Friday, April 05, 2013

January Unexotic

My life probably seems pretty exotic to many people.

January certainly wasn't exotic.

The snow fell on small-town Southern America and made everything scenic for about a day, before it turned into a layer of slush and mud and ice. The weather hovered slightly above freezing -- not cold enough to justify constant retreat indoors, not warm enough to enjoy being outside for too long. It was relentlessly gray.

My few remaining friends in America are busy with their own shit; none were inclined to hang out much. My mother recovered amazingly quickly and well from her hysterectomy; she didn't need much care, just the occasional trip to the supermarket. I had, however, already turned down a chance of getting a job at a place in the Emirates that needed teachers in January.

I worked on my e-book empire, in which I am producing books under three different aliases. The generally enjoyable creative act of writing was subsumed by the tedious minutiae of self-publishing -- formatting, editing, tweaking cover designs and interior links and adverts. I'd spend half the day in front of the computer listening to podcasts and talk radio, drinking coffee and doing all kind of self-publishing shit until the evening, when I'd watch a movie or TV show on Hulu and go to sleep at 11.30.

I wallowed in my geeky roots. My room on the top floor of the house my mother and stepfather live in is full of geeky stuff -- comic books, throwing stars, samurai swords, action-adventure and horror paperbacks from the 80s.

In fitting in with the local zeitgeist, I started shaving once a week and spending most of my time in sweatpants and hoodies. (I kept exercising, though; an absoultely vital part of the day in middle age, if only to feel a bit better.)

I occasionally walked down the street to the library, which seemed a bastion of civilization in a violent and insane world. Well-funded by donations, it has a variety of educational programs for the various unemployed and unattended who spent the day there (mostly using the computers.)

They even had free coffee and I'd sit and read from the good selection of graphic novels. (AKA comic books.)


The Girlfriend is the opposite of most Russian girls -- shy, honest, reliable, hardworking.

But stubborn. Very stubborn.

We'd still talk on Skype every day. 

Our relationship had been floundering since she'd been turned down for the visa. Her coming to America to study at a university seemed like a good idea to her; nothing else I could suggest did.

I'd suggested we go to Cyprus or Prague, or anywhere it was easy for a Russian to get a 3 month visa.

"And what if I can't get a job?"

"I have enough money to support both of us."

"For a while. What happens when the visa expires?"

"Then we go somewhere else, or go out and come back."

"I don't want to live like that! That's your life! I'm sick of packing my bags." Our relationship had never been anything but long-distance -- I spent most of my holiday time with her over the three years I was in Saudi, though that was about three months per year. 

"I think you need to live abroad just to see what it's like." Everything I'd seen so far suggested she had absolutely no desire to live anywhere but Russia. The one Russian girl I knew who didn't want to leave the fucking place. 

"I don't want to work in a shop or be a babysitter. I have a job here." She's an accountant.

"But that job makes you miserable! You're exhausted all the time."

"It's a normal life!" she said, with the exasperation that so many girls before had expressed to me. A normal life, the one thing I can't offer and barely even understand.

"Look, I could come to Russia, there's a new kind of extended visa where I could stay for six months."

"But then you'll just leave again!"

I sighed. "I told you many times, there is no other choice for us. I can't come live in Russia, unless we move to Moscow or St. Petersberg, maybe. You know I can't work there in Vodkaberg, there are only two schools and I had bad experiences with both of them."

"I don't want to move to Moscow! I don't want to live in a rented flat."

"I have told you many, many times. If we are going to be together, there's no other choice. I have to move around a lot for my jobs, and I can't make a good salary anywhere that I would want to buy a house."

"You don't want a family," she'd accuse.

"I don't want to be divorced! I'm not going to marry you if you're going to be unhappy with the lifestyle that we need to have. Especially, absolutely no children until we've been actually living together somewhere for a couple of years." 

"You don't love me," she would say, and begin crying. The eternal battle -- men thinking with their heads and their cocks, women thinking with their hearts. 

"You could apply for an American visa again," I'd suggest.

"Do you know what a pain in my ass that was? And they'll just say no again."

"Yes, but there's no other choice!" now expressing my own exasperation. "I warned you so many times over the last few years," I said helplessly. "There's just no easy way for this! You always said we'd worry about it later. Now is that time. You know even if I marry you, it won't change anything. We are from different countries, and there's no changing that there's a tremendous amount of paperwork we'd have to go through, and we'll have to be separated sometimes. It's impossible to give you a normal life, I've told you that many, many times!"

"So you want to break up?"

"Not particularly! But don't you think we should either break up, or be together?"

She'd just cry, and say she was too exhausted to talk about it any more.

And we'd have that same discussion about every three days. 


Then towards the end of January, I was contacted by a recruitment company. They were arranging interviews for a position in Saudi Arabia, a VERY high dollar position for one of the state companies; almost twice as much money as my last job. They wanted to interview me in March. 

I decided to go to the Dominican Republic in February. I invited my Girlfriend, and she revealed that she had applied for a new job at a bank, and would be passing a series of tests in February. 

