What’s it like there?
So, Andrew, what’s it like there?
The whopper question. I’m not really sure yet. Here’s what I know so far —
I’ve been here for six days, and my new school’s orientation schedule for us new teachers, of which there are now nearly 40, is jammed with trainings, tours, workshops and receptions. Each of the returning administrators has hosted a dinner at their homes, we’ve had group shopping excursions to a local home goods shop and the brand new mall in town. Yesterday we all had to go to the immigration office to get our residence permits. We’ve had workshops on cultural awareness and how to deal with culture shock when it kicks in. There’s been training on the new technology initiatives here, and there have been two business fairs hosted by the school so we, the new teachers, could meet, interview and hire housekeepers, cooks, and drivers. Eventually we’re going to have to start thinking about teaching.
My class of colleagues are from all over and have a variety of experiences. There’s a couple from New Zealand who have each been teaching for over 40 years and there are two interns who graduated from college in May. There are veterans from public schools in the U.S. and private school teachers like me. About a third have not taught internationally before, but there are a few people who haven’t taught in the U.S. for two decades. All of us have a few screws loose for wanting to be here, so there’s an enthusiasm and energy in the air that’s fun to be around. About 30 of us went to the immigration office together yesterday where we spent over four hours sitting in various offices and rooms, including my favorite, the “Scrutiny Room.” It was hot, un-airconditioned, confusing, and without comfortable seating or a usable bathroom. Everyone was completely exhausted when we emerged from that place. I was struck by the fact that not a single person complained. Not one. I can’t remember that ever happening with a group of teachers interacting with bureaucracy.
I pledged when I got here not to complain about the weather, but I will mention in here briefly. It’s hot and humid, but for now it feels like June in Maryland — it’s sticky, but it’s not that bad. Evidently the tough time is April and May, and the monsoons will come in October, so there’s that to look forward to.
The school itself is a wonderful place. The campus is really beautiful, and my new colleagues and bosses are terrific. There’s a culture of saying yes and making things happen that I haven’t been around before. The public school teachers are out of their minds right now — they can’t believe there’s a school with so many resources available — classroom space, IT staff, school counselors, teacher assistants, administrative staff, facility managers and personnel — are in such abundance that it doesn’t seem like it’s real.
My school is populated by students from expat families from various countries. The Indian government has required that AISC, and other schools like it, not compete with local Indian schools. This means that there are very few Indian students by law. The Indian students who do attend AISC are those whose families have been expats themselves in other countries and have returned here. Most of our student body therefore is Korean, American, and from various parts of Europe. French students comprise the fastest growing demographic over teh past few years.
I’m surprised by how well I’m adjusting to living here. Now I know that my experience the past week is not a real representation of what live will be like. Routines haven’t been set yet, I’m not sleeping on a regular schedule and I’m not grading papers. What I mean is I feel like the parts that make India India haven’t really surprised me to this point. There are great dichotomies all over the place as you might expect — the striking extremes of wealth and poverty, the sound and smell of the traffic, the nasty dogs and ubiquitous garbage right next to the shiny new shopping mall — all of it seems as it should be based on what I thought I might see. It’s a little strange how many people speak and understand English. It’s very easy to communicate.
Sometimes I wonder how I got here, but a lot of the time I feel like being here is totally normal and expected. We’ll see how those competing thoughts play out. For now, though, I like it here. I really like it here.
And, yes, photos are coming soon.