Saturday, April 26, 2014

It's Official: TEFL Still Sucks

So those who dare oppose English Teacher X usually claim that my experiences are unusual; that I have worked at only low-quality places that employ the bottom of the barrel, ergo my perception of TEFL is colored by my own personal depravity.

Well, here I am now. This is undoubtedly the highest-paid English teaching job in the world; I have never heard of any jobs that pay more. (I make $8000 a month, without accomodation, but there are "direct hire" guys here making $12,000 a month, WITH accomodation.)

The teachers are all highly-qualified; CELTA, DELTA, at least 3 year's experience minimum. There are a considerable number of Master's Degree's and even a PhD or two.

We work for an enormous state-run company; our students are new employees -- trainees, actually -- who do a sort of "prep year" thing of English plus training in whatever job they specialize in -- and the guys we get are quite often security guards, fire men, and low-level machine operators.

(In other words, people who really have no need of English in their jobs at all.)

And what do we do in class?

We stand there, while the students refuse to work.

Many of the students can speak English fairly well, actually, but they quickly learn that there is no reason at all for them to work, because they will all pass the course. The multiple-choice final tests are so easy they can usually guess their way through them, and the worst case scenario is doing the exact same test several times until they pass. There is no award for getting high marks as opposed to just barely scraping by.

There are individual assignments -- writing assignments and speaking presentations, which are about 20 percent of the final grade -- but basically, we're not allowed to fail anybody on these. I learned this in the second month, when a student basically read a few words off a power point slide and demanded a passing mark of 70 for it. He argued with me until I marked him absent; a senior teacher brought him back and told me that if he said anything at all, I should pass him.

(The other side of that coin is that we're not allowed to give anybody a 100 on these things; if we do we have to write a report about why we thought it deserved a 100.)

And basically, if you try too hard to make them do stuff, they'll probably complain about you until they get a teacher who DOESN'T try too hard to make them do stuff.

There are several rules we ARE allowed to enforce strictly -- students have to LOOK like they are studying at all times, in case any high muckety-mucks decide to walk through the place.  No sleeping, no phone use, proper uniforms, etc.

But as long as the students are doing those things (or not doing these things) nobody gives much of a shit what else they do in class.

You can try to throw them out of class for not working, but generally administration will not support the teacher in this case. Plus, the students have several ruses for that -- they'll either circle answers at random, copy them from the smart kid in their group, or get the answers from the internet or another class, so that it looks like they did the work.

You can of course try to bring in your own "interesting" activities -- but pair work speaking almost always devolves into the students speaking Arabic together. They simply have no desire to do it; they want to get through the program as quickly and easily as possible so they can start getting their full salary. (They get paid for this training, of course -- something like the equivalent of $800 a month. Throwing them out of class costs them money, which is why it eventually causes serious problems.)

In addition, quite a few topics are banned, of course. You're not really even supposed to talk about their families in class (for religious and tribal reasons. Rivalries between tribes are even worse than the usual Sunni vs. Shiite thing.)

Now of course, doing nothing in class wouldn't be so bad -- except for the fact that we have to do written lesson plans for every lesson, and there are occasional random observations. So you do nothing most of the time, but you do have to have an emergency back-up plan of doing something. 

There will always be those few mouthy hip young dudes who want to talk about your life with you -- especially whores and Bahrain and alchol and that sort of thing. But other teachers have warned that, while it's a decent way to get them talking English for a bit, it's not a good idea because they will occasionally try to record their teachers talking about untoward shit on their telephones for blackmail or general revenge purposes.

 I've found competitive games often work to get the students engaged; but these almost inevitably devolve into students shouting at each other in Arabic during the whole thing and producing a very minimal amount of English.

So here we are, the well-trained, seasoned veterans: standing there doing nothing while the students sit and speak Arabic. We console ourselves by counting our money, and trying to go somewhere interesting for the weekends and the holidays.

Meanwhile, at small private language schools all over the world, full of motivated and enthusiastic students who really need English for their jobs?

They're getting barely-trained backpackers and dropouts and retirees and PUAs, who get paid $5 an hour. And the usual fallback for those guys is talking about their lives with the students.

Ironic, eh?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vodkaberg: The Lost Chapter

Here's a chapter that was excised from the first draft of VODKABERG. This story originally appeared on my Angelfire blog back in 2003 (but that doesn't exist anymore.)

(And just as a little Easter present, here's a coupon to get it for 50 percent off on Smashwords:)

Coupon Code: ZE36X
Expires: May 1, 2014

The girl in question referred to as Lenka is the girl I last saw again in America in 2012; she's currently studying for her PhD there. (Guess that would make her the most highly-educated person I know, if perhaps not the smartest.)

The story, and any threads connected to her, although interesting, were removed just to keep the already large number of female characters down a bit. She'll get a write up in my next memoir, though, definitely.

The teacher referred to as "Aaron" married the Russian girl he met in Vodkaberg; they went back to New Zealand and she recently had a baby.

