Thursday, May 29, 2014

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

Hoo-ah! Continuing hard-hitting journalism month here at ETX, here's an interview with Eccentric Expat, who is on the ground as an English teacher in the center of the strife in Eastern Ukraine.

This interview was conducted about a week ago by instant messenger. 


English Teacher X
how's the situation in Uraine going where you are? I'd like to interview somebody on the ground in Ukraine.

Eccentric Expat
i haven't been keeping up with the politics of it the last few weeks, but as far as the actual situation on the ground, i can definitely talk about it

English Teacher X
where are you now?

Eccentric Expat
i'm still in Donetsk
or do you mean, right this moment? if so, i'm at home, but about to go to a pizzeria with the girlfriend

English Teacher X
so Donetsk is kind of the center of all this right now, isn't it?

Eccentric Expat
well, the region, although not so much the city itself
the only problems in the city right now are with the regional administration building, which is still being held by the separatists (and is also pretty much across the street from my work)

English Teacher X
would you say most people are supporting Russia in this case, and want to secede?
or is that a small but vocal minority?

Eccentric Expat
it's a little more complicated than that
most people find support from Russia, although at the same time, they want the region to remain in Ukraine
the majority of people are distrustful of the government in Kiev right now

English Teacher X
Have you seen any of these mysterious non-flag-bearing Russian troops that are supposed to be there?

Eccentric Expat
no, not at all
the people i've seen are all locals
even the cammy and balaclava guys are locals
the whole "undercover Russian troops" thing is fiction
at least where i am

English Teacher X
There are some vice.com documentaries claiming to speak to them
and a journalist of theirs was supposedly detained for a couple day by seperatists / Russian special forces




Eccentric Expat
it's possible there might be some in other parts of the region, but not in my city

English Teacher X 

But I'm sitting here in Malta with my girflriend watching the Russian Channel 1 propoganda machine in action
 they've really learned a lot from America about how to make propaganda exciting
every time they show the white house, scary music plays in the background

Eccentric Expat 
in fact, there's plenty of OSCE guys here, and they've pretty much made the hotel right across from my flat their hq
heh no kidding
lol i've seen that myself, we get channel 1 here too

English Teacher X 
they've even got a program on comparing American nukes and ICBM to Russian ones, and saying that America wants Ukraine to launch missiles
It's like those programs they used to have in America back in the 80s, all over again

Eccentric Expat
yeah deffo...there's plenty of propaganda on both sides, though
No doubt

English Teacher X 
Russians seem particualarly fired up on this issue though
I don't think most Americans care too much

Eccentric Expat
definitely true
 most Americans still don't realize that Ukraine is a separate country

English Teacher X 
even some of my foreigner-loving slutty friends in Vodkaberg are lecturing me aobut the CIA trying to take over Ukraine

Eccentric Expat 
i hear that all the time myself from students
 and especially from my girlfriend

English Teacher X 
Have you seen any Ukrainian troops abusing protestors, or anything like that?

Eccentric Expat
 no, although there haven't really been Ukrainian troops in the city of Donetsk
 any clashes in the city have just involved different groups of protestors or the police

English Teacher X 
Seen any Russian nationalists abusing anybody? They took over the city hall, you said
was that violent?

Eccentric Expat 
no, they pretty much just marched in and took it
there's been some violence, but it's been the exception rather than the rule
 and btw, it wasn't the city hall, but the oblast hq


English Teacher X 
Is it pretty much business as usual in the city?
people going out and getting drunk and going to work and going to Starbucks and whatever?

Eccentric Expat
for the most part, yes, although people are definitely fearful of what might happen

for instance, i've had private students cancel classes because of protests going on, although i'm sure you know how flaky private students are in general

English Teacher X 
oh sure, they don't need a reason.
Things going well with the girlfriend there?

Eccentric Expat 
yes, or as well as things can go with a Russian girlfrien

English Teacher X 
ha, yeah
she's ethnic Russian, huh?

Eccentric Expat 
yup, of course

English Teacher X 
well good luck with that

Eccentric Expat
although really, there's very little difference between Russian and Ukrainian women, they all have the same issues

* * * 

A few days after this interview, the Ukrainians launched a major offensive against separatists near the city, involving military jets, bombs, and quite a lot of deaths

STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shocking Expose: Disgusting Oily Gunk on Beaches in the Middle East

In a continuation of the hard-hitting investigative journalism that you have come to expect from ETX, here's a shocking VICE.COM style expose of the black gunk on the beaches of the Kingdom. Yes, that's right: the largest oil producing nations of the world seemingly produce a lot of pollution. I know, right?  