"So we're breaking up then," I said.

She started crying. "Why do you keep saying that?"

"Because you are making no moves for us to be together."

"You're not even trying to understand me! I need to have a good job!"

"It's not a good job. You'll make like $800 a month. You'd probably make twice that much being a shop girl in Dubai or a babysitter in Cyprus."

"I don't want to live like that!" As always, the exasperation: she was simply never going to understand my life, and I was never going to understand hers. Everything in my life was neprospektivni, as the Russians say. Even if I made money, or a lot of money, it was a bum's life.

It's true; I'm one of the world's richest homeless guys.

"Then we can't be together."

"You don't love me!" she'd cry.

Around and around and around we'd go. 

I bought tickets for the Dominican Republic for three weeks in February.

We continued to talk on Skype though; she stubbornly continues to think some magical solution might fall out of the sky and hit us like a meteor. Or, more likely, that I'll stop being stubborn and just mutate into a normal Russian guy with a job in an office and a car and a house who wants a bunch of kids.

Who is that slouching figure walking down the street of small-town America towards the library, his cheap Old Navy hoody shadowing his face? 

I heard he used to teach English overseas ...


Anonymous said...

While it sounds like visas are not really the main issue here, it is worth noting that there are numerous ways to stay in Russia long-term without selling your soul to some English school. Also, these days I'd say Moscow is one of the most lucrative cities in the world for English teachers. Not as lucrative as Saudi, but more pleasant, I'd imagine. For teachers not bound to one school by a visa, 1000 rubles per academic hour is the minimum worth accepting, and if you have experience, which you obviously do, and are somewhat crafty 1500+ is not at all hard to come by. Based on knowing absolutely nothing about you or your girlfriend beyond this blog but having a fairly good knowledge of Russian female psychology, I'd wager that if you moved to Moscow and quickly got yourself set up, she would follow. While nobler Russian women may prefer to live in Russia these days, Moscow still has an irresistible if completely misguided lure for most people from smaller cities.

English Teacher X said...

I am generally not a big fan of the private lesson thing, with all the cancellations, no paid holidays, no visa support, and all the travel time, as well as the general tedium of teaching a single individual, especially businessmen. There a section in my first book about that, based on this old article:

Anonymous said...

Hey X,
I have been reading your blog for years- very entertaining!
I am very familiar with immigration laws..etc.
If you want to bring your girl to the US you would have to marry her.
She can easily get a visa to come to the States to study English. There are tons of schools like that that provide visa assistance!
Once she is here, just marry her and she can get her green card to stay here.

Eccentric Expat said...

I'm guessing that X isn't going to marry her for the sole purpose of moving her to the US. Sorry to hear it's in such a rut, although I'm inclined to agree with the first poster. There are ways around having to sell out to get a long-term visa.

English Teacher X said...

No, no, believe me -- it's all been looked into -- marrying her would be one of the LEAST easy ways to get her into America, requiring anywhere from 2-9 months of waiting after the marriage to get all the documents to bring her here, and necessitating a lot of proof of ability to support her, basically meaning I'd probably need to be employed in the states.
There's a fiance visa, but it's the same deal, basically. And it all gets down to any bureaucrat at the Moscow embassy who could stop the whole process. Read all about it, if you can do it without dying of boredom and annoyance:

English Teacher X said...

And obviously you didn't read the former posts very carefully, anonymous -- i was trying to bring her to the US to study English, and the Us embassy in Moscow said no because she lacked "proof of strong ties to Russia that would ensure return"

Anonymous said...

Would you rather be a 55 year old guy with a comfortable investment account, the flexibility to live most anywhere you wanted and great fitness and health, or a man of same age, living in the US or Russia, struggling financially, trying to support a wife and young kids and dealing with a wife who is frustrated with the situation? You have no social security benefits to look forward to - so your financial future will be highly dependent on your ability to put away funds necessary to live on - assuming that you don't care to work beyond, say 60. Unless you can expect a windfall from your parents estate - I would get my arse to ME and spend the next five years building up an investment account - at least $300-400k. Lay it out for your woman - you are NOT a bum, you are an educated, responsible, professional who is going to take the time necessary to build a net worth you can live on. If she can't understand that basic proposition and get strongly behind it - no disrespect, but what are you wasting your time for? Being old and poor ought to scare the piss out of you. And, finding a decent woman is a lot easier with a healthy bankroll.

Anonymous said...

Can you see the Russian girlfriend living with you on a compound in Saudi?

Anonymous said...

@ETX re: private lessons, paid vacation, etc.

Yeah, those are all reasonable points, but I've found that all the various hassles associated with working independently are not really that difficult to overcome these days, and in exchange for the occasional visa hassle or visa run (which can be avoided altogether for not very that much money) you have complete control over your schedule, can take vacation whenever you want, and make at least two to three times per hour what you would by signing a contract with a school. Yes, you won't be on a work visa most likely, which is technically illegal, but Russia's still not together to the point where that really matters.

