Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Shopping

My nephews back in America want some t-shirts with some Russian writing on them.

Have to explain to them that the t-shirts around here only have English and Japanese on them; if you want t-shirts with Russian on them, you have to go to England or America.

I kid, I kid. A couple years ago there was a retro-ironic craze for "CCCP" t-shirts around here.

Well, at least mullets are starting to go out of style. . .

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hmm, I Guess The Russians DON'T Love Their Children Too

Russia announced just moments ago an intention to "achieve nuclear parity" with the United States. This a week after announcing an intention to abandon conventional arms limitation treaties.

As a Cold War child, I find this good news -- it means that all those adolescent nightmares about nuclear armaggeddon weren't time wasted.

I wonder if Putin, in his 80's KGB days, got to view the American and English nuclear war films of that era, such as The Day After, Threads, World War III, When The Wind Blows, or tales of convential war such as Red Dawn or Amerika . . .

Remember, everyone: duck and cover.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Skillz

Last Sunday, while Putin's Edinaya Rossia party finally and completely crushed all opposition in the election, another English teacher and I went up into the hills around the city to do a bit of hiking. (I get these strange urges occasionally.)

It was reasonably cold -- about -10 C -- but sunny, and there was lots of fresh snow from the night before, so it was a nice enough day for it.

We got most of the way up the hill and after considerable effort gathering fire wood, got a fire started, on which we cooked some bacon and potatoes. But it was hard work -- the last time we went out there, last year, we failed to get a fire started at all.

It made me realize what a useless skill English teaching is going to be in the post-apocolyptic world. Maybe I can teach the children in the village, or something, while the men are out hunting and scavenging.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Global Warming is Cool

Virtually every English language textbook ever written contains a chapter, or at least an exercise, on global warming and the environment. Students are inevitably indifferent to this as a subject; like most people, they are opposed to global warming in theory but completely unwilling to alter their developing country "economic bubble" yuppiescum consumer lifestyles one iota.

But yesterday one of my brighter students pointed something out to me; Russia will not really be affected by global warming. Russia has a lot of coastline, but very little of it is inhabited or built up, and there's (obviously) a tremendous amount of uninhabited land away from the coasts. If the climate gets warmer, that's hardly a problem -- arctic areas will become more habitable and the growing seasons will be longer.

If (when) the North Pole melts, Russia will also be in a good position to claim and take advantage of the shipping lanes that will be thusly opened. Resources unreachable in frozen areas of Siberia will also be exploitable.

So yeah! Russia, your global warming sanctuary.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Literary Moment

"Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all the circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could forever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there was promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or another, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over his round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed."

-- Herman Melville, MOBY DICK

I wonder how many Russian girls Melville had to sleep with before he realized that was true. . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why I Don't Like Teaching Rich Guys (Redux)

When they told me I would be teaching the rich gangster dude, I was skeptical. "You know what's going to happen," I said. "He'll study for a few weeks and then, when he finds out he can't learn English in a month, he'll start cancelling all his lessons. Not because he's giving up, oh no -- always because he's too busy. And he'll always cancel at the last minute. . ."

They assured me he seemed devoted to the idea of learning English.

I wouldn't know, I never got to teach him.

Apparently he had a couple of lessons with one of our Russian teachers of English, and after a few sporadic lessons, is now cancelled "until further notice."

I predict he might study a few more times, after Christmas, but then will be gone forever once the sun comes out in the spring. (NB -- I get the same salary either way, I don't care whether he studies or not.)

Too bad, I was going to teach him how to say "an offer you can't refuse" on his first lesson.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Smartest Phone of All

Lost my fucking telephone again. Wasn’t even drunk or anything – a bit distracted by an early morning meeting, and it just slipped out of my pocket while I was on the bus.

Like almost all of my telephones, it was a Nokia I bought “second-hand” – at the Bird Market, a fabulously post-apocalyptic sort of market in a bad part of town. (In fact the part of town is so bad it’s actually called “Unnamed.” How’s that for cool?)

This particular market sells a strange assortment of stuff, all of which would be useful for the coming Zombie Uprising. DIY and home improvement stuff – tools, pipes, hardware, toilets – camping and hunting and fishing gear, knives, rope, army surplus junk like gas masks and haz-mat boots, coveralls and gloves, combo pocket tools, pepper spray and stun guns, and a large selection of “second-hand” phones, which are purchased and sold with no questions asked.

(I’ve been told that if you go there and see your recently lost or stolen phone, and can prove it’s yours, they’ll return it to you for a nominal fee of 50 rubles or so. A real group of Gentlemen Thieves, these guys. The cops occasionally crack down on the place, when some group of kids go on a rampage and kill 20 people just for their phones and sell them all out here, but mostly they operate unmolested.)

I love this place; the blatant illegality of it, sure, but it’s kind of like a museum of old phones, too – the old art-deco Nokias from a few years ago. All those old phones, lost in time, like tears in the rain. Who will love them if I don’t?

That was my seventh phone. I always buy Nokias – they’re well-nigh indestructible, which suits my head-banging lifestyle. (Although, having said that, I’ve managed to destroy two of them through Force 9 carelessness -- one of them got thrown into a bathtub full of water after I'd crapped my pants one morning after a rough night on the town and a week of the shits. You can read about that on the old blog, think it was 2004.)

I buy the cheapest ones, or rather, models which are at least three years out of date. I used to like the Nokia 3310 Hockey Pucks back in ’02 and ’03 and tried the Nokia 1100, which I found a bit unreliable as far as being used as a bottle opener. I had a colorful Nokia 3510 – metallic sparkly blue with orange stripes on the side that lit up – in 2005, but eventually moved up to one of those hideous 7000 series ones that had a triangular keypad that was supposed to look like a wolf’s face.

The last year or so I’ve been going for the Nokia 6610i. Sturdy, got a camera – albeit a crappy one -- they usually go for $40 or $50.

Now girls occasionally ask me why I don’t have a nicer phone – one of those fancy shmancy Nokia N70s with Internet and MP3 player and gigabytes of memory and all that crap -- and I admit I am occasionally tempted. I like toys as much as the next guy.

But then the practical adult in me points out that I’d just lose or break it in a matter of days, or get beaten up and robbed for it. While it might be nice to have a decent camera and video, I have no interest in listening to an MP3 player while I walk around – how am I supposed to hear hostiles creeping up on me?

So tomorrow I’m going to go out and look for my phone, and if I can’t find it, I’ll buy a new one. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 19, 2007

DOS, ASAP, WTF, LOL

Some doofus on the hate site dares to doubt English Teacher X's integrity. A bit of news from the DOS front:

The Director of Studies scores his second positive victory in reforming the shitty end of language school work this week. (The first was getting washing machines for the senior teachers.)

So being very short of teachers, we were offered an application from a guy who had been working for a branch of the school in St. Petersberg. Included with this was a letter from the DOS in St. Petersberg warning us that the applicant in question was a terrible teacher, boring and monotonous and unskilled.

Now this applicant in question has signed up for the apprenticeship-type training program in Moscow, where he was given some modicum of instruction and then tossed into a few classes (at a frankly pathetic rate of salary.) The evaluations of these observed lessons were sent down with his application -- such highly professional and helpful comments as "this lesson was absolute shit" and "you better sort yourself out" were typical.

So apparently, they tried to get rid of him by sending him to our branch, thinking that he'd probably quit rather than move out to the sticks.

But this guy was one of the unfortunate cases -- he didn't have enough money to leave , and had nowhere else to go, so he decided to come down.

I was given the dubious task of training him.

It was much like I expected -- he was a shy and quiet and mild-mannered guy, and the incredibly inexperienced and over-worked teacher trainers in Moscow had no time or desire to try to actually teach him much.

It took a couple of weeks, but I taught him some activities and ways to set up the class that would suit a quieter and shyer personality -- you do NOT have to be a performing monkey to be a popular teacher, and in fact Russian students are increasingly impatient with teachers who just come in and spend the whole class talking about themselves. And I think this guy will be okay, actually, with a bit of guidance from yours truly.

Now of course, I can begin to see things from the admin point of view -- I mean, it's certainly not my fault his life is such a mess that he's got no money or place to go, nor that he's got an unengaging personality.
But having been on the short end of the stick before myself
, I'm glad he didn't get ground up and fucked over by the English Teacher Mill at the other branches.

Still can't seem to get them to eliminate split shifts, however, though I wrote up a three page document explaining how we could do so -- they promise they'll try next year.

And they kiss my ass, not vice versa. They know that this new bunch of untrained teachers they've hired would be an impossible situation without my academic support.

