Monday, November 24, 2008

International Schools Search

As many of you know, I'm currently looking for a new locale for the 2009/2010 academic year. I'm primarily looking for jobs as an English or ESL teacher in international schools.

Two months into my search, I now have notebooks full of information about schools, cities, cost of living, etc. This is what I've found to be essential information:

1) The school's profile on Search Associates, a company that brings together schools and candidates on the international education scene
2) Any reviews of the school on International Schools Review, looking for well-written balanced reviews and not just rants about this and that director the poster didn't get on with
3) The school's own website
4) Lonely Planet information about the city and country
5) Conversations in expatriate forums and teacher forums, such as Dave's ESL Cafe & Expat Exchange
6) Blogs from other expatriates living or teaching in the locality

I write down the name of the school and thoroughly go through steps 1 and 2. I highlight good information in green, such as "school has 90% North American staff" and bad information in red "school offers 3 month contracts." Then I look at the red and the green and decide if the school is

1) a green light - go ahead and check it out!
2) a yellow light - looks good, but there are some questions to ask and things to look out for
3) a red light - avoid this school/it's not a good fit for me

If the school is a green light then I go ahead and look up all the other relevant information.

So, armed with my trusty red, green and yellow highlighters, I've got some research to do. : )

To read more about how to become an international teacher, see here:

How to Start a Career as an International Teacher

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Searching for Bombs, Chemical Weapons or What?

After becoming extremely frustrated last week when my mail was searched, after I left the premises of the courier's office, I wrote an article about how to mail packages in Pakistan. I could not believe that the man did not search the package in front of me, but waited until I left and then searched it. He called me when he found something he thought was questionable in the package, and after reaching home I had to go all the back to the office. I guess the Pakistani government gives mail services permission to search for bombs, chemical warfare or whatnot in any package being sent locally or internationally. Here's all the ins and out of sending mail from Pakistan:

Processes such as using the post office, which are fairly straightforward in your home country, are not necessarily so in countries where bureaucracy pervades the way of life. Save yourself the headaches and time by knowing what to expect before you try to mail a letter or package from Pakistan.

In most major cities in Pakistan there are four options available. From the cheapest to the most expensive, they are the Pakistan Post, OCS, TCS, and Fed Ex. Following are details about sending letters and packages from each of these options.

Pakistan Post

The Pakistan Post, or the government postal service, will be your most affordable option, although it may not be as reliable as other services. While the other services promise 4-5 business day delivery of international mail, letters or packages sent by the Pakistan post can take 2-4 weeks. One letter I sent to Canada even took longer than one month through the Pakistan Post. For low cost, it is a great option, but not for speed.

On the positive side, domestic rates are dirt cheap with a 20 gram envelope costing only 4 rupees (about 5 cents). A heavier envelope up to 2000 grams will not be more than 50 rupees (61 cents). You can send a post card internationally for 26 rupees (30 cents) or a 20 gram letter for 33 rupees (40 cents). A 2000 gram package will cost about 1120 rupees ($13). I've found that most of my letters can be sent internationally for 80 rupees, or about $1. Prices have recently gone up, but as you'll see these rates are much cheaper than those of the competitors.

Continue Reading Here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Descent into Chaos - Losing the War on Terror

I went out today to pick up a 35 rupee (44 cent) notebook and a couple of pens at the bookstore, but I must confess my bibliomania kicked in and I left with a 1500 rupee bill instead of a 150 rupee bill. Journalist Ahmed Rashid's latest book, Descent into Chaos, was staring right at me on the new arrivals shelf. There was only one copy, and I had to have it.

It fits right into what I've been reading lately, Enemy Aliens:Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism by David Cole, Rageh Omaar's The Real Story of the Battle for Iraq, and The Age of Kali by Willian Dalrymple.

