Sunday, July 20, 2014

Anarchy in the Ukraine: Interview with Eccentric Expat Part Three

Things, of course, have gone from bad to worse to fucking really really horrendous in the Ukraine; I contacted our reluctant war correspondent, Eccentric Expat, to see how he was weathering the storm .

Read interview Part One here (May)
Read interview Part Two here  (June)

So you've evacuated to Kiev?

Yeah, my employer sent me here until the situation improves in Donetsk, whenever that will be

They have a school there?

They have schools in many different cities here

What's the mood in Kiev right now? After that horrible fucking plane thing?

Hard to explain. One of my coworkers posted some pics of the American embassy here in Kiev. I think those will explain the mood better than I can. Its like the natives have made a shrine of the Embassy sign

What about the expats there, how are they feeling? People starting to jump ship, or they enjoying the chaos?

Most of the ones I know are quite anti-Russia.

Sure, the Russians are definitely ruining the sex-tourist party!

I don't know of too many people who have left, although apparently its hard for the school to find new teachers now.

My Russian friends all say that the plane was a "false flag" thing -- the Ukrainians or the Americans shot it down just to blame Russia and declare war. Have you hard any such conspiracy BS?

Yes I have, but I dont believe it. I think it was shot down due to incompetence.

What's the situation in Kiev in general, business as usual?
More cops or soldiers on the street?

Yeah mostly. Ive only been here a few days though, so I'm probably not the best judge

Often in such cases you see an increase in partying and nightlife and fucking around -- prewar Berlin, for example

Haven't seen many cops, but I got stared down hard by some Right Sector goons the other day

Any feeling that it's "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die?"

Not really, nothing like that.

The feeling was much worse in Donetsk before I left

Did the Right Sector guys say anything to you? Did they know you were a foreigner?

No, they just gave me the evil eye. One guy in the back of the formation wearing a balaclava turned around and eyeballed me hard, like he expected me to start something

What was it like in Donetsk before you left?

Very quiet. People were leaving the city in droves. The hotel I lived next to had been taken over by rebel soldiers. Everyone was expecting the war to flare up in the city at every moment

What about your girlfriend, is she with you?

No, she went back to Nikolaev

Are the sex tourists staying away from Kiev now, or too early to tell?

I have no idea, but from what I understand, there are far fewer Americans now in Ukraine

Have prices changed at all? I heard the exchange rate really flopped.

Yes, prices for food have gone up, but not as much as I thought they would

Is your salary pegged to the dollar or just in local money?

Local currency, of course

Always sucks when you get on the wrong side of a currency slump.

Yeah no kidding, although I haven't really felt it so far. Many of the locals try to turn their money into dollars or euros.

All right. Good luck. Watch your 6. 

* * *

Of course the other argument from Russians in this case is usually something like: Oh, well, the Americans shot down an Iranian plane accidentally once. (None of them seem to remember when Russia shot down that Korean jetliner.)

But that's just basically a "And You Are Lynching Negroes!" argument, anyway.

The demise of the 80's Cold War was apparently aided by the preponderance of terrifying films about nuclear war; in that spirit perhaps we should all watch:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fatcats and FATCA

FATCA is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and is now fully in effect

Basically, the US Government has bullied foreign banks into reporting American citizens who keep accounts of more than $50,000. (Some banks have simply responded by closing bank accounts owned by Americans.) 

US Citizens individually with more than $50,000 in a foreign bank account are required to report it, with prison and fines a possible outcome if you don't.

Even RUSSIAN banks are reportedly complying with this.

So what's the reaction to this, here in the world of TEFL?

It has raised a few eyebrows, but only a few.

Most of the English teachers in the world won’t be affected by it – most English teachers are lucky to have even $1000 in the bank.

(I suppose you could do the old trick of having many bank accounts with less sthan $50,000 in them, if you really needed to.)

