603: Work, and more work

I go to work every day, even when I am ill, because it is harder to do all the preparation work beforehand than it’s worth it to be out sick, especially when I am actually sick. I have stopped going to the doctor and dentist on school holidays, though. Usually, if school is out, the doctors and dentists are also closed, anyway, and occasionally I NEED a day off when I actually am not sick – that is worth doing the prep work for.

Lately, I have been finishing my straight eight, and donning working clothes to put in another shift remodeling our newest purchase: a new-to-us, but not new house. We have gutted the kitchen in preparation for the installation of new cabinets, counter tops, trim, and appliances, and have installed the new flooring and painted. The new ceiling and lighting fixtures, and the floor molding, go in after the cabinets are installed.


Lately, we have been on our knees…not praying exactly, unless you count praying that this piece of flooring will install properly in line with the others already laid. It is a good time for reflection on the vicissitudes of life, when you are on your knees, praying or not. I heard once that being on your knees is the most powerful position you can assume – and I assume they were thinking of prayer. I do tend towards a less than pristine mindset, and being on your knees is good for lots of various things, including prayer. Nonetheless.

I think the next few days I will work on painting. I can do that standing up. I’ve been on my knees dealing with those stubborn flooring planks a little too much lately.


469: Hello, Microbes


As a teacher, you learn one fact about changing your job. You are going to get sick. Not of life, or of the job (though sometimes that does happen), no: literally, you will get physically sick. See, here’s how that happens:

When you work in one school for a number of years, your body develops antibodies against all the local germs that the darling kiddies you are working with (regardless of their age) bring to school and share with all and sundry – including you. So, after a few years, you manage to stay reasonably well, because you have already suffered thorough all the local varieties of common cold, influenza, etc., etc., etc., and now you are mostly immune and can stay mostly healthy.

When you change your job, and go to a new school, guess what you are meeting along with all those interesting new people? Yep. All those uninteresting, new, local microbes. You are going to get sick. The fact that you are working with children, and lots and lots of them (nearly 800 in this new school) does not help that situation. Children are still learning to wash their hands and blow their noses, and when to stay home and be sick in private, and when it is OK to be sick and come to school (like, virtually never). So you quite literally shake hands with lots and lots of new (to you) varieties of germs. Now multiply that truth by the interesting complexities of germ adaptation in totally new countries in different parts of the globe.

Yep. *cough*


You got it. No, actually, I got it.


374: Responsibilities

Tomorrow, I have to go back to work. I have just finished an eleven-day vacation. Spring Break of ten days, plus one  more day because some union in the city is protesting/demonstrating, and they specifically block traffic and bridges when they protest so that people either can’t GET to work, or can’t get HOME from work, so school called off another day of class. Tomorrow we are supposed to go, but if the protesters are doing their thing for a second day, we may go home early to be sure students can actually get back home, not to mention the staff.

I’d love to be irresponsible and not go. I get a lot of sick days on this job, and I can cheat and say I am sick, and I can go and get a doctor’s note for the grand sum of six dollars here in Panama. However, Thursdays are my busiest day at work. My partner and I teach seven classes on Thursdays, so to lay out on a Thursday is not being kind to my co-worker, who is a nice, decent guy. It would be nice to ignore my responsibilities, but I don’t know how to do that and still look myself in the eye in the mirror. I’d like to be that selfish, I just can’t seem to actually do it. I can THINK about it, I just can’t make myself do it.

We have a substitute teacher here – a part-timer who follows the sports circuit. She travels around the world, competing in various events from kayak races to skiing competitions. I don’t know how to live like that. First, because I don’t have the money to do that, and I’ve never not had a job except for the six years I took off from work to have my children and try to save my marriage. That was more work than work, and I was glad to get back to teaching, which seemed like a vacation after full-time mommyhood and housewifery. That six years sucked big time, seriously. 24/7, and I did not even get to pee in private. For YEARS. Sheesh.

I am, however, in retrospect, glad I had the time to be a full-time mommy, especially since my husband dropped dead about five years after that. I didn’t kill him. Really. At least my kids had me full-time for a while when they were small and needed somebody there.  I could do that, and I did it. Responsibility weighs heavily on me, and I feel the yoke. I waited until both my kids were graduated from high school and off to college before I sold all my stuff and abandoned the USA for overseas teaching (instead of the messed-up USA teaching scene).