Dalyrmple's collection of essays on travels in India and Pakistan may seem the odd one out in this group, but as the underlying theme of The Age of Kali is the Hindu belief that we are currently in "an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness, and disintegration." There are four great epochs in Hindu cosmology, based on four throws of dice in the traditional Indian dice game. Hindus believe that the first epoch of the four is the best, or the Age of Perfection, and that each age gets progressively worse until we reach the Age of Kali. According to the Vishnu Purana from the seventh century:

"The kings of Kali Yug will be addicted to corruption and will seize the property of their subjects, but will, for the most part be of limited power, rising and falling rapidly. Then property and wealth alone will confer rank; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation. Corruption will be the universal means of subsistence. At the end, unable to support their avaricious kings, the people of the Kali Age will take refuge in the chasms between mountains, they will ragged garments, and they will have too many children. Thus in the Kali Age shall strife and decay constantly proceed, until the human race approaches annilihation."

After the completion of the Kali Age, a new age will begin, starting from the Age of Perfection again. I truly recommend Dalrymple's accounts for anyone who wants to enjoy a good read and feel your spine tingle as you about the daily blood sacrifices given to appease the goddess Kali.

I'm sure I'll enjoy Descent into Chaos, although it may not make a movie script as well as Charlie Wilson's War did. Everything I'm reading seems to lend support to the Hindu belief that we are, indeed, in the last age.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Want to Eat Some Paper Chicken?

It seems there is a new restaurant on the scene in Y Block Defence which doubles as both a pizza place and a Chinese restaurant. As opposed to the G/H block market, where you could eat in a different restaurant each day of the month, Y block does not have as much to offer. Phase III and IV dwellers can get a bit sick of the handful of restaurants in the neighborhood, so Twins Pizza & China Town Fast Food may just stand a chance to become popular.

Pizza Menu

Twins Pizza boasts no less than 27 different types of pizzas. Prices range from 150 to 250 rupees for a small 7" pizza to 440 to 720 for a family size 16" pizza. For example, if you wanted to try the "Two in One Pizza," a 7" would cost 150 rupees ($1.80), a 10" would cost 250 rupees ($3), a large 13" would cost 380 rupees ($4.67), and a family size 16" pizza would set you back 440 rupees ($5.40).

There are several pizza options lifted straight from the Pizza Hut menu including, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Fajita, Euro Hot, Cheese Lovers, Margherita, Chicken Supreme, and Veggie Lovers. Several more interesting options include the Chicken Maceranic which is apparently topped with roast chicken, "macereni," onion and sweet corn. Now if you were a golfer, what would you like on your pizza? The Golfer Pizza includes "beef mushroom," onion, bell peppers and "olive cheese." It seems the typist was having trouble with not only spelling, but the use of the comma as well.

Continue reading here to find out about the Chinese menu and the "Paper Chicken"

Obama's Victory Celebrated in Pakistan

"Congratulations! Your new president is Obama! You know, I supported Obama. He is a great man," claimed my Pakistani landlady when I went downstairs to visit yesterday. Despite media predictions that Pakistanis would respond negatively to an Obama victory, the mood here in Lahore is not only positive but celebratory. People are smiling and congratulating me on my new president every time we meet.

It was hard to control my Creative Writing class a few days after the election, as everyone wanted to talk about Obama's win. "We think he will be a good president. His mother has visited Pakistan and he will deal better with Muslim countries," one woman said. Many people have been boasting that Obama's mother has been in both Karachi and Gujranwala. Pakistanis feel very involved in the US election; it's as if it was their election as well. People here are saying that if an African American can make his way to the White House, any American can. Pakistanis believe that Obama will bring positive change to America's foreign policy.

This is a huge change for a country that has one of the lowest favorability ratings of Americans according to the PEW Research Group. In 2007, only 15% of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the United States, while 68% had an unfavorable view. This is one of the highest negative ratings in the world, with only Palestinians and Turks having a lower view of the United States. Can Barack Obama as president help to turn back the tide of anti-Americanism in Pakistan and the Middle East?

Continue Reading Article here:

Obama's Victory Celebrated in Pakistan

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pakistani Views on President Elect Barack Obama

Calling all Pakistanis, whether in Pakistan or abroad, to take a quick survey here.

Shouldn't take more than 5 minutes. Let me know if you agree with the media's assessment that Obama will be unwelcome in Pakistan, or not.