Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Hi there! Full-time Independent Author X here, with the latest edition of ETX GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD.

(Double-dip? Me? Them's fighting words.)

This new 2013 edition contains dozens of pages of new material, including interviews with real teachers of EFL and uh, some pages of recycled blog entries and cartoons. 

Nonetheless! Here's a coupon, whereby interested readers of this blog may download it FREE on Smashwords until this Sunday evening, February 3 -- 

Promotional price: $0.00
Coupon Code: SS78Z
Expires: February 3, 2013

And if I interviewed you and you want to see the whole book, with your interview, you can also write me at englishteacherx(at)yahoo(dot)com.

I'll also be putting some of the interviews up here, in the next few months, including some that didn't make the book. 

Let me remind you also: if you've read the books and like them, please give them a good review on Amazon. Not that it seems to affect sales that much, but I want to mock those fucking morons who give me bad reviews, people who are in such deep denial about EFL that they can't even correctly read a book description. 

Are you tired of your dead-end job? Are you feeling a bit boxed in by your tedious existence? Are you pretty sure there should be more to life than this? 

Well, so is English Teacher X.

In 2011, English Teacher X, with more than 15 years experience at some of the worst English language schools in the world, collected the essays on his website into book form. It has been hailed as "a trash book from a trashy person" and "a bitter rant" and an "I'll (sic) informed experience of a sad individual." 

This brutally frank, often scathing, frequently profane, occasionally profound, but always insightful look at English teaching abroad in the 21st century is a perfect guide for beginners and those thinking of entering the profession. 

The book deals with a general consideration of English teaching as a profession, and how to make the decision to do it; gives some general advice about how to find a job and choose a decent employer; and offers some advice for dealing with the most common problems experienced by newbies in the business of TEFL teaching.  

Chapters include:

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
Dealing with Assholes

and many many more. 

THIS SPECIAL NEW 2013 EDITION contains dozens of pages of new material, including:

- interviews with experienced and novice teachers of English as a Foreign Language.
- English Teacher X's classic DOOFUS AND VALIANT and TYPICAL TEACHER TYPES cartoons.
- new information about teaching children, young learners, and "company" classes, as well as useful books and internet resources. 

If you've ever dreamed of teaching English abroad ... read this book first!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Little Practical English Teaching For Ya

I assume there are at least a few English teachers who still read this blog, and not just sex tourists, unhappy office workers thinking of living abroad, and people who searched for "Thanksgiving porno."

So, just for shiggles, something about English teaching.

* * *
So for years we taught the students "practical English" dialogues, that usually went something like this:

"A kilogram of apples, please."
"That's $1.99."
"Here you are. Thank you!"

And text books often still carry some version of that, despite the fact that most people who can afford to study English buy their food at supermarkets where you don't have to say anything; you just get your food and go to the checkout lane, and give them the amount that appears on the little cash register screen.

A textbook dialogue these days might include some nods to modernity:

"A cappucino, please."
"Would you like a strawberry muffin with that?"
"No, thank you."
"That's $5.34. Cash, credit, or debit card?"
"Uh, cash."
"Thanks. Here's your change ... and here's your coffee."
"Thank you."

But that's basically horse-shit also; they don't really ASK cash, credit or debit, you usually swipe your card yourself. And what with Amazon and such, for a while there, it was becoming increasingly unnecessary to speak at all during consumer transactions.

Regrettably, I'm finding that has changed.

Here's a typical supermarket dialogue -- and this is true even in places like Russia, these days, at the big chain supermarkets:

(bored, irritated teller swipes all items past scanner and indicates the price appearing on the small digital screen, then asks:)
"Do you have one of our discount reward cards?"
"Would you like to apply for one of our discount reward cards? You can save 18 percent on your purchases today and 10 percent on future purchases."
"Uh ... "
"All you need to apply is a driver's license and a major credit card. It will take about five minutes."
"Oh, god (weary sigh) no, no thanks."
"Would you like to give us your email address to participate in an online survey? You can win credit for $500 of free groceries."
"NO, just, uh, my groceries, thanks. How does this credit card scanner thing work ..."
"Turn the card the other way."
"Okay ... all right, thanks."
"This code on the receipt allows you to go onto the company website, and if you sign up for an account with us, you can still get a five percent discount on your next purchase."
"Thanks ... have a nice day ... "

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Vodkaberg Field Guide

Somebody left a comment requesting pictures of the girls (and guys) from VODKABERG. I think if you go back over the last ten years of the blog, you'd see a lot of them, although usually just closeups of their legs or cleavage.

