Friday, June 24, 2016

To The Right, March! (Or: Auslander, Raus!)

Sniff, sniff! Can you smell it?

Something is in the air.

Countries are erecting trade barriers, closing borders, making travel requirements more stringent, and electing increasingly right wing politicians.

Sniff, sniff!

It's the pungent aroma of isolationism, protectionism, and reactionary nationalism!

So! BREXIT, bro!

British teachers working abroad wake up and find their local savings can buy more pounds, as the value of the GBP has fallen about 10 percent. (Digital nomads and sex tourists get slammed as the pound has less value.)

I'm sure all the British teachers working and living happily away in Prague and Spain and so forth are breaking into panicky sweats. Free travel? Kiss it goodbye. (Although I guess a lot of people will be grandfathered in.)

Stocks markets around the world have taken a nose dive. (Finally my "end of the world" investments might pay off!)

And believe me, the chaos is just getting started if Donald Trump gets elected US president.

So how will this affect English teachers?

Well, for Americans it might be good news, as far as working in the EU. For the last 10 years it's been extremely difficult for Americans to work legally there (and the EU has expanded a lot, as well) and after Britain drops out, they'll have to start hiring native speakers from other countries.

Bad news of course, is that more isolationism and protectionism means less work for English teachers, less buying property abroad, more difficulty with visas and residence permits, more trouble marrying foreigners, etc.

Et cetera et cetera et cetera.

I mean look how well isolationism is working out for North Korea.

Anyway, I guess, if you look at it in perspective, there's not much to be happy about in the world in general. Terrorism, Zika and West Nile virus, wildfires and heat emergencies and floods and earthquakes. We should live so long that we get to worry about free and easy travel.

These cycles of globalism / isolationism have been going on for a long time, and empires have risen and fallen, and the waves of globalism and  international trade and travel always come to an end, with tight borders and rigid trade barriers (and sometimes global wars), until people get sick of that in 20 - 50 years, and start demanding more international freedoms again.

But for the time being?

It looks like the doofuses in the man-o-sphere might get their wish! Maybe in a few years we'll all be penned up back in white America with closed borders, working at the ball-bearing factory and going home to our submissive wives.

Sounds pretty fucking grim.

As for me, I have no regrets. I had my time. I remember when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union dissolved, and how excited people were when China, Cambodia, Vietnam and so forth started opening up. And I remember when people's eyes would get wide with joy and say, "WOW! YOU'RE FROM AMERICA??"

Anyway, I'll have a new purpose. The chronicler of late 20th Century Globalism, @1989 - 2016.

RIP, globalism. We hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Worst Year of My Life Hasn't Been That Bad

I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said that childhood ends on the day you go shopping for adult diapers with your father, and spend twenty minutes or so comparing prices.

This year  -- since I started this job in America last August -- by all subjective metrics has sucked pretty hard. No travel or new destinations. No romance and practically no wild fucking. No drunken adventures. Not even much money saved.

But objectively, I got a lot done. My father is comfortably ensconced in his assisted living place, and he can pay for most (although not all) of it himself. I'm three classes into a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in English as a Second Language. I've made decent progress in the martial arts system I study, which mixes Thai boxing, jeet kun do, and escrima and kali.

Despite the occasional tangle with Amazon's censors, I'm still making decent money from my erotic thriller e-books, and in becoming thrillers, they're much more the books I always wanted to write (just with rather more fucking). I'm leading up to writing one about an English teacher fucking the wife of a Russian billionaire. I'll share that with you folks, should I ever write it.

The place I live now is the same kind of place where I grew up: small town America. Strip malls and fast food places. Mini mansions on one side of town and little shacks on the other. Surrounded by empty industrial buildings and scrap yards and farms and used car lots with huge flags flapping over them.

I didn't much like it then, and I like it less now, but there are things I like. Fresh air. Some great national parks to hike and camp in.

Now as far as my social life, I don't have one, but that's completely by choice. And that's a bit strange, I know. I've been invited out by several of my decent-looking female colleagues and I've always made excuses. My male colleagues invite me out occasionally also, but I also decline. I have not the slightest urge to spend time at bars or clubs. (I mean, I am 47, also.)

You could say that it's sobriety, sexual and otherwise, like my contemporaries Tucker Max and Neil Strauss, who now fly the banner of marriage, monogomy, and sobriety. But getting addicted to solitude isn't a good thing either (and I'll write about this later) but I think it's probably just a desire not to put any more emotional load on my brain. I visit my dad about once a month and spend the other three weekends by my damn self, reading, writing, or hiking. 

Anyway, one thing I haven't done which I wanted to is write much about English Teacher X. I was meaning to get all my old travel journals out and start writing down stories from my early backpacking years, but I still haven't gotten around to it. 

