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Ibaraki English Teacher: Chapter 1

Author:Joseph Robbie, Issue: July 2000, Topic: Commentary

A Fictional Series?


What follows is the initial offering of a semi-fictional series based on facts of personal experience and first person accounts, logical projections, and semi-vivid imagination. Meant to be entertaining, enlightning, endearing and engaging, as well as encyclopedic, energetic, enigmatic, and enchiladic, this series will explore both the boons and busts of the English teaching profession in Ibaraki-ken. We will follow the lives of selected representatives as they make their ways through the often tangled web woven by circumstances both of their own making and beyond their control. Now, let's meet the first central character:

Keri Canyon comes from Canada, Moose Jaw, to be exact. Being Canadian, she speaks American English. Having lost in love, depressed and adrift at age 23, she responded to an ad in the Moose Jaw Journal inviting applicants to consider the adventure and financial rewards of a prestigious teaching position with Nogo, one of the largest private English schools in Japan.

At the interview, the recruiter was impressed both by her recent masters degree in English as a Second Language and by her ample bosom. He promised her, at the completion of training, a salary equal to approximately $2500 U.S. a month, a generous contract completion bonus, a furnished apartment and use of a company car. In addition, the school would sponsor her working visa and aid with all manner of assistance in dealing with the inherent difficulties associated with a new life in a foreign country.

It sounded good. She signed a letter of intent and was instructed to report to the head office in Boston, U.S.A., for orientation, training and final interview. Upon successful completion of this four-day process, Keri would be offered employment with the well-established company. Round-trip airfare and three nights lodging were at the cost of the applicant. In sum, this excursion cost young Keri $2348.

"What the heck", she reasoned, "I'll make that back with my first month's salary. It's a wise investment in my future." Thus, she flew; she passed; she signed.

The two-year contract stipulated a 40-hour workweek, Tuesday through Saturday, 2:00pm -- 10:00pm. In addition to her maximum classroom teaching load of 25 hours weekly, she would be expected to participate in extracurricular activities, develop new materials, and comply with any and all professional demands of her immediate supervisor. She was to dress in a businesslike manner -- pants or slacks were expressly forbidden. Company paid ticket for Narita in hand, she made her way to Vancouver, boarded United flight 439, settled into her window seat, and contemplated the bright and exciting future waiting for her in the mysterious land of the rising sun.

Next month: meet Randy the randy rambler, arriving on a three-month tourist visa, with his backpack and $849, from a six-month stint in Thailand. Also meet Ned the nerd, intending only to visit a friend for a week and attend a university lecture on "the social interaction of pismires in the post-mating environment".

Chapter 2

"Yankee go home" was the chant from staff and patrons alike, as Randy Rogers was forcibly escorted off the festive barge permanently moored to the left bank of Klong Tui, a district frequented almost exclusively by local Thais seeking sensual pleasure or a hit of opium. His face bloodied, his shirt torn, he tried to focus, tried to remember.

The evening had started out fine. Getting off work at 9pm from B.E.S.T., Business English School Thailand, he'd hailed an open-air, three-wheel tuk-tuk and been driven to his regular hangout, the King's Palace in Patpong. Enjoying a Kloster beer with other working expats, he watched the strip show, ordered a back massage from the frisky middle-aged lady who regularly relieved his stress, and looked forward to the kick-boxing matches that were to start at 11:00.

One barroom buddy, Hans Hoeflich, an engineer from Berlin, recommended the cheese schnitzel with fried potatoes for Randy's hunger. "Better than Bavaria", he claimed. The meal arrived and was truly delicious. In gratitude, Randy ordered a tall beer and a shot of Jaegermeister snaps for the two of them. As the boxing commenced, Hans reciprocated the gesture. Not to appear cheap or ungrateful, Randy got the following round. And so it went. By 2:30, they were totally polluted and the best of friends.

"Let's get away from this tourist scene",to Hans suggested. "I'll take you to a place you'll never forget!" Randy was game. Thus they took a taxi to the barge. Upon exiting the cab, Randy's money clip missed his pocket and fell into the gutter. Uh, oh!

Aboard, they had a grand old time. Rude, crude, booed by the locals, they partook of a bit of all that was on offer there. Loud, obnoxious, oblivious of the glares from the others present, they drank, smoked, stroked and puked. Randy passed out.

Shaken roughly awake as dawn was breaking, Randy was asked to pay his tab and leave. Hans was nowhere to be seen. The tab for the two of them was roughly $320; not bad for the limitless debauchery they'd enjoyed. He found his trousers and reached into the pocket. Nothing. Frowns, scowls, harsh words exchanged. The bouncers there were about half his size. "I can take these guys out and make a run for it", he reasoned in his belligerent haze. After five months in country, he might have known that most Bangkok bouncers are martial arts experts. The inevitable scuffle ensued, and Randy was soundly thrashed.

The police arrived, the situation was explained, and Randy was given two choices by the authorities: leave the country voluntarily the next day; or, get charged, do time in a Thai prison and then be deported. He opted for the former, filled out the necessary paperwork, and was taken to shore.

During the two-hour walk back to his hotel apartment, Randy reflected on his recent past and near future. Several years ago, he had been forced to flee his hometown in Ohio; Gozaiymas was a small town with no secrets. Having impregnated the district attorney's 16-year old daughter, yet not ready to wed at age 24, he paid for and downloaded from the net a handsome and authentic-looking BA diploma in English Literature from Mid-Ohio College at Kent (MOCK). Degree and passport in hand, he flew to Acapulco, Mexico, and began what was to become his pattern in life. First, he found a local girlfriend with room for him at home. She then found him a teaching job at a local English school where his "Diploma" opened the door.

Following Mexico, where Rosa's brothers had threatened to cut off the "eggs" of this deadbeat parasite, he made his way through Hungary, Turkey, and Pakistan in similar fashion before arriving in Thailand. Where to next?

He'd learned that there were only two places to make good money as an English teacher abroad: Saudi Arabia and Japan. He considered both options. Saudi's strict Islamic laws called for no alcohol, no contact with women, and beheadings, stonings and amputations for violations. In addition, it was said to be hellishly hot. Japan was rumored to be very open to drinking, full of beautiful women, and eager to hire English teachers. It also boasted a mild climate of four reasonable seasons.

So, he packed his backpack, retrieved his hidden stash of $1200, and slipped out of the hotel's rear delivery entrance to make his way to the airport. Ticket in hand, he waited nervously for the departure of Thai Air flight #69 to Haneda.

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