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Making first impressions

October 6, 2010

My alarm rang. 7am, brilliant, I thought, hitting snooze. 15 minutes later (or so I thought), the alarm rang again. 8am stared back at me. My brain slowly processed this news. I had to be at school at 9am to teach. It takes roughly an hour to get there. This was not good.

As I staggered out of bed, I realised I was in fact still drunk. Thoughts of crawling up into a  ball and dying were appealing. Hazy images of the night before slowly filtered back. So let us begin before that.

Monday was my first day of teaching so at 11.30 I set off on the journey. I arrived well before the meeting time of 1pm so I wandered for a bit before heading in to meet Caroline and my other teachers. Lunch was underway so I sat with Caroline, Fathia and Marion, my teaching crew, and worked out what I would be doing  today. It was agreed that of the three classes I was due to teach, I would only be attending one. That left me with a good two hours to kill, so in the meantime I was told to head to my other school and see if I could negotiate my hours, as for some reason they had decided me working all day on Fridays would be a good idea. As this would not be conducive to my travel plans, I disagreed.

I set off to the school down the road but finding it guarded by various juvenile delinquents, I rather lamely walked around the block before returning to find them gone. As luck would have it, the principal was at the gate, so she told me to go on in and wait for her. I did just that. Once in her office, I introduced myself and explained my situation. Unfortunately, the head of English was not in on a Monday afternoon so I was given his phone number and told to call him to work something out. Feeling rather defeated, I headed back.

At 3.30 I set off with Caroline to take my first class. Taking 10 students, we found an empty classroom and I let them ask me questions in broken English. Particularly noteworthy were probing questions like ‘What is your favourite brand?’ and ‘Do you have a wife?’ Soon enough, the hour was up and I had survived my first day as an unqualified teacher.

Back at the hostel I ran into Andy, who informed me that there were a bunch of people going for 1 euro beers at a bar called Cosmopolitan. I had work at 9 the next morning, but decided to go out for one or two drinks. Famous last words as they say.

Cosmopolitan was packed and the music was terrible, so Andy and I ordered 6 beers and drank them outside. Not wanting to fight our way back in, I decided we should investigate the Australian-themed bar up the road, Ayers Rock. After a Coopers, we discovered that they had 3 euro cocktails on offer. Things rapidly went downhill from there. After our third round, the barman asked us, ‘Are you guys getting fucked tonight?’ By this stage, all signs pointed to yes, so he poured out three shots and drank with us. We got another free shot a couple of rounds later, and my memory of the night ends here.

The next morning, as I swayed in front of the mirror, I took stock of the situation. I was still wearing my jeans and socks; upon arriving home I had managed to take my belt and shirt off but after that had apparently given up. I couldn’t remember how or when I got back; given how tired and drunk I still was, it was evidently late. I had to eat something, pack my bag and leave ASAP, a shower was out of the question. So I staggered into the kitchen, downed a bowl of cereal, grabbed my bag and power walked to the station.

On the train I tried to nap and be sober. I failed on both counts. I arrived at my stop and ran for the tram that was pulling in. 15 minutes later, right on 9am, I got off the tram and walked to school. Struggling with my jumper and bag, I looked up and walked straight into a tree. Fucking hell, I thought, hearing the laughter from someone behind me, can this day get worse? Fortunately it did not; I found the classroom, and believing I had successfully hidden my inability to focus my eyes on anything, spoke to Fathia. Apparently not noticing the cut on my head I had sustained after my altercation with the tree, she gave me a group of 6 students and told me to find an empty classroom. I amused myself with the idea that in this state, I was now in charge of a group of children.

After struggling with the key, I authoritatively flicked on the lights and walked in. The kids stood at the desks, waiting. “Sit down,” I commanded. They did so. And we were off. I passed the hour by sipping at my water bottle and answering more questions. The class ended, and by 11.30, I was finally sober. I made use of the coffee machine to get me through the other two classes, and at 2pm, Marion sent me on my way. By now I was utterly hungover and wanted nothing more than to go back to bed.

But the important this is, I survived.

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