Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Satisfied Customer

Guy writes me last year, says he's thinking about becoming an English teacher. I tell him a number of reasons it might not be a good idea, and he responds with:

Hey ETX,

Despite your friendly warnings about moving to Russia, I can't get the idea out of my head. I had more fun in the six weeks I spent there than in the last ten years in America.

Although I have a Master's and a good work record, good jobs are very difficult to find now that I am middle aged. The job market is the inverse of what it was during the Clinton years. It's a Republican economy and workers are taking it up the shorts. I was an IT guy and this sector of the economy has never recovered. Hundreds of thousands of programmers lost their jobs. I am underemployed now, but one of the fortunate ones. Men I know who once were well off had to become custodians or pizza delivery guys. I have nothing to lose by trying this.

I have to get a Celta first, so I anticipate 6-9 months before I can make
the move.

What other cities if any would you recommend in Russia? Would the
fact that I rarely drink anymore make me a social outcast? Would bringing my
cat be a stupid idea?

Don't worry, you are not responsible for my decision to do this...

Same guy writes me yesterday:

Hey ETX,

I should have listened to you man, ESL is a really shitty job. I got my CELTA last summer and have been working at a dodgy school here in Kiev. I like teaching, but I've had enough of private language schools and Russians/Ukrainians. I am going to China and teach at a University in Beijing. My contract is for 10-14 hrs a week, so I can moonlight and goof off. If that sucks too, I'm going back to the states.
Now I know your site is filled with warnings, but I think they are too subtle. It should be more like...

NO! Don't do it! Stop now! You'll regret it!

At least you tried. Sme tohings I have experienced were just beyond my comprehension. I now know exactly what you have been saying.
It's not all bad. Lots of hot babes want to learn English.

Right from the horse's mouth. Or your mouth to God's ear. Or whatever.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Great Lost Moments in TEFL History

Two recent films that I've seen strike me as great lost moments in TEFL history.

At the beginning of the film THE INCREDIBLE HULK, Bruce Banner (played by Edward Norton) is living in hiding in Brazil. And get this -- to support himself, he's doing menial labor in some kind of cola bottling factory! When he could be fucking teaching English to hot chicks at a salary which, while low, is probably considerably better than a factory worker.

Ditto the fourth film in the Rambo series, RAMBO. Rambo (of course played by Sylvester Stallone) is in self-imposed exile in northern Thailand working at some kind of touristy snake show and also piloting a river boat. It's perhaps a little more understandable that a guy like John Rambo, who doesn't seem to like talking much beyond grunting and the occasional quotable aphorism, would pass on the English teaching.

(But indeed I knew plenty of less suitable people doing the job there.)

"The brain is the most powerful weapon," indeed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The First Russian Girl I Ever Met

The first Russian girl I ever actually met was back in about 1996, before I went to work in New York. I was interested in working in Russia, just back from Asia -- staying back home in Podunk. At that time I could find very little information about it on the Internet, and it was too intimidated to just roll up in Russia looking for a job.

I had an acquaintance working as an English teacher in Switzerland, and she had a colleague who was Russian; she referred me to this Russian, and we struck up an e-mail correspondence.

This Russian had no particular advice about going to Russia, but it was interesting to meet her. She was in her late 20's at that time -- she'd emigrated to Switzerland in the late 80's by marrying a Swiss guy during some kind of Soviet Union educational exchange.

Turned out, however, that she'd been legally married in Russia at that time.

"It was so easy to do?" I queried.

"At that time, it was possible, now it wouldn't be."

She was married to that Swiss guy for less than a year, I think -- she told me that she was going to Prague repeatedly to meet her Russian husband during this time, and actually got pregnant at one point. This ended her Swiss marriage, and she eventually lost the baby, but she managed to get Swiss citizenship.

She had a long-term boyfriend in Switzerland at the time I was corresponding with her, but she was planning a visit to America -- she visited a friend in Philadelphia and within a couple of weeks had a boyfriend there and had broken up with her boyfriend in Switzerland.

That eventually didn't work out and she went back to Switzerland and married another guy.

