50 SHADES OF EFL (Part 4)
Here goes… more random ramblings. First: Living in Asia.
Now I’ve been buying lottery tickets for years. Buy one in the West, and you can watch the draw on TV. All those balls spinning around, and then one number is selected. Is it yours? Hell, yes it is. Ball number two. Hey that’s my number too! Wow, I could be on my way to untold riches! Ball number three. Shit. Better luck next week.
In the West, the draw is all very open, above board, and transparent as the politicians like to say. Here in Asia I still buy lottery tickets, but I can’t help thinking that something smells in the state of Denmark. In Vietnam, for instance, you don’t need to wait for a week to find out if you’re a new millionaire. You buy a ticket at 4:00pm and that very night you can check on your cell phone to find out if you’ve won or not. Convenient, fast, and all a trifle fishy. Consider for a moment the multitude of lottery ticket sellers. They trudge around the streets day after day, approaching anyone and everyone they see for a sale. For every 10,000 dong ticket they sell, they net 1,000 dong. Of course, unless they’re extremely lucky, at the end of the day they still have a few dozen unsold tickets. So, what do they do? In all likelihood they compare that evening’s winning numbers with the numbers they’re still holding. And then what does the seller do if he or she discovers they’re in possession of a 1,500,000,000 dong winning ticket? Cash it in of course – as anyone in their right mind would do. Goodbye daily grind, and hello la dolce vita. Perhaps that’s permissible in Asia, but it strikes me as a little bit dodgy.
As well as sellers of lottery tickets, you’ll come across street vendors every time you set foot out of your home. You’re an ideal target for a vendor; foreigners are hopeless at haggling, and willing to pay three or four times what a local would pay for a similar item. Thus you’ll be approached (hounded, often) by sellers of chewing gum, tissues, sunglasses, bangles, key rings and gee-gaws, cigarettes (often with the option of an envelope of marijuana tucked under that packet of Marlboro), shoe-shines, books, newspapers, wallets, hammocks, t-shirts, postcards, maps – you name it. “Hey Mister, you buy sunglasses, special price for you, very cheap.” The vendors range from the very old to the very young. (A four-year-old girl with an impressive command of colloquial English and rapier-like bargaining skills convinced me to buy a bangle on my last visit to Saigon.) They can be able-bodied or disabled, casual or insistent. In fact vendors at places like Kuta Beach, Bali, are so numerous and persistent they can detract from the enjoyment of your holiday. But street vendors are a fact of Asian life, and add to its color. And for the single traveler, often street vendors are the only people he or she gets to chat to apart from the hotel staff.
Who are the hardest students to teach? Which nationality can almost send you up the wall with frustration? For my money, they’re Arabs, Chinese and Koreans. Arabs because of their difficulty in coming to grips with the written English alphabet (not to mention their arrogant superiority.) Chinese for their reluctance to talk in English – even just a word or two. And for their propensity to cheat in tests. Koreans for their cheating, of course, and for their driven mind-sets. Korean students have developed cheating to an advanced art-form, and are not the least perturbed if found out. That only serves to get them to switch to another cheating ploy next time round. (“Perhaps I’ll try the old ‘answers scratched onto a Perspex ruler’ next time.”)
And which nationalities are the easiest to teach? In my book it’s Russians, with their keen minds and determination to learn. Also Indonesians, for their fun-loving, likeable natures. And Thais too, for their sense of humor and bubbling personalities.
But the irony of working in EFL is that you’re paid roughly the same hourly rates regardless of whether your students are a pleasure to teach or a nightmare to teach. The exception, of course, is in Saudi Arabia. There you’re paid top money, not because of the difficulty of teaching Saudis, but because their country is such an uninviting hell-hole for an expatriate to live in.
EFL minus the B.S. is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle form. CUSTOMER REVIEW: “Excellent book. As a former EFL teacher, ten years in Vietnam and Indonesia, this book is spot on in giving the basic lay down of teaching overseas. The book is a quick read and should be read by every EFL teacher. Definitely a good read while on your flight to whatever country you are going to teach.” – J.D.