15 August 2005

1st Day of the New Term

Today was the start of the fall semester at the high school. I think last week was some sort of interim program, but I can’t be sure.

On Sunday, just when I was about to start planning for my classes, I was told that the books had been changed. Since I pretty much thought the original book was way too difficult and rather sucky, as well as not having done any serious planning, I didn’t mind. I got the new book and asked if the students would have them by the next day. “We will bring the news books to the school tomorrow.” I sat down to plan.

After several hours of document writing/printing, searching for appropriate additional materials, figuring how to teach with limited photo-copies, another dynamite lesson plan lay on my bed. Lights out at an early hour – the driver was coming at 6:40am.

6:35, out at the curb. 6:45, and still no driver. I started to count the motorcycles and scooters that passed by. At first, I started counting them individually, then by fives, then by 10’s. After I reached 200, a mere five minutes later, I stopped. Checked my watch, checked the street, leaned my arm on a street sign.

I noticed an ornately decorated flat-bed truck, parked across the street and figured it was a hearse. Golden dragons ran the length of the bed, with a red and gold, wooden canopy above. Off the edge of the canopy, hung blue fabric and silver tassels. A cleaned-up old army jeep, with a little mini pagoda on the back, stood guard in front of the truck. (It still had ammo looking things attached to its body).

I looked at my watch again as the minutes ticked by, stretched my arms, and gazed down the street searching for a familiar looking car. The brass band and drums got my attention from across the street. From the ally, a woman appeared tossing paper money, closely followed by monks in yellow robes and pallbearers dressed in military uniforms carrying a litter. On the litter lay a coffin that was much taller than what I have ever seen. The ‘lid’ was more dome-shaped, almost reaching a point at its apex. They got the coffin loaded onto the truck, accompanied by burning incense, music, and motorcycles swerving not to hit them. And still no driver.

By my watch, it was 7:20 and classes at the high school had already started. I went back to the house where everyone was still asleep except for the lady who cooks. It wasn’t hard for her to understand that I had been stranded. A few phone calls and I was off in a taxi to the school, terribly late for my first class of on the first day. The woman in charge of scheduling met me, and I was all set to sprint up the three flights of stairs to the class.

“There’s no rush, the other teacher took your class”.
But who took his class?
“His class was cancelled. You don’t have to teach for another hour and 15 minutes”.

Fortunately, it was a cooler morning, so sitting on the bench outside wasn’t bad. Sure whished I’d had something to read. After awhile, the teacher who had given me ‘no class’ news, returned with a class set of photo-copies of the first 4 pages of the book.
Why do we need these? I asked.
“The students won’t have their books until next week”. OK, so there went the “Get To Know Your Book” section I had planned to use for at least 20 minutes.

Even so, the class went really well the first half and not so well the second. After, I went down to meet the driver, who asked,
“Where were you at 6:20?” Huh? It had been 6:40 all last week, I explained.
“No, the times changed.” I tried to explain that it was not big deal and that I would be waiting at 6:20 from now on. (ugh!) He spent the whole ride home trying to assure me that it wasn’t his fault, and I spent the whole ride saying that I knew it wasn’t his fault and that it wasn’t a problem.

Let’s hope all goes as planned for my evening class.

It did, but the driver still kept apologizing.
New class tomorrow.
Good night,