So yeah, I'm still the baddest motherfucker in town, in case you were wondering. Even though I take Sialis occasionally.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

LOL, LOL, ROTFL

"The difficulty in understanding the Russian is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russian has no regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians, and chronic drunks."

--General George S. Patton

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The O. G.

I guess I've reached the pinnacle of my profession -- I'm going to be teaching English to one of the most famous gangster-businessmen in Vodkaberg. I mean, this is guy is the O. G. -- a real Don Corleone.

According to the stories, he started out as a pickpocket in train stations in the area -- he got in with a gang of pickpockets and they made enough money to start a car dealership in the early nineties. At that time, car dealerships were very shady - the price paid for cars was nowhere near the price the factories sold them at, and a lot of people disappeared after bringing cash payments to dealerships.

They also got into vodka bootlegging -- that is, selling watered-down methylated alcohol as vodka. They assuredly did this through kiosks which they also bought, and that was pure profit, so they bought up real estate and opened a night club, and now they own insurance companies, cinemas, window companies, etc -- it's now something like a 6 billion dollar a year business.

Naturally they're heavily involved with supporting the campaigns of our local mayors -- apparently an entire entertainment complex was built just to launder this money.

This is all well known local information, and I've heard this from businessmen I've taught, random students, girls who have been at their "parties" and from people who work at this company alike.

While their business is legitimate in the sense of running real companies that provide real products and services for real profits, they are still the top of the pyramid in the criminal scene -- plenty of drugs get sold at their nightclub, for example. I had a girlfriend who worked for one of their advertising companies, and she said she frequently overheard conversations about weapons deals. It's also well known that if this company offers to buy your business, for example, they will offer a fair price -- but you had better accept, unless you're ready for a one-way ticket to the resurrection, as Scarface might say.

They're trying to change their image, these days, though, with a glowing P.R. campaign featuring billboards of snappy young executives giving the thumbs-up and sponsoring scholarships and building schools, etc. As I mentioned a few posts ago, they sent three bodyguard types to study English at our school. That was good for a few laughs. ("What's your job?" "Ha ha, we solve problems.")

So, they call on me, The Oligarch of the English Language, to teach The President of the Company, who is by most accounts about The Baddest Motherfucker in Town.

This guy, by the way, is about the same age as me, maybe a year or two older. (We just had different lifestyle priorities, I guess.)

One of my rich students who had met him several times said, "He's very charming, intelligent and charismatic. You have to keep reminding yourself that he's probably killed a hundred people."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Helloween

Halloween is becoming popular as a holiday for adults in Russia, as it is in many other parts of the world, largely thanks to Miller Brewing Company sponsoring Halloween parties at nightclubs (in order to sell Miller Genuine Draft beer, which is marketed as a trendy foreign imported beer here.)

I usually tie a black t-shirt around my head and go as a Ninja.

I got some guff from somebody for always going as the same thing.

So this year I tied a blue t-shirt around my head and went as a Blue Ninja.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Erectile Dysfunction

One thing about living in Russia for as long as I have; you pretty much get over being nervous and tongue tied around hot chicks. There are so many, and you're around them so often, you build up a tolerance.

Funny the little things that can set you off though -- I THOUGHT I had developed an immunity to batted eyelashes, well-displayed cleavage and tossed hair and all that. Today after class one of my students stayed behind to ask me some questions about translation from her university course. She's a typical one -- face not much, but great body, see-through tops and tight jeans and spike heels and all that. (In short, like all the slutty girls from high school I regret I never had sex with.)

She asked me for some synonyms for "build" and I wrote down "construct" and "manufacture" and "erect."

"Yeah," she said, standing closer to me than the girl in that song by the Police, "erect. Erect. That's the one I want."

My tongue knotted and my prostate clenched and twenty-odd years of experience with women evaporated.

"Could I use that word in, for example, news broadcasts?" she asked sweetly.

B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-duh-duh-duh

"Yeah," I said, shyly. "Uh, it, uh, depends on the context. . ."

"Yes, I think that's the word I was looking for," she said, smiling. "Erect."

I got so rattled I left my backpack full of books behind when I left the class.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And If A Frog Had Wings, It Wouldn't Bust Its Ass A'Hopping

Since I've cruelly severed the lifeline of people who wish to comment on this blog -- and damned if I'm not DIGGING the peace and quiet -- allow me to share some reader mail.

Guy sends me an email a few weeks ago which read, in part:

I have a good story for you. No, it isn't some anecdote about my experience teaching English. It's scarier than that. OK, here goes....I am actually planning on teaching English in Russia this coming year! Howabout that?! In fact, I just discovered your site the other day and I'm addicted to it. I wish there were more stories on Russia, as that is the country I am interested in. Guess I'll just have to re-read them. I'm planning on teaching in St. Petersburg. Are the women in big cities as whore-ish as they are in provincial Russia? Are any of the women sane over there?


I directed him to this blog for more stories specifically about Russia over the last few years.

He responded in somewhat of a panic:

Damnit English Teacher X! I wish I was a little bit older (or decided I wanted to do this a little bit earlier). Everytime I would read one of your "English Teacher X Stories" and saw you mention banging some girl, my heart would grow a little larger. Now, you seem to make it sound like girls over there don't want Americans anymore. Say it ain't so! Could you assauge my fears at all? I mean, I DID read in one of the reader comments from over the summer that some teacher's female students call him 'Bozha' (God) and that you he (or someone?) is treated like Ricky Martin. I guess it's easier in the provinces. But I want to do the whole St. Petersburg thing first. Fuckity, fuck, fuck. Thanks again for your time.


Here was my response, and this is my official position on the subject:

I have to say, it probably gets down to: do you do okay with the girls back where you came from? You'll probably do doubly or triply well here. If you don't, you'll probably do a bit better, but don't expect miracles.


I'm so happy I might even post a cleavage picture next time, stay tuned.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Flight of the Doofus

We got a new applicant last week -- a kid who came in to the office looking for work based on the recommendation of a Russian acquaintance.

This was kind of strange -- we don't get many walk-ins, as we're pretty out of the way here -- any foreigners that come to work here as teachers either come through the Internet, get transferred from a branch in Moscow or wherever, or come from one of the other schools in town, having known me socially already.

When I met the kid -- 20, I think he is -- he explained that he came to Vodkaberg to work on a charity project, through an internet website he found with the optimistic and utopian name "Volunteers for Peace."

The charity project, it seems, was simply working as a teacher at one of our rival schools, with nothing in payment except a room with a crazy old rich lady and whatever food they provided. This "charity" turned out to be nothing of the sort -- the school was taking a considerable cash payment from the students after his "lessons," which he was thrown into with no preparation or materials at all.

The kid was right off the vine, no doubt -- young and spotty-faced and floppy-haired and looking around with eyes of a rabbit about to be flattened by a Mack truck. As the Russian idiom has it, "He still has mother's milk on his lips."

Nonetheless, he found the courage, or desperation, to get away from the "charity project" after a couple of weeks, and he came to us; we agreed to give him an internship, which would consist of two weeks of watching classes and instructional seminars with me, while he stayed for free in one of our shittiest apartments. Then he'd begin teaching and receiving a salary on the third week.

He lasted a week. He balked at signing a contract of more than three months. He's now waiting for his parents to send him the money to get a plane ticket home. Out of pity we agreed to let him stay in our shittiest apartment, which nobody else wants to live in anyway.

I asked him, in our first interview, why he had wanted to come to Russia.

"I thought it would teach me something about life," he said.

Heh heh.

Once again, I blame the Internet. It's made it far too easy for any moron with a stupid idea to carry that idea out. And of course, it's also made it exponentially easier for those who prey on morons with stupid ideas.

A real cultural experience. Like having your corpse dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by an angry mob.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Scum Sinks To The Bottom

All I'm going to say about the Canadian pedophile who was arrested for buggering boys while teaching English in Southeast Asia -- note that he was working as a chaplain counselling teenage boys in Canada before he became an EFL teacher.

So I continue to hold that there are no more pedophile teachers than there are, say, pedophile Catholic priests. Oh, maybe that was a bad example. . .

Yeah, it's disgusting, but just like the vast majority of teachers don't bugger young boys, plenty of people go to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia and bugger boys without teaching English, so spare me your stupid comments.

But stuff like that that never happens in America, though, thank god.

I'm turning on comment moderation, finally -- there are just too damn many people pretending to be each other, it's confusing. (And it hasn't been me, for the most part.) And why the hell are people abusing some other blog writer on MY site, and not his? You can all feel free to play make-believe over at the English Teacher X Hate Site. . . (This link was broken, I just fixed it, if you tried before.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fled

English Teacher D came here in August. He's a friend of the guy that decided to come to Vodkaberg after seeing the English Teacher X website.