I'll try to do that in the next couple of months, because if all goes well, I'll be starting another job abroad in September. I'm working on finishing the documents now, and it should be a good gig. Things could still go wrong, so I'll wait until I have the visa to talk about it. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Scourge (or: America's Leaning on Pork)

Most students don't take care of their diets too well when they move away from home for the first time, but Saudi students, from my experience, REALLY go nuts.

They cram their bodies full of pretty much nothing but sugar, caffeine, and nicotine. (It's a problem in general in Saudi, of course, with diabetes going rapidly off the charts there.)

Here in my job, it was getting to be a serious and immediate problem. Numerous students have been hospitalized for malnutrition, dehydration, and gastric illnesses, due to a diet consisting of pretty much nothing but Red Bull, Mountain Dew, chocolate bars, cigarettes, and potato chips. 

Our students varied from being too hyperactive to sit still and too exhausted to keep their eyes open, and all the teachers were railing at them about it. Numerous lectures about the importance of drinking water and eating healthy food were repeatedly given. 

They made vague excuses. "American food is not delicious." "We don't have time to eat any healthy food." 

Finally one of my students leveled with me. 

It's the pork. 

The students got here and saw all the familiar fast food places they loved: Dominos, Subway, etc. 

And they ordered foods they thought they knew.

But little did they know that these foods were often made with pork in America. Pepperoni and salami, for example. 

"Didn't you ask about it?" I inquired, rather amazed. 

"We didn't speak English well when we arrived. And when we asked the people at Domino's, they always said no pork.")

(Which I guess was probably also ignorance, but coming from a more blissful place.) 

Once they figured this out, and once their English improved, they realized that pork is fucking EVERYWHERE in America. Ham. Bacon. Even salads are full of little chunks of ham and bacon bits. Bacon flavoring in sauces and potato chips!

Certain exceptions are made to the rules of Islam in their lives, to say the least, but most all of them still find the idea of eating pigs really gross. They find pork so revolting, they don't even want to go near restaurants that have it, for fear of cross-contamination. 

You might laugh, but imagine going to a McDonald's in whatever country, and finding out a few months later that the thing you thought was a normal Big Mac was in fact made of sewer rat or liver flukes or something. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Cobra Effect

Famous economics smart guys and frequent statistic manglers Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt talk about The Cobra Effect on their Freakonomics podcast.

This, according to them, is a case of financial incentives misfiring. The example is from the British Raj days of India, when the British offered a bounty on dead cobras. Far from reducing the number of cobras, this led to an increase, because people were breeding cobras just to get the bounty.

I think of that a lot in this job.

Basically, I work for a contracting company in a government / military program. We teach English to Middle Easterners for a year, prior to them joining a certain technical training program.

They get a very generous salary for this; somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand dollars a month plus accomodation and airfare and all that.

The problem is that only about 25 percent of them had any desire or intention to pass the technical training program, and most of them didn't care much about the English part of it.

See, rather than choosing the 200 students who came here through some kind of aptitude testing or choosing them based on their achievements or even asking for volunteers, they seemingly just chose them at random. (Although they chose them from a random pool of military people with good driving records, I understand. They are cracking down on crappy driving over there.)

Most of them arrived with practically no English, and not too much desire to learn. We only have 6 or fewer students in our classes, so it's not too much trouble to deal with them, but most of them really could care less whether they pass the tests or not.

And to complicate matters, if they voluntarily drop out of or quit the program, or if they get sent home for discipline reasons, they will have a splotch on their record which will endanger future career prospects, even at the oil companies or other industries. If they fail out, it's no big deal, they just get sent back home.

Basically, the only way to get home and see your family with no problems is to fail. Otherwise you might get stuck here studying for years, or even worse, you could finish the program and end up doing some difficult technical job.

Most students didn't care much one way or the other. Pass the tests? That means you keep getting salary. Fail the tests? You get to go back home, and continue to get salary.

There are a lot of changes going on in the ME now, though, due to the low price of oil, and as 2016 rolled around they started paring the dead wood out of this program.

Oh, how the guys laughed and cheered when they were told they'd failed out and were going home.

This program started out with 200 students towards the end of 2014; currently we have about 40. About 20 or 25 students have graduated and passed into the technical program. About 150 have been sent home. The remainder are now desperately trying to pass the tests before Ramadan, and many have sort of "accidentally" not managed to fail yet. (That's how easy the multiple-choice tests are.)

But as I said, this isn't the worst job I've ever had, though it's far from the best.

Fortunately I seem to have something better lined up for September -- although no contract signed yet -- but I'll keep that a secret for the moment.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thai Whores are Awesome

I went back to Bangkok last April, and it's one city that never disappoints. It's a big colorful living comic book where any maladjusted Westerners can live out whatever dumb fantasies they might have at very reasonable prices in relative safety. (Relative safety.)

(I do not use only the male pronoun in this case, because plenty of women lose their fucking minds over there, too. I refer you to Patpong Sisters, a book written in the 90s when I was there. by a PhD candidate researching the sex trade. She ends up banging a married Thai pimp without protection. Damn, those 90s chicks, I swear. Hopeless.) 

