Marilie, Marian, Mary, Marlyn, Life is Adventure & Dreams

I finished a year of teaching ESL in China, climbed the Great Wall, stared at terracotta warriors, visited Shanghai Disneyland, traipsed around Changsha, enjoyed tranquility in Jishou, successfully trekked to Everest Base Camp, met up with my sister in Thailand, explored temples in Cambodia, taught gifted students in NYC, saw another sister get married to a man she's loved for half a decade, and started teaching in Cairo, Egypt. It's been a pretty awesome 2018, but I'm happy to welcome 2019 and see what all I can get up to in this new year.

So far, Egypt has been a culture shock, which is shocking because I thought I was officially shock-proof after adjusting to life in rural China. As the Grinch would say, wrong-o.

I, and several other foreign teachers I've met while here, have been sexually assaulted more than once in my three short months of living in the Arab Republic of Egypt. I also find that Chinese was easier to pick up than Arabic is, and I continually find myself forgetting that I'm on the continent of Africa because it feels so much more like I'm in the Middle East.

However, despite the bad and the worst, I've still enjoyed my time here enough to stay for the rest of this academic year at least. My students have played a large role in that decision.

What's in a name? A teacher by any other name will still go as crazy hearing it 53 times a class period. In China, students who attempted my name would often fall short and land on Mar-i-lee, and then default to Mary. My students here in Cairo put a lot of "arrrr" into my name, making me feel like an English pirate here to plunder their broken grammar - I usually get Miss Marlyn before moving onto Mary. However, I also get a wide range of names in between: Marilie, Mary, Marlyn, Marley, and Miss Marian from my favorite hall monitor.

I don't mind my misnomers, quite the contrary; it's as if I move to foreign countries and get to become a new version of myself, hopefully a version they need.

My students in Kentucky were teenage Americans to their core: entitled, but polite; defiant, but respectful to a fault due to their careful upbringings. They would get wild, but they'd settle down. They were my first foray into academic year teaching after a summer helping 10-year-old sweethearts in the Mississippi Delta. I miss my 9th and 10th grade science kids from South Floyd High School, honestly. I was overwhelmed with their exuberance while I was there, but I sometimes wish I had their school year to do over.

My college darlings in Zhangjiajie were well behaved and excited to learn English from a native speaker. The thrill of teaching students who wanted to learn (93% of them at least) was unmatched. I also loved the freedom of China. Some days I'd have a class at 8AM, others it wouldn't be until 2:30PM. Teaching college in a country where a strong work ethic and excelling academically is praised is worth doing at least twice in a teaching career. Maybe I'll go back...

Here in Cairo, Egypt, I have a mix of the unabated excitement that comes from being 14-years-old, and some of the quiet determination to succeed that stems from having a native speaker teach you a language. I have around 90 students here at Sakkara and I absolutely adore and love teaching about 88 of them. There's always 2, right?

Seriously though, these Egyptian kids have a way of staring at you through their long eyelashes and making you forget that you were scolding them for standing on a chair. They're very much children and have that child-like innocence and adorableness that gets me every time, but they're also young adults with so many hopes and dreams that they inspire me. The behavior at my school is appalling, the worst I've seen at any school; but I understand why it's hard to be hard on them.

Many of their Egyptian teachers yell at them and/or hit them, making almost anything I do that's not that next to useless. If that's the level that students are used to, none of my punishments or reprimands will sound serious in comparison. I will never hit them and they know that. Unfortunately, instead of that making them want to behave even better, they like to goof off when it comes time for English as they see it as a break from the sharp control of their other classes.

I feel for them; they only have one break throughout the day and they don't rotate classes, so they are stuck in the same room with the same students all day, every day. I'd go crazy. However, this is the system we have and I wish I knew how to get them to conform to it.

In spite of the lack of self control from the "men" here who can't resist whistling, making kissing noises, or worse, actually touching; disregarding the countless times I've lost my voice and hurt my hand from hollering and banging on my desk; and ignoring the fact that prices in this country have severely gone up since the revolution with salaries remaining the same, I've still been enjoying trying to pretend like I live in ancient times.

I've visited ancient and modern sites around Cairo and already planned all that I want to see during my winter break. After all, if this is the only year I'm going to be spending here, I want to make the most of it and see as much of this country as I can.

So here I am, a traveling teacher trying to enjoy each moment I'm blessed to spend on this incredible Earth. I'm ending the year in a vastly different location than the one I started in, but I'm not sure how different a place I, Marilie, Mary, Marlyn, Marian, am in.


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