The Moment When I Wanted To Call It Quits

My 7 year old cutie pie nephew.
My 7 year old cutie pie nephew.

On Sunday, March 22, 2015, I was on the phone with my nephew, my sister and my brother-in-law when I heard crying. People out in the clinic were distraught as a young boy had stopped breathing and shortly died. I prayed that my 7 year old nephew didn’t ask me what was in the background, and thankfully he didn’t hear but all I could do is stare. A mother and father had just lost their little boy and there I was on the phone talking to my loved ones back home. I tried to listen as he went on about his birthday on the 10th and all the gifts he received but all I could think about was the death of someone I didn’t know. Life is fragile and we all try to do our best in living our lives. That moment stuck with me as we never really know what life will bring to us.

A couple of weeks later, I broke down for the first time since my first month after being on my own. It was the ugly type of crying and the type of crying that hurt my soul. It was during mid-exam weeks and after having returned from my Project Design Management (PDM) workshop, I wasn’t feeling well. While it was a successful training, it was also very trying and overwhelming. When I returned  that weekend from PDM,  I returned to pictures being shown of the other ferenjis and therefore more comparing my pronunciation against others. That would be about the hundredth time someone mentioned my pronunciation and I wasn’t having it. I am proud of who I am and even prouder of the fact that I am Honduran, but being here, I am taught to be ashamed of that, most often by my fellow teachers. I am taught that being different is wrong. Teachers tell me they cannot understand me so why bother coming to English Club for Teachers. Teachers tell me they do not understand my pronunciation so why should they bother trying to practice English with me. It is comments like these that not only help in hurting me but help in angering me. Comments like that make me feel unappreciated, undervalued and demoralized.

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To make matters worse, the following day my students took their mid-exam and I knew I had taught them well because the exam in both 9th and 11th were my own questions. Normally, it wouldn’t bother me to use only my questions and not the other 4 English teachers, but what drives me insane are all the spelling and grammatical errors. That was my second mid-exam and it infuriates me how an exam could have so many errors and still be given out. I had left for my training without looking over the exam or being told they were my questions, and returned to having to go around to 6 different classrooms to fix the mistakes of someone else. Of course, because my proficiency is lacking, I have to bring in the local teachers to translate for me. After having to deal with that issue, I then had to deal with my vice-principal yelling at me for “destroying” a computer by installing an antivirus when all the other computers that I installed the antivirus for were fine. I was told I was responsible and I needed to fix it – talk to friends, relatives and fix it. It didn’t matter that the scan that was halted at the half-way point had over 30,000 viruses and the power had gone out five times while that scan had been going on. It didn’t matter that for the last two weeks that’s all I had been trying to do. It didn’t matter that I had stayed after work well past when the sun had gone down trying to fix it. It didn’t matter that I had dreams about the VPs computer and how to fix it. It didn’t matter that I had done research and had kept in contact with friends on how to go about repairing it. What matters is that I fix it.

Normally, I would understand why it was important to getting this computer fixed as there were many important documents in that computer but what I don’t understand is belittling a person who is already trying. It would be one thing to be sitting on my ass not giving a crap, but it’s a completely different situation when I have been trying my best. I called my friend Leroy from Tigray in tears and as I told him the story between sobs, I got angrier. Does it matter more about the results or about treating people with respect? Would I have been given more respect had I been deemed someone worthy to speak to in a respectful manner? Would I have been treated that way had I been of the opposite sex? Would the conversation have been treated differently had I been a man and not a woman?

While there have been many struggles thus far that have made me question my strength, determination and optimism, there has been one moment recently that helped reinforce why I am here. I had my first English Club meeting for Teachers and while it started thirty minutes late and only 4 male teachers showed, it was very successful. We spoke about proverbs and debated on “it is better to be educated than rich.” It was a solid hour of conversation and by the end of the meeting, we left smiling and looking forward to the next meeting. On my hard days, I grasp onto those memories.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Andrea, I’d first like to point out again – how amazing you are at truly drawing me into your life with your writing. I’m truly impressed.

    Secondly, I’m sorry such awful things seem to be happening My mom always said “bad and good things both come in three.” So I’m proud of you for sticking it out thus far. I hope you can remember (while being screamed at for a computer you put your all into and broke anyway – or when people are being unfairly discriminatory to your accent) that you will persevere. You were made that way. It wont break you. You’re there to do your best – and I think you’re doing it! Your soul is in it and that’s what matters.

    I know these hiccups seem like they’re threatening the lifeblood of what you’re there to do and even verge on being personal attacks, but (I’m sure you’ve heard this before) working with people (of all cultures) is a growth process. You have to bend and they’ll have to bend (but take no BS, ya?). I’m not sure if you’re in a position to truly voice how unfair these situations have been to you (maybe in time/with more developed relationships) but in that discussion, working out exactly how you can provide for their needs of you as a teacher and what they can provide/do to be better students.

    If they can’t understand your ‘accent’ – it’s their responsibility to ask for clarification/how to phonetically say something/be polite and not derogatory while it’s also your responsibility to be patient and provide them with the necessary help. That give and take flow.

    Also, there’s absolutely no excuse for institutionalized sexism (i.e. the computer discussion). Culture is a REASON not an excuse. I’m hoping with time you can navigate the treacherous path to bring feminism to your communities and convey that women are JUST as competent as men – although it might take your full 2 years or more.

    This is all merely my opinion from way over back in little ol’ Delaware. I’m not familiar with Ethiopian customs, but I’m hoping things can work out by clear discussions/patience on their end.

    I'm sending all my love. I believe in you. You can do this.

    Like

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