“You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run…” -Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
“Should I stay or should I go?” -The Clash, Should I Stay or Should I go
“I don’t want to end up cynical like everyone I know who has been here for three years or more.” -Krista
“I’m way more cynical than I was when I came here.” -Chris
Each year we’re here (and we’re in year three, if you forgot) we see more of our friends and fellow 2012 English teachers depart. For us the question of staying and renewing my teaching contract for another year resolved itself when the 2013 school year ended up being much easier than the 2012 one, and also because I couldn’t find anything that seemed like a better offer for me and my family. We’ve determined this will be our last year in the Emirates, as I think we’ve mentioned before. We aim to head somewhere else in next fall, in the way-futuristic-sounding year of 2015.
But why? The package here is good–tax free salary, housing that is provided, good friends who are as close as family, and we’re accustomed to the peculiarities of the area. Jenia has a nice little thing going with her photography, the little one has play groups and other things he goes to. For all practical purposes, this is home now.
So again, why leave?
See the quotes above. It seems a good time to go. We have had, overall, a positive experience. We want to see more of the world, to continue our expat explorations abroad before returning to the USA for a while (notice I didn’t say forever).
Chris has been here 4 years now, and he doesn’t bother with the bright side. He is resigned, in a manner of speaking, to the, er, structure of the work environment, but that doesn’t stop him from complaining about it.
Krista accepted a new job after 2 years because she didn’t want to be like Chris in that way. Now she’s teaching in another Asian country and by the looks of it having a blast. She left before she could grow cynical.
This year I have to fight to repress snarky comments, the roll of the eyes, the ever-more-snide comments when things go exactly as frustratingly as they typically do at work. At the moment, I’ve managed to look at the bright side of that battle, and say, “Hey, why should I expect anything different? Why be annoyed?”
One of the Arabic Medium Teachers (AMTs) that I work with is from Tunisia. He’s an English teacher, too. “When we go back to Tunisia to work after teaching here in the UAE or the Gulf we have to undergo rehabilitation,” he said.
“They observe us and make sure that we can still teach. They enroll us in a program where we go for training, much more than any other teachers.”
“Wait,” I said, “You’re serious.”
“Yes, I’m serious.”
My teaching skills haven’t been ruined. Like my colleague, whose school found him perfectly able to conduct classes when he returned to Tunisia for a while before coming back to the UAE, I’ll not need a rehab program. One of the good things about having a bunch of hooligans for students is that my classroom management skills are now second to none. I mean, I can see a kid’s mobile phone before he even knows he’s gotten it out of his pocket. I can separate and rearrange a classroom on the fly so quickly the trouble makers are located in different sectors before they can make a peep.
Even so, three years seems like enough. It’ll be hard to find another package that has benefits as plentiful as this one, but in terms of workplace satisfaction, the factor that makes many folks grow cold and hard inside in this place (because you gotta deal with frustration somehow), one would think that might be higher in another location.
“You gotta know when to walk away,” as ol’ Kenny sang. We’re planning to walk away in July with tons of amazing memories that we could never have generated anywhere else, and one day we’ll return with our son and be amazed at how different the UAE has become. The Clash sang “If I stay there will be trouble, if I leave it will be double.” I can’t apply that verse. If I stay I there might be some trouble with my psyche, but not the knock-down-drag-out kind of fightin’ that the song suggests. Until July rolls around, I’m aiming to stay optimistic and enjoy all the good things here, because there are plenty of them.