Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When Kafka Taught English

After more than two months of teaching, somewhere in Europe, without being paid I wrote to the school saying they had to settle the problem they had raised of "how to pay me". They wanted me to take from them a contract for my teaching to this other school and have them sign it. My name does not appear on the contract. It is between the two schools. But they had also suggested I give them an invoice with my own American company. I did that, and then they said it is "illegal" for them to pay that invoice.

Both the head teacher and office manager have also said to me that the arrangement with the second school is also probably illegal. When I met with the head of the school and the head of teachers on Friday, the head of teachers asked me how I would like to be paid. I asked, what did she mean? I wanted to be paid in money. She said, by the second school or another way. I asked what other way. Black, she said. I said I just  wanted to be paid, and they can arrange their paperwork as they pleased. I had a company and I had been told by two lawyers I could submit an invoice legally. She said if they paid black they paid only 50 percent.

This same head of teachers had assured me many times over the last month that the school could not pay my invoice from my American company because it was illegal!

At the meeting on Friday she asked that I give her the originals of my attendance sheets from my five students. (Each student was taught separately, 4 at their offices, and one at the school.) She took hold of them from the table where she and the head of the school and I were going over every hour of instruction, two hours spent on this because each student was charged at a different rate and they often had changed their appointments, with possible penalties to be discussed. I took hold of the end of the papers, and said I cannot give them to her, because they were the only record I had of working. As I said, the contract the school had made out was with the second school. That contract was unsigned, and my name does not appear on it, but all the lesson times, frequency, and billing amounts do appear on it.

The head of teachers pulls on the attendance sheets, I pull back! I will not let go. She won't let go. I remind her that the week before I had given the school copies, as was their rule. I give a sharp tug, and recover these precious documents.

She looks down at the papers, says that I had let the attendance sheets get very dirty. There were many crossed out notes, many unclear emendations. It was a crime.

It was a crime!

We were having this final accounting because I had written to three of my students asking their help with getting paid by the school, saying that after more than two months I really could not continue to teach them without getting paid. The students told me the previous teacher the school sent them hadn't been paid either. And then at least one of the students had contacted the school. The head teacher told me the action I'd taken was "inappropriate" and since there was no contract they did not want me to teach any more.

The head teacher said they would pay me, but again asked me how I would like to get paid. I said that if they were willing to pay me the entire amount owing I would try to see if the second school could arrange it with my American company. But that I did not understand the process and could do no more than ask their help. If they could not, I still expected my school to pay me. The head of the school said he should be able to pay me the next week.

We left it at that. I wrote an email to the second school, asking to meet them as soon as possible. I wrote again to my students, asking their help, especially calling the attention of the executives to the fact that I am writing the story and I would like to be able to write that their company helped me. Two of them had told me that their company had a very "strong" contract with the school.

Time passed, nothing happened. Until rescued by the American Embassy:

From: Rex [mailto:rextyranny@gmail.com]
To: American Consular Service
Subject: to: Chief Consular Officer
Dear Consul,
I passed your words onto the language school, and the result was an immediate invitation to come get my money. I was paid in full.*
- Rex

From: American Consular Service
To: rextyranny@gmail.com
Glad we could be of service.
This email is UNCLASSIFIED.
What the Consul said: "Diplomats don't make threats. They make promises. They let people know there are consequences to actions. Tell the school the Consul of the United States will place the school on its blacklist of mafia associated businesses, that the Consul will file a report with the Budapest police of the school's fraud and he personally will call the police every week to check on the case's progress.