He got pushed around and menaced by a group of Russian youths on his first night in town; black-out drunk on vodka, he decided he wanted to practise his Russian with some locals, at 3 or 4 am on the beach; when he and his friend decided to leave, they got shoved around a bit and insulted.

Nothing too serious though.

The next night the events of this story happened, in which an innocent party turned into a seige. In truth, I think he slept through most of that incident, or at least the end of it.

The next Saturday, he and two other teachers were attacked by a group of young men in a park and relieved of their phones and money.

A week or two after that, he got grabbed by the police while going out of a nightclub; strangely, however, they were very nice to him and gave him a ride home. He sent me an SMS telling me this, written while drunk -- "duck this antansy!" his phone offered as a T9 dictionary alternative to his badly spelled "fuck this country."

All the while, he was discovering that English teaching really IS difficult and boring, that English teacher bar conversations really ARE banal and disgusting.

I think there were a few other incidents; or maybe it was just his damp, cold flat that was the deciding factor. The black-out drunks and the toxic two-day hangovers surely didn't help.

He's leaving this Wednesday.

As DOS, I'm considering some new ideas for teacher training inspired by the movie THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM - sleep deprivation, water boarding and situational brainwashing to inspire maximum loyalty and dedication. "Can you commit yourself to this program?"

SPOILER ! ! !

Although I didn't like the end where he turns into an amphibian and swims away. . .

END SPOILERS ! ! !

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Compulsion

I think I'm not so worried about my excessive drinking as I am about my excessive bootleg DVD purchasing.

I go to the Pirate Disc Market on Sundays and buy movies, kind of randomly, from the 20 ruble (about 80 cents) bin, and the occasional new release for 80 rubles ($3.10) or so.

Averaging about five a week, I think, though I probably only watch about three movies a week. . .

I think it's an authentic cultural experience, though, because, like, they often have Russian subtitles, and occasionally don't have English on them at all.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Who Needs An International Language If You Have Nothing To Fucking Say?

Spent a good chunk of this beautiful fall afternoon doing speaking tests at a large mobile phone provider here in Vodkaberg.

I had this conversation about fifteen times:

ME: "So why do you want to study English now?"

YOUNG CORPORATE DRONE: "For my work."

ME: "And how often do you use English in your work?"

YCD: "Almost never."

ME: "How often do you speak English in your work?"

YCD: "Never."

ME: "How often do you read in English?"

YCD: "Sometimes I read technical documents, but usually they are in Russian now."

ME: "How often do you write in English?"

YCD: "Never."

ME: "And what are your plans for the future?"

YCD: (Pause) "I don't have any. I want to work in this job."

This so we can form some groups of twelve, of which maybe two or three people will show up every week, because they're so fucking busy at work.

I know, I know, they want to learn English for future work POSSIBILITIES, and the company is paying for it -- a fee which, to a multi-million dollar company, is negligible -- but for FUCK'S SAKE!

And I'm also unconvinced by all these housewives who come into school saying they need to learn English because they travel abroad often. Bull honkus -- every aspect of modern tourism, from the hotels and airports with automated check in, international language ATMs, the guided tours, internet reservations, fast food and supermarkets -- it's all designed so you don't have to speak AT ALL.

They just need English to harass the waiters and yell at beggars. . .

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Well . . .


A billboard here in town for Vladimir Putin's political party, Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) reads:

Плана PUTIHA
Победа России

Translated, that means:

Putin's Plan, Russia's Victory!

Uh. . . well that about says it all, doesn't it?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pillow Talk

"You know, your penis has an interesting shape."

"Why thank you."

"It's . . . wider at the top. . . did you do something to it?"

"DO something to it??!! What could I DO to it?"

"Some men. . . uh, cut them. . ."

"CUT THEM??!!"

She struggled to explain, and I spent an uncomfortable few minutes, with my head full of images of disenchanted men whittling their penises into different shapes, until I finally realized she was talking about circumcision.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Homeward Bound, I Wish I Was

I had pizza and a few beers with a couple of co-workers last night, then headed home at midnight. Got on one of the last share-taxis and this drunk 50-ish woman got on at the same time; she was completely drunk.

The taxi stopped suddenly and her overweight drunk ass flopped on the floor of the share-taxi like a dead moose.

I wasn't sure if I should offer to help; she eventually managed to get back into her seat.

I arrived at my bus stop and started the five minute walk back to my house; I heard hysterical bloodcurdling screams even from a block away.

Carefully heading down the street, I soon saw the cause of the screaming, a drunk young man in an orange hooded sweatshirt lying flopping on the ground screaming hysterically -- "Olya! Olya!" (That's a woman's name, by the way.) I carefully made my way around him as he got drunkenly to his feet and got his mobile out and dialed and began screaming into it -- "Olya! Please! Please! Talk to me!"

It reminded me a little of that scene from THE BASKETBALL DIARIES movie where Leonardo DiCapprio is screaming outside his mother's door.

Got safely home and watched a bootleg DVD of the movie KNOCKED UP -- my experiences with accidentally impregnated girlfriends of co-workers kind of prevented me from enjoying it fully.

Then I slept surprisingly well, and had a very interesting dream that I was part of a group of super-heroes -- fancifully named the "Super Secret Squadron Bureau" or somesuch -- living in the Colombian jungle in a cool bungalow complex, where I was literally swinging from the rafters while laughing hysterically.

Woke up feeling really good. . .

Friday, September 07, 2007

On Xenophobia

Someone asked, a few post ago, whether these recent events of hostility directed towards us specifically as foreigners were isolated incidents or a widespread trend.

I have no idea, but I know this:

I have been in Russia about exactly seven years.

Of the two dozen or so times we have been approached us in a critical or hostile way about being foreigners, 99 percent of these incidents have happened in the last two years.

Now on the one hand, there are more of us now; on the other hand, we were always a very visible group, as I used to hang around with African students and tatooed guys, etc.

I mean, I'm kind of glad that Russia has gotten its shit together and developed a sense of national pride; when I first got here all the Russians HATED Russia and were ready to flee it like rats leaving a sinking ship. (There are still a few people like that, but most of the ones I know left already. Perhaps all the people who felt like that left already.)

Regarding the park incident, I have been subsequently informed (by the guy with the 4 venereal diseases, by the way, who was there but escaped unharmed) that the attacking orcs (described as teenage boys, actually) were in fact yelling "Amerikanski! Amerikanski!" as a battle cry.

There are logical elements to this hatred of foreigners, by the way -- the city's metal plant was purchased by Alcoa Company, which put a good number of people out of work, while a huge clot of Alcoa executives are staying in the Renaissance Hotel in $300-a-night suites; $300 would be only a bit less than what the average metal plant employee makes in a month.

But of course, those guys take taxis and go to nice clubs, so they don't have to worry about getting beat up. . .

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Hardest I've Laughed Recently

I have no hesitation in admitting I've gotten serious and boring in the last year and a half of so; my body simply can't take being the life of the party anymore, and my mind isn't too enthusiastic about it either.

Most of the old guys are equally burnt out and the new young guys are of the self-consciously snarky generation that finds it difficult to enjoy anything beyond sitting around making sarcastic remarks.

Nonetheless, one of the new young guys around here is a real model of Old School English Teacher Crazy -- a lecherous degenerate of the first order.

The other week he sat down at the outdoor cafe with us and announced he had somehow contracted four separate venereal diseases at the same time from one woman. They were not diseases he'd ever heard of, and not especially serious, but he was taking anti-biotics for them.

"My balls are swollen and it hurts to pee," he said.

"How swollen?" I asked.

He thought about it. "About twenty percent."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some Unusual Things I Saw This Week


A rubber duckie abandoned in a puddle in a concrete block.



A bunch of beer bottle tops smashed into a tree stump. I suppose it's like a memorial to something or someone. . .



I guess there's really nothing that unusual about this -- beach benches being rounded up to be put away for the winter -- but I thought it was cool looking.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Behind The Curve

I've never been much for the latest gadgets and such that most people my age like a lot; I comfortably get along with mostly outdated technical equipment. I buy all my phones used and cheap, because of a tendency to lose and break them; I only bought my first CD player in the year 2000, getting by with casettes before that.

I got out my old Playstation (1) the other night when I was home ill -- what was not particularly state-of-the-art in 1999 when I bought it is positively a retro pleasure now, along the lines of the text-only adventure games from my childhood.

My computer is a Pentium 3 notebook, which I inherited from my step-sister, which I guess probably came into being sometime around the Millenium. (This is a considerable step up from the Pentium 1 desktop I was using from 2001 - 2003, which was a gift from a student.)

I use a dial-up connection -- 48 kbps -- and I'm pretty good at opening three pages at the same time so I've got something to look at while the others load.

