Sunday, March 12, 2017

TEFLpocolypse 2017: Take Shelter

It almost seemed too good to be true, this contract in China, considering the ongoing TEFLpocolypse.

I was offered a job with barely a ten minute interview, there were no particular hassles about my qualifications, and the terms are pretty much equal to my first job in Saudi -- $4000 a month plus accommodation and 3 months paid vacation time. 

Almost too good to be true, and turns out it kind of was. 

Two of my colleagues were up for contract renewals recently, and this week found out they wouldn't be offered new contracts. There are perfectly good teachers with qualifications, who are in China with spouses and kids.  

Now they're scrambling to find jobs. 

Word is that the school is going to be hiring more bilingual Chinese teachers next year, and the contracts for international teachers will involve about 20 percent more teaching and 20 percent less salary. 

The rumors are flying around the office, of course. Private international schools are being legislated against, and there's a story that it will now be impossible for a foreigner to work in Beijing for more than 5 years. (I can't find any immediate confirmation of that online.) 

This is definitely one of the hardest jobs I've had, in terms of the students. Everything I'd ever heard about Chinese kids -- that they were respectful, orderly, studious, quiet, and well-behaved -- is absolutely incorrect here. Management is a wreck; pretty much every single management position was vacated at Christmas, and new people are struggling to figure out what's going on. Something like a half-dozen teachers left at Christmas, fed up with the terrible students, inconsistent management, and the isolated location. 

(We're in a new development an hour from Beijing, basically in a construction zone, so most of the teachers had spotty internet service and constant noise. I'm at the front of the compound so haven't suffered that much, and truthfully most of the ones that left were people with a lot of experience teaching back home but not much time abroad, ergo had unreasonable expectations. Like civilization and stuff.) 

But after a rocky start and a conflict with the dotty old lady who was my immediate superior, who also left at Christmas, I;m actually kind of enjoying teaching the spoiled, neglected little shits now. I use to train them like Pavlov dogs, and it works a treat. 

Still it seems this job won't last more than the 2 year contract I have now, ending summer of 2018. 

My teaching philosophy nowadays is basically "take the money and run" anyway. X remains if not fearless, than at least resigned, in the face of a profession, and a world, that is rapidly burning to the ground. 

"The world is not the same as it was. Mutants ... they're gone now."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

X at the Shaolin Temple

We had a one-week holiday the first week of October, only about five weeks after I started this job near Beijing, China.

I went to the Shaolin Temple.

Of course.

Yeah, a few tourists, sure. 
It's not too difficult to get there from Beijing; about 3 hours on the high-speed train to Zhengzhou, and then a bus to Dengfeng and a taxi to the Shaolin Temple.

 (Unfortunately this was during a Chinese national holiday, which means the better part of a billion and a half people were on the move, so the 1.5 hour trip from Dengfeng took more like 3 hours.)

To describe the Shaolin Temple as "cheesy" would certainly be accurate. It's kind of like a kungfu Disneyland.

But you could also use "fucking awesome" and "well worth the trip."

Some students practicing a move that would probably be about the most useless and dangerous thing
 you could possibly do in a fight.

Hey, get a room you two!

Live simply and die with a big monument; that's Zen baby. 

In addition to the Shaolin Monastary itself and the martial arts training center, there is a Pagoda forest and a handful of other temples; for your 100 yuan entry fee, you also get Mount Song and the surrounding area, which is pretty fucking cool itself. You can see the cave where Bodhidarma meditated, bringing Zen Buddhism to China. (Of course I didn't take a picture of that, you think I'm culturally insensitive?)

The authenticity of the actual temple is pretty dubious; it's been blown up and rebuilt about a half-dozen times, and most of the stories about its founding and history are more likely legend than reality. (Shaolin Temple wikipedia entry.) 

 But, tourist attraction though it is, it is still a working center where martial arts is taught and studied.

Now probably a lot of you alpha-man-osphere doofs out there are going to chime in that the Gracie Family or Conor MacGregor could kill every living soul in the Shaolin Monastary in about a minute; but I would have to ask, could Conor MacGregor put his leg perpendicular to the ground next to his head, and then do a split onto his testicles?  

I thought not! 

Shaolin Kungfu, according to the legend, was developed by the Bodhidharma after meditating for 9 years; understandably feeling a bit stiff and achy, he began imitating the animals around him (tigers, cranes, mantises, monkeys, etc) for the sake of his fitness.

