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A newbie with an unusual story...
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 5:43 pm    Post subject: A newbie with an unusual story... Reply with quote

I'm interested in (actually committed to) teaching ESL for some unusual reasons.

I am currently a (male) US citizen engaged to a Pakistani woman. Given the the efficiency of the US INS and the current political climate here, I'm confident that we'll quickly obtain a visa for her. (Hopefully the sarcasm of the previous remark is obvious.)

Given that I'm now in a position where my long-term ties in the US are practically nonexistent, it becomes desirable for me to spend some time abroad where I can marry my fiancee and live together for a while until it becomes possible and convenient to return to the US. I'm not at all averse to spending some years abroad.

I've decided on ESL as my method of supporting myself overseas. I'm not a professional educator, nor do I have any desire to pursue a long-term career in education. However, I'm a serious and intelligent person, and I strive to do my best at any endeavor I turn my hand to.

I've done enough research to believe that teaching English is doable. However, I'm seeking advice that might address my unusual situation more directly; any that is offered would be greatly appreciated.

I'm working under the following constraints:

My fiancee is Pakistani. That restricts my choice of countries to teach in. Japan, Korea and Singapore are probably not options; I doubt they would would permit my fiancee into the country even if we were married. Additionally, both of us are absolutely opposed to living in an Islamic country.

I do not have a college degree. although I was able to build a career as a computer programmer without any degree. I've been programming computers for more than twenty years, however, and I'm tired of it (not to mention that technology jobs in the US are now few and far between). I've already enrolled at TESL International in Thailand, which seems to come highly recommended.

I'm flexible in my personal needs. I understand that I'm not going to get rich teaching English; I have no requirements above reasonable subsistence and the ability to marry and live with my fiancee. I'm well travelled and have no illusions about the universiality of American culture or standards.

Please feel free to write me directly at lrhamelin@yahoo.com

Thanks in advance Smile
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alobar,

First, let me clear up a minor distinction that seems to confuse a lot of people. ESL is English that is taught in a country of native English speakers. EFL (what I believe you are referring to) is English taught in a country of non-native English speakers. Some strategies differ between ESL and EFL.

Second, I found it interesting that you mentioned Japan (where I live), even though you discounted it as an option for you. Can I ask why you brought it up? (Even if you do decide to come here, you will find it nearly impossible to find work because you are an American without a degree, and that means you can't get a work visa.)

Quote:
I've decided on ESL as my method of supporting myself overseas. I'm not a professional educator, nor do I have any desire to pursue a long-term career in education.

Best advice I'd give is if you plan to teach, get some training. TEFL certification seems to be your best route. No sense going overseas without the background if you are trying to support a family.

And, what are your long-term goals, if they aren't related to teaching?
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski wrote:
First, let me clear up a minor distinction that seems to confuse a lot of people. ESL is English that is taught in a country of native English speakers.


Thanks. I do understand this; I was using the term generically.

Quote:
Second, I found it interesting that you mentioned Japan (where I live), even though you discounted it as an option for you. Can I ask why you brought it up?


Simply--as you note--as an example of a country in which it would be impossible to work given any one of my constraints. And to prove I've done a little homework.

Quote:
Best advice I'd give is if you plan to teach, get some training. TEFL certification seems to be your best route.


No argument there.

Quote:
And, what are your long-term goals, if they aren't related to teaching?


To be honest, I don't have any right now. My short term goals are to be with my fiancee/wife, travel around a few years and have fun. I'll probably return the the US... eventually. Life is uncertain: Eat dessert first.
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Roger



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear alobar,
I don't normally advise unqualified folks to take a paid holiday-*beep*-teaching job in China, but in your case I am fairly confident you would show some loyalty to a school and its students and thus not become a burden on them. Generally speaking, you can get a job in China easily enough without being a real teacher.
The fact that China's education system is so hopelessly embedded in a time warp is your blessing. They want to have as many native English speakers as possible to give their learners the false impression of being totally immersed in an English-speaking environment.

I don't know if your fiancee likes the idea of moving here. Does she require halal food? In that case, it would be a little difficult for her to adapt! There are some Muslim restaurants almost anywhere, but I am not always sure of halal quality of their foods!
Also, people from the Subcontinent face a special type of Chinese bias. It is not going to be physical, but your wife no doubt will become aware of it and suffer from it. In Hong Kong, the attitude of locals who have for generations seen Indian and Pakistani businesspeople, some of whom have recently obtained HK citizenship rights, has shown strong xenophobic tendencies, with old Chinese ladies proclaiming "Indians smell badly" and ostentatiously moving away from a seat in a public bus occupied by a person from the Subcontinent! On a more positive side, I am confident that people on the mainland do not show their displeasure in such a drastic manner. Still, this is a realistic warning! We all have to be a little thick-skinned, including whites!

