Friday, June 04, 2010

From Russia With Indifference Bordering on Hostility

I continue to hear nothing good about the visa situation in Russia.

One girl I know who was a valued (legal) employee of one of the major language school chains for more than 7 years now finds herself working, completely illegally, on a student visa. Another guy found himself stuck in America, unable to renew his visa, due to new "quota" regulations. His employers recommend he fly to Europe, on his own dime, and try some embassies there. Others have no idea what's going to happen once their current visa expires -- they may very suddenly find themselves without legal employment.

The Big Three McLanguage schools are illegally employing people on "business" visas gotten through the various shady companies which provide such things for a fee, while continuing to hire completely unqualified teachers on pitifully small salaries on "internship" and even "volunteer" programs. Then it's business as usual -- wringing 30 or more hours a week of classtime, plus hours per day of travel time, out of their teachers, with brutal split shifts beginning at 8 or 9 am and ending at 9 or 10pm. And then firing them with no warning if students don't like them, or they cause trouble.

I've never heard of any "immigration sweeps" of McLanguage schools in Russia, but believe me, the current political climate makes it very likely. It happened in Taiwan, Korea and Thailand -- there were plenty of stories from the 90's of teachers climbing out back windows to avoid the immigration inspectors. (The first week of my first job in Thailand, half the teachers got arrested by immigration -- fortunately it was my day off. Story about that HERE.)

It just astounds me that anybody wants to do this right now. Sure, the job market sucks all over, I suppose. . . but why don't I ever get emails saying, "you've inspired me to become an oil engineer with your tales of how easy their expat life is compared to English teachers"?

As for Russian girls. . .Russian girls? Going to Russia because you heard that Russian girls like foreigners is about like going to Seattle because you heard the Grunge scene is cool -- you're a bit late, bub. And there are Russian girls in every major city nowadays, anyway, if you have some legitimate charm to your name.

Yeah, I know, I worked there for a long time, so how can I castigate it so much, bla bla bla, but I was at least legally employed and got what was at that time a very livable wage.

Now, inflation continues to go up but salaries don't -- a coffee at Starbucks in Red Square costs $7.00, or so I'm told. (As for the average Russian worker, their salaries are actually going down -- some of my Russian friends who work tell me there salaries have been literally cut in half in the last year, with hours being the same.)

But, of course, telling the average young "in search of a cultural experience" doofus not to do it in Russia now is like telling a kid not to put peanuts up his nose -- it just makes them want to do it more. I'll get another "you've inspired me to teach English" e-mail and another dummy will leap lemming-like into the void, providing more fodder that keeps the McEnglish schools running.

Travel is the new opium of the masses, no doubt about it.

And yes, I admit it -- I'm going back to Russia during my summer vacation. But I'm not proud of that fact.
And it's not legal to drink on the street in Russia anymore, either!


Eve Lopez said...

Yes, an espresso coffee costs $7 at Starbucks in Moscow. That's why I only went to Starbucks once when I was there last year.

I have mixed feelings about people going to Moscow to teach. On one hand, I feel like you're kinda right - if these people are going to just ignore all the warnings, then that's what they're going to do, and fuck 'em if they get fucked by the school.

On the other hand, I myself was so bewitched by Russia, that I can understand the nature of these people - people who push through all the warnings because they are just hell-bent on teaching in Russia no matter what.

Part of me wishes them the best, part of me is jealous, and part of me thinks they must be dumb or stupid.

On a side note, I have to say that I am jealous of your upcoming holiday in Russia. One of the reasons why I am still so very bitter at my old employer is that I don't think Moscow is really a safe place for me (and won't be, at least for awhile). It upsets me that the city I once loved so deeply is now a place where I have to consider the fact that the McLanguage school I worked at probably still has my name on a hit list somewhere. Not to mention the fact that it's unlikely I'll be issued a visa due to my problems with my stolen migration card.

Sigh. Have fun. I know this sounds fucked up, but I really miss Moscow sometimes - a lot.

Anonymous said...

ETX, you've inspired me NOT to be an English teacher abroad. Your tales have not all been for nothing.

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