Monday, March 23, 2020

The Quiestest Apocalypse

Wow!

Who thought we'd just be able to sit around and watch TV and bullshit on the internet as the world tumbled into ruin?

No souped-up cars, no zombies, no cities in flames. Not yet, anyway.

Just ... waiting.

It's funny actually, Crazy Bob and I went on a desert hike / canyoneering expedition a couple months ago:

Your humble narrator

(That's him in the shadows on the bottom right there.)

 and on the way back we drove through a cloud of locusts:


So that's never a good omen. We have war, pestilence, disease ... let's see what's the last one? Famine? Stay tuned.

Yeah, we're on lockdown here in the Kingdom, like in most countries, but my personal situation isn't too bad. I'm guaranteed salary for at least the next five months, until the middle of august, no matter how bad things get. We're working online from home now, but only a couple hours a day, and then we have our fully-paid summer holiday from May 15 to August 15. All international flights are closed now though, and I imagine I'll be stuck here most or all of the summer.

After that, who knows?

I signed an acceptance letter for a two-year contract, summer 2020 to summer 2022, but not the actual contract yet. I would assume the government college program I work for will continue, but I guess it's possible it won't, depending on how all this plays out.

My personal living conditions aren't too bad, either. I'm on a campus that's a somewhat self-contained but not crowded community, with a wall around it and supermarket a five-minute walk away and a nice park and plenty of places I can walk without any worries. My apartment isn't exactly luxurious, but it has a terrace in the back where I can get fresh air without any infection worries. I made a little zen garden there:


In terms of resources, things are good here -- no hoarding or shortages in the supermarket as of yet. And there's actually a lot of greenery here on campus, including edible cactus, date trees, and various vegetable gardens planted mainly by the cleaning and landscaping staffs:


My wife came to visit for the first time on one of the Kingdom's first tourist visas, but she had to flee back to Russia when they started cancelling flights. We actually got her on one of the last flights out two weeks ago, via Istanbul. (She's still got a job there and a single mom to look after.)

But I'm not alone, actually I've got these two lovely ladies with me. They're great company even though they came off the street. They even lez out occasionally:

But enough about me, how are you?

I'm interested in hearing some first-hand accounts of  how English teachers are weathering this, because in general, I know they are usually not weathering it well.

In China, all my old colleagues are entering their third month of quarantine, but at least they're getting paid. Some of them were on winter break when the quarantines started though, so they're working from home in different places.

People I knew working at hourly language schools usually either just lost their jobs completely or got offered less money to work online, but many of them couldn't even go home -- or flee to Thailand or whatever -- if they wanted to, since all international flights are being cancelled. At the "real" international schools, with students from all over the world, people are often locked down on campus with their students, since they can't go home either.

The people I knew working in military contracting are particularly hard hit. I knew people teaching foreign military in America, and those soldiers all got sent home; I also know a guy working teaching in Afghanistan, and he's getting sent back to America tomorrow, though he'll continue to get a salary for a while. Peace Corps folk are going home, too.

(Washington Post article about the end of the Peace Corps.)

So, any stories you want to tell? This is almost surely not going to be the end of the world, but certainly the end of the world as we knew it -- if international work, tourism, and  travel even exist in the post-pandemic world, it'll be so regulated most people won't even bother. Man, I'm glad I got that Kenyan safari in last summer.

Anyway, I offer this space as a monument to the World As It Was.





Saturday, August 31, 2019

The End + 1

Well hey. So what's new?

I turned 50 recently. Here's a half-century update.



I gave up on China.

And I gave up on international schools, also.

I was working hard, actually, and I finished a Master's in Education summer of last year.

But I wasn't happy.

I was sleeping badly, grinding my teeth, and constantly on edge. (Sober though, if that means anything.) The school I was working for was pretty undeniably bad; very few teachers stayed more than a year, and even fewer stayed for a third year.

I managed to stay two and a half years.