I am, however, getting more and more tired of working. The money is nice, BUT……..  As soon as I can start collecting teacher’s retirement, I plan to stop doing it. I have found that I LIKE gardening. I LIKE painting and making jewelry, sewing and crafting. I LIKE doing things my own way and in my own time. I’m still busy, and I enjoy myself.

I want to open a shop, though, in concert with others, so I am not on duty every day, and I can still earn some extra 18_istanbul-handcraftsmoney. Some artists, some craftspeople, some fresh garden produce, some nursery (for plants), maybe a furniture builder and a potter…..a shop where each minds the store a day or two a week for the others, and everyone brings for sale what they produce. I just need a PLACE to do that. Maybe that place is here, and maybe that place is in the next place I go. At least I know what I want!!

341: Useless

Did you ever go into work on a day when you KNEW before you got there that you were going to be virtually useless for the day?

That’s today. So – you (actually I) are faced with the decision of whether to go anyway, and fill in the time doing whatever you can manage to get accomplished anyway, knowing that it will be completely bogus and will all probably have to be re-done all over again when you return to work on a day when all of you can actually be present to work, and not just the physical, empty shell of a body that showed up today, OR do you phone in to your boss and fake that phlegmy-sounding cough while you lie about how sick you really aren’t, taking a sick day because you never use them anyway, and you have, like, nearly a hundred saved up that you know they are never going to pay you for anyway, but you keep showing up to work when you are sick anyway, thinking morbidly that maybe some day you will have cancer and you’ll have five year’s worth of sick days saved up, so everything will be just fine.

OR, do you (I) show up for work and do something sneakily bogus, like, visit everyone in the company personally, asking for their feedback on some nifty new project you brainstormed, so it looks like you are industriously gathering DATA while you are actually just visiting everyone and wasting the eight hours so they will pay you, because let’s face it, that’s the real reason you show up for work on ANY given day, and not just this useless day?

OR, do you just blow it all off, phone in and take a personal day, claiming you have vitally important errands you absolutely must accomplish today, even though you only get three personal days a year, as opposed to the 12 sick days you get that you never use even when you are sick, and you already know that the most important, vital thing you might actually get accomplished today is a long-overdue pedicure, where you meticulously trim, buff and polish your toenails a trendy shade of blue or lime green or yellow that you bought at the mall because you were standing in a long check-out line and they had this display of ridiculous nail polishes bearing no resemblance to anything life-like, but you were stuck there in line for over 40 minutes with nothing else to do but stare at them, so you bought one of each?


Yeah, well – this is one of those days.

320: Fez and the Flowers

Fez is my champagne and white kitty girl. She was born in the ancient UNESCO world heritage site of the medina in the imperial Moroccan city of Fez.  I brought her to live with me in  Panama, while I work my new job at a new school.

When you bring in an animal to Panama they undergo a quarantine period of 40 days where you promise to keep them inside and away from any other animals, in case they are carrying some sickness. YOU agree to this, the animal does not. Fez got out Saturday night onto the porch of the house, which I have screened the access door to, so that she can’t go there. She found a way.

Sunday morning I found her inside (how did she get back in?), in an unnatural sleeping position (not sleeping) on the other bed in another bedroom. I knew instantly that something was wrong. She was listless, groggy and groaned in protest when I picked her up. She also had cat pee on her fur – ????? Who peed on her, and why would she have LET them???  I thought she possibly might have eaten one of the half-dead cockroach bugs that I had found lying on their backs, feebly kicking on the floor. These were victims of some insecticide the landowner had used before my arrival – I am careful about poisons, since I have cats. I have lost some to this problem before.

So, before 6:30 am, I am on my way by foot and bus to the center of Panama City to a vet. The first bus said no as I was climbing aboard with the cat carrier, but the second bus agreed to transport her and me. I texted a friend who I knew lived where there was a vet, and she got me directions and a phone number. The vet said, once I got there (took my very last five dollars for the taxi), that she appeared to be OK, and most probably would not die (thanks, doc), 35 dollars, please.

