Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Bangkok

December 25th, 1995 --

When I saw all the middle-aged whore-mongers standing around wearing Santa hats, I couldn't control my laughter.

A small after-work Christmas party was taking place at our rather remote branch of the largest language school in Bangkok. I had actually quit a few days earlier, along with another guy I worked with, in order to spend a month long holiday on the island of Koh Samui. We weren't leaving until Dec 26 in the evening, however, so we went back up to the school on Dec 25th for the party, with the intention of going out to celebrate more seriously afterwards.

We were the two youngest, at 25; all the others were in their 30's, 40's, and 50's.

The sight of these dissipated, bleary men making a half-assed attempt at sober Christmas cheer was enough to send me into gales of hysterics.

"Shut up and put on a hat," said English Teacher T.

The Thais, despite being Buddhists with a Muslim minority, had adopted Christmas in a big way; or perhaps it's more accurate to say they'd adopted consumerism and shopping in a big way, and Christmas seemed to them to be all about that, all overseen by this mysterious Santa Claus figure.

Most Thais liked the idea of Santa Claus; just another Buddha with a white beard, to them, I suppose. But not everyone agreed.

"No good Santa Clause come Thailand," said the 19-year-old boyfriend of one of the 50-year-old British male teachers, one of two homosexuals we worked with. "No good come house at night. People will shoot him like a kamoey," he said. (Kamoey being the thai word for thief, not to be confused with the Thai word katoey, which means transvestite.)

The party went off quickly and painlessly; no alcohol was permitted but we exchanged token gifts, Secret Santa style, with the Thai secretaries and had punch and Christmas cookies. (Naturally somebody had bought a flask so our punch was loaded with Thai rice whiskey.)

There was one uncomfortable moment when a secretary who was a Muslim received a ceramic piggy bank, but it all passed in the spirit of international Christmas cheer.

At about 10.00pm, we headed off to go in search of the true meaning of Christmas.

Our favorite place was Nana Plaza, a cheery little cul-de-sac of bars on two floors, with "gogo bar" style places on the ground level, where the girls danced on stage in bikinis, topless or even naked depending on the bar and the time of the evening. The second floor had smaller places, with more of a bar or pub style atmosphere; and of course on the second floor was the Nana Guesthouse, which rented rooms by the hour.

All of the places had free admission; to take a girl out you had to pay a bar fine, which if I remember correctly at the time was 500 bhat, about 20 dollars. You could buy a girl a "lady drink," which cost 3 or 4 dollars, and sit with her a while and get to know her; while the hovering mama-sans encouraged it, most of the girls I knew considered it bad business and felt a little embarrassed to ask for it.

(For what it's worth, I seem to remember the price of a small Carlsburg (33 cl) was 50 bhat -- $2. Our paycheck for the month was about $800, so that actually seemed a little pricey.)

Now of course the bar made its money with the "bar fine" -- whatever price you negotiatied with the girl for anything else was up to you and girl. 500 to 1000 bhat was typical ($20 - $40), in my experience; whether I was receiving a discount for not being fat and gross, I don't know.

There were of course all of the shows which have become legend: bananas, razor blades, transvestites, fire dancing, snakes, etc. The girl who specialized in shooting darts out of a blowgun in her vagina actually had a crush on me and was chasing after me for a while, but I never had the nerve to give her a try.

As you can imagine, Nana Plaza was a fucking blast.

The girls were mostly beautiful and slim, and the atmosphere was amazingly friendly and pleasant; I never experienced any rip-offs -- the $200 bottle of champagne or whatever -- and there was no hostility from anybody.

The girls never seemed abused or even depressed. Why should they be? What teenage girl doesn't enjoy dancing and hanging out with her friends? And here they made money doing it. Fucking fat sleazy German guys can't be that pleasant -- but there were plenty of youngish, fit guys in their 30's, engineers and army guys and what not. Nana Plaza was usually populated with the local expats, unlike the more touristy Patpong Road flesh-pits.

Needless to say, on December 25th, 1995, at 11.00pm or so -- this was one festive place. The area was decked out with Christmas trees, Christmas lights, candy canes, etc.

Into this den of sin walked the English teachers. Wearing Santa hats.

We had a few at one of our favorite downstairs go-go bars, Voodoo; we'd arrived just in time for "tit frenzy," as we referred to it, when all the girls came out and danced topless for one song.

Then we went upstairs to get hamburgers.

There was a little food-stand where a guy made hamburgers; I'd make a hyperbolic statement like, they were the best hamburgers I've ever eaten, but I suspect in actuality, the atmosphere and having a hot little Thai chick on our laps had a lot to do with how much we enjoyed them.

There was a small bar near there that we usually had a drink in; it was called something like REBEL YELL or something equally white-trashy and rednecky, but they played rock music, unlike the blaring techno-dance music at most of the gogo bars, so we found it a bit easier on the ears.

Only two girls worked there; we referred to them as Crazy and Tattoo.

They claimed to be sisters, but I don't think they were actually related; sister is a word close friends often use to refer to each other in Thailand. (Particularly hookers.)

Tattoo, as you probably guessed, had quite a few tattoos and piercings. This is EXTREMELY rare for Thai girls, and was damn near unheard of at that time, despite the rest of the world being pretty into that stuff back in the 90's. She had a really nice panther on her stomach.

The Crazy one was Crazy. She looked like a stunning example of a typical Thai girl; the delicate features and unbelievably fine, soft and honey-dripped skin, the almost total lack of body fat besides nice hand-fulls of breast; the long raven hair.

But she clearly deferentiatied herself from most Thai girls by scowling all the time. In The Land of A Thousand Smiles, this was damn near as strange and unusual as the tattoos and piercings on her sister. She liked to talk to me, for some reason, but I saw her meet most come-ons with outright hostility. Once when English Teacher Q kept trying to talk to her, she suddenly slapped her hands over her ears, closed her eyes, and started screaming until he backed off.

Neither of them would leave with any of us, ever; they neither asked nor allowed any of us to pay their bar fine. We drank with them and played Connect Four, but that was the extent of it.

But this Christmas day, the two of them were drunk off their asses. They were dancing on top of the small bar in their underwear, to the Rolling Stones. This was a jolly sight, you can believe it.

Almost immediately, the Crazy one leapt down and jumped into my lap. "You pay bar fine?" she cooed.

English Teacher M high-fived me. "Now that's the Spirit of Christmas!"

I finished one more beer and eagerly led her up to the Nana Guesthouse. She was so drunk she was actually staggering; I'd never seen a Thai girl so drunk. Not a young one, anyway.

I can't remember what it cost for a room -- it seems like it was about 150 bhat ($6) for an hour. (For comparison's sake, that's about what I paid per day at the cheap hotel on Khao San road I was living in.)

The rooms were okay, with a nice shower and bathroom and cable TV, and while I'm not exactly sure they changed the sheets after each guest, they kept the rooms relatively clean.

She asked me to order a couple of Carlsbergs from the room service guy while she took a shower.

