- Bullshit happens -

2nd February '18

"And aaaaaaayyyyyyyeeeeeeaaaaaaayyyyyyy will always love you, splash."

That the sound of my iPhone falling into the toilet while I was listening to Whitney Houston. Which was a traumatic experience, not only because Spotify had decided that I should listen to Whitney Houston, but also because I dropped my phone into the toilet. And when you've just spent 65,900 baht on a new laptop... that's not ideal.

Luckily, despite having never dropped my phone into the toilet before, I knew exactly what to do. Knowledge which is presumably a product of having an iPhone in the first place.

In simpler times I might have wondered for a moment, 'what should I do if ever drop my phone in the toilet?'

I'd ponder it for a minute, and then I'd forget all about it.

Nowadays though, with Google in my pocket, I tend to find the solutions to these little wonderings, and it appeared that forsight had decided to store this little nugget of information somewhere in my brain. And so no sooner had my phone hit the toilet bowl, than my hand plunged in after it.

You always wonder what it would take to make you put your hand into a toilet and... well it turns out this was beyond my threshold. Although thankfully the toilet water was clean.

I powered it off immediately, and submerged it in rather expensive organic black fragrant rice, because it was the only rice I had, and wrapped all that up in cling film and... now we wait.

I guess I'm back to my old iPhone 4 for a couple of days then.

To the best of my understanding, the danger of your phone getting wet comes from it short-circuiting while powered on. So the worst thing you can do is turn it on to check if it's still working. You've just got to wait until you're sure that it's completely dry, and then turn it back on. And I decided that would take 48 hours. So two days later...

Oh thank fuck, I really didn't want to have to give Apple even more money. Especially with the future of my school seemingly ever-facing uncertainty. And I mentioned how when I was writing the last blog, I got an email for an upcoming teacher meeting; the first of its kind with my new boss.

Ah finally, a chance to actually get to know a bit about this new guy, I thought. It didn't really prove to be the case though.

I don't mean this in a good way or a bad way but... he's not really one for niceties.

To begin with, no one knew where this meeting was. He'd told everyone there was a meeting at 4:30, so we'd all come into work early. But he never once mentioned which room he was going to be in, so it was kind of a case of once it got to 4:32, 'I guess we'd better go and look for him then.'

And as we got into the room, he handed everyone their class registers, and said 'As you can see, there are now two new columns on your registers...'

Hi, nice to see you too. Yes, I'm fine. Thanks for asking.

I'm not big on small talk, so I don't necessarily mind things being so down to business. But at the same time, it's kind of hard to get a read on someone who engages in so little fluff.

It was similar the first time that I met him. I mentioned in the previous blog that he was going around with a piece of A3 paper, asking people when they were available. And this too, was litereally as he was meeting them.

'Hi, I'm Name, nice to meet you. Are you available to teach in the mornings?'

So this meeting was just to talk about the changes at my school, none of which were really surprising, although none of which were greeted especially positively either, although I wouldn't expect them to be. No one likes change.

As I said in the last blog, this is a failing business, so some things have to change, so I'm keeping as much of an open mind to it all as I can.

My intention for this meeting, as is generally the case with me, was to keep myself as anonymous as possible because... well in this job, standing-out isn't really a good thing.

This isn't a salaried position with performance-based bonuses and promotions that you're competing with your peers for.

This is an hourly-paid job with a fixed annual bonus, that I have zero intention of ever moving up in. I'm quite happy where I am.

In fact, there's a notice up right now advertising for a manager at his other branch, but I didn't even bother to read it. I just have no interest in it.

Especially when you see the starting salary and are like... you want me to give-up my weeks off and start working eight-hour days, for that?

Despite just trying to blend into the background though, I did voice the concern that I shared in the last blog about how, thanks to this "new system," I had a student come to my class on Wednesday, who was scheduled to attend the exact same class on Thursday, and it was just a waste of her time.

Another teacher, having also experienced the same problem, brought it up again later. And it wasn't so impressive how both times the new manager just shrugged it off, not really addressing or attempting to resove this problem that we're telling him we're already having. He seemed more content to just pretend it wasn't there.

There was one very positive thing to come out of this meeting though.

It's always been at this time of year that I've put in my request for a term off. Last year though, when I again had a new manager, his response was something along the lines of 'well it's written in your contract.' Meaning that he wasn't very happy that I was asking for this time off, but he had no choice about it.

