(Another re-post from 2004. Most of you weren't even born then, I'm sure.)
Admit it. You want to hear more about my privates.
In Prague I taught quite a few individual classes -- although a lot of them actually featured two people -- and these were usually young hardworking professional women, who if not exactly thrilling were not particularly agonizing.
Of course after a few years of it all, you develop your techniques. You learn some methodical little tricks to force conversation out of the recalcitrant ones, and the patience to put up with the chatty ones. I no longer dreaded my privates.
I came to Russia and did a few privates here and there. No big whup.
One was the mistress of a fat businessman who even after eight months of English lessons could barely string together a sentence like "It is a pen" or count higher than 100. She was not unpleasant, though she was stupid.
Sometimes she'd bring four Miller Genuine Draft beers to class and we'd drink them while we studied. (It was the last class of the day so I felt no professional compunction about it.) In the warm months we'd sit outside on a bench, patiently practicing the alphabet and basic vocabulary and grammar again and again.
Hey, it beats loading bricks.
They weren't all that good though. Once I had a fat female judge who was horrified that there were pictures of black people in the text book and wanted to talk about how much she hated black people.
"And how many black people have you actually met?" I asked in Russian. She never had another lesson after that.
Then I got this rich guy. He was from one of the ethnic regions to the south, or maybe it's a separate country now, one of those places with a lot of K's and Z's and U's and A's that end in "-stan."
He looked and dressed like a guy you'd make fun of who owned a laundromat, but he was quite rich, owned fish canneries and the usual assortment of other businesses.
He wanted to pal around with me to improve his English -- he invited me and another teacher out for nice dinners a couple of times, took us to his sauna at his country house, all that sort of stuff.
I had a Russian female friend who was pretty experienced with going out with rich guys, and after meeting the guy, she warned me not to hang out with him much.
"He's dangerous," she said.
"You're just saying that because he's ethnic," I said. "Anyway, what's the danger, is somebody going to assassinate us in his sauna?" I laughed.
She looked at me.
"Yeah, that's exactly what somebody might do." She explained that the sauna was a very popular place for gangland rubouts. The target was naked and had nowhere to run or hide.
Crap, and I was worried enough about him looking at my penis.
Anyway, it never amounted to anything. He invited me and another teacher to take an all-expenses paid trip to Lake Baikal during out May holidays, but then I guess couldn't for some reason or the other and was then too embarrassed about it to ever see either of us anywhere again.
Or hell, maybe he got killed or deported or something, how the hell should I know.
Then you get some fucking impossible task, like I did a couple of years ago -- I had to teach this 13 year old kid to prepare, within three months, for the FCE examination.
The FCE (or First Certificate in English) examination, in case you don't know, is an essentially meaningless but impressive looking test of English language abilities, administered by representatives of the testing syndicate of Cambridge University.
I didn't like the looks of the kid -- he'd been to England for a couple of months, but he was a snotty little brat who lived for Rammstein and violent computer games.
I mean that literally when I say he was snotty nosed, incidentally. He often had a runny nose.
His parents attempted to motivate him for the exam by promising to buy him a new computer, but even that didn't do the trick. Not surprising perhaps, since they wouldn't let him play any of the games he liked (though he'd learned a lot of cool English words like "sucking chest wound" and "pimp" and "rubout" from Grand Theft Auto III.
His parents were typical new Russian -- rich, gaudy, energetic, vigorous, and stupid as a couple of houseplants. They'd heard about the exam, and decided that their son needed it because they wanted him to go to university in England. I attempted to explain several times that the test was not valid for university entrance, and even had someone at the British Council confirm that the test was not recommended for people under the age of 16.
They insisted; their little brat needed it. Within three months.
The real reason eventually leaked out -- they had a friend whose son had passed the test at age 14. They wanted to keep up with the Ivanovs. I had to go to their luxurious apartment in the morning twice a week to teach the little shit.
Man, I tried. I tried to get him to read by giving him shit off the Internet about computer games, I tried to involve him with grammar in games of all different sorts, I used computer game cut-scenes for listening activities -- nothing worked. He sullenly refused to do any homework, while somehow convincing his parents I simply never assigned any.
The mother, who looked to be whacked out on tranquilizers or perhaps healthy shots of cognac in her morning tea, walked around blissfully unaware with one of her tits hanging out of her dressing gown, and forced me to eat the healthy breakfast of cake she inevitably fed the little bastard.
The father attempted to cajole me into going ice diving with him. He would often return from morning trips with big bags of slimy back fish, and offer to give me some. I'd graciously decline.
And let me remind you this was at 9:00 in the morning. The main reason I've stayed where I am so long is that I don't have to get up early anymore.
Finally we got to the end of the 80 hours or so we'd paid for.
A few months later the boss called me on the carpet.
They told me that the mother and father of the little snotnose had called and screamed because the little bastard had failed the test. And what's more they'd been to America on a holiday and he had claimed not to understand anything anybody said.
(I'm sure he was lying. I envision this scenario. -- "Son, go over there to the car rental desk and speak to the man for us. You need to practice your English."
"But I don't understand anything!" he insists, continuing to search in his computer gaming magazine for the secret code to use in Grand Theft Auto 3 which will allow full frontal nudity.)
There were a couple of other memorable ones. I had a fifteen-year-old demonologist and heavy metal fan who I talked about horror films and such with for 90 minutes once a week, often while playing computer games. We'd discuss the vocabulary of things on the screen while we played DOOM 3.
"What's that thing on the right behind the zombie?" he's ask.
"I think it's a turbine," I'd reply.
Then of course there was my favorite rich guy. He was a colorful media mogul and bag man, who quite openly admitted making his fortune working as a go-between between local mobsters and politicians.
He was colorful in the literal as well as the figurative sense -- he never wore grey or blue when he could be wearing pink, yellow, or green.
He told me lots of interesting stories about who was bribing who and who was behind various assassinations around town. It occasionally worried me. I wondered if his enemies had his office bugged or staked out or something.
We went to dinner a few times, had a few interesting nights at a local strip club, and went water-skiing a few times. We even discovered we'd had sex with the same model, a notorious social climber and gold-digger.
Eventually he suddenly changed teachers. I didn't take it personally -- I'd known for a while that rich guys don't have friends, they have partners and employees. And a lot of enemies.
Anyway, those are the exceptions. The rule is some bored and boring office employee, exhausted and uninterested. It always gets back to that, unfortunately.
"What did you do this weekend?"
"And after work?"
"What did you watch?"
". . . I don't really remember, I was too tired."
My privates just aren't the laugh they used to be.