Anyway, here's a handy and yet completely anonymous field guide.

Almond Eyes

Dark Angel
Little Valya and ETX and the lovely Russian countryside

Pterodactyl Girl
Breasty Alyssa
Nipples (left) and Friend
Insane Bisexual
Slappy, Brunetka, African Student
English Teacher X and Ballroom Dancer
Drunk Georgian Girl (Left) and Friend

Kazakhstan Girl

Natasha Nevada
Crazy Angel during a blonde phase

The commenter also asked what became of these girls; in fact I'm still in contact with most of them, through Facebook and such. I saw several of them when I was in Russia in summer of 2011 and 2010. Staying on good terms with girls I know has always been one of my super-powers.

(Dark Angel and Crazy Angel being the two who I'm not in touch with, and I think both of them would cross the street to avoid me if they saw me. )

Most of them are married, in various degrees of happily and unhappily, except the Goose and Slappy's Wife, who are strippers in Atlantic City now, and Little Valya, who I think is still waiting to marry Vladimir Putin.

But they're all keeping on with the keeping on. You can't keep a good Russian girl down. Or a bad Russian girl.

Ah, time, she truly is a river. And it's been far too long since I got laid, I'll tell you that for free.

Read about all of the above, and more, in VODKABERG, available as a paperback or an ebook.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Alpha or Omega?

And now for a quick game of ALPHA OR OMEGA!

This week's contestants: fictional characters John J. Rambo, from the RAMBO series of films, and George Baily, from the film IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Our first contestant: John J. Rambo, from the films FIRST BLOOD, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2, RAMBO III, and just RAMBO.

John J. Rambo -- Disgruntled homeless unemployed PTSD-plagued psychotic Vietnam vet. Kills anybody that messes with him, but tends to wuss out when it comes to killing the Washington bureaucrats who cause the messes in the first place. No indication he has sex, although the one Vietnamese girl he picks up gets blown up before he has much of a chance.

Fought on the Taliban's team during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "May God deliver us from the vengeance of the Afghan" indeed. Last seen in Thailand, working at a snake show, having flashbacks and, by the looks of it, abusing HGH and steroids more than most Thai lady boys.

Verdict - OMEGA

George Bailey -- Sacrifices dream of seeing the world to stay and run the family business. Proves to be pillar of his community and loved by all. Probably never banged anybody except his wife, played by Donna Reed. When he has personal problems and gets depressed, not only do all the people in town rush to help, the FORCES OF HEAVEN array behind him to remedy things.

His mere presence is enough to stop the town sliding into hopelessness and depravity; yet he's merciful enough not to slap Uncle Billy for losing the money, or knock Old Man Potter out of his wheelchair. Did I mention he probably never banged anybody except for his wife DONNA REED!

Verdict - TRUE ALPHA!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Livin' the Ebook Dream

Self-publishing, baby! The newest form of a very old dream. Put up a couple of books, pay a Chinese outsourcing agency to put up some good reviews and links, and then go sit on the beach somewhere, only occasionally getting online to count your money!

Well, that's the theory, anyway. 

I'm deeply involved in ebook publishing, under a variety of different aliases. As I mentioned, the ETX books are only about half of my income, which has averaged between $1000 and $1500 a month since July of this year. (My first year of publishing got me about $100 - $200 a month.)

(I'm not quite ready to discuss my other projects yet. Soon, though.)

The reality is that it's a lot more work than you'd imagine. Writing is only part of it. You also have to --

1) edit the manuscript -- that is, look for typos, spelling and grammar problems, and hopefully somebody can advise you about which parts work and don't work, what's not clear, what doesn't  make sense, etc.

2) properly format the books so that they can be uploaded onto the publishing platforms (it's not that hard, but you still have to learn how to do it.) Amazon is the big one, of course, but there are four or five others like Smashwords, Kobo, etc, all with slightly different requirement for formatting 

3) get a cover -- as I said, different platforms have different rules and requirements, and that goes for covers, also.