I happily laid on the bed to watch MTV and uncapped my Carlsberg.

Twenty minutes later, I impatiently knocked on the door. "You alive in there?"

She came out, wrapped in a towel, weaving on her feet like a boxer who'd taken too many head shots.

"You okay?" I asked, a bit concerned, taking the second Carlsberg from her as she tried to drink it.

"Okay," she said.

She lay down on the bed.

I, as eager as any beered-up 25-year-old would be, unwrapped the towel from her gorgeous slim young body.

The unusual smell that came up is difficult to describe. It wasn't a typical fishy smelly vagina odor; the best way I can think of to describe it is like a particularly strong and cloying combination of spices.

She was reclining with her eyes closed; I bent down and kissed her for a while, on the lips and nipples, and then gently tried to insert my finger into her vagina. She flinched and said, "ow!"

"Okay, look," I said, "you're sick! Your pussy is sick! We can't have sex!"

"We can! It's okay," she said.

I tried again, and again she squirmed in pain.

I thought of trying to get her to blow me but I knew that was probably going to be a lost cause; Thai hookers don't often do that, and she looked like she was going to fall asleep any moment.

"All right, get dressed!"

That woke her up a bit, when she realized I intended to leave without giving her the 1000 bhat I'd promised her ($40.)

She argued that she needed the money to get home. After some haggling, I agreed I'd give her 500 bhat if she gave me a quick massage. It was a sucky massage even by non-Thai massage standards and after a few minutes she wanted to take the 500 bhat and go.

"All right, shit, Merry fuckin' Christmas."

I went back down and found English Teacher M drinking on the ground floor with a couple other guys we knew. He still hadn't found a girl that he liked.

"How was she?" he asked eagerly.

The impersonation of me saying with a worried, perturbed look on my face, "Something wasn't quite right down there," became a running joke and catch-phrase over the course of the next six months.

It was already after one a.m. at this point; the go-go bars around Nana Plaza had to close at 2.00am due to government regulations, but there were other options, so we decided to head for the second most festive place in Bangkok:

The Thermae.

The original Thermae bar was actually officially referred to as a "coffee shop" so it could get all-night status; it was run by the police, anyway, so it stayed open well past dawn.

I'm still not sure where it actually was; we would just get into a taxi and bellow "THERMAE!" and the driver would take us back on some side street behind a big indsustrial-looking building, and drop us off in a dark parking lot in the back; we entered the building through a rear doorway, and into an old industrial restroom, with a long trough to pee in.

Then you went down some stairs. You couldn't see much, due to the heavy smoke from dozens of cigarettes that obscured everything; it was very dark, as well. There were, I think some windows, but they were painted over and most of the place was underground.

I remember -- your feet would stick to the floor, like in a movie theater where somebody has spilled coke. In this case it was spilled beer and god knows what. A general gluey ooze of desperation.

At the bottom of the stairs, there was a room on the right; if you looked in, you could usually see a group of Thai policemen playing cards. There was never any trouble at the Thermae, because everybody knew the cops would just come out and beat the living shit out of any troublemakers and perhaps kill them.

Decorations? Near the bar there were vinyl couches, I remember that. Wooden chairs and tables. It was a small place and usually packed at 3.00am; it was always difficult to find a seat.

Thai bar girls went to the Thermae when they got off work at 2.00am; there were plenty of freelancers there, too. The men that went there were usually the die-hard Bangkok locals; literally this was the bargain basement of hookers.

Still and all, you could see some nice looking girls there, despite the older whores occsionally attacking the younger ones in the parking lot.

English Teacher M and I applied ourselves to some more Christmas Carlsberg; before too long he'd found himself a nice girl, and was ready to leave with her.

"I guess I'll just go home," I said, weary and, for all the second-hand smoke and stench in the Thermae, still recalling the strange smell that came from the Crazy girl's vagina.

I made one last glance around the dingy bar, and a little Thai girl suddenly latched onto me. She was cute, but a little pudgy by Thai standards.

"I don't know," I said to M. "I think my heart's not in it."

"Oh, man, look at her! Can you break her cute little heart? It's Christmas!"

I agreed and we went to a very cheap guest house nearby. This was was considerably grubbier than the Nana Guest House, but only cost about 50 bhat for an hour. It smelled of bug spray and had peeling paint on the bathroom walls.

We sat on the bed and snuggled a bit; we chatted. I remember she asked me how many Thai girls I'd been with, and I said I thought she was the 5th or 6th; she volunteered the information that I was about her 40th customer. She was very cheery, I remember, and I wasn't feeling too cheery as the dawn rolled around.

We undressed; I put my arm around her and felt that she had some kind of lump near the base of her spine. Tumor? Prehensile tail?

She was playing with my cock, and it was stirring slowly and crabbily to life.

She had her head on my chest and indicated my nipples. "Tomai?" she asked. I knew that meant "why" in Thai.

"Why do men have nipples? Now that's an ancient and difficult question, isn't it?" I babbled to no-one in particular.

She dug her tongue into my nipple and quickly administered a very firm and professional and extremely festive Christmas handjob.

"Jak wao" the Thai girls call it -- tugging the kite string.

Jack, wow! "Whew!" I said afterwards. "That was nice, thanks." And no lingering worries about diseases, unless I'd gotten bedbugs from the crappy room.

She beamed and hugged me very sweetly. I can't remember what I gave her, I think it was something like 300 bhat. ($12)

We took a tuk-tuk out of whatever hovel of a street we were on and I began making my slow and painful way across Bangkok back to my hotel, as the sun rose on the city.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

(Amazingly, I was able to find this video on YouTube of the original Thermae's entrance area; it does not linger on the toilets, but you can see them.)

This is a website about the old Thermae, which closed in 1996; another bar with the same name opened up, but it lacks the subtle ambiance of the original.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Old Motion Comics

The England vs. America Debate:

A Conversation About Cloning:

English Teacher X in Singapore:

Because hey, what cartoon isn't better with some generic techno music behind it?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Vodkaberg Mashup

Yes, I took all those pictures personally, and yes, I knew all those girls, usually in the biblical sense, and yes, those tits are all real.

And yes, there are lots more pictures like that on this blog; look at the archives and you'll see plenty.

My book about Vodkaberg should be available about March or April of 2012.

And before I start having to answer a bunch of "DUDE I'M GOING TO RUSSIA" emails -- remember a few things:

1) Almost all of those pictures were made in 2004 - 2006 -- you can see the dates, there.

2) While you can certainly still rock out in Russia, expecting to have the same experience I had is about like going to Seattle in 1998 and expecting to enjoy the grunge scene, or going to Height-Ashbury in 1977 and expecting to enjoy the Summer of Love. It's vastly different now than it was even five years ago.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Latest Thang

Yo dawg, I heard you liked trailers.

