Monday, 3 November 2014

Life outside the brothel

I always asked folk not to ask me what it's like being back - leave it til November I would tell them. It is as if I am expected to have some kind of breakdown and zoom off back to the over-paying, foolish and sleepy end of the world again. Reasonable supposition I suppose as it was known that I did quite enjoy the hot weather, warm water, great beaches, over-priced beer and bar-life and all the trimmings of being a semi-detached  expat. (Why not western migrant worker?) I enjoy the kind of expat theatre that is just not on offer in rain swept, intelligence empty, Mail friendly, UKIP voting Thanet. And, at more irrational times you get the unhealthy thought that there may be something to be said about living in a theocratic dictatorship when fucking Farage is due to become your MP. That's very worrying on two counts and then you brush it away as, at least, the Muppets of UKIP can be voted out. Though some brother expats have a cheery admiration for the rancid Kippers - they are those for whom Little England totems such Marks and Spencer (the Daily Mail of shops?), Marmite and a Sunday roast are the acme of advanced civilization.

Still, the work here, though poorly paid  which has always been the default setting outside the Gulf brothel,  is amusing. It a short and pleasant walk from home rather than a Mad Max life and death struggle with loony signal shy, speeding tailgaters in blacked out SUVs.  Now I am only teaching intelligent adults, all on the IELTS 7 and above scale aside from the Gulf men of course who seem destined never to get beyond the 3.5 they left Saudi with. Shame their more motivated and interesting sisters are not allowed out. Doubtless, they would be unable to control themselves and  morph into lust filled jezebels and feckless harlots were they to ever be allowed out by the fear inducing father or Big Brother. A dose of shame would be hoist upon their families and the dodgy daughter would unable to marry their already DNA shy first cousin. Possibly.

Nonetheless, I do feel for these uprooted guys with none of the bluster and arrogance and even charm they have back home.  The news reporting of all things Arab and Islam cannot make them comfortable especially since the actions of Brother Isis are nowt to shout too loudly about which is of course why it's much easier to talk about football so long as its only the brands which are Barcefuckinglona and Bloody Real and then filtered down to the star player of each side.  So talking about the celebration of devils, ghosts and women in sexy witch costumes is way beyond the comprehension of the Gulfies.  Though Guy Fawkes, or at least its, anti-catholic origins, do spark some recognition all of which makes me regret not learning Arabic if only to find out what they say about their time in Kent and its devil worshipping not always sober men and women, children dressed as demons and  a pagan fire lust. Cultural diversity and understanding across the nations - 'tis a wonderful thing

Friday, 5 September 2014

A dose of nostalgia - fat bloke and his birds

Meant to post this way back but forgot / got distracted / couldn't be bothered but now far away in England at the far arse-end of a squib summer not returning to warm places a small burst of nostalgie took hold...

....taking a stroll along the mightily long length of the beautiful white sands of the Corniche on a recovery walk one Friday afternoon, bordering the warm blue welcoming Arabian Sea my mind was moved to poetry but fortunately wisdom and good taste prevailed.  Yes, at such a time you get to see many fine and interesting multi-cultural sights. Tories and other smaller UKIP style minds - if they can indeed be credited as such -  would foamingly sneer and hate it.

Usually, when the heat has become bearable, usually by about 5.00, the smooth white beaches are taken over by serious groups of lithe young men playing footy. They take it seriously and play at quite a good level in their ubiquitous Real or Barcebloodylona tops, or daringly for this region, no top at all. Were this the local beach in Kent, there would be a profusion of grey, pale, fat, tattooed wobbly, hairy guts and a good look it would not be - not even for the men. Ho ho.

Before the football boys emerge for their frolics, other wildlife is also at play including large Indian families having a bustling fragrant barbecue. Not an overcooked quarter pounder in sight nor, thankfully, can you see a packet of bloody Pringles - a crime against food if ever there was. Nor do they sport any wobbly tattooed bellies nor any shiny footy tops advertising loan sharks, viscous multi-nationals or iffy nations with not many laws against slavery or shite work conditions....(Emirates and Qatar just in case you missed it).

Non-Gulf Arabs abound too having a feed in which, contrary to petty prejudice and sullen stupidity, the sexes do mix. The women may wear a fashionable head scarf (not an oxymoron) and definitely no signs of ninja clothing at all - very elegant really. No baggy tracky bottoms here nor lumpy pink flesh with cheesy tattoos on show that's for sure unless you're a tacky Brit with various tendrils, names and dates graffiting the purulent pink flesh. Ah well cultural diversity - tis an a good thing.


