Monday, June 30, 2014

Choking on the Red Pill: Interview with English Teacher H

I used to get e-mails all the time from people saying, "HEY DOOD YOU INSPIRED ME TO TEACH ENGLISH LOL WISH ME LUCK!"

Then unfortunately, a few months later, I usually got one saying something like, "Jesus you were right TEFL really sucks, I hate it."

But not so much anymore; the kids all want to be "digital nomads" these days and instead spend all day futzing around with their affiliate sites. (Now I tend to get e-mails from older teachers asking about working in the Middle East.)

Anyway, the only problem with the sort of "lifestyle sculpting" / self-help / self-improvement / take-charge-of- your-life philosophy is that if you're responsible for your own success, then you're doubly responsible for your own failure, and it's therefore doubly painful.

Now I think that's a bad thing. You gotta know, kids, sometimes life just kicks you in the ass, regardless of your country and your job and your best intentions and even in spite of your preparations.

Anyway, here's a little case study.

So in the last part of 2012 I requested interviews with teachers new and old for the new edition of ETX GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD; I was contacted on Facebook by this guy, and he offered me the following interview, which I published in January of 2013.


Another new guy, an American in his 20s, gives us his perspective and a healthy dose of piss and vinegar.

How long have you been teaching and where?

I've been teaching for the greater part of 3 months in Vodkagrad, Kazakhstan.

Why did you decide to become an English teacher?

I was quite miserable working two jobs that were unsatisfying for 60-70 hours a week, and I had recently swallowed the red pill, so essentially I didn't choose the job, but it chose me. And I'm glad I quit both jobs on the spot and told my employers to fuck off because I was embarking on a journey and had steered my destiny in a total different direction: one shunning comfort, mediocrity, and soul-killing drudgery. Best choice I've ever made.

What do you like and not like about teaching?

What I do like is that in most parts of the world, it allows you to make a decent leaving when compared to local standards and work less hours compared to the automatons in the States and western Europe.
For me, personally, it also forced me to be more social and work on controlling the frame, which is a priceless 'tool' to have when it comes to social situations. As for things I don't like: the fact that a student's words are treated as sacrosanct and if they want to build a case against you for whatever reason, it's quite difficult to defend yourself. Difficult, but possible. As I learned.

Who is the most fucked-up teacher you've ever met?

Due to my limited experience in the field, I haven't met any fucked-up teachers, but I've met quite a few hotties (women, of course) that I wouldn't mind fucking. God bless Russian women!

How is your standard of living compared to salary and cost of living?

I would say my standard of living is great for the number of hours I'm working. I eat-out regularly and go out once or twice a week to party. Not too bad. Back in the States, I had a lot more money, but I was miserable due to the hours I was working and the soulless automatons I was surrounded by. Standard of living can't be measured soley in monetary units. Fuck that. I would prefer doing this than making 75k in NYC working three times the hours. Did I forget to say 'fuck that!?' Okay, just checking.

What qualifications do you have?

Just a CELTA at the moment, but I might be pursuing a DELTA and other various certifications in ELT. Not having a degree might deter some employers from hiring you, but in some countries, it isn't essential you have a degree. In some countries, the only way you can become 'legal' is with a degree: and that's most of Asia.

Where do you stand on the issue of teachers having sex with students?

Females are abundant everywhere. Why would I risk my job to sex some girl that happens to be a student? She would have to be a supreme 10 for me to push my rationalizing to the side and decide to smash that pussy. But if you're coming from a perspective of scarcity: it doesn't matter if she's a student or some drug addict. You will get your rocks off one way or another.

Any horrifying stories you'd like to tell?

I have none yet ... unfortunately. Give me some time, though.

What's your favorite way to kill 10 minutes in class?

Write a theme (e.g., sports or music) on the board and get students to construct 5 questions pertaining to the theme and then ask at least 3 other students in the class. I waste ten minutes, but create a mingling activity. You've just killed two birds with one stone.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to travel around the F.S.U. and get a DELTA and perhaps go back to school to pursue something like international business in order to have an escape plan from EFL teaching as everything gets old. Even banging a 10 for a few months gets boring. Alas, it's part of the human experience: constantly changing and molding yourself. "If you aren't busy being born, you're busy dying." – Anonymous

* * *

So what happened to English Teacher H?

