Monday, December 05, 2016

The Song Remains The Same: A Cartoon About Songs in Class

This is something that happened back in Russia in the 00s. It was a teacher who just couldn't seem to get along with his students, this big Canadian doofus who had formerly been an emergency medical services guy. 

I heard this from next door, 

Shortly after that, they all walked out of class and demanded a new teacher. 

I think he only lasted about 6 months at our branch, though he struggled through some other jobs at different branches in Russia for a while, too. 

I think the moral is just be aware that seemingly innocent and harmless things can end in disaster quite often in TEFL. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Changing Face of English Teaching, Part 2 (Or: This Shit is Ancient History)

Read Part 1 here

I was sitting and perusing my first book, the English Teacher X Guide to Teaching English Abroad.

I was considering doing a new edition for 2017.

But I'm thinking:

This shit is ancient history. English teaching just isn't like this anymore. 

The meat of that book was written between 2003 and 2007. English teaching (and the world) has changed a lot since it was published in 2011.

Of course my impression is colored by my current job, and my last job, where I was working with a lot of people with primary and high school teaching experience -- actual licensed teachers -- and words like "scaffolding" got tossed around a lot. Places where telling a story about a night at a go-go bar in Pattaya is more likely to get you a somber lecture about the realities of sex trafficking and AIDS rather than laughter.

But then I look at the want-ads on and so forth -- there damn sure are still a lot of $1000 a month jobs left out there, despite all the new requests for state teaching qualifications and master's degrees and all that.

They can't all be full of frumpy female teachers, can they? Married couples and people with kids?

Can they?

Give me some input. Are there still language institutes out there where most of the staff is drunk all the time, where the teachers and the students freely bump uglies, where words like "scaffolding" are reserved for something to watch out for when drunkenly wandering through construction sites?

Or are those days gone forever, a thing of the past like the three-martini lunches of MAD MEN?

I mean, I don't care -- I barely drink at all anymore. I'm not pining for the old days, particularly.

Just wondering,

I mean it's a whole new world in general, and not a particularly light-hearted one.

Just curious.

Anybody still having fun out there?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Oh, America, Now You've Gone and Done It

So which do you prefer, STAR WARS or STAR TREK?

A pretty easy question, on the face of it. Most people would say STAR WARS (dislike for the prequels aside.)


Well, it's more exciting.  It's passionate, it's thrilling, it's vibrant.


And what's the general theme of STAR WARS?

Well, it's about weak and ineffective republics which are constantly beset by civil war, trade conflicts, and the looming threat of fascism and sudden annihilation. It's about religious extremism -- my Force is better than your Force -- and especially about patricide. Science exists, but nobody seems to know or care much about it, beyond building weapons of mass destruction.

While the various planetary species and races are occasionally seen banding together, it's mostly old white guys who run the show, and it's a world where institutionalized prejudice is such that even robots are not allowed in bars.

It's a world where travel mainly just gets you attacked by monsters, and where problems are solved with blasters, light sabers, and telekinetic death-chokes.

And what's the general theme of STAR TREK?

It's about how the scientific method can solve most of our problems, and how globalism, gender equality and multiculturalism can allow a flourishing of peaceful and united civilization. It's about an interplanetary Federation of professional, intelligent, competent problem-solvers who are able to put aside their differences in the pursuit of lofty goals and in dealing with threats. They might use violence, but generally within strict guidelines and as the last resort.

So America has just cast a vote for a STAR WARS future.

Hardly a surprise, I guess, with that particular American logic: well, all those educated, intelligent politicians never managed to make the country perfect, so why not give a vulgar and stupid one a chance?

Thursday, November 03, 2016

My Sex Life, Part 2: Failing to Get Laid in 2013

Here's another story about me failing to get laid.

Since I so enjoyed the bewildered response to the last post, here's another post about that girl, and another Russian girl, and my Girlfriend. From my 2014 memoir REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND, available now wherever self-published shoddy e-books are sold. The girl from the last post is referred to as Nadya in the book. And some added value -- more pictures. 