Okay, so TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY is now available as a paper book, also:



New content? Dude, I'm too busy marketing! That's the worst part of the internet in general, it turns us all into whores and advertising agencies for ourselves.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Book Book Book

So I'm branching out into video, this is my first putative effort:

Blatant self-promotion, of course, but I hope to put some more entertaining videos up soon, now that I know how to use the video editor. I promise, my Christmas gift to you all -- at least two funny stories about whores, before the New Year. And perhaps in the form of a motion comic, or an actual animation.

The ETX GUIDE is now available in a new, properly formatted version as a paper book on Amazon. and directly from Createspace; regrettably, when I corrected the scaling errors, the increased page count caused the price I needed to charge to make a profit go up. (Blame the bankers with their blatant speculation on commodities, and go occupy whatever.)

And kind regards to the Alpha-Gentleman Bardamu, who runs the In Mala Fide website / magazine, who gave kind reviews of my books recently.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Feminine Mystique

So there's a lot of talk on the internet castigating American and European women for being masculine, and praising women in other countries for remaining true to their femininity.

But there's never much discussion of what feminine actually MEANS.

Basically, on all these pick-up artist and wife-hunting forums, feminine is just kind of a synonym for "hot" with sort of the added idea of "not very mouthy."

Yeah, obviously, I think anybody, even most women, would agree that it's better for women to look like models or ballerinas than like lumberjacks or merchant marines.

But my Russian girlfriend is probably the most feminine, girliest, girly-girl in the history of womankind, so I can speak with authority on the issues that people who haven't gone out with some really feminine girls aren't thinking about.

You will have to start opening doors for her. Growing up in the 70's, my generation got a kind of half-assed introduction to doing that, but I suppose guys who grew up in America in the 80's and 90's weren't even taught to do it all. (I can remember one incident when I first went to Russia, of standing dumbly in a hallway with a girl, and saying "Uh, what are you waiting for?" and her saying, "I'm waiting for you to open the door!")

If you don't live with her, you might have to go to her apartment and get her, and then escort her out on the town. Sometimes in Russia it was a 45 minute round trip to get some girl, and of course then you double the taxi money.

When we were in Russia, I had to meet her at the bus-stop after she finished work. My girlfriend is exceptionally kind and allowed me to sleep in the morning and not walk her to the bus-stop, but I know she onsidered it a bit of a dick move on my part.

You will carry her bags, and some cases she'll even want you to carry her PURSE, if it's especially large.

And here's the one most of these guys on the forums aren't going to be able to deal with --
YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR EVERYTHING. A truly feminine girl wouldn't pay for anything. She needs all her money for make-up and skin creams.

Now of course my conclusions are drawn from dealing with Russian women; but I knew guys with Thai girlfriends and I suppose it's probably the same in other countries.

There are two other issues that frequently go along with being very feminine that fortunately I don't experience with my girlfriend -- girls who buy into the whole "princess" thing are often very greedy and often extremely jealous. (Thai girls especially are known for being incredibly possessive and jealous; I knew a former boxer in Thailand who was terrified of the temper of his 40 kg Thai wife.)

After all -- she's a princess and you'll have to TREAT her like a princess.

So I doubt that these guys harping on the Internet are really thinking about a world in which all women are the epitome of feminiity, because then THEY'D have to develop the old-fashioned, elegant manners of Cary Grant and go to considerable trouble and expense to do so.

These dudes are dreaming an impossible dream of Lara Croft and video porn stars who look perfect but they can turn off immediately upon ejaculating.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Most Famous TEFL Teachers (Updated for 2015!)

(I've just been doing a 2015 Edition of GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH and I thought I would update my list of famous TEFL teachers, which was far from comprehensive.)

There are a number of influential and important figures in the world of TEFL.

These include luminaries such as Stephen Krashen. Noam Chomskey. Jeremy Harmer. Michael Swan.

The problem, of course, is that NOBODY OUTSIDE THE WORLD OF TEFL, and MOST OF THE PEOPLE WITHIN THE WORLD OF TEFL, have never heard of them at all.

Noam Chomsky is arguably well-known among grad student types for his political activism, but until he goes on DANCING WITH THE STARS, the average American will have no idea who he is. In addition I haven't been able to find any indication he ever taught English as a Second Language, despite all the linguistic theory he came up with on the subject.

With that in mind I offer this list of the most famous (former) TEFL teachers.

12) Oliver Stone, film director and screenwriter of such ground-breakingly violent films as SCARFACE and NATURAL BORN KILLERS, taught English for six months at the Free Pacific Institute in South Vietnam, before giving that up to join the Navy. The quote “If you’re not born crazy, you’re born boring” is prominently displayed on his personal website. That strikes me as a very TEFL sort of statement.

11) Nicky Hornby, author of novels such as HIGH FIDELITY, which usually centered around spoiled, self-centered man-children as they bumbled their way through life, apparently taught English and TEFL in London at some point. Little information seems to be available about where, why, or how he liked it.

10 ) Bob Geldoff, musician and charity activist, apparently pissed off to Spain at some point to teach English, somewhere in between working at the slaughterhouse and starting the group the Boomtown Rats and single-handedly saving Africa from famine. 

9) Gary Glitter, 70s glam rock star, after fleeing child porn charges in Britain, was arrested in Vietnam for raping teenage girls as young as 12; he claimed he was only teaching them English. Whether he actually did any teaching is a bit in doubt, to say the least.

8) Keith Wright, former Australian politician and leader of the Australian Labour Party, nearly became Prime Minister in 1983 – but in 1993 he was jailed for 8 years for “indecent dealing” with underage girls and rape. A former preacher as well as teacher, he now runs TEFL and teacher training courses in Asia. He is quoted in an article in the Courier Mail as apologizing for his errors and saying that "literacy can free people from poverty. Improving literacy is, therefore, a way of combating child exploitation. I'm glad to say there is a charity element in my work." 

        7) Charles Berlitz, the grandson of Berlitz School founder Maximillian Berlitz, probably deserves a place on the list. Unlike his father, it would seem he actually taught English. (His father actually began the Berlitz Schools to teach French and German.)

Most sources are unclear as to whether he actually taught, merely saying that "during breaks he worked for the family language school"; he later worked mainly in the publishing and tape-production part of the business. But we can assume he probably did a little teaching, somewhere along the line, so he can at least earn 7th place on the list.

He sold the company in the 60's, and focused himself on other equally scientific and logical pursuits:

If you don't want to bother to watch that, he apparently believed that The Bermuda Triangle was related to the lost city of Atlantis and ancient astronauts, subjects upon which he wrote many books. He also wrote a book about The Philadelphia Experiment, which supposedly had a World War 2 battleship disappearing due to time-travel and invisibility experiments.

The Berlitz company actually entered legal proceedings at one point trying to stop him from using the Berlitz name, as they felt it might reflect badly on the school.

And if his rather kooky wrting wasn't enough -- he married a student!

        6) Perpetually grumpy and acerbic author and professional backpacker Paul Theroux worked as an English teacher for the Peace Corps in Africa as well as at the National University in Singapore.

