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Encounters with a Fat Chemist: Teaching at a University in Northern Cyprus Paperback – 24 May 2012

2.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse UK (24 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1468579126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1468579123
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,700,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is a dreadful book. There are quite a few typing errors, but they fade into insignificance when compared with the seeming pomposity of the author. He comes over as just the sort of 'Brit' that, I had hoped, education, travel and television had destroyed for ever. Here is a man, and let us not forget we are told (several times), a well-educated man who speaks 'received' English, a Professor, a Senior Member of Staff in the Universities of the world, who has chosen to teach in a University in Northern Cyprus. We are told immediately that it is an inferior centre of education to those that can be found in England and that those teaching in it are not often qualified to teach. All this in the first few minutes of reading.... and so it goes on.

He is teaching IT studies in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus where the local language is Turkish Cypriot and where the students are either Cypriot, Turkish or from other middle eastern countries. This makes his life very difficult because the students do not speak English, although they try, but it is no surprise that he makes no attempts to learn anything of the languages that his students do speak. English is the most widely spoken language in the world and, therefore, it is all he will speak.

He talks at length of the bribery and possibly fraudulent ways of the administration, the academic staff and of the students. He is badly treated and frustrated and sometimes cheated, by everyone he comes into contact with whether it is his section head (the fat chemist of the title), a shopkeeper or his landlady, and with his attitude to everything, I am not surprised.
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This guy clearly had a bad experience in Cyprus but I felt the book was acting as therapy for him rather than thought-provoking entertainment for the reader. Not very well written either! Needed a good hard edit to get out some of the whinging and be a bit less self-indulgent.
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Iron bars do not a prison make, but a Green Line is the next best thing. From untreated sewage running down the street, to water shortages, to an erratic electricity supply essential for Summer heat use of air conditioning....the author had it all. Plus working at the American Institute of North Cyprus, and finding on arrival the Fat Chemist was his female boss at this for profit University.

The book describes what life is like in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, warts and all. From the venous Landlords of two out of three rented properties, to the nepotism and cronyism of the University, to the inevitable networking abilities of those he meets and who can assist in the daily petty struggles of life in the Northern part of this divided Island. While it does have over 300 days of sunshine each year, each day is an endurance test. A chaotic University system catering for Turks, Cypriots, Azerbyjanis, and dozens of other nationalities has weak controls on English standards both written and spoken. There is an expectation by the students that they will be awarded the coveted Degrees, for which they have paid tuition fees in hard currency, Euros.

Competing currencies complicate matters, especially when health issues bedog the author. There is no health insurance available to a Professor at this University. Travelling in and out of the North, the chaos and confusion of Ercan and Istanbul airports, and the massive bureaucracy of TRNC is all so calmly described. A wonderful book.
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Well, after trying so hard not to label the author as snobbish and uptight, I'm afraid he was upgraded to bitter and dare I say it, xenophobic....
For someone who goes to great pains to persuade you of his intelligence and worldliness, he behaved in an unbelievably naive manner. To spend no time at all in a country before upping sticks and taking a job there, seems reckless at the very least. To then expect everything to be just like the UK with a bit of sun is laughable. At best this is a misguided vanity project, at worst an apoplectic rant that brings nothing to the reader.
The writing style does not make this a pleasant or comfortable read either. Why use 5 words when you can use 25, and is often the case words which are either archaic or pretentious ie. connexion as opposed to connection.
I found the belittling way of snidley mocking the spoken English of the native Turks quite offensive and I have a feeling that the departure of the author was no great loss to the Cypriot community!
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