Friday, March 16, 2012

The Scary Mixes

(Back to the topic of English teaching. This is a story from Bangkok in 1995; published on the website back in 2005. Ah, was anybody every really so young? It wasn't included in the memoir TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY for copyright concerns.)

Bangkok -- 1995

You know, I'd like to say that the Scary Mixes came about as a result of rainy season cabin fever, but in truth I think that's just my brain rationalizing it.

In point of fact they came about as a result of DOING THE SAME GODDAMNED THING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

This is a common malady for English teachers.

But especially so for us.

My first job, in Thailand, had us ALWAYS working what are now generally known as "intensive" classes. This meant the students would study every day, or at least four days a week, and finish up the book in about five weeks. As I recall.

Most all of our students fell into the first three levels, and only very rarely did any continue past that third level. Generally you had two different classes during the week -- one in the morning, one in the evening -- and four different classes on Saturdays and Sundays.

So basically, after only a few months, you knew those mother fucking books inside and out. Backwards and forwards.

We used, at that time, a book called MAIN STREET, which as I recall, was by Peter Viney and Karen Viney.

The is one of the few remaining signs of this book series on Amazon.

The book was an American English series, directed at teenagers, and it probably didn't suck as bad as we always thought it did -- it created its own cartoon characters, songs, and stories, though, rather than trying to use real-life activities or pay for the rights to use real songs.

This caused us to become, to put it politely, over-familiar with these songs and characters.

Anyone who worked there would undoubtedly recall Xeno the robot, laugh heartily at the mention of Gator McGee, and crap themselves in terror thinking about the Orchid Murder Mystery.

And then there was our favorite: BIG FOOT!

This was a story presented in comic-book form on two pages in the back of the book. It concerned a woman looking for her husband in the Alaskan wilderness, after his plane had crashed. She and her friend locate some tracks, and follow them to a cave. There they discover her husband, and find the huge monster BIGFOOT! RARRRHHH!

(thanks to Former Teacher Q for providing these:)

The friend tries to shoot Bigfoot, but the husband intervenes, saying that Bigfoot saved his life and was intelligent and friendly. Bigfoot runs away, and the man returns to civilization with the others. They consider whether they should tell anyone about Bigfoot -- in the last panel they are imagining Bigfoot in a cage at the zoo weeping.

We loved that shit.

And what's more: the whole thing was dramatized on the cassette tape.

The roar of Bigfoot -- RRRRAAAAARRRHHHHH -- became a daily joke. We would have it cued up to play when certain teachers entered the staff room, for example. We'd walk by other teacher's classrooms with a tapeplayer and play the roar loudly.

It was fucking hilarious. I know.

I recall I offered my students extra points on the speaking test if they could imitate they roar of the Bigfoot.


Then one day English Teacher S came in with the Scary Mix.

As I said, the dramatic finale of the story was when the man tries to shoot Bigfoot, but is stopped by the injured pilot.

* * *

(The man's wife and friend enter the cave.)

"Ooooh. . . Peggy? Is that. . . you?"

"Yes darling. I'm here now."

"Oh! What's that?"


BANG! (noise of gunshot)

"Don't shoot! It isn't dangerous! It saved my life!"

(sound of Bigfoot running away, growling)

* * *

Okay, scary enough. But then English Teacher S got ahold of a tape player with a dubbing function.

He proudly one day presented us with this Scary Mix of the same situation.

* * *

"Oh! What's that?"









"Don't shoot!"




"Don't shoot! It saved my life!"







"Don't shoot! It saved my life!"





(long pause)

"It saved my life!"





"Oh. . . Peggy? Is that. . . you?"

* * *

My god, we went into fucking hysterics over that. We thought it was the funniest thing in the history of humor.

We played it for our students. Rarely did the Thais understand the joke. (Of course, they rarely understood anything we said or did, so I suppose that's no surprise.)

