Three weeks on and things perhaps don’t look as grim as before, but still, it could be better. For instance, we could have got paid after the first month of work. The salaries have now been two weeks overdue and we still don’t know when they are going to be in. Our pay slips are on the system, but you can hardly live off pay slips. At least, we have savings to fall back on, but relocating to a new country for work and having to live off your own savings isn’t an ideal situation! Apparently, this does happen a couple of times a year at the beginning of an academic year, but obviously they don’t tell you this at the interview…
The teaching is going okay, but the fact that you don’t get paid does put a damper on your enthusiasm. I do voluntary work at Ted.com, but here I wasn’t supposed to work for free. So far, I have. Anyway, by ‘the teaching is going okay’ I mean that I can handle it as this is what I have been doing for the past 13 years, but I’m a person for whom professional development is super important and before coming here I was convinced that I would be doing something far more academic and challenging – the sort of thing that I do at the University of Liverpool. I love teaching Academic Writing, for instance, which in my present position I cannot do too much off, because my current students are at the elementary level. It’s kind of disappointing and though I’m trying my best to stay positive, I feel as though this is not going to help my career as an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) teacher.
The good news that I have spent the last three weeks driving, which most people in the world take for granted, but for me is still a pretty new and exciting experience. You see, I got my license 10 years ago but never really drove, perhaps 2-3 times in 2007-2008, in Poland. I always thought that I was actually incapable of proper, grown-up driving (maybe that’s why I’ve never felt like a proper adult) and never even considered getting a car. When I first lived in London, it was out of question because of the traffic and problems getting a parking lot, which I remembered so many friends and work mates were constantly raving about. In San Sebastian, I used to walk everywhere and only took the bus three times in four years. Had I had a car, I would have missed out on all the fun and beauty that the city has to offer. Then, in London and Liverpool I used a bike, which was the best means of transportation for me at the time. In Islamabad, B. did all the driving and I was happy with it, though I did practise driving there a couple of times, on the actual road, obviously, since driving in Pakistan is nothing like what I know about driving in the first place. When it first dawned on me that I had to drive here (about five weeks ago), I panicked and thought I could never do this. However, thanks to B.’s encouragement and K.’s quick wit (K. is the one who we first rented a car from for a week and then sold another car to us), I was able to start driving pretty quickly and so far, so good-ish, I guess. At first, I thought that I’d be driving to work and supermarket only, and only with B., but in the last three weeks I have been to so many new places and drove so many different people, incl. their children, that it’s safe to say that I’ve been thrown in at the deep end, but so far haven’t drowned, Alhamdulillah! The longest drive has been a round trip to a beach in Muscat on a highway during which I covered 320 km. The problem here is that the speed limit in most places is pretty high, e.g. 100-120 km/h, and not only on a highway, and then it suddenly drops to 60 km/h in many places. For this reason, people drive very quickly and there is pressure for you not to go below 100, which is, I dare say, quite a lot, isn’t it? Obviously, they don’t use the indicator, which comes as no surprise to me, as when I cycled in the UK, hardly ever did I actually see it being used. Also, overtaking when someone is visibly coming from the opposite direction (at 100km/h) and only just making it is an awfully common and awfully terrible phenomenon. You really have to be extra careful here which is extremely stressful when you’re a new driver and don’t feel so confident about going to new places for the first time. On the other hand, however, I haven’t stopped leaving my comfort zone since I arrived, so I might as well get the learning how to drive done and over with once and for all.
B. has also been doing the same, getting out of his comfort zone, that is. He has taken up a new activity which is cycling, but not the kind of cycling I used to do on my city bike. He’s been going cycling on a proper road and racing bicycle and started training with a professional team which was assembled a few years ago by a Polish coach here in Nizwa, an extremely passionate and effective person who is able to instill his own passion for cycling in others. In the meantime, we’re still trying to figure out how to get B. a more permanent visa.
I still can’t quite get my head around how things are done here. Sometimes you have wait for ages for something to happen, for example the salaries, and then other things get resolved much more quickly than you’d expect, for instance I lost my staff ID card the other day, but I managed to get a new one and have it activated for the printer and the gate (for the parking) within 4 hours!