Last week, however, I finally decided to get cable internet, as it's come down in price considerably. After paying $50 and waiting around for three hours for the guy to come install it, he came and drilled holes in the wall and fed the cable in and led it to my computer . . .

And then informed me that my computer was too old to use it, didn't have the right hardware or ports. I asked if there was some kind of adaptor that I could buy -- he rolled his eyes like, "Yeah right, some magical adaptor that will make an old crappy computer new."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dawn of the Dead

So I mentioned a couple of new guys, young guys from America who were inspired to get into teaching by the English Teacher X website, no less. They got mugged Sunday morning at about 5:30am while they were walking through a local park, known to be a dangerous place. Alcohol overcame prudence, and they suddenly found themselves surrounded by “like 20 guys” who came storming out of the trees like “something out of DAWN OF THE DEAD.”

(I’m assuming the young whippersnappers are referring to the 2003 remake, where the zombies ran at a pretty good clip. In the original, you could skip faster than zombies could walk.)

They got chased around, slapped around a bit, and relieved of their phones and money, but in general are not hurt. They’re not sure whether they were targeted as foreigners, but as loud as they were being, they suspect they were.

I keep wondering, though: who’s going to be the unlucky person who gets his skull cracked, or jaw broken, or stabbed, or otherwise seriously injured. It seems we usually come out of these things with only a few bruises and missing telephones.

(I mentioned that we’re teaching three security goons from a certain famous mafia-run company in town – when they heard about this they laughed and gave the guys their cards and mimed shooting downwards, execution-style, while laughing uproariously.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bold and Arduous Project of Arriving At Moral Perfection

Anybody who has read this blog, or its predecessor, for more than a couple of years will have noticed a change in English Teacher X -- from a feckless adventuring drunkard to a rather crabby and critical nihilist, wise beyond his (considerable) years.

I was just drinking down at the embankment with a few of the guys, and one commented, "You seem to be ironing your shirts more lately."

I beamed. "You noticed!"

I've embarked on a Benjamin Franklin-like path of self improvement. So far there are only two things on my list:

1) Iron your clothes before leaving the house, whenever possible
2) Stop peeing on the floor when drunk on vodka

It's a start, anyway.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Backlash, 2007

I've mentioned the backlash, that Russian girls are often disdainful and dismissive of foreign guys now -- "Liking foreign guys is so 90's!"

But the obvious flipside of that is that a lot of foreigners living in Russia are now talking about how Russian girls are over-rated, that they're really nothing special, that Russian chicks think they're hot just becuase they're skinny and blonde, and wear skanky clothes.

And of course many if not most of them have bad skin from all the caked-on makeup, in addition to iffy teeth. They never exercise and live off coffee and cigarettes to stay skinny, which is why they aren't too hot past the age of 25.

And then there's the issue of their vacuous mercenary personalities . . .

We bitch like that a lot. Then we see some unbelievable hottie walk by. . . then we get back to bitching about how they're all preying mantises.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Miserable Comforters Are Ye All

All you office types, writing about how you spend all day sucking ass in a corporate hell and then coming home to jack-off to Internet porn and have a TV dinner, you fuckers have it lucky:

I had to listen to the song MEMORY from the musical CATS THREE TIMES in my last lesson today. It was a listening activity -- students had lyrics with errors, the first time was to locate the error, the second time to correct them, and the third time to check. I probably could have gotten away with two times, but I figured it might clear my sinuses out, if nothing else.

- Memory Lyrics

Daylight
See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses whither away
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day . . .

Midnight
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Every streetlamp
Seems to beat a fatalistic warning
Someone mutters
And the streetlamp gutters
And soon it will be morning

Daylight
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I musn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

Touch me
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is

Look
A new day has begun

* * *

It would fit my life perfectly, if it had a line about peeing in the sink, and the fact that my testicles hang down about an inch lower than they used to.

P.S. Check out the English Teacher X Sucks blog for the latest post -- pretty fucking funny if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Suffering of Job

It's extremely fucking hot and sweaty -- 35 c during the day. I'm having insane attacks of sinusitis, which send me penduluming back and forth between being completely unable to breath through my nose or having rivers of warm snot running down my face.

It feels like I haven't slept in about two weeks. Last Friday we got so drunk at the nightclub I ended up peeing in the sink because there was a long line at the bathroom, and I really had to go. They kicked me out, albeit regretfully -- kind of like the last scene in THE GODFATHER when they kill Sal. "You think you could get me off the hook? For old time's sake?" "Can't do it, Sal."

(Peeing in the sink is the single most antisocial act short of committing an actual crime, I suppose. Yet most guys have probably done it at some point. But it's the unspoken tabboo, of course.)

My neck is killing me; I slept on it badly. Or rather, tossed and turned on it badly.

To top it all off, I find I am still able to get upset over a girl.

Yeah, I know, I'm shocked too. But that's probably a good thing actually, that last one. It indicates I'm still alive. . .

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Stolen Joke

One of the new guys is teaching a couple of security guys from a certain large company here in town.

The founder of the company is a real Russian success story -- started out as a train station pick-pocket, and got in with a gang and accumulated enough money to open a car dealership and an illegal vodka distillery, back in the early 90's, and then branched out until the company does $12 billion per year in business -- they own nightclubs, restaurants, real estate, supermarkets, companies that make plastic windows, insurance, etc, and of course they also pretty much run the local crime scene.

(I know this from other rich guys I've taught explaining it to me, as well as teaching people who worked there. One girlfriend of mine worked in one of their advertising companies, and said she occasionally overheard her boss talking about gun deals.)

So anyway, one of the new guys is teaching some security guys from this company -- I guess they have to travel with their boss a lot, and she wants them to be able to ask about airport departure times and such.

He said he was nervous about it until he saw what a bunch of cartoon characters they were.

PUNCHLINE: "It's kind of interesting playing hangman with people who might actually have hung somebody at some point."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Authentic Cultural Experience

So a couple Saturdays ago we had a going-away party for one of the new guys around here, English Teacher M -- a 25 year old American. It was a small gathering, consisting of me, English Teacher M, and two other 25-year-old Americans, recent arrivals, English Teachers S and D. English Teacher M's girlfriend was there, and so was a female friend of hers, a girl I had gone out with a couple of times, months and months ago.

This last one, however, invited a friend of hers, a 20-year-old guy from Tajikstan. Unlike most of the Russian young men these days, who dress like rent boys in imitation of Russian pop star Dima Vilan, this guy was old school -- the pointy shoes, the level-one haircut, the sweater.

One of the first things this young doofus said to me was a suggestion that while I was a good looking guy, my eyes were "dead" and he wondered why I did not seem to enjoy life more. Not drunk enough to explain to him that one of the main reasons I don't enjoy life any more is because of morons like himself, I simply said I was a bit tired after drinking all the previous night.

He said that he felt the problem was that I didn't have a wife, and didn't understand why I didn't find some good Russian girl from the village who would be happy to cook and clean for me all the time, but would be "nice and quiet" otherwise. He then pointed out that I had on mismatched socks, and said that a wife would take care of that kind of thing.

Again, I didn't really have the energy to explain why I had no interest in having a silent sock-sorting baby-factory in my kitchen tossing together mayonaisse-drenched Russian salds, so I just started drinking vodka heavily and talking to the girl I used to go out with, who kept drawing my attention to her ample, sunburned cleavage. (At least three times she mentioned it.)

Meanwhile, out on the balcony, the doofus from Tajikstan had started talking to the drunken English Teacher S, and turned his energy towards criticizing S's Russian girlfriend (at the time visiting her parents in the village), who was a classmate of his. He described her as "dirt under his fingernails."

Naturally S eventually got upset at this, although, through the vodka haze, it took him a while to absorb the fact that this doof had actually said something so insulting in front of him. He began expressing his displeasure -- English Teacher M seized control of the situation and asked the Tajik doofus to leave, along with the girl with sunburned cleavage.

Amazingly, that proceeded smoothly enough, but the Russian girlfriend of English Teacher M became furious with English Teacher S for wrecking the party and being so rude to her friends, not having heard the original comment.

After more pointless arguing, S finally managed to explain what had happened; the Russian girlfriend, now angry, called the Tajik doofus to criticize him.

I sat down to drink more vodka with S, when the girlfriend suddenly announced that the Tajik doofus was very angry, and wanted to come back, with a friend, to discuss the issue.

I flew into a rage, called the girl with the sunburned cleavage, and began shouting that she should tell the doofus to bring all the friends he wanted, and I'd gather all my friends, and we could have a good old-fashioned "razbourka," as they say in Russian.