Now here at this place, we actually make pretty significant salaries, but I’ve just had my employers – actually a contracting company, rather than the actual state-owned company – send all my money back to my American bank account. (They gave me my first two paychecks in cash, and since I spend very little money here I just spent that for food and such and I use credit cards when I travel.)

I have to say though, America has a comparatively very generous foreign earned income exclusion – about $98,000 this year, I think – so you don’t really have to pay taxes on foreign earned income unless you make more than that. So there’s no reason not to send the bulk of it back to America anyway. It’s not like your money is any safer in a bank in Europe – look at Iceland or Cyprus or the LIBOR bullshit in Britain. Russia recently had a spate of bank failures, too. American banks are as safe as anywhere (which is to say, not particularly.)

There have been record numbers of Americans giving up their citizenships, recently -- the people who are giving up their citizenships are mostly people married to foreigners who make a lot of money, like more than $100,000 a year kind of money. 

As an English teacher, it’s basically not that great an idea to give up your American passport, which is one of the only things that makes you employable. Having a British or American passport at this job, for example, gets you a better salary, no matter how awful your accent is. 

As for my colleagues here, some of them just ignore the foreign bank account problem; nobody I know has had an issue with it yet. Some guys just spend all their money, buying foreign property or whatever (which has its own tax issues);  some put their money in their wife’s name in another country. (Fine if you trust your wife I guess.)

There would be various ways around the law,  I suppose – you can always incorporate and make a shell company that has offices in Dubai or whatever. Even cheap hotels in Dubai have brochures about companies that will help you do that. 

So again, get the stupid idea out of your head that you're somehow going to be OFF THE GRID as an English teacher, although of course you will likely be so poor no one will care about you, it's true. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Triumph of the Will (Excerpt from GRAMMAR SLAMMER)

GRAMMAR SLAMMER is on sale right now as a Kindle Countdown deal; it'll be $2.99 for the next 36 hours or so, then it goes back up to $3.99. You missed your chance to get it for 99 cents and $1.99. So sorry, suckas! Be more attentive next time. Get it HERE on

Here's a free excerpt as a consolation prize.

While the easiest form to make, WILL is surprisingly vague and slippery in the ways it is actually used. It can be used for predictions based on ideas:

You’ll never find true happiness, you loser.

It can be used for promises:

Your honor, I swear, I won’t call her anymore.

It can be used for new ideas and intentions:

Hey, that guy is talking to my woman! I’ll kick his fucking ass!

Now it’s quite likely you’ll tackle these one at a time, in class, but I’m going to tell you how to present them all and contrast them.


Dorky Student: But teacher, what about WILL? It’s the easiest way to make the future tense in English!

You: Sure, the easiest to MAKE, but not the easiest to USE.

I’ll call you tomorrow, baby.
I WILL find him, and I WILL kill him.
I won’t ever drink again!

You: Now look at these two examples. Are these plans?

Students: Uhhhh … no?

You: What are they?

Students: Bullshit lies?

You: They are PROMISES. Statements of intention, in any event.

(You might need the old translation gambit here for the word / idea of promises.)

He’ll make a good husband one of these days – he’s rich.
You’ll never catch me, coppers!
We’ll all have nanobots in our blood in the future.

 You: Now, what about these? Promises?

Students: Uhhhh … nah.

You: Plans?

Students: Not plans, I would say.

Dorky Student: But they’re definitely planning to put nanobots in our blood! It’s a definite arrangement!

You: Shut your hole. No, those are PREDICTIONS.

Dorky Student: Okay. So, promises, and predictions. Can’t those be like plans, too?

You: See, that’s the insidious nature of the future tense. It doesn’t exist yet, so how can we talk about it just one way? It’s all just about our IDEAS about the future, right?

Students: Oh, man, that’s pretty deep. What does insidious mean?

You: Look it up on your phones. But that’s not all. Check this out:


Hmm, somebody’s at the door. I’ll answer it.

You: Is this a prediction or a promise?

Students: Err … neither? Not really.

You: Let’s say it’s a NEW IDEA. Sometimes we use WILL for new ideas. Often with “I think.” Like “I think I’ll end class early today, I’ve got a headache.”

