Faculty Interviews and Rainy Season

“If you want to use the internet in Cote d’Ivoire, it had better not rain.”

You’d think CI would have rainy season down by now, having grown up with it. Nope. San Pedro has been cut off from the rest of the country when their bridge was washed away. Many areas are flooded.

The internet has been spotty for everyone. It has taken 3 three days to just load the “post an entry” page, let alone actually post an entry.

This week have been STEM faculty interviews. It’s been…. enlightening. I’ve heard stories about UPP interviews from LM. Most notably, the people who teach English as an excuse to travel. We did not have  many applicants at all, so we interviewed all applicants.

There was an older gentleman with a business in the US who wishes to return to his homeland of CI.

There were a few fresh out of grad school. Some were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and will be recommended for hire, others had very suspicious credentials. One young man from Senegal had his first interview, and was so terrified his hands were visibly shaking. Unfortunately, he could not even answer simple questions about his project or discuss anything, really*. A Pakistani gentleman had a CV like the MySpace of the academic world. Also, two PhDs in the same area from different universities. Many had difficulty with English. Twice, the computer science applicants could not adequately operate videoconference programs**. One guy had left two universities (one in Canada, another in Abidjan) over disagreements, and his English was not good.

Another faculty member we could not see, and we suspect it was because the companies cut his connection. They do that in some African/Middle Eastern companies to get money. The VPAA said that used to happen in Morocco until they had a big international conference, and realized it wouldn’t fly anymore.

Another young professor doing well in an institution he loved was leaving because the university, located in a very unstable country, had experienced an attack last year and they had to go anywhere escorted by armored vehicles. “It makes it hard to collaborate***.” The committee asked every applicant what he/she knew about CI and sort of gave people a hard time if they hadn’t done their homework (mostly because they’re concerned people will get in over their heads). When he looked sheepish and said, “No, not really,” nobody said a word.

One of the applicants for physics is not only a woman about my age, but also currently teaching in a temporary position at my own undergraduate college which I dearly love after finding a smooth transition to graduate courses. So… she’d better come.

I think graduate schools should make an effort to invite students to faculty interviews. I’ve learned more about what universities value and how to conduct an interview/apply for jobs in a week than I have in my entire life. Plus, the applicants have unfailingly been very, very interesting, even though many had suspicious credentials.


Other faculty teaching abroad had told me that the hardest part is knowing who/when to give. Jesus clearly says in Luke 6 to give to everyone who asks, but boy does one get burned out. Of course, this is not unique to abroad– there are plenty of people who need help in the US. And it’s not just the homeless and people who set up GoFundMe to buy a critical laptop for college. It’s people who work two jobs and can’t pay rent or heating bills, or important medical treatments.

What you do get here is complete ingratitude. My housekeeper, who is very well paid, deciding to take a day off to buy stuff for her son’s baptism, and not telling me until late in the day after I’ve left the dishes in the sink all day. No, it’s not about not having a clean apartment. I frankly don’t care, as long as the laundry is done because I don’t know how to wash by hand with marseilles soap+. It’s the attitude that we’re items to take advantage of, and founts of money that never run out. Well guess what? We’re not. Between all the random fees for services, international health insurance, and money transfers, and the plane ticket home, we cut it pretty close.

Side note: instead of a mop, they use a broom with a rag. This works beautifully, and you can easily wash the rag afterwards. Don’t buy mops ever again.


In OTHER news, I went to the bank office all by myself and successfully did a thing! The woman at the desk is very patient and kind, and when I didn’t understand well and offered to return with a translator she stopped me and asked what I didn’t understand. Then explained it in different words and hand gestures and we got there eventually. The Muslim gentleman++ also in the office+++ was very amused.

——————————————-

* “Give him work and put him in a back office, and he’s happily do good work. But he can’t teach.”

** “What is he, computer sciences? Don’t hire him.” – VPAA

*** Understatement of the year.

+Should this become a necessity, there’s always YouTube.

++ You can tell who the Muslims are on Friday, because they dress up.

+++ They do like two at a time in bank offices. This leads to a lot of confusion on my part.

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