As we all know, Peace Corps volunteers are hardly the usual kind of English teacher; Theroux didn't think much them, himself, nor did he think much of teaching; in the introduction to a collection of early novels, he describes wanting to write to escape the "tedium of teaching" and that he "found nothing" in Singapore.

Nonetheless, Theroux had plenty of adventures, it would seem; he writes that "In Malawi I saw my first hyena, smoked my first hashish, witnessed my first murder, caught my first case of gonorrhea.” He also got kicked out of various countries for getting involved in political activism.

So we place him respectfully at number six on the list.

        5) Todd Solondz is probably not any better known, in terms of being a household name, than any of the above-mentioned, but he is a director who has made several award-winning and commercially successful films. He taught ESL in the early 90's for the New York Association for New Americans.

One of the characters in his second and most famous film, HAPPINESS, works as an ESL teacher, and has an affair with a Russian student (who turns out to be an abusive grifter.)

The other characters in the film are a father who proves to be a pedophile who rapes young boys, a guy who makes obscene phone calls, and a murderous fat woman. Yeah, it was made in the 90's.

His featuring ESL in a film earns him fifth place on the list.

        4) James Joyce, author of critically-lauded, weighty, unreadable novels worked for many years for the Berlitz chain in Trieste.

We are informed by Wikipedia that during this period his was constantly scheming to make money in other fields, while simultaneously drinking heavily and wasting his brother's money:

"Joyce's ostensible reasons (for teaching) were desire for Stanislaus's company and the hope of offering him a more interesting life than that of his simple clerking job in Dublin. In truth, though, Joyce hoped to augment his family's meagre income with his brother's earnings.
Stanislaus and Joyce had strained relations throughout the time they lived together in Trieste, with most arguments centring on Joyce's drinking habits and frivolity with money."

        3) John Fowles , the British author of THE COLLECTOR and THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN, wrote his first novel THE MAGUS while teaching English in Greece. Wikipedia states that "Fowles was happy in Greece, especially outside of the school," and that he and all the other teachers were fired after two years for "trying to institute reforms."

In addition, he stole another guy's wife while he was there, and THE MAGUS was full of a reasonable amount of sex, as far as 60's literature goes. As far as I know, it's the only popular and critically-acclaimed novel in which the main character is an EFL teacher.

Therefore, despite not being particularly widely-read these days, he earns #3 on the list.

        2) John Mark Karr taught English in Gautamala, while fleeing from a child pornography charge in the United States, and was teaching English in Thailand when he was arrested for confessing to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Of course he didn't do it, and was exonerated by DNA evidence after he received a business-class trip back to America escorted by federal marshals.

(TEFL teachers around the world should pay attention to this quick, free, and easy way to get a ticket home in an emergency.)

John Mark Karr is apparently in the process of undergoing a sex change and lives as a woman named Alexis Reich.

Since then he has been up on domestic abuse charge and there are recent reports of him making death threats related to organizing a cult around JonBenet Ramsey, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

AND NUMBER 1) : J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books. She taught English in Porto, Portugal in 1992, and in the course of two years, got married to a local, had a child, got divorced, and returned home to be diagnosed as clinically depressed. I'd say that establishes her TEFL cred, wouldn't you?

And of course, eventually, she came up with the idea for Harry Potter books and is now worth a billion dollars.

In addition to being the most well-known, she also provides inspiration to the legions of TEFL bloggers out there hunched over the keyboard. (Rule #1 for success: don't write about TEFL.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Here are some pictures I found on my camera from this August:

My girlfriend trying on shoes
This is a sign at a bus-stop in Vodkaberg -- loosely translated as "ENOUGH DRUNKENNESS!"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Conversation About Cloning

So you see, English teachers don't just talk about banging students and vomitting! Important issues of the day are occasionally addressed!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Inevitable Results of Too Much Fornicating

As I see it there are basically only three possible results of that lifestyle:

1) Early death -- not so much from the fornicating (although that can happen, ask Easy-E) as from the drugs and alcohol that are almost always necessary to fuel your enthusiasm for it

2) You get tired of fornicating -- usually that's followed by getting married, but not always -- perhaps you could, like Augustine, become a great philosopher and theologian. ("God grant me chastity and continence, but not yet," is a quote attributed to him.)

3) You knock somebody up and have to get married -- probably the most regrettable of the results. I've seen WAY too many English teachers end up in this boat. You'd think people never took a basic biology class. Although, of course, being married with a child or two doesn't prevent random fornicating, so then you lead back up to the first two choices.

I'm curious about the second issue -- whether that's actually an issue of aging and your testosterone levels going down, or it's something that just happens to everybody. You look at rock stars and movie stars, who are usually champion fornicators, and you still see a lot of marriage (albeit often repeated and unsuccesful ones.) You rock on there, George Clooney!

I remember having a discussion with a couple of Mormon kids who ended up in Vodkaberg on one of their missionary programs, back in 2004. They were taking advantage of the time to act up a bit, drinking absinthe and going out with the English teachers.

One of them was a very good-looking young dude, with a cleft in his chin, and he'd nailed 3 or 4 girls in a couple of weeks; he was saying it wasn't nearly as satisfying as he'd always thought it would be.

I postulated that it was perhaps an issue of numbers; that everybody had some number in their head, beyond which the fornicating simply wasn't that big a deal. And if it's not that big a deal, than so what?

So the question is, what's your number? If your number is 50, and you get married after you had sex with 30 partners, you'll always be miserable, dreaming of those next 20.

Conversely, if your number was 50, and you're banging number 78, you're probably not going to give a shit, so there's not much happiness there, either.

I mean let's face it -- you want to bang loads of girls, it's not that hard. If nothing else you can go to Amsterdam, Eastern Europe, or Thailand, for the investment of considerably less than the price of a used car, you could bang hundreds of girls who look like Maxim models.

Even the most die-hard of whoremongers tend not to keep that stuff up for too long. I knew plenty, and most of them ended up married.

It's a question of knowing your number.

You get guys like Gene Simmons who claim to have bedded 4600 women -- there's the impression of joyless obsessive-compulsion there, certainly. Like masturbating -- a momentary spasm. Does Gene Simmons remember 2961 or 3872 with pleasure and fondness? Even allowing that he's pretty smart and speaks four languages, I doubt he does.

(Now, I direct you back to this cartoon and subsequent blog post -- this is not solely directed at men. Remember that AMERICAN PIE joke that men tend to multiply their number of sex partners by three, while women tend to divide that number by three.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Third Book

One of the most painful aspects of any TEFL job (except of course for the low salaries, terrible prospects, and awful hours) is getting the students to speak.

Far too many teachers exhaust themselves trying to entertain and motivate and gently coax English out of surly, exhausted, or shy students - but yet again English Teacher X, with more than 15 years experience at some of the worst language schools in the world, is here to help.

