Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Under Cover

I see other independent authors doing stuff like this so: 

In the opinion of you my loyal and loving readership, which of these bleak, scary covers for my next ebook, VODKABERG, are the most appropriately and appealingly bleak and scary? 

Version 1: The Tram


Version 2: The Car 


Version 3: The Road

Version 4: The Country

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Finish LIne

A half-hour ago, I gave my last speaking test in Saudi Arabia. Now I have three weeks of doing nothing to look forward to, and then I'm out of here on the 13th (hopefully.) 

I have a few instances of proctoring to do -- about four or five hours worth , I guess -- but the rest of the time I'm going to spend working on Vodkaberg, and try to get it in shape to publish before I leave. 

Of course there's a bunch of paperwork to do when you leave Saudi Arabia for good. (In fact there's almost as much paperwork to do  as when you arrive in Saudi Arabia.)

Might I return some day? Yeah, it's quite possible. Especially if I end up getting married.

Am I sad? Not particularly. Strange little poignant milestones occur to me though -- wow, that's the last time I buy a Snickers bar at the school snack bar. Wow, I can finally throw that red folder away and never think about it again. Wow, only a few more dips in the water with the jellyfish in the Persian Gulf.  

I'm not too institutionalized -- not yet anyway. But I see that peace and quiet can be just as addictive as chaos and debauchery. There are older guys here who crabbily insist, "just one more year and then I'm out of here!" and have been saying that as long as anyone can remember. . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Interview with English Teacher X

So I got an email last week from somebody claiming to represent a teaching website -- I see no reason to link to it. They asked me if I'd mind doing an interview and answering a few questions.  

I wasn't sure -- the articles I saw seemed very incomplete and chock full of grammatical mistakes. But it was aimed at a very general, newbie / wannabe TEFL audience, and I figured that's the market I need to aim at to sell some ebooks..

I asked my editor, who I also rely on for good advice about marketing and SEO and all that shit. My editor advised against it:  

The only disadvantage to doing an interview with that guy is that Hubpages is an online joke. You write some basic content, cross your fingers that Google picks it up in the rankings (which almost never happens) and you split the proceeds of the ads 60/40 with Hubpages. I went to the site directly and it's clear that he's link building (which I've explained to you before is essential in SEO). But his site is crap. So, those are the 2 main disadvantages - hubpages is a crap content mill with crap content produced by crap writers (and everyone knows this) and his site is crap, too. 

Nonetheless, there seemed to be a good number of hits on one of the videos there, so I decided to go ahead and do it. I mean, it's not like anybody else has asked to interview me.

I answered the following questions: 

Where are you from?

I'm from small-town southern America. Imagine a cross between Mayberry and Twin Peaks.

How long have you been teaching?

Since 1995, with the occasional 6 months on the beach or somewhere.

Where did you get the name "englishteacherx"?

It came from the idea of anonymity; I felt like I'd travelled so much I'd lost my sense of identity, beyond being a foreigner and english teacher abroad. X= the unknown. There was also an element of "Generation X" and "X rated" there when I began the website.

When did you start your blog?

I started a website on Angelfire at the end of 2002; by 2006 I was pretty much solely using my current blog on Blogspot.

Why did you start your blog?

I started the blog to provide a counterforce to what I perceived as a tremendous amount of mis-information about English teaching that was appearing on the internet at that time, and particularly on a certain well-known tefl website, most of which information was posted by TEFL course providers or dishonest schools. I wanted to show people what they could really expect from a life of English teaching.

What's in your blog? 

Mostly stories of things that have happened to me although there is some advice about teaching issues. Oh, and cartoons.

Who comes to your site?

Hell if I know! A lot of them seem to be people who dream of living abroad, or having a more exciting life abroad, or going out with foreign women..

Do you make money off your blog?

No, not per se; I make some money off the self-published books and ebooks I sell now, which collect stories and articles written on the first version of my website, along with new material.  

Where have you taught?

At some of the worst language schools on the face of the earth in Thailand, Korea, Russia, New York, and the Czech Republic. Now I work in the Middle East. 

Where was the best place for you and why?

