Archive for the 'Expat Life (A Former Condition)' Category

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The Whole Experience has been Bittersweet

I’m going back to Dallas tomorrow night.

I’m really looking forward to seeing my wife and children. It’s been over five months since I last saw them. I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends and relatives. I’m also looking forward to enjoying certain food items.

As you can see from a few of my recent posts, I have managed to have some fun while here on the island. It’s kind of hard to leave behind my new friends. My social life has finally started rolling. I even went to a wonderful dinner party Saturday night. The first one in my nine months on the island. As a result of the improved social life, I finally have become comfortable here. It began about 6 weeks ago.

I’m leaving the island. And by any measure the whole nine months has been a failure. I came here all excited about the venture. I was going to be part of starting a new school. A school that over time would grow into an international brand in education. My excitement was crushed my first day on the job when I finally learned about the structure of the organization. It was clear to me that the manner in which the school had been staffed was going to be a problem. It was clear to me that I should have quit on the first day and flown back home to beg for my old job. I decided that I had signed on for a year and I could manage one year anywhere doing anything. I mean, come on! I spent three years on active duty in the Marine Corps. I’ve been married over 20 years. I certainly could handle a tough working environment for one year, right? I was also being paid handsomely to do so. It should have been easy enough.

But a tough job where you don’t get paid really sucks. Nine months away from home when I’m not sending the money I was supposed to send home sucks even worse. A tough job, with no pay, half way around the world from your family Really. Sucks. Big. Time.

I’ve thrown in the towel. I will return to Dallas, landing Wednesday afternoon, more than a little pissed about the whole affair.

I have thoughtfully examined my own effort. I have wondered, did I push hard enough to move the organization in the direction it needed to move? I believe I have. The only thing I could have done more would have been to just throw temper tantrums, yell at people and just be a complete autocrat. I don’t think that would have worked as I would have totally alienated myself from my coworkers and management. I would have been fired. I am comfortable with the effort I’ve put in here. I’m comfortable knowing that if I had been listened to a little more, the school would be in much better condition than it is currently in. I am also comfortable knowing that it would have been tough, under the best of circumstances, given the very limited capital available to the school at the start.

Starting a school is a difficult task. If you don’t have the capital and don’t have good people, there is no chance for success. It is only a matter of time before this place is completely shuttered. I feel sorry for the students.

I have talked to people from other schools, when I tell them how many students we have, how many accredited programs we have, etc. they all tell me that we’ve done an amazing job. I don’t feel like it’s been amazing as I know, acutely, how much financial trouble the organization currently is in.

I do have a return ticket back here. I will come back if I’m not paid. My boss does not want me back. I think it’s a good thing to have my return hanging over his head. I just might get paid what I’m owed.

I’m So Proud to be an American

Really, I am.

It’s not often, as you can see from the post below, that you get to spend an afternoon on the beach while staying on a tropical island. And then to encounter this wonderful example of the U.S. government at work at the same time, well… It was just too much goodness in one afternoon.

I got up from the sand and was walking over to a little shop to get a couple of drinks, when I encountered this small fenced in area pictured here:

What were all those little scrawny plants doing inside this fenced barrier?

When I got around to the side of the fenced area that was facing the beach road, I found this sign:

I can’t believe the U.S. Embassy didn’t invite me to either the planting or the commemoration ceremony. If they had given me advance notice, I could have even live blogged the event.

I was at the beach with a Cypriot. I made her come over to read the sign, just so I could gloat! I did a little victory dance, while telling her to look around the beach. “You don’t see any twigs stuck in the ground courtesy of the Cypriot government do you? The U.S. is awesome!”

I’ve got one more pic. Just look at that tiny little plant that is dying right there to the left of the sign.

The U.S. is just full of the win! I bet the Russian expats are walking past this compound with their heads hung in shame.


My Last Day at the Beach on the Island

Spent a couple of hours out on the local beach yesterday afternoon.

It was a beautiful day.


The temperature was perfect. The water too was a perfect temperature for swimming.

Again, I could learn to like this place if the job didn’t totally suck. In fact it’s not really a job, since I go to work and don’t get paid.


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.”

Fishing Report

No Marlin.

Seven nice yellow fin tuna.

A mild sunburn. Some dumb ass forgot to bring the sunscreen.

It was a beautiful day.

This is what it looked like back to the East as we were leaving the lagoon this morning and heading offshore:

This is a beautiful island. If I could go out on the boat every weekend, I could come to like this place.

Still Haven’t Been Paid For April

Today marks the end of the second week past payday for the month of April. Since I didn’t get paid until April 13th for February and March, I was prepared for not getting paid on time in April. When I was paid on the 13th of April, I sent money home and bought a plane ticket. I also managed to keep enough money to make it to my departure date. Just barely. But, if I were to get paid for April I could even come home with a little coin in my pocket.

I could do better than just barely making it cash wise to my departure date if I haven’t hired this boat to go fishing on Sunday:

We’ll be out for the day chasing Marlin. I’ll probably catch nothing more than a good sunburn. But I figure I can’t come all this way without trying to catch a big fish. I might never get the chance again. You just know that if I get a Marlin there will be many pictures of the event. If there is no fish, I’ll probably just pretend the fishing trip never happened.

Unlike other game fishing areas, this island is not catch and release. If we land a marlin, it’s coming ashore. A big fish like a marlin will feed a lot of people and it won’t go to waste.

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.

Goin’ to Texas

May 22nd. I’ll arrive on the afternoon of the 23rd.

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.

Getting some on the side

Something I have found interesting while here on the island is that there is some part of the Google algorithm that clearly wants to make cheating on my wife easier. (In case you have any doubts, no I haven’t.)

When I go through my feeds on Google reader, I am bombarded with advertisements for dating sites that specialize in women from all sorts of exotic locales. Brazilian, Colombian, Vietnamese, etc. Surprisingly, there have been no advertisements suggesting it will be easy to meet women where I’m actually located (Business opportunity?). I’ve not been browsing through web sites like this, so why the advertisements? I do read a lot about higher education, since that is the field I’m in, so I understand why I get advertisements for universities and colleges. I buy lots of books for my Kindle, so I understand all the advertisements from Amazon. All I can figure out is that my search history on Google has pegged me as a white man that is out of the U.S. That fact, and the knowledge they have about my current location through the IP address, Google thinks I am a good prospect for services that will help me get a little on the side.

I wonder what percentage of Google’s revenue is derived from advertising directed towards the unfaithful. It probably gets right up there with the revenue they get from porn.