She hung up on me, and the Tajik doofus and a friend "from the militia" turned up back at the door soon after, threatening to break it down. (Nobody was too frightened by his claims of being in the militia -- he was clearly a cadet.)

English Teacher M, whose crisis management skills were at this point rivaling those of trained hostage-negotiatiors, refused to allow them in or anybody to go outside; English Teacher S was incoherently drunk by this point, but I myself had been somewhat sobered up by the adrenalin rush. I began searching for weapons -- I turned up a mop, but it was a good stout Russian one, with a solid wood handle and the other end consisting of a "T" shape of wood (around which one wraps a wet rag.) I figured it would give me distance as well as striking power.

English Teacher M's girlfriend eventually went outside to speak with them, in her no doubt idiotic and annoying manner, and began then requesting to be let back in -- with the cleavage girl and the guys.

I was standing in the hallway with the stick held like a javelin, ready to smash the first person who came through the door in the face -- it should be said though, that getting through the door, a typical steel Russian apartment door, would have required heavy equipment or light explosives. M wisely refused to let them in.

Eventually M's girlfriend got him to come out to negotiate; again, my hat off to the guy, he was cool as a cucumber here, and managed to calm things down somehow, as I stood behind him ready to leap if trouble started; I think, to my credit, I was not threateningly brandishing the mop.

English Teacher S tried to drunkenly fight his way outside, knocking the door into the girl with sunburned cleavage, so I clotheslined him and dragged him back inside.

Then somehow, M convinced the guys to go outside and wait; there was some consultation with the cleavage girl.

I was inside pouring another vodka, which was enough to knock S into unconsciousness. About twenty minutes later I suddenly realized I was fed up with this whole business and decided to leave, and managed to do so without running into anybody outside. (This was by drunken accident, I suppose.) I walked to public transport about dawn, sending a text message to the girl with the sunburned cleavage, calling her a bitch and telling her that nobody would talk to her if she didn't have big tits.

The next day we met at the beach around four in the afternoon for beers.

English Teacher M said his girlfriend had slapped him after I left. When I expressed astonishment at that, he said that it was because the sunburned-cleavage girl had hugged him before she left.

"I told her it was okay, this once, because she was obviously upset, and that I understood, but that there would not be a second chance to do that. It didn't hurt that much or anything."

"You're a cool rider," I said. "It's a good thing she didn't hit me. I'd have broken her jaw, as wound up as I was."

The cleavage girl eventually called and apologized for her role in the proceedings, after saying that the message I sent her was "very unpleasant."

She probably didn't understand it completely, actually, her English isn't so good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It Feels So Good When I Stop

One thing about the two-day drinking binge which is the weekend here -- it feels so good when you stop.

Monday has me feeling a bit ill and tired, but on Tuesday and Wednesday I start to feel absolutely great as I sleep peacefully, detox, and find myself practically born again, throwing myself into my job with energy and vigor.

When the weekends pass peacefully without any massive drinking, however, I find I kind of resent having to go back to work.

Yes sir, it's Wednesday and it's a beautiful day in Russia -- got up early, had a hearty breakfast, shaved my balls, and now I'm off to work spreading the light of knowledge into the world! YEAAHHH! HIGH FIVE!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Remember When All of This Used To Be Volcanic Lava

When did I first realize that life was passing me by?

Well, I remember one incident, a couple of years ago.

It was a high-level class full of teenagers -- 15 - 17 -- and there was a speaking activity about music. The students had to, in pairs, agree on which ten CDs they would take if they had to go to a desert island for a year.

I was fairly confident this activity would go over well.

But all the students ridiculed it immediately and refused to do it. None of them had ever bought a CD in their lives, it seemed, they just downloaded all their songs onto their phone from the Internet.

I never download anything form the Internet. I'm afraid I might get electrocuted.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Things To Do Today: Nothing

We frequently attempt to organize some kind of energetic outing for Saturday or Sunday -- going out to one of the islands in the Volga, for example, or going camping, or going for a hike through one of the villages down the river.

These plans are usually scuttled by one or more of the people involved waking up with insufferable hangovers after going to bed at 6:30am.

Then we just hang around the city beach all afternoon, and make plans for next week. . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

English For Specific Purposes

So I was just at one of my classes, the Russian branch of some American computer company. I have a twice-weekly conversation lesson with whichever of their programmers happen to want to attend. They dislike grammar and book activities, so we just converse about various topics; they all speak English fairly well already. (Naturally, or they wouldn't be working for this company.)

Today a new guy came into class; he told me that he wasn't on the register, because he was only visiting Samara for a month.

"I'm currently working for the company on a two-year contract in Denver, Colorado," he explained.

I asked him why, living in America, he would feel the need to brush up on his English while visiting Russia.

"Well, there are so many Russians over there I don't get much chance to speak English," he explained.

Doh!

In other news, the Drunk Guy finally got well and completely sacked. (Go back to the "heavy lies the crown" post comments to see the controversy.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Price is Right

Yesterday we went out to the Pirate Disc Market as we often do on Saturdays -- I got a few DVDs and then as we were leaving, I saw an MP-3 collection disc that has every song Alanis Morissette has ever recorded on it. It cost 30 rubles -- a bit more than a dollar.

Now I don't really care much about Alanis Morissette one way or the other, but I decided to buy it. For that price, I can give her a chance. Maybe I'll decide I'm a tremendous fan of Alanis Morrisette, after all.

And if I decide I don't like her, I can laugh about how I've cheated her out of the price of actually buying all her albums.

Then today I arranged all my old kopeks and one-ruble coins in nine-ruble stacks on the dresser, so I can use them for bus-fare this week.

I think this is an all-new, financially-responsible English Teacher X.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Big Ass Fucking Rain Storm

The weather is apocalyptic in Russia this summer, as in much of the world -- incredible heat interspersed with sudden enormous drops in temperature and violent rain storms that seem to roll in out of nowhere.

Last Sunday we were relaxing on the beach when it started raining so hard there was a sort of flash flood on the steps leading down to the embankment:





Cool, huh? No it's not some kind of artsy fartsy fountain -- or at least it wasn't originally.

Monday, July 09, 2007

On Marriage

I'm 38 now, as has been mentioned, and as also mentioned, most Russian people, especially here in the provinces, get married when they're between 20 - 25. (They get divorced pretty soon after, usually, but never mind.)

People, especially women, always ask me why I'm not married, upon first meeting me.

I have a number of answers, depending on who asks me.

There's the funny answer:

"Well, nobody has asked me yet."

There are the flirtatious answers: "Well, is that a proposal, or are you just wondering?" or perhaps, "Well, I've been saving myself for you."

There's the standard line:

"I guess I haven't met the right girl yet."

and there's the honest answer:

"Well, I can be a pretty fucking difficult person sometimes."

Then there is what I think of as the "Bad Day" answer, usually reserved for particularly annoying girls or those who I find particularly impertinent.

My favorite Bad Day answer is to explain that I was married once, in my early twenties, but that my wife died in a car accident, after lingering in a coma for six months.

That usually shuts them up.

No, it's not true, admittedly, but it COULD have happened, it happened to at least one guy I went to high school with.

Even old friends occasionally get into this act. English Groupie J once said, who I'd known for several years, once said "You know, if I met a Russian man your age who had never been married, I would think there was something really wrong with him."

I replied, "And yet you've been fucking married rich guys for money since you were 15, and don't think there's anything at all wrong with that." (True, by the way.)

She looked at me.

"You Americans are so . . . unrealistic," she finally said.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Heavy Lies The Crown

Aw man. They've decided to sack one of my colleagues for repeatedly being drunk and/or badly hungover at work.

This is the kind of thing I was dreading; this is a guy I frequently get drunk with, and I'm supposed to fire him for being drunk.

I told the administration that I didn't want to be involved, for personal reasons, and that this was between them and him. But he kind of expects me to take his side.

Shit.

Friday, July 06, 2007

More Fun With International Communication

One of my Russian friends, a nutty little cutie-pie who is well-known for imitating pterodactyls when she's bored, called me the other night.

"What does 'Amstel' mean in English?" she asked in Russian -- she doesn't really speak English.

"It's a Dutch beer," I replied in my horrendous RUssian.

She considered this. "It doesn't make any sense. You know that Jennifer Lopez song, "Amstel, amstel, Jenny on the block?" She's drinking beer?"

Ha ha.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Proving My Machismo

Another birthday party for a friend, another couple of Russian guys challenging me to prove my worthiness by drinking a lot of vodka and then jumping in the river naked.

Give me a challenge, man, that's easy.

If only it were so easy to prove you're cool to the rest of the world at large.

Although after I blacked out, I did lose my sunglasses.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Welcome Haters!