I rather prefer private lessons myself, but given that teaching isn't my primary work here I have the luxury of only accepting students I like and who are easy to work with. There are plenty of very intelligent, interesting and intellectually engaged young professionals who want English lessons from a competent instructor and are willing to pay for it. Cancellations are a huge hassle, but I've found that if your teaching is up to par you can explain to students during the first lesson that if they cancel without advanced warning they have to pay you anyway. Sometimes they'll stop coming after the first lesson, but far more often they will either warn you well in advance or pay you for the missed lesson if they don't. Finally, the easiest way to avoid unpredictability in scheduling is to simply go around the countless schools in Moscow, give them your resume, explain, ideally in Russian to the owner or manager--who often doesn't speak English--that you're in Moscow, have your visa sorted out, and that if they have a group or class they'd like you to take on you'd be happy to do so for 1000-1200 rubles an academic hour. This way you get the stability of having a regular class that's usually three academic hours but aren't obligated to agree to anything you don't want and get paid far more than if you enslave yourself to one school for the sake of a silly visa that can be obtained without that much difficulty on your own.

That said all this applies mostly to Moscow, which is a shithole. You can kind of make it work in Piter, but it requires a bit more work and the pay isn't as ludicrously good.

English Teacher X said...

She tends to have the Russian distrust of liquid assets; she'd be a lot more impressed by a house than money, no matter how much, or a place I rent. Statistics don't seem to sway her.

If you didn't glean my choice about what I'm going to do next, I'll keep you cliffhanging.

Anonymous said...

I'm lax to give relationship advice/insight because of the potential influence that it could have on a relationship that we really know nothing about, but here is my take anyway.

One of the BIGGEST mistakes that even experienced guys (albeit usually guys that haven't been through he divorce mill) make is not listening to what their women are trying to convey with little warnings or statements about themselves. ONE remark about some little feeling of discontent might be all the warning that you get, but that is the thing that has the tendency to grow, fester, and bite you in the ass in a big way after you invest even more time and risk (marriage, etc) into a girl.

You can't expect her to ever, ever do the hard thing in the long run. Unfortunately, that's your job. In actuality, you are the adult, and while she seems like a great woman, she has to be considered to be the perpetual emotional teenager in the relationship. That will be about the extent of her maturation, as it is with all women. The hard thing could be something little like adapting to the other person's habits or behavior, or something large like uprooting oneself and moving to another country and away from her family, friends, and what she knows. Any guy who brings a foreign girl to another country under those terms, imo, has a lot to learn about the nature of women (in that they won't tolerate discomfort for long) and is asking for punishment. This goes treble for a woman, such as yours, who is adamant about her desire to stay where she is. She knows herself. She is trying to convey to you that it will blow up if she moves abroad, as she won't be able to tolerate the tradeoff. Consider this an act of maturity on her part, as most young women are overwhelmed by juvenile wanderlust, only to cave when things get real and take their partners down with them. Your woman is being very mature in attempting to convey what she is, and, in actuality, a woman who desires such stability over needing to feel the vagina tingle that 6 months in a foreign country might bring is a very, very good sign that you have a quality person on your hands. You are aware of her quality given her other behaviors, but this is actually another mark in the plus column.

Yes, you will have to make the big sacrifices for her, but she will remain happy if you do, which will allow you to remain happy. Making the woman happy is your only job as the man (its not making money, etc), whatever sometimes unintuitive gestures that may entail. When men forget this they get burned and/or divorced. Naturals, especially, tend to either forget or not realize this fact.

Usually, your seeming lifestyle incompatibility would make this an easy decision. However, she seems to be a rare good one. And they are fucking rare. Don't take that fact for granted and don't make the decision lightly unless you are ready to reap the consequences of much lesser quality company for the intermediate term future.

Listen to what she is saying, even if she says it once (she is repeatedly screaming this at you, though, in this case), take what she says about herself very seriously, weigh the potential outcomes for both you and her, and make your decision.

btw, does she not read your blog?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and ETX, why not get your teaching certificate now that you have supplementary ebook income? Don't you have a degree in English, or something like that? Study and take the praxis exam, do a semester of student teaching in the states, and you're good. Of course, a year or two of teaching experience in the states would greatly help. However, either way, you would be then qualified to earn a USA style income in almost any other country. No more ESL schools. What's the alternative, antoher ESL school contract? Why? What's the point versus a year or two getting a teaching certificate? Use your current lul in work and your ebook income to your advantage. If you need classes, which you probably don't if you have a relevant degree, just take them online from a legit USA University. You can get Stafford loans to pay for it if need be. You'll significantly raise your teaching prospects, both in the USA and internationally, and your international quality of life. Think about it.

English Teacher X said...

How do you figure that working in the USA enables you to work easily in international schools? It's a different qualification, as far as I know, though I know guys who do it (interviewed in the last book.) I don't think their salaries are THAT much better than ESL schools, though they get more benefits.