End of an Era!

Amman, Jordan

“This is the downside of our job,” said Melanie after the taxi had departed. “You’re always saying goodbye.”
“Yes,” I said, “but usually you have a couple months to get used to the idea!”

I’ve had many roommates over the past two years: Keri, Megan, Kitty, Hannah, Claire, Martha and Melanie. One person, though, has always been constant: Ryan. And I thought I would have two or three more months to enjoy his company before his contract was up with the Modern American School and he went back to the friends and family he so adores back in Detroit. Just now, with the weather warming up, I was looking forward to more rental car adventures, more Marxist house parties, and more trips with Tareef.

I’ve said again and again that one of Ryan’s most endearing qualities, one of the many qualities that made him such an excellent roommate, is that he never takes anything personally. I should know better than to say “never.” As my friends followed my example and left the Modern American School one after another, we always figured that Ryan would stay. The kids loved him and he loved them, which made the parents love him, which kept the administration pretty much out of his way. Though he was repeatedly promised and then denied his residency permit and work permit, both of which an employer is obligated by Jordanian labor law to provide, Ryan persisted. Even though he had the same spoiled, unruly, disrespectful kids that the rest of us taught and the same lack of disciplinary support from the school’s administration, Ryan persisted. He’s helped three people get job offers there, three damned good teachers, two of whom were worn away by the administration’s abuses much faster than Ryan. His friends and coworkers fled the company, even fled the country, one after another, and still Ryan persisted.

It was when the administration insisted on a much harder midterm than in previous years, and then when too many students failed it, fixed their grades in such a clumsy manner that the worst students came away with better grades than the most competent and diligent. That was when the first cracks started to show. It wasn’t just the grade fixing. Because it was so clumsy and blatant, and after the students had already been shown their actual grades, teachers lost all credibility in the classroom. Student discipline and even attendance completely disintegrated. Then Ryan’s paychecks from last summer, which the school makes a policy (an illegal one) of withholding for 6 months for first time teachers, were delayed another 2 months.

Quite suddenly it was personal. He started talking about leaving a week ago, decided on Friday, and bought his plane ticket on Saturday. Now it’s Tuesday, and he’s gone. I am really gonna miss that guy. This old apartment just won’t be the same!

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