A cautionary tale about working in another country.
Last night was the children’s Christmas program at the school. It was not listed on the calendar and no one had mentioned it to me, so the program came as a surprise. My contract states that I will attend school events, but I simply didn’t know about this one. I was told that I had misunderstood the 2 line email saying that “all classes on the 23rd were canceled” and that I had “three days off.” I had made arrangements for a trip to Da Lat with others from the school (only the native English speaking teachers were required to attend the party, not the bilingual Vietnamese teacher). Da Lat is located high up in the cool mountains, a 5 hour bus ride away. I was looking forward to cool breezes and new sites. After I had bought my non-refundable ticket, the school informed me of this event. There was no remorse about their lack of communication as I “should have known” and I “should have asked.”
Clearly my mind-reading skills need work.
This is one of the issues with working in a foreign country. You don’t know the customs. You don’t understand the culture. You don’t know the conversations and planning going on around you if spoken in another language. And, if organization and communication is poor, you will only figure out what’s expected of you when you make a mistake and are suddenly accused of breach of contract. At least, this has been my experience here. And it’s not like the contract really protects YOU, anyway. It protects the school. In a foreign country, you aren’t going to be able to access the legal system.
So, I didn’t get to take my Christmas trip, I didn’t have a three day holiday, and I lost the money I had put down on the vacation. Ba Humbug! Not a nice start to my holiday. And it certainly didn’t help me get a good attitude for the Christmas program. But I screwed on my smile and did my best–it wasn’t the children’s fault, after all. I did not understand much of what was going on, but from the outside, the entire holiday seems a surreal example of Western influence on Asian sensibilities. At least the kids seemed to enjoy it all. I’m trying do the same, without understanding much. I hope you can, too.
Many of my friends have asked if they celebrate Christmas here. They do! I didn’t expect some much Western and Christian influence in a Communist country. This is a brief walk around my neighborhood to view decorations. Of course, they are prettier at night with all the lights, but my photographs wouldn’t be. All of these were taken this morning, in an hour’s stroll.