Friday, October 31, 2008

What You Like Do In You Free Time?

One of my goals, upon becoming Director of Studies, was to set up a good library of novels and DVDs for the use of the teachers. I've spent enough time in foreign countries wishing for some good books or films that I considered it a real priority in helping new teachers get settled.

So of course, when I tell the new teachers, "And here's our library of 100-something novels, which run the gamut from detective novels and thrillers to classics of all sorts, along with plenty of historical stuff about Russia" they generally just look at me like:

"What the hell am I supposed to do with a book?"

As for the DVDs, I'm surprised how many people come here without a laptop computer. (And then in some cases, are too shy or broke to go out and get a TV and a DVD player.)

Perhaps people thought they were coming here to get away from staring at screens in their free time. Noble sentiment, but believe me, staring at the wall isn't much better.

Especially when you've got a hangover or a bad cold or something. . .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Viewer Mail

I think a lot of people don't really read this shit; they just see some pictures of cleavage and think, "Whoa! English teaching looks awesome!"

Got this email the other day:

Hello englishteacherx.
You sound like a very happy guy!
Can you please give me more info about ESL:
-countries that are most suitable for a man eg in Latin America.
-whatever a man should know to have fun, do well, meet girls there etc, when he is older than you are.

My response was this:

The primary bit of advice is to have a lot of money already. The starting salary as an English teacher won't allow you much luxury, and your standard of living is likely to be low. Women aren't going to be impressed with a middle-aged guy who doesn't have a car or a house or much in the way of career prospects, even if he's a foreigner, because there are probably plenty of those around them already.

Speaking the language helps a lot. Visiting a country before you take a job there is a good idea. As for resources, I assume if you found my website, you already know about Dave's ESL Cafe

Good luck,

The guy responded immediately with this:

Mr X,
I really appreciate your time.
wILL your forum (or another?) cover topics like "dating students(over 18), without risking looking silly, due to your job "?
I hope your happy.

I offered up the following safe advice:

ah, it happens, quite a bit actually, but again, you're back to the issue of English teachers not being very good catches -- these girls are mostly studying English because they're already rich and they travel a lot, or because they're trying to get good jobs where they can make a lot of money. The days of students slavering after their English teachers probably ended about 5 years ago, but it's still within the realm of the possible.

I think I'd suggest getting qualified and trying to get a job in America teaching immigrants, first. Those women are probably even a bit more likely to be looking for a man, as they'll be wanting to stay in America . . .

Just assuming you're American, but same is true of England.

Anyway. Check out this cleavage.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Director of Studies F. Kafka

Three teachers gone in a month, none of whom gave "proper notice," protesting the horrendous schedules and snappy treatment at the hands of management.

"Don't you think that means something?" I ask the Administration Girl.

"They were bad teachers and bad people, obviously. Why should we change any policies to accommodate people who are just going to leave in the middle of the night?"

"But what about the teachers who are staying? You could change things for them. .."

"They are staying, obviously they are happy enough the way things are."

"Yeah, until they leave in the middle of the night."

"If they leave in the middle of the night, they don't deserve anything."

"What about the teachers who DO give proper notice, when they leave?"

"If they give proper notice, they were obviously happy enough the way things were, and there's no reason to change anything."

"What about all the complaining they do to me?"

"They can complain all they want, but the scheduling system is obviously described in the contract. If they don't like it, they can go."

"So they only thing they can do to protest is to leave in the middle of the night?"


"And if they do that, they we shouldn't consider it a proper complaint because they weren't good employees anyway?"


"I'm going to go kill myself now."

"Good luck."

And the vicious cycle continues. . .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Travelling Hopefully Is Better Than Starving To Death

"You gotta get out there in the world, man."

--Christopher McCandless, American "wanderer" who died alone of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness at age 24.

"The journey is the destination."

-- Dan Eldon, British "traveler" and photojournalist who was beaten to death at the hands of an angry mob in Africa at age 22.

Amazing to me that many are inspired to be "travelers" by these two guys. They're both real monuments to staying home and playing computer games and reading comic books until you die at a ripe old age, in my opinion.

I suppose there's still Jack Kerouac as an example, who died a miserable drunk living with his mother and third wife at age 47, and Jack London, who died at 40 of kidney problems he'd picked up traveling around the tropics.

Eleanor Rigby

Yet ANOTHER shy, quiet late 40's/ early 50's guy arrives in Russia to work as an English teacher -- a vast change from whatever boring yet comfortable and well-paid job he was doing before -- and wanders around confused and lonely for a few weeks before giving up and going back home.

What ARE these people thinking? Huh? That the water in Russia will instill them with charisma and joie de vivre? Even the vodka won't do that.

And now with the fucking economic collapse, we'll get even more of them, I bet. . .

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Can't Win For Losing

When I arrived in Russia in 2000, the country was in ruins -- the currency crash of 1998 had completed wrecked the country's economy. There were quite a few government offices that didn't stay open past 4:00pm in the winter because they couldn't afford lightbulbs.

We got paid in rubles, then, but pegged to a dollar rate. I think it was 29 to the dollar or something like that when I arrived, reaching a high of 32 in 2003.

Then came George Bush's invasion of Iraq, and oil prices began to go through the roof. Russia suddenly found itself wealthy with oil money. Huge office complexes, towering modern apartment blocks, and shopping malls by the score opened in Moscow and St. Petersberg, and this trickled down to the provinces by 2004.

The dollar fell and fell against the ruble. Our salaries went up a bit, but couldn't even remotely keep up with inflation or the falling dollar.

Fortunately in 2006, becoming Director of Studies saw my salary go up quite a bit; and here they stopped referring to a dollar rate and simply started giving me a set sum in rubles. Naturally private lessons on the side continued to pay well.

Merely a couple of months ago, the dollar rate stood at 23.8 rubles.

Until now, of course, when it has shot up over the course of a couple months to 26.5.

(For example, if you have 25,000 rubles in savings, it has gone from $1050 to $943 -- more than a hundred bucks, or ten percent, gone.)

Of couse, most people don't save anything here anyway -- there is something to be said for blowing all your money on alcohol, I suppose.