Finally I got to where I would just play it instead of the regular version, and see if they students even noticed a difference.

They never did, or if they did they never commented on it.

Naturally this led to a rash of other scary mixes of different listening activities. I can't remember all of them, none had the charm of the first Scary Mix.

I made one from an activity about two cops named Tibbets and Sileski, who were tailing a bank robber named Butch Bailey. (It was a present continuous activity: "Look! He's going into the apartment!")

At the end of it, when Tibbets and Sileski go to arrest Butch Bailey, he reveals he's just going to have lunch at the restaurant next to the bank with his two friends. He introduces them and asks Tibbets and Sileski to join them for lunch.

In my version, they all started shooting at each other afterwards, with gunshots I dubbed over from the Bigfoot tape. The crowning touch was the final line: "My legs! I can't feel anything in my legs!" which I dubbed from another listening activity entitled "The Snow Covered Everything!"

I offer this story as an example of what constant exposure to inane listening activities can do to a person. Perhaps this is a plea for Language Schools to change their textbooks every now and again. Perhaps it's just a plea for understanding.

But by god, did we think those scary mixes were fucking hilarious.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Femme Fatale

International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year.[1] In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. (quoted from Wikipedia)

In honor of Woman's Day, I got to thinking about which Russian girl I know was the most Russian of all the Russian girls that I knew back then.

That would have to be J.

She didn't look like a typical Russian girl; she wasn't blonde, for one. She didn't slather herself in makeup. She didn't really have a beautiful face, although it was pleasant and friendly. She looked a little like the Mona Lisa, actually. She didn't dress like a fifty dollar hoooker.

She wasn't tall or skinny either. She had these breasts.

They were big in a subtle way; they weren't necessarily the first thing you'd notice about her. She didn't keep them on display with plunging necklines or tight tops.

But if she liked a guy, they had a way of becoming the center of the room. And when they were revealed . . . whew.

She was in one of my first classes in Vodkaberg, though she didn't show up for many of the lessons. (I found out later that she'd gotten free enrollment from one of the doofus owners of the school, who was trying to get into her pants.) This was back in like 2001 or something. I think she was about 19 at that time, although from her level of composure and maturity you probably would have judged her about 25 or so.

Her English was pretty good already; she'd studied it in school and university and practiced it frequently on the many foreign holidays that she went on. (Her parents were pretty rich.)

I ran into her one night at a nighclub -- one of the two nightclubs in town, at that time -- and she'd just gotten back from Cuba and was tanned and rosy looking, hair sun-streaked, very appealing indeed in the middle of a Russian winter. She came up to me and started talking and I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen from the look in her eye.

She unleashed her breasts on me. I couldn't seem to find anywhere to stand where they weren't pressing against me. Although of course I didn't want to.

Soon we were making out in a corner, and then we were at my place.

I remember, as we maade out and undressed, her saying something about how she'd been having dreams about me and couldn't believe she'd finally gotten her dream man. I thought that was laying it on a bit thick. . .

I think it was about ten minutes into it I realized I was seriously outclassed. Everything I could imagine, she seemed to be an expert at. Things that I'd fantasized about seemed to be yesterday's news to her.

Not to say she didn't enjoy it.

Afterwards -- I felt like people who've been attacked by a vampire must feel. Not one of those wussy TWILIGHT vampires either, a real old-fashioned hardcore Nosferatu. Simultaneously drained, defeated, and contaminated.

At the time I confused this feeling for guilt. Taking advantage of innocent students! Shame on you, English Teacher X!

She started inviting me out all the time, and introduced me to some of her English and foreigner- loving acquaintances. I introduced her to some of my English groupies, and they all got along famously.

At that time there was only one other male English teacher in town; we had started hanging out with an African student who was a really fun guy, also, so I can probably say we were having the best parties in town.

She kept throwing herself at me, but I wasn't having it.

"Why don't you like me?" she would say, attempting to smash me with her breasts.