Well, he lasted about 6 months in his first job, and after problems with his employers and a lack of success with a girl he liked, he had a drunken meltdown and woke up in an alley covered with blood,

"BUT IT WASN'T MY BLOOD!" he said on Facebook.

He tried to get another job in Spain, and had the usual problems with documents and employers; he then went back to America and got a job in a bar and soon afterward disappeared from Facebook and never contacted me again.

Sometimes the old Red Pill just doesn't go down so smoothly.

If you're out there, Former Teacher H, do let us know how you are.

Read this interview and many others in the now-venerable ETX GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD 2013 EDITION. As a special 45th birthday present, NOW ON SALE FOR 99 CENTS!

BUY IT HERE ON AMAZON as an e-book for 99 cents!

BUY IT HERE ON SMASHWORDS as an e-book for 99 cents!


And remember kids, in real life, never accept pills, red or otherwise, from strangers. They might be Roofies.

Anyway I vote we retire the hackneyed "swallow the red pill" metaphor and instead adopt "put on the funky They Live glasses." 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exit Music

Only one more month to go. And yet another Ramadan to experience before I'm done. 

This is a sign on the wall in my workplace, and I think it sums up the situation nicely.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Miami with the Goose (Excerpt from REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND)

So I'm actually busy working on the long-promised, not-yet-delivered next memoir, tentatively titled REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND. I hope it will be finished by the end of July or August.

I didn't really write that much about The Goose in my memoir VODKABERG, but she was a fairly constant fixture at our parties -- and the clubs we hung around at -- for a few years there, and there are a lot of pictures of her on this blog, (as in this classic post) as she was always happy to shake it for the camera:

This happened last year, about a year ago exactly, in fact. (In contract, those pictures are from 2006.) Her nickname the Goose came from her loud honking voice.


In July a few weeks before I left, I went to Miami.

I had told my girlfriend I was going to visit my father but his internet didn’t work so I'd be out of touch for a few days.

A few hours after I checked into my big but rundown resort hotel in Hallandale Beach, the Goose pulled up in a taxi.

As I climbed in, she squealed in delight and engulfed me against her huge pillowy breasts. She smelled, and looked, like what she was – a Russian stripper.

She was even more huge and voluptuous and blonde than she’d been the last time I’d seen her, in 2008. The Goose was an acquaintance of the wife of one of my colleagues, Slappy. Like Slappy’s wife, the Goose also had a daughter at 19 by a man who had abandoned her, although he hadn’t blown the country. He’d just stopped sending money or returning calls.

Slappy’s Wife and the Goose had met while walking their daughters in the park one morning. They had formed an unholy twosome in the mid 2000s, prowling Vodkaberg’s trendy clubs trolling for rich men to fuck them for money, or better yet, just to give them money. They were both enormous, blonde, and amoral. The Goose was probably 6’1 in her bare feet, and must have weighed 170 pounds, nothing but tits and hair and thighs and ass.

After Almond Eyes had returned from a summer of working in Atlantic City as a stripper, Slappy’s Wife and the Goose had both gotten student visas and crossed the pond to set Atlantic City and New York on fire.

(That's right -- they'd both gotten the same visas my girlfriend had been turned down for, apparently because the consulate stupidly decided they probably wouldn't abandon their children back in Russia.)

They were having moderate success as strippers and general party girls. Slappy’s Wife had remained based in New Jersey while the Goose had migrated South to Miami.

The last time I’d seen her, she hadn’t been able to speak English – now she spoke English fluently and enthusiastically, a jumbled mix of grammar mistakes, mispronounced words, and slang she’d picked up from all the rappers she hung around with.

... and the Goose today. Or last year, anyway.
She called me “boo.”

We went to an entertainment area nearby, went to a restaurant / bar and guzzled beer and chicken wings and caught up on old times.

“Are you legal yet?” I asked her.

“No. I’m in the process.”

“It’s always about time and money, huh?”

“I paid a guy $10,000 to marry me so far, now the motherfucker wants more.”

“Greedy bastard.”

