Work Part Two (Baby Tiger)
NOTE: Please excuse spelling/grammar errors. I have not figured out how to use the editing tools just yet.
Once upon a time there was a Voxtrot weblog. That was before the site crashed for the five millionth time and everything had to be transferred over. During the transition all previous content was lost and therefore making reference to those posts might seem a little useless. I will do so anyway. (Hopefully the weblog will return in its original form soon, but until then this will have to be sufficient. The weblog was more aesthetically pleasing. If anybody has suggestions for attractive, free blogs, please let me know).
One of those posts was a chronicle of my work day in Glasgow, at a nice little cafe situated inside the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Every Saturday was kids day, and the various activities of these children provided me with endless amounts of amusement. Now that I have moved to Austin my job consists solely of child interaction. I am a pre-school teacher at a nice little church about ten blocks from my house, and the work is a delicate mixture of strenuous and fulfilling. For a while it seemed to be the most amazing thing in the world: eight hours of engaging and educating kids (2 year olds in the morning, 4 year olds in the afternoon), and at the end of each day I had a certain feeling of satisfaction, that my day had not in fact been wasted, but rather that I was doing something worthwhile and important.
Although this is still the case, these days I find that I am becoming inreasingly tired and perhaps this job is not something I can sustain very much longer. The thing is, children are inherently selfish and it’s an easy thing to forget when the teacher-student pretense dissolves and you begin to interact with them as people. This is particularly true in the context of the 2/3 year olds. They are at the specific developmental stage of having the power of speech, but not yet being toilet-trained. There are days when I have had to fight (with a stellar hangover, mind you) a child for a plastic bowl of his own shit, a process that makes changing diapers seem like a luxury holiday.
However, it’s not all bad. I am exposed to many dlightful little factoids, statements and anecdotes that make my day a little brighter, such as the notion that I should never return to Spain, because that’s where Darth Vadar lives. Recently I was sitting with a two year old girl who has not yet grasped the concept of speech, but is learning. At one point she sneezed and I said “bless you,” to which she replied “thank you,” to which I replied “you’re welcome,” to which she replied “thank you.” At this point I realised that there was no system of logic that would allow me to explain why that cycle of niceties should stop at “you’re welcome,” or rather why it should begin in the first place. It’s interesting that the specific dialogues we perceive as cute in children are really just non-conformities that can only occur before full homoginization has taken place.
And so I have come to a crossroads. Voxtrot leaves to go on tour December 2nd and chances are I will lose my job. Sometimes it seems like a blessing in disguise, that it’s too much work for to little pay anyway, and then there are moments of intense guilt. The other day, around the time of Halloween, my class had dwindled to about four people and having worked the morning shift as well, I was ready to shove off and call it a day. I announced this to the class and as I was walking out the door, a little boy looks up at me with big eyes and says, “Why can’t you stay and play with us today?” Later that night I saw him at party hosted by one of the parents, running down a grass hill in a littke skeleton suit yelling, “Ramesh is here!” At points it can make you feel like an errant father.
As a family friend explained to me the other day, I am one of the first people they are trusting outside of their parents, and their language does not correspond with concepts such as occupational mobility. In fact their language does not correspond with ours on many accounts. They are much more founded in emotion than words, which for them are still merely signifiers, and this is why they bite, hit, and construct sentences that have no discernable meaning yet still produce unanimous laughter among the other children.
Just before breakfast while the children are washing their hands, I sit outside the bathroom by the water fountain with a bucket of “clean hand toys,” meant to occupy the children until everybody is ready. The other day I was particularly tired, having played a show in Austin the night before. Eventually I snapped out of my daze to realise that a child was standing in front of me with out-stretched wet hands, repeating the phrase “baby tiger peas.” I reached around, ripped off a paper towel, and wrapped it around his fists.