Archive for the 'Island Culture' Category

I have to say I’m not terribly surprised

I have a Google alert set up on my former employer. I have it set up mostly out of curiosity over what is going on in Mauritius with ISITECH Business School (where I was employed), now know as Oceana International Business School.

I was notified of this article just a few hours ago: Hindustan Times: Duped Students Threatened, Bullied in Mauritius. And this one: Indian students in refund stand-off with Mauritius college.

From the second article:

Oceana IBS Mauritius has an office in Hyderabad.

Manu Dass, an institute representative who spoke to The Hindu, refuted the allegations by the students. He claimed that when MQA permission for the ‘Level 2 Culinary Arts’ course was not obtained, the college had offered ‘Level 4 Travel and Tourism’ along with ‘Level 2 Food Production’ and this was accepted by the students, including Wahid. He was, however, evasive when asked if the other students would get refunds.

I know Manu. I don’t find it hard to believe that others considered him evasive. I believe that sort of behavior is ingrained completely in his personality.

Also from the second article:

“The college has cheated us without offering the courses promised in the offer letters. We were forced to study a course thrust upon us and work without any pay in the name of internship,” alleged Antosheen Raju Philip, who hails from Kerala. He is one of the 19 students still stuck in Mauritius,

I feel for Mr. Philip’s plight, the school owes me money too.

I’ve never posted about the school I worked for in the past as I always thought I might actually get paid the balance owed. I’ve always held out hope that things would turn around there, for both the students and my former coworkers. I don’t think this is going to happen at this point in time.

I really wanted things to work out in Mauritius. I went there with the notion that I was going to build a school that was going to be awesome. It is a shame the operation was so poorly capitalized. It is a shame the ownership appears to have an ethical problem too.

My Flight Back to The Island

Was scheduled to leave in just about an hour and one half.

I’ve rescheduled for later in June.

I may have to go back there to collect money.

I will go back to collect the money.

Guest Lecturer Accommodations

I promised a while back to write about the guest lecturer accommodations. I previously wrote about G, one of our guest lecturers, and that her accommodations were quite special.

G arrived on the island as one of our guest lecturers. She was there for a month. The first week she was there I hardly spoke to her. I was the Dean and I am nothing but the consummate professional. I would be unseemly for a married man to be too friendly with a single woman half his age. Then I went on the terrible, from a personal and business standpoint, trip to Africa.

The trip to Africa was what really changed my whole attitude toward my job, my boss, and formed my opinion about the unlikely long term success of the school.

When I got back from Africa we started talking. Mostly over coffee in the morning. It was during these conversations that I learned that she had not done much other than work while on the island. She also told me about how unsatisfactory her first accommodations were. Typical of the school the accommodations were cheap. This meant that they were dirty.

Cleanliness was a continuing problem with our guest lecturers, they were not given enough time to adjust to the standards of the island. I, once I adjusted, never really found things dirty. Most of the problem was related to construction methods. Everything was constructed with concrete. Every surface was porous. This made everything look dirty, when in fact it was all quite acceptable. The island was quite dusty too. For example, if the they were burning off the sugar cane fields in my neighborhood I would return from work and find everything my apartment coated in dust if I’d left the windows open. I quickly learned not to leave the windows open.

G, after complaining about her first apartment, was moved to the Managing Director’s (MD) home since he was out of town. She shared his place, a three bedroom, two bath house with another employee of the school. Let’s call this employee Jagdish. Jagdish was both our network/computer specialist for the school and the MD’s houseboy. He’s about 25 years old. He’s from India. Typical of devout Hindu males from the Indian sub-continent, he’s had little experience around women. (There is a whole book to be written on this topic. I haven’t looked but there are probably hundreds of books already written on this topic already.) G told me that while watching television in the evenings, Jagdish would ask her all sorts of questions that would be more proper coming from a boy rather than a young man. Jagdish asked G why she didn’t have hair on her legs since he had hair on his. “Don’t women have hair on their legs?” There were other questions of a similar nature. It made for a strange environment for G. She worked all day with our lousy students and then had to go home to a house that had Jagdish in it. She went from one effed up environment to another. Continue reading ‘Guest Lecturer Accommodations’

Native French Speakers

Have no tolerance for those of us trying to learn their language. I’ve not done very well here in my efforts to learn French. The French cannot tolerate bad pronunciation and bad grammar. Oh, and don’t mix the feminine and masculine either.

