Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A New Enemy Emerges: Welcome to Saudi Arabia, Wee Scott Bob

A new threat has emerged.
From the moment he got off the plane.
From the moment he stepped on the sands
Wee Scott Bob has had it out for me
Poking his head into the class to see what I’m teaching
Leaning over my shoulder to see what I’m reading
Sticking his nose into private conversations
Dropping lesson plans on my desk he’s copied from teaching sites saying, “It’s just a suggestion?”
This thin legged, pot-bellied dwarf with the thick Scottish brood telling me:
“Welcome to Saudi Arabia!”
 Copy machine on the fritz? 
Office supplies lost in the desert? 
Circuit breakers blown, air-conditioning gone out? 
No water in the sinks, can’t flush the toilets?
The Admiral tells the Saudi Big Shots, “This actually looks bad.  Let’s cancel school for the day.”
Wee Scott Bob comes into the office and famously says:
“Welcome to Saudi Arabia, boys!”
 In class students don’t listen
They are late and disrespectful
They throw trash on the floor and walk away
They scream and howl in the cafeteria, dropping food everywhere
They wash their feet in the bathroom sink
Or worse…  
You go into the bathroom and three of them are kneeling around the toilet hole in the floor
One has a garbage sack wrapped around his arm
He is inserted all the way to the bottom of the toilet hole like birthing a calf
Another student explains, “Dropped his phone.  Allah be praised.”
Wee Scott Bob appears out of thin air and says:
“Welcome to Saudi Arabia, Brian!”
 During test periods we proctor each other’s rooms
Students cheat mercilessly
You’ve never seen such rampant cheating
Like roaches scurrying around in the light
They pass tests back and forth
They stand up and copy full answers off other’s papers
They take out their phones and snap pictures to email friends
They cheat and cheat and cheat and cheat
You scold one, ten more start doing it
You collect the tests and storm into Hassan’s office stating, “They all fail!  I warned them.  They understood the consequences.  I warned them.”
Hassan says, “My friend… it is a cultural thing… they follow tribal rules not yours…”
You say, “Hassan, these boys will work with hazardous chemicals.  They will handle high voltage.  They will wire complex circuitry.  If you don’t have mastery of it, there will be accidents.  They will kill people.  They will kill themselves, and you know it!”
Hassan licks his lips, “This will happen or it will not happen.   Inshallah.  Grade the tests and they all must pass.  Allah is supreme.”
When you step out of the office Wee Scott Bob suddenly appears saying:
"I couldn’t help notice.   Welcome to Saudi Arabia, right?”
 When the two boys died while tricking riding in the desert
Flipping over on two wheels
Riding full speed down the highway holding the door open
And sliding along the asphalt in leather sandals
(Seriously, look it up on youtube)
Wee Scott Bob comes to your desk and says:
“Serves ‘em right.  Welcome to Saudi Arabia!”
 So one  night we all go to the electronics mega store in Jizan.
I had no idea the place even existed
It was good to see coffee makers
Rice cookers
Washing machines
It made me feel strangely at home
Of course, I would buy nothing
I was using a cast iron skillet to fry my toast
I would invest nothing here
Then  here comes Wee Scott Bob.
 “Brian boy-yo, let me bend yer ear a spell.”
So we walk out to the end of the parking lot under the lights
Around the construction site
There are always construction sites of re-bar and abandoned cement buildings
“I’ve been watching  you.”
Bob lights up a cigarette
“All these other blokes here, might as well be retarded.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re nice fellas, but there isn’t an actual teacher among them.”
I listened, watching the gnats gather in the glow above.
“But you’re a teacher, aren’t you?  I’ve been studying ya
Saw your lesson plans too
They're brilliant
You’ve got ideas
Students love your class, don’t they?”
I’ve learned not to trust compliments
I started walked away
Bob grabbed my arm
“Relax boy-yo.  I’ve got a proposition for you.”
 “I think you’re a good teacher
Not like these other cads
But what they need is a new position
A teacher coordinator
I’m going to the Admiral
Tell him I’ll do it
Somebody to check their plans
Make sure they are compliant
A real arse-kicker
That’s what this place needs.”
I looked at him
“And you’re that guy?”
Wee Scott Bob took a drag from his cigarette and stomped it out in the sand.
“You’re bloody right I am.  And you’re going to be my no. 2.”
 I wasn’t smoking
I don’t smoke
But I exhaled a long stream of hot air
“I’m going to the Admiral,” Bob says.  “I’m going to demand it.”
I laughed.  “Nobody demands anything from the Admiral.”
Bob scoffs.  “Not me.  I’ve gone into his office and told him right to his face
After that last meeting
About the iqamas
I told him to screw himself
I said he could shove it up his Admiral arse
That’s how you get respect here
You take it.”
 I told him I’m not interested.
“Not so fast boy-yo,”
I told Bob to let go of my arm.
He looked into my eyes and let go.
I left the bus and walked the long way home.
 Next week nothing happened
Mad Irish Dave got pictures of his daughter
Flintstone kicked in my door and rapped
Bangkok Phil was Bangkok Phil
Then the Admiral pulled me aside
He called me into his office saying, “Brian, we need to talk.”
This is never a good sign
So I go up to his office and he says
“I hear you’re having problems in your class
I hear you’re really struggling.”
I stand there looking at the Admiral.
“You know, Saudi isn’t for everyone.”
I ask him how he heard this?
We stood there looking at one another
Then he says, “Well...Bob told me
He said you were new to Saudi
That you were having difficulties
That the students were confusing you.”
I told the Admiral I hadn’t had a problem in the classroom since 1996 when I thought it was a good idea to use sock puppets to teach Shakespeare.
We stared at each other more
I wanted to rat Bob out
I wanted to tell the Admiral what Bob said
Ask him if he liked it when Bob told him to shove it up his arse?
But I said nothing.
I went downstairs into the office and sat down
On my desk were a bunch of Xeroxed copies of lessons plans
Little post-it notes stuck to each reading:
“Just a suggestion.”
Then I saw Bob in the corner
Laughing with Mad Dog and Phil
I wanted to jam the papers down his wee Scottish throat
He looked over at me and our eyes met
Neither of us looking away
This time, he didn’t say a word
Didn't have to
I read his thoughts:
"Welcome to Saudi Arabia, boy-yo!"

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