Read Me/Disclaimer

Read Me/Disclaimer: This is a non-political/socio-political blog. It's a running tale of my Saudi Arabian adventure, great, good, bad, and ugly. It is uncensored, and I don't really care what you think of it, read it or don't. I don't care. I did not decide to do this as a means to an end, but rather to document the means with which I occupied my time while waiting for my end... All that being said, I'm an American Expat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The opportunity to help build this system and the salary that accompanied it were to good to pass up.-Geoff

"The views presented here are just the views of some asshole named Geoff, they are not necessarily the views of my employer, my co-workers, my family or anybody else. First hand knowledge and second hand accounts were used to compile the information. These are not scientific facts and figures. These views are not necessarily supported, endorsed or even appreciated by the KSA the USA or any other country for that matter and the author makes absolutely no claim that they are."**

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Contract and Job: Safe, Sanity: "In Question"!

Had a visit from the boss the other day and I'm happy to report that he's quite pleased with the department that we've built here in the East.  He actually said that he knew we were the best department with the best students and that our team of instructors and our Department Head with the Dean's support were why.  He doesn't usually say much at all, and when he does it's usually just some things he'd like to see done differently, so the fact that he said these things really made us all feel great.  I also managed to confirm that my contract has been renewed, if it hadn't, they would've already sent my termination letter and wouldn't be giving me an exit-reentry visa for vacation which I now physically have in my possession!

The work day was good, the news was good, and with the bosses blessing, I headed home in time to shower and pretty up for the party I was attending.  I went downstairs at party time and hopped in my drivers car, smiling, whistling, and wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt, not a care in the world.

Yeah that didn't last! 

So I headed out to a gathering of Westerners, a few Near Easterners, and a few Asians.  This is the most recent of a handful of such events that I've been to.  The guest lists aren't that easy to get on, but I seem to do alright.  Something was "off" and I noticed it almost as soon as I walked in.  Now, I know me, and I am well aware that I should always listen to that voice, and I should've just turned around and left. However circumstances being what they were, I was scheduled to be there until the end regardless and thus tried to make the best out of it.  Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda...

One of the things that we've discussed a lot amongst our circle of friends is the ability to "go home".  I'll cover it one day in a blog post, but for now its enough to just know that this place is tough and that not everybody can survive it.  Of the ones that can or do go the distance, some get pretty weird.  Maybe they were weird to begin with, but Saudi accentuates it.  Of the ones that get weird there seems to be a few common threads.  The one I notice most is that they're "compound expats".  Their knowledge of Arabic ends at Asalam Alekium, their knowledge of the Saudi Arabian culture ends at the bad experience they had a souk when dealing with what was almost certainly a non-Saudi or at customs when dealing with the laziest idiots hard working customs officers and embarrassments to Saudi Arabia known to man.**  They have fears about the world outside the "gate" that are based on a combination of rumor, speculation, half-truth, and old information at best.  And the little "culture" that they've created for themselves here is a disturbing little watered down bit of their home countries amongst the people they work and live with.  It isn't always, but it can become pretty "stepford", pretty quick.  Being semi new to Saudi and living off compound makes it glaringly obvious to me and my friends, these people though have tricked themselves into believing that its normal.

Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the fact that a lot of people are gone for the summer, maybe it was just an off night, whatever it was, I wasn't having a good time at all.

As I am famous for doing in such situations, my emotions betrayed my brain and I began noticing all the bad and ignoring all the good.  Such things are not only silly, they are ill advised and immature.  It did however give me a few things to think about by the light of day.

There is no permanence here, this is a temporary place.  Attempts to make this place have a more permanent feeling may be futile and if not careful could end you in a situation similar to what I saw last night; A sorry excuse for life and the desperate grasping at memories of desperate and sad people whose lives have passed them by.  Can they ever go home?  I don't have that answer, but for many of the ones I've seen so far, I doubt it.  They decided on a 10 year stint at Aramco for the benefits and the money and instead are going to trade life.

I can do my 14 months...If I was going to stay longer I'd need a few things. I haven't decided yet.  But, I'd need a dog, I'd need a truck, and I'd need some grass.  Compound or villa, doesn't much matter to me, but I need grass and a patio to make this work for anything more than just a temporary stay.   

