Yesterday I helped one of my students write a resume. He is going for a job as a cleaner at the hospital but they wanted a resume. Having no one else here to ask he asked me if I would help him and I agreed. In the process of creating his resume we had the most profound conversation.
He is an Afghani man who arrived in Australia 3 months ago. He fled the Taliban in 2000 and then spent 9 years getting here (illegally) through Pakistan and Indonesia. I couldn’t understand everything but he kept saying “guns” and “dogs” and “Taliban very bad” I think he was trying to tell me that the Taliban treat people like dogs and that they held him at gunpoint and took his business from him. He told me all this as I tried to piece together his work and education history which as you can imagine having spent the last 9 years as an illegal refugee is fairly sparse. His education history isn’t great either, 8 years at primary school then military training for 10 years where he mostly learned to read and write. I ended up deciding it was probably better to not put in anything. I think most employers would be fairly put off by someone who had primary school education and 10 years in the Afghani military. The saddest thing though is that there is nothing at all to put someone off this man. He is the simply the most gentle, polite, respectful and kind man with me and with all the students in the class. He has so much challenged any stereotyped ideas about Muslim men that I had (and I had them I have to confess but all my Afghani students especially him have made me realise that they may be the most misunderstood people in the world). He actually stands up when I come into the classroom. A habit I am trying to stop as quickly as I can I must say. Especially, as I feel that it is I who should be standing up when he comes in. A man who has been through all that he has but has maintained such a gentle spirit and no bitterness is truly extraordinary I reckon. I don’t think he feels like that though, having been treated in the ways that he has been treated he has lost most of his pride in himself.
As he left he said to me “You are very nice. What can I do for you?” I actually teared up. How could I tell him that I am actually not that nice. That I benefit on a daily basis from the exploitation of people like him, helping him write a resume is the least I can do. But more than that I wanted to somehow explain to him that in the sharing of his story with me he had given me something worth so much more than the resume I had written for him but I couldn’t quite find the words.
Then I came home and watched Q and A and Lateline. As the politicians and the people battled it out about what we are going to do about “boat people” and how we are going to get “the balance right of being compassionate and protecting our borders” I just wanted to scream.
Today I rang my superviser in Darwin to discuss an issue with him. We had a good chat and as I was hanging up he said, “I am sending you the summaries of the student’s evaluations today”. “Are they okay?” I asked all of a sudden feeling unnecessarily nervous. “They’re great” he said, “as far as I can remember only one, maybe two things you may have to note but nothing bad”. I hung up the phone feeling very worried in deed and checked my emails every couple of minutes to see if something had come through. It was ridiculous. I have 32 students, of course there will be one or two comments that I may have to note (in fact it is a good thing) but this does not mean that I am bad teacher or the students hate me or all the other negative things that were going through my head.
I really want to be less concerned about what people think of me. I had this issue a few years back when at course I was attending we were required to write notes to people giving them feedback about themselves. Of the 40 or so lovely notes I got one of them was negative and I totally fell apart. At the time I really worked hard to get over that and made some plans about how I would deal with negativity in the future and now here I was again out of proportinally worried about my students evaluations and feeling like I had gotton nowhere on that.
They came through a little while ago and they were absolutely lovely. While I know that people are always more likely to write good things and thus you can not put everything on these sort of evaluations they were a real boost for me. When asked if they were happy with class everyone single one of them said yes and there were a plethora of lovely comments to go with that. The one or two issues were simply one student who wrote “I like Emily’s teachings but we need more vocabularly” and another who wrote “I am happy to teacher but we need more grammar”.
I am very annoyed with myself and in light of the positivity of these evaluations I feel even sillier for worrying so much. But I guess that is not the point. I need to find a way of dealing with the fact that through life there are going to be people and students who do not like me but that’s normal and okay. I would like to be in a place where if one of them had of wrote “Emily is by far the worst teacher I have ever had and I have not learned a thing this semester” I would still be able to cope. I know I am no where near that.
One of the things that I really like about living in Alice is how close everything is. My commute to work is 15 mins. Now most Territorians actually think that is actually a long way but for someone who commuted almost an hour for a few years 15 mins is amazing. And it is a beautiful commute along the West Macs I must say. Also, 15 mins or less if we want to visit any friends, do some shopping, go to the doctors, go for a walk in the bush, have a swim everything can be done in 15 mins. And if you want to do anything else you probably have to fly there because if you drive more than 15 minutes in any direction you’ll be heading into the middle of the desert and that goes on for a long, long way.
So today as we often do here I was able to meet Martin for lunch. I can just ring him and say “do you want to have lunch” and he says “yes” and we can because it only takes 5 minutes to get there. It makes me very happy.
I was in the paper yesterday. Well sort of. A group of us are sleeping out on the Todd Mall (the main drag of Alice) every three weeks in protest of some proposed council by-laws that would no longer allow people to beg or protest and would allow the police the right to move people on (for no particular reason) and take people’s blankets and dispose of them. Nice isn’t taking blankets from the homeless and fining people who are begging now that’s a smart way to solve the problem.
Anyway yesterday I did an interview with a guy from our local paper. We chatted for awhile about how we as a group believe that these laws are unjust and unfairly target the indigenous population. We also talked about the fact that we as a group are having a really profound time sleeping out as the local homeless community (all indiegnous) have been so welcoming of us into their space and many have joined us to sleep. We are all learning more about each other and building some relationships across cultures. In a town where in the last month or so we have had a young indigenous man murdered by a group of white men; someone giving away white pride shirts on the mall and a massive increase of break and enters into people’s homes and businesses this is much needed. Not much of this was mentioned in the article though. In fact the article was only about 10 lines long and I was quoted out of context a few time. The guy talked mostly about how the police and rangers have not done anything about us. If this was made in comparison to what they do to the indigenous people sleeping out this may have been okay but it seemed more an encouragement to get the police to arrest us than anything else.
There is another protest going on in town though about the changerooms at the local football oval not been up to scratch. A couple of citizens have got together and are encouraging the council to build better ones. This protest got over half a page dedicated to it and the second page (we were on at least the fifth)!!! There was a big emotive headline and big picture of some white men looking very cross and ready for a fight.
Is it only me or is there something seriously wrong when people fighting for a better changerooms for footballers get more attention than people fighting for just treatment of the marginalised in our community.
Martin and I saw this movie last Monday. I wouldn’t say I loved it but it was enjoyable. They very cleverly managed to not do the predictable thing but also not make you feel sad or crappy. Unlike most romantic comedies I walked out feeling good about my relationship. I also liked the actors and the music. I guess the problem was I just didn’t think it was that funny and they were perhaps trying a little bit too hard.
Speaking of movies Martin and I watched the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy again this weekend. It got very hot over the weekend and we weren’t up for much more. Especially as we had slept out again on Friday and only got maybe 4 hours sleep. Anyway, what fantastic movies they are. I have watch them all about three times now and I am still not sick of them.
After all the posts about hailstorms and blackouts and how cold it is in Sydney I thought I would say that here in Alice Springs the weather has been perfect for about week. Nights that are cold enough to snuggle in under a doona and light a fire with mornings that are warm enough to make you want to get out of bed and have breakfast on the balcony. The days are sunny and hot but not uncomfortably so, enough to inspire me to swim but not have to. The sky is that very central Australian bright blue with not a cloud in sight and the gale force winds that were around for the weeks before as gone and we just have a cool, soft breeze blowing. I guess it’s weeks like these that help us Territorians get through the summer.