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.


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.


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. . .