(In 2013, I had left one job in Saudi to take my Girlfriend to America, but she had been denied a visa. Unable to think of another plan we both agreed on, I accepted another job in Saudi, and while waiting for documents, went back to Russia to see her one last time before we broke up. This happened shortly before my 44th birthday. )


We had brief, spasming sex the morning after I arrived, and spent that weekend together, but the Girlfriend left me alone in the damp flat quite a bit. She had to study for some big test on banking regulations that was a major part of her new job.

So I met up with Nadya and Elena one night.

Elena’s pupils got big when she saw me. She looked much like she had in pictures; blonde and slutty.

I bought the drinks and we sat on a park bench for a while on Vodkaberg’s stab at a trendy downtown pedestrian thorough-fare; 10 years previously it had been an outdoor market where old ladies sold soap and clothes from Turkey. Now it was lined with restaurants and bars. Outdoor drinking was supposed to be illegal, but a lot of young people seemed to do it there.

Eventually I took them to a small bar, actually a pizza restaurant, that had music and dancing and we got drunk; Elena and I started doing tequila shots. Nadya held back a bit and I managed to stay relatively on top of things.

Elena was soon hanging all over me and squirming into my lap, occasionally dragging me out to the dance floor to stagger around a bit to the loud Russian pop music, unsteady on her high heels, her electric-blue thong panties pulling up over the top of her tight low-rider jeans.

Finally, while Nadya was in the toilet, I pulled Elena over and kissed her, getting a handful of tit. She slithered her tongue into my mouth and we made out a while, until finally she pulled away.

“Bad boy!” she said, the first English she had spoken to me, and cuddled against me until Nadya returned.

Elena had to work the next day – she had some kind of office job – and she tumbled drunkenly out of the taxi at 1:30 am.

“You like her?” said Nadya. “She’s a fun girl.” She used the Russian word for sociable.

“Yeah, that’s how I’d describe her.”

Nadya and I made out in the car a little on the way home, but then I got out and went into the dank apartment alone and she went home to her husband.


The Girlfriend spent a few nights at the flat – we had dinner together and watched TV and were mostly comfortable to hang around each other. But we didn’t have sex.

Then the next Saturday night came and again the Girlfriend was studying. She said she couldn’t get any serious studying done in the flat and had gone back to her village an hour away. The tests were very important, she said.

I took Elena and Nadya and another girl out to a new popular club. It was very much in the Russian style, with a bunch of tables around a dance floor and Russian pop music. We drank cocktails and smoked kalyan and danced. I spent a couple hundred bucks.

 Elena and I had a more complicated discussion using a translation program on her phone.

The message she gave me said, “I love to travel very much but I can’t afford it.” She smiled speculatively at me as she said this.

I responded, “Stay friends with me, and you can have more opportunities to travel.”

She knew I lived with a girlfriend. She didn’t mind too much, as she lived with a boyfriend. She wanted to travel more and couldn’t understand how my girlfriend didn’t want to.

She rubbed against me.

At 2:00 am or so we left that place and went to another place near where I’d used to live; a new Irish pub full of people in the kind of bohemian rock-group T-Shirts and leather jackets and beards and tattoos that had never been much of a thing in Russia.

At 3:00 am Nadya and I decided to go home; we left Elena there, as she’d met a bunch of people she knew.

Elena pulled me into an alcove to kiss goodbye; I grabbed her tits again.

“Don’t touch my breasts,” she said primly, “There are friends of my boyfriend here.”

In the taxi on the way home, Nadya pulled up her dress so I could see her underwear as we made out; then she went home to her husband and I went home to the cold dank empty flat.


We talked the next day on Vkontakte as I lay hungover around the musty flat.

She was off to another city with some friends for a few days, but in a few weeks she was going to Greece for a week-long holiday.

