Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stories From the Backlog

Hi, I live here

“Good morning sir, would you like a suit.”
“It’s Ma’am.”
“Yes Sir…”
“No, it’s Ma’am, I’m a woman… Listen. I’m a woman so you call me ‘ma’am,’ a man is sir, but I’m not a man, I’m female, so you call me ma’am.”
“And let’s get something else straight. I live down this street. I teach down this street. So, I don’t need a suit every day. Just thought we should get that clear.” *handshake*
“Thank you ma’am! You are a good teacher!”
“Thank you.”
“Have a good day!”
Problem solved.

The White Chick on the Motorbike

I never ask questions when a motosai driver takes an alternate route the way I might ask a taxi. I’ve learned they’re avoiding police and/or mafia shake down road blocks, or simple traffic congestion. They look out for their own; they warn each other about these things when one is approaching. Police and/or mafia you ask? Yes. And/or. The drivers around my soi know me well enough, they’ve even taken two friends and I across town at a discounted price (three bikes in Bangkok traffic is something), and they’ve taken me without their official vests on, with the promise of payment days down the line so police wouldn’t see the exchange of bills. Why would I get on a motorcycle with a guy taking his uniform vest off? Well, then he doesn’t get stopped by the police for the shake down, and they know I need to get to school and what not. They know my haunts. I even approached one of the pink vests in Siam last week, and he completed my address and price before I had to finish. I’m a regular now I suppose. Once shortly after my arrival, when the height of Red vs. Yellow was still fading from fever pitch, I was told: If you want to know where the reds or the yellows are, ask the orange shirts. Orange – the color most motosai driver’s vests are. Also available in Pink and Blue, because this is Thailand. For a good month when asked what my politics were, I was smugly saying ‘orange’ to myself in my head.

The Art of Hacking

“Did you log in from a new location recently?”
Yes facebook, thank you for noticing that I’m trying to circumvent the school blocking facebook and conveniently hopped over to Russia for a quick social media jaunt. Now stop asking me to identify pictures of 9Gag translated into Thai where I have entire classes of students tagged and let me login. I should I remind you that in Russia, facebook logs onto you! Tasteless, I know.
But hey, I actually attempted to use facebook as a tool for communicating assignments with my students before the successful block, because they were constantly distracted by it. And well, they still are, on their contraband phones and not contraband iPads with private internet connections. Besides which, if my school could be bothered to give the foreigners logins, I wouldn’t have to do this any way, it’s not blocked for other staff. Foreigners are relegated to the generic student login; hence I’m blocked from everything the students are. Including the Indiana Department of Education for the past month, for what reason I have no idea, but that was the icing on the cake, I had to get around it.
It’s said that China produces some of the best hackers in the world, because they get so much practice. What they may not get in school, those with net access get in every day firewall scaling; problem solving at its finest. As much as it chagrins me when game files are downloaded throughout the computer lab yet again, it warms my heart somewhat to hear some of the students have also been creatively ‘unblocking’ websites the school has blocked. I’m not even talking Ministry of Communication Technology here, just school blocks. I just hope my budding hackers put it to good use outside of MICT later down the line. If you’re unfamiliar with MICT, please do a google search of censorship in Thailand. If living outside of Thailand, notice that none of your results come up with the following page when you try to click through:

And please, if at all inclined to collect as much random knowledge about the world as possible, educate yourself on this issue.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Are You Earning Respect or a Paycheck?

I realize I work as an English teacher in a third world country and not a 1960s era US advertising agency, but sometimes I wonder what the difference is. I’m required to wear a skirt. Wage discrimination is by skin tone, not gender, and to my benefit, but it’s there. And being a feminist, well, I’m not the majority here. It’s just as well I didn’t get my photo share site working, it’d be a liability to my employment right now. Obviously I’m not going to elaborate on a public blog. Same reason post about Thai scout camp is indefinitely postponed. I took paper notes. Not many white girls attend those. I enjoyed the camp for the most part, and the students enjoyed my presence. Especially the red-bracelets. I’m glad I could be there for them.

American Teacher Barbie, I’m not blonde, but I’ve got the right accent and I am pretty cute. Throwing out my mascara was hardly a stand. And I ended up buying more. It never actually helps, especially in this humidity. Last week, I was trying to help a student and I was wheeled over into a desk that is not my own to be filmed for local TV, all the white teachers in one block of desks, working their magic to teach listening and speaking. Yep, I am Barbie. I didn’t get to help that student.

It’s been awhile since I posted. You may or may not be aware that I’m trying to be more guarded, and simultaneously exploding on to the internet to try and keep my outward cool while appearing to be productive. Gee, when did you start posting so much? Well, I said I’m playing my cards even closer than usual. I should probably save that. It’s a junk hand any way. But I’m sure the Terror Warning and Iranian bomb bozos didn’t help matters. For the record, you’re not required to call the Embassy to tell them you’re ok. And I am not a government official.

I won’t fully explain the incidents leading me to ponder the question, am I working for respect or a paycheck? But I’ve realized I’m working for a paycheck right now. I enjoy having housing, food, etc., but I know few people that can feel happy when they aren’t earning respect. Real respect, not the OMG your skin is SO WHITE respect. I value respect and honesty. And I’m currently mastering deception and falsehoods. How do I even find room to respect myself? Well, I’m doing the best I can. I try to remind myself that just last week I earned my 5-year teacher’s license. But I spent five years just to get the 2-year, and my home state just passed legislation against labor unions. I’m in a situation where schools on both sides of the ocean want two years of experience, and my first year doesn’t ‘count.’ In many situations my current experience doesn’t ‘count.’ Hey, this isn’t about the paycheck this is about respect. And I am Teacher Barbie in a world disbanding unions and dumbing down education.

Like everything else, I will push through. Many people have to compromise respect to put food on their table, and like I’m one to complain when I have a passport, a paycheck and my resume to date. I’ll find a way, even if it’s not the most traditional one. That’s what I do. I am the ringleader. And I like to take my circus on the road. No one will get that reference.