This is a 20-minute drive from where I live. 

video


video
video
video

Monday, May 19, 2014

Conversation with Sam, Part Three: Teacher Salaries in Peru, Stranger Danger, and the Obesity Epidemic

This is the third and final part of a IM conversation I had with former colleague and would-be Robin to my Batman during the mid 2000s in Vodkaberg. We discuss more about teaching in Peru, how to judge whether a city is dangerous or not, a few bits of unusual local cuisine, and what is politely referred to as the obesity epidemic, and less politely referred to as the Plague of Fatty Boom Boom.


English Teacher X 
are you guys planning to go to Machu Pichu anytime soon?

Sam
5/1, 11:14am
yeah, we actually bought tickets to go a few weeks ago, but there was a strike and all the busses were cancelled. We don't know exactly when we'll get there.

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:15am
I see here a week of amazon survival training costs $1500 or so
met any ecology buffs down there? A lot of them in Costa Rica

Sam
5/1, 11:16am
yes, in fact the owner of our school used to run luxury biology and ecology tours.

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:16am
He sounds like a well-rounded individual
Does it feel safe on the streets there?

Sam
5/1, 11:17am
ha, he has a very strict no sitting in class policy
It's super safe here

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:18am
ha, they bitch at us about that, also
"over sitting"
Of all my bad teaching habits, over sitting is not one of them

Sam
5/1, 11:18am
not only do I want to sit because i'm lazy, it freaks the students out if you pace around like a jaguar

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:18am
You are in (REDACTED), right?

Sam
5/1, 11:18am
yeah

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:18am
Lima also felt safe?

Sam
5/1, 11:20am
absolutely
we were even afraid from internet stories.
it felt like europe in miraflores district

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:20am
you hear about express kidnapping and gang rapes, but mostly in Colombia and Brazil
gang rapes on buses

Sam
5/1, 11:21am
I think maybe Peru must have been super dangerous ten years ago. The locals go into hysterics if you even suggest that any street here is safe.
But Chinese people think China is dangerous and that is the safest country I've ever been to. Locals be crazy.

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:23am
i always judge dangerous feeling by how many sketchy-looking guys there are standing around on street corners
in Russia of course, they sat in the podezd or in the little playgrounds drinking
Memphis and New Orleans, there are tons of drug dealers and other miscreants on the corners

Sam
5/1, 11:27am
that's a terrible way to judge, there are a ton of sketchy dudes on every coner in Vietnam offering drugs and prostitutes, but it's totally safe
A lot of place look dangerous but aren't

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:28am
Every place is safe, until you get robbed
how much is the hostel you stay at?
i hope at least you have a room for yourself and not living in the dorm

Sam
5/1, 11:29am
we pay 250 dollars a month but are moving from the hostel in a couple days

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:29am
I'm living in a trailer park. despite my high salary. My karma has come full circle.

The luxurious digs of a highly paid English teacher in the ME
Sam
5/1, 11:30am
The crazy thing about here is that english teaching is so badly paid that there are actually other things you can to for money. We met a guy who makes truffles at his hostel and sells them on the main street and makes as much or more than we do.
We are planning to rent our extra room out on air b n b

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:30am
Jesus
I'll probably tidy this up and edit it a bit and use it as a blog entry, hope you don't mind
i'll change the name
Are the teachers mostly American?

Sam
5/1, 11:33am
totally american. It's so funny becuase the brits and french dudes have cell phones, but the americans are too stupid to figure out the sim card system. our 'academic coordinator' has been teaching for one month. She and almost all the americans here are too afraid to get sim cards

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:34am
Doesn't the school give them cheap phones so they can call them early in the morning to do substitute classes?

