Monday, April 27, 2009

From The Horses's Mouth

I was giving an individual lesson to one of my students today, a guy in his early 30's who has his own small business selling various specialty petrochemicals.

The topic was cultural differences and business; the speaking activity was, "What advice would you give to someone from Britain or America who wanted to do business in your country?"

He considered this and offered the following:

1) Don't trust words

2) Give gifts to the people you are doing business with

3) Be ready to break the law

That about sums it up!

Friday, April 24, 2009

. . . And You May Ask Yourself, "How Did I Get Here?"

I used to think the lyrics to this song were kind of nonsensical, but now they're starting to make a lot of sense to me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Angry Rant About Russian Girls

. . . aw hell, what's even the use in ranting? Better, as Shakespeare said, to stand at the sea and scream at the tide.

The thing that gets you, over here, as opposed to some place like Thailand, is that they LOOK pretty much like us (only with higher cheekbones and tackier clothes.) It's easy to forget that underneath that, they are have virtually NOTHING similar to us in the way of thought processes.

Tonight I was going to go on a date with a girl; a girl I've known for a couple of years and have . . .er. . . known quite a few times.

In the beginning she had no problem with meeting me at a bar near my apartment after work; but now insists that I go get her in a taxi and then return to said bar. This entails about 20 - 30 minutes to get her, and another 20 - 30 minutes back.

I offer to pay for the fucking taxi if she gets it herself and meets me wherever; but no, that's not good enough.

"Maybe it's usual in your country, but no here," she texts me.

I try to explain that getting a taxi for me often turns into a major ordeal because drivers try to overcharge or even become downright hostile to foreigners; and her getting a taxi herself would save time and be no particular effort for her, and of course I'd be happy to pay.

"I say once again" she texts me "there is no problem in transport, only in the moral norms." Hot from the translation program on her phone.

Equally irritating is the way that when we're together, and we stop a taxi, she insists I ask how much and tell the taxi driver where to go, even though, as I said, them hearing my accent will probably lead to higher prices and / or outright hostility.

Why? Because transport is guy work. Girls are only in charge of drinking martini and eating sushi you buy them.

Another friend in town got around this by finally getting his own car. He told me once that his girlfriend still apparently insists that he drive her around -- even though she actually has a car of her own.

Moral norms, she said.

"YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT" I responded, and returned home to jerk off and sleep peacefully.

If tomorrow all the Russian girls exploded, my only concern would be shielding myself from being splashed with their foul tainted blood or being lacerated by the flying shattered remains of their big Gucci sunglasses.

Look out! She's about to explode!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Dumb Reason To Teach English

We've been getting a lot of Russian language majors here in Vodkaberg, lately.

In my opinion, hoping to learn the local language is one of the dumbest possible reasons to become an English teacher. I mean, really -- you'll be speaking English in class 20 - 30 hours a week, and most of the people you meet will be either foreigners or English-speaking locals.

You might get lucky -- I know one person who has become nearly fluent in Russian in like five years here, by virtue of living with a girl who speaks no English and rarely socializing with foreigners. The rest of us get by with minimal to piss-poor language skills.

It's not like a great percentage of the population speak English, I should say -- just most of the people that we have any interest in speaking to.

With the new modern supermarkets, even shopping is just a matter of gathering up what you need and looking at the total on the register.

There's of course the meeting-girls-in-nightclub motivation; generally nightclubs are too loud to do much speaking anyway. It's mostly just dancing and buying drinks that does the trick, and the international language of "Drunkenly Making Out." And what if you don't like nightclubs anyway?

One of the new guys here is so desperate to practice his Russian that he started taking Polish lessons from a Russian teacher, just so she'd have to explain things to him in Russian.

Me, personally -- I think speaking a language fluently would take all the fun out of living abroad.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Forged Lives

I'm going through a lot of rigamarole to get my degree certified for the job in Saudi --, in addition to sealed transcripts and the like. Also have to get a police security clearance saying I haven't been charged with any crimes in Russia.

I tell you, it's a far cry from the old days. As I said on the old website, I think it was about three years before I even met anyone who had qualifications of any sort. In Thailand most of the guys didn't even have university degrees -- when they wanted to get work visas, they just copied my diploma and stuck their name on it. If immigration thought it was strange that five guys working at the same school in Thailand, from several different countries, had graduated from the same university on the same day, we never heard anything about it.