“My room-mate’s boyfriend is a cop, he’s gonna threaten him.”

“And I guess you had to pay a lawyer.”

“Yeah of course. I paid him like $5000 already. It’s worth it, though. I wanna bring my daughter here.” Her daughter was 8 now, still living with her parents back in Vodkaberg. “ My father came here to visit me a couple times, he bought some cars to take back, he even got a one year visa.”

“You’re going to bring your daughter here while you work as a stripper? That’s not the best kind of life for a kid, is it?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, probably not.”

“You ever think about getting another job?”

“What the fuck am I gonna do, be a waitress? Make $200 a week working in a shop? I can make that much in a night as a stripper.”

“But it’s an expensive lifestyle,” I said sagely. I’d known plenty of strippers when I was in college and though they made tons of money they were always broke.

“Yeah, that’s true.” She squealed and engulfed me again. “I’m so glad to see you!”

She’d always liked me, as many of my Russian girlfriends had, mistaking my friendly, practiced, casual indifference as being equivalent to unconditional affection.

“Remember the time we had sex?” she giggled.

“I wondered if you remembered that.” She’d realized she was late for work and had gotten up in the middle of it and ran out of the house. We’d never quite managed to have sex after that, although there had been plenty of making out and groping; to the point where, whenever she saw me, she always ran up to me tit first squealing, expecting me to grab them.

It became our little greeting.

She asked me about my girlfriend and she said she wasn’t surprised; deciding where to live was a very important issue and a lot of Russian girls were afraid to go abroad.

“Not you though.”

“Shit no!” she said. “I had nothing in Vodkaberg. Here at least I don’t have to live with my mom.”

We talked about stripping and her life as a party club girl; she showed me some pictures on her phone of some of the rap stars and black porn stars she’d had sex with. She had pictures of Dennis Rodman and Busta Rhymes in her phone, but most of the rap stars I’d never heard of.

She tried to explain why they were well-known, but it was all far beyond my middlle-aged white comprehension.

I used the bar’s Wi-Fi to connect to the internet on my phone, and looked up the black porn star; he was a newer one and I found him on RedTube.

It was much like you probably imagine.

“Impressive," I said, and she squealed and let loose a sorority girl “WHOOO!” that I’d never heard a Russian girl do before.

I watched part of an interview with him.  “He actually doesn't seem too obnoxious.”

“No, he’s actually a very nice guy. Slappy’s Wife and I got in a big fight over him.”

“You didn’t fuck him both at the same time?” I smiled.

She laughed and then said, “Russian girls in America have to be very competitive, boo. We can’t be doin that kind of shit here.”

After that she took me to a lounge / martini / cigar bar where a lot of Russians hung out; the Russians there seemed to be very much playing up their Russian-ness, with the men in tracksuits with gold chains and the women in leopard-skin, something I hadn’t actually seen much of in Russia the last time I’d been there. There was a karaoke machine that played Russian pop songs.

Nothing makes you feel like a member of your own country like fleeing to another one.

She came back to my hotel room; she stripped down to her underwear and I stripped down to mine.

“You look good, baby,” she slurred as she tumbled into bed.

“You too,” I said, although in fact she looked like far too much woman for me to deal with.  She was grotesque according to the dictionary definition of "absurdly incongruous" or "fantastically distorted." And of course, whatever half-hearted seeing-to I gave her, I'm sure it would be considerably less interesting than whatever that porn star guy had done to her.

I was feeling sick from all the vodka we’d drunk at the Russian bar, and probably the cigar fumes, and I went into the bathroom to pee and wash my face, and when I came out she was snoring soundly. Her face looked oddly innocent on her big debauched body.

I lay next to her and she snored most of the night. I shook her and turned her over a few times and eventually she stopped and I got some sleep.

* * *

To be continued in REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND hopefully available soon. Because you know, some people criticized VODKABERG as just being about me hooking up with a bunch of chicks. So this book will be about me NOT hooking up with a bunch of girls. The world is ready, don't you think?

Read more about the Goose (and lots of other Russian girls) in VODKABERG: NINE YEARS IN RUSSIA.

