that day because I had an open block in the afternoon and had to pack the car. We had decided that for a very cheap fare, we would fly from New York city, and so, we rented a van to carry the absolutely crazy-huge suitcases into which we had packed gifts and food for the baby. Keep in mind that baby S was eleven months old at this time and was kind of particular about the type of food she ate. There was this irrational fear I had that we would not be able to find anything in Karachi to buy that she would eat. Sooooo, we packed baby food jars and bottled water and extra bottles.

I told you I am a planner. It was my plan to take thos disposable bottles that Playtex makes with drop-in liners so that we would not be trying to boil bottles at all hours of the night. (Even my in-laws balk at the idea of washing a baby's bottle in regular tap water in Karachi.) In my frenzy to pack everything, I packed the bottles, and did not pack the liners. Out the window went my great plans. I ended up in Karachi with one, yes ONE, Avent bottle. It took four days to find a store to buy another bottle to save me some washings.

We drove to New York and arrived at our hotel at 1:30 in the morning. We had to be up the next morning at 6:00 am to make our flight. Our flight was to go through Dubai, UAE and the first leg was to be a 13 hour flight. We would have a layover in Dubai for three hours and then take a 2 hour flight to Karachi.

By the time our flight began, having slept less than seven hours in two days, I was exhausted. S slept quite a bit on the plane, when she was in the bassinett provided on the plane, but someone was supposed to monitor her at all times and when she was on my lap, in an airplane seat, there was no sleep. I had this nutty stewardess too who kept making me take her out of the bassinett and buckle her into my seat with me. By the time we stopped in Dubai, my headache had begun, and we weren't even there yet!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Teacher's Rant

People choose to become teachers for a lot of different reasons. From the time that I was a small child, I wanted to be a teacher. It started in the first grade when my teacher read us "Charlotte's Web." It was the first "chapter book" I had ever heard and it was magic to me when it became the first book of that length I ever read on my own. The sense of pride I felt at being able to open that world for myself, the gratitude at being taught to read, I wanted to give that to other people. I tutored all throughout my elementary and middle school years.

By the time I got to high school I had changed my mind about being a teacher a few times. My family became involved in emergency medical services, everyone was a Paramedic and I wandered into that world and dedicating my time to medical careers. I never stopped teaching, but spent my time teaching CPR classes and precepting (training) other EMT's.

I spent a lot of my time during school, evaluating and re-planning lessons that I saw. I thought a lot about how I would have done something differently or how much "fun" teaching a certain lesson might be.

I have never met anyone who became a teacher for the money, and anyone who says they did it because teachers have "summers off" was joking.

Politicians and more prevelantly, "journalists" have been balking at the "high salary" and "outrageous" benefits given to public school teachers for such an "easy" job. They further complain about teachers having the summer off and leaving work "at 2:30."

I would like to go on record as saying that I'm not sure which teachers these guys are talking to, but I, for one, do not leave work at 2:30 and have a lot more responsibilities than this gentleman seems to think. They quote the average salary as $51,000 and benefits packages at $27,000. Those numbers must be inflated, because I am nowhere in the ballpark of those figures after five years of teaching. That is all I will say.

I do have a few challenges for these "journalists." I would really like them to go and teach journalism classes (six per term) in a normal public school. I would like for them to forego their journalist salary, and take on the teacher salary they would earn for their respective degrees (Glen Beck you don't qualify, because I hear you didn't attend. . . .) I want them to have "normal" class sizes, be responsible for all parent contacts that a normal teacher would have, the grading practices of a normal teacher, the meeting ratio and continuing education requirements of a normal teacher.

I would like for them to have the same reporting requirements, and the same peer observation requirements. The only difference is that I would like for there to be a REAL journalism teacher present in an observational capacity, so that someone will be there when the journalist runs screaming out of a room of thirty-three 15-18 year olds.

I really try my best not to talk about topics that I am not knowledgeable about. I really feel personally attacked each time one of these journalists balks at teachers wanting class size limits or when they say how lazy teachers are. I take very personally the attacks on teachers.


*I apologize for this post and promise to get back to the Pakistan trip soon.*