Students: Great idea!

You: Ha, gotcha. Just kidding. Now let’s look at future tense QUESTIONS!

Are you going to open the window?
Will you open the window?

You: Okay, so what’s the difference between these two questions?
Students: Well, going to is about general plans ... will is about promises and new ideas … so ... the first question is about plans, and the second question is about your … promises?

You: It was beautiful watching you try to climb that hill, and painful watching you fail. No, it’s like this: “Will you open the window?” is a REQUEST. I’m asking you to open the window in that case. It’s a polite way to say “Open the window, please.”

Students: Like WOULD YOU?

You: Yeah. “WOULD YOU open the window?” is a slightly more polite way to say “WILL YOU open the window?”

Students: Why that more polite?

You: To that question, I can confidently answer: JUST BECAUSE.

Dorky Student: So questions with WILL are always REQUESTS, eh?

You: (smiling) Did you really think it would be so easy? No. Here are some questions we can make with WILL:

When will you finish school?
Will you ever get married?

You: What about these questions?

Students: Questions about PREDICTIONS, teacher.

You: Yeah. And they’ll sound better if we use “do you think”

When do you think you will finish school?
Do you think you will ever get married?

Students: (Panicked) Teacher, how are we supposed to know whether we want to ask somebody about their predictions or plans?

You: One word: CONTEXT. You will simply know. Open your heart and let English into it.

Students: So we ALWAYS use WILL for PREDICTIONS, eh?

You: Ah …

Students: (unhappy moan of pain)

You: We can use GOING TO if it’s a prediction based on something we see, or hear, or feel.

I drank too much. I ________ vomit.

You: Should we use WILL or GOING TO here?

Students: Well, that’s something we feel. So, GOING TO.

He’s an English teacher. Don’t lend him money, he _______ pay you back.

You: What should be here, WON’T or ISN’T GOING TO?

Students: (staring blankly)

You: Well, both are possible. Probably though, WILL because it’s just my idea about him, because English teachers are usually unreliable fuckwits.


Have some students make some promises with:
I will never … in class / at home /my wife or husband / while I’m driving

Make some requests of students with “Will you” or have them do that in pairs:
You: Tongchai, will you open the window please? Thanks. Hot Chick, will you stand up and walk across the room please? Ohhhhh yeah … that’s it … slowly …

Ask questions with “Do you think you will ever …” regarding the future.
You: Do you think you’ll ever be rich / have two houses / meet the President / visit Tibet (etc.)?

Do you think people (in general) will live on Mars in the future? Find a cure for cancer or AIDS or airborne hemorrhagic gonorrhea? Learn to live in peace and harmony?

(You can teach them the answers: I think so / I think not / I hope so / I hope not.)

And here's a nice easy simpy country ballad to help the students use WILL correctly --note that the uploader has corrected their confused use of "you're" vs. "your" in the lyrics. Progress! 

* * *

Oh, in addition, my COMPLETE COLLECTED COMICS book will be free from July 11 - 15:

Get it HERE as an ebook on Amazon, 
Or spend $20 HERE for the paperback coffee table edition on Amazon. 

And for all of you out there jonesing for the new memoir: it is coming. Just finishing up the first draft. I think it should definitely be published by the end of August at the latest. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Choking on the Red Pill: Interview with English Teacher H

I used to get e-mails all the time from people saying, "HEY DOOD YOU INSPIRED ME TO TEACH ENGLISH LOL WISH ME LUCK!"

Then unfortunately, a few months later, I usually got one saying something like, "Jesus you were right TEFL really sucks, I hate it."

But not so much anymore; the kids all want to be "digital nomads" these days and instead spend all day futzing around with their affiliate sites. (Now I tend to get e-mails from older teachers asking about working in the Middle East.)

Anyway, the only problem with the sort of "lifestyle sculpting" / self-help / self-improvement / take-charge-of- your-life philosophy is that if you're responsible for your own success, then you're doubly responsible for your own failure, and it's therefore doubly painful.