Sam
5/1, 11:34am
nope
email only for nearly ever american teacher except us.
and anyway the teacher line up for substituting to get that extra 4 dollars an hour

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:36am
And they try to speak Spanish all the time, I bet
even to each other

Sam
5/1, 11:36am
We found out the other day, by accident because our 'academic coordinator' accidentally sent u eveyone's salaries, we get more than the other teacher. we get 13.5 soles per hour nearly all the others, except the two old ladies get 11.5 an hour

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:37am
you worked hard to get that extra 50 cents an hour
you deserve it, man
you are easily worth 50 cents more than those guys



Sam
5/1, 11:37am
My academic coordinator and the dude who helps out on the tefl course were spanish majors in college. Which was a like a year ago

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:37am
Sure, remember all the Russian language majors in Vodkaberg?
Chuck was one, wasn't he, and look at him now

Sam
5/1, 11:38am
yeah, happy, engaged to a friendly outgoing vietnamese girl and in a management position at his school in vietnam

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:39am
As well as an English teacher can do

Sam
5/1, 11:39am
yep

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:40am
I was talking to Crazy Bob about life and reminded him that he had seen what the future as a drunken English teacher looked like, we worked with several versions of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Sam
5/1, 11:41am
at least we don't marry fat american girls who whine at us to turn off our sports and/or sit coms
You should ask Bob about the saudi chick he met at the mall and banged
well our hostel owner is going to turn off the wifi...

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:41am
Yeah he told me about that Saudi chick and said she looked like a member of a 60s girl group like the Ronnettes or something



5/1, 11:42am
English Teacher X 
that's a desert lizard that sucks blood
apparently the students ate it

Sam
5/1, 11:42am
what??

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:42am
that's at a branch out in the desert somewhere
it drinks the liquids out of its prey but doesn't eat anything

Sam
5/1, 11:43am
guinea pig is loved here, not culturally, but because it's crazy fatty. America is behind the obesity curve now. Check out China nd Peru

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:43am
yeah , I read that Mexico is No 1 now
America is going down a bit
we're not number one in anything anymore

Sam
5/1, 11:43am
yeah and Saudi is no 1 I think for diabetes

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:44am
yeah, that might be because of inbreeding though
they like their dates though, lots of sugar in those

Sam
5/1, 11:44am
No, it's because they love cold stone and anything sugary. here too

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:44am
they found the fattest guy in the world in Riyadh recently
he was like 19 and weighted 1500 pounds

Sam
5/1, 11:45am
When I was in Dubai last there was this awesome brochure about dates and they said the mahmool dates or whatever inhibid diabetes. What a joke.

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:45am



600kg Saudi Arabian man airlifted to hospital :: World's Heaviest Man in History
www.youtube.com
600kg Saudi Arabian man airlifted to hospital Saudi Arabia

Sam
5/1, 11:45am
cool

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:45am
They had to cut him out of the apartment and bring him down in a crane

Sam
5/1, 11:46am
watching it now. Crazy
600 kg is insane
he looks korean

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:46am
big smile on his face
happy kid
they say it must have been mostly high-calorie liquids, milkshakes and soda

Sam
5/1, 11:47am
I gain weight whenever I visit dubai

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:47am
Frappucinos

Sam
5/1, 11:47am
And it's awesome

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:47am
Yeah, Dubai gets you some good eats
Lebanese

Sam
5/1, 11:48am
yeah, frappes, as they call them here. But they have like all these sodas in each region here. The only reason Peru and India are not on top of obesity listing is the impoverished people. Mid and upper class people are gigantic.
Like Louisville airport

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:48am
the 21st century, god love 'em

Sam
5/1, 11:48am
fuck I want some hummus
Though there is better food here than China probably. Ceviche.
Indian fellas are chubby and the chicks are so so fat

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:50am
Our students are often a bit chubby, but not too many real huge fatties

Sam
5/1, 11:51am
yeah, they get crazy in the usa, but the middle east is pretty uniformly fat amongst 40 year olds

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:51am
People in America down south where I lived, people look like Jabba the Hutt
Everyone is not just fat, but mis-shapen

Sam
5/1, 11:51am
haha

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:51am
Metabolic syndrome
all out of proportion

Sam
5/1, 11:52am
Yeah, I have never been to the south I guess. I read that if you subtract the southern states, the usa is pretty low on the list of obesity.
wifi going

English Teacher X 
5/1, 11:55am
all right, gotta go have lunch anyway
ciao
hasta luego



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Conversation with Sam, Part Two: Teaching in Peru, Traveler Burnout, Voluntourism Scams and Peruvian Babes

This is Part Two of a conversation I had with "Sam," a former colleague (and perhaps my protege?) from Vodkaberg. He is currently working and living in Peru with his Russian wife.

We continue to discuss Peru, the changing demographics of English teachers, the innocents abroad 2014, and Peruvian babes.




English Teacher X 
4/26, 12:24am
You guys think you'll be there in late August? Flights from (my home city in America) are surprisingly reasonable to Lima.