Your wife could probably qualify for a dependent's visa. Some schools go this extra mile to get you as one of their staff. I don't know if your fiancee will be happy spending all day by herself, though.

You must also bear in mind that you cannot save a lot of the money that you make here, and you stand to save even less if the two of you depend on your income. Count on an average 5000 RMB per month. It is easy enough to make more - on occasion, but not permanently!

And also, you need to save some money for emergencies such as losing your job *and being unhoused as a consequence) as well as for medical problems!
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roger wrote:
Dear alobar,
I don't normally advise unqualified folks to take a paid holiday-*beep*-teaching job in China, but in your case I am fairly confident you would show some loyalty to a school and its students and thus not become a burden on them.


Thank you. I am indeed a professional, in attitude if not presently in credentials. I'm also not treating this as a holiday, but rather as alternative employment.

Quote:
Generally speaking, you can get a job in China easily enough without being a real teacher.


This is encouraging news! Especially as China has good diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

Are there any other countries where finding a job wouldn't be prohibitively difficult without a degree?

Quote:
I don't know if your fiancee likes the idea of moving here. Does she require halal food?


These sorts of requirements are categorically not an issue for us. As Islamic countries take their religion rather seriously, please forgive me if I don't elaborate.

Quote:
Also, people from the Subcontinent face a special type of Chinese bias. It is not going to be physical, but your wife no doubt will become aware of it and suffer from it.


As, probably, will I. I don't expect any society to be more racially enlightened than the United States, and we, of course, have an unblemished record on racial equality.

Quote:
Your wife could probably qualify for a dependent's visa. Some schools go this extra mile to get you as one of their staff. I don't know if your fiancee will be happy spending all day by herself, though.


Is it realistic to expect reasonable library and/or internet access?

Quote:
You must also bear in mind that you cannot save a lot of the money that you make here, and you stand to save even less if the two of you depend on your income.


Indeed. This seems to be a recurring theme everywhere in the less westernized areas of Asia. Fortunately our needs are modest, and I have some capital.
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Roger



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Internet access is as good as in some Western countries although there is official monitoring and spying, but I have had no run-in with authorities so far.
Libraries? Big cities usually have, but the foreign language publications reading rooms differ widely from place to place!
The best-equipped so far that I have seen was Shenzhen City Library. It had dailies from Hong Kong, Russia, Britain and the USA, plus a rather wide assortment of weeklies and monthlies.
As for Guangzhou, the city library is not well-stocked (I am not talking about the books' section!). I guess Shanghai and Peking are better.
What might add a little lustre to your life here is the expat scene. Guangzhou has now a fairly diverse expat community, with Muslims from many different countries, Indians, Thais, Japanese, Koreans, Filippinos, and last but not least Westerners.
If your wife can speak good English, can you envisage her working in a kindergarten? She might like it, and the kids might like her! (In spite of adult prejudices!).
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 21 Feb 2003
Posts: 4124

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Alobar,

From discusstions on the programmming forum I frequent it appears that a salary of $50,000 is for a "loser" or somebody working part time.

Your salary in Thailand or China is likely to be under $10,000 a year. That is to say most TEFL jobs pay less than the US minimum wage, and in your new career and location you will be bottom of the pile as an EFL teacher.

Any institiution that cares about quality of teaching, and would be willing to reward you for your undoubted qualites, would be highly unlikely to hire you in the first place.

When you see threads on this forum from qualified, experienced teachers with a degree, asking if it is possible to support a wife/family and work in EFL, then the warning bells should ring.

Does your wife-to-be know she is in line for a life of penury and chronic insecurity?

Remember that despite your not having any formal training you have managed to carve a niche for yourself in your chosen field and location. You are about to throw it all away to start at the bottom of the heap in a country where you don't even speak the language and your wife will be the recipient of racially motivated slurs and indecent propositions.

And when you decide to go back to the States you will find that as a degreelses programmmer with no experience in the latest alphabet soup to add to your resume, you will be unemployable there except as a burger flipper - and don't talk about starting from the bottom up again on a help desk; those jubs will all have been outsourced to India and the Philipines.

Your best hope is that like most programmers you find out that your personality is incompatible with teaching, or that your fiancee dumps you early on and you can get back to the States before it is too late.

Enjoy!
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stephen Jones wrote:
From discusstions on the programmming forum I frequent it appears that a salary of $50,000 is for a "loser" or somebody working part time.


This is a bit of an overstatement. In my locality (Denver), even minimal jobs such as these are rare, and have a thousand people chasing after them.