The reality of course is probably nothing even close to that, but there are so many legends and stories about it all it doesn't much matter anymore. 

And of course, you watch a video like that, you think: Oh, man that's the perfect sport for a middle aged dude. 

I have been doing Shaolin Kung Fu workouts off of YouTube videos since I was a young man of 40 back in 2009; one of my bucket list desires was to actually study kungfu in China. For the last 8 years I have been trying to arrange it. Even with the abundance of money and free time I've had since 2009, I hadn't managed to get it worked out. 

Until now. 

Mission accomplished, baby. 

(And yes I am aware that kung-fu is not really the correct word for Chinese martial arts, but even the schools tend to use it that way, so step off.) 

Plaque near the training center warning against factionalism within schools of kungfu

I stayed there for a total of 4 nights, at one of the small guest houses connected to the various schools in an area to the side of the main tourist area. There seemed to be about a half-dozen small schools and I was absolutely fucking delighted to see groups of  young men in different uniforms jogging around, running and jumping and practicing forms, and even standing on their heads on the concrete. 

 I went and had tea with the guy who owned the guest house connected to the school and he said he could arrange a day of instruction for $100 or so. (That included a t-shirt, some track pants, and some kungfu shoes that didn't fit.)  Probably a bit expensive, but am I going to haggle with a Shaolin Monk?

That evening I met with the actual teacher, who seemed more than a bit skeptical of me and didn't speak any English. When I showed that I was familiar with a lot of the basic moves, and actually in reasonably good shape for an older guy, he warmed up to me a little.

So the training started the next day. Typical day for a Shaolin student consists of: a morning run at 5:00am; 2 hours of training in the morning, 8:00 to 10:00 am; 2 hours of training in the afternoon, 1:00 - 3:00pm, and 1.5 hours of training after dinner, 6:00 - 7:30pm.

Once he established I was familiar with some of the exercises, he took me to train with his main group of students, in one of the many practice fields nearby.

There were about 20 of them. The oldest one was probably 17. Most of them were ripped-to-shreds little extreme athletes, but within the class, there was some streaming of students, and I ended up with the basic class, one of whom seemed to be autistic, several of whom were overweight, and one of whom had some kind of gimpy leg where he could barely walk. Oh, and there was a 5-year-old also.

I ran, I kicked, I punched the air, I leapt and crouched and did the horse-stance. The kids ran rings around me, alhtough I probably did outperform the retarded one and the overweight ones. The kids really got a kick (pun intended) out of me studying with them and were very supportive and helpful with all the moves.

I had a fucking blast.

By the end of the day, of course, both my knees were swollen up like cannonballs, and I could barely walk. The kungfu shoes they had provided were too small, and both of my big toenails turned black, to fall off a few weeks later.

But I did that shit, baby.

I studied kungfu at the Shaolin Monastary.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Profiles in International Education: William Powell, an Anarchist and a Scholar

Everybody does dumb shit when they're young.

But has ever a generation had their stupidity so carefully and often ineradicably documented as the internet generation?

People seem to be a bit more cagey about protecting their identities on the internet in the last few years, but between about 2005 and 2010, people were allowing their real names to be attached to all kinds of horrendously anti-social and even criminal behavior on the internet for all to see. (Note to kids -- don't Facebook your crime.)

Sometimes it was just carelessness and lack of foresight that caused this; sometimes it was pure narcissism and desire for fame. (I'm sure Tucker Max and Neil Strauss are anxiously awaiting the day their new children will Google them and run screaming from the house.)

In the old analog days, becoming famous for doing something bad was much more difficult, actually.

But people still managed to do it.

A teacher named William Powell died last year.

He was a respected educator and international school administrator who worked across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. He was one of the founders of Education Across Frontiers, a teacher-training organization. He was a pioneer in inclusive special education programs for at-risk youth in international settings, as well. He is the the author of numerous books about progressive teaching philosophies and methodologies.

One little blemish on his otherwise admirable and squeaky-clean record.

He wrote an insurgency and terrorism manual advocating open revolution against the US government.

It was called the Anarchist Cookbook, written in 1971. (Link is to a Wikipedia article about it.)