When I try to speak to the locals in French, they immediately switch to English. It makes it difficult to practice or expand on my very limited vocabulary.

This intolerance on their part is funny at times. There is a little bar down the street, Kenzi Bar (no web site that I can find, there is a lame Facebook page). The bartender is a French expat. Beer there is 100 rupees a bottle. I’ve been there enough that I just hold up my hand, he gives me a beer and I give him the 100. I say, “Merci” as I hand over the money. I apparently pronounce that word so poorly that the bartender responds, “You’re welcome.”

The Islanders Are All Experts At Everything

Really, they are. You don’t even have to ask them a question, they’ll tell you how to do whatever it is you are working on.

I chewed out an employee this morning. She was doing something stupid and I put a stop to it. Firmly. She then started making excuses. I told her to stop, I didn’t want to hear it. She continued to make excuses. I told her to stop, I don’t want excuses, just stop what you are doing. She, once again, started making excuses. Finally, I was forced to raise my voice. JUST STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! NOTHING ELSE NEEDS TO BE SAID!

Since this little event this morning, I’ve had three people come and tell me I could have handled the situation better. You get this unsolicited advice here all the time. One of my colleagues came to this island from the island of Cyprus, she’s says it’s the same there. Her conclusion is that people on islands think they know everything because they have no conceptual awareness of there being things they don’t know that they don’t know.

I had one guy in my office this afternoon lecturing me about the event of this morning. He even started drawing diagrams on my white board! I tried several times to cut him off, telling him the incident was over and it was time to move on. But he wouldn’t listen to me either! I remained calm. I had raised my voice enough for one day.

May 22nd. May twenty fucking second.

The Crazy Place I Work At

One of the things I’ve been the most embarrassed by, when it comes to my employer, is the way they (We? I’m not totally blameless. But in my defense the only thing left for me to do is throw a big tantrum in front of the entire staff.) treat employees. I actually don’t get as pissed about not getting paid (which has happened again for the month of April), as I get about the way the other employees are treated. For the month of April, about half of the employees remain unpaid.

I’m going to have to write a book length post about how this place has been run. Needless to say, when I go home later this month, I’ll probably never return to the island. The boss, in this part of the world the title is Managing Director, same as the President in the U.S., has been out of the country for over a month. He and I have stopped talking to each other. We hardly even exchange e-mails anymore. He’s supposed to come back on Monday. I think I’ll be saying Fuck and You a lot on Monday afternoon.

The locals that don’t get paid, while their situation sucks, have a support network here on the island. This is a very family-centric culture. No one that works and falls on bad luck will be left out in the cold. There will be a relative that will make certain that things are taken care of should the money run out.

What has really bothered me is the way we treat visiting lecturers. One of my peers has invited young PhD students to lecture for a month or two at our little business school. The last two have come to us from a university in London. Here’s the deal we offer them: lecture with us for experience, stay on a tropical island, get paid a small amount, but the work is easy and the island is beautiful. We offer travel and accommodations too. These students take the deal because it seems awesome. When they get here the reality is that we work their asses off. The accommodations they get suck. The accommodations suck canal water up the ass. You can’t imagine how bad they are. Really, you can’t.

But the worst part is that we do nothing to offer them any recreational or social activity while they are here. The local employees, who have lived on this island their entire lives are nice. Actually, very nice. But they do not include us outsiders in thier social activities. They have lived on this island all their lives. They have grade school friends, high school friends, college friends, cousins, etc., here on the island. Their social lives are full. They don’t need any more friends. Most of these people I work with don’t drink either.

The last two lecturers have been very nice young ladies. From London. We all know that young ladies from London like to go out, right? We all know that young ladies from London like a cocktail once in a while, right?

Well, the locals were providing none of that.

Now I ask you, when confronted with these circumstances, what is a 51 year old, married, American, with a three bedroom apartment at the beach to do? Especially when that 51 year old American doesn’t have any one to go out for a beer with?

I think you all know the answer to that question.