In the meantime, think I'll plan on my next 14 months, keep trying to improve my Arabic and keep exploring the non compound side of my temporary world, hopefully if I play my cards right, I will be able to go home and I'll go home with a better understanding of the Middle East, of Islam and an entire culture that I would never have had access to had I not come. In'shallah


**Note:  I despise all customs officers, their very job makes them annoying.  I'm not a criminal and have done nothing suspicious, so being treated like a potential criminal annoys the hell out of me.  So far in my travels, the ones at Heathrow are the best.**

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Smell Sex and...Medicine?

No actually I don't, and neither should you.  "Sex and Candy" "Sex and Chocolate", "Sex and Money", Sex and Love", "Sex and Oysters" "Sex and Violence".  You'll find a reference citing either a scientific or popular culture correlation between all of these things.  However you won't find one citing any correlation between Sex and Medicine as well you shouldn't!

Now I "toe a fine line" in this blog and sometimes...I toe over it...OK, OK sometimes I jump on the other side of the line and dance in a circle, but I'm not trying to that here, I'm just saying that there should be absolutely NO correlation between Sex and Healthcare and in that spirit, there really shouldn't be any problem educating male healthcare students alongside female healthcare students, and preparing both of them for the actual practice of delivering emergency care to the sick and injured. Regardless of culture!  I am a Critical Care Paramedic, am I expected to watch a woman die rather than come to her aid?  If the answer to that is yes, we have problems. 

It should also be noted that many of my students and other students across the Kingdom plan to further their education in the West when they graduate.  Either the US, Australia or the UK.  It should further be noted that some places will ask you to list your strengths and weaknesses.  I had an employer that required this of all Paramedics.  They wanted to know what you were strong in, what you were weak in, what you had never seen and what scared you.  Can you imagine one of my students arriving to the interview and saying "well I've worked a lot of trauma calls, a lot of diabetes calls and quite a few cardiac arrests.  I have never however seen a woman's body, nor have I done a 12 or 15 lead EKG on a woman, nor have I ever physically assessed a female patient...That would fly with the interviewers (some of which are SURE to be female) about as well as a lead duck.  

However, from what I've seen if my students work even 1 year before going on, they won't have to say such a thing!  Women are not blindly shoved into ambulances with no care given and driven to the hospital.  This IS a first world country after all.  Therefore it stands to reason that if they will be expected to perform such skills in real life, they should learn in training how to get over the awkwardness of palpating the head, chest, abdomen, pelvis and extremities of a woman or Vice Versa, with a woman assessing a man.  Maybe more importantly though, they need to understand that their is NO such thing as a "hot" or "sexy" or "attractive" patient.  We don't have those, we just have patients.  Healthcare and sex or thoughts of sex should never be intertwined. 

I don't have much more of a point today, but this needed to be said and I've said it until I'm blue in the face at work, so I'd thought I'd say it here.  And students:  Why would I be blue in the face from talking ???

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aufweirderzein "Bad Deutsch" or "Ode to Eike"

About a month or so ago Jim and I met "Bad Deutsch".  At the time he was just Eike "the German".  He didn't earn the title "Bad Deutsch" for about another month and that's a whole 'nother story.  Eike's a really cool guy, and for the most part he tolerated our Nazi jokes and our butchery of his name, everything from IKOR, to Ikea.  I finally just fixed it in my head as I-KA and it seemed to work pretty well.   For the most part we'd spend the night talking, laughing and figuring out just how the hell we had gotten to Saudi Arabia and how we had all survived on our own as long as we had. 

I know it may seem strange to the reader, but what each of us had done was take a job that did not provide "on compound" housing, and in an effort to save money, had rented hotels or apartments "out in town" or "off compound".  This just isn't done by Westerners, not the first year at least and rarely by themselves at all.  Consequently, we all had lots to talk about.

Eike and I found that we could sit and discuss books, movies, travel and best of all politics and religion.  Those last two topics are really pretty off limits here, so me being me, I think I miss them more than  women and pork and alcohol.  We often would give each other a call or a Skype message and arrange to meet for mid week coffee to play "who had the stupider work situation" or "worse day in the Kingdom".  Then we'd discuss German and American politics, the evils of capitalism the failures of socialism.  He'd say that America should ban guns, and I'd reply that if we did, somebody might be able to herd us onto trains and into camps one day.  He'd be silent.  I'd say the Germans paid way to much in taxes, and he'd remind me of the benefit every citizen gets from those taxes and that he can go home for 6 months without having to pay them.  I'd be silent. 

