It was a brightly lit cell measuring a few meters in area. The walls were devoid of any design and color. There was no furniture except for three seats. Covered in slabs of depressing office grey concrete, it was the perfect place for an interrogation.
This was where they cornered me.
The staff started bombarding me that I wasn’t “stepping up” and that they were issuing me a verbal warning, mind you without showing proof of any evidence/documentation. They went about things like primary teachers not like professionals, immediately accusing people without giving them the benefit of the doubt, talking them “down”. Always believing that like little kids, people lied pettily all the time and don’t have the capabilities to show proof or to fight back. They act like they have all the authority and mediate like a pack of sharks on the scent of blood, abusing people with a metaphorical switch, tone sharp, condescending, eyes narrowed into predatory crocodiles slits, compulsively and pathologically lying to cover their backs because of course, teachers are often right. They have to convince themselves that. They have to believe it because if they don’t, they have nothing. They build shards of lies and invention to live in a glass castle of pure fantasy where they are in complete perfect control, where they do not mess up. Because once they realize the cracks in the glass, they realize it’s all going to crumble. So they hurt people with their lies just to save that castle. They spread these lies to others thereby, poisoning them. The sad part is they believe in their lies and refuse to hear the truth from others.
I couldn’t stand working with those people.
With a shaking voice, I handed in my one week’s notice. I had carefully looked at my contract and Vietnam’s Labor Law for foreigners and it had said nothing about even giving notice since you are not obliged to if you are in your first probation month. I decided to give one week anyway to settle all my affairs and say goodbye to my students.
One of the staff (the head of High School) hissed, “You can’t give one week. We need a month.”
“The contract –“
“You didn’t sign a contract. You signed an offer letter.”
“Then I’m not bound—“
“Doesn’t matter. A month. It is required of professionalism.”
“It’s a case to case basis. In other countries, it’s two weeks.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he insisted like he was some kind of mafia boss about to knife me. “It is standard in all countries to give a month.”
Lies again. When would they stop spinning? When would they stop?
They were grasping their straws, trying to hold me, pin me down to my “professional integrity.” They were desperate. It was hard to find a good teacher with decent education qualifications in Vietnam. Most were backpackers with a measly TEFL certificate they bought online and magic tricks to entertain kids.
Then it began.
They started spinning more, digging a grave for themselves. They began to say that I should be grateful I got hired in the first place because I was Filipino. That it was hard for Filipinos to find work in Vietnam.
I couldn’t believe they started dealing the race card. What? Because of my color and nationality, I couldn’t find a job?!!
The coordinator said that the head of staff had gone to a meeting with the Ministry of Education to fight for me, fight for my case.
I knew for a fact that he went there to cover their asses and put out some serious public relations fire because a kid had drowned in their school. Also, there was only a certain quota of “Asians” they can hire in their school and they had happened to fill it. There was no need to fight.
Another lie again.
Then it got worse from there. They realize they couldn’t stop so might as well run to the finish line. They said I was tainting the Filipino community with my actions, that I was somehow doing a disservice to my countrymen. That because of me, they will not hire a Filipino again.
Just putting all the stops.
What? So I represent the whole Filipino community? I am NOT my community. One Filipino is different from the other. We are not a walking caricature, all encompassing stereotype.
You know what? I bet you won’t say the same thing to a white American, Irish, British, Kiwi, Australian, Canadian in that interrogation room. Any white Anglo Saxon/Caucasian for that matter. “You are doing a disservice to the whole American community with your actions. I’m not going to hire any American because of you.”
This is probably why you were never able to work in the US/UK/Canada what have you because you were blatantly racist and they kicked you out. And you will always be racist, that you love working in Asia where they worship that kind of thing. Where we still do things in your old glory nostalgic years of slavery, colonialism, pre civil rights, of “cleaning” out natives from their rightful lands. Where it’s acceptable for you to think, “hey, I’m white and you want me. Never mind I am a big racist but you know I’m awesome cuz hey, I’m white.”
All the while this was happening I was speechless. The head of high school was practically foaming in his mouth with all the outright hostile racist comments and lording all over it. He loved harassing me and abusing his position of power. He stood over me like he was a superior being, a plantation master and I was a servant who had done something wrong. “You know what? Just email the resignation letter whatever. Have your boyfriend write it for you, I don’t care. I bet you can’t even write your own,” he sneered.
He looked down upon me like I was nothing but a mere fly he wanted to swat away. “This is over. I’m so busy you are not even worth my time,” he said. Then he showed me the door.
The next day I quit.
Now with no job in Vietnam, where was I going to go next? To be continued….
A Year of Change Series