When I'm Not Teaching

In the past week, I spent about 90 hours not teaching or sleeping. This story of a typical day is a sort of average of that time.

 

A generic electric tone announces that 5:50 am has arrived. I got a new phone for India, and I haven’t bothered to change the wallpapers and sounds away from their default settings. Eventually, I will tire of that ethereal green glow behind my disorganized app icons - perhaps I will replace it with a picture that eases the pain of being separated from my family, friends, Porthos, and Cool Mint Chocolate Clif Bars.

Last night, we tried out our electric blanket. The user manual emphasizes that it won’t feel hot to the touch, so we spent quite some time trying to figure out if it was ever on or not. We still don’t know if it works. Based on that user manual, we don’t even know if it was ever supposed to or if we’ve accidentally volunteered for some sort of placebo study on personal heating devices. Either that, or we fried the circuit.

After getting out of bed, I whack my slippers against each other to convince any dormant arachnids that they would be happier on the floor until Leaf and I perform our now seamlessly choreographed routine to trap them and relocate them off the nearest ledge. Peacefully slippered, I check our dehumidifier to find that it turned off during one of the night’s power cuts, but the reservoir is largely full, so I take it out and pour two liters down the drain. What a wonderful place to be a waterbender, my mind wanders.

 A full dehumidifier tank (flip-flip for scale)

A full dehumidifier tank (flip-flip for scale)

 We met our first little scorpion (I call them "scorpos") recently. It was pretty easy to relocate. 

We met our first little scorpion (I call them "scorpos") recently. It was pretty easy to relocate. 

Then I work for a bit, navigating between my calendar to remember what classes I’m teaching, my spreadsheet to figure out which day of the unit these classes are on, and my work email and work calendar to figure out what meetings I have. When it’s time to get dressed, I go to my damp closet and take out one of my new damp shirts. Last week, I went to a tailor with one of my favorite shirts and asked him to make three copies in different fabrics. The thickest fabric doesn’t really fall well, so I look like a flying squirrel when I lift up my arms. No worries, though; that’s an easy fix for our trip into the bazaar next weekend. I’ll wear a different damp shirt today and no tie because I teach middle-schoolers now and am no longer insecure about my age.

Leaf and I pack our laptops and bring flashlights in case we stay out late, we put on our jackets and waterproof boots (after giving them a good shake), and I cover Leaf with the umbrella while she locks up. Today, we drop off a key with the guards so the maintenance guys can check out a recent leak in our roof. Last night’s rain slammed our metal roof for hours which was very peaceful to fall asleep to, but we hope that our usual shortcuts haven’t been washed out.

 After 10 minutes of moderate downhill switchbacks, we walk another 10 minutes on a paved road to school.

After 10 minutes of moderate downhill switchbacks, we walk another 10 minutes on a paved road to school.

 The heaviest rains cause mild-to-major landslides. This one was no biggie. 

The heaviest rains cause mild-to-major landslides. This one was no biggie. 

Twenty minutes later, we’re at the dining hall for a breakfast with various incarnations of cooked eggs, peanut butter and jelly on toast,  aloo paratha, and tea. The quad dining hall, a warm and massive shelter of bright wood and stony gray and brick accents, serves as a sort of watering hole. We’ll return here four more times today for morning tea and cakes, lunch, afternoon tea and cakes, and dinner. I haven’t weighed myself yet, but I certainly don’t go hungry.

Depending on the day, I teach anywhere from two to six classes, so the pace of my time on campus can vary greatly. But at the end of most classes, I get a mix of hugs, high-fives, and thank-yous as students move on to their next engagement which is sometimes Leaf’s classroom across the hall.

When not teaching, I often work in the dining area which hosts a range of toddlers through high school seniors throughout the day. I’m quickly filling in many gaps in my understanding of child and adolescent development. At dinner, a four-year-old plays with the beeping buttons on my watch, her sister tells me about the newspaper tower she built in her fourth-grade design class, and I talk with their dad about coaching the middle-school girls’ basketball team.

Around six, Leaf and I trek back to our home about 130m (430 ft) uphill from campus, empty the dehumidifier again, catch up on work emails, talk to friends and family, watch “just one episode” of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and go to bed to do it all again tomorrow.

~Dinesh