December 18th, 2001


(no subject)

A month and a half ago I started a new job. Within 3 weeks I had to talk to parents about the results so far. I hardly knew the kids. One boy came with both his parents. He is one of the two lads in a class full of girls. He always does his work, might not be top of the class, but would never cause any trouble. Doesn't miss lessons, is friendly as they get, without behaving like a real 'student'. Great guy. Not much to talk about with his parents therefore. So we had just a nice chat, found out we had communal friends, that his dad was the chairman of a football club I had played against. Small talk on an evening full of heavy conversations.

A week or so later, he told me at the end of a lesson that he could miss a lesson or two, as his dad was ill. He never missed one, so I told him to do whatever he felt necessary. One day he wasn't there. The day after I read in the paper that his dad had died. Three weeks after finding cancer he was no longer with us. Thursday two colleagues and myself took a dozen kids to the official condoling of the family. Friday his dad was cremated, it was so packed with people, we had to stand outside. 48 years old, father of two sons.

Today the boy was back at school. As before he was pleasant, smiled, did his work and basically there was no way to see from him what tragedy occurred last week. While in the class, I didn't want to talk about it either. I hope he'll manage.

In the meantime I'm left with a better view of some of the other students in my class. Two quotes from the day we found out about the death of his father. After deciding that we'd chip in for flowers with the whole class, one of the girls decided not to pay her 4 guilders (less than 2$) as "I'm not gonna pay something for a guy I have never known". Another was quoted as saying "I wouldn't want my whole class to show up and condole me when my father had died", while even after I had told the class she went to my direct superior and complained about the fact that the class hadn't been told.

I expect more from the average 17-18 year old. Even at this level.
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Brian Thacker - Rule No.5 No sex on the bus (01-093)

The subtitle of this book says it all: Confessions of a tour leader. Brian is an Ozzie who made a living in Europe for a while doing tours through the old continent. Mostly young Ozzies, but also North Americans and Japanese were dragged through 11 countries within 4 weeks by him. He dedicates a chapter to every main country. Which means Liechtenstein and Monaco miss out, as does Belgium, where they only go through on their way to Amsterdam. It is a very amusing book with loads of funny anecdotes about these tours. The funny things you see on the road (stripshows in Amsterdam), the pranks you pull on the guests (hold your passport flat against the window, your face next to it, the camera's will register everything, they will only stop is if something is wrong), the stupid questions you get (if I call home now, will my mom be there?) and the things drivers get up to (coach captain Kevin Kelvin was fairly active apparently). Funny stories with plenty of stereotypes thrown in. Ozzies all like to get pissed all the time, the Dutch are all half stoned most of the time, and the Germans speak English with a funny accent. Every one in Switzerland makes shitloads of money for doing fuck all, the Italians are inventive in the way they con you, the French never take showers and more prejudice in the same category.

Sounds fairly standard, but all in all it is a good book. Especially those of you who have worked with tourists (like I have myself) will recognise a lot. Anybody in customer care basically will enjoy this book. All travel addicts as well. I've already copied a few pages to use in my classes at school; the chapter on Amsterdam gives my students a brilliant view of how people abroad see our capitol. Recommendable book. If you can get hold of it, as I haven't seen it anywhere but in Oz yet.
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