Now I think that's a bad thing. You gotta know, kids, sometimes life just kicks you in the ass, regardless of your country and your job and your best intentions and even in spite of your preparations.

Anyway, here's a little case study.

So in the last part of 2012 I requested interviews with teachers new and old for the new edition of ETX GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD; I was contacted on Facebook by this guy, and he offered me the following interview, which I published in January of 2013.


Another new guy, an American in his 20s, gives us his perspective and a healthy dose of piss and vinegar.

How long have you been teaching and where?

I've been teaching for the greater part of 3 months in Vodkagrad, Kazakhstan.

Why did you decide to become an English teacher?

I was quite miserable working two jobs that were unsatisfying for 60-70 hours a week, and I had recently swallowed the red pill, so essentially I didn't choose the job, but it chose me. And I'm glad I quit both jobs on the spot and told my employers to fuck off because I was embarking on a journey and had steered my destiny in a total different direction: one shunning comfort, mediocrity, and soul-killing drudgery. Best choice I've ever made.

What do you like and not like about teaching?

What I do like is that in most parts of the world, it allows you to make a decent leaving when compared to local standards and work less hours compared to the automatons in the States and western Europe.
For me, personally, it also forced me to be more social and work on controlling the frame, which is a priceless 'tool' to have when it comes to social situations. As for things I don't like: the fact that a student's words are treated as sacrosanct and if they want to build a case against you for whatever reason, it's quite difficult to defend yourself. Difficult, but possible. As I learned.

Who is the most fucked-up teacher you've ever met?

Due to my limited experience in the field, I haven't met any fucked-up teachers, but I've met quite a few hotties (women, of course) that I wouldn't mind fucking. God bless Russian women!

How is your standard of living compared to salary and cost of living?

I would say my standard of living is great for the number of hours I'm working. I eat-out regularly and go out once or twice a week to party. Not too bad. Back in the States, I had a lot more money, but I was miserable due to the hours I was working and the soulless automatons I was surrounded by. Standard of living can't be measured soley in monetary units. Fuck that. I would prefer doing this than making 75k in NYC working three times the hours. Did I forget to say 'fuck that!?' Okay, just checking.

What qualifications do you have?

Just a CELTA at the moment, but I might be pursuing a DELTA and other various certifications in ELT. Not having a degree might deter some employers from hiring you, but in some countries, it isn't essential you have a degree. In some countries, the only way you can become 'legal' is with a degree: and that's most of Asia.

Where do you stand on the issue of teachers having sex with students?

Females are abundant everywhere. Why would I risk my job to sex some girl that happens to be a student? She would have to be a supreme 10 for me to push my rationalizing to the side and decide to smash that pussy. But if you're coming from a perspective of scarcity: it doesn't matter if she's a student or some drug addict. You will get your rocks off one way or another.

Any horrifying stories you'd like to tell?

I have none yet ... unfortunately. Give me some time, though.

What's your favorite way to kill 10 minutes in class?

Write a theme (e.g., sports or music) on the board and get students to construct 5 questions pertaining to the theme and then ask at least 3 other students in the class. I waste ten minutes, but create a mingling activity. You've just killed two birds with one stone.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to travel around the F.S.U. and get a DELTA and perhaps go back to school to pursue something like international business in order to have an escape plan from EFL teaching as everything gets old. Even banging a 10 for a few months gets boring. Alas, it's part of the human experience: constantly changing and molding yourself. "If you aren't busy being born, you're busy dying." – Anonymous

* * *

So what happened to English Teacher H?

Well, he lasted about 6 months in his first job, and after problems with his employers and a lack of success with a girl he liked, he had a drunken meltdown and woke up in an alley covered with blood,

"BUT IT WASN'T MY BLOOD!" he said on Facebook.

He tried to get another job in Spain, and had the usual problems with documents and employers; he then went back to America and got a job in a bar and soon afterward disappeared from Facebook and never contacted me again.

