Sunday, January 29, 2012
So I took my girlfriend to Thailand for the last 10 days, my mid-semester break holiday. This was the first time I've been there since 1999, and I'd say in general I was more surprised by how much it hadn't changed, rather than how much it had.
It's much like it was -- only moreso. More tourists, more traffic, more buildings, but still very much itself.
A lot of people made the joke that taking your girlfriend to Thailand is like taking sand to the beach, but I can't say as I regretted it; especially down on the islands, where we spent most of our time, there always seemed to be a dearth of hot chicks compared to the men chasing them.
We spent a couple days in Bangkok and seven days on Koh Chang. My shy and conservative and provincial Russian girlfriend thought that Thailand was a bit scary; the lizards and transvestites especially freaked her out. But she was eased by the lovely beaches and the fact that there are so many Russians in Thailand now that most tourist restaurants have Russian menus.
I wanted to show her where English Teacher X was born so we stayed around Khao San Road in Bangkok; certainly it has changed a lot, in that it has expanded greatly, and the guesthouse rooms that used to cost $5 now have cable TV and aircon and cost $25, but the atmosphere is very much the same -- a non-stop global clusterfuck. It's a tourist attraction composed of tourists, an area that is popular with tourists pretty much solely because it is popular with tourists. Very post-modern. (And still a great place to rock out, it would seem -- far more bars and alcohol on the street than back in the 90's, when people tended to just sit in cafes and watch videos.)
I took my girlfriend around to some of the places I'd lived in Bangkok during the 90's, and gave her some very vague outlines of some of my less-offensive adventures. Unable to romanticize squalor and drunkenness as much as the average Westerner, she thought the whole tale a bit on the goofy side.
I can't say as I particularly disagree, in retrospect, but I also can't say I wouldn't do it all again without a moment's hesitation.
On the bus to Koh Chang I was kidding her as a female German backpacker lugged a 20-kg backpack around without the help of her metrosexual male companion.
"See, that girl always carries her own bag. Look at the arms on her. Don't you want to be like her?"
"No," she said, "I want to be feminine."
(Notice the only semi-ironic deployment of a bikini with a stars-and-stripes pattern. My baby is wearing her heart on her sleeve, or her ass, at least.)
Sunday, January 15, 2012
I know I said my next book would be about Russia -- but this one demanded to be written first. It simply sprang from my brow like a fearsome creature of myth.
It will be published in the next couple of weeks; it's finished and just needs to be edited and formatted.
Basically the purpose of it is to answer all the non-English-teaching-related questions about living abroad that I'm often pestered with.
Then, in the spring, back to the book about Russia.
Friday, January 13, 2012
(The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, HOW TO SURVIVE ABROAD, which should be available in the next couple of weeks.)
COST OF LIVING
You hear a lot of claptrap passed around about how it’s so much cheaper to live in this country or that.
Some countries are very expensive, it’s true – Britain and the Scandinavian countries, for example. And some countries are noticeably cheaper by Western standards, like Thailand and India.
But prices are kind of leveling out, all over the globe, and If you’re expecting to lead a life full of creature comforts and carousing – some stuff will cost more, some stuff will cost less, but if you buy a lot of international brand-name products, you’ll probably end up spending the same as you would anywhere in the world.
(And if you’re working a low-level, non-corporate, locally based job, you’ll probably be making a local salary, so it’s not like you have some tremendous advantage.)
Now, if it’s the simple life you want – there are some countries where living the simple life is rather a lot cheaper and more enjoyable, or at least more interesting, than it would be back home.
You can rent huts on the beach for $10 a night all over Southeast Asia. Even in a major city like Bangkok, if you want to eat nothing but local food, drink in alleyway bars with cab drivers, and rent a one-room studio with a squat toilet, you can probably live on $400 a month.
But if it’s the international life of Starbucks and internet and a new phone and nightclubs with DJs and fog machines and an apartment that actually has a kitchen and air-con and stuff – you could easily spend the same amount that you’d spend in the West.