I think in Korea some of the people I knew had university degrees, but not in any field related to English, for the most part. I think I also had to show a transcript when I got my visa there, but it was just a crumpled old photocopy.

Ah, the 90's. How I miss 'em. And then the world turned into one big Ikea.

(Of course, we have, but I guess we also have websites for fake degrees, also. Maybe it all balances out.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Going Postal

There was a time last spring -- 2008, I mean -- that I was cleaning out an old cabinet at the school and found an old pirated copy of the computer game POSTAL 2.

It so happened that I was teaching a lot of FCE and CAE test preperation classes at that time, and this involved a lot of practice tests as we got closer to the date of the exams. This meant I was sitting doing nothing for most of the lesson while the students did one hour and thirty minute timed tests.

There was also a computer in the room.

Now, I should say that my computer at home would not play the old pirated disc, as my new computer used Vista, and the game would not play on Vista.

The computer in the room where I was giving the practice tests, on the other hand. . .that still used Windows XP.

I suppose I don't need to tell you what I started doing while the students were taking the tests.

"My god that's incredibly unprofessional," even my rather slothful colleagues said, over drinks.

"It's so unprofessional that I don't even understand why you're telling me it's unprofessional," I agreed.

This was shortly after the school had tried to put me on working only weekends with no advance warning. I tried to quit over that, but they backed down. All the while, the school continued giving people split shifts ending at 21.30 and starting at 09.00; they were changing our schedules practically every day and giving us very little notice for starting new classes.

Unprofessional. . .

I thought of fifteen years of shitty school administrations while I shot the crap out of the small town of Paradise, Arizona, and burned and electrocuted digital civilians, even blew up Gary Coleman, while my students took practice tests.

Suprisingly administration only got wind of this recently. Now of course, it's too late. . . probably isn't going to help me get that emergency visa flight to Germany paid for, though.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Who Says TEFL Is Not An Important Job?

Associated Press -- BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Jiverly Wong was upset over losing his job at a vacuum plant, didn't like people picking on him for his limited English and once angrily told a co-worker, "America sucks."

It remains unclear exactly why the Vietnamese immigrant strapped on a bulletproof vest, barged in on a citizenship class and killed 13 people and himself, but the Binghamton police chief says he knows one thing for sure: "He must have been a coward."

Jiverly Wong had apparently been preparing for a gun battle with police but changed course and decided to turn the gun on himself when he heard sirens approaching, Chief Joseph Zikuski said Saturday.

"He had a lot of ammunition on him, so thank God before more lives were lost, he decided to do that," the chief said.

Police and Wong's acquaintances portrayed him as an angry, troubled 41-year-old man who struggled with drugs and job loss and perhaps blamed his adopted country for his troubles. His rampage "was not a surprise" to those who knew him, Zikuski said.

"He felt degraded because people were apparently making fun of his poor English speaking," the chief said.

* * *

If this guy had stuck with his English lessons a bit more, this might not have happened. But of course if he'd stayed back on the farm in Vietnam, also, it wouldn't have happened. So never mind.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Alibi: An English Teaching Tale From The Old Days

This happened like the second summer I was here. I was teaching a summer-school intensive class of about ten girls, at least eight of whom were really attractive, all of whom were aged between 16 - 25. Intensive teaching it was not -- a lot of chatting about bars and nightclubs and occasionally listening to Rickey Martin or Enrique Iglesias songs (by student request) characterized most of the class. (Obviously this was 2001 or so.)

There's a game often recommended in English-teaching books called "Alibi." The premise is that a robbery (or murder, or whatever) has occurred, and two of the students are the suspects. They are put together for five minutes or so to come up with an alibi for where they were and what they were doing at the time the robbery occurred, and encouraged to plan the alibi to minute details.

The rest of the class are the police, and they come up with a list of questions to ask. They split into two groups and question each of the suspects separately. They ask questions -- "What were you doing at 9:35? What did you do after that? What were you wearing?" -- and then compare the answers and try to find differences in the respective stories, and if they find significant ones, that means the "suspects" are guilty.

So I set up the game.

The alibi of the "suspects" was that they were both having sex with me in a hotel near the river at the time of the robbery. The game broke down completely when the "Police" students wanted to ask each of the suspects about my penis.

I've never tried to play that game in class again.

(I did have sex with about four of the eight hot girls in the class, over the course of that summer, but never two at a time in a hotel room.)

It's actually kind of hard to imagine a bunch of Russian girls being so overtly vulgar these days. That was back when the big Sexual Revolution was going on.