And if you are a Brit you are likely to be snaffling a cheeky poorly camouflaged drink, if only because you can...(blushes as he writes)

On my way for a sundowner
There are plenty of tattoo free, easy-on- the- eye, scantily dressed Euros unselfconsciously sunbathing in the most self-conscious of ways that the knowingly easy-on-the-eye so do, while being most unself-consciously letched at and photoed  by the myriad foreign workers on their half-day off from the slavery, serfdom or bonded labour at one of the scores of building sites where European standards of  health and safety sadly do not apply and a hi-vis jacket or a hard hard  are, well, quite possibly,  to die for. They will often openly take photos of these women, and they are not that picky about the 'model' -  even the tattoo infested ones, to fuel or indeed satiate whatever frustrations they doubtlessly have away from their own or being socially, physically and psychologically hemmed in by crap pre-Dickensian labour laws and pre-Medieval bollocky uptight controlling religious precepts. A pretty iffy combination you will agree which makes you wonder, but not too much because we know, how bad things are for them to feel moved to leave their own people, villages and towns for an over-populated labour camp to be contracted out to local and western contractors. But anyway, this is just a stopgap for them because as we know they are all trying to get into Mother England...

European women conforming to local sensibilities
Ah well - fat bloke and his birds are there. A fat Gulf Arab bloke, for the ones on show are always fat, a sign of wealth apparently, in his Barcabloodylona shirt and shorts with bulging gut surrounded by a coterie of women around him - wife / wives, children perhaps but...always unlike hubby beautifully and elegantly turned out. No theologian me but there is surely something wrong that allows a fat slob to show off his clan yet appear a total slob and there are many like this.

Ah well, who am I to comment or pass judgement? Me, just an itinerant teacher, EFL at that,  passing through on my way to the Intercon for a recovery refreshment. But it is a pleasant few kilometers to stroll with a cheeky camouflaged bottle of something and a world away from the Blue Flag beaches of home..

...and I wish I were there now (sighs) Updated Nov 14, 2014

Thursday, 14 August 2014

'I tell you it's herpes I have...'

Well...what can you say? The immaculate, gorgeous but unpouting young Swiss lady in the group came into class at 9.00 with what I thought was toothpaste on her top lip...foolish me for quietly and discretely  pointing it out...however, in her in  best comedy German accent she declaimed in very certain terms 'nein Prentice, it is not toothpaste it is to be treating mein herpes' which she pointed with a dramatic but matter-of-fact flourish...shaking my head and not wishing to make a big deal of it, I explained that though she might be medically correct to refer to it as cold sore. She mulled this over and asked for clarification and found it did not compute. How could you call something which is one thing something else? After a few seconds she decided that it was not to be a cold sore but that she would be proud and importantly accurate in referring to her sore a an STi. Her choice....

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ramadan struggles....

Well, back in Britain now and doing a summer school a world away from the overheated Ramadan dry, uptight gender-segregated, pre-feudal semi-slave states of the I do not miss it. Maybe my time is done there and perhaps I will not make the return flight. It seems a good thing not to do.  This has been a nagging thought because aside from the bucketfulls of money...and the amusing ex-pat life in large paid for accommodation... and waiting list free health care ...and ...the easy teaching,  there is no other reason to in such Allah-forsaken cultural vacuums...nope none at all. A dreadful life.

In the meantime though this has been a bit of culture shock to say the least - summer clad pouty, leggy Italian and Thai women in the same classes with Ramadan dry Saudi, and Emirati males having a rough old time going 19 hours without food, drink or fags...their choice of course...all for an IELTS 4.5, eventually. I am quite enjoying the teaching and at times worry how deskilled I have become in the Gulf. My fault of course and before I returned there a few years back I was concerned that fucking Gove inspired micro-management, led by the loon-eyed head and the Northern Nazi (see past entries)  at the scummy academy in East Kent in the god-forsaken hole that is Herne Bay, had done the same...ah well, now I find teaching bright multi-national groups once again that no such thing had happened I could always teach it's just that if the materials are crap the outcome also is.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Hive Mind

The students I teach are truly wonderful. They are eager to learn, especially the girls who, imprisoned on campus have fewer distractions than the boys who have cars, footy (playing and watching) Chinese and Filipina women and illegal boozing and the odd spliff or derivative therein. Well, that's if you go with er...totally ....unfounded rumour and the lusting around the sex workers, for that is who they are, at the local 5* hotel bar.

Like young people in most places they have inquiring minds, a lust for learning and see their time here as one in which to develop and lay cliched foundations for themselves for the future. Some will stay in Oman with their lovely families (all families are lovely for that is the unarguable national consensus) some will go on all expenses paid courses in the UK or Australia. Yet, independence of thought is not always clearly in evidence as it isn't always in England. There is the perpetual fear of losing face of not singing from the same traditional conservative sheet. On their own the boys will be more open in front of their sisters the party line is followed which goes pretty much like this.