Oh, by the way, Slappy just had another baby, still living somewhere in the Balkans; what did the great philosopher say about doing the same dumb shit again and again and expecting a different result?

* * * 


During a pleasant warm weekend in September (2004), we went on a camping trip.

We crossed the river about 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon, then hiked for about fifteen minutes to a sort of lake area that was indeed pretty nice.

The crew was me, Slappy and his wife, an English groupie named Lenka, African Student S and this couple that Slappy had met at the outdoor music festival,a sort of a stoner hippie alterna- couple, all tattooed and dreadlocked. (This was exceedingly rare in Russia at that time.)

Slappy had met the male half of this pair when they were both detained and lengthily searched by the police for looking like such druggies. They'd bonded talking about their tattoos.

I didn't like the guy from jump – he greeted African Student S and I with "Heil Hitler." Slappy said this was supposed to be a joke about America.

“Fucking hilarious,” I said.

We hung out by the lake, drank a bit, swam in the lake (though it was as green as Mountain Dew), and ate grilled chicken and macaroni and bean soup over our campfire.

Me, Lenka, Slappy's Wife, Slappy, African Student S

Later that night, Aaron arrived, with his 16-year-old girlfriend, another Russian girl and three Russian teenage boys.

They'd brought plenty of vodka, of course, and then somehow when we started drinking it, about five or six people from other camps nearby came over to join us.

African Student S and a Russian sunset 
In short, it turned into a huge loud raucous chaotic gathering. I was getting tired of answering all those same fucking questions – "Where are you from?" "Why do you stay in Vodkaberg?" and so on – and Lenka and I repaired into the tent to fool around a bit.

About 3:00am I heard Slappy shouting at the hippie stoner guy not to ever touch his wife again. Apparently the guy had grabbed his wife's vagina or something while hugging her. Slappy certainly shouted the guy down, whatever happened – the guy didn't protest back much.

Next day we woke up around 9:00 and of course started drinking vodka and beer again with a quick breakfast of ramen noodles and tuna.

The stoner guy had been up all night drinking and was kind of mouthy and obnoxious, and doing quite a good job of rubbing me and Aaron the wrong way.

Slappy was already incoherently drunk too. The stoner greeted our African friend yet again in the morning with "Heil Hitler!" which led to me laughing hysterically and screaming "Heil Hitler! Oh my god that's funny!" in Russian repeatedly in a sarcastic sort of way.

Aaron, Slappy, African Student S and I walked to the village (about a thirty minute walk) to buy some more beer and food and fill our water jugs – it was a town of shacks and wooden cottages, rimmed with piles of garbage that were never going to be cleared away, and we saw a few goats wandering around.
Me and "Lenka"

“In the movies, this is the part where the shopkeeper directs us to the farm owned by the cannibalistic hillbillies,” I pointed out.

The people in the shops couldn't have been nicer to us, though, smiling with their metal teeth and welcoming us to the area.

When we got back, the stoner immediately, without asking, grabbed the vodka bottle and began pouring drinks for everyone.

Aaron was finally exhausted with the Russian stoner’s mooching , and as it happens was a 220-pound kickboxing enthusiast. He began lecturing the stoner on manners, which I crudely translated.
The stoner began cursing about fascist foreigners who didn't know anything about Russian etiquette, that vodka was to be shared with anyone.

Aaron replied that if he felt that way, he should go buy some vodka and share it with us, as we'd already shared ours. The stoner was very drunk and retreated to his sleeping bag shouting curses and said something rude about New Zealand which I didn't quite catch.

Aaron marched over holding the bottle by the neck. It looked as if he'd be sharing the vodka with him after all, probably via his rectal cavity.

"You are playing a dangerous game, pal," I said to the stoner in Russian. ("Ti igrayish ochen opasnaya igra, chuvak!")

Slappy, in a strangely responsible move, told Aaron to give the guy a break.

Aaron threateningly pulled the covers off the guy ... the guy was panickedly groping for the kitchen knife ...

and then Aaron calmly poured him a vodka and said, "Enjoy."

Anyway, the stoner curled up and went to sleep soon after, so the rest of us just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

“He’s not really much worse than Slappy,” I pointed out to Aaron after Slappy had passed out drunk. “Slappy curses constantly, insults everyone when drunk, and mooches off everybody all the time."

“Well, he’s our mooching foul-mouthed asshole," Aaron said. "We hardly know that guy.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Takin' Care of Business

Happy tax day! (And also, coincidentally, the 19th anniversary of the date I started teaching English.)


So did you know that if you publish books on Amazon or Nook or Createspace or Smashwords, then you're actually self-employed?

Well, I didn't.

Last year I put the money I made from books down on Schedule E as "income royalty from copyrighted material"; this year there's a warning on TurboTax not to do that, I guess since so many people are self-publishing books and podcasts and whatever now.

So now I have to put it down on  Schedule C as the "sole propietor" of my own business.