Sometimes the old Red Pill just doesn't go down so smoothly.

If you're out there, Former Teacher H, do let us know how you are.

Read this interview and many others in the now-venerable ETX GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD 2013 EDITION. As a special 45th birthday present, NOW ON SALE FOR 99 CENTS!

BUY IT HERE ON AMAZON as an e-book for 99 cents!

BUY IT HERE ON SMASHWORDS as an e-book for 99 cents!


And remember kids, in real life, never accept pills, red or otherwise, from strangers. They might be Roofies.

Anyway I vote we retire the hackneyed "swallow the red pill" metaphor and instead adopt "put on the funky They Live glasses." 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exit Music

Only one more month to go. And yet another Ramadan to experience before I'm done. 

This is a sign on the wall in my workplace, and I think it sums up the situation nicely.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Miami with the Goose (Excerpt from REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND)

So I'm actually busy working on the long-promised, not-yet-delivered next memoir, tentatively titled REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND. I hope it will be finished by the end of July or August.

I didn't really write that much about The Goose in my memoir VODKABERG, but she was a fairly constant fixture at our parties -- and the clubs we hung around at -- for a few years there, and there are a lot of pictures of her on this blog, (as in this classic post) as she was always happy to shake it for the camera:

This happened last year, about a year ago exactly, in fact. (In contract, those pictures are from 2006.) Her nickname the Goose came from her loud honking voice.


In July a few weeks before I left, I went to Miami.

I had told my girlfriend I was going to visit my father but his internet didn’t work so I'd be out of touch for a few days.

A few hours after I checked into my big but rundown resort hotel in Hallandale Beach, the Goose pulled up in a taxi.

As I climbed in, she squealed in delight and engulfed me against her huge pillowy breasts. She smelled, and looked, like what she was – a Russian stripper.

She was even more huge and voluptuous and blonde than she’d been the last time I’d seen her, in 2008. The Goose was an acquaintance of the wife of one of my colleagues, Slappy. Like Slappy’s wife, the Goose also had a daughter at 19 by a man who had abandoned her, although he hadn’t blown the country. He’d just stopped sending money or returning calls.

Slappy’s Wife and the Goose had met while walking their daughters in the park one morning. They had formed an unholy twosome in the mid 2000s, prowling Vodkaberg’s trendy clubs trolling for rich men to fuck them for money, or better yet, just to give them money. They were both enormous, blonde, and amoral. The Goose was probably 6’1 in her bare feet, and must have weighed 170 pounds, nothing but tits and hair and thighs and ass.

After Almond Eyes had returned from a summer of working in Atlantic City as a stripper, Slappy’s Wife and the Goose had both gotten student visas and crossed the pond to set Atlantic City and New York on fire.

(That's right -- they'd both gotten the same visas my girlfriend had been turned down for, apparently because the consulate stupidly decided they probably wouldn't abandon their children back in Russia.)

They were having moderate success as strippers and general party girls. Slappy’s Wife had remained based in New Jersey while the Goose had migrated South to Miami.

The last time I’d seen her, she hadn’t been able to speak English – now she spoke English fluently and enthusiastically, a jumbled mix of grammar mistakes, mispronounced words, and slang she’d picked up from all the rappers she hung around with.

... and the Goose today. Or last year, anyway.
She called me “boo.”

We went to an entertainment area nearby, went to a restaurant / bar and guzzled beer and chicken wings and caught up on old times.

“Are you legal yet?” I asked her.

“No. I’m in the process.”

“It’s always about time and money, huh?”

“I paid a guy $10,000 to marry me so far, now the motherfucker wants more.”

“Greedy bastard.”

“My room-mate’s boyfriend is a cop, he’s gonna threaten him.”

“And I guess you had to pay a lawyer.”

“Yeah of course. I paid him like $5000 already. It’s worth it, though. I wanna bring my daughter here.” Her daughter was 8 now, still living with her parents back in Vodkaberg. “ My father came here to visit me a couple times, he bought some cars to take back, he even got a one year visa.”

