Asian American · Thailand

Rant about men and work in the Land of Smiles

I’m a little angry at myself.

I was talking to a friend about my ex-boyfriends. You know, the real gritty gruel ones, the ones you regretted, the ones that made you wonder why you tolerated that shit.

Then I saw on Twitter that Ajarn.com had responded to my post Mistakes New Teachers Make by tweeting:

twitter

This all got me thinking, why do we settle? Why do we settle for less than what we expect, and less than best?

Well, in the case of teaching English in Thailand, we aren’t considered a commodity or a novelty anymore. And like many teachers around the world, where the profession isn’t valued, we get shafted. In Thailand, we are told it’s a pleasure to work here and therefore, we can’t command any better working conditions or pay.

At my own lovely language school, I’ve watched our schedule change from 5 days a week to working 6 days a week. Some of us fought it for a bit, but slowly over time, everyone has had to ‘get on board’ or presumably get eaten by the dark sharks of fate.

When we discovered that we were making less money than another branch, there was protesting and we won. So why don’t we do this more often?

I have a couple of theories. One involves things changing at a graduated rate, a schedule that allows our minds to adjust to new ideas/issues. You know, kind of like the frog in hot water analogy.  And the other of course, is all about the fear factor. We’re afraid to rock the boat, swim out on our own and simply dive in cold uncharted waters.

With work, we get scared about losing our livelihood. We’ve been programmed to believe we are replaceable and expendable. With relationships, it’s all about wanting to be liked and loved. If you think about it, they are different sides of the same boat.  I mean, I know I’m not the only one who has stayed in a job or a relationship longer than I should have.

And I’m writing this mainly to get out those icky feelings of self-repulsiveness cause I keep thinking about those damn men I got involved with. In Thailand, it’s a little bit of that “scarcity” mentality. Many folks believe a woman like me doesn’t have the desirable staying POWER that other men or women have.

First of all, who would have thought? An American Asian teaching English in Thailand? An American Asian in a romantic relationship in Thailand? No, no, no. Girls like me aren’t wanted by men because I’m not fully native. I’m not (*blink, blink*) really Thai. Guys want the Thai girls, the red hot deal.

Thais want an Anglo Saxonite to teach the English language. I’m not Caucasian (despite my last name), I’m not white (mostly yellow and brown), so I’m not a good representation of the FACE FIRST mentality that permeates Asia’s ideal of an English teacher.

I remember when coworkers tried to justify this to me, like you’d want to learn how to cook Thai food from a Thai or Salsa dance from a Latino. Same same. It’s an old school way of thinking that I understand, and I’m grateful to be an example against the norm (along with JP – holla!). Personally, I’d rather learn from the best and looking the part doesn’t necessarily denote anything more. Ahem.

All this to say – I have fears of my own. Fears that hold me back from being fearless. This is why I think I got into those horrible relationships. Now to be fair, one was way more horrible than the other, but the other was very recent and that makes me feel discouraged – like, shouldn’t I have pulled my shit together by now?

I guess not. It seems easier at the moment to prove to others that a woman like me can be the very things that I’m not supposed to be because I’m an American Asian, an ABC (American Born Chinese/or Canadian for those up there) living in Tailandia.

Now you might be wondering, Lani, who told you that you couldn’t find an English teaching job? or find a fan in Thailand? *Smirk* A lot of friends and well-meaning folks. In fact, I left Thailand after 9 months of not finding that EFL job. Sometimes I wonder if I “bought in to it”.

After my ex- and I finally went our separate ways, I kept telling myself not to believe what everyone seemed to be saying, you know, the guys here are simply not interested in girls like you. Which brings me back to feelings of self-loathing for getting into that sometimes happy usually heinous relationship in the first place – it frog boils down to this – scarcity and fear.

I didn’t think I bought into it, but I did. Even if it was just a little bit. It was enough to stick around, to hang around, to believe there is only so much to go around. So that’s why I’m angry at myself.  I just hate that feeling: I thought I already learned that lesson! Because let’s face it, there is no cure for ‘I fucked up’, except not to do it again.