Academically, the school was a mess and seemed to get worse rather than better each year.  Curriculum changed at the whims of managers, and I had three different managers in my two and a half year tenure. My teaching hours went from 18 to 20 to 24 or 26 in my final 4 months, when they were unable to hire enough teachers to fill all the classes, as they were offering new teachers about half the salary I was being paid. I was getting paid overtime, but it wasn't worth it when you added in all the assemblies, the after-school activities that all the students hated, and the evening study session I had to do every two weeks.



There were a lot of conflicts about teaching methodology, though the students usually liked me. Management disapproved of using things like videos and games in class, and model lessons I was exhorted to emulate usually had the students sitting quietly writing worksheets. (Problem was it was nearly impossible to get them to sit quietly and do anything.) Doctors of education from the head office demonstrated lessons that would get them kicked out of a budget TEFL course for being too teacher centered. In general I felt a lot of culture clash -- not just West vs. East, but Teachers Who'd Worked at High Schools vs TEFL teachers, Old Whoremongers vs. Young Married Hipster Couples, etc. It was understated, but I felt it.

I was going to try to do a third year, but I saw the writing on the wall. The last semester I was there, they decided that the students needed weekly hour-long tests, and each teacher was responsible for writing his or her own -- each week, an original five or six page test with listening, reading, grammar, and vocabulary. The school was also hiring Eastern European teachers to get the white face for half the salary they paid the Canadians, Brits, Australians, and Americans.

As I mentioned, many of the kids were problem students, who were angry, occasionally violent, and quite rightly resented being sent to the school with its reform school environment.



But I realized recently -- the good students disturbed me even more. The nice kids were getting bullied constantly, the cliques, the kids with autism and special learning needs who weren't getting any specialized help at all -- it was triggering me, as the hipsters say.



So with tariffs and sanctions and everything else looming, I realized I just didn't have the emotional capacity to handle teaching kids anymore. Remember that post about Costa Rica, where I climbed Rincon de la Viejo mountain, but realized it hadn't been worth the effort?

So I fled.

Where?

I looked at other jobs in China, but I just had a bad feeling about them, fearing more of the same, and the salaries were about half or maybe  60 or 70 percent of what I'd made at my first job.

So I went back to an easy university job in the Kingdom.





The usual package -- a bit more than 4000 US bucks a month plus an apartment and paid holidays. Same as I was making a decade ago, though prices have gone up considerably. Still, in this day and age, I'm glad to get it.

I started, worked for four months, literally working about half the hours per day I 'd been working in China, and then immediately got a three and a half month paid summer vacation.


I spent 2 weeks in America, 2 weeks in Kenya on my dream safari holiday, 2 weeks in Turkey waiting to get a Russian visa, and then 3 weeks in my old home of Vodkaberg, also known as Samara, Russia. (My book about it is free this week on Amazon.)


Wow, has it changed.

They had the FIFA World Cup there last year, so they tried to make it look modern and progressive. Nice toilets. A new international airport. Coffee shops. Bike lanes. Hipster barber shops. Signs in English. No alcohol on the street.

I saw the girls I used to know; most of them are now 35 or so, most of them with kids. A few were still trying to play at being party girls, but the stress of that was showing. Those days are dead as disco, that was my impression. In our hearts, and on the streets that used to be full of drunk teenagers but were now full of happy young couples pushing baby carriages.

Still, it was a nice visit. The weather was nice, and the beach and embankment is still beautiful, and my friends there were glad to see me, new cold war or no new cold war. And with the value of the ruble being low, it was cheap.

Then in August, the Girlfriend and I went to the Seychelles and got married.






I mean really, why not, right? I could drop dead any day, like Luke Perry or the guy from Soundgarden. Half a century old! The girlfriend just turned 36, also. No spring chickens, we.

So what are we going to do? What will happen? Where will we live? What will we do?

I mean, there's plenty to worry about out there. The world is on fire. Is this happily ever after, or the beginning of the worst part of our lives?

Well now, the answer to that, I guess you'll just have to use your imagination ...

just like we will.





Like Private Joker at the end of FULL METAL JACKET, I'm in a world of shit, but I'm alive, and I'm not afraid.



And I'm not alone.



Do svidoniya!