Sam
4/26, 6:02am
We'll definitely be here at the end of August. Come on down.


English Teacher X
4/26, 10:35am
How are the students? Bearable? This job is astounding,
80 percent of the students simply won't do anything at all in class.
You basically just give them a worksheet or a textbook page,
and then stand there for 40 minutes while they don't do it
and yell at them if they try to use their phones.
For this, they hire the most qualified teachers in the world and pay them $8000 - $12,000 a month.

Sam
4/26, 4:01pm
Actually the students are pretty ridiculous here.
Not, obviously, as bad as yours, but not great.
They're routinely 40-50-60 minutes late and all ages are constantly on their phones.
But it's mixed gender and they're semi-westernized so, bearable.

English Teacher X
4/26, 5:53pm
You done any cocaine yet?


Sam
4/27, 2:15am
Haha, not yet. We saw some dudes doing it, though.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:25am
In general how are you finding it there?  


Sam
5/1, 10:30am
I had this friend from high school is super into music say
that he thought he had exhausted music,
no matter what he finds it all feels familiar.
That's I guess how I feel about travelling.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:33am
ha, I was feeling that way about women in Russia
burnout is a literal phenomenon, too much stimulation messes up your amygdala
I did a blog entry on that

Sam
5/1, 10:34am
ha

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:34am
There's a TED talk about how porn is messing up our amygdalas

Sam
5/1, 10:35am
They have said they may let me teach their 'tefl' course here.
 If they don't I don't think I can bear this shit.
But as far as porn burning out a part of my brain,
nothing limits porn more than living in a hostel with your wife for two months.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:36am
well yeah, I was just giving an example
the students are bad, or administration, or both?

Sam
5/1, 10:37am
Nothing will ever  match that strange feeling of
being met at Vodkaberg airport and driving past
the bumpy oil fields in (the Screech-owl of a manager)'s SUV
with euro beats in the background and being dropped off
 in what felt like the middle of nowhere.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:37am
thank god nothing will ever match it

Sam
5/1, 10:38am
Chuck and I have talked about it.
It was a singular experience that at the time seemed horrible.
But now nowhere seems exotic anymore.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:38am
Shit, try Saudi.

Sam
5/1, 10:39am
There is no chance I would experience culture shock.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:39am
Ttromping through dust fields with the prayer calls screaming
you might experience culture shock in America

Sam
5/1, 10:39am
for sure

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:40am
I'm taking (the Girlfriend) to Malta in two weeks. Going to Dubai tomorrow.

Sam
5/1, 10:40am
Cool
No one is in Dubai anymore
Come visit us here.
It will be like a flashback

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:41am
oh, well, yeah, true, Crazy Bob is in Abu Dhabi
But it's always a treat to leave the Kingdom
I told my principal I'm leaving here at the end of my contract

Sam
5/1, 10:42am
"Is enlightenment going to be your reward?
Nope. Eventually, you get burned out."

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:42am
there's some discrepancy about the end of my contract date


Sam
5/1, 10:42am

?What are you going to do

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:42am
might be beginning of July, might be the end
they have to clarify that
I'll go to America first, with my return ticket, than I'll try to come to Peru.
Amazon adventures and Machu Pichu, I'm all for that

Sam
5/1, 10:44am
cool

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:44am
As for work, think I'll take a little time off, but probably apply for jobs in the Emirates eventually
I've got a few ideas for torture-porn thrillers that might take off, who knows

Sam
5/1, 10:45am
get at DoS job?

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:45am
I have shitloads of money saved, anyway
did you guys consider the place where (another teacher) works in Iraq? That might feel exotic.
He seems to like it there

Sam
5/1, 10:47am
yeah
I think where he worked before, Azerbaijan could be interesting

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:48am
Costa Rica felt exotic to me because there were so many weird animals running around everywhere
I think they give Russians an entry visa for 30 days now

Sam
5/1, 10:49am
I've got a guy you should totally interview.
He works at a school here and only has the job cause he's a big black guy from D.C.
and he helped the owner of his school out of a bar fight.
He gets paid on time, the other teachers at his school don't.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:49am
yeah, I'm seeing more American and British blacks abroad these days

Sam
5/1, 10:49am
Chuck wants us to go to Ecuador because Vietnamese people don't need visas

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:50am
I'm sure Ecuador is nice.