1. The Family is the most sacred and wonderful thing there can possibly be.
2. Allah is the dog's bollocks
3. Islam rocks
4. The Sultan is most munificent.

As an outsider I am in no position to engage in debate too much with any of the above apart from nos 1 to 4 but as a good and culturally sensitive migrant worker I would hardly dare deign to be so rude not least as confrontation and argument is least in front of the uber respected's lovely to have that instant respect just for being part of what is called one of the divine professions by my Indian colleagues.

Hive Mind is an interesting and sometimes annoying thing. The individual's opinion  is subsumed into that of the class. It is not as bad as it used to be now that I can judge when a subject may have raised a sceptical eye-brow. There will be murmurings in Arabic before the Head Man in the class or Woman expresses the group opinion. Disagreement, in front of me at least, is never openly expressed.Such a situation in which harmony of the group is more important than the view of the individual is interesting and perhaps does have something to be said for it. It's all we rather than I - imagine that in an English classroom.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Desperate begging letters

All very sad - the papers multi-marked, the grades entered and the studes mostly passed, well they ought to have as so much in the final exam had been covered including a couple of the easy unexercising essay titles. The upstanding British government provider of dodgy exams for wannabe migrants - the integrity filled for profit only ETS would have even been shamed...well, possibly not. Still, it seemed a friendly gift from those lovely folk in the testing department.  Those students on their third and final attempt even had the pass mark reduced to much mumbled mithering and furrowing of brows, shaking of heads,  and wholehearted lack of understanding from the hard-nosed westerners doing boring and staid things like well, following the guidelines and criteria. My local colleagues were more understandably understanding, or perhaps, if being ungracious, one might say over-indulgent of fellow futile failed members of the tribe / region / religion and would maybe move to make a clear Fail a euphemistic Partial Success (yes I know) and a PS a healthy high-fibre Pass by bumping the percentages up a few small notches. It goes on in the UK and other places too, I have been grubbily part of it simply following orders at the shit East Kent Coastal academy at which I lost some of my life. Sadly the sea has not reclaimed it yet and pulled it Carrie-like into Hades...then again that part of East Kent may perhaps already be have been claimed by Hades. I digress, I hate to be part of that - but at least after much arguing we have got double blind marking in. About time too but not much will change until IELTS or some such is brought in before students need to go overseas for an all expenses paid MA. Nice.

For sure it is not the most academically rigourous of places and wilfully blinded eyes are turned from the blatant cheating / helping that goes on among the studes (and indeed teachers) to the righteous huffing and puffing of some folk who then cannot be bothered to follow it up thus making Us and Them complicit. Cheating is not a concept widely understood - a cooperative spirit is entrenched by religion and of course the needs of generations of life in a horribly harsh inhospitable climate so yes, I can understand the difficulty people have in being told by a godless foreigner not to your tribal cousin or family member or co-religionist? Moreover, there is a largely unspoken understanding that the Wise Leader does not want bored, angry and frustrated young people going around ungainfully employed not least as that could lead to another leak in power and authority and that would never do, so just pass everyone or at least give them Partial Success otherwise it's the inevitably futile attempt at getting an IELTS 5 to continue as many of our studes, especially the boys are simply not capable or arsed to try do that.

So while supposedly enjoying my break in the sodden, wind, rain and sewage lashed south of England I am being inundated by begging mails from desperate boys asking me to check their triple checked marks for all sorts of errors beyond theirs. They will have to either re-do the year or term or try to pull a bit of wasta (influence) with the Powers That Be none of whom are godless infidels. Those students that succeeded sent me lots of rightfully happy emails praising Allah with no mention of their teachers. Those that failed of course blame the teachers and NOT the most munificent Allah who pre-ordained  their futile failure. Good logic at work as ever. 

....but (sighs) as it is all the Will of Allah does any of it really matter...?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street - hypocrite's cut

Great - a day off to nurse the well earned head courtesy of the 1,514th birthday of the Prophet so I took myself quietly to the cinema. Now here in Muscat there is usually worse than extremely bugger all on to watch unless you like loud noisy boom boom bang bang films aimed at excitable gangs of 12 year old boys brought up on inappropriate video games. Or maybe you have a penchant for loud and noisy Bollywood. If so, then Muscat is good place to be. As such, I've virtually stopped looking at the local film cinema guides as there has, for me in my philistine way,  been so little point.  However I recently heard tell that a new Scorcese film was in town so that had to be good. Moreover, it was a chance midweek to watch a film, The Wolf of Wall Street, away from the TV screen. All good.