And for your listening pleasure, enjoy this clip that showed up in my "RECOMMENDED FOR YOU" sidebar on YouTube while I was writing this: A teenage girl doing a cover of a Portishead song. It's like YouTube can read my mind!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Phone Abuse V.3

My teaching career has rather neatly coincided with rampant cell-phone abuse.

I started in the mid-90s in Asia. Asians have always been early adopters, of course, but it was mainly just beepers when I started. By the second time I was in Thailand in 1999, however, all the cool kids had cell phones, and they were happy to annoy their teachers and impress their classmates by making and receiving calls during class.

Ditto when I first got to Russia. Only the rich people had cell phones, and I taught a lot of rich people. All of whom were trying to impress each other with how many calls they made and received.

This all cooled off a bit in the mid 2000s, as phones became cheap and omni-present. Soon everybody had one, so it was no longer something you could use to impress others in and of itself.

Until the fucking iPhone came along, of course.

Then having one of those became an instant status symbol in Russia, especially before they were commercially available there, and you had to obtain one abroad and get it unlocked. (I seem to remember there was even a pic of Putin using an Iphone before they were sold in Russia, which the western press thought was kind of funny.)

Then as Iphones and other kinds of smart phones became more widely available, it cooled off a little.

Until 3G and 4G internet connections with phones became very cheap and fast.

Now, fuck. A person can do anything with a phone -- watch movies or live sports, video-conference with their families, play computer games, do fucking day-trades on the stock market. Whatever.

The big problem here now is not just students using their phones and even tablets and various devices -- but they use them so much that they need to charge them again, so all the electrical outlets suddenly fill up with plugs every time you turn your back on them.

So, 2014. Just TRY and get students to pay attention in class. We supposedly have a no-phone policy at the place I work, but being too humorless about phones, as mentioned, will probably get the students complaining about you or perhaps making up stories about how you called them monkeys or something.

Old cartoon on this subject

Friday, June 06, 2014

Rockin' the Maldives

I went to the Maldives with the Girlfriend in February. 

A cool holiday is not just a cool holiday, it's pretty much a necessity when you're living in a shitty industrial area in the Middle East. It's the only thing that can make my barren life worthwhile, so I decided to do my two-week February holiday up right.

I used to have a poster very much like this on my wall in college; I love it when that happens.

The Maldives is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, with crystal clear water and spotless white beaches. (Except for its capital, of course, which is as grubby and dirty as any East Asian city.)

If you have even the most remote interest in diving, snorkeling or aquatic life you really should go there. I've dived and snorkeled extensively in Thailand and Egypt -- and we're talking back in the 90s before the massive influx of tourists and climate change -- and the Maldives pretty much blows them both away. The coral is still bright and colorful and the marine life was insane -- I saw octopi, dolphins, turtles, all kinds of trigger fish, and we saw sharks and stingrays pretty much daily. 

Black-tipped reef sharks on morning beach patrol.

Most people who go to the Maldives stay in the resorts, which are usually located on their own private islands -- I suppose you can look for deals with travel agents, but they usually start about $400 a night. Thanks to my King's Ransom of oil money that I get, I gave the Girlfriend her dream and we stayed in one for a week. 

Keep driving those big-ass SUVs, America, and I'll keep going on awesome holidays.


Ah ha, but -- you can hack the Maldives a bit. 

For a lower budget, you can go to the island of Maafushi, (a 2-hour ferry ride from the airport that costs about $5) where there are numerous hotels and guest houses that cost much less (although you'd still probably be lucky to get a nice one for less than $100 a night, since there's like a 30 percent tax on tourists.) We spent one week on a resort island, one week on Maafushi.

And the cafes at the hotels and around the island aren't too expensive, also -- you can get a meal for $ 6 - $10 easily enough. Maafushi, like the rest of the populated Maldives, is under Islamic rules, so there's no alcohol or topless sunbathing or anything, but there is one beach on the island where they are a bit more relaxed about women in bikinis, and there are all kinds of day-trips to other "private" islands that cost from $40 - $100 per person. 

So if you have a woman you want to impress, you can get flights to Mali City from Dubai for less than $500 round trip, and you've got your dream beach holiday.

And of the Maldives, you can certainly say, "See it before it's gone." Because projections of rising sea levels and warming oceans mean a lot of the islands (and fish and coral) will probably disappear in our lifetimes.