Here is a book full of clear, succint, and superbly effective ways to give your students virtually NO CHOICE but to produce HUGE AMOUNTS of English in a variety of classroom situations, with little or no preparation, all presented with English Teacher X's usual mordant insight and cynical irreverence.

From large classes to individuals, from beginners to advanced classes, English Teacher X provides you with a comprehensive set of activities, strategies, and tricks to help you deal with even the most uncommunicative and recalcitrant of students.



* * *

Okay, so that's the official ad copy, but what the hell is this? English Teacher X devoting his time and energy to writing about speaking activities, when he could be practicing stick fighting or watching porn?

Well, not exactly. Let me explain.


Basically it's revised and edited stuff that I wrote when I was Director of Studies in Vodkaberg. So it'll be new material to you, unless you're one of the dozen or so people who worked in Vodkaberg at that time.

In the book you can find advice for how to make students speak more in the course of usual activities, short and simple pairwork activities, and some lessons plans - including lists of questions - showing how to deal with individual students and advanced classes.

I threw in plenty of jokes, although of course a book about speaking activities probably isn't ever going to be as funny as a book about hookers and stuff. But it will actually be useful...

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Fuck You" Money

I've always been surprisngly responsible about money.

I always tried to have some savings on hand so that I could get out of whatever hopeless predicament English teaching (or my drunkeness, or cruel fate, or whatever) left me in.

'FUCK YOU' money!

I first heard the term "fuck you money" in this film, Burt Reynolds' long-forgotten 1986 HEAT (not to be confused with the Pacino / DeNiro / Michael Mann classic from 1995.)

In this clip, Burt Reynold's character, a washed-up bodyguard in Vegas, finally wins the $100,000 he'd been dreaming of to run away to Italy; he'd figured on spending $20,000 per year for the next five years.

Discussing it with a friend afterwards, however, he realizes it's not enough -- during the last three years he'd never be able to relax as the money ran out. He decides to try to win $1,000,000 -- $20,000 per year for the rest of his life -- and of course (spoiler) loses it all.

How much is 'Fuck You Money' for an English teacher?

I rolled up in Thailand in the 90's, when I was 26, and had about $1000 to my name; after a year there, I decided I needed more of a cushion to better enable me to enjoy my feckless lifestyle. So I went to Korea in 1996, to save some money.

I decided I needed $10,000.

That was enough money, at that time, to last me a year in places I liked, like Thailand or Prague. Living extra cheaply, maybe even two years. I stayed in Korea about 9 months, until I had $9,980 -- at that time you could change a maximum of $10,000 per year from won -- and then I got on the next plane out with no regrets.

The US inflation calculator tells me that $10,000 in 1996 is about $14,000 in 2011; but in fact the cost of living in "the third world" has gone up at least 3 or 4 times what it was in 1996, so it's not such a straightforward calculation. ($100,000 in 1986 dollars is more like $200,000 in 2011 dollars.)

Is there anyplace in the WORLD where you can still live comfortably on $1000 a month? Let me know. I think you could probably still manage it in Thailand and maybe in China, but anyplace in E. Europe would be a tight fit. Mainly due to the cost of apartment rent.

Nowadays, $10,000 would definitely get you safely out of one country and established in the next; but beyond that, you could blow through all of that easily in a few months, especially if you had to buy plane tickets and pay an apartment deposit.

So what's "fuck you money" now?

I see that it's a pit you can fall into, actually, trying to decide that.

There are plenty of guys who've been here in the Middle East for eight or ten years, and have $500,000 or even closer to $1,000,000 and they continue to insist how much they hate it here and (once again) will stay for "only one more year" before they go somewhere else.

Obviously if you have a family, calculating "enough money" becomes very difficult. As you get older of course there are the various nebulous worries of retirement and health care costs.

But English teachers don't usually have the typical money worries; no mortgages, car payments, not much of that. Student loans? Anybody I know who has them seems to have pretty much decided they're simply not going to pay them.

And I got to thinking about the movie OFFICE SPACE, where the guy says that if he had a million dollars, he'd do absolutely nothing, and another character says, "You don't need a million dollars to do nothing, man, my cousin's flat broke and he don't do shit."

So I think that's what it boils down to -- the more money you think you need, to tell your boss to fuck off, the less likely you'll ever do it.

(I could only find THIS BIZARRE ANIMATION featuring that dialogue from OFFICE SPACE on YouTube; anybody finds the real thing, we'll be waiting.)

My original plan, like Burt Reynolds in HEAT there, was to save six figures. I'm sticking with that -- six figures and go. I don't even particularly want to tell my boss to fuck off, they treat me pretty well. . .

Monday, October 03, 2011

Meeting Girls

An old cartoon, I think this was like the second or third one I made with the Paintbrush program, back in 2003.
I was reminded of this recently hearing a story about a colleague who lost his wallet (and passport) while he was over in Bahrain, after he couldn't think of any tactful way to tell the cops and administration that a "female guest" in his room had probably taken it.

I heard it plenty of times in Thailand, of course; guys often claimed to have been "drugged" but in point of fact, they were probably just really fucked up drunk and passed out.

I heard it a couple of times in Russia -- Uncle Cool lost a computer and phone and some money to a midnight visitor once, and Crazy Bob's apartment got robbed -- although I think he didn't have much to steal -- after a female visitor stuck gum in his lock. (At least, that was the cops' theory.)

But not only did I know victims, I knew a PERPETRATOR -- I actually knew a girl who went to jail for 2 years for doing it.

This was back in 2003 when we were hanging out at the "gay" bar -- which had quickly, and strangely, become a hangout for English teachers and African students as well.

She was one of many demented bisexuals I knew at that time, and regrettably she probably wasn't even the most dangerous. (That is another story, as they say.)

Anyway, this girl was remarkably colorful even by Russia 2003 standards -- I remember one time sitting outside the gay bar with her -- she was wearing black satin pants, red 6 inch stiletto heels, a tight red top with her huge breasts pushed up under her chin, and a choker neck-band thing with the word SEX written on it in fake diamonds.

A girl in a plain white dress walked by and my bisexual friend shook her head -- "That girl has no style," she said dismissively.

(Now -- it occurs to me -- you might see people like Lady Gaga dressing all fucked up like that in some kind of retro-ironic glam thing -- there was not a goddam bit of irony about Russia back in those days, though, and I think that's a big reason I liked it.)

She divided her time between fucking rich guys for profit and hanging out at the gay bar fucking girls and metrosexual boys. She and some of her dyke friends would occasionally rob the guys she slept with.

(I never managed to have sex with her -- not so much out of fear as that she was always losing phones or never had any money on them, or would forget about dates or just not show up. Her crew of dykes and metrosexuals guarded her pretty jealously, also. I once saw her touch her tongue to the tip of her nose, I suppose that might have had something to do with their high regard for her.)

The "gay bar" kind of burned out in 2005 and we stopped going there, and I didn't see her again until I ran into here at another degenerate bar in 2007 -- and she revealed she'd just spent two years in jail for robbery.  (She looked exactly the same -- perhaps even healthier than before.)