"You were a student," I would say helplessly.

"I'm not your student now!"

"You only like me because I'm a foreigner," I said, equally helplessly.

But she kept at it, over the course of a couple of weeks, and had almost won me over -- when the following happened.

We were at the a crowded club, dancing and having a good time, she and I and one of her female friends. I didn't quite understand what was going on when this short, fat guy in a suit appeared, and J left with him.

"Was that her father?" I asked J's friend.

The friend laughed. She considered what she was going to say. "That was her sponsor."

"Her what?"

She explained to me that the idea of a rich, married older man, who supported a younger girl financially, while fucking her, was so common that the word "sponsor" had been co-opted to refer to it.

That was the first time I'd been exposed to this.

"Jesus Christ," I said. "What the fuck, her parents are rich!"

"That's why her parents want her to find a rich guy," she said.

This logic took me a little while to absorb, but I can now see that perspective clearly. Parents in the 90's knew that survival equalled money, and given the lack of opportunities for women, drummed that message into their little girls. Her mother had grown up in the far north in Arcangelsk, where the average life expectancy was bout 40 and people tended to lose their teeth from vitamin deficiency.

So my attempts at cynicism turned out to be correct!

Soon after that, we had a party at J's place -- it hit about a 7 on the debauchery scale, with a lot of drunken making out and dirty dancing. J was a competition ballroom dancer and knew a lot of hot chicks, although a lot of them didn't speak any English and were (sensibly) more interested in the local rich guys than the foreigners.

(Just for reference -- 8 on the debauchery scales equals girls dancing in their underwear, 9 equals orgy, and 10 equals a Satanic ritual sacrifice.)

J's rich guy arrived, and I found out she'd told him that she was out of town that weekend. But he'd come by to make sure she wasn't lying. She (and the African student) went into the kitchen to mollify him while he cried like a lovesick 14-year-old.

As I began to understand more about the situation, the more I pitied this rich guy. He wasn't rich in the sense of private planes and Bentleys -- he was rich in the sense that he owned his own apartment, owned a car, and could afford foreign holidays, which in Russia at that time made you pretty fucking rich. He had a wife and three kids and wasn't even forty yet, though he looked older. (I was 32 at that time.)

In bed that night with J -- the car we were driving had failed to start because of the cold, so we all slept there -- we had a long discussion about life and the rich guy. She said that she'd tried to break up with him but he wouldn't hear of it; she was his only friend in the lonely and violent world of rich guys. (I gathered that the guy's business was mostly laundering money for gangsters and corrupt politicians, but I don't know in any great detail.)

So here something unusual happened; I found I easily became friends with girls in the lonely world of sponsored, foreigner-hungry Russian chicks, largely because I allowed them a space to talk about these forbidden topics. More than once I was told by Russian girls (of this type) that it was practically impossible to have real friends, as all other girls were just competition.

She was a fixture of the group over the years, as we hit the clubs and had our little international parties. Her sociopathic greed shone through in many of the things she said and did but in fact she was one of the kindest and most reliable of people. She was always sunny, pleasant, friendly, didn't smoke or use bad language. If I needed something, I knew I could ask her and she would help me out with it, and if she said she was going to show up somewhere, she showed up.

(One reason I had so many girlfriends in general was that they were all so fucking unrealiable -- to get two girls to show up somewhere, you had to invite six.)

She continued to try to find an easy way out of Russa in the form of a properly wealthy foreigner; she came back engaged, practically every time she went on holiday. There was some Irish guy she met in Cyprus.

"The ring he bought me was nice, but I'm not sure . . .he just works in a factory, he makes a good salary but he's not ambitious."

She dated the son of one of the richest guys in town for a while; but quickly determined with her horse-trader's eye that he was drunk all the time and not very serious.

She had this little dork of a student kid she was going out with for a while. We were all mystified by it until she explained it to us.

