Today is the 20th anniversary of the day I started my first teaching job in Bangkok, Thailand. April 16th, 1995. In honor of, here's an update on what I've been up to recently.
* * *
I had a plan.
It seemed like an okay plan, as far as plans go.
As far as my plans go, anyway.
I left my last position in the Kingdom with more than $175,000. I decided to take a year off to do some bucket-list type activities, after which I would get a job in the UAE (which usually have three-year contracts) and hopefully the Girlfriend could come (married or not) and then I'd live happily ever after.
I had intended to look for a job at the TESOL Arabia job fair, which is in March.
My only point of reference for doing that was a colleague in the Kingdom who told me that a friend of his had found a good job at an oil company there. I figured it would be a new way to get a job, anyway, rather than the tedious anonymous internet application process.
As the fair drew closer, however, it began to look like less of a good idea. Most of the companies that were recruiting there were in fact for positions in Saudi Arabia and Oman. There were none in Dubai and only a couple in the other Emirates, all of which requested a master's degree as a minimum qualification.
I spoke to an agent from a recruiting company, and she was not particularly encouraging about positions in the UAE. She said that mostly they were seeking women, at the moment, as most of the new students in the UAE were women, and they'd had a lot of applications in the last couple of years from people downsized out of their university and college positions in the UK and US. (She did say however, that my combination of an English BA plus a DELTA is still a pretty formidable one.)
In addition, it cost about $300 to attend the job fair, although that got you a free lunch voucher and free attendance to all the TEFL seminars they were having. "Social Media and Your Classroom" and "Re-thinking the Learner-Centered Approach for the 21st Century" and so forth.
I decided to go to the hotel and check it out, regardless: I arrived and saw a lot of remarkably non-insane looking people with resumes printed on nice paper. Most of them were there through recruitment agencies and their agents were coaching them on what to say and not to say during the interview. There was a line of hundreds of people, stretching out into the lobby of the hotel in Dubai where it was being held.
I said "Fuck it," and decided to instead go on a 36-hour drinking binge with Crazy Bob.
Now if you're looking for a job in the Emirates, you've probably seen the two big recruiters, who recruit through website portals. Basically, you make an application through their website, uploading not only your resume and information, but copies of your certificates and diplomas and references.
So I filled out applications for those two places (I shall not name them, but you can find them easily enough should you care.) And uploaded scanned copies of all my shit. It took most of one day, six or seven hours.
Then I pissed off to Sri Lanka for a month.
Both places said to expect a reply within a month.
One place -- the place that employs Crazy Bob -- responded only by sending me an advertisement for their affiliated online master's degree program, and closing out the two applications for positions I'd made, without any further ado.
The other place -- which is generally better regarded -- called me in for an interview. I was in Dubai that week with the Girlfriend, so it couldn't have worked out more perfectly.
I went to the interview and a couple hours later received an emasculatingly-worded form letter rejection.
Now I thought the interview went okay; perhaps not perfect, but certainly just as well as the ones after which I'd gotten my last two jobs in the Kingdom. I'm better-looking, better-qualified, and better-spoken than a LOT of TEFL teachers. (Believe it or not.) I wore a white shirt and tie and had recently had a haircut.
But the thing was recorded, which I wouldn't have minded except that they had the video of my face being broadcast on a huge screen in front of me during the interview. It made me a little more nervous than I otherwise would have been. (It had a weird bit of lag to it; I thought I looked disturbingly like Max Headroom.)
The British guy seemed to like all my answer to questions about the classroom stuff, but the Emirati guy asked several times about why I changed jobs so frequently and why I hadn't done a master's degree. (In fact, I've almost started an online one several times, and told them about the one I chose and my intentions to begin it soon.)
I had a good cover story, I thought, and told them about my parents' illnesses and my attempt to take my girlfriend to America on a student visa. I told them I was looking for a good position and a place to settle down and raise a family. (True enough, actually.)
Obviously they're not obliged to give me a reason why; there's a lot of room for conjecture. Was it the lack of Master's degree? Probably not only. Gaps in my employment history? Surely that didn't help. Did I stink of the backpacker, with my sunburned nose? Was my fresh haircut a little too cropped, making me look a bit too Aryan?
Or, more worryingly, is the residual creepiness of months of self-employment as a porn writer showing through? (I don't think so, because I was with the Girlfriend that week so I was as well-socialized as I get these days.) My age -- 45 -- is about right for the Middle East. (Young enough not to be close to the mandatory retirement age of 60, old enough not to be too much of a flight risk.)
More terrifyingly still, I considered whether my English Teacher X "cover" might have been blown somehow, but I've seen no online evidence of that, and I suppose I probably never would have gotten the interview in that case.
The form letter simply says that they have " identified other candidates who presented a better fit for the position and thus, we regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application at this time." (Translated: You're a square peg, motherfucker.)
There's also an addendum that I can re-apply in a minimum of six months, after I "update my candidate profile." (Translated: Come back when you stop sucking so much.)
The only tactical mistake I felt I made in the interview was being a bit too critical of the last place I worked, remarking that I mainly left due to the pollution, lack of availability of married housing and long-term contracts, inconsistent policies of treatment of different students, and students who were "very motivated not to study." (That got a laugh out of the British guy, as I'd hoped but perhaps the Emirati guy didn't like it.)
With what I know about the layers of bureaucracy there in Middle East, the rejection could have come from a completely different source than the two people who actually interviewed me, and could have been completely arbitrary.
Another friend who applied for a position there and was rejected said that he thought they just interviewed constantly, even when they didn't have positions to offer, so that the recruitment staff could justify their bloated salaries. (It is a government body, after all.)
But the fact that the rejection came so quickly was the most worrying part. Lots of applications drag on forever before an eventual rejection; this was so swift and resounding, though, that it has seriously gotten me down.
SO WHAT NOW?
Obviously, I see which way the wind is blowing. I can afford a master's degree, and I'm sure it's just going to become more and more necessary in the next and final 15 years of my working life. (This isn't the first time I've been rejected for a job, but it's the first time since the late 90s, when my lack of a CELTA was often-mentioned.)
Both Crazy Bob and our other colleague, Chuck, got jobs at the other place, the rival outfit, without master's degrees, as did another guy I know, but they don't have much good to say about the program anyway. (Still pretty much fuckups, drunks, and a total lack of organization.) Chuck left his position in the middle of the night, as mentioned in my last memoir.
So ... time to lick my wounds and regroup.
The 16th of April, 1995, is the date that I began my first English teaching job in Bangkok, Thailand, 20 fucking years ago. (If I had joined the Navy instead, I could be retiring with a full pension now.) In fact I am in Bangkok at the moment, staying at the same hotel that I stayed in back then. (More on that later.)
I'm in a much better position than a lot of guys, anyway. Still got some money and options and some years to put them into practice.
When life hands you poop, make poop-juice, you know? Chin up, X. Down but never out.
Not yet, anyway.
20 years down, 20 to go!
As a 20-year anniversary present don't forget you can quite a lot of free books from me:
Get it FREE for 5 days, starting on the 17th on Amazon and it's free to read on Kindle Unlimited, if you have that
Countdown special stars the 17th on Amazon, 99 cents for three days, then $1.99, then $2.99. Or read that fucker free on Kindle Unlimited! Get it HERE ON AMAZON!