We danced the night away, but I tactfully didn't ask her for any details. Didn't manage to have sex with her then either, before her metrosexual and dyke friends dragged her away.

Anyway, next time you think about the hordes of sex tourists, "sexpats", pickup artists and douchebag "new rich" flooding Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America to fornicate with the locals -- think with a smile of all the wallets, phones and passports that disappear while their pants are down.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Real Paper "Book" Book

So ENGLISH TEACHER X GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH is now available as an actual paper "book"-type-book.


It'll be available through Amazon as a paper book in a few days.

Featuring such classic English Teacher X essays as:

Five Really Bad Reasons To Teach English Abroad
Why English Institutes Usually Suck
The Three Unwritten Rules of Teaching English
Teaching vs. Mcdonald's vs. Piracy
How To Do a Runner

and many more.

Crazy Bob, in a review on Amazon that I didn't even solicit of him, but which he probably wrote because he owes me like $150, said --

"Infamous in the TEFL world for his brutal frankness about the nature of the industry, English Teacher X has also often shed a very accessible melancholy in his regular entries, maintaining through it all a humane critique of this debauched and unfair world."

The traditional-style book is $9.99 -- that's more than I'd like to charge, but apparently we're running out of trees because Createspace and Amazon keep most of that. But you can save money and buy it as an e-book for only $2.99.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Funny Stories About The Middle East...?

Drop a hard-drinking, womanizing English teacher in a country in which both things are completely illegal?

Sounds like a recipe for hilarity, right?

Well. . . .

Thing is, if I wanted to drink and womanize, I would have stayed in Russia, or gone somewhere fun like Brazil or Thailand or whatever.

Some of my colleagues here go to Bahrain or Dubai frequently; spending $300 or $400 in a weekend kind of moots the point of coming here to save money, in my opinion. Why come here at all, if you spend a huge chunk of your salary leaving every week.

(Now, of course -- we have week-long holidays about every two-three months here, and I always take a nice vacation with my Russian chick on those.)

I don't live in, or near, a compound where there are any females. I've heard of high times at the compounds, but I saw a couple of parties inside compounds back in 2009, and I feel I can safely apply the "sausage fest" joke even in this country, where pork is illegal.

(Once you've been to a few Russian nightclubs that are 70 percent women, something like that can't help but feel like a bit of a time-waster.)

The place I work is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but next to an attractive beach area. (Although it's way too hot here most of the time for most people to enjoy the beach.) A lot of my colleagues are married guys here with their families. People tend not to socialize much, outside of the school, although I do occasionally eat dinner with colleagues.

Alcohol is available -- mainly in the form of bootleg "sidiki" which is a toxic mess of methylated alcohol. I've seen the unfortunate results of drinking too much of that; one teacher went berserk on it (somewhere upstairs in the faculty residence here) and punched another teacher in the face.

He'd been losing it, quietly and not so quietly, for a while; he'd begun coming to class late, not showing up at all, coming to class red-eyed and stinking of alcohol, etc, stuff that would get you fired even in Russia, these days.

Far from being executed for this, however, he was quietly let go at the end of his contract. (I suspect nothing worse happens in cases like this because the administration here would have gotten in trouble if they let THEIR superiors know that such things were going on here.)

(Not for nothing, he was the youngest teacher here, at 33. Clearly this is a place for the Golden Years, because when you combine the Fire of Youth with the desert heat and emptiness, nothing good will come of it.)

There's plenty of sodomy going on around the Kingdom, apparently; colleagues have been spotted in public with Phillipino 'friends.' If kept low-profile, nobody kicks up much of a fuss, but there are tales of a teacher who got fired for being less than circumspect about the constant stream of young men visiting his apartment.

(I'm happy to say my personal Gay Stalker has never bothered me again, although I think I did see him drive by in his car a couple times.)

Guys make their own wine; I haven't had any recently nor have I tried to make any. (Because mostly I found when I tried it that it just made my head hurt and gave me a stomach ache.)

Guys smoke hash in their rooms and plop in front of the TV to watch downloaded movies; I can smell the hash in the hallways. It's never been a favorite thing of mine, hash and marijuana. But it doesn't sound so bad, does it?

So it's hot, and it's empty, and there's no social life at all -- but I have filled my time with a variety of projects and haven't been bored. Or rather, perhaps I'm enjoying being bored.

It always feels like I just finished a vacation, or am about to go on a vacation; and waking up not feeling like you're about to puke and die is actually pretty pleasant.

So for a middle-aged man, this isn't a bad life, as long as you can entertain yourself in a suitably non-destructive sort of way. Some guys study for Master's degrees or PhD's online, for example. (I've been too busy studying kung-fu on YouTube for that.)

But yeah, if you're in your twenties or thirties? I can't say I recommend this life, unless you're really deeply in debt or something.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fuck It in Phuket

So here it is -- the long lost story of how I sprained a kid's arm while teaching in Phuket, Thailand, in 1999. As featured in TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY, my compilation of late-90's old-school English teacher adventures.

I knew the job was probably doomed when I sprained the kid’s arm.

I arrived in Phuket at the beginning of the rainy season, at the end of May. I checked into a cheap Chinese hotel in Phuket Town and then went to meet my new colleagues.

It was a small school, only two teachers, a few secretaries and one manager. The other teacher, and titular DOS, was a wan yet chirpy British woman of about my age. (I would turn 30 soon.)

We chatted briefly about the job and then she said, “Oh, and one more thing, do you mind starting the day after tomorrow? I know we said next week, but our other teacher injured himself.”

“Oh, sure, no problem. What happened?”

“He accidentally cut his foot with a samaurai sword.”

“Oh, right. Occupational hazard. I’ll be here.”

The next day, I rented a Honda Dream scooter and drove down to Kata beach to look for a place to stay. All the beach huts and small hotels seemed overpriced, but I saw an “apartment for rent” sign on the road leading out of the city.

I stopped and checked it out; it was a small row of five apartments and a café run by a French guy and his Thai wife, and a young transvestite guy worked as the sort of manager and attendant of the place.

It was about $150 a month, and by the standards of most places I lived in Thailand, luxurious and roomy. It actually had a living room, with a big vinyl couch and an end table. The bedroom had a big double bed, a ceiling fan, and was blessedly free of windows to keep the blazing tropical sun out.

It even had a kitchen and a refrigerator, although no stove or oven, and there was no hot water, unless the sun made it hot during the day.

I rented it immediately.

The job in Phuket was the one that most English teachers dreamed of – working 20 hours a week on a tropical resort island? Oh man you lucky bastard!


A few things.

First of all – when you imagine living in the tropics, you probably don’t imagine the rain. It rained, and it rained, and it rained. Every day, all day, rain was POUNDING down. For WEEKS at a time.

This kind of stops you getting out much. Even moreso than heavy snow.

And then various creepy-crawlies from the jungle start trying to seek shelter in apartments like mine. I had a foot-long blue and red lizard living in my bathroom for quite a long time.
I got used to him. “Good morning lizard!” I’d say.