"He's a medical student but his parents are living in Sweden now. When he finishes school he could go over there and work, and I think his standard of living will be very high. I'll have to fix him up a little first, his teeth need to be fixed for example."

"That's the most shockingly cynical thing I think I've ever heard anyone say," I said mildly. I'd become pretty innured to comments that would have driven me insane a few years previously.

Finally, however, she realized that Russia was changing for good; being a sponsored girl wasn't going to cut it anymore, especially as she got older. And she realized that she was much smarter than most of these assholes she was trying to make a living off of. In 2005, she took off to Moscow and started working in the field of -- what else? -- event management, throwing glitzy weddings and corporate parties.

I saw her once before I left Vodkaberg in 2009. She'd had a steady boyfriend for most of the last few years, she said, and she lived with him and was faithful to him.

"But he's not rich. . . what's the catch?"

"There's no catch! Why do you always think such horrible things about me. . ."

I smiled. "You're not horrible, exactly, it's just your nature. . ."

Eventually she revealed he was a graphic designer and thus when she took event management gigs, she could hire him to do the advertising and thus maximize the income of their little household.

And they all lived happily ever after!

(More stories about Russian girls, with 75 percent more tits, coming in the memoir VODKABERG. Which should be available before the summer.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Next Destination

Last week, I signed a form saying that I wouldn't be requesting a new contract here in the ME after the summer.

I leave with some regret -- the desert has been the traditional place for fasting and purification, and that's pretty much what happened. I saved the amount I wanted to save and who can put a price on health, free time, and peace and quiet?

But life is calling.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next.

Of course the girlfriend wants to get married; marriage is the only religion Russian provincial girls have.

The possibilities for destinations are limitless, if perhaps all equally pointless. I could debauch in Brazil, seek adventure in Africa, retrace my path to Russia or Thailand, or do practically anything else.

But getting outside my comfort zone has proved to be good for me, so I thought I should continue that.

I picked the most fucked-up destination I could think of, the one that I, really, want to visit the least.

It's a very dangerous country, in terms of homicide rate; its economy is a complete wreck. It's also been torn by civil unrest in recent years and its corrupt, bloated, oligarchical political system is in shambles. As if all that weren't enough, it's suffered from several devastating natural disasters recently.

On the bright side, it's pretty cheap to live there and it's universally recognized for producing some really beautiful international sex symbols.

Nonetheless, there are practically no sex tourists there, and the waves of dorky backpackers are pretty much absent.

You guessed it!

And I'm not going anywhere cool like Miami or Chicago either; I'm going to small-town bumfuk shitty bible-belt tornado-alley Dirty South. I'm going home baby!

The plan is to take the girlfriend on a student visa; and we'll see if we can live together under stress. There's a fairly large international student program there, so supposedly there are EFL jobs, also. (Of course there are a lot of Mexican immigrants, also.)

The last time I lived in America was summer of 1997 to about the fall of 1998. Damn near fifteen years!

There are a few more practical reasons to go back -- my father's health isn't great -- but basically I want to answer all these questions: does America really suck? Is the quality of life really better abroad? Is it really difficult to re-patriate? Are my employment opportunities really shitty? Do Russian girls automatically become mean strippers, when exposed to American culture?

It'll probably only be nine months to a year, but baby I'm coming home.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

And the Next One You Pay For

Okay, here's another one -- this'll be the last, for a while -- basically just doing some experimenting with marketing and shit -- you know, SEO and POI and CHUD and secret internet 4-hour workweek stuff. With molecules and things.

If you're gonna be a whore, be the fucking nastiest whore in town, that's what I always say.

Most people living and working in other countries flee from Authentic Cultural Experiences and instead spend much of their time clustered around bar tables drinking.

Join English Teacher X and some of his disheveled, dissipated colleagues as they ponder the more degenerate aspects of existence abroad.

This short graphic novel collects cartoons from the englishteacherx website, including "The England Vs. America Debate" and "A Conversation About Cloning" and several others.