X












Thursday, February 01, 2018

The End



Fifteen years ago, on or about February 1st, 2003, I sat in my cruddy but beloved apartment in Samara, Russia and used a battered Pentium 1 desktop given to me by a student to make the first posts on an Angelfire website, marking the beginning of the English Teacher X website.

And for fifteen years I chronicled my observations of life as I saw it, from the twisted surrealist vantage point of an expat abroad, in a world that changed tremendously during that period of time, from the first optimistic bursts of globalism to its current last wheezing gasps. 

So now it is with some regret that I must announce:

This is the last blog post I will make.  


Why? 

Well, the question is more, "Why not?"

Fifteen years is a long time to do anything, much less write the same blog. I've been running out of steam for a while now, obviously; not just because I'm getting older, but because I've already said everything I wanted to say. 

Not everything I've got to say, perhaps, but everything I wanted to say. 

Anything else I said would likely just be a variation on what has come before. 

I thought for a long time about how I wanted to end it. I could end with a sick joke; a hoax suicide, for example. I thought maybe in the spirit of keeping the blog a comedy, I would end it when I married the Girlfriend. 




 I thought about turning the blog over to somebody else -- Crazy Bob, for example -- or opening it to "guest posts" from anybody.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that English Teacher X just had to vanish into the night and the fog. 


I'm uncomfortable with the internet now. (And perhaps with life in general.) It's a strange humorless place now, where everyone has a strident political agenda; Nazis on one side and on the other a world where everybody eats avocado toast and never say anything offensive. There's little place for lumbering dinosaurs like myself to air my private parts.


So what will become of X? 

Well, look around you. He might be anywhere. 

He might be that drunk angry guy teaching in the next office, stinking and red-faced. He might be that happily married, quiet fellow with the foreign wife and the cute kid. 


Maybe he went out in a blaze of glory, some kind of balls to the wall orgy of drugs and sex and hate. 


Maybe his foreign hosts finally hunted him down and destroyed him. 


Maybe he became the quiet old guy living with his cats, always meek and polite before dying quietly with the kitties licking his face. 


Maybe he's all of those, or none, but one thing is for sure ... English Teacher X abides. English Teacher X will be teaching, here, there and everywhere, and this blog will stay here, an eternal monument to all those moments in time that would otherwise be lost in the rain.  


I won't be answering e-mail at the yahoo address; it became overwhelmed with spam. You can leave messages for me here, I might answer them. 

Goodbye folks. I sincerely thank you for reading.

Be careful out there!  

Monday, January 08, 2018

Edumacation: The Year in Review

I always wanted to be an astronaut.

When I was 12 or 13, however, the unlikeliness of that began to make itself apparent. I wasn't nearly hard-working enough, and I wasn't particularly good at math or science. Then the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986, putting that option even further away.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to be instead, but I did know two jobs that I felt I was very unsuited for, and would not enjoy doing:

Police officer, and teacher.



Those jobs required a strong combination of sadism and masochism, I thought. They needed to sacrifice a lot to serve the community, but they also probably needed to take a sick delight in forcing people to follow the rules.

I think about that a lot now.


This school I work at, a branded "international curriculum" boarding school, probably started up with the best of intentions. They probably thought that the hardworking kids of the wealthy would flock here as they readied themselves to go study abroad for college.

What they found, however, was that there was tremendous demand for a place with no admission requirements or strict academic standards where parents could drop their unruly, disrespectful offspring and never have to worry about them again.

This school is extremely expensive, situated a short drive from the capital and Tianjin, two of the largest and wealthiest cities in China. All the kids were born in the years since 2000, when China began its meteoric ascent to the rank of global economic leader and superpower. These kids were raised in a kind of luxury, and with a freedom and an access to information, that their grandparents could only dream about.

So what went wrong?



I got a bit of a dressing-down from my manager for referring to the kids as "feral" but that's actually one of the kinder descriptions of them I can think of. Even most of our good students are utterly lacking in boundaries and self-control. If they feel like smacking somebody, or hugging them, or scratching their crotch, or shouting an obscenity, they don't even hesitate. I have to micro-manage virtually every aspect of their behavior; most of them wouldn't even bring their books to class unless they were rewarded or punished for it in some way, much less do their homework or classwork.