I had to ride my scooter 17 km to work, from Kata to Phuket Town, in the rain – my bright orange poncho whipping around me, the rain spattering on the plexiglass faceplate of my helmet, big delivery trucks roaring and grinding past me, my work trousers rolled up and my work shoes in a plastic bag in the front basket.

Second of all – when you imagine this dream job in the tropics – you probably aren’t teaching a bunch of little kids.

The weekends were the hardest part of my schedule – I had two six hour days, full of little kids between the ages of 5 and 11.

Old enough not to be intimidated by their English teacher, young enough not to give much of a fuck about actually learning English.

Two times during the week, I had to go teach at a kindergarten.

Some of these children were so small they couldn’t walk. Most of them were 3 or 4. I had four 30-minute classes in a row, each composed of 20 to 25 little kids, screaming and peeing and and sneezing and snotting.

English Manager C had conveniently waited until after the interview to tell me that, “Overwhelmingly, the majority or our students are young learners.”

Miss Dim, a secretary at the other school I worked at in Bangkok, put it more succinctly – “X teach babies!”

Nonetheless, I put some effort into it. Having finally gotten a job at a school that had some books about teaching, I read up on how to teach children and generally manipulate, intimidate, and brainwash those who you have some authority over.

My rowdy class of 8-9 year olds spent the first class running wildly around the room and wrestling as I futilely attempted to get a few of them involved in playing Hangman.

Two lessons later, I had conquered them like Ghengis Khan.

I had them seated in rows raising their hands to participate, organized into Teams. If one student misbehaved, the whole team lost a point. This left the discipline to brutal peer pressure. Whichever team had the most points at the end of the lesson got some various cheap prizes, including gold stars and certificates I whipped up on Microsoft Pagemaker.

I later demonstrated my powers to the other teacher and DOS during the break by holding up two fingers – the accepted signal for “two points” and getting the whole class to scream in unison, “X is a good teacher!”

The little kids—the kindergarteners, the 2-4 year old – I conquered with songs and puppets. (Having to do this in the morning, I owe a great deal of thanks to the original Red Bull Krataeng Dang energy drink. )

They loved me, too. When I pulled up on my scooter, they all came running out screaming, “Hello Hello!” and “Bee bee bee!” and “chicken chicken chicken” referring to the bee and chicken puppets I used.

Teaching kids that small – especially in large groups – there’s not much you can do. We sang some “eyes ears nose” and “head shoulders toes” kind of songs. I held up flashcards with pictures of animals, fruits and vehicles, and they repeated the names after me. Then we played a game where I put pictures of different things on the wall, called out the name, and the students ran to them.

I remember thinking to myself, as the students laughed and cheered and followed me around shouting the names of fruits and animals, “Wow, you’re really doing a good job of this, these kids are really learning.”

It was a couple months into it when the DOS told me the the owner of the kindergarten was VERY displeased with my lessons, that they needed to have some system of evaluation and that the lessons should contain more writing and not so much pointless playing.

“Evaluation? Writing? These kids are TWO YEARS OLD!”

“I know, I know,” said the wan but chirpy DOS, now more wan than chirpy. “I have to come observe you, believe me, I’m no more happy about this than you are. It was apparently the reason the last DOS left, incidentally – we can’t do anything right, as far as that kindergarten is concerned, but that’s a big contract.”

They got a new Thai manager of the place, about that time. She was a chipmunk-faced Thai woman of about 26 who had just returned from studying in England, and I think she was the daughter of some friend of the owner.

I would say her English was about Intermediate, at best, though she’d just completed a Master’s in something at some diploma mill for foreign students.

“I will help you solve this problem,” she assured me, but I knew from experience that when dealing with Thais, by the time you know about the problem, it’s usually too late to do anything about it.

We met with the owner of the kindergarten, an old sour-faced Thai spinster who simultaneously insisted that everything we were doing was wrong and refused to tell us why, and our young Thai manger rattled away in Thai at her while the DOS and I sat, arms folded, trying to remember to smile, as we’d been instructed.

Finally we came up with a completely nonsensical system of evaluation – I’d hold up a couple of pictures, and if the student could say the name of one of them, they passed, and we came up with some worksheets where the kids had to sit and color in the letters of the English alphabet.
Then, I sprained the kid’s arm.

As I mentioned, there were 25 kids in each group, and one of them, a lively little curly-headed half-Western 4 year old, had wrapped himself around my leg and refused to let go.

I attempted to lift him by his arm and there was a POP and a piercing shriek.

Don’t ever lift a kid by one arm, by the way. I know that. Now. Especially little Thai kids with arms like pretzel sticks.

Everyone assured me that it was okay, that I’d done nothing wrong, that everything was fine.

“Look,” I said to the DOS. “I know how this works in Thailand. They never want to deal directly with problems. I’ll resign now. Because I know what will happen – I’ll just come in here one day and I won’t be on the schedule, and they’ll say, “Oh, sorry, come back next month, the owner can’t talk to you right now.”

“Really, I don’t think it’s necessary,” she said, wanly. “I told them in your evaluation that you didn’t really do anything wrong, it was an accident, your lessons are fine.”

But she didn’t seem convinced at all.

They took me off the kindergarten class and gave it to a fat English chick they hired. There was some worry at first that she would frighten the kids, but it seemed they didn’t mind her, and as per the instructions of the kindergarten owner, the kids were sitting and coloring their worksheets most of the class now, anyway.

A couple weeks later, she told me the curly-headed little bugger was back. “And he’s right as rain. It was a mild sprain, that’s all.”

My social life in Phuket was actually a bit slow. During the height of the rainy season, I actually went out and bought a Playstation (chipped to play bootlegged games) to help keep myself entertained.

Other than that, I went into the main Patong Beach strip in the evenings, where I befriended several cute young bar girls. I celebrated my 30th birthday with two of them, only one of whom I paid.

I swam a lot; I was fit and tanned and my mousy brown hair went streaky blond. The off-duty bar girls at the Shark Club loved me.

My favorite game was seeing how much I could get them to do without having to pay them. I discovered that in low tourist season, when there were a lot more hookers than guys, the girls considered there to be some issues of “face” in having a guy taking them out of there, even if he was only giving a nominal payment or no payment at all.

I invited them over to play Playstation and bought them som-tam.

I spent about an hour making out with and feeling up a lovely young big-breasted hooker on my vinyl couch in the living room, after establishing she would do that for free, before she finally asked me if I wanted to have sex.

I told her I didn’t have any more money.

“It’s okay,” she said. “Pay next time.”

Hey, whores get bored, too.

Other than that, there were tourists. One evening I picked up an Australian girl visiting Phuket on a package holiday; we danced for hours and then went back to her room at the Holiday Inn at about 2.00am. We swam in the hotel pool, making out, and then went back to her room, without turning on the light, and got in the shower, and then in the bed.