4) market and advertise your books somehow


Now of course, you can pay people to do all that stuff, but even semi-pro editing and a cover would cost you like $1000 or more, and the average self-published ebook is unlikely to make that sort of money in a year of reasonable sales. 

Even pretty well-known travel-and-fucking independent ebook writers have sales ranks of 60 - 100,000, which means they sell maybe 40 - 60 books a month, max. If your book sells for $3.99, you get roughly $2.50 per copy from Amazon, an excellent deal by publishing standards. 

Still, to sell 60 books a month is a pretty remarkable achievement for a self-published writer -- somewhere between 10 - 30 is probably much more likely. You can do the math there.

Fortunately I have a couple of good editors who help me on a volunteer / trade services basis, and as we all know I am a spectacularly talented graphic designer, as we shall soon be reminded. 


I never tried the "Chinese Gambit" of hiring an outsourcing agency for marketing, but an acquaintance tried it with her romance novels -- and the incoherent posts and reviews on totally inappropriate forums probably cost her more sales than they gained. (For example, "Please to buying this excellent novel of the college girl!" posted on a gamer forum.) 

That sort of thing tends to be extremely transparent, these days, and is probably pretty played out. Forums quickly ban people for that, too, and Amazon has been cracking down on such abuses in various ways. 

So you can do it yourself, under various sock puppet aliases -- or you can give away free copies of your book hoping for good reviews, that's the only thing I find myself with the stomach to do. Facebook is an incoherent mess, but I've advertised my shit there on various TEFL sites; maybe it helped a bit. 


Of course you can forge your online alliances with like-minded bloggers and so forth. Not really my speed, and as a general policy I neither link nor post comments often, but I've made a few connections that have promoted my shit. (And of course I've irritated and angered a few more.) 

Managing your online presence is something I dislike and takes a lot of time -- I avoid public connections with groups because I don't want to be involved in the public flame wars (or whatever they call them these days) when the groups fall out. (And they always do.)

The biggest help in marketing is Amazon's free "Customers Who Bought this Also Bought" Matrix. But Amazon has some strangely capricious policies about blocking / removing works that don't "meet our content guidelines" -- if some little old lady objects to the language in your book and clicks a button on your Amazon page, your book can actually get blocked. Amazon usually won't explain why, and you can usually re-upload things, but by then it will have disappeared from the sales ranking and "Customers Who Bought This" matrix, and you have to start the whole annoying process again.


Anyway -- you can work at home, or work anywhere, as a self-published writer, but writing is still work. And fairly lonely and time-consuming work, at that. And all the marketing and publishing shit, that's a fucking pain in the ass, generally, and either takes a lot of time or costs a lot of money.

(Of course, it's pretty clear that quite a few of this new breed of indie writer like internet marketing a lot more than they like writing. There's a whole generation out there that can't wipe their ass without trying to monetize it somehow.)

So while I was sitting on the beach in Costa Rica, yeah, I guess it kind of felt like free money; but when I'm knocking away at it six or seven hours a day here in America, not so much. 


So I'm making a new edition of GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD, which will include a few new articles, some cartoons, and interviews with real English teachers. 

So if you want to be interviewed for the new edition, drop me a line at englishteacherx(at)yahoo(dot)com by the end of next week. I have some solid ones, but I would like to hear from some people who completely disagree with my views. Alas those people are unlikely to read this blog and write me, and my attempts to email various people who gave me bad reviews on Amazon have failed. 

And I'd like some comments on these new covers, which I realize range from the functional to the psychotic: 

Version # 1: Grey Pencil Sketch
Version # 2: Psychedelic
Version #3: Firebomb

Version #4: Clouds

Version #5: Candy Swirl

Version # 6: Metallic Zoom

Saturday, January 05, 2013

How to Survive Saudi

Man, I was in Saudi for THREE years, which makes it the second longest period of time that I've been employed anywhere. (Apart from nine years in Russia, I don't think I've ever worked anywhere else longer than a year. And of course we should recall that with all my holiday time, I was only actually IN Saudi Arabia for something like 27 months.)

