Friday, June 24, 2016

To The Right, March! (Or: Auslander, Raus!)

Sniff, sniff! Can you smell it?

Something is in the air.

Countries are erecting trade barriers, closing borders, making travel requirements more stringent, and electing increasingly right wing politicians.

Sniff, sniff!

It's the pungent aroma of isolationism, protectionism, and reactionary nationalism!

So! BREXIT, bro!

British teachers working abroad wake up and find their local savings can buy more pounds, as the value of the GBP has fallen about 10 percent. (Digital nomads and sex tourists get slammed as the pound has less value.)

However, I'm sure all the British teachers working and living happily away in Prague and Spain and other places in the EU are breaking into panicky sweats. Freedom of work and travel? Kiss it goodbye. (Although I guess a lot of people will be grandfathered in.)

Stocks markets around the world have taken a nose dive. (Finally my "end of the world" investments might pay off!)

And believe me, the chaos is just getting started if Donald Trump gets elected US president.

So how will this affect English teachers?

Well, for Americans it might be good news, as far as working in the EU. For the last 10 years it's been extremely difficult for Americans to work legally there (and the EU has expanded a lot, as well) and after Britain drops out, they'll have to start hiring native speakers from other countries. (Again. I worked in Prague in 2000, something I would not be able to do now.)

Bad news of course, is that more isolationism and protectionism means less work for English teachers, less buying property abroad, more difficulty with visas and residence permits, more trouble marrying foreigners, general xenophobia, etc.

Et cetera et cetera et cetera.

I mean look how well isolationism is working out for North Korea.

Anyway, I guess, if you look at it in perspective, there's not much to be happy about in the world in general. Terrorism, war, Zika and West Nile virus, the largest refugee displacement in recorded history, wildfires and heat emergencies and floods and earthquakes. We should live so long that we get to worry about free and easy travel.

These cycles of globalism / isolationism have been going on for a long time. Empires have risen and fallen, and the waves of globalism and  international trade and travel always come to an end, with tight borders and rigid trade barriers (and sometimes global wars), until people get sick of that in 20 - 50 years, and start demanding more international freedoms again.

But for the time being?

It looks like the doofuses in the man-o-sphere might get their wish! Maybe in a few years we'll all be penned up back in white America with closed borders, working at the ball-bearing factory and going home to our submissive-by-law wives.

Sounds pretty fucking grim.

As for me, I have no regrets. I had my time. I'm old enough to remember the pre-globalism days -- when you couldn't visit half the world, when traveling through Europe meant a considerable expense changing money every stop, when you couldn't just put a card in any bank machine and take money out.

And I remember when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union dissolved, and how excited people were when China, Cambodia, Vietnam and so forth started opening up. And I remember when people's eyes would get wide with joy and say, "WOW! YOU'RE FROM AMERICA??"

Anyway, I'll have a new purpose. The chronicler of late 20th Century Globalism, @1989 - 2016.

RIP, globalism. We hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Worst Year of My Life Hasn't Been That Bad

I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said that childhood ends on the day you go shopping for adult diapers with your father, and spend twenty minutes or so comparing prices.

This year  -- since I started this job in America last August -- by all subjective metrics has sucked pretty hard. No travel or new destinations. No romance and practically no wild fucking. No drunken adventures. Not even much money saved.

But objectively, I got a lot done. My father is comfortably ensconced in his assisted living place, and he can pay for most (although not all) of it himself. I'm three classes into a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in English as a Second Language. I've made decent progress in the martial arts system I study, which mixes Thai boxing, jeet kun do, and escrima and kali.

Despite the occasional tangle with Amazon's censors, I'm still making decent money from my erotic thriller e-books, and in becoming thrillers, they're much more the books I always wanted to write (just with rather more fucking). I'm leading up to writing one about an English teacher fucking the wife of a Russian billionaire. I'll share that with you folks, should I ever write it.

The place I live now is the same kind of place where I grew up: small town America. Strip malls and fast food places. Mini mansions on one side of town and little shacks on the other. Surrounded by empty industrial buildings and scrap yards and farms and used car lots with huge flags flapping over them.

I didn't much like it then, and I like it less now, but there are things I like. Fresh air. Some great national parks to hike and camp in.

Now as far as my social life, I don't have one, but that's completely by choice. And that's a bit strange, I know. I've been invited out by several of my decent-looking female colleagues and I've always made excuses. My male colleagues invite me out occasionally also, but I also decline. I have not the slightest urge to spend time at bars or clubs. (I mean, I am 47, also.)

You could say that it's sobriety, sexual and otherwise, like my contemporaries Tucker Max and Neil Strauss, who now fly the banner of marriage, monogomy, and sobriety. But getting addicted to solitude isn't a good thing either (and I'll write about this later) but I think it's probably just a desire not to put any more emotional load on my brain. I visit my dad about once a month and spend the other three weekends by my damn self, reading, writing, or hiking. 

Anyway, one thing I haven't done which I wanted to is write much about English Teacher X. I was meaning to get all my old travel journals out and start writing down stories from my early backpacking years, but I still haven't gotten around to it. 

I'll try to do that in the next couple of months, because if all goes well, I'll be starting another job abroad in September. I'm working on finishing the documents now, and it should be a good gig. Things could still go wrong, so I'll wait until I have the visa to talk about it. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Scourge (or: America's Leaning on Pork)

Most students don't take care of their diets too well when they move away from home for the first time, but Saudi students, from my experience, REALLY go nuts.

They cram their bodies full of pretty much nothing but sugar, caffeine, and nicotine. (It's a problem in general in Saudi, of course, with diabetes going rapidly off the charts there.)

Here in my job, it was getting to be a serious and immediate problem. Numerous students have been hospitalized for malnutrition, dehydration, and gastric illnesses, due to a diet consisting of pretty much nothing but Red Bull, Mountain Dew, chocolate bars, cigarettes, and potato chips. 

Our students varied from being too hyperactive to sit still and too exhausted to keep their eyes open, and all the teachers were railing at them about it. Numerous lectures about the importance of drinking water and eating healthy food were repeatedly given. 

They made vague excuses. "American food is not delicious." "We don't have time to eat any healthy food." 

Finally one of my students leveled with me. 

It's the pork. 

The students got here and saw all the familiar fast food places they loved: Dominos, Subway, etc. 

And they ordered foods they thought they knew.

But little did they know that these foods were often made with pork in America. Pepperoni and salami, for example. 

"Didn't you ask about it?" I inquired, rather amazed. 

"We didn't speak English well when we arrived. And when we asked the people at Domino's, they always said no pork.")

(Which I guess was probably also ignorance, but coming from a more blissful place.) 

Once they figured this out, and once their English improved, they realized that pork is fucking EVERYWHERE in America. Ham. Bacon. Even salads are full of little chunks of ham and bacon bits. Bacon flavoring in sauces and potato chips!

Certain exceptions are made to the rules of Islam in their lives, to say the least, but most all of them still find the idea of eating pigs really gross. They find pork so revolting, they don't even want to go near restaurants that have it, for fear of cross-contamination. 

You might laugh, but imagine going to a McDonald's in whatever country, and finding out a few months later that the thing you thought was a normal Big Mac was in fact made of sewer rat or liver flukes or something.