Sam
5/1, 10:50am
And freaking old ladies. this is the mecca for old ladies

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:50am
There are quite a few black guys here, mostly American and British black muslims. 
Peru is not a big whore-monger destination though is it?
They go to Colombia, mainly

Sam
5/1, 10:51am
no

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:51am
Wonder what (the Venezuelan) is up to, he's not on Facebook anymore.

Sam
5/1, 10:52am
They are the true innocents abroad  here. I just want to cuddle these stupid kitties who pay 1500 dollars for a non-recognized tefl course, don't get offered a job, then are left to fend for themselves.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:52am
I've spent years trying to slap those dopes awake with my website, I did my part

Sam
5/1, 10:52am
We are thinking of hitting up Colombia next. Or Ecuador as I said.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:53am
In Costa Rica the owner of a hostel said the latest thing is not english teaching, but these "volunteer" scams

Sam
5/1, 10:54am
Did you hear the Crazy Bob story of the Balochi girl
 who gave him a lot of diseases and he was afraid to fuck
so he went to spinney's and bought a bunch of different vegetables?

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:55am
Ha, no
These volunteer scams where somebody pays some ungodly amount of money,
 and then they arrive and there's no volunteer work,
 or they just give them a list of places to go ask for volunteer work
and drop them off at a hotel

Sam
5/1, 10:55am
We have met so many people paying tons to work at a weaving collective or whatever.
Voluntourism is alive and well here.

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:55am
Maybe that'll be the next ETX expose.
I mentioned it in HOW TO SURVIVE LIVING ABROAD
about Cambodian orphanages 
they have orphanages that are basically just little zoos
where they charge tourists admissions and tell them to bring food and toys for the kids

Crazy Bob and I are supposed to go to Mussandam in Oman on Saturday, if we don't get too drunk

Sam
5/1, 10:57am
what is that?

English Teacher X
5/1, 10:57am

Oh it's a little chunk of coastline that belongs to Oman with some islands,
but it is north of the Emirates, they have dolphins and snorkeling and stuff
on the Strait of Hormuz
So how are you guys fixed for money, are you still living pretty close to the bone?

Sam
5/1, 11:00am
yep. for sure
the idiot teachers here all pay tons for tiny furnished apartments. We're planning to get some addition to our 4.90 dollars an hour with some air b n b in an unfurnished flat

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:01am
what do apartments cost there?

Sam
5/1, 11:01am
It really is like travelling back in english teaching time

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:01am
are the teachers at least drunk all the time?
or they drink herbal tea and coffee and talk about indigenous people rights?

Sam
5/1, 11:02am
No, the teachers here are all super proper and hard working.
The only degenerates are the higher paid ones with prior experience.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:03am
do they fuck the students, or that doesn't happen?



Sam
5/1, 11:05am
No, it's weird.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:05am
I hear Peruvian women are not the most attractive, anyway
what about the women teachers, they hook up with the local playboys?

Sam
5/1, 11:05am
but most of the teachers at our school have one month experience at most
No Way, the chicks here are super duper hot.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:06am
oh really? you pique my interest

Sam
5/1, 11:06am
Among the hottest I've ever seen.
But more savvy than Russian girls.
They can tell when a guy is just pretending to be rich.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:07am
Latinas never really did it for me,
but maybe I just never met the right ones

Sam
5/1, 11:07am
Seriously, there are hot chicks here and they openly talk about finding foreign boyfriends. 
Like travelling back in time.
You're crazy if you never found any latinas hot.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:08am
Well, I mean, Penelope Cruz and whatzername that was in DESPERADO
Selma Hayek

Sam
5/1, 11:08am
The percentage is not spectacular,
 there are some native american uggos,
but the spanishy girls who slut themselves up to go to the club are hot.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:08am
I knew a bunch of Puerto Rican girls in college
I saw and met Dominican and Costa Rican girls last year

Sam
5/1, 11:08am
I have a student who looks exactly like a young Penelope Cruz, but with braces.

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:09am
mostly they looked like Jessica Rabbit with the implants and hair extensions

Sam
5/1, 11:09am
haha
they are into the big hair. 80s style, 80s gender roles. your kind of place

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:09am

I noticed in Dubai a lot of pastel colors last time I was there
How much does an apartment cost there?