In America, my contract had arrived. They recommended I get back and sign it as soon as possible. I couldn’t get a crown for my tooth in Russia, as it turned out, because all the labs that made them were closed for the May holidays. It would take at least six more weeks, which I didn’t have.

I changed my ticket to go back to America early – and changed the route so I could spend a week in Greece.

Elena was very pleased. “We will set Greece on fire!” she said in Russian. “Did you book a room at the same hotel as us?”

I booked a room at that hotel for five days, and then at another hotel in the city center for the last three days. I didn’t want to seem too clingy.

I explained that the last three days, they could come there before they went to the club.
“Or go there after the club ;-)” she messaged.

Nadya was less pleased. She wanted to go but couldn’t get off work.


The weekend before I left the Girlfriend and I spent together.

It was sunny and warm so we walked down the embankment and then went out for a sushi dinner.
I told her I was going to Greece, although I omitted the Russian girl.

“I want to relax on a beach somewhere warm, and not think about the Kingdom,” I said. That part was certainly true enough.

We tried to have sex when we got home but I completely couldn’t get it up.

I’d had a few substandard performances in my time, but this was the first case of complete impotence that didn’t involve enormous amounts of alcohol.

Maybe it was the allergy pills.

“It’s okay,” she said, “I still don’t feel good after my menstruation.”


Monday, October 24, 2016

My Sex Life, Part 1: The Hypothetical One

People in the comments section have been pestering me about my sex life.

I'll just go ahead and tell you that it's mostly pretty hypothetical, this particular fall.

There are undoubtedly lots of whores in Beijing, but I haven't seen any yet. I've been too busy trying to get adjusted to my new job to go out and drink much. And of course, like my younger contemporaries Tucker Max, Neil Strauss, and Roosh V, I pretty much feel I'm too old for that shit.

But still, to satisfy my readers, how about an update on my mostly platonic mistress?

So let's see. I have had a girlfriend for 7 years now, who I only see every few months.

And, as described in my last memoir, I have been having a side fling with a married girl who I also knew back in Russia.

Mostly just on the internet, however.

Her, I see about every 1 - 3 YEARS. Last time I saw her was in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic back in 2013. Before that I saw her when I visited Russia in 2010 and 2011.

Yet it still lingers! The texting and the sexting and the occasional Skype chat.

Oh, we're always scheming to meet somewhere. Grand fantasy plans about limos and hot tubs and fucking on deserted beaches.

 She wanted to come to Dubai while in 2014 while I was working in Saudi, but it never worked out, even when I offered to pay. (She did successfully visit me there once in 2011.)

 I was in Thailand between jobs in 2015, but her friend wanted to go to Vietnam and they'd just instituted a new high-priced visa for Americans so I didn't go.

Then she tried to get a friend to go with her to Miami in spring of this year, but they were afraid they wouldn't be able to get a visa. (Her husband can't travel abroad because he works for the military.)

So it just never works out, the actual meeting, so it stays mostly online.

Obviously, there's something there we both like and need. Some romance and intrigue, I guess. We can indulge our evil sides without being TOO unfaithful to our significant others. (Or at least only every few years.)

There's always a chance that we'll end up together, I guess; we discuss it occasionally. But I think we both know it won't happen, because we know that the main thing we have in common is dishonesty and unfaithfulness.

But who knows? China's not so far from Russia, and she's got an aunt who works here ... so there might be a sordid sex story in me yet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Verdict

Opinions were divided, amongst friends, acquaintances, and blog commentators, when I told them that I would be going to China to teach rich kids at a swanky international school.

The first possibility was: "Well, Chinese people work hard in general and respect education and teachers, and rich kids will be from good families and be under a lot of pressure to be successful."

The second possibility was: "Well, Chinese though they may be, they'll be rich and spoiled and lazy, and give you a hard time."

The verdict?

Yeah, they're pretty bad.

Not worse than the Saudis, of course, but pretty bad.

And the swanky international school?