So you'd think I'd have a bit more to say about it.

But in fact I don't! The time flew by painlessly and easily.

So maybe THAT'S what I need to talk about, being as most people find Saudi and the Middle East in general pretty agonizing and a lot of people either quit, get fired, or lose their minds and then lose their jobs.

(I can say that most of these are just good advice for language school jobs in general, of course.)

1) AVOID OFFICE POLITICS -- I recommend this practically anywhere, but it's absolutely vital in Saudi.

Most teachers in Saudi are unhappily sober (or drunk on home-made prison wine), past middle age, and generally not too fond of the place they are in their lives, and quite often are wallowing in hateful bitterness. In a heartbeat, they will take this out on fellow teachers, since they often can't abuse the students as much as they'd like.

So simply avoid it. Do not concern yourself with other teachers and their bizarre unpleasant behavior. If it is directed at you, make yourself scarce and stay away from that teacher. If it's a manager, you have a bit more of a problem; but generally you just need to wait, although it might be months, because such people tend to annoy their superiors enough that they'll get fired fairly quickly.

There's probably a staff lounge where teachers will sit around and snipe at each other -- stay away from it.

2) DON'T WRITE ANGRY LETTERS -- My experience was that angry letters, which I always recommended as a great weapon in Asia, are NOT appreciated in Saudi Arabia. (Perhaps because the Saudi managers don't fully understand them, or perhaps they're considered a bit too subtle and conniving of a way to cause a fuss.)

Having little else to do, some teachers where I worked wrote them frequently, complaining about coursebooks, students, other teachers, etc, and the correlation between number of angry letters written and contracts not renewed seemed to be very high.

So if there's some official channel to complain, you can try it. Speak politely with somebody, if you MUST. But my advice? Just grin and bear it.

3) SET A FINANCIAL GOAL AND STICK TO IT -- Choose a goal of how much money you want to save, and work actively towards that goal.

Don't just decide "some money" or "a bunch of money" -- choose a number, and every month when you get your salary, sit down and write down how much money you've got and keep your goal in mind. Otherwise, you'll waste it on stupid shit. (Guys were buying all kinds of useless shit they didn't need -- primarily electronics and clothing.)

Alternately, set a time goal -- three years, five years, and stick with it. IF YOU FIND YOURSELF SAYING "JUST ONE MORE YEAR" more than once or twice, take stock of your life and realize you have a problem.

4) DON'T DRINK AND TAKE DRUGS -- I'm sure this will be a controversial one, because plenty of people do this there, and it's probably okay within reason, but my question is just, WHY?

If you want to do that shit, why did you go to Saudi Arabia? The cost / fuss of getting alcohol versus the salary is probably not a reasonable work / alcohol balance. Why should you move to the desert and drink fucking home-made prison wine, when you could be easily drinking the real thing (and having a ball) in Brazil or China or Russia? Why go to Saudi to save money, when you're spending half your salary getting to Bahrain or Dubai every weekend, or on $100 bottles of whiskey?

Because believe me -- you will noticeably stink of the stuff, and while most of your students will laugh about it, SOMEBODY is going to rat on you -- maybe just another teacher.

5) DON'T TALK ABOUT SEX, DRINK, DRUGS OR WHATEVER WITH THE STUDENTS -- Students might lead you onto these topics, but as above, it only takes one or two rats in a class full of students who love you, and by all accounts -- they are always there. There probably won't be immediate fuss on that one, but when contracts come up for renewal, somebody will remember.

Students may offer to sell you hashish or whatever; think twice.

6) PARTICULARLY WATCH YOUR ASS IN THE FIRST THREE MONTHS -- Contractually, you probably have a three month period at the beginning where you can easily be fired; after that time, your superiors will probably be hesitant to fire you, because they might have problems with their superiors.

In the first three months, if you get let go, you probably won't get your outward ticket paid for. It will be written down as you leaving voluntarily, in most cases, in any event.

In general, instead of being fired instantly, generally your contract will just not be renewed, or perhaps cancelled before the holiday. Since visas are such a major ordeal in Saudi, and generally speaking, there's such a shortage of teachers, that's an advantage for you. Being a bad teacher usually doesn't matter as much as annoying your superiors, in my experience.