Afterwards, pleased, I dozed until the sun come up, filling the room with soft blue light, and I noticed some dark spots on the sheets.

She came out of the bathroom. “Uh,” she giggled nervously. “This isn’t the best time of the month for this. . .”

I got up and went into the bathroom. My face, my chest, and my stomach were all smeared with frothy dried purple menstrual blood. I burst into hysterical laughter.

Generally speaking, when it wasn’t raining, I would spend the day on the beach at Kata, near the Club Med, or snorkeling at different points around the island I’d reach on my Honda Dream scooter.

I discovered an abandoned resort in the trees up a hill near Kata – this was one of my favorite places. Hillside cottages empty, a central building full of discarded papers and furniture and even a pickup truck. I wandered around it in the gentle tropical rain, startling green snakes and looking for interesting odds and ends, occasionally breaking windows and sitting on the rotten deck of the empty restaurant and watching the sun disappear into the purple, orange, and violet sky.

In my evening classes, which consisted of adults, I actually worked hard to be a well-organized teacher and cover the material thoroughly, which I should ALSO have known was a bad idea.
Generally, after a day on the beach, all I wanted was a nap, and resented having to go into work. The adults thought I was unfriendly, and I resisted their attempts to invite me out for dinner and things.

So then basically, about five months into the contract, towards the end of October, I went in one day and was told that the Thai manager hadn’t put me on the schedule for November.

Despite good evaluations of my teaching, the manager didn’t actually want to meet with me to discuss it, although the vague reason of students finding my lessons “too difficult” was mentioned, and they wanted me to transfer back to the school’s main branch in Bangkok.


I dug out my contract.

I found an ad for a lawyer, in Phuket’s small English language paper. I rode to the office on my Honda Dream, jittering with anger.

The lawyer was the unfortunate product of a law school in Pennsylvania in America. Despite looking like a usual dignified business-suited Thai office worker, she spoke with an unbelievably annoying whiny American voice that inflected every sentence like a question.

Nonetheless, she did her job.

I explained the situation to her, showed her my contract – which guaranteed me at least one month’s notice of termination of contract – and asked her to phone the school to discuss breach of contract.

This was, amazingly, one of the few jobs in Thailand that had actually bothered to get me a legal work visa. I’d gone to Malaysia to get it a few weeks after I’d arrived in Phuket, and they had registered me as a legal employee. I had a little ID card, even.

It was always amusing to watch Thais who had been in America speak Thai. When reverting back to Thai, all the brash inflection they copied from Americans was gone, and they were again the modest demure Thai kunla satri (good girl).

While my Thai ran the gamut from none to almost none, I could follow the conversation very well.
My lawyer began with clear indirectness and deference, speech laden with the polite particle “ka.” Then she began interspersing it with American lawyerisms, particularly “lawsuit” and “breach of contract.”

She became more firm and accusatory as the conversation continued, and it was clear that the Thai manager was backpedalling and making excuses furiously and hadn’t actually bothered to look at the contract. I made my lawyer tell the manager that we would discuss this with the owner of the school as soon as possible.

Half-way through the conversation, she wrote on a small piece of yellow memo-pad –“Take this to court!” and slid it across to me.

When she was done, I applauded her, and told her she’d clearly done a beautiful job.
I can’t remember how much money I gave her. I think it was about $50. One of the better $50 I’ve ever spent.

I wrote the now-stereotypical indignant letter to English Manager C in Moscow, and claimed that I was sending copies to English teacher forums and the Thai Department of Education. (Ha! Whatever the hell that is.)

A few days later, it was a very pleased English Teacher X who interrupted his sunbathing to ride his scooter into Phuket Town to meet with the young chipmunk faced Thai manger and the DOS.
The owner missed the meeting, perhaps to save face or perhaps out of genuine lack of interest, but I accepted a check for “a final agreed sum of 13,000 baht, for a 2 week period, November 1, 1999 – November 16, 1999” in lieu of proper notice.

I cheerfully signed a document stating that I agreed not to pursue any legal action against the company, or “bring the name of the company into disrepute.”

I made plans to move to Ko Samui, which I liked a bit better than Phuket, for the Millenium New Year’s Eve. I sold my Honda Dream to a British scuba diving instructor and rather regretfully told my French landlord that I was leaving. I’d miss that place. Even the lizard and the ants.

A few days before I left, I saw the DOS of the school, and the fat English girl who’d taken all my classes, sitting on the beach. I sat down and chatted with them for a while.

“Would you really have sued the school?” she asked me. “You know that’s a pretty dodgy thing, in Thailand.“

I thought about it. “I don’t know. Mostly I was bluffing, I think; I knew a bluff would work. Chipmunk Face clearly didn’t know what she was doing, so I knew I could play her against the owner.”

She smiled. “You’re good at this.”

“You gotta take care of yourself in this game, baby, nobody else will.”

“You know, they re-wrote the contract, and put in a clause for immediate termination.”
I laughed. “Always leave a place better for your having been there, that’s what my granny used to say.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

That Day

Where was I 10 years ago today, when I heard?

I was in Vodkaberg, and I was coming home at maybe 11:00pm after eating with a colleague at one of two pizza restaurants in Vodkaberg at that time.

The phone was ringing as I unlocked the series of three doors which allowed access to my apartment. I thought the phone ringing was a little unusual; at that time, nobody called me on a weekday at that hour.

The phone rang ten times or so while I was unlocking the door, and then stopped; it started ringing again as I was taking off my coat and boots, and continued ringing until I picked it up.

It was an annoying student guy, something of a stereotypical dork with glasses, who missed no opportunity to practice his English.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, I didn't know if you were sleeping, there's been a huge terrorist attack in America, maybe 40 or 50 thousand people are dead..."

"What? 40 or 50 THOUSAND? How is that possible..." I don't think I even had internet at home at all, at that time, so I turned on the TV.

"It was at the World Trade Center in New York."

I flipped through the channels -- it was the usual detrius of stuff that was on Russian TV at that time; true-crime programs, infomercials, badly-dubbed reruns of TV shows from the 90's like PROFILER. (This was slightly before reality shows became prevalent.)

Then I saw live news footage of this:

(Of course the body count turned out a lot lower than originally reported, but it was still plenty high.)

There was a lot of sympathy and support from students during the next week, although our little screech-owl of an office manager said something like "Frankly speaking, it's not a surprise, because America has interefered in other countries' business many times."

Russian thugs rose to the occasion; a friend who had a sister working in the emergency room reported a tremendous rise in the number of "choorkies" -- people from the Caucus region -- hospitalized after being beaten on the street.

Speaking to a girl I knew, a couple days later, who could see that I was upset, she said, "you just can't stop thinking about all those people who died?"

"It's not that . . . or not just that. The whole world is going to change, and it's never going to go back. Do you know how difficult EVERYTHING will be, from now on? Travel, work, everything. They'll watch every move we make, every dollar we spend.
America will go crazy. . a lot more people are going to die after that day, than died ON that day."