Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vomit (Ode to My Mentor)

(You can click on that to englarge it and make it a little easier to read.)

If I had a mentor in the English teaching biz, it would have to have been English Teacher T. That's him there, wearing the blue shirt and tie. (I drew that cartoon back in 2003; an early experiment with the Paintbrush program. The event, which happened back in 1995, was, if anything, even more disgusting than it looks there, because he'd just eaten a big meal of pork and sticky rice when he puked, and the dogs were those typical homeless Bangkok soi-dogs of the time, who were covered with sores and mange.)

It wasn't like he taught me anything about how to teach -- I'm sure he could have, probably, be he never really tried, beyond a few offhand conversations about teaching over drinks.

He was my role model in the world of degeneracy, however.

He was the embodiment of what I loved about English teaching -- the combination of intelligence, experience, complete alienation and borderline depravity that typified a lot of English teachers back then. (And occasionally you still meet them, but not so much as 10 years ago.)

He was an interesting bundle of contradictions -- from London, he was a former skinhead and biker as well as a former chemist for a major petroleum company. He was 32 when I started in Bangkok in 1995, at age 25. He was mostly a pleasant looking fellow when he had his shirt and tie on, a bit plump with a big friendly smile -- however, his teeth were black with nicotine and when he wore a t-shirt his arms were slathered with tattoos.

(He had "NO FUTURE" on his bicep -- I asked him if that was from his punk days but he said, "No, I got that the day I decided to become an English teacher." I assumed he was joking at the time.)

He'd gotten into English teaching the usual way -- he's started backpacking, I think after a divorce, and rolled into Thailand and didn't feel like going home. I forget how long he'd been in Thailand -- seems like it had been 6 or 7 years, at that time.

He held court every evening in the cheap garage bars outside the mall we worked at -- he partied fearlessly with the tough Isaan taxi drivers. When we went to Nana Plaza, his exploits were legendary. He once performed oral sex on one of the strippers onstage -- and not just any stripper, it was one of the chicks that shot bananas out of their vagina. He was known for trying to screw the hugely overweight Mama-Sans that ran the bars there.

I have a very clear memory of him draped leeringly around a Mama-San so fat that he could barely get his arms around her, the rest of us trying to laugh at him with our little brown honeydripped girls in our lap -- and him looking at us with complete placidity and satisfaction, and saying with the utmost assurance -- "You boys have no idea what you're missing."

But, and here's the thing -- he wasn't just some degenerate. He was smart as hell and could converse knowledgeably on a wide variety of topics, and I learned a lot about the verbal Kung-Fu of English teacher bar-table conversations from him.

He occasionally got drunk and descended into lunacy after several day drinking binges -- when he put on his Indonesian sarong and parrot earrings, you knew he had a load on and needed to be avoided.

And he was in his way, an honorable guy. He was as good as his word.

I offer this sterling example: one of the teachers met a girl in the garage bar near the school, and he wanted to take her home. He'd just been paid, however -- 20,000 Thai bhat, equal to about $800 -- so he decided to leave the money with English Teacher T for safekeeping, so the girl wouldn't steal it. (This was admittedly perhaps not the best plan in the world.)

English Teacher T ended up drunkenly losing the money somehow. Like all English teachers in Bangkok, he lived pretty much month to month and had no savings.

BUT: he lived on Ramen noodles and rice for two months, and paid the teacher back within 60 days.

How many of you could do THAT?

I've lost touch with him -- he's not the kind of guy who's going to turn up on facebook -- but he'd become DOS of that branch when I went back in 1999, and I heard he'd gotten married to one of the secretaries from the school in 2000. He might be having a Singha or a Chang beer at a cheap garage bar at this moment, wearing his Indonesian sarong and his parrot earrings.

They truly don't make 'em like that anymore.

(You can click on this -- one of the first cartoons I ever drew for this website back in 2002 -- to make it bigger and easy to read. This conversation actually happened when I returned to Thailand in 1999, as I recall.)


John from Daejeon said...

That's sounds awesome. Why the hell did you move on to Russia?

English Teacher X said...

Oh, it wasn't a straight line, man, it was a meandering route over the course of years.

If you don't want to wait for the reprints, all the stories are here:

Eve Lopez said...

i've said it before, i'll say it again - even though you're prolly the kind of guy i would avoid like gonorrhea in real life - i can't help but fucking love your stories. jesus christ man, i can't believe you're still alive.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the old content. Shit's still good to read.

English Teacher X said...

oh, I'd say my blog is worse than my bite. Most people find me fairly innocuous in person. Most people.

jesterpr said...

I've noticed the lameness of ETs these days too. I started with JET in 03, not exactly low-ballers be ESL standards, and most of the guys were red-blooded heterosexuals. Each time I've gone back to ESL for a spell--school breaks, I've seen it get more Americanized, monogamous, women friends, etc.
Last summer I was in Korea, and my teacher mates stayed in one bar for two hours. My pick-up routines were getting them angry. WTF. It's not like English teaching pays more than it did in 03 either--it doesn't. I think it's the internet interesting people, more word of mouth and more lameness in our Anglo countries (for young men). The recent economic blow out is also creating more Western refugees.
English Teacer X, what say you?

Pete M said...

gonorrhea of the eyes - hahahah

keep em coming.