Eventually, we'd discuss women and life and what the hell we wanted out of it.  Inevitably we'd discuss why we're here in the Kingdom.  It's usually for one of a couple of pretty simple reasons.  Money, experience, Ideology/theology, or not really welcome at home anymore.  I hit in both the money and experience category, they pay me well, I'm learning a new culture and trying to learn a new language, and surviving here for a year proves to multinational and international corporations that I can do just about anything they ask of me...a lot quicker than my MBA would have (and I'm a little idealistic about helping out the world).

Eike however is an odd duck, his reasons were none of the above.  He didn't make a whole ton of money, he wasn't really getting any experience that would benefit him in the future, he had no plans of converting to Islam, and he was already well traveled and had been successful in his career.  Basically, somebody asked him one day if he wanted to go to Saudi, and he thought for a second and said "Sure, why not!"  The problems lies therein, this is not a culture that one can easily adapt to just for kicks, its not a culture you can even have a sense of permanent belonging in, you can't date, go to church, go to the bar, and maybe most importantly, can't become a citizen of.  What you can do here is read, exercise, blog, facebook, skype, plan trips to Bahrain, dive, drive around, explore the desert and of course eat and shop.  Its not exactly like a prison, in fact its nothing like a prison, it is however something like the old catholic definition of purgatory...You're doing your time, trying to move up, and waiting until you can get somewhere better.  What makes that bearable for most of us is the truckloads of the things we came here for.  Money, experience, or ideology/theology.  Eike didn't have those things.  Therefore when an opportunity came up to take a short little break and have some frank discussions about his future with the folks back home, he rightly and smartly took it.  He may or may not return, that depends on what he finds when he gets some German soil under his feet and also on the answers he receives about his future.  He knew I'd miss him, and so he assured me that he would give it serious thought and quite possibly be back in a couple of weeks or so.  To that I laughed and told him that I imagined he'd be eyeball deep in good German beer and knee deep in good German women by the end of the week, as to a job, who knows? maybe the German equivalent of "Taco Bell" was hiring.  We had a good laugh, got together at Jim's for a great going away meal and then met the next two nights for coffee.  I'll miss him, he was a good friend and a great sounding board and conversationalist.  Who knows, maybe he'll return.--In'shallah

One of our favorite things to discuss on a couple of different occasions was all the great quotes that came out of the movie "Trainspotting".  So my "Ode to Eike" ends with Ewan McGregor's opening monologue from "trainspotting", written by John Hodge with one simple word change at the very end...

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed- interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing sprit- crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing you last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that?"


I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? 
There are no reasons. 
Who needs reasons when you've got Saudi Arabia?

You can follow Eike (in Deutsch) at

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One of the coolest times I've had in Saudi

Last weekend, I went with some friends to the absolute coolest event I've been to in Saudi.  One of my friends was getting married you see and I made the guest list!  The wedding was a little ways out in Al-Hasa which gave me a good chance to not only get out of the city, but see the likes of another city and village as well.  It was held at a rental facility geared for such things and was overall one of the best if not the best time I've ever had in Saudi Arabia.  I've had some really decent times here, some really scary ones, and a whole truck load of boring ones.  This one topped them all.

The wedding was attended by close to 300 guests on the male side and everybody was spread amongst the sprawling lawns and date palms, relaxing, drinking coffee and tea and congratulating the groom and the family.

Food was awesome as usual, a traditional style meal of Lamb on rice, with sides of fruit and dates.  they fed us almost as soon as we walked in the place and didn't stop until we were ready to burst (as I've said many times, food is not a problem in Saudi).  We took dozens if not hundreds of pictures and spent the rest of the night being shown around the facility by the Grooms brother and relaxing in the cool evening breeze on the grass under a date palm. 