And don’t forget variables like health care. Quality health care might be pretty high compared to the cost of other stuff.
In countries with shitty infrastructures, corrupt cops, unsafe streets, horrific pollution, etc., yeah, the cost of living is a lot lower than places like Switzerland or Germany, which consistently top “quality of life” surveys – and you get what you pay for.
And don’t forget about all the money you spend on plane tickets and visas and all that.
I lived on $600 a month in Thailand back in the ‘90s, but I also lived on $600 a month in back in America in the ‘90s when I was a student. Living like a student is always cheap and usually jolly.
(Until you hit middle age, of course, when the life of the student suspiciously begins to resemble the life of a bum.)
So yeah, no shit, if you live without a car or health insurance, eat only at cheap places or at home, and live in a cheap apartment, the cost of living will be less.
Is that awesome or pathetic? Is living like a student in one country really cheaper than living like a student in another country?
Living cheap is a lifestyle choice, not a geography choice. If you’re the kind of person who blows through all their money mindlessly every month, you can do that anywhere. I’ve seen numerous examples of it. And believe me, there’s always SOMETHING to blow all your money on.
The very useful website Numbeo.com will give you some specific numbers about the country of your choice.
For example – cigarettes, rent, and hookers are cheap in Thailand, but wine and cheese is hellishly expensive. Francophiles need not apply.
Judge it by your lifestyle, or the lifestyle that you want – if you spend all your extra money on Starbucks and McDonald’s in America, you could certainly do the same in Thailand.
If you want cheap rent and alcohol, you can find them, too. . .
Monday, January 09, 2012
Things I did in 2011:
-Visited the UAE twice and Barcelona, Spain once for holidays
- Spent one month back in Vodkaberg and one month in America
- Self-published three books
- Brought the light of knowledge into the world, (as usual,) here in the Kingdom, hopefully stopping our young students from turning to extremism or drift racing
- Learned how to use a handgun defensively and to draw and fire at center-mass at seven-ten feet away
-Learned about the basics of edible and medicinal plants (although the only edible plant I have so far mastered is the dandelion)
- Saved an amount of money I can comfortably describe as "a buttload."
- Continued my YouTube studies, and can claim intermediate proficiency with the Kata Dante, also known as the Ninja Dance of Death:
- And finally started to become comfortable with the idea that I have a girlfriend.
So what do you think, good year?
Thursday, January 05, 2012
You know -- lest you think I was joking about sending out free books to the needy -- here's this week's winning entrant:
Hey Mr. X,
I'm an English teacher in Pecs, Hungary. I'm about negative 10% at the end of the month, but that's because of the drinking. I think if I didn't go out at all, I'd be saving 10% on top of bills. The salary here is about 450 USD a month. Rent is half that. Anyway, its home until next school year. I'd appreciate any copies of your books. I always enjoy your blog. If i quit teaching and get a real job, I'll buy them all :)
I feel your pain man. I hope for that tiny salary at least you're having an awesome time and hooking up with loads of Hungarian porn stars.
You didn't say what format you wanted them in; I attached them at word documents. If you would prefer to download them in another format, let me know and I'll send you a coupon to get them free at Smashwords.
Oh -- by way of repayment -- you can give me a review on Amazon (good or bad) or if you could throw a link or review of the books somewhere like www.eslcafe.com you will contribute to the good fortune and continuing operation of the English Teacher X self-publishing empire.
And don't forget about my burgeoning YouTube channel:
Monday, January 02, 2012
SPEAKING ACTIVITIES THAT DON'T SUCK now available as a dead-tree book!
Buy it here as a paperback at Createspace
Buy it now as a paperback book or for the Kindle at Amazon.com
Buy it here as an ebook for your Apple device on itunes
Buy it here in all the other ebook formats at Smashwords
And if you're an English teacher, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll probably be moved enough by your poverty to send you a free copy.