Even though I'm fully employed as an expat English teacher, I'm self-employed as a writer.

Long story short: I made about the same amount of money from books in 2012 as in 2013 (about $10,000 each year.) Last year I paid $542 in taxes.

This year?

I just paid $1550.

About 15 percent, you see. That's the "self-employment tax." (Which, it seems, will go into Social Security, which will be the first time since 1996 I've paid into that.)


Now there are deductions you can take on a small business; but this year, I didn't feel like wrasslin' with it. My father got audited last year over a small business he runs (repairing and selling old guitars) and he warned that if they come a-knocking, you better have all your paperwork.

I don't. Not yet, anyway. (And honestly, of course, my expenses as a writer consist of pretty much just jack and shit.)

I find that in a weird way, the big tax payment has galvanized me; hey man, I'm a small business owner! I never thought of it that way before. It was a hobby, an outlet.

But now it's business. I can actually pay for advertising and stuff, and deduct it from my taxes. One acquaintance who writes e-books said he wrote off $500 worth of "research materials" which is definitely food for thought.

And if I write about some trip I took, like the trip to Vodkaberg last year, does that mean I could try to write off plane tickets and such?

I'm going to contact a professional, or at least do a lot more research, before I try something like that, though. They got Al Capone and Wesley Snipes, they can surely take my (or your) sorry ass down.


Another annoying downside of this: if you're self-employed, you're supposed to file quarterly estimated payments for your projected taxes for the current year. How's that for sucky? 

I'd like to hear from any other self-employed "digital nomads" (sigh) out there how you're dealing with all this bullshit. Since I have so much (untaxed) money from English teaching this isn't really a problem at the moment, but if I was trying to live only on the e-book money this would probably be an intolerable dick up my ass. 


I've been busy writing more porn, but I'm about to get seriously to work on the next memoir. I've got the outline and framework; time to fill it with meat.

I took on English teaching and Southeast Asia , I took on debauchery and "sexpatriation" and Russia -- NOW it's time to turn my jaundiced eye on middle age, self-improvement and survivalism, "location independent work" and self-publishing, America, the Kingdom (where English teachers go to die), and a completely nostalgia-free look back at the 80s and 90s, including my experiences backpacking.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Reviewing the Reviewers (Or: I'll Show You Painful and Circuitous, Lady!)

This is an actual review on Amazon of my e-book HOW TO SURVIVE LIVING ABROAD -- currently available free there.

Now of course, as the woman points out, anybody has a right to put their opinion on the internet about anything I've written. However, you put a review out there, you've got to be ready for people to review your review. And when someone criticizes my grammar while confusing "allude" and "elude," well, they don't really deserve mercy.

Thank god my fans have got my back, eh?


I know this flirts with illegible; I'm uploading the screen captures in extra-large even though they break the borders, but you can click on the things to read them more clearly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Spring Book Releases

I have definitely been a busy little beaver, and I have THREE ebooks coming out soon. Pre-order now!

By popular demand, a definitive listing of all the hot international babes I've banged, with a psychotically obsessive catalogue of individual rankings and ratings (both general rankings and specific individual rankings of tits, ass, asshole, pussy, face, and cock-sucking capacity.)

In addition, I've included transcripts of every conversation I had leading up to the fucking, a list of how much alcohol was consumed in each case, and a general post-mortem of how long each individual sex act lasted, which orifices were penetrated, which diseases were contracted, and a general description of how mortified both of us were the next morning, as well as pictures of their vaginas! You WILL validate my existence!

Buy it HERE!

Traditionally, the "manly" virtues were easy to define: Honor. Loyalty. Honesty. Integrity. Responsibility. Productivity. And the "manly" jobs were those that protected and served the community: police officers, firemen, soldiers, farmers, builders, astronauts, fighter pilots,  etc.

But now, as the 21st century has dawned, we see that all that shit is fucking stupid and gay, and that the REAL manly virtues are: Selfishness. Dishonesty. Irresponsibility. Weight-lifting. A low-carb diet. Relentless random fucking. And of course, the ultimate expression of masculinity --  sex tourism.

As well, the "manly" jobs are redefined: the TRUE men now are bloggers. e-book writers, podcasters, Amazon affiliates, SEO experts, and owners of e-marketing pyramid schemes. Oh, and MMA fighters.

Join the next wave of masculinity, and be a MAN and forego marriage and children in favor of fucking some babes and hanging with your bros. Buy it HERE!

Which brings us to:

Here it is: the definitive step-by-step guide to picking up drunk college girls, and usually that'll be in other countries because as we know all American girls are fat, even the foreign girls who go there to study.

 Included herein are relentlessly researched techniques such as the "Ted Bundy Opener" -- feigning weakness with a false cast --and unbeatable lines such as "Say, Baby, those titties are looking fine!" and advice on talking to them on their level -- "Say, that Lady Gaga is kind of neat!"

Buy it HERE and quadruple your joyless obsession!