A few things occurred to me throughout the night, first and foremost was the fact that I was welcomed so openly.  In fact, welcomed doesn't even describe it.  I was treated like an honored guest.  People were so glad that I decided to come and I just was ushered around to meet everybody.  So why then don't I get to do more of these things?  Saudi's seem to mistakenly think that as westerners we would rather hang around on compounds, get drunk and hang out with scantily glad loose women.  Is this really the image we portray to the world?  Is this really what you think?  Don't get me wrong, I don't look a gift beer or gift woman in the mouth, but c'mon!  Being invited to cultural events, seeing the actual Kingdom, visiting new places...these are the things we want to do, and they are the things we cannot usually do on our own.  Please keep inviting me to these types of things.  Believe me, I can find plenty of booze and women and boring old compound conversations when I get back to the states.  After I leave Saudi, I will never again get the chance to attend a Saudi wedding!

One of the other things that occurred to me throughout the evening was how similar people everywhere are.  This may sound strange to some,who've never been anywhere quite as culturally 180 as this; they probably believe while looking through their bong smoke that "people are people man".  The truth is, people aren't just people.  I've been all around the world and never have I seen a place where some of the basics are so different from my home than here.  I walk to work and walk home every day, I live in an apartment off compound, I run at night on the beach and I'm normally struck by the sense of just how different we are from each other, therefore, its really cool when I get to see our similarities instead of our differences.  Watching children chase each other around the lawn, old men sit and laugh and talk, young men congratulate the groom and ask if he'll be "up to the task tonight".  Men dancing, hugging, cheek kissing, playing music and taking pictures, it all served to bridge a gap and all in all, I felt very at home and loved the entire event. 

Considering that my own marriage just imploded after nearly 10 years, I was tempted to yell to the groom "don't do it!", but I quickly remembered the good that comes with the bad and held my tongue. It was also the couple's second wedding, so technically they'd already been "married" for years. Not to mention, who am I to tell a man when enough punishment is enough?

I guess in closing, It seems Saudi just takes a while...a while to get to meet other expat westerners, and a while to prove yourself worthy enough to get invited to cool events by the Saudi people themselves.  I guess my dues are paid up for now, time to sit back, relax and enjoy the good stuff! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Seven Month Anniversary

I mentioned on my 6 month Anniversary that while it was the halfway point, and it was a nice even number, months 7 and 8 held some significance as well.  The seven month anniversary has finally arrived.  7 months is significant for a number of reasons, but they mainly fall under one major heading.  7 months is the longest I have ever consecutively been out of my home country.  And its the longest consecutive stay in the Kingdom of any non-compound westerner that I know here (those that actually want to go home), they may have been in the Kingdom longer, but not without slipping off to Dubai, Bahrain, Egypt or their home country every 3-4 months.  Seven months is something that I'm proud of.  I'm not going to say that it changed anything in reality, it just did me the double edged "favor" of shattering some illusions.  The first 5 months damn near broke me.  It truly took me to my knees and with the exception of people who have done similar craziness, it isn't something I can explain or you can understand.  Just know that 5 months of solitude exposes cracks in your life and persona you didn't know were there.  I don't mean you were hiding them from yourself, I mean seriously you didn't even know they were there.  Midway through month 5 and into month 6, I had met friends.  I knew a safe driver, I knew how to communicate, I knew where to go, I felt totally safe in my apartment and running on the beach every night, everybody at the stores I go to knew me and said hi, I had found a party to go to, I had gotten drunk, I had danced with a woman, I had gotten to speak more than a few sentences of English.  Right at the beginning of 6, I knew I was going to be alright, prior to that though, it had still been an up in the air question.  At the beginning of 6, I also knew that I was losing my wife and my marriage.  I contemplated not putting that in here, but seriously what kind of personal experience blog would this be without it.  That was and will probably remain the most complicated, double edged, painful/happy paradox that I've ever been through in my life.  Some of its just for me to know, some of it I'll never figure out and I guess the rest is for you.  I'll say this though, in terms of paradoxes this one is good.  It was the right move, it was definitely what the time called for, and it was probably long overdue.  As the day passes and becomes just another day, I realize that this isn't the most action packed place in the world for me to be, but it isn't that bad either...I think its a little like High School in the States...You feel like you're just treading water until you get out, its not that bad, but its not really living either.  However, if things continue to go the way they have been, well hell by the time my contract is up I'll have something to do every day and life here will become as busy as it was at home. 

 So seven month anniversary, here's looking at you!