When I originally started the English Teacher X website, I was anxiously awaiting some negative publicity, because, let's face it, that's pretty much the only way something becomes really popular on the Internet, if a lot of people hate it.

I used to post fake messages criticizing the website, from "Charles Pangolin" my fictitious TEFL arch enemy. Read some of Charles' adventures on my fake message board. There was quite a funny bunch of posts resulting, when people figured out what I was doing, with some people who frequented Dave's accusing each other of being English Teacher X. . . but of course Dave erased the whole thing, this was back in like 2003.

Then I slowly exhausted all my initial energy on the subject, and barely kept up with the website. A student started paying me to do some freelance writing for him (more on that later) and I spent most of my free time doing that. That concluded recently, so I have a bit more energy to throw into writing.

And now I have three haters. I'm not quite as excited as about it as I might be, because frankly I couldn't give a damn I get any hits or not anymore, but it's still kind of cool.

1) Chastity and her blog, ESL IN TN, has made a shitty comment or two about about me, but then erased all of our attempts to comment on her blog

2) The Weasally Old English Bastard returned from whatever vodka-sodden grave he lives in the Middle East to threaten me with exposure and thought he'd dog me by revealing that I actually CRY. (You dumb fuck. I even teared up during the end of the LOST IN SPACE movie, once, but then I did have a bad hangover.)

3) Now some guy from the GAP has launched a one-man campaign against English teachers abroad. (See comments from the last two posts.)

You know, I wish I HAD made that up. It's too perfect.

But here -- I did make this up -- an English Teacher X Hate Site. Let's go nuts, baby.

Dear God, People Actually READ This Shit?

My god, 18 fucking responses. . . I had a whole post thought out, but I'm so fucking flabbergasted by the responses to my last two entries, I think I forgot it all. Hateful posts from a guy that works at the GAP? Jesus Christ. I'd boycott the Gap, if there was one here. And that one from the 29-year-old office guy, holy shit. . .

Anyway, you've all convinced me. I'm counting my fucking blessings, here.

Trying to remember what I wanted to post about. . . oh yeah, it was about getting laid. Contrary to popular belief, I have to say that being a foreigner in another country is NOT an automatic route to easily laying loads of hot chicks. (I mean, unless you flat out pay for it, of course, but you can do that anywhere.) I know at least two teachers here who rarely if ever manage it; nothing seriously wrong with either of them, they're just average looking guys who are a bit shy and awkward around women.

I've gone out with some pretty hot-looking girls here (although admittedly some real trollops, too) but I managed plenty of good-looking girls in America, too. (Although keeping them was more of a problem, and finding ones who weren't clinically insane.)

As for this constant theme of balding and fatness, you GAP guy, -- believe it or not, 38 years old and still got almost all of my hair and a reasonably trim and muscular 180 pounds (I'm about 6'0.) There's a little beer blubber on my sides, admittedly, but I go to the gym three or four times a week and can still do an eight-minute mile. I'm not the worst looking kitten in the basket.

It seems to me that most guys end up banging girls who probably don't look much better or worse than the caliber of babe they could score at home -- although perhaps they do it more often. It seems to me that guys go through the motions of meeting women a lot more frequently and confidently here than they probably actually would at home. They actually go to bars and actually talking to women, for example, instead of just sitting and staring at them and bitching.

A humorous example -- one new guy who arrived here said he came because of the women, and that he was "sick of American women because all they're interested in is money." We immediately crapped ourselves laughing.

I should also add that guys who come here who aren't particularly clear-headed about what they want from women end up getting married to the first girl that gets ahold of them. And usually having a child with them. And nobody can henpeck like a Russian woman. . . I know, let's see, of the twenty or so foreigners I've known here in the last five years, about five have ended up married.

One thing is that there's a lot less stigma about girls going out with older guys in Russia, so that's handy. Of course, one reason I rarely go out with women older than 23 is that they're usually all married by that age. (All the girls I knew five years ago are married now.) You meet older divorced women occasionally, but not often, because they're too busy with the job and kids.

Now of course, being the sensitive and intelligent guy that I am, I have often accused girls I know of liking me only because I'm a foreigner, when drunk and angry. There were cases where it was surely true, but they see pretty quick that I'm neither looking for marriage nor do I have any money, so those ones are weeded out fairly quickly. The free English lesson factor is a bit more tricky -- as one of my English groupies pointed out, a lot of girls like to go out with teachers -- she'd been banging one of her university professors when I met her.

I was talking with a girl I've been going out recently, and I asked her whether she thought she'd actually be going out with me if I was a Russian guy of exactly the same salary level, job, age, appearance and personality. She said it was like asking if I'd like her if she was fat. And that if I was a Russian guy, I wouldn't have the same personality, anyway.

In the other countries I've been in, the situation was similarly complicated. In Thailand, you pretty much had two choices -- marry a nice girl, or fuck whores. In Korea there was a small contingent of English groupies who'd like to have sex with a foreign guy, but a considerably higher number who'd never consider going out with a white guy. In Prague, the girls were generally not too impressed by foreigners, as there were a lot of them.

Okay, off to stack our new 29.99 relaxed fit chinos. . . oh wait, no. I'm going to go sit for 90 minutes and talk to an attractive professional woman, and get paid for it.

And yes, I was drunk on the beach, surrounded by Slavic beauties, from Friday afternoon at about 2:00pm until Sunday evening at about nine. . .

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Corporate Life vs. Drunk On The Beach

Being accused of being an old whiner on my last post, I feel I need to make a few additions to my comments. (Even though the guy who accused me of being an old whiner is probably some young puke who thinks he's hot shit because he became an English teacher and laid a decent-looking chick for the first time ever.)

I've never worked for a big corporation; in fact I've pretty much never done anything other than teach English. (I worked as a bartender and a gardener briefly in and around the time I finished college.) I have no idea how tedious office work is -- I suppose those engineer guys work 10 - 12 hours a day, and are probably generally under a lot more stress, and all that.

Nonetheless, they are usually, in the evenings and weekends, exactly where the English teachers are -- hanging out. But with a lot more money.

Now, the obvious good question: if you hate it so much, or envy them so much, why don't you suck it up and go get a corporate job?

Hey, you know, it happens -- a former DOS in Moscow ended up getting a job in the Personnel Department of some big-ass pharmaceutical company's office in Moscow, with the attendant high-five-figure salary, on the strength of his managerial experience and his excellent Russian.

But that probably ain't for English Teacher X. I'm a teacher, and I actually like it pretty much. (Although, as I said, I don't really have anything to compare it to -- I might fucking love office work, for all I know.)

However, as we all know, the salaries and benefits of being an English teacher are pretty woesome -- and please, don't tell me how much money you made from your private students last month. I've done that too -- let's see, nearly $400 this month -- but it's rarely a steady or reliable income, and can dry up as quickly as it came.

People's wages versus cost of living are suffering in most places, I suppose, but I think this is especially true of English teaching. Despite the increased need for English in this global economy, globalism is actually killing this job -- steadily, wages (and course fees) continue to plummet as the allure of studying with a foreign teacher becomes less and less exotic. Foreigners are everywhere, and the whole world is connected by cheap flights. Local teachers are increasing well-trained and experienced, too.

And inflation, of course -- everything in Russia costs twice what it used to 5 years ago, but my salary is barely 20 percent more, in comparative terms, even after becoming a DOS.

Without getting into the pros and cons of whether English teachers are free-living rebels or global bottom-feeders, and whether freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose, the financial realities of it are a bit frightening as you get older. For example, this post on Ernesto Rodriguez's blog detailing how he can't afford his diabetes medication. But it's not like only English teachers have THAT problem.

There's always the Middle East for decent money and benefits, I suppose, but the fun quotient is pretty low there, obviously.

So whither English Teacher X?

Well, I hope to get a Master's Degree in the next couple of years, and get into working for some of the international charities and NGOs. I knew a guy here in Vodkaberg who was making a reasonably sweet $45 - $50,000 a year, plus a local stipend, working for the Soros Foundation, mostly involved in training Russian teachers and giving seminars. Then, I guess, there's always international schools and universities, teacher training, and so forth.

I guess you can stumble along in any career if you don't make any effort to improve your lot in life. After all, these engineer guys worked hard and got great degrees and qualifications to get where they are. I became an English teacher as a result of backpacking through Thailand and running out of money. . .

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

English Teacher X's Advice Column

Every once and a while I get an email from somebody that goes something like this:

Hi X love your website, especially the story where the dogs eat the vomit! I'm a 43-year-old tool and die engineer from Milwaukee and I have recently decided to chuck a lifetime of hard work out the window so I can come to Russia and get screwed over by slutty slavic chicks and live like a bum, just like you! Whoa! Man! Viva la Revolucion! Do you have any particular advice about how to get started?