My credit card declined. Fortunately, my friend arrived with cash, and she let me borrow 40 bucks till payday. Fez, the cause of this trauma, slept all the way home, letting out an ear-splitting yowl occasionally, to be sure all of us on the bus were awake. Such fun. It was not until I got home after 1 pm that I found the evidence of what happened.

On the front porch, I had a five gallon bucket of ornamental flower cuttings that I wanted to root. The flower shrubs in the planter bed were skimpy looking, so pruning them made them appear thicker, and if I could root them, I could fill in the thin spots.  Half the cuttings were scattered around the porch, and the leaves were eaten off of them. And the clincher? There were puddles of cat pee everywhere.

Fez, my sober, dignified, staid, elegant cat lady, had really tied one on with the flower leaves. Three days later,

Fez is under the chair

Fez is under the chair

she is still a little hung over. I am just glad it has not killed her – so far…….

Flowers have to GO.

231: Second Interview

I am applying for jobs. I would prefer to relocate a little closer to the United States, just not IN the United States. I have discovered that I cannot afford to live there. But, I have also been living and working in Morocco for the last three years, and I have not had the money for the very expensive airfares to visit home during that time. For what it costs for ME to fly home for a visit, my husband AND I can spend a couple of weeks lounging on Spains’ Gold Coast along the Mediterranean. THAT, folks, is a no-brainer.

But, regardless of the perks of living in Morocco, It’s time to relocate. I can’t seem to stay well here. Of course, it does not help that the little international school where I am working is located in a ski resort town in Morocco, that has the coldest recorded temperature for the entire continent of Africa. I was raised in the deep South of Georgia – close to the state line of Florida. We don’t have a whole lot of cold there. Here, there is cold ‘bezeft’ (Arabic for too much, or too many). We have snow and ice into APRIL. I know, you hardy northerners are snickering right about now. There is a reason why Florida is known as ‘Heaven’s Waiting Room:’ all those notherners who come south there to retire are NOT, NOT, NOT able to handle the heat, and they die like flies. I was ‘bawn and bred’ in that heat, and I am spending way too much time here sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, I am applying to teach at another school with climate more ideally suited to the way I was raised.

I have made it to the second round of interviews with three schools in regions of the globe much more friendly to my idea of ideal climate: Mexico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean Sea. I have nothing bad to say about the climate in any one of those three places. Old home week, for me! Mexico is a little worrisome because of the drug cartel gang wars going on there, but most of that is nearer the border of the US, and the school I am talking to is five hours’ drive south of there, and just happens to also be on the Gulf coast. Oh, yeah. Besides,they provide foreign hire teachers housing in a guarded compound. The only thing is that they don’t pay as much as some of the other candidates do, but still, Mexico is a beautiful place with beautiful people, and money is certainly not what I went into teaching for.

Still- money IS nice to have,so my first pick would be Panama. After that, the Dominican. I have a few willies about the DR because they are right in Hurricane Alley, and they regularly get plowed. Still, Panama is first choice. I hope they liked my sports analogy during the interview. Keeping my fingers crossed!

207: Being sick sucketh mightily

I am sure that those viruses and bacteria are just doing the best that they can to survive, just like me. However……

This past weekend, my husband and I were stuck indoors (mostly) by rainy, cold, blowing weather. So, we watched movies. One was called Contagion, and was about Gwenyth Paltrow contracting a lethally mixed bat-pig virus in the Orient, which she/they shared all over the globe as she flew home to the US. By the time they figured out a vaccine for it, it had killed nearly a billion people. Then I got sick, too. Made for REALLY bad dreams.

Plus, I have now missed one and a half days of school. It’s not two days because I went to school on Monday, even though I was already wondering if I was gonna make it when I left home. I didn’t. Today, day three of my personal contagion, I am finally able to sit up for an hour of so without getting dizzy and nauseous again. It looks like I might actually make to to work tomorrow. God willing and the creek don’t rise (literally) from all this rain we’ve been having. I also kept down some soup today. Real progress, except on my piling-ever-higher stack of papers to be graded………..