And with this year's new manager being so hard to get a read on, I'd been holding-off putting in my annual term-off request, just so I could gage how he might react.

And during this meeting, he was talking about how low student numbers are (I've never heard that before), and then asked us 'does anyone want to take a term off?'

My hand shot up, and I was the only person in the room whose hand did go up, and he responded with 'ah... thank you.'

I wasn't expecting you to thank me, but ok, you're welcome.

I guess that's how bad business is. He was actually thankful for me taking some time off so...

Well if you're looking for someone who doesn't want to work very hard, I'm your man.

So it appears that my usual term off will not only be granted, but welcomed.

I say appears, because I'm yet to make it official because I haven't spoken to him again since.

As with each new manager that this school has, he'd moved his desk to somewhere completely different to his predecessor. And where as the last manager had his desk in the middle of the academic office, so was completely accessible to anyone who wanted him, this year's new manager has put his desk behind reception and pretty much out of view.

I think the logic is that he's more available to students, but the actual outcome is that he's completely inaccessable to the teachers because we aren't allowed behind reception... I don't think, anyway. That's where all the money is handled, so it'd make sense, and I've never seen a teacher back there.

Now if we need to talk to this manager though, we actually have to get someone to go and get him for us and... well my desire to get this term off confirmed hasn't reached that point yet, so I'm just kind of waiting until I run into him in the hallway.

That hasn't happened in the ten days since this meeting, but maybe next week.

I had also been thinking about requesting an ealier term off this year because... well my life in Bangkok resets every September.

My condo lease expires in September, my visa expires in September, my gym membership runs until September.

September is when I have to sign a new lease on my condo, and get my visa renewed. And if you remember my plans to give myself twelve months to figure-out my future, I thought that there was a reasonable chance I'd want to leave Bangkok in September, particularly if I was going back into education.

And if I was going to be leaving Bangkok in September, then I wouldn't want to be flying back to London in August, so I was thinking about making my annual trip home a couple of months earlier.

I've changed my tune on that though, because as I've found out... twelve months just isn't long enough to figure-out my future.

That sounds absurd to say but... well it took me about four months to really find any kind of direction. And eventually I invested in the MacBook on which I'm writing this blog, and on almost every day since I bought it, I've done a bit more of my app development course.

One thing that having a PS4 has done to me, is it's given me a very warped perception of time.

Probably the best game that I've played, is Horizon: Zero Dawn. I mean, it's a pure masterclass in media. More engrossing and more beautiful than any movie or TV show or anything else you've ever seen. And I played it, once I got back to Bangkok late last August, before I started work again.

It was so captivating, that I played the 70-80 hours it took me to reach platinum, in just thirteen days.

'Hey,' I thought, 'if I set my mind to something, I can do 80 hours in less than two weeks.'

This app development course advertised itself as having 49 hours of video tutorials and... well that won't take me long to get through.

Except, well that's 49 hours of pausing the videos and working through the tutorials yourself, often rewatching parts if you didn't quite understand everything, sometimes needing to do your own research to fully grasp something. And it also didn't include the 'challenges' that are a part of this couse. Basically development 'tests' to ensure that you've understood enough of the skills that you've been taught to be able to apply them yourself.

These 49 hours of tutorials translates to maybe 150-200 hours of application.

And I am loving it, I really am. In fact I almost feel bad that I only paid £7.55 for this course because... it's really good. I wouldn't be complaining if I had paid the full price.

But having tried to dedicate an hour per day to this course since I got my MacBook... I'm currently 15% of the way through it.

Yeah, this is going to take me months. And that's just to complete this course.

To then translate that into building my own apps... I think there's no way I can decide if it's something I want to do or not by September.

I regret nothing though, I'm really enjoying it. From what little I've learned about programming so far, it's really just problem solving, and that's fun to me.

If someone had ever told me that it could be applied in practical ways such as this, I might have bothered listening in maths class when I was in school.

And as I'm enjoying it so much, now I'm curious to see how deep this rabbit-hole goes.

And being bluntly reaslitic about it, I'm years away from it ever going anywhere meaningful. I have a lot of learning to do before this ever becomes useful in the real world. And even after years, there's a very high chance that it doesn't go anywhere. But my dream scenario, is that sometime in the distant future, I'll be able to release my own apps that can generate revenue.