(I use Class Dojo for this. I reward good behavior with videos at the end of class, and bad behavior with standing or lunch-time detentions.)



A few highlights of the last year and a half:

- students shouting "shit" "fuck" and "bitch" in class, or saying "fuck you" to me, or flipping me off -- this happens nearly once a week, sometimes twice

- a level of hallway rough-housing and bullying so intense that many students would ask us if they could hide in the teachers' room

- used condoms being discovered in a science lab

- students frequently insulting how "black" other students are, or how "gay," usually to their faces

- a student who simply slept through every class, and when anybody tried to wake him, he would scream at them to leave him alone; apparently he would stay up all night playing games on his phone. At a parent teacher conference, his meek, timid mother tearfully told us he behaved the same way at home and she had no idea what to do about it.

- another student who got in so many fights with other students that the administration attempted to send him home for a month -- only to be told by his parents that they didn't want him back, because they were frightened of his temper. He ended up having to sit alone in a room all day for a month.

- a student who began crying hysterically and slapping himself in the face after a comment from another student

- several students decided it might be fun to crawl though open windows at lunch-time and use the ledge to walk to another classroom -- on the 2nd floor.

Now of course, we have detentions and other punishments, but many of the students would love nothing more than to get kicked out, so they just refuse. The owners of the school, I suspect, would consider kicking them out to be flushing money down the drain. So it's kind of an impasse if the students just refuse to do anything. (They do occasionally kick kids out, but it's mainly for alcohol violations or skipping classes entirely, missing kids and alcohol being two things the state board of education could close the whole school for.)



Quite a lot of the kids are gigantic; a few of our students in the middle school are 16, 17, or 18 years old, since they got kicked out of some other school and refused to go back for a year or two. This has led to some tense showdowns with kids who attempt to physically intimidate the teachers. One student got in another teacher's face and asked him if he was scared of him.

Now, I should say, things are improving a bit; we only have 12 or 13 students per class, rather than 24 like last year, and a concerted effort on the part of the staff has curbed the hallway rowdiness quite a lot. Still and all, I had some dental work done last January and on a return trip recently the dentist said he'd never seen anyone grind their teeth down as fast as I had.

Is my school a lot different from others in China? I guess so, but I think that these kinds of private secondary schools are more often like this than not, I have a colleague who worked at another branded private "international" school in Tianjin (with branches all over China) and he said it was actually much, much worse, with no order at all and fist-fights being a daily occurrence.


Nonetheless. X abides. I've signed a contract for another year, as the benefits and salary are good and I need, as I approach 50, to keep a job for longer than a year or two.

A Happy New Year to you all, and to all a good night.



Sunday, December 17, 2017

Profiles in ESL Teaching: Aunt Peg, the TEFL MILF

We can all agree that sex is pleasurable, right?

So one kind of wonders why when you look at the ranks of people who fuck a lot, you tend to see a lot very unhappy folks, and folks who die young.

But if we're looking for examples of a person who led a long fulfilling life yet fucked around a lot, and also taught ESL at a few points, we can look to charming, lovely, no-nonsense "Aunt Peg."

By Photo courtesy of www.lukeisback.com, used with permission (see here) - http://www.lukeisback.com/archives/archives/updates/010713.htm specifically http://www.lukeisback.com/images/images/images/photos3/01071344.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4293464

Juliet Anderson was 38 years old in the late 70s when she made a name for herself in the Golden Age of Porn as the first "MILF" type with her "Aunt Peg" persona. (Although in those days, there were plenty of women over the age of 30 in porn, whereas now being 22 makes you an old bag.)



Prior to that she worked a variety of jobs, including teaching ESL in Japan, Sweden, Greece, and Mexico. She started teaching English while living in Japan with her American lover, who was in the Navy.  She went in and out of porn throughout her adult life, as a performer and producer, but also working as a sex therapist and relationship counselor as well as running a guest house and doing child and elder care, while also doing live stage shows that combined burlesque, dance, and comedy.