***Oh, and a lot of people have said "oh I saw that coming"  which I must admit makes me say "really? you did? in your crystal ball?  Well good for you, Now, why don't you take that F-ing ball and shove..."  never mind, you get the point.  Its going to be weird, her and I are on the best of terms, we don't hate each other, we don't even want each other to be miserable, in fact we want each other to be happy, on the surface that won't be a problem, but deeper down that's going to be easier said than done.  Good thing or not, I'll always question whether or not it was the right thing.  I'll surely have my moments of doubt. I got married late and got married for life, so now I have to sort my own shit out in my head...I think that will just take time.  Luckily though, I'm in the KSA and brother, I  got nothing but time.***

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Semester Sum-Up

Well Folks, its over.  I arrived in Saudi in the late middle of first semester so this was my first complete semester.  Its closure was everything I had hoped for and more.  Tonight's graduation and awards dinner was although typically long, very nice.  Some very nice words were spoken by the Dean, Department Heads and a parent.  Students were jubilant and spirits were high even for those not graduating.  One of the least expected events of the evening was that I received an award.  A very nice award, and it was from my students, not the college.  I realized that I'm a big old softie, things like that renew my faith and keep me going.  So I have a few things to say about the college, about my students and about Saudi, but tonight has at least served to renew my desire to make this a great program, and keep on fighting the good fight.  In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that only the good students showed up tonight, there were a few good ones that didn't show up, but mostly they did.  The dumb shits stayed away.  (I wish they would do that during the year!)

The College:  Can I even write this?  You don't bite the hand that feeds you, you just don't do it.  But what kind of person would I be if I glossed over this and made it look sunshine and rainbows.  I've never identified the name of the place anyway, so I guess I ought to be OK...The college borders on being an unfunny joke and a disaster of bureaucracy.  The wrong people are in charge and they often do the wrong things, often they do nothing.  They recruit you, bring you here, and then forget you.  They treat you like a mushroom and are seemingly incapable of even the simplest tasks when it comes to human resources.  They don't read or act on anything in the multiple reports you have to submit.  They continually insult their own culture and country by blaming everything on "culture"  and your lack of understanding.  i.e. You don't receive pay one month, you ask your boss about it explaining that your family may be evicted from their home.  He looks you straight in the eyes and says "ok, ok, In'shallah".  He gives you through deeds, actions and words the impression that he couldn't give a shit less if your wife and kids live on the street, why are you bugging him?  This isn't his job!  When you keep on him about it, he tells you that you don't understand the culture...really?  This is the culture of don't get paid for work already done?  Oh OK.

The Students:  Same the world over, students are students.  Were not talking Harvard or Oxford here.  However, more so than most Western Universities, I have some serious screw-ups to contend with.  The state of private education in the Kingdom is in a shambles.  I don't know if somebody is paying off somebody else or what, but I have the full spectrum of students.  I have some students that I'm surprised can even get up in the morning and put on clothes.  I know for a fact that some wear sandals because there is no way on this earth that they can tie their shoes.  However, I also have students that are bilingual and have come out of the crappy Saudi school system and despite any problems found there, excel.  I have a few that I would put up against any American student I've ever had.  Some of my students are mature, others are incredibly immature.  Throughout the year students have threatened and harassed teachers and committed acts or said things that would have them thrown out of any western school.  All in all, they really aren't that great, however the ones who are great really go out of their way to show their appreciation for what you are doing.  Now if the college would just let me eject 25% and place another 25% on academic probation...we'd be in business!

The Staff:   I should probably wait to write this one as a staff member really pissed me off tonight, but then again many of them do it all throughout the year.  The staff range from completely incompetent to incredible world class educators.  From what I understand they also range from completely honest and un-bribeable such as myself to dirty as hell and not only bribeable but actually soliciting money from students.  I get damn sick of talking about my salary and benefits all the time, which seems to be something somebody always wants to talk about.  I get damn sick of defending my 12 years of experience in EMS actually doing my job to some idiot with a Masters degree who has never worked or touched a patient, but thinks his masters qualifies him to be special.  I notice that when it comes to salary and perks, most staff feel that we should all be equal.  One big happy family, one big team.  However when it comes to helping out the one and only westerner and non Arabic speaker at the campus...I'm on my own.  Finding things to do, buying furniture, getting to work, renting an apartment, getting internet access, paying bills, opening a bank account, only a very select few staff members have helped me at all.  The others pretend they didn't notice I can't speak Arabic, they drive past me walking home, they arrive to work after me and they leave 3 hours before I do every day.  They ignore student cheating and don't even try and report the problems.  In terms of adjusting to Saudi Arabia, my students have been the ones who really reached out a helping hand.  Without them, I wouldn't have lasted 30 days...I have to wonder if some of the other staff weren't hoping for exactly that...My Dean, My Vice Dean, My entire department, and a few select others are deserving of my utmost appreciation. 

