So I’m worried about that all-important piece of paper. Monday, I asked the office assistant if it would be sent to the higher school. After some confusion, the answer came back yes. Okay.

But a student sent a message on Facebook, “Ma’am, when do I get my transfer certificate?”

“Where are you going to school?”

The local higher school, like C. This child seems to believe she ought to do something with hers. The school will not “do.”

At lunch break, I ask VP Ma’am about it, rather belatedly, it turns out, because actually I do need to hand carry this paper to the higher school and I was excused from the National Language meeting in the morning. All that time I was free, with no work really possible (a stickler refuses to let me have the textbooks for the class I am teaching because we need to fill out a form she has not prepared yet). I ought to have gone up to the higher school today.

It’s interesting, because I get these twinges of worry, and they are frequently justified. The thing about being in a country where you are basically out of the communication loop much of the time is that you need to work twice as hard to keep up. I normally do this. It is just habit. I try to emerge from zoning out when I hear key phrases that seem to suggest something might impact the school calendar or the teaching day or what is expected of me. Occasionally, people make an effort to tell me, but mostly I have to notice something has happened and ask. It requires a level of alertness that is maybe more stressful than my life in the United States, where people communicated very clear messages in multiple forms in a language I could understand rather than relying mainly on hit-or-miss word-of-mouth in a language I don’t know. But it works.

I am not crazy actually. I need to listen to these twinges of worry. I should not tell myself, “All will be well.” Often, they won’t. But that also does not mean I need to panic. Just listen to them. Pay attention. Think about how best to follow up.

I think it’s hard to do this because other foreign teachers come here and “go with the flow.” I don’t know how they really manage actually, maybe someone is taking them by the hand and gently ferrying through life here. I don’t know. I end up thinking I am worrying over nothing. Usually it is not nothing. It is something. I know when things don’t match up, when something has happened, when I don’t quite understand what will happen.

I knew when I needed to push C for contact because she was hiding.

I knew when C’s transportation had not panned out as expected and I needed to make sure this would be okay with the higher school principal.

I knew when something about the pieces of paper had changed and I needed to get permission from my principal to walk it up there.

In the last 7 days, I have consistently known when something was not quite right and I needed to do something. I think it turns into panic, because I try to dismiss it. I don’t just listen and stay warm. I think if I listened and stayed warm, I would eventually come around to knowing what I needed to do. It wouldn’t be complicated. It wouldn’t involve a lot of emotional agony. So this is instructive.