I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a while. Things are crazy.
Currently, I’m in Texas visiting family before leaving for Latvia on Thursday. Quite a lot has happened since I last updated, but honestly it isn’t all that interesting. Well, some of it was interesting when it happened, but I don’t know if I can write about it interestingly. Nevertheless, I promised to update people on the whole “preparing to start at Fulbright” process, so I’ll do that.
I did manage to get my medical clearance and I submitted all of the paperwork to trigger my first payment. They were fairly quick once it got in the system. I’ve noticed that Fulbright often puts, “It may take such and such time to get this completed” on paperwork, but in my experience they tend to get things done quicker than they warned. That means that I’m worried about getting things done in time because of the dire warnings like “Submit all of this stuff at least six weeks before leaving or you might not get your money before you depart.” So I ask about deadlines and what happens if I don’t get my money, etc, and I’m told “Don’t worry.” Of course I’m going to worry. The paperwork is dire! I guess I would rather be told “Well, we usually get this done in three weeks, but we say six weeks just in case the world explodes.”
In short, if you’re thinking of applying, pay attention the dire warnings, but don’t freak out if you feel you’re behind. You’re going to get mixed messages.
One issue I’m dealing with is a lack of quick communication on multiple fronts. I understand that I’m dealing with a lot of different people in different locals with different backgrounds and cultures and time differences. I don’t need a lecture about people being busy. (I’ve gotten that already.) Still, I do find it nice to receive some sort of “I saw your email” message. I worked in a job with customer email and am used to replying, “I can’t give you an answer to your question, but I finding someone who does and I will let you know.” That way, if it takes a couple of days to get an answer, the person knows I’m not just ignoring them. I know people differ on this, but I get frustrated when I ask a question and receive a seemingly non-related question in response. Or no answer for weeks. Or at all. I guess I err on the side of pestering someone instead of assuming, “They’re working on it.” Because I do understand that I’m not the only person trying to arrange stuff, I feel that I have to be my own advocate when it comes to email.
My partial list of worries in no particular order:
1. sucking at teaching
2. my school expecting me to not suck at teaching and therefore thinking I’m an idiot when I arrive
3. not having a place to live
4. not being able to communicate effectively because my Russian, at this point, is shit
I’ve been working on points 1, 2, and 4 by being clear when communicating with my schools in Rezekne that I’m not a trained teacher, that Fulbright is sending me as an assistant, and that my Russian is pretty crappy. Hopefully it’s enough. I’m sure we’ll all have to adjust our expectations. I’m coming to terms with that, though the planner in me finds it hard hard hard.
As for point #3: I’m working on it. Oy. I have a place to crash when I arrive, so I’m not completely at a loss. Thank god for friends!
I’m damn lucky. So far, I’ve been in pretty constant communication with two wonderful ladies in Rezekne. One -Inta- works at the University where I’ll be assisting with English and American Studies classes. Tatiana, the other lady, works at the high school where I’ll be assisting with English classes. Both have been great in answering all the little questions I have and in helping me look at apartments (more on that later).
A sample of my questions:
1. Can I get internet in my eventual apartment? Of course we have internet. (I imagined an eye-roll here.J)
2. Will I offend people by learning Russian and not Latvian? Why would one need Latvian in the United States? Learn Russian. It is more useful. (I’m used to dealing with western Ukraine where some people are offended by learning Russian instead of Ukrainian. I’m glad it’s not a problem in Rezekne. I can’t speak for all of Latvia.)
3. What do I wear to teach? We don’t wear shorts, but jeans are okay. (Yay!)
4. Will I be able to get around with a car? Of course.
5. Why is nobody responding to our questions about apartments?! I have no idea. It is frustrating. We will find something, though. We will not let you sleep on the streets. (Did I say that I love my contacts?)
Rezekne is smallish (at least by American standards). Still there are always a couple apartments available and there is a listing site. They’re not very expensive at all. They are furnished generally in varying shades of tasteful. The problem? I can’t get a response when I submit an inquiry through the site! I don’t know if the site is weird or what. Inta has been looking for me, too, but often doesn’t get a call back when she tries to contact people. Once, we thought we had an apartment, but then the lady’s family decided to move into town so she rented to them. Inta says that I’ll have more luck when I arrive and can see apartments in person and can have cash in hand. I’m sure that’s the case and, honestly, I’m not as worried about this part of the process as I expected. My advice: try to find a place in advance, but also arrange a place to stay temporarily and plan to look when you arrive. Also, if possible, have a local contact with you. I’m not sure about leasing laws and customs in Latvia so I’m glad I’ve got someone to help me not get screwed over.
This post is getting long. That’s what I suppose happens when I go MIA for a month and a half. In my defense, I went to a teaching workshop in DC, moved out of my apartment and into my boss’ parents’ basement (thanks to the lovely Hull family), had tearful goodbyes, quit my job, drove to Texas, stayed with my mom, and then stayed with my brother.
So, I’ll talk about DC soon. And about packing. And teaching materials I need and want and don’t know if I need. Tonight’s agenda is Japanese food with Aya and my madre. Tomorrow is the grand family pastime of drinking and cooking and possibly playing board games. Monday: shopping! I need shoes. And a smaller suitcase since mine is giant and I can’t handle it without a support team.
My questions for you:
1. Do you have any suggestions on suitcases? I have a Samsonite that I like, but I would like something lighter.
2. Does anyone who has done the whole Fulbright bit have recommendations for what to wear to a Fulbright function at the embassy? Do I need a party dress? Should I get a party dress just in case?
Today’s post is brought to you by Rita Ora's "How We Do (Party)." I like to pretend that my "tearing up the town" consists of more than two drinks and bed by midnight. I also wish I could wear that leotard.