Well, Russia was a lot of fun at that time -- not so much now, it seems. Thailand is a great place to live, but generally a terrible place to work. The Middle East is great for a middle aged guy who wants peace and quiet and profit.

Who was the best employer that you had?

Surpisingly I'd rate them all pretty similar -- they all considered teachers to be a disposable, unimportant part of the school. They all made very little effort to attract or keep good teachers. They all had tremendous problems with scheduling, organization and paperwork. I work at a college now and I'd say that by its nature, that's better than working at a private language school. Although the students are probably friendlier in private language schools. 

Who was the worst? 

See above.

Where do you teach now?

A technical college in the Middle East. 20 hours of work a week and 3.5 months of vacation a year, can't be bad. But I'll be leaving here in July.

How's life in the middle east?

Quiet, but that's what I was looking for.

Is it conservative?

No woman, no alcohol, not even any bacon. But it's given me a lot of time to work on other projects, and I get a big salary and a lot of holiday time.

When will you stop teaching?

Well, I'll stop when I stop, I guess.

What keeps you going?

Sheer stubbornness.

Any other countries you'd like to teach in?

Of course. Anywhere in South America or Subsaharan Africa, for example. But I'm middle-aged now and will be more picky about salary and conditions.

Will you reveal your identity?


Why do you conceal your identity?

There are a plethora of personal and professional reasons to conceal one's identity on the internet when blogging, these days.  And again, the original idea of "English Teacher x" was of the guy who had been travelling so long he'd sort of lost his identity.

Where do you want to go with your blog?

It'll keep going, but I want to work on more ebook projects in the years ahead..  

What advice would you give to someone thinking of teaching abroad?

I wrote a whole book about that ... available on amazon -- 

and on Smashwords

but if I had to boil it down to one sentence it would be: look before you leap. It's a lot easier to do research about schools and countries on the internet than it used to be.

* * *

After sending off the interview, I received the following email from the same guy:  

Ahh, I see, yeah I agree. They do that and it's lame. I thought your stuff was pretty authentic and I can appreciate that although you're still English teacher X. You probably didn't intend on it, yet, I imagine that mystery adds to marketing your site and ebooks. I also read some of your book there on Amazon and Smashwords. Your stuff seems a bit pessimistic and pervasive. I mean I know these stories can happen as I have experienced some bad stuff too, yet I don't think they are so pervasive. So I am rethinking this. 

I replied:  

I was beginning to wonder if you even knew who I am! I am the motherfucking EVIL ANGEL OF TEFL, MOTHERFUCKER!

Anyway, so once again, a little glimpse into the extremely high level of excellence that surrounds all aspects of life in the world of Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Victory Over Extremism

Little kids haven't thrown rocks at me for a long time now. At least since last year, when the Arab Spring happened.

But about thirty minutes ago, as I was riding my bike back from the supermarket, two kids about ten years old, with their faces wrapped with those Arab scarf things, popped up over the wall of a nearby apartment complex and chucked a few small stones at me.

They missed me by a mile; the stones were more like big pebbles, anyway.

I started laughing and pointing at them. "HA HA! YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL! YOU COULDN'T HIT A BARN DOOR!"

 They redoubled their efforts, throwing handfuls of pebbles from the garden that mostly clattered on the sidewalk at my feet; a few bounced off the rims of my bike. "HA HA! GIRLY BOYS! LITTLE GIRLY BOYS CAN'T THROW! TOO BUSY FUCKING EACH OTHER UP THE BUTT!"

I rode my bike up the street out of range a bit and got out my phone, acting like I was calling the police or the US Army Special Forces, craning my neck theatrically to check the name on the street sign, and they jumped off the wall and scurried for cover.

This was all about a block from the Applebee's. Even if we lose, we won.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Coming Soon: VODKABERG

It's coming. Slowly and painfully, but surely. Like a middle-aged whoremonger after a night of heavy drinking.

The second draft of Vodkaberg is finished, and seems to me to be very close to what I want it to be. A few more run-throughs with my editor, and hopefully it will be up by the beginning of June.

Enjoy these videos from Vodkaberg summer, 2009, in the meantime.

The official trailer for VODKABERG: NINE YEARS IN RUSSIA is still up on YouTube, also.