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6 thoughts on “Rant about men and work in the Land of Smiles

  1. Is “frog boils” a verb now? I’ve never seen anyone use that as a verb, and I like it.

    Schools have gone from being semi-altruistic – with notions of educating the community and everything associated with such noble aims – to becoming cut-throat businesses dedicated to maximizing short-term profit at all costs, including ripping the teachers AND the students. Somewhere near the top of the school food-chain is a businessman with an insatiable appetite for excesses of disposable income, which, unfortunately means cutting into teachers’ living wages. It’s not even possible to be a career ESL/EFL teacher and retire because there are no benefits. One would end one’s career with enough to keep afloat for a number of months and then become homeless or equivalent. Long term teachers are those who have other reasons or means for staying, because teaching can only sustain their lives a month at a time. The EFL/ESL assignment has become a short term gig for green kids just out of college, easily replaceable by the next wave of graduates eager to see the world.

    Do men want the REAL Thai girls? I’ve thought about the preference for Asian girls in Asia, and I remember being a little jarred by hearing a guy from New York talking about wanting to meet a Chinese girl from China. I thought, “Open your door, and go outside. There are tons of Chinese and Asian women everywhere in NY.” So, as a bit of a controlled experiment, one quickly discovers that many men would not like at all the same exact girl, appearance wise, if she lived in their home country and was raised there. Why? The simple answer is the attractive young Asian “girl” in their own country is on their own playing field economically speaking, and probably out of their league (really, how often does one see a frumpy old dude with an attractive young woman half his age, and body weight, fawning on him in the West?). She wouldn’t even look at them. Beyond that, she wouldn’t be subservient, docile, and all that. Men’s preference would quickly change to white girls if they could shoot them like fish in a barrel as easily as they can the Asian girls in the “developing” world. Just think of Thailand as a “Bargain Sale” for girls, and men as thrifty shoppers with limited budgets.

    Are teachers easily replaceable? Yes, in the same way presidents are. There’s always someone who will take the job. Teaching is treated like a bottom rung factory job, but in reality is a highly skilled profession and good teachers are difficult to replace, especially as compensation keeps shriveling. In short, teachers can be replaced easily (though many would quit pretty fast as well once in the crucible of the language school environment), but good teachers can not.

    Lastly, I think the preference for “white” teachers is largely in the consumers’ mind, and the business moguls will provide the product most likely to turn over the biggest profit. Sadly, a lot of schools don’t want to hire the Asian teachers who speak fluent English and have decided to come back to their home countries. Not only do those teachers not look foreign enough, they also might have connections and may be less easy to take advantage of.

    Oh crap, did I write more in my response than the original post?

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    1. Well said smeag. I particularly like the ‘bargain sale’ for girls bit. And of course, keeping an open mind.

      I’ve found that when I have a ‘fantasy’ guy in mind or fall in love with an idea or story of how we met, I am bitterly (yes, bitterly) disappointed. In my xp it’s better to be pleasantly surprised. We get real particular about love and romance and that’s when whopping problems can sneak in.

      Like I said, my xp….as far as EFL teaching, it’s a grim dead end but I do enjoy it. Sad but true. And as an AA in Ecuador and Thailand, my students treated me like nothing less that what I am – a teacher.

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  2. I’m also Asian American (living in Singapore now and have lived in LoS before).

    My younger sister, who got nearly perfect score in English SAT, at at time, was accepted to an Ivy-league law school (same on Michelle Obama went to), had prestigious ibanking experience – I’m building up my sis’s cred here – faced similar discrimination when she went back to the motherland for a year and tried to teach English. She was offered lower wage than non-native English speaking person from an European country.

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    1. Wow. That sucks. But I’m not surprised. It’s a shame though, when we allow our perceived perceptions to close our minds to a different experience.

      How’s Singapore? 🙂

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  3. Lani,

    I think you need to drop by for a visit to your old Uncle Hugh. Being a Chinese/American myself and having taught here in Thailand, I think I can give you some good advice. And being a guy, I can help you with your search for a “better” companion. Since it is still about 100 degrees every day I am almost always home.

    Cheers

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    1. Oh Uncle Hugh! You gave me a big wide grin this morning! Thanks for the picker upper. Yes, a visit is overdue…I have some time off coming soon 🙂

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