I did a write up on Khao-San Road then and now -- and never got around to writing about my impression of the other big part of Bangkok: the go-go bar scene.

I strolled around Patpong and Nana Plaza a bit, the prime areas of go-go bars, and again, like Khao-San Road, I was amazed how they'd grown. Patpong used to take up 4 streets, but it goes further up those streets than it used to. Nana Plaza used to be a little cul-de-sac of bars, but the bars have spilled out of the cul-de-sacs and flowed everywhere around the area.

This surprised me a bit; there was always a lot of talk about getting rid of the sex tourists during the "Asian Tigers" days of the 90s, and some strict mayors and unrest periods even saw bars forbidding nudity (only bikinis) and everything closing at 2:00am. Given the recent unrest in Bangkok, I wasn't sure what to expect.

But well, you couldn't tell that now. Like Khao San Road, it all seemed more raging than ever.

One thing that seemed different, there were a lot more bars where you could just sit and drink, and it seemed like a lot more dudes than there used to be, just in general. For example, there used to be one hotel that specialized in Middle-Easterners; there seemed like a whole street full of them, this time.  I remember it being really a buyer's market during the 90s, with a lot of girls battling over customers.

I didn't get that impression this time, but maybe that's just the time of year or whatever. Or maybe that's due to increasing non-mattress opportunities for girls to make a living.

I've written at some length about my fondness for a paticular Thai whore, and a bar I liked back in the day, called the Hollywood.

It's still there, and while it seemed a bit grubbier and dirtier than I remember, the girls were still top-notch, and while I went more in a sociological capacity, of course I ended up taking a girl out.

I mean really!

The price was about $100, versus less than $50 from 20 years ago, and the girls used to be more flexible about price than I experienced this time. (Although of course I'm not nearly so cute as I was when I was 25, I suppose.)

And it was damn well worth $100, I'll tell you! Just a fine, cheerful, skilled, smooth-skinned, firm-bodied, clean, TIGHT and professional little Thai beauty.


Immediately after I got out, I was thinking, well, that was worth maybe $75. But after I jacked off to thinking about it a few times, I was kind of like, damn, you know, it really was worth $100.

So! There you go. I didn't feel cheap or stupid afterwards. It seemed age-appropriate in a way that trying to pick up younger girls at nightclubs does not.

The only big disappointment were the rooms at the Nana Guest House. 20 years ago, you rented a room, and you got a whole ROOM, with TV, bath, big bed, mirrors on the ceiling, etc. Now you get a tiny little cubicle, just a bed.

So I won't rationalize or deal with my feeling about whores / sex trafficking / sex work or game / PUA / sex addiction or any of that in this entry.

 I'll just say I spent a hundred dollars, and it seemed like both of us seemed to feel it was a fair transaction.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

TEFLpocolypse 2016: Yes is the New Maybe

After I got turned down for a job in the UAE last April, I put in applications for some colleges in the Kingdom, including the one I had first worked at. (I had been assured, when I left, that I could return any time.)

I was confronted with a bold new world of application portals, in which I had to upload photocopies of all my documents and references BEFORE the application would be processed. 

And still I heard nothing. 

Than I took this job last August. (All it took was two interviews, a psychological test, an offer that was rescinded at the last minute, a security clearance, and then an offer that was contingent on me starting in a few days.) This job always seemed temporary to me though -- at the moment we have 34 teachers and 57 students, the rest having been sent home -- so I felt I should find something solid for September 2016.

As October and November rolled around, I got requests for interviews from two colleges in the Kingdom.

Both told me that I had passed the interview and they would submit my application for approval. My former boss at my first job was very happy to hear from me, as they had just opened a new building and desperately needed more teachers. 

My papers were submitted to various bureaucratic bodies for approval. 

I breathed a sigh of relief. The three months of paid holiday beckoned.

Since then?  

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. 

My first boss wanted me for January 2016, although he said knew they probably wouldn't be able to finish everything in that time frame. 

The second manager in the Kingdom wanted me for September 2016, but warned me that it had taken EIGHTEEN months to process the last applicant. 

So here I sit, still with no official job offer for September 2016. In the Kingdom, the job offer is only the beginning; then it takes another couple months to get the contract, and then another couple months to get all your documents verified and get the visa. So Kingdom in September is probably out. 

The terrifying new world of TEFL -- even when you get a job, you don't get a job.

Now of course, it's quite possible, given the low price of oil, that both those colleges had their hiring budgets cut. I'm considering trying China again. Loyal readers will recall new rules about document verification prevented me from verifying my DELTA and taking a job there last year. Any news from readers on that issue?  

Crazy Bob, drowning in debt in the UAE, has an idea for us -- he suggests taking a military contracting job teaching English to local soldiers and ground crew at forward operating bases in Afghanistan.

Now that would be a good book, I bet, right?