Starting Anew, Part Two: A Long, Up & Down Summer
Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
333Trip End Ongoing
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Konrad was scheduled for his interview first, so he had to test run the untraveled route to the school on his own. As you may well know, Istanbul is gigantic -- a city of over 15 million people inevitably is. We live in what I consider the center, but that is definitely debatable. Our language school was pretty close to our house: a 35 minute walk or a 20 minute bus ride away. The school we were looking at was out in what once upon a time must have been the suburbs, but has since been absorbed by the city as urban sprawl has stretched its reach further and further out. In order to get to the school for the interview, we had to take a 15 minute bus from work, then transfer to another bus that took 45 minutes to get to the school.
With the transfers and waiting times taken into account, it took us about 1.5 hours to get there -- and, like the other schools in the city, they wanted the candidates to visit the school on three different occasions: once for the preliminary interview, once for the demo lesson, and once for the final interview with the school head. Once you've done the math, you quickly discover that the application process is very time consuming. We were lucky though: because it was the last week the teachers were around before the summer holiday kicked off, they fast tracked our applications and we didn't have to go in all three times. Konrad went in twice: once for the interview and once for the demo; I was able to get everything done all in the same day and only needed to make the commute once. Upon leaving that day, I knew that I'd been successful -- they told me that they would like to offer me the job. Konrad received similar feedback, so everything was looking up for us!
However, the positive, happy-times vibe started to wane as the days ticked by without hearing anything from HR. It turned out we just needed to be patient: a little over a week after I went in for the demo/interview, I received an offer. Eight days after that, Konrad received his offer -- hurrah! We immediately got to work on the documents for the work permit and asked HR for some guidance when it came to the FBI check they told us was required. We hadn't needed one for our old work permits, but were told it was something new this year, so we did our best to find out what we could about how to get one. I was on the phone with different FBI branches and departments nearly every night for almost a week trying to sort out how long it would take to get and how we could submit all the necessary documents, including a very specific fingerprint form, from abroad.
During the course of the week, I was emailing HR at the school daily, updating them on what I'd discovered and asking them for further advice. By the end of the week, I'd figured out that we could either: 1) get a regular FBI check, which could take up to three months to turn around, or 2) we could pay a company to expedite the check for us, which would only take 24-48 hours to process, but it looked like it could only be done in the US. As I had been doing all week long, I passed this information along to HR and asked what they suggested we do based on what was required by the Ministry of Education's timeframe.
Following this exchange, Konrad received a rather negative email from HR at the end of that week, which made us feel like our jobs might be in jeopardy. We debated writing to the Head of English to ask if that were the case, but worried we might be overanxious and overstepping a bit, so we decided to wait a little bit and see. On Sunday afternoon, while we were at the islands with a huge group of friends, Konrad got an email retracting the offer. The reason given was that the school had to restructure as a result of a new government decision, which meant that the job he had been offered no longer existed. The email was a bit confusing and contradictory, also citing the length of time needed to process the FBI check as a problem. She wished him the best of luck with his career, never stating whether or not he would be considered for future positions.
At more or less the same time, I received a very positive email telling me that there was no problem with waiting for the FBI check and that I could take the normal, slow route to get it. Knowing that the HR rep was going on holiday the next day, Konrad immediately wrote back and asked that she offer further explanation. She responded and said there was nothing to elaborate on. Period, end of story. He again wrote to her and asked that she at least call him, given that he had left his current school in order to work at hers, and was now in a very difficult position. She never responded to his email, neither by phone nor text.
This was of course the reason the length of time to process the FBI check was an issue: Konrad was guilty until proven innocent, despite all the evidence in his favor. It was his responsibility to clear his name, and the only way he could do that was to provide a clean FBI check. We had submitted our 2008 police checks from Madison, which had already been authenticated by the Wisconsin Secretary of State, the Federal Secretary of State (Condi!), and the US Embassy in Hanoi) -- but they weren't sufficient. And, to top it all off, we later learned that: 1) the FBI checks were not required for the government work permit, but were just for the school; and 2) none of the other new teachers had been forced to get their checks (and, as I'm writing this on November 30th, none of the other teachers have even attempted to get one, let alone been hounded by HR for one).
Even after we discovered this assault charge and denied any connection to it, she still maintained that there was not a position for him at the school. In spite of everything she'd put us through, we weren't ready to give up, no matter how discouraged we were feeling. So we persisted: the Head of English continued to help and communicate openly and honestly with us. She recommended Konrad scan all the pages in his passport and send them to HR in an effort to clear his good name. Because we weren't sure yet exactly when the event in question was meant to have taken place, he had to scan both of his passports (with the major help of Maggie Ryan -- thanks, Mags!). We then annotated each page with the information for the entry and exit stamps for all the countries he'd visited since 2001 -- needless to say, there were a lot of them.
During all of this, I was being pressured by HR to sign my contract and commit to the position. They gave me a deadline, and I, in turn, told them that my response could not be tendered until I knew Konrad's fate. I had assumed that after all they'd put us through, and all the extra work we had done to help them, the passport pages would more or less immediately exonerate him. It didn't quite work as quickly as I'd expected (which really shouldn't have surprised me by that point), but he eventually had the offer reinstated, and we were back on track.
By this point, a full month had elapsed since he'd be initially offered the position, and it had been over five weeks since I had been. As a result, all the weeks of notice we'd hoped to give our old school had slipped away and we were in a position where we were down to the absolute last days we could reasonably do so with a good conscience. With a firm commitment (finally) from the new school, we went ahead and resigned at the end of July. With all the holiday we had left over, we were able to work just one more week, take a holiday (see here for the rundown), and still have our official last days of work at the end of the month of August. As such, I didn't feel quite as bad, especially since the school was more or less shut down for the last three weeks of August and first two of September due to a national holiday and a change in terms.
If you've made it through this whole post, you can probably now understand where the title comes from. Initially, we were quite excited about the prospect of the new jobs, despite our hesitation at leaving the school we'd spent most of our time in Istanbul at. By the end of the summer, before we had even started, we were already a bit disgruntled and rather unsure about the new place. The length of time it took to get everything sorted, and the emotional toil it took to do so put a serious strain on our summer. But all that was now behind us, and we had to focus on moving ahead and prospering in our new positions -- so on August 22nd, we tried our best to do so as we started our three-day orientation program with the other new teachers.