So please let me introduce you to G:

G is a Maritime Historian. She was my dinner companion for about a week back in March. G is one of the finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. There will be a post about her in the future. There will be also be a post about her accommodations too. The place she was housed in merits special attention. G stayed at my place the last week she was here. It was preferable to stay in my spare room than to stay where the school put her up. G has returned to London to continue her studies.

On the island at this time is M:

M is a computer scientist. She’s been quite a bit of fun to have around as she’s been pushing me to do the touristy things available here on the island that I’ve put off because I’ve been working so much. There will be more stories about M too. I think if I keep calling her M I can tell all the gossipy stuff without causing her google embarrassment.

M really lucked out in the accommodation department. While she did spend a Saturday night here, over that weekend I introduced her to a Danish couple of my acquaintance. They went back to Denmark for three weeks. They asked M to take care of their cats. M has moved from a really crappy apartment to a six bedroom house with a pool just three blocks from the beach.

Those of you that have been paying attention should be asking yourselves, “What the hell is that business school doing hiring lecturers with backgrounds in Maritime History and Computer Science?”  The answer of course is another blog post.

And I will reiterate what I said below in the previous post: No. I. Have. Not.

Oh, and my wife knows about these two also.

The Worst Part of My Predicament

The worst part of not being paid is that the reason I came here was to send more money home than I was providing for the family in the job I had in Dallas prior to coming here. Since I’ve not been paid, I haven’t sent money home for over two months.

I’m not real popular with the wife right now.

I haven’t been paid for over two months

I currently have half a tank of gas and the equivalent of about $115.00. I’m past due on the rent for my apartment. The rental car payment is due on Thursday.

That was what the clip from Apocalypse Now was about. I’m never getting out of the boat that is the United States ever again.

For some crazy reason I’ve been still protecting the reputation of the school I work for. I still am, by not naming it here and making this problem google visible. I’ve still not named the island, for the same reason. Foolish? Probably, but I’m not yet interested in ruining the school as there will hopefully be others that will still work there after I’m gone.

My boss has lied to me innumerable times about when I’ll get paid. I am owed just shy of $28,000.00. I am also owed a plane ticket back to Dallas.

The original plan was that I would not be using that plane ticket for a few years. It now looks like that plane ticket won’t come fast enough.

I’ve been in contact with attorneys. The reality though is that no one here much cares about a dispute between an American and an Indian.

Further commentary…

On the expat experience:

YouTube Preview Image

Today is going to be a very big day in my current job.

And while the song reflects the way I feel about things right now, I did not go home with a waitress. That is not something I always do.

My Current Business Trip…

I left the island at 10:00pm Saturday night. Landed in Nairobi at 1:00am. The organizers of the trade junket said they had arranged hotel rooms for us as we had a 5 hour layover. We went off to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, we were told to take a seat in the lobby while they got us registered. They also said they would make us some coffee. What happened next was quite amusing. I must have written my name and passport number down on four different forms while sitting with my fellow travelers in the lobby. I complied with all of the requests, without maikng my usual comments about the inefficiency of what I was witnessing as the registration process. This was all supposed to have been arranged beforehand. All this registration activity took so long (it took forever to get the coffee too) that we told the hotel is was too late and we had to get back to the airport.

We went back to the airport went through the whole check in and customs clearance line dance and took a flight from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam. The highlight of the trip so far: it was a beautiful morning and we flew right over Mount Kilimanjaro (my camera was not available). It is kind of fun to see in person, even from a plane, a place you’ve heard so much about through the years.

When we landed at Dar es Salaam, I was singled out for special treatment by Tanzanian customs. Since I was tired, I have no doubt I had a look that said I was a great target for which petty tyrants could practice their techniques. When I caught up to my travelling party, I learned that more than half of them were missing their luggage! I managed to escape that little adventure. We finally made it to the hotel. I am paying $90.00 per night for this room. That’s right, $90.00. I’m not paying in Tanzanian Shillings, I’m paying in dollars.

This is the bathroom:

I will admit, that while of poor quality, the room is clean.

I could get way better than this for $90.00 a night in Dallas! I could probably get a weekend deal at one of the nice hotels downtown for less. This is part of a discounted package deal from the normal rates and was selected by the organizers of this trip.

The thing that really sucks about this hotel is that they don’t sell any liquor. I don’t know who set this trip up, but the culture of the island is really big on feedback forms. I can’t wait for the opportunity to fill mine out.