The Muscat cinema experience is always but I have got used to the chomping, crunching, late arrivals, small children and the cursed use of phones. I can live with that. I can even tolerate the rancid cheap stench of nachos and glowing industrial cheese. I know that scenes of an nature are usually inexpertly cut and, but as I get older,  I often think that they do not add much to a decent narrative. What I was not expecting though was that Mummy had decided to cut all the swearing, although they did uselessly miss quite a few words to giggles. Fools.  At first I thought it might be some new smart Scorcese style editing but now realise that it was done to protect the sensitive ears from such terrible and offensive language. I am not sure who they were trying to protect as, in my experience, the youth of the world are pretty fluent at basic English / American swearing.

Yet, the Wise Ones who distribute the film to the oh so sensitive souls of the Gulf have deemed that the scenes involving boozing - those Martinis and red wines sure looked good - the drug taking - less good - those could stay. Completely haram and nasty to the average subject here, supposedly anyway. Yet those irreligious scenes were all left in but as the protagonist is a Jewish American Mummy, (or should it be Daddy?) may have thought that is was OK to leave in? I have since read in The National over in the noisy,  UAE that Daddy there was responsible for the cutting out of 45 mins  - 25% of the film. Why bother? It concerns the sort of glitz, classlessness and excess that has built that nation. Yet they also left in a telling scene in which cousin marriage, the norm in the region, was duly examined, laughed and sneered at by the di Caprio character to uncomfortable giggles among the audience.

So you know what you are getting. Not the original reasonably well-reviewed film but one which has been hacked, not well re-edited and qualitatively different to what you were supposed to be getting. Perhaps for the oh so super-sensitive children of the Gulf it should be retitled The Wolf of Wall Street - The Hypocrite's Cut?

Just a thought.

Monday, 6 January 2014

It's all god's will innit?

Road rage never had it - always other people - driving is driving is driving. I am of course the best driver going, never had an accident on car or motorbike and all the other blah in a 100 years of driving. I could take the rubbish driving of parts of Asia and most of the Arab world in which I have been with an amused and cheery wry smile - not least as they make good stories. Hereabouts, you can always throw in the Will of the Most Munificent but very angry local unknowable divinity back at folk who bemoan the death of a friend when he, for it is mostly a he,  almost certainly wasn't wearing a seat belt provided for by the same thoughtful one and given the freedom to drive a Very Big Car like a young teenage twat even though he maybe 30.

I digress - for the first time in my life I stopped my car mid-road nearly causing the work bus tailgating me at too high a speed down a homeward bound busy road. Usually you just ignore it as part of what goes on and carry on your merry way home singing along to your music. However, the foul fool had been flashing me for the previous mile or two desperate to be ahead of me in the busy line despite the lack of much movement or any open road or option for me to change lanes as there is only lane ill-discipline. I carried and stopped safely at the lights of course, which here are optional, and in Malcolm Tucker mode calmly strode out and I politely bashed on the driver's side door which he warily opened and gave a volley of fluent Spanish abuse which needed no translation. The cretin, head down,  didn't answer,  had lost face, the Bangladeshi semi-slave workers I suppose being taken back to their rotten quarters, were struggling to hide their sniggering a (a small victory in their exploited lives) for the beltless twatty driver had lost face to an obvious infidel (which must never happen) and worse still in front of them, the Derided, the Used,  the Exploited co-religionists. Best of all as culture dictates, said driver had to ever so humbly apologise which is better than getting the punch in the mouth I would have possibly got back home.

...and why launch the magnificent volley in Spanish? Well, on the Middle Eastern rumour circuit there are terrible tales, sometimes in the unreliable press,  of  folk being jailed for road rage finger giving and of course English swearing is one of our finer exports which can also land you in trouble with Plod whereas life threatening driving seems to gain respect. This is ungood, double plus ungood indeed and certainly a sign of something. There are plenty of clips of Drifting online which is a popular past time among bored youth here

The backed up traffic hadn't really noticed and it was all over before the lights changed. Road rage really isn't done, and rightly so, doing  it as a guest worker in a foreign country, albeit one with a gold  level passport, is just rude like being a bad guest in someone else's country like the many expats who regularly drink to excess and drive.  Driving like a tosser with the divine wind of a well-known deity behind you is an accepted part of the or so it seems. It is, I believe, the highest cause of death among the under 30s in the Gulf. So why did I allow my usual amused cool to be lost and become a rude and crass expat wanker? Pulling over was not possible - signalling and slowing down are not part of the macho compensating-for-a-little-dick road culture so worryingly I guess I saw red and allowed my inner- arrogant scumbag expat to emerge.