I don't know if that's realistic. It's probably not, but as I said a couple of blogs ago, you miss 100% of the shots that you don't take. And I'm not going to regret failing, I'm going to regret not trying, so I'll see how far I can go with this.

A consolation prize could be that I'm able to learn enough that someone will give me a job as a junior developer. Again, probably unrealistic but... what the Hell?

And then worst case scenario, is that I spend some time on this, I have some fun, I learn a new skill, and no more becomes of it. And I'm ok with that. And if I'm ok with the worst case scenario, then what the Hell? Let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes.

Spending an hour working through this course everyday, it fits nicely into my routine.

In fact, since buying a MacBook, I haven't turned-on my PS4 once.

With my early weekend starts, I'm trying to get to bed as early as possible everyday. And that means coming home from work during the week, making dinner, then going to bed. And during the weeks, any free time I get is going to this course.

It's basically replaced what was previously PlayStation time.

So a typical weekday for me right now, is something like get up at 8am, wash-up and make a smoothie for breakfast, then look over my classes for the day. About 9:45am go to the gym, and exercise for an hour or two, usually doing something like an hour of weights, then an hour of yoga. I'll get back from the gym at 1-1:30pm and make lunch. That'll take me until about 3-3:30pm, depending on what I make. Then I'll work on my course until I go to work at 5pm, getting home around 10pm to make dinner and go to bed.

That's my typical day and it's beautiful.

Despite my early mornings, I haven't once stopped smiling this term because I've got everything perfect. My food and my exercise is varied and intuitive; I'm not really planning things ahead too much, so I have variety. It also simply means that I'm eating well and exercising, the latter of which challenges me physically. My course challenges me mentally, and gives me something to aim for; to work towards. My job's been good this term, and having the obligation of it forces me to stay disciplined with everything else.

The biggest challenge I've faced this term is getting enough sleep with my late weekday finishes, and early weekend starts, and I've just been able to do that. And so... I've been happy this term.

Everything is just perfectly balanced.

Which kind of scares me, because I have a manager, who much to his detriment in my opinion, seems to see very little value in giving the teachers classes and schedules that they're happy with, evidenced by the expunging of preference forms.

I still can't put a justification on refusing to cater to the wants and needs of your staff because... well if you have a schedule of levels that you like to teach, and of which you have little planning to do, you're going to be a happier person. And if you're a happier person, you're going to do your job better.

If I like, for example, level 1, and someone else likes level 5, then it's nonsensical that they would teach level 1 and I would teach level 5. And my previous managers seemed to appreciate that and cater to what people wanted.

Not my current manager, and so I think that I got lucky with my schedule this term. But with my life so delicately balanced, it actually scares me a little what having a shitty schedule could do to it next term. Because if I have to spend hours and hours planning, which I haven't had to do for months now, then it's going to come at the expense of time that I'd otherwise be exercising or cooking or working on my course. So I'm not too thrilled with his unwillingness to listen to his staff but... it is what it is.

I'm trying to be positive about any changes, even if in practice they seem ridiculous.

Another example of that, is in this meeting he really stressed that we're going to focus on customer service. And for things that used to be handled by the academic office, we now have to send the students to the reception desk for them to handle and give better customer service.

Sounds great, except he's started closing reception at 7pm everyday, and the vast, vast majority of our students study from 6:45pm to 9:15pm...

I'm trying so hard to like this new guy, I really am. But at this stage, I'm yet to see any evidence that he can cognitively process consequence in the sense of 'a + b = c.'

It seems to be more a case of 'a + b = I haven't thought that far ahead, but we're going to do it anyway.'

I'm not going to listen to the wants of the teachers anymore. I'm going to move my desk to a place where I'm wholly inaccessible. We're going to focus on customer service, but not have anyone at reception when the majority of our students are here.

'Just blend into the background, don't say anything, keep an open mind, and keep on smiling.' That's what I'm telling myself.

I guess in a sense it's kind of hard to get fully on board with any ideas, because this kind of feels like deja-vu.

There's a new manager coming in with his own vision and a determination to turn this branch around and...

Well look at what happened to the last one.

His ideas were shot-down by the higher-ups, he looked stressed and frustrated for an entire year, and having implemented little-to-none of what he wanted to, he was gone.

Ah well. Life is about perspective. Almost any situation can be positive or negative, depending on how you look at it. And I have very little ability or desire to control the approaching bullshit so... just got to make the best of it when it gets here.