You think all this would have been a cautionary tale about going to Russia. But you know me. I laugh at danger.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Chocolate Ration Has Been Increased From 6 Grams To 4 Grams Today

Some of you, particularly those thinking of relocating to Russia to marry the faithless mercenary high-cheekboned women, might enjoy the right-wing, anti-American propaganda on the website

Wikipedia informs me that it is not directly related to the old Soviet newspaper Pravda, but was in fact started by several former staff members.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Or We Could Just Shoot All Of Them

Just saw this snarky little article about the Russian oligarchs on MSNBC:

Russian Oligarchs' Fortunes Dwindle To Mere Billions Bailout, anyone?


Updated 9:27 PM PST, Mon, Feb 16, 2009
Related Topics: Russia

Every day we read some new sad story about the awful global recession. It's causing massive instability and protests in the developing world, and Japan is more doomed than at any point since the 70s -- which is saying something, because that span of time includes the famous "lost decade," in which the Japanese economy did virtually nothing but sit and whimper pitifully for ten years.

Things are looking even worse in Russia, where the very same handful of oil and natural-resource barons who were making literally tens of billions of dollars every year and spending their fortunes on elaborately tacky re-dos of formerly tasteful English manor homes now must content themselves with making just plain old billions of dollars.

To give you a sense of the devastation these impoverished plutocrats face, consider this: in 2007, the ten richest men in Russia were worth an estimated $221 billion; in 2008, that number fell to $75.9 billion. One man alone has lost nearly 90 percent of his fortune.

Given the vital role these people play in the Russian economy, the global economy, and the London luxury real estate market, these people may be too big to fail. Global citizens, unite! If we can spare a few trillion for American banks, and a couple paltry billion for American taxpayers, surely we can throw a few rubles toward these wealthy Russians who are singlehandedly trying to keep their own economies afloat.

The economist and Russian scholar Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

I suppose every cloud does have a silver lining. I've received about three marriage proposals since the crisis started, actually.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Only Way To Win Is Not To Play At All

Dear English Teacher X:

How's the Director of Studies thing doing?


Shitty, thanks for asking, interested. I suppose, looking back, it was rather naive of me to think I could change the system from within; like somebody thinking that becoming the General Manager at McDonald's meant he could institute table service and a wine bar.

I've fought them tooth and nail on many fronts, but very few, if any, victories. I suppose teachers get treated better here than they do at Head Office, but still not great.

We did all get washing machines back in 2007, though I suspect that was just because so many guys were coming to work stinking.

Even tiny things that would be easy to institute tend to be beyond them; like putting names or numbers on the rooms, for example, so we could avoid this daily conversation:

"Where's my class?"

"In the room with the oleander plant."

"Uh. . . which room is that? What does an oleander look like?"

"Oh, wait, the oleander died. The yellow room."

"You mean, the room with the yellow walls, or the room with the yellow key chain?"

"No, it's the blue room that has the yellow key chain."

"I thought you called that room the yellow room."

"We do, sometimes. It's the room across from the Russian teacher's room."

"Don't they share the same room as us?"

"It used to be the Russian teacher's room, we changed it to a classroom eight months ago."

"I've only been here five months."

"Ask the Director of Studies to show you. . ."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Like Russian Girls Because They're So Feminine

This is what happened to one of my acquaintances here when he got into a fight with his girlfriend. He had a few on his face, too.

Bring on the drunken British and German sex tourists -- these girls can eat them all and shit them out.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

If It Weren't For Bad Luck. . .

I was just sitting here trying to relax and watch some downloaded IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA when I noticed some squishy noises coming from the bathroom; I finally got curious enough to see what it was, and found that the bathroom was flooded with about two - three inches of water.

I'd left the tap running a bit, and a rag that I'd masturbated into earlier had clogged up the drain, causing the sink to overflow and flood the bathroom.

That's maybe the fourth or fifth time I've flooded the bathroom or kitchen in the eight years I've lived here; the biggest hassle is when the steel-toothed old bitch from downstairs comes up to bark at me.

So I just ignored her when she rang, but she went and got the landlady. . .

I told 'em the drainage pipe broke while I was showering.

Then I had to go in and break a pipe real quick, because they'd brought a plumber with them and wanted to look at it.

Good thing that the plumbing is in such shitty condition anyway.