There were plenty of copies of this floating around small-town America in the 70s and 80s. I knew a kid who had one. As of now, they are very easy to locate on the internet, even on Amazon. (I hesitate to link to them as I don't want to be on any more watch lists than I already am.)

In it you can see recipes for explosives and improvised weaponry, formulae for illegal drugs such as LSD, and a hodgepodge of information about revolution, resistance, and assorted dirty tricks and violence.

(Yeah, see, before the internet, we had to use books to get information. I know, right?)

The book has been endlessly banned and villified, and linked with all kind of  terrorists and criminal acts as well as just plain old suburban angst. Even the author quickly disclaimed the book, after becoming a father and a Christian, but it was too late; he'd sold the copyright to the publisher, and couldn't get his name taken off it.

Written by William Powell when he was a teenager at the end of the counterculture era of the late 60s, it was mostly written after perusing military manuals in the public library as well as counterculture "zines", and in addition to being now terribly out of date, many of the recipes were known to be dangerous and inaccurate anyway.  For example, Powell included a formula for bananadine, a psychoactive drug derived from banana peels; unbeknownst to him, this was something between an urban myth and a practical joke.

(Actual anarchists weren't too happy with it, either.)

Still, I seem to remember that my high school classmate English Teacher Q managed to make gunpowder using a recipe in the book,a few household substances and a few chemicals lifted from the high school chemistry lab, so it certainly isn't completely harmless.

 (But since you could buy black powder in any sporting good store at that time in the South, making it at home wasn't an especially big deal. And we got more of our information about weapons and tactics from 80s action paperbacks, as I recall.)

Reportedly, Powell's connection to this book followed him even to places in Africa and Asia, and he lost numerous jobs due to his connection with it, although in the last years of his life he made many public pleas for it to be taken out of print.

So there you go! Like Shakespeare said, the evil that men do lives on while the good dies with them. Writing dumb shit can follow you around for your whole life, even in outdated formats.

If he'd sold it under the pseudonym Anarchist X he'd have had no problems, eh? Other than perhaps his conscience.

(Just a couple of sources for more information -- a Newsweek article, a lengthy article in Harper's, and a documentary about the whole deal. There's even a romantic comedy film based on it (!) which you can watch on YouTube.

Monday, January 16, 2017

International Reaction to the Trump Election

Reaction amongst my Russian friends to the election of Trump is generally positive, as you might imagine. 

My mostly platonic and theoretical mistress was especially pleased -- her husband is an ardent patriot and they watch no news sources other than state-controlled ones. 

"Its good that he won," she said to me by instant message. "Hillary was a straight way to war." 

Pterodactyl Girl was a bit more irreverent.

"Oo tebe novi president Donald Duck!" she exclaimed by instant message. She likes him better than the last president, whom she referred to as Barack Obezyanka, which would translate as something like "Barack the Little Monkey."

My girlfriend's response was perceptive -- "They're all oligarchs, it doesn't matter."  

My Chinese students are more perplexed. 

First there was some confusion when they mistakenly looked up the word "Tramp" in trying to understand Trump. The pictures and articles they were directed to astounded them. 

Then they ask, "Why is he so angry? He's a rich man, what is to be so angry about?'

"Good question," was about all I could say to that. 

I work with a lot of Australians and New Zealanders; they mostly shook their heads and laughed.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Changing Face of English Teaching, Part 3: Peruvian Pussy Fest

In Fall of 2014, I went down to visit a friend who was working teaching English in Arequipa, Peru.

It was a real pussy fest.

A pussy fest for the Peruvian guys fucking all the female American teachers of English. .

I drew this cartoon like 13 years ago:

But the current trend seems to be that the young, hard-partying and student-fucking English teacher is nowadays more likely to be a she.

When I first started teaching, ESL was a boy's club. And a pretty degenerate, unkempt boy's club at that.

There were a few female teachers, of course; maybe about 1 out of every 5 or 6.

Now it seems like at least half, or more than half, are females.

Down there in Peru, most of the teachers at the school my friend worked at were female. (And actually not unattractive, at least the youger ones.)

The same is true at my last job and this job. The guys are older, often married, and the females are the party animals.

Part of the reason is that the same kind of hard-charging guy who used to get into English teaching instead got into being a "digital nomad" with affiliate links or drop shipping or whatever, usually under the auspices of the "manosphere." (And now, it seems, instead of humorless, indignant, stastics-obsessed PUAs, they are now humorless, indignant political pundits.)