There's the off chance that if they don't like you, they'll just make you so fucking miserable that you'll leave voluntarily; given the complicated situation with exit visas, though, that's less likely.

This next one is good advice for anybody, not just English teachers:

7) DON'T DEFINE YOURSELF BY COMPLAINING -- A particular danger of the English teacher as he / she / it gets older is to continue working in the shittiest jobs possible, and suffering under the worst conditions imaginable, just because they've become so very used to suffering and complaining about their lives that it becomes their only method of communicating.  (Please God deliver me from this fate.)

It's particularly sad in Saud, where you have people with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, cursing every aspect of their lives there, but continually insisting they need to stay "one more year" just because they know that they have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, or that the enforced sobriety in Saudi is the only thing keeping them from drinking themselves into an early grave.

8) YOU WILL NEED A SOLITARY PROJECT OR PROJECTS -- It was easy with me; I had a lot of stuff I wanted to do, that drunken ass-chasing had always kept me from doing. You'll probably have a lot of free time in Saudi, so you're going to need ways to fill it.

Some of it was practical -- day trading, working on book projects -- some of it was rather whimsical, like learning about parkour, kungfu, and disaster survival.

Nonetheless, I can't really remember thinking I was bored. I like to read and watch movies, of course, and had a big backlog of those to engage me. I had the beach there; there are a lot of opportunities for water sports and SCUBA diving, that kind of thing, in the Middle East.

So you'll need something to occupy your time; and probably occupy your time by yourself. if you can't fully amuse yourself with solitary pursuits, you are probably going to have some serious problems there.

9) TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET IN SHAPE -- You have a golden opportunity in Saudi to lose weight, sober up, get plenty of rest, and get your fucking head straight. Get an exercise program going. If you're lucky there will be a full gym in your compound or campus or whatever. If not, do yoga, P90X, jog, or do prison workouts, or pilates. Youtube can open the door for you -- you need to walk through it.

10) SPANK IT REGULARLY AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHORES ON THE HOLIDAYS IF YOU DON'T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND / WIFE  -- This is probably the golden age of masturbation, with the incredibly easy availability of porn. It's a life-saver out there in the desert. Obviously the big porn streaming sites are blocked in Saudi so you'll need to bring a lot with you. Hide it in a file maked "instructional videos."

To avoid creeping general alienation and asexuality, make an effort to keep in touch with the opposite sex, if there aren't any around where you live. Visit whores on the holidays, if nothing else.

Of course, the Internet is a big portal into the regular world; how teachers survived in Saudi before it came along, I wouldn't want to even speculate.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Eve Nine Years Ago and Now

Season's Greetings and a Happy New Year!

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may, 
    Old time is still a-flying : 
And this same flower that smiles to-day 
    To-morrow will be dying.

Robert Herrick, from the poem TO THE VIRGINS, MAKE MUCH OF TIME

I was trying to find some pictures from 10 years ago, but nine years ago is the first year I had a digital camera; there are some hard copies from New Year's Eve 2002 somewhere, but I have no idea where. (Regrettably I have no pictures of the girl stripping, but I do have some pictures of her in her little black dress and Snegurichka hat, as I recall.) 

Here are some pictures from New Year's Eve 2003 in Vodkaberg:

Fans of VODKABERG might be interested in a role call here; that's me in the blue sweater, Slappy's Wife in the grey sweater (about 5 months pregnant, i think?) A typical Russian Novy God table, full of mayonnaise-drenched salads.

The one with the long black hair is Crazy Angel, and the other one was identified in the book as Anna, from 2003. (I don't know why those last two are marked Dec 25; camera date was wrong, I guess. It was the same New Year's Eve party.)

Tonight? Home with Mom and the stepdad, I think we're going to watch WAR HORSE and then Ryan Seacrest's Hip-Hopping New Year or whatever it's called these days. Rock out baby! Mother is recovering well from a hysterectomy (but not looking forward to the chemotherapy), and anyway it's sleeting out.

We got a few inches of snow the other day, that brought a lot of things to a standstill -- the Russians would be laughing at such a wussy snowfall, I'm sure, but it looked kind of nice for a while.