“You’re going to bring your daughter here while you work as a stripper? That’s not the best kind of life for a kid, is it?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, probably not.”

“You ever think about getting another job?”

“What the fuck am I gonna do, be a waitress? Make $200 a week working in a shop? I can make that much in a night as a stripper.”

“But it’s an expensive lifestyle,” I said sagely. I’d known plenty of strippers when I was in college and though they made tons of money they were always broke.

“Yeah, that’s true.” She squealed and engulfed me again. “I’m so glad to see you!”

She’d always liked me, as many of my Russian girlfriends had, mistaking my friendly, practiced, casual indifference as being equivalent to unconditional affection.

“Remember the time we had sex?” she giggled.

“I wondered if you remembered that.” She’d realized she was late for work and had gotten up in the middle of it and ran out of the house. We’d never quite managed to have sex after that, although there had been plenty of making out and groping; to the point where, whenever she saw me, she always ran up to me tit first squealing, expecting me to grab them.

It became our little greeting.

She asked me about my girlfriend and she said she wasn’t surprised; deciding where to live was a very important issue and a lot of Russian girls were afraid to go abroad.

“Not you though.”

“Shit no!” she said. “I had nothing in Vodkaberg. Here at least I don’t have to live with my mom.”

We talked about stripping and her life as a party club girl; she showed me some pictures on her phone of some of the rap stars and black porn stars she’d had sex with. She had pictures of Dennis Rodman and Busta Rhymes in her phone, but most of the rap stars I’d never heard of.

She tried to explain why they were well-known, but it was all far beyond my middlle-aged white comprehension.

I used the bar’s Wi-Fi to connect to the internet on my phone, and looked up the black porn star; he was a newer one and I found him on RedTube.

It was much like you probably imagine.

“Impressive," I said, and she squealed and let loose a sorority girl “WHOOO!” that I’d never heard a Russian girl do before.

I watched part of an interview with him.  “He actually doesn't seem too obnoxious.”

“No, he’s actually a very nice guy. Slappy’s Wife and I got in a big fight over him.”

“You didn’t fuck him both at the same time?” I smiled.

She laughed and then said, “Russian girls in America have to be very competitive, boo. We can’t be doin that kind of shit here.”

After that she took me to a lounge / martini / cigar bar where a lot of Russians hung out; the Russians there seemed to be very much playing up their Russian-ness, with the men in tracksuits with gold chains and the women in leopard-skin, something I hadn’t actually seen much of in Russia the last time I’d been there. There was a karaoke machine that played Russian pop songs.

Nothing makes you feel like a member of your own country like fleeing to another one.

She came back to my hotel room; she stripped down to her underwear and I stripped down to mine.

“You look good, baby,” she slurred as she tumbled into bed.

“You too,” I said, although in fact she looked like far too much woman for me to deal with.  She was grotesque according to the dictionary definition of "absurdly incongruous" or "fantastically distorted." And of course, whatever half-hearted seeing-to I gave her, I'm sure it would be considerably less interesting than whatever that porn star guy had done to her.

I was feeling sick from all the vodka we’d drunk at the Russian bar, and probably the cigar fumes, and I went into the bathroom to pee and wash my face, and when I came out she was snoring soundly. Her face looked oddly innocent on her big debauched body.

I lay next to her and she snored most of the night. I shook her and turned her over a few times and eventually she stopped and I got some sleep.

* * *

To be continued in REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND hopefully available soon. Because you know, some people criticized VODKABERG as just being about me hooking up with a bunch of chicks. So this book will be about me NOT hooking up with a bunch of girls. The world is ready, don't you think?

Read more about the Goose (and lots of other Russian girls) in VODKABERG: NINE YEARS IN RUSSIA.

And for your listening pleasure, enjoy this clip that showed up in my "RECOMMENDED FOR YOU" sidebar on YouTube while I was writing this: A teenage girl doing a cover of a Portishead song. It's like YouTube can read my mind!