Sunday, December 07, 2008

Earth Trek: The Next Episode

So lately I've been preoccupied (a kinder word than obsessed, although that's more precise) with my job search for the next school year and beyond. In the international school circuit, this process includes not only a search of school but of country and city as well, so you can just imagine the excitement- and stress-induced headaches I've had to endure. And, just because a city sounds fabu (Barcelona! Paris!) =! the school is great. In fact, many of the international schools in capital cities in Europe are second-rate compared to those in Asia.

What complicates it even further is this new school has to make the cut for being a decent workplace for me (there are quite a few draconian administrators out there) while being a top-notch academic institution with a strong performing arts for spawn (who'll be entering the 9th grade), and those two criteria don't necessarily marry well. There's a very unscientific formula to it all, weighted with a hefty dose of personal preferences. So after copious hours/weeks/ulcers of meticulous research, I've got it down to a list. My search centers around Asia because I decided that making 30-70% more than I do currently in Latin America (and Europe, where you often have to pay country taxes) is a good thing.

So here's my list, in no particular order. If you could live anywhere in Asia, where would you go?

I'm not posting the school names, just because. Of course, city grades are based on my own personal interests in the location, which can range from OMG, they have a Sephora there! to it's a foodie's paradise! to Holy Crap, there's a Hello Kitty-themed cafe! Package = tax-free salary, bennies, housing allowance, home flights, perks, etc.

School #1: Bangkok, Thailand: A school, A+ package, A- city (demerits for pollution, political instability, and being 20 minutes from downtown)

School #2: Shanghai, China: A- school, A- package, B+ city (demerit for pollution) [values added: spawn already has family/connections on his stepmom's side there. spawn really likes the city.]

School #3: Beijing, China: A+ school, B+ package, B+ city (demerit for pollution)

School #4: Beijing, China: B+ school, A package, B+ city (demerit for pollution)

School #5: New Delhi, India: A school, A+ package, C+ city (demerits for terrorist threat and too much stark poverty). [value added: a good friend already teaches there.]

School #6: Singapore: A- school [demerit for the supposedly insane workload], A package, A+ city

School #7: Cairo, Egypt: B+ school, B package, B city (demerit for my not owning conservative clothes and inevitably having to update entire wardrobe)

School #8: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: B+ school, A- package, A city

School #9: Tokyo, Japan: B+ school, A package, A city [value added: spawn really wants to go there.]

School #10: Taipei, Taiwan: A- school (demerit for quintessential type-A workload), A- package, A- city


Inspirosity said...

Well, I can only chime in on Cairo since I lived there for three years. It's amazing! The feeling of connecting past to present... getting to understand this ancient civilization better... meeting the wonderfully friendly Egyptians ... experiencing a place so totally different in every way. These are the things I loved about Cairo. And then there's the Red Sea, the great expat community that are more like immigrants than expats, the cool downtown hangouts where you can drink a beer and ponder the importance of the legends who drank their beers right there where you're sitting.

There are plenty of places in the world that can boast these same traits... and several are on your list. Tough choice. If I had these options (seeing as I've already lived in Cairo), I'd choose China. And it would be for many of the same reasons I chose Egypt. The history, their lasting influence on the world, the chance to live in such a vastly different culture, and their growing importance would solidify the choice, seeing as it's going to change and change fast. As an added benefit, having knowledge of China--the language and culture-- will certainly be important in the future (it is already important today).

One last thing, it's true you have to dress more modestly in Cairo if you don't want to draw attention to yourself. But it's filled with tourists who wear just about anything. While I was living there, I often wore my normal clothes to teach and carried a scarf to cover up while out and about. In restaurants, cafes, at bookstores, at friends' homes, in nightclubs, etc. you can dress like you would anywhere else. But on the street, it's best to cover your arms and any low necklines.

But let's say you choose to live on the edge and not cover. You'll get guys passing you on bikes and serenading you. And you'll get the young boys who think you're a Westerner so you like it when men touch you. You'll get young girls wanting to have their picture taken with you. And you'll get dirty looks from women who are covered because they are from the lower Egyptian classes and don't have a choice. But all in all, it's a very safe and accepting society. The Mother of the World. They've had visitors forever. They're used to diversity.

Ah, to have your choices. Maybe you've inspired me to start looking again. See you in Shanghai :-)

theshortestfuse said...

awesome info! thanks so much for your comment, especially regarding cairo as i've a skype interview with them next week. this whole process, while nerve wracking, is so exciting to me. and like you, i'm leaning more and more toward china. i can't even fathom living in a culture that's thousands of years old, yet being on the crux of rapid change at the same time. so yeah...hopefully, i'll see you in shanghai! :o)