Okay, to all you people with actual jobs out there looking to travel:

FOR GOD'S SAKE, HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS???

If you have ANY kind of marketable skill, especially engineering, you can most likely get a posting in another country fairly easily. (According to my brother, an oil engineer, his company is constantly trying to get people to go to Russia and Nigeria and a few other places to work, but most civilized people refuse.)

But not just engineers -- anybody with an MBA is probably in good shape, but there are plenty of lawyers and accountants and managers and programmers, too, working in big companies like Pepsi and Holiday Inn and Nokia and Oracle and so on and so on and so on.

Even the fucking food and beverage industry - there are plenty of international hotels with foreign chefs and kitchen managers and so on. And TGIFriday's are everywhere, too.

And THEN, you'll live in Russia, but have a huge salary, insurance and other benefits, a company car, a nice apartment, and all that.

So please, have half a brain, and try to get a GOOD job before you become an English teacher.

(My posts are getting really negative, recently, I realize -- you can see what hanging around with guys ten years younger than me making 8,000 Euros a month working for whatever global conglomerate, with free everything from drivers to sports club memeberships, is doing to me. . . well , I've still got my health I suppose, cough cough. . .)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Beyond Fucked Up

I tell you, becoming DOS has convinced me that this profession is simply well and truly fucked in the 21st century.

I don't know that I had any illusions that I could vastly change things at our school; but I thought maybe I could change SOMETHING, especially the split shifts. But no, about the only way you can completely block the schedule of all your teachers is to employ no more than about three.

Otherwise, students study in the morning before work, and after work. And company classes want to study in the morning, and maybe in the afternoon around lunchtime.

So that's pretty much when the teachers have to work.

One less-mentioned aspect of split shifts that really sucks is the financial one -- you have to pay for the bus four times a day, unless you want to hang around the school doing nothing all day. Some schools pay for a bus pass for their teachers for that very reason, but ours doesn't.)

So of course, that's why no sane person would do this kind of English teaching for long. Starting at 9:00am and finishing at 9:30? Did we do this job to get out of the rat race? The same hours as some corporate flunky, but 1/10th the pay.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Most Expensive City For Spoiled Yuppie Scum

Once again Moscow tops the list of most expensive cities FOR EXPATRIATES in the world. Without getting into how stupid it is to judge prices by how much corporate expatriate workers pay, let's look at a small extract from this Yahoo article:

The survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting ranked 143 cities around the world, measuring the comparative cost of more than 200 areas such as housing, transportation and food. The findings are designed to help multinational employers determine compensation for their expatriate workers.

In Moscow, a luxury two-bedroom apartment will cost an expat $4,000 a month; a CD rings up at $24.83; one copy of an international daily newspaper is $6.30; and a fast-food hamburger meal totals $4.80.


WHAT THE FUCK?? First of all, you could get a pretty damn nice apartment for, say, $2000 in Moscow, not too close to the center, but with a western standard of appliances and all -- low-end two bedroom in the suburban areas would be less than a thousand. AND WHO THE FUCK BUYS LEGAL CDs in MOSCOW!??!! Any market and most subway passages have bootleg MP3 discs with hundreds of songs for less than $3. And I don't know what fucking "international daily newspaper" is supposed to mean, but can't you just read the headlines on the Internet like everybody else?

I ate at McDonalds a couple times when I was in Moscow in March -- I guess $4 is about right for a Big Mac meal. TGIFridays had a business lunch that was I think $10, and yes, they force the waitresses to smile at you.

But Moscow's public transport is A LOT cheaper than New York or London -- still costs less than 50 cents for a one-way subway journey, whereas in London it now costs like 2 pounds. Food in supermarkets is for the most part a lot cheaper than England or America; alcohol and cigarettes are A LOT cheaper, though of course they're going up in price -- a half-liter bottle of decent beer still costs less than $1, a liter of good vodka costs about $5. Cigarettes are less than a dolllar, too.

(Note to the kids: English Teacher X doesn't smoke, just like the Fonz. AYYYYYYYY!)

Yeah, yuppie scum nightclubs and fancy watering holes costs a shitload, as do name brands of clothing. . .

So anyway, let's all shed a few tears for those poor beleagured Ikea and Shell engineers who will be forced to blow all of their $150 per diem on these outrageous prices of international newspapers, before they go get a couple of $75 whores and fuck all night.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cold War and Hot Babes

There's a lot of talk in the media about the new Cold War between America and Europe and Russia.

Tell ya what -- they're absolutely fucking right.

It happens nearly every time we go out, now -- some young doofuses come over and speak bad English and eventually get around to telling us that Russia is the best country in the world but that there are too many foreigners here taking jobs away from Russians. Even a girl I went out with a couple times started in on this topic (while sitting on my lap in her underwear, I might add.)

The hostility is getting more and more pronounced -- there hasn't been any violence, as of yet, probably because we tend to travel in packs and have several large tough individuals amongst our ranks, but it's come pretty close several times.

Last night two morons started shouting "Hey guys!" at us while we were sitting quietly at a table drinking beer, and asked what we thought of Russia. We said we liked it, and they said "That's good! If you no like, we kill you!"

Not to stay we don't still get quite a few chicks fawning over us, but there's a definite ugly mood of nationalism in the air.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's Alive

Finally put something new on the website, another English teacher bar conversation. Although it's not the complete overhaul I hope to eventually do, I changed some colors and shit.

English Teacher X website -- now in black and grey!

New Cartoon -- A Conversation About Cloning

The Death of Fresh

I've been here a fucking long time, over seven years now. It doesn't often seem like so long, however, for a number of reasons -- things changes completely every couple of years, from my friends and colleagues to the shops and buildings and even the bars we go to.

Five years ago there were no supermarkets at all, or at least not any big or modern ones. You had to buy your produce and meat from the old women at the outdoor markets, which was great -- they were always pleasant and the fruit and vegetables and eggs were unbelievable fresh and tasty and flavorful.

You generally bought canned, packaged and bottled stuff -- of which there was a very small selection, canned tuna only appeared in about 2003 -- from the 24-hour produktis, which were cramped little shops staffed by haggard and bad-tempered middle-age women. Everything was seperated from you by a counter, so you had to ask for what you wanted, and they usually ended up yelling at me for not speaking clearly -- nobody every though I was American, just some moronic Estonian or something.

Now there are 4 huge ultra-modern 24-hour hypermarkets within a few minutes' walk of my apartment -- they are pretty much identical to their American counterparts, although of course a lot of the food is labelled in Russian. And they sell books and magazines and DVDs and toys and electronics and all that crap, too.

The vegetables you buy at the hypermarkets all taste like the plastic they are wrapped in, and never seem to rot -- I've had part of a head of lettuce in my refrigerator for at least a month and a half, and it's not even brown.

But, fuck it, the hypermarkets are just so damn convenient. I do most of my shopping there.

Let that be the epitaph for humanity: IT WAS JUST SO DAMN CONVENIENT.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Pathway to the Abandoned Slaughterhouse

An acquaintance here in Vodkaberg is trying to start his own introduction agency, through which foreigners can come here and meet, in person, a bevy of Russian women who may or may not be happy to marry them, or have sex with them, or just spend all their money.

We asked what he'd do if somebody asked him to find some nice Russian girl to torture and kill, like in the movie HOSTEL.

He of course said he'd never do it, but we suggested, what if he found, for example, somebody who was terminally ill already and was willing to let themselves be killed, as long as their family was well-paid in return.

And you can see how it would develop from there -- after you'd exhausted all the terminally ill, you'd start looking for the suicidal, and after that people who you thought deserved to die -- convicted criminals, or whatever.

Then you'd probably move on to, "Oh, okay, we'll capture an innocent person, just this once, but we'll give half the money to GREENPEACE."

And of course you'd always be saying to yourself, "Hey, it's not like WE'RE killing these people, we're just chaining them up and putting them in a room with a German guy, and some hacksaws and surgical implements!"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hanging Out With Engineers

So of course there are loads of foreign engineers working for oil companies in Russia. I mentioned, last year, one we had befriended, who was from Colombia. He makes about $12,000 a month. He says he could never make an equivalent salary in Colombia -- Russia nets him something like "hazard pay" from the huge multinational company he works for.

Which is funny, since the only hazard he really faces are venereal diseases and angry husbands.

He was in town yesterday to buy a new car, and showed us pictures of the new house he has just purchased in Colombia.

It's kind of a big deal for me to buy, like, a book.

