Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I didn’t write a post this weekend because I had a whole lot of anger to express and I am actively trying to be more positive (in writing because in real life I am a great big ball of sunshine). So here goes.

I am going to start with the good. Thursday was good because my students and I decided to do Thanksgiving. It was basically their idea (well, ok, I suggested it) and we are going to all bring things and have an international day of thanks after our lesson. Lucky them, they get to eat and have two lessons because, oh yes, I am creative enough to turn Thanksgiving into a lesson.

The other really good thing happened Friday morning. I live in a really populated type of crossroads and there are a ton of homeless people about two blocks from my apartment. One of them found his way to my street camped out under an apartment window Thursday night. I know this because I saw him when I came back from the gym. Friday morning I saw the woman who lives in the apartment lean out of her window and give the man a coffee, complete with a saucer and sugar. It was really a lovely gesture and I am still giving the woman two great big thumbs up.

Let’s quickly shift to the bad, because that is how it happened in reality. Friday afternoon I had the worst class experience. I teach post high school students, around my age, (for you teaching expats, post BTS students) for two hours every Friday. These students are terrible, don’t understand English and don’t have any incentive to learn. By no incentive, I mean they will have no exams, no grade, etc. thus no reason to pay attention to yours truly. I basically just treat them like a pack of wild dogs. I try to keep them happy and I never make eye contact.

I have one male student who thinks he is quite cute. He calls me baby, asks for my phone number, and says, “Ooh, la, la,” anytime I take off my jacket. He is just a disgusting slime ball and I try to ignore him completely. Friday, he and a female student got into an argument. I was working with the 3 students who actually want to learn and didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on, until he stood up. What went on next is a little bit unclear because they were yelling and speaking very fast, but I understood him to say he would kill her, cute her face, kill her mother, etc. He had to be physically restrained by two of the other students and every time the students let go of him, he tried to crawl over the desks to get to her.

I yelled, got some order and told everyone to get their books out. The two students settled down and I thought I would be able to teach and keep everyone calm, but no. The two students started again and he actually climbed over two desks trying to get to her and only had one desk left to go before some students stopped him. I freaked and told both of the students to get out. He told me to be quiet, he wasn’t talking to me and she said she shouldn’t have to leave because she didn’t start it. I said, “Fine, everyone can leave then; class dismissed.” And I left. Not because I was really scared or because I was afraid he would hurt me, but because I was on the verge of tears. I have had many negative things happen in my class, but this one takes the cake for scary. I realized I have no control or any authority over the class and it is not likely to change, so I was really bummed Friday night.

Now, on to the ugly, and this is really ugly. I had to ride the metro (not something I willingly do on my days off because of my unfortunate experience). It was around 3 p.m. on a Saturday so it was nice and packed. All of the sudden I heard yelling and a loud smack behind me. I have been a little jumpy since my experience and freaked out immediately. I looked behind me about the same time I grabbed my pepper spray (thank you to people who will remain unnamed to avoid any kind of legal issues for shipping me that stuff…it makes me feel so much better) and saw a man attacking a teenage boy. Now granted, I don’t know what was said or done before this attack started, but the man was really slapping, hitting and humiliating the teenager and didn’t show any signs of stopping. It was a full metro car but nobody was trying to intervene. That is what gets to me about this city. All these people were watching a skinny teenager get attacked and nobody even said anything. I am constantly amazed by the complete apathy and utter lack of courage in this country. I got off at the next stop because I am personally familiar with French violence and didn’t want to experience it again.

So there you are, the good, the bad and the ugly, in less than 4 days.


cara said...

yet again you're leaving me a bit speechless as i try to imagine seeing the things you've seen lately. the unruly, violent class, well that one i can imagine unfortunately. but the continued violence on the metro and the people who just watch it happen?! it's really disgusting. as much as i sometimes detest living in a podunk, tiny village, there are times i am thankful for it. i am so sorry you keep encountering the nasty side to humanity. at least you are seeing some good that goes a little way to countering the bad. love that the lady gave the man coffee in a saucer. how adorable.

Samantha said...

i feel so bad for you, especially for that class. as for the metro story, maybe you need to move to the countryside with the rest of us?? *S* you were just saying how you need to get out of Paris more... :-)

ce-cilie said...

I never realised how much french people ( and yes I am french!)can be rude and non-helpful before I came to live in London.

I love my country but I really feel more secure living here than in Paris.

I hope you meet some nice french people anyway :o)

Bee Ean said...

Sorry you have to go through this. I hope you have more good things to tell next time. :-)

s@bd said...

the good was beautiful.

Deb said...

I am sorry to hear about your crappy days. I read your previous blog entry about your "unfortunate experience", and I was completely shocked and appalled. I cannot believe that no one helped, and that some people were even amused.

I can see how incidents like the ones you have had would really anger you and make you want to go back home, but I think the fact that you stuck it out proves that you are a strong person.

Maybe avoid using the metro if you can. If you can't, don't ever hesitate to use that pepper spray!

Try and keep your spirits up. There will be better days.

Ola said...

crazy stuff, people really sound quite violent and ungreatful there around you! :-(

blueVicar said...

I came to say "Happy Thanksgiving" but find you are needing more than good wishes...my heart goes out to you. These are not stories that were fun, but sharing them lets us give you support and hope for better. I hope that tomorrow is better...take care of yourself. And good for you to see that lady give the coffee...you do see the better side too. I'll hope that it finds you...soon.

Angela in Europe said...

Cara-Yes, I like to think the positive usually balances the bad, but sometimes, it is hard trying to convince myself. I think it is because the good is nice so we don't notice it so much.

samantha-ohh, country living. Don't tempt me!

ce-cilie-I know loads of nice French people. I think it is just a difference of cultures. I come from a small town and most people are pretty helpful (and nosy) where I lived in the U.S.

Bee Ean-Me too!

Angela in Europe said...

s@bd-Wasn't it great!

Deb-I think I am probably really stupid, not strong. BUT, I am having a much better time this year, even though I am working like crazy.

Ola-I think a lot of big cities have a lot of violence.

Bluevicar-Thanks for the well wishes and the Thanksgiving wishes!

Expat Traveler said...

ouch! That does not sound fun at all... Sorry for this class but I would think that you should be able to talk to the school about this and have those two students unable to attend the school anymore!

Glad you did not get hurt though!

Pardon My French said...

Egad! How did the Thanksgiving lesson go? I bet that was fun for them -- they're lucky. I didn't like my BTS class but never had to deal with the violence. Is the administration supportive of you at all? I'm guessing they're not that serious about education. I'm very sorry about that. And at times I find the Metro a little freaky, but am still surprised at how people can ignore attacks like that. I think the hitters feel as if everyone condones their actions and I hate that.