She, by all accounts, remained a "sex positive" person throughout, even while occasionally admitting to getting burned out on the creation of porn movies. She says she never once faked an orgasm on a porn film, even in the days of bright lights, boom mikes, pauses to change film canisters, and huge crews. Sex for her, you see, and the "healing power of touch" became her antidote for the Crohn's disease she suffered from, and a childhood in which she spent undue amounts of time alone in the hospital.

Loving tribute to "Aunt Peg" on Cinema Retro



There were giants in the earth in those days ...

She died in January, 2010, aged 71, and with that the world lost a gracious and classy lady. RIP, TEFL MILF Aunt Peg.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Perspective


Seems like pretty much everyone I know is despairing about the state of the world and the future now.



Perhaps it's just the company I keep, but the internet would tend to support this general sense of doom and gloom.

But one does need to keep things in perspective.

I'm 48 and a half; the global events in and around my life haven't been entirely pleasant , including standouts such as the Vietnam and Afghan wars, September 11, the Ethiopian famine, and so forth.



But let's take a look at the first 50 years of the 20th century.

Let's see, we had:


  • World War I (a war of unprecedented destruction which also completely re-drew Europe)
  • The 1918 flu pandemic that killed 3-5 percent of the global population
  • The terrifying environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl
  • The Great Depression
  • Hitler, World War II, and the Holocaust
  • The rise of Stalin with his Purges and engineered famines that also killed millions. 
During that period we had presidents such as Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, who with the Teapot Dome Scandal, are generally considered among the worst.



So, THOSE were some rough years. The nearly half-century of my life has been a comparative cakewalk, and of course that worst thing that has happened to me personally is like, losing my sunglasses in the Galopogas Islands or something.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Russia Town

So you go out of the South Gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing, and you turn left. Walk straight for about 45 minutes towards Ritan Park, and something strange starts to happen.

You start to see signs in Russian.


As the signs grow more fequent, you'll begin to see white older women with purple hair and leopard skin tops, and burly grey-haired older dudes with gold chains and man-purses and take-no-shit glares.

You've just walked into Russia Town.

The Russians you see will rarely be the hip 21st century kind; they'll be rough provincial ones, and in fact you'll often see Kazakhs, Tajiks, and Uzbeks there.


 This area - basically a couple of blocks surrounding Ritan Park -- is the last gasping remnant of an area of Beijing that has subsisted since the 80s and 90s, when China was one of the few places that Russian tourists could easily visit, and Russian tourists were usually looking for an angle to make a profit on.

There are a handful of Russian, Georgian, and Ukrainian restaurants there, and some big shopping centers that cater to a clientele of people who are usually buying large amounts of clothing wholesale, usually to take back to remote areas to sell at outdoor markets or small shops. Appropriately, there are a number of cargo and shipping agencies also, and two hotels full of Russians, Tajiks, and Kazakhs. One of the hotels is cheap (where I occasionally stay) and one is expensive (where I stayed once, with the Girlfriend.) The shady Chocolate Nightclub offers a Russian dance show full of saucy babes, if you're down for a night at a clip joint.

Don't eat at this one, it kind of sucked. 


There was colorful, moldy, delapidated old-style covered market nearby, quaintly labelled the "alien's market" that sold various kind of cheap made-in-China geegaws -- phone cases, suitcases, sunglasses, as well as green tea and such, but that closed last year.

The big wholesale shopping places down there will probably close next; that kind of informal import-export  paradigm is dying out, of course. "We'll go to China and buy some jeans for $10 and bring them home and sell them in the parking lot for $15!" is definitely a sad waning echo of the 90s and early 00s. Online retailers like AliBaba will deliver direct to the Russian rinok, these days, and soon those will be closed too, even in places like small-town Siberia.

So, while it lasts, enjoy it. Go to Ritan Park on a nice evening and watch the tai-chi and kung-fu enthusiasts working out there and then stroll around the area, and maybe you'll even spy a hot young Russian babe. Have a nice bowl of borscht and a beer and some brown bread, and enjoy a present which is, as ever, rapidly fading into the past.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reform School X

Who would have thought I'd grow up and begin to understand the perspective of this guy?