Summer school starts on Saturday.  I have a lecture lab schedule for the first 2 weeks, and then just a lab schedule.  However, for the time being, I'm doing good just relaxing and enjoying the fact that we survived another semester.  4 more of those and I'll be good!  To the Students and staff that went so far out of their way to make me feel welcome, thank you, thank you and thank you.  I am forever in your debt and eternally grateful.  My family and loved ones at home thank you as well.  So as we end the year and prepare for the next I give you these words of advice.  The past is past and nothing can change it.  The future is yet unwritten.  Enjoy your break, but seriously examine what about this past year you would do differently if you could, what would you have accomplished?  Now apply that to the upcoming year.  For those of you not in Summer semester, I'll see you in September!

Mr. Geoff

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Well folks, the last week of the semester is finally here.  I'll sum it up later, but for now I just wanted to focus on today's activities.  Today, I proctored a test of level 2 students,  preparatory students mind you, none of mine.  These students today were taking a Physics 101 test, there were also some Medical Imaging and EMS students in the room, but it was the preparatory level that was really killing us.  I've proctored this group before, and they're always a handful.  Today though they were unbelievably ridiculous.  Today there weren't 2 or 3 cheaters, they're were 15.  Today in front of the eyes of myself and my colleague, these 15 students passed answers back and forth with toes taps, finger signals and good old fashioned note passing and looking over the shoulder of the guy in front of you.  I'm not really allowed to pull students out and take their test away anymore...I am, but all that will happen is that they will get it back and I'll look even less powerless than before.  So instead we walk the rows, silencing the talking, telling them to look at their own paper, and keeping the most blatant cheating to a minimum.  Today though, they crossed lines, BIG lines.  Today, I was ready to literally throw all of their tests in the dumpster and tell the test control officer that they hadn't shown up.

What on earth do these kids do in high school that prepares them for a college career of nothing but lying, cheating and then lying about it when they get caught?  Why doesn't the Ministry of Education do something about that?  Every week the newspaper is full of stories about this or that Ministry's plan to improve the Kingdom.  Ideas like tax expats, kick out taxi driving expats and replace them with Saudi drivers, increased Saudization, demand more degrees from teachers, test all the teachers, fire all the teachers and replace them with better teachers, build a multi-billion riyal school.  Why can't they just see the simple truth.  Enforce the regulations you already have in place for your own students and in 4 years all will be well in the academic world while also improving the state of affairs outside academia.  As a College Instructor, I spend at least 50% of my time dealing with issues that in the US would be rarely seen and would only take about 10% of my time.  Cheating, attendance, arguing about attendance, retesting, arguing about retesting and the like just eat our time alive here.

I think what really pissed me off today though was some of  the stupid excuses I heard for why I saw notes being passed, fingers being held up, taps on the desk with the pen and talking when I turned my back.  First of all one student refused to acknowledge me, he refused to look at me, speak to me or even acknowledge that I was standing in front of him telling him he couldn't take the test anymore.  Another said "I don't speak English" (in English) while his classmates laughed loud enough to let the room next door hear it.  The best one though was the one who got me.  He said "we don't cheat!, you not know!"  Really?  Ok there Copernicus, what exactly were you doing turned around in your seat asking the man behind you a question?..."checking" was his answer.  My head almost exploded as I told him that checking your answer with another student, during a test, IS cheating.  He disagrees, at least he told me "don't worry, no problem, no problem"  Oh, well in that case, carry on!  And he did, as I walked away in complete exasperation he leaned together with a colleague and made sure they all had the same answers.  I turned and told him "you get zero", he laughed and said "Full Mark".  I reported the entire class of 15 to the test control officer, I doubt much will be done though, maybe 1 point off each test.  

**I should mention that 1 student never spoke a word or looked at anyone's paper.  He however did not object in any way shape or form when his classmates were obviously copying off of him though, I should also mention that my co-proctor was just as diligent as I was today at stopping the cheating, in the end though, what could we do?**

Here are a couple of examples of things I found today...