Stay in school, kids.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Return of The Weasally English Bastard

I received a couple of strange comments to a posting, a few months ago, one of which threatened to reveal my name and the school that I worked at. I suspected who wrote it, but simply deleted it without much further though. Internet grudge wars are tedious, and stupid, and time-consuming, and stressful.

Then, just now, checking out the now-defunct message board, I found the following messages left for me -- this isn't all of them, but this is the best.

This is actually from somebody who was in one of my stories; I only referred to him as a "weasally old English bastard" and the events concern the complete disaster of my employment by a small Language school in Desolationgrad, Russia - actually the thriving metropolis of Togliatti.

Read about it here; LEAVING PRAGUE, WORST-CASE SCENARIO, and X STRIKES BACK

Basically they promised me employment in one city, gave me employment in another, failed to register me properly, stuck me in an office where no one spoke English, and then let me go very suddenly after 6 weeks of conflict with them and the students despite me trying to make several attempts to give proper notice, etc.

Without further ado, here is the message from the Weasally Old Bastard himself.

Don't want to blow your cover Mr S*****, but my memories are somewhat divergent from yours, but then "a weaselly old English guy"
would probably have lapses of memory, right?

I seem to recall that you left the first interview with tears in your eyes.

I also seem to recall that I gave you the contact for your next job in Samara with (your current employers) and ensured that you were offered the job using my contacts with the school and with their Head Office back in Moscow.

One thing that struck me about your printed reaction to your leaving is what you wrote yourself "This was the third job I'd been let go from in less than 12 months"

Did that tell you anything about yourself as a teacher?
Probably not from the "further adventures of a Tefl teacher in Samara" that you published.

You know, S****** , there are events in our lives that intelligent people learn from. Now that a few years have passed I hope you have started learning.

The OldEnglishBastard


I posted the following reply:

RE: Song of the Volga Boatmen
Yes, Pete, I certainly did have tears in my eyes -- enraged and helpless as I was, having allowed myself to be fucked over so completely by a couple of worthless shit sacks like you and Golovanov.

You might indeed have recommended I contact my current employers, after your many vacillations and weasally excuses, but my mentioning you as a reference got me nothing but a tired sigh and a chuckle from "R. J." Your history with them needn't be re-hashed here. On my first day in Samara, when we were at the embankment, you spent some considerable amount of time denigrating them, trying to convince me the school you worked for was better and singing the praises of "family-run operations." In this case the family was straight out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but hey.

And I seem to recall you were fired from the same shitty little institute a few months later, and, after failing to find other work in Samara, went to work in Moscow, where you were also summarily ripped off by shitty employers. You think you'd have a bit more empathy.

And I notice you don't deny anything I said in the story, you merely add a few details.

Oh, but believe me, Pete, I learned one VERY valuable thing -- NEVER, EVER AGAIN will I go blind into a situation without enough money to tell my employer to fuck himself. (Or herself.) Along with whatever weasally English toadies they happen to have dug up to act as official brownnoser.

Then I started a website, so my experiences could serve as a cautionary tale to others, especially newbies who are the most vulnerable.

In addition, I worked hard, got a DELTA, and became a DOS -- SPECIFICALLY SO I CAN PREVENT THE SCHOOLS I WORK FOR DOING TO OTHER TEACHERS WHAT YOU AND THAT FUCKER GOLOVANOV DID TO ME.

So yes, it's safe to say that I got a lot out of the experience. Perhaps I should thank you. Who knows where I'd be otherwise.

Golovanov was wise enough to get out of English teaching after the incident with me; but his partner still lingers on, and only after numerous Internet complaints by the teachers they fucked over are they running anything like an honest school. (I'm sure you read on ESLcafe about the incident of the guy who got his head cracked in but was denied medical insurance by them.)

I have no desire to get into an Internet name-calling contest, but you are certainly aware that your past employment and behavioural history is just as bad as any long-time English teacher. I understand that you're now in Saudi, or some other middle Eastern country where English teachers go to die quietly, hopefully not in a position to help your employers screw over any new teachers.

And if you are trying to convince me, or my Internet readership, that you are NOT a weasally English bastard, might I suggest that these insipid threats and condescending cliches are not the way to do it.

Additionally, I hope getting away from all the vodka has done you good.

Regards,
S**** (AKA English Teacher X)
DOS
Samara, Russia

Ain't No Cure For The Summertime Blues

So it's summer, and of course the Russian girls aren't wearing much.

But, like, I'll be walking down the street and see some blonde honey-dipped thing with enormous sunglasses, huge tits sticking out of her tiny halter top, six-inch stilettos, and a skirt that barely covers her bellybutton.

And then I get a little closer and realize she's like 13 or 14.

Do these girls have parents who actually take them to the store and buy them these clothes?

"What a country!" to quote Yakov Smirnoff.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tanned and Hungover

It's really hot, as I mentioned, so we spend most of the time laying on the beach drinking beer. That's better than hanging around nightclubs and pool halls drinking beers, probably, because when I stumble into work hungover on Monday, I'm nice and tan and healthy-looking, instead of all pasty and puffy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's Not The Heat, It's The Stupidity

A month ago we got a mutant snowfall that knocked down trees -- now it's in the 90's every day. Great weather for hanging around the beach, of course, but I've broken out in a heat rash all over my shoulders and crotch. Probably related to the fact that there's no hot water in my apartmet this week.

They've got the problem of dishevelled-looking people going into bowling alleys under control, thank God, but still have streets that look like an artillery-testing range and no hot water for most of the summer.

Believe it or not, the original englishteacherx.com website will soon live again. . . unless of course I get too busy hanging around the beach drinking beer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

You'd Think There Would Be A Little More General Hysteria

Somebody apparently got shot while we were hanging on the embankment last Friday – it was about two a.m, in a sparsely populated café, and a group of basketball players went over to have words with some bikers who were squealing their tires and making a lot of noise and smoke, and it turned into a fight – naturally our bets were on the big fucking basketball players. They started rumbling, and the basketball players (about four of them) chased the (two or three) bikers around the side of the café, and then we heard, “Pop, pop. Pop. Pop pop.”

“Was that a gun?” I asked.

“No, it wasn’t loud enough. Probably firecrackers.”

“No, no way, guns are a lot louder than that.”

”Well, shit, I fired my dad’s .22 at Christmas, it sounded pretty much like that.”

“Anyway, people would be screaming and stuff if somebody got shot.”

Then the basketball players came running back around the side of the café, and one of them was bleeding heavily from arm; one of the bikers had a chair and was screaming and chasing the other basketball players away with it.

“Those basketball players have suddenly become oddly conciliatory,” I pointed out.

“He must have a knife – I guess he stabbed that guy. Or maybe the metal leg of the chair cut him.”

“Or maybe he shot them! What the fuck was that popping, isn’t it logical to assume that was a gun, in this situation?” I insisted

“No, no,” said the English and Austrailans. “Don’t be silly. This isn’t America.”

“Man, plenty of my students have guns,” somebody pointed out.

The bikers finally retreated, leaving their bikes behind, which the basketball players knocked over and started jumping on.

We later walked back behind the café, and sure enough, there was a guy laying there in a puddle of blood, a woman crouched down cuddling his body.

“You’d think there’d be a little more general hysteria, though,” said somebody.

“Yeah, you would.”

Two ambulances and a police car finally came; we watched from a cafe nearby as the ambulance took the guy on the ground and the guy bleeding from the arm away. The ambulance didn’t have any lights on and wasn’t going particularly fast as it left.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mid-Life Crisis

I'll be 38 soon. I've been pretty moody lately; I think I'm having a mid-life crisis.

Most guys deal with their mid-life crisis by having an affair with a younger woman or something, or becoming an English teacher in some stinking hellhole country.

So what am I supposed to do? That's been my whole adult life.

I could become a dentist, I guess.

"Dentist X" -- nah. I'd probably get arrested for molesting my female patients under the anaesthetic anyway. . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Twist On The Old Vomit Story

Last week we were at a nightclub and saw an English groupie we knew, and she she was there with a couple of her friends (neither of whom spoke any English.)

One of them was depressed and upset because she'd come home and found her husband in bed with another woman -- naturally she decided to get drunk and English Teacher P ended up taking her home, where she promptly vomitted all over the place while he was having sex with her.

Ah, but I've heard this story before, you might be saying. Ah no, read on.

Then, the next day, she wouldn't leave -- he kept making excuses about having to go to a lesson, but then she kept showing up again later.

A few days later the English groupie explained what the problem was -- turns out that the girl had told him she'd only have sex with him if he agreed to by her a new mobile phone (a $200 model) but his Russian not being particularly good, he'd just said, "Da, da, da" and gone ahead with it.

Naturally he says he's not going to buy her a phone. I can't blame him, I'd say the vomitting probably makes any previous deal null and void.