Well at age 48, here at the international school in somewhat-outside-of-Beijing China, I finally do.

I finally get it.

The school here has begun to decide on its direction. Unlike last year, when it was basically a warehouse for rich kids, it is now leaning into its role as a genuine reform school.

Lunch time detentions. Monitored evening study. Uniform inspections. Phones only available one hour a day. They stand up and sit down at the beginning and end of class while we inspect them and take away their water bottles, toys, head phones, stuffed animals, etc.

As mentioned, we're dealing with all the lost souls who got kicked out of the Chinese state schools -- and that includes not just generally bad students, but autistics, people with special learning needs, and general eccentrics and weirdos.

I came to this job thinking it would be a good springboard into international curriculum schools, but now I'm kind of wondering exactly why I thought that would be a good idea.

Do I really want to spend the last decade of my working career trying to teach spoiled rich kids not to throw tissue on the floor or put their feet on the desks?

I mean of course the only other real option to make a decent salary is Saudi, and while they're equally careless and indifferent, I don't think I got quite so much hostility there. Nobody ever told me to fuck off or flipped me off there, but they do here quite often.

So I begin to understand the evil teachers and principals from the comedies of the 80s. I really do.

How long until I'm doing ,,, this?



(He mentions his salary of $31,000 a year, which in 2017 dollars would equal about $72,000 -- which is about 20,000 a year more than I'm clearing here.)




But then again ... I'm in detention too ... for my many sins ... and I'm just getting paid for it.






Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Last Crazy Bob Story (Or: The Stench; Or: Are You There God, It's Me, English Teacher X)

Time: six weeks ago
Place: The island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia












Bob was sufficiently horrified by this event that he's begun to talk about going straight and giving up the lowlife. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

My Definitive Guide to Making Money from Blogging and E-Book Publishing


I've been blogging for nearly 15 (!) years now, and I confess I still don't understand a damn thing about stats, traffic, or making money from the whole venture.

I have never had advertising or affiliate links on the website, and I've never really done much to advertise it. I posted some sort of viral advertising joke links on Dave's ESL cafe back in about 2002 - 2005, but since then have done practically nothing, yet traffic rose steadily even after I moved to Saudi in 2009. (Probably mainly thanks to frequent mentions of my work on some popular PUA and Manosphere sites.)

 I only very, very occasionally comment on other people's blogs, and I don't think I've done that at all since about 2014, yet in 2016, when my blog postings started to level off to once a month rather than every 5 days, I suddenly got an enormous spike in traffic:



Yet I never saw myself mentioned anywhere, except for a few disdainful mentions of me on Reddit. Even those "manosphere" guys had lost interest at that point and thoroughly disowned me. (Thank God.)

I have self-published English Teacher X books on Amazon since 2011, and those made some money. The biggest years for those was probably 2012 - 2014, when I was making maybe $300 - $400 a month from them, but then sales in the last couple of year have fallen off to maybe $50 a month, if that.

And then the last couple of months, when, as we see, my blog traffic has fallen off tremendously, there has been a sudden mysterious increase in my book sales. I made about $100 off ETX books last month and seem on course for about $200 this month, if not more.

Why?

Fuck knows!

I'm still completely out to sea on all this. Why do people buy them now? And why did people buy them then? The first book is increasingly irrelevant in the world of modern English teaching, and the book about Russia is now EIGHT years past happening, yet it's already sold 10 copies this month. (Up from 6 for the entire month of June, for example.)

I'd been meaning to re-edit them, improve the formatting, and update the covers, but I've been very busy with this job, my dad, and studying for a Master's degree, and never got around to it.

So why?

You tell me!

I still write porn, and I'll update about that soon, and I'm only a little more knowledgeable about that. I always made at least 2 - 3 times more money doing that, of course.

I'm glad people buy the ETX books though, and generally seem to like them, and in honor of International Teacher's Day:


available FREE on Smashwords, until further notice

The collection of my first three books about English teaching, now available for $1.99 on Amazon


Next week: Crazy Bob's Disgusting Sex Story from Indonesia, probably. He's almost broken down.