Leave it to the ladies to take up the slack!

One of the teachers down in Peru was a good-looking blonde from the Midwest, at a Halloween party, she bemoaned the student loans that were looming over her.

I suggested she go to the Middle East or Vietnam, where she could save some money.

She said, "Dude, I like MEN!"

Just a matter of time before we start seeing "Penis Paradise" websites and e-books, eh?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Minute to Breathe

Where else but China are you going to hear people greet each other by saying, "Hey, wow, that's a cool filtration mask you've got!"

(That's just a cheap one but you can get all different colors and styles and filter types.)

Maybe you've read about the 5-day pollution emergency going on around Beijing. Nothing new, really; the other teachers say last year was a lot worse. In general November and December was pretty nice this year. (There were at least as many nice days as bad days.0

But for the last five days it's looked about like this:

Schools have technically been closed since the weekend, but since we're a boarding school outside of the city, quite a few kids ended up staying here. We just recently installed air filters in all the rooms, and mostly we've been sitting around with the kids watching movies. 

(A couple of my colleagues out enjoying cigarettes in the pollution emergency.)

I have to say, although I'm in general fond of the apocalyptic, after five days of this, I'm feeling pretty shitty. It's really one of the creepiest and saddest things I've ever seen -- people walking around bundled up like they work in an asbestos factory, the sun a little forgotten smudge in the middle of the opaque blanket of pollution. 

Of course I have an air filter in my apartment, and then I recently bought a hand-held pollution sensor which I have all kinds of fun playing with. (It goes off the chart if you fry bacon next to it, I found.) 

Here's the reading last Sunday, standing by an open window, about 12 times higher than acceptable levels:  

I noticed that my air filter can pretty much handle only one room at a time, so if you live in China you're probably wise to have one for each room:  


The main culprit is coal, apparently, which is used for most of the electricity generating, although the cars and industry certainly contribute. So all you Trump supporters eagerly awaiting him to gut America's environmental regulations, bring back industry and use coal again?  All this can be yours!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Requiem for a Poon Hound

I wrote about it briefly almost a year ago; the sad death of one of the guys I know back in Russia.

He was a minor characters in the book VODKABERG, referred to as the Venezualan. 

He wasn't really from Venezuala, although he was from South America. Half Russian on his mother's side, he was working in Russia as an engineer for an oil company, making about 4 times what we made as English teachers. 

(This is the only old blog entry about him I could find, but I think there were others.)

He'd left Russia to go to Mexico to work, about the same time I went to Saudi; we communicated on Facebook a few times and he said he was looking for a job in Dubai,as he didn't much like Mexico.

The last I remember communicating to him was asking him if Mexico was as dangerous as people said, and he said, "Oh yeah, there are murders around here every day." 

So he kind of slipped from my life after that; I thought he just disappeared from Facebook. I missed the post his wife and friends made about his death.  

Finally Crazy Bob pointed it out to me last year. 

His 2010 murder remains unsolved; he was gunned down in the parking lot of the office where he worked. One could assume it was related to cartel figures or guerillas trying to shake down his company for money; he was apparently the financial manager. It could conceivably have been a kidnap attempt.

But I wonder if it might have been a jealous husband.  

Because man was this guy a poon hound. 

He cheerfully fucked all the girls that worked at the oil companies he worked at, even though he was married and they usually were too. "Ah, the guys are always getting drunk with their buddies, I'm not worried," he said when I expressed the idea that he ought to be careful.

Crazy Bob was particularly upset to hear about this guy's death; their lifestyles were similar. We poured over Spanish language newspapers on the internet looking for news about it, and we were at least relieved that he didn't seem to suffer much. He got of his car, was approached by some men, and ran away and was cut down in a hail of semi-automatic weapons fire. 

He was apparently shot by at least three attackers, so that would tend to rule out a jealous husband, unless the jealous husband hired it out. 

But I think he'd have preferred to get killed by a jealous husband in a hot-blooded Latin style, rather than just be another statistic in the often impersonal and senseless drug and political violence that has contributed to the 165,000 homicides in Mexico between 2007 and 2014

He is survived by a Russian wife he'd just married and taken to Mexcio, with whom he had two children, and an ex-wife back home with whom he had had three children. 

Rest in peace, muchacho. I hope they have pussy in heaven.