Sam
5/1, 11:12am
teacher rooms are about 200 dollars, unfurnished flats not much more

English Teacher X
5/1, 11:12am
Maybe I'll come down there and live off my torture porn money for a while

Sam
5/1, 11:13am
just pay me a few bucks a night and live in my place.
deal for both of us




Saturday, May 10, 2014

Conversation with Sam, Part One: Teaching in Peru vs. Teaching in the Middle East, and Old Ladies Abroad


In the last half of VODKABERG, I mention a couple of younger guys referred to as Sam and Chuck. They were both in their early 20s when they arrived; Sam actually came to Vodkaberg after reading about it on my blog, but he wanted to be a TEFL teacher already so I guess that's okay. 

I kind of served as a mentor and degenerate uncle to the two of them. They've both decided to continue down the dusty path of TEFL, and are now seasoned vets of the business.

Sam married a girl he met in Vodkaberg (one of the more succesful examples of marriage from that city, which generally doomed marriages to a two-year duration) and they've been sort of doing the world together, teaching in China for the last three years and now washing ashore in Peru. 

Here's the first part of a conversation I had with Sam recently, about teaching in Peru vs. teaching in the Middle East and the explosion in the number of old women getting into TEFL. Enjoy a couple of battle-weary TEFLers bitching about their jobs. 



Sam
4/1, 11:30pm
We're in Peru now.

English Teacher X
4/1, 11:33pm
How's that going?
Taken any Ayahuasca?
where you working in Peru?

Sam
4/2, 12:00am
(Redacted)

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:00am
i mean, private language school, as usual?

Sam
4/2, 12:01am
Oh, yeah. A shitty one. My 'boss' is just out of college and been teaching for a month.
But they gave us both full time jobs.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:02am
$5 an hour type stuff?
or you get a salary?

Sam
4/2, 12:02am
$5 indeed

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:02am
Five bucks is five bucks.

Sam
4/2, 12:03am
It's funny, though. They give us a higher hourly wage than any of the other teachers I've talked to. We have pretty good CVs, but they did absolutely no checking into them.
Should have said I have a MA

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:03am
Guys make $8000 a month here and ride their bikes to work and then go home and eat ramen noodles.
We're the scruffiest bunch of six-figure-salary earning guys you've ever seen.
Habits of a lifetime die hard

Sam
4/2, 12:04am
Haha

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:04am
and guys are usually paying off debts or giving it to their wives or whatever

Sam
4/2, 12:04am
Yeah, I imagine alimony is a big part of why some of those guys live there in the first place.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:05am
Yeah, that and a few guys now paying off college loan debt

Sam
4/2, 12:05am
Ironically the teachers here are woefully underpaid, overworked, and unvalued. But they're all bright and shiny and stick to the dress code and are super optimistic about being here. It's like traveling back in time.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:07am
They're all young, I'm guessing
or old guys with wives

Sam
4/2, 12:08am
Yeah, except the few old ladies.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:08am
There are a few guys in their 30s here
poor bastards

Sam
4/2, 12:08am
There is a new rash of old lady teachers going around. i think they are finally starting to go retire abroad too.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:08am
Yeah, and from that EAT PRAY LOVE thing

Sam
4/2, 12:08am
exactly
We've met a few here already.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:09am
Crazy Bob said a lot of middle-aged women teach in Abu Dhabi

Sam
4/2, 12:09am
yeah

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:09am
saw a lot of them in Costa Rica

Sam
4/2, 12:09am
More and more everywhere now.
Probably not Siberia though

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:09am
Teaching or volunteering at the orphanage or whatever

Sam
4/2, 12:10am
There are tons of 'volunteer' people here. At orphanages but other worse places to. We met a girl who is paying money to volunteer at a weaving collective.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:10am
Why I recommend you guys go the Middle East and make yourselves a stake now, get the money while the getting is good. Too many teachers in the world

Sam
4/2, 12:10am
We wanted to go to at least one more interesting place before we can't.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:10am
you get so much vacation time in the middle east, you can go anywhere you want

Sam
4/2, 12:10am
I guess that's true

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:11am
I'm seeing more people here who changed to teaching TEFL when their jobs disappeared in other fields
journalists, there are several of those here, because there’s no more work for journalists

Sam
4/2, 12:11am
Woah

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:11am
so they became English teachers to pay for their kids’ college or mortgages or whatever

Sam
4/2, 12:12am
But there still must be tons of jobs. We met a polish girl who got a job Kuwait for tons of money, not awesome english, no specific qualifications

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:12am
oh yeah, demographically it's a mess here
something like 75 percent of the population is under 30
they need jobs, English, etc.

