Mmmm. You know that adage, when it rains it pours? I’ve found at various points in time that there’s some truth to it. Suffice it to say that it’s figuratively raining here in Spain (My Fair Lady, anyone?). I’m not quite sure at this point that it’s pouring, but I can tell you that my ruby slippers are getting pretty wet.
Here’s an abbreciated version of what happened the other night when I was supposed to sign my lease. New friend Ryan escorted me and 900 euros, cash, (meep!) through three metro changes and a stop at Menéndez Pelayo 55. When I arrived at the piso, Laura was sweet as always and TIRED as always, and handed me a contract to read. I discovered that rent would actually be somewhere far more in the vicinity of 475 euros/month than the 455 I’d been planning on. 475 euros for a room that I found on the second visit has bureau nor desk and a closet outside the room because it’s so small that only a twin bed can fit inside, is astronomical. That was my bad–I was too eager and too relieved when I found something that wasn’t a total shithole. Equally, I don’t want to suggest Laura unfairly jacked up the rent, but I will say that she wasn’t as transparent with me as she could have been. The “gastos” (bills for water, gas, electricity, garbage, phone and internet) were substantially more than implied and I, after a terrifying day of orientation, balked. I got weepy, told her I needed a day to think about the contract, collapsed in a heap of tears back at the residencia and notified her the following day that I wouldn’t be taking her apartment.
On the same day I also discovered that, though perfectly sweet, the bilingual coordinator at my school (my BOSS) has NO idea what my job is–and may or may not know what hers is because she is so new. I feel awful for her because she’s obviously very frazzled and torn in a million directions, but at the same time, I’d kind of like to know what the fuck I’m supposed to be doing and have some assurance that somebody knows. Here’s how I discovered that everyone is as clueless as I am about what my role actually is:
My Fulbright contract states that for 16 hours a week I am in the classroom with children and will have at least one week-day of my choice per week off, plus whatever many hours of prep work I have to do outside of school a week. My coordinator’s first question to me (in broken English) was this: “Why do you make so much more money than the other 4 language assistants?”
Me: “Uh, I do? I don’t know.”
MariGrego: “Is it because you’re the boss of all the other TAs?”
Me: “Uh. I don’t…believe…so. I applied in a different way. I had to compete to get the position, and there are three different sources of income for me. Maybe that’s it?”
MariGrego: “Oh. So you’re smarter than them, so you make more money.”
Me: “No! No I’m just” (different)
MariGrego: “Hmm…okay…. So we want you to spend 16 hours in the classroom with children, then teach the teachers 3 different levels of English conversation classes at the hours most convenient for them.”
This was a total surprise, and if I hadn’t had the commission make a call, I would’ve gotten suckered into teaching grades 1-5 as well as 3 levels of adults. Can you say 80 hour work week? I can, but I refuse. Lucky MariGrego’s a total, total sweetheart or else I’d kind of loathe her right now. 🙂
Long story short, I’ve seen 7 or so pisos since the one the other night fell through and nothing’s panning out. Today, I had a phonecall misunderstanding disaster which ended up with me hauling ass across town to see a piso where there was nobody home (I’ve contacted two Carolinas about pisos and thought that the OTHER Carolina called me this morning to change showing times. Alas–it was the Carolina of the beautiful neighborhood with the reasonably priced riin). This confusion resulted in my writing a text message that made me seem like a disorganized flake and feeling generally blue and angry at my inability to lipread via telephone.
I am the last homeless Fulbrighter and also the only one not at a Fulbright party tonight. Why? Because I’m extremely, disgustingly, loathesomely sick. It’s quite fun, really, when the walls of your throat feel as though they’ve morphed into extremely irate and warlike Balkan nations. What I need now is vitamic C and sleep, but being stressed about my fantastically hoboish status is preventing that. Cool!
I won’t pretend that it’s sunshine and lollipops here, ’cause it ain’t, but strangely, I’m not breaking. I’m disgruntled, yes, and a little worried, but I’ve dealt with a healthy helping of crap before, and I can do it again. I’m resourceful, my resources are resourceful (Um… the ones that I…have…) and I will figure something out. I just hope to God I make some sort of miraculous rebound before I have my first day at school on Monday.
What d you think reflects less poorly upon myself as a dignified, respectable teacher and decent human being? A) Bringing the plague to a school full of primary students or B) missing my first day of work as a Fulbrighter? Cast your votes NOW!
I suppose I’ll try to sleep. Really, nothing much else to do now. This too shall pass. I’m learning.