Turns out it has the usual problems -- cramming too many students into one class, books arrived three weeks late, problems with mismatched levels of students, no discipline system, etc.

(In retrospect, the only surprise is that I was surprised by it.)

See, our school is swanky and international, but it also is a private institute with no real admission policy. So you pay the fee, you get to go.

Thus, it's kind of a dumping ground for bratty kids their parents don't want to deal with any more, actually.

And also kids with what are politely called "special needs" and "behavioral issues" and who lay on the "autism spectrum."

(What we used to call retards, spazmos, geeks, and brats, in the old days. Thank god we've all grown beyond insulting terminology, and instead have detached clinical terms to describe them!)

Still, chin up. The pay is good, I generally like it, and China has a lot of fabulous stuff to see and do. Maybe next week I'll write about my trip to the Shaolin Temple. (Oh my aching knees.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Changing Faces of TEFL

I'm pretty sure the average English teacher has changed a lot in the last five or six years, especially.

On the one hand, I'm older and the world has changed, and on the other hand, the jobs that I get now are generally better (in terms of salary, if nothing else) and thus may attract a slightly different breed than the cruddy language schools I started at.

But it seems to me the "average" English teacher has changed.

In the beginning there were these people:

You had the Mean Old Bastard, the Bloated Middle Aged Alcoholic, the Hip Young Guy. They pretty much made up the bulk of language schools employees. Happily drunk, barely qualified, cheerfully amoral. There were the Frumpy Yet Idealistic Young Women and the Professionals, but not nearly so many. The Professional was usually the Director of Studies, and used a lot of jargon, but was often secretly even more depraved than the others. (Come to think of it, it's even been a while since I've heard the term "Director of Studies" used.)

This would have been the 90s. 

In the 00s, things changed. Slowly, and more quickly in some places than others, but they changed. Other people started entering the trade.

And I drew cartoons about them. 

I wrote a whole series of cartoons when I first started this site back in 2003 (!).

But what about now? 

Well, you'll still find all those people in the business. Just in different ratios. 

So the Mean Old Bastards are still around, in smaller numbers, but they're mostly consigned to the shittiest jobs -- rural China, for example -- and clinging miserably to ever-crappier positions in the Middle East. In many cases the Drunk Middleaged Whoremongers became Mean Old Bastards, as it's not nearly so possible these days to stay drunk all the time and keep an English teaching job. 

The Hip Young Dudes kind of surprised me, in that in many cases they have turned into the Professionals. They got Master's degrees and started being more discreet about fucking students, and turned their smarmy ways towards obtaining important positions at well-paying schools. Oh, of course, they occasionally turned in Middle Aged Whoremongers. 

There aren't many Hip Young Dudes entering the business these days, because those guys all want to operate affiliate websites and do online marketing and all that kind of thing. 

Now, the Frumpys?

The Frumpy Young Women tend to be Middle-Aged Women now, but they are fucking EVERYWHERE in TEFL now. They are much more confident, much more professional and qualified, even more blazingly indignant about social justice and GMO foods, but they're still pretty frumpy. 

They've kind of combined with the Hip English Chick archetype, in fact, although I'm seeing a lot more American chicks than English these days. In any event there are a lot of 90s nose-rings still in evidence. 

Many of the others are flat-out disappearing in these days of high demands for qualifications and experience. The Crazy Guys are mostly unemployable, rarely getting past Skype interviews. The Canadians and the Starting Over Guys, who were mostly just doing it for a short time, find it hard to get work. The Bullshit Artists can't verify their documents, and the Conspiracy Guys don't want to.

I am seeing a lot of these, in the modern era:  

These couples used to be middle-aged, but now I'm seeing more relatively hip and young such couples. 

What about the rest of you out there? I welcome your comments. Are my observations typical? Am I moving into such rarefied air in the world of ESL that my finger is far from the pulse, and instead jammed up my ass? 

My collected book of cartoons will be FREE on Amazon, from September 28 to October 3