Sam
4/2, 12:12am
Most of the people Chuck worked with in the Emirates weren't native speakers.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:12am
Yeah, we got Egyptians, Pakistanis, Jordanians, Philipinos
One option for the future is getting certified to teach health and safety type stuff
first aid and CPR guys make good money here

Sam
4/2, 12:13am
Really? Never thought of that. That's a great idea.
Well, we gotta go to our teacher orientation now. We haven't actually started. We start tomorrow.
University kids. One of the worst types of students really.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:14am
Not worse than my bunch
I got ANGRY university age guys

Sam
4/2, 12:15am
No one will ever be worse than the semi retarded village girls we taught at the college in China.
They can't learn.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:15am
My guys are amazingly bright when it comes to avoiding work and cheating
they have the most elaborate excuses for everything, it's amazing

Sam
4/2, 12:15am

I'm looking forward to teaching Spanish speaker actually. Maybe they can actually learn some freaking english.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:16am
Bueno suerte

Sam
4/2, 12:16am
Honestly the most fun students I've had are the 35-50 year old russian housewives. Not the young hot ones, but the older ones.
They like me more for some reason.
anyway, talk to you later.

English Teacher X
4/2, 12:17am

Ciao

Friday, May 02, 2014

Something That Happened Back When Russians Liked Americans

All this business about the new Cold War and the Crimea Crisis (TM) made me remember something that happened back in the early days in Vodkaberg.

This was the second summer I was there, in 2001. I was drinking down at the embankment with a group of students and some friends and relatives of theirs.

The girl referred to as Brunetka in VODKABERG memoir.




As I said, in the beginning, I was unsubtly worshipped by many of my students. Foreigners were a rare and fabulous thing at that time, unseen at all in the town before about 1997. (It was one of the "closed cities" as the aerospace industry operated there.) My students all dreamed of emigrating, by any means possible. With my bland all-American looks, I was an embodiment of all they dreamed of.  Travel, comparative prosperity, freedom, modernity.

I was actually uncomfortable with that in the beginning; but nothing corrupts a man's soul like unjustified acclaim, and I of course learned to bask in the sunshine of their attention.

But this was when that was just beginning. Anyway, back in 2001, even the men liked foreigners, and there were some guys there, cousins of some of my female students, and they had never met an American before and were most impressed with it. They wanted to talk about Eminem lyrics, as I recall.



The embankment along the Volga at that time was old-fashioned hot mayhem; beer at that time was about 15 - 20 rubles (50 to 75 cents) and there were cafes and kiosks selling it everywhere. Vendors sold barbecue and rice pilaf and shawarmas, drunk teenagers roamed around, Russian pop music blasted and the girls in the leopard-skin miniskirts gyrated about on their high-heels.






Everybody in town seemed to go there. Nobody had air con at that time and it was the best way to beat the heat and humidity.

There were also, in addition to places to rent bicycles and roller-blades, all sorts of cheap fairground attraction type games. As we were walking away from the cafe, we passed one of these:


Wikipedia tells me this is called a "high-striker." 


And of course the cousins of the girls I was with wanted me to try it. "America!" one cried. 

Oh shit, I thought. 

The guy operating the thing put a hammer in my hand, and said I could do it for free, when he heard I was American. 

Now I'm in pretty good shape, but I'm no fucking strongman. I hesitated and tried to think of a way to bow out gracefully. 

But by now the cousins of the girls I was with were clapping and shouting "USA! USA!" 

Some other Russians, hearing all the fuss, gathered around to watch. 

I raised the hammer over my head. It wobbled precariously. 

Remembering something that Bruce Lee had once said, I took a deep breath and aimed -- not at the striker -- but at the ground beneath the striker. 

WHOMP! 

I didn't even hit the thing squarely; the hammer sort of glanced off. 

"AW SHIT!" I yelled. 

But damned if the thing didn't go all the way to the top. BLIP - BLIP - BLIP - BING!

And the crowd watching, starting clapping and cheering, and shouting "AMERICA! AMERICA!! USA! USA!"

I won a bottle of beer. A couple guys from the crowd stepped forward to shake my hand, but of course also a couple then wanted to challenge me to see who could get to the top the most times. 

I smiled and bowed to the crowd and took my leave. 



So I'm gonna go ahead and say that wouldn't play out like that today. Can't even drink beer on the embankment anymore. But what the hell, it was thirteen years ago. 

And thirteen years before that, the fucking Berlin Wall was still standing.