Before deciding to come to Kurdistan to work for a year, I had a lot of questions (as would be expected), and one of the big ones was what a normal day was like. I met with last year’s Integrate Hands fellow and had the opportunity to talk with him about life in Kurdistan, both in terms of teaching/work and down time. But I’m a bit of a Type-A, list-loving control freak, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the answers I got (what I really wanted was a representative timetable or schedule, not a vague description or two). So, for friends and family wondering what I’m actually doing here, and for those considering a fellowship with Integrate hands, here’s a break-down of my usual day.
6.00 am – My alarm starts to ring, and I snooze for the next hour or so. I really am not a morning person, as my former housemates will tell you. Apparently I look like I’ve just been through the nuclear apocalypse when I’ve just woken up.
7.00 am – After having snoozed for too long, I hurriedly put my face on, throw on some work-appropriate attire (i.e. anything as long as my legs and shoulders are covered), instinctively turn on the coffee maker, and scrounge for some breakfast.
8.00 am – I either hitch a ride with my boss, brave the city ‘bus’ (a matatu-style minivan), or walk the 15 minutes to school. Most days my classes start at 9, so I’ll spend the next hour getting ready for the classes I have. That usually involves copying worksheets I’ve made, drawing pictures for flashcards or a poster, and drinking another cup of coffee. I really need to sweet-talk my boss into buying an espresso machine. Apparently teaching is one of the heaviest coffee-consuming professions.
9.00 – 11.40 am – I usually have three classes in the morning, 40 minutes each with 15~20 minute breaks in between the classes. The class just before lunch is neverending. The kids are hungry and distracted, and to be honest so am I. Or maybe that’s because I usually have my cheekiest class then.
12.00 pm – I have lunch in the cafeteria with the kids. The food’s alright for cafeteria food (which means it’s barely palatable by normal standards) but I don’t mind because that means I don’t have to worry about packing a lunch. If I had to pack my own lunch, I’d probably just survive on coffee. Anyhow, figuring out where to sit for lunch is the opposite of those awkward moments in movies where the poor pariah kid doesn’t have any friends to sit with at the lunch tables. I instead have 100 kids clamoring for me to sit next to them. Not gonna lie, I usually sit next to my favorites. Yes, that’s right. I have favorite students (though I try my hardest not to show it), the ones that are so cute I want to take them home with me (in a non-creeper way). But it doesn’t really matter though, because I inevitably have the same kids who come sit next to me as soon as there’s a seat open at the table. The conversation usually revolves around Jumong or baby animals. Last week I had an illuminating conversation on football, specifically the finer details of the Barca-Real rivalry.
12.30 – 4.00 pm – After lunch, I have two more classes in the afternoon and will be done teaching by 2.30 (sometimes earlier). For the next two hours, until around 4, I prep for the next day. There really weren’t too many English teaching resources when I arrived, so I’ve been creating my own materials. I either find worksheets or games/activities online at ESL teaching websites, or will make my own. It’s really most useful when I make my own materials, because the students are at such a low level of English that material I get online that is supposed to be at their level of English is often too difficult.
4.00 pm – Sometimes when I’m done prepping a bit early, I’ll hang out with some of the Kurdish teachers and staff. We usually try to teach each other English and Kurdish, and sometimes some Korean. Everyone is eager to help me learn Kurdish (more so than they are to learn English), so when I was attempting to learn the Kurdish alphabet, I had at least 5 different teachers crowded around me explaining the sounds of the letters and how they’re written. Lately though I’ve been so exhausted from teaching that I’ll just go straight home. Learning Kurdish is the only real intellectual stimulus I get all day, but I’m so tired from trying to teach basic English grammar to my 85 cheeky little monkeys that I’ve been avoiding it these days. Must get back on it though. Either way, I’m home by 4 most days. Sometimes earlier, rarely ever later.
4.00 – 7.00 pm – Time to myself! THANK BABY JESUS. I was never one for ‘alone time’ or ‘me-time’. I haven’t ever felt the need to have time by myself; I always preferred being around other people, even when I was at home. But in London and Boston, I didn’t feel the need for me-time because I always got it whether I wanted it or not. I was alone to do whatever I wanted enough of the time, so I never felt like I needed me-time. Here in Kurdistan, because I also live with the people I work with, I’m constantly surrounded by people. Very friendly, welcoming people who only have good intentions in trying to keep me and my fellow English teacher from being bored, but who nevertheless are always around. I now appreciate the wonderful freedom of being alone – but more on communal living to come.
7.00 pm – We take turns cooking dinner for everyone, which means that everyone cooks once a week (if we manage to get the schedule properly going that week). It’s super convenient to have dinner made for you every day, because otherwise most days I’d probably just forget to eat. I need to save food talk for its own post. I miss bacon.
8.00 pm – Yoga time! Anna and I do power yoga for 30 minutes if we’re feeling lazy, and an hour if we’re feeling particularly inspired that day.
9.00 pm – A post-yoga glass of wine and rooftop conversations, or a good book, are the perfect end to the day.
11.30 pm – And that’s the day. Good night!