I tried to break up with her last year, I really did; but she basically refused. And it's not like I had a lot of motivation; there are simply no other options for me here in the Desert Industrial Zone, and all the other girls I know are married.  (You can read about my various disastrous attempts to hook up with other girls last year in my next memoir.)

She still doesn't want to live abroad, and I still don't want to go back to Vodkaberg and live. (That seems like a hideous step backwards in life, into the cold and the dark.)

But I recently turned 45 and she recently turned 30; we're both at an age when the dating prospects in our particular realms are less than palatable. 

I'm leaving here at the end of July, and I'm going to spend the fall in South America and then get a job in the Emirates next year. I told her if she doesn't want to live in the Emirates, we absolutely have to break up.

She said, "We'll talk about it when you live in the Emirates." Until then I guess we're long-standing vacation fuck buddies.

In short, we're still treading water ...

A pretty girl is like a melody that lingers on. And on and on and on ...

Monday, June 02, 2014

Anarchy in the Ukraine: Interview with Eccentric Expat, Part Two

Eccentric Expat lives in the middle of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine; after weeks of tension, he woke up one day to the sound of jets flying overhead and bombs going off, as the Ukrainian military and seperatists engaged in a pitched battle around Donetsk airport. Part two of my interview with our involuntary war correspondent. 

English Teacher X
So since the attack on the airport started, how have things been there?
Is everybody staying inside? Everything closed?

Eccentric Expat 
Calm but tense, many shops have been closed and few people on the streets

English Teacher X 
Have you considered evacuating or are you staying the course?
Got your go-bag packed/?

Eccentric Expat
I'm staying here, don't see any need to evacuate unless I absolutely have to

English Teacher X
Suppose fighting in the streets of the city started, a prolonged offensive of some sort. What would you do?

Eccentric Expat
Well, if it starts and I'm still here, I probably wouldn't have a choice but to stay put until its over

English Teacher X
is there a US embassy around there?

Eccentric Expat
Nope, only in Kiev and Odessa
Actually I think only in Kiev

English Teacher X 
how quickly could you get to Kiev if you needed to? Are the roads all blocked off and stuff?  Trains packed?

Eccentric Expat
The fighting the other day spread to the train station, not sure if the trains are running again
I could take a bus, maybe, but I think many of the roads are blocked off

English Teacher X 
Geez, have you stocked up on canned food and water?

Eccentric Expat
Oh yes, of course
The small food stores by my apt are still open, too

English Teacher X 
So as an American, have you experienced any increased hostility towards you, since this started?

Eccentric Expat 
Not me, although my roommate has
Ive been playing it safe and staying off the streets

English Teacher X 
What happend to your room-mate?

Eccentric Expat 
No physical altercations, but he has had a few threatening gestures
Much harder for him to blend in, since he has darker skin

English Teacher X 
What's the situation at the school you work at? Are teachers fleeing in general?

Eccentric Expat
No, there are only three American teachers there right now, although the school is closed until next Tuesday at the earliest

English Teacher X 
Is everybody terrified? Or think it's really fun?

Eccentric Expat 
They had to close down the branch in Lugansk since all the teachers there fled
I wouldn't say it's fun, but we are all hardier than most other expats

English Teacher X
Back in my day, we'd have holed up in an apartment together and be having a non-stop drinking party.

Eccentric Expat
Well, either that, or more stupid

English Teacher X 
So, would you say that now is a good time to look for a girlfriend in the Ukraine? Has all this inspired the women to look westward?

Eccentric Expat
hard to say, although i wouldn't recommend any Americans come here right now
but i think it makes it a little easier for those of us already here to find one
too bad i've already got one

English Teacher X 
How long are you planning to stay there?

Eccentric Expat 
i don't have any plans to leave, so i'm hoping for a long time
but we'll see
but i really like my current job

English Teacher X 
Girl doesn't want you to move back to US with her?

Eccentric Expat 
no, she wants to stay in Ukraine

English Teacher X 
Thanks for your input. Keep me posted as things get interesting.

Eccentric Expat
I'm gonna try to post more updates about the situation on my blog as well