Quote:
... in your new career and location you will be bottom of the pile as an EFL teacher.


Happily, I am unconcerned with my place in any pile. I merely wish to live.

Quote:
Any institiution that cares about quality of teaching, and would be willing to reward you for your undoubted qualites, would be highly unlikely to hire you in the first place.


As noted earlier, I do not demand any kind of substantial reward.

Quote:
When you see threads on this forum from qualified, experienced teachers with a degree, asking if it is possible to support a wife/family and work in EFL, then the warning bells should ring.


They do indeed ring. It doesn't seem that EFL teaching is an easy way to earn a standard of living available in the US.

Quote:
Does your wife-to-be know she is in line for a life of penury and chronic insecurity?


My wife-to-be has already had a life of not only penury and insecurity, but also outright oppression, persecution and violence. The lack of American-style luxury will not bother her. Moreover, I do not intend to do this for a lifetime, only one to three years.

Quote:
You are about to throw it all away to start at the bottom of the heap in a country where you don't even speak the language and your wife will be the recipient of racially motivated slurs and indecent propositions.


My present situation is more complicated than you assume, and outside the scope of this discussion. In any event, I am not seeking lifestyle advice.

Quote:
And when you decide to go back to the States you will find that as a degreelses programmmer with no experience in the latest alphabet soup to add to your resume, you will be unemployable there except as a burger flipper - and don't talk about starting from the bottom up again on a help desk; those jubs will all have been outsourced to India and the Philipines.


While I appreciate your comments, I'm well-aware of the standards and limitations of the technology industry, but these considerations are also outside the scope of this discussion.

Quote:
Your best hope is that like most programmers you find out that your personality is incompatible with teaching, or that your fiancee dumps you early on and you can get back to the States before it is too late.


Thank you for your words of encouragement. You must be a lot of fun at parties. Smile


Last edited by Alobar on Sun Apr 06, 2003 6:40 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roger wrote:
Internet access is as good as in some Western countries although there is official monitoring and spying, but I have had no run-in with authorities so far.


Indeed. I'm not particularly worried about monitoring; neither my fiancee nor I plan on doing anything seditious. As a guest in any country, I don't consider it appropriate to criticize their government or society.

Quote:
The best-equipped so far that I have seen was Shenzhen City Library.


Valuable information! Thank you!

Quote:
As for Guangzhou, the city library is not well-stocked (I am not talking about the books' section!).


Beg pardon? I'm sincerely puzzled. What else other than books would a library be stocked with?

Quote:
If your wife can speak good English, can you envisage her working in a kindergarten? She might like it, and the kids might like her! (In spite of adult prejudices!).


If possible, this would be ideal. My fiancee is college-educated and speaks and writes English better than most Americans.


Last edited by Alobar on Sun Apr 06, 2003 6:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps it's helpful to restate my position more concisely.

My government puts me in the position of either or living abroad or being separated from my fiancee for a year or more. I've chosen to live abroad.

I have a skill: I am a native English speaker, and a literate and articulate speaker at that. It seems possible to exploit this skill to support myself while I live abroad. And while I don't plan to make education a long-term career, I will conduct myself professionally.

I have no doubts about my ability to make a good living when I return to the US. I'm intelligent, personable, capable and hard-working; there are plenty of opportunities in the US for a guy like me.

What I need for the next one to three years is the ability to support a subsistence lifestyle. I mean "subsistence" literally: We want enough to eat and a clean, warm and dry place to sleep, and a little extra for internet/library access and the occasional bottle of beer. Neither I nor my fiancee have any but the simplest tastes. Both of us are, by nature, scholars and philosophers.

My most urgent need is to find a country where it is possible to earn a subsistence living without a college degree and that will admit a Pakistani spouse of a US citizen. And I need advice for establishing myself and operating there.

China has been suggested as a possibility. Are there any others? I've received mixed signals about Thailand. Some say it's almost impossible to work there without a degree; others claim it's relatively easy. How about Cambodia? Laos? Vietnam?
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Paul G



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 125
Location: China & USA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2003 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You seem to be getting a lot of feedback about the teaching situation, so I will leave that alone. But are you aware that it takes the INS about one-half the time to process a fiance visa as it does for them to process a spouse visa?

If time is a factor for you, and you and your future wife don't mind cohabitating sans the blessing of marriage, the fiance visa is the way to go. Also, if it is all possible, try to get acquainted with one of your local congressmembers or senators prior to leaving the US. At least get the contact information for all of them. They all have staff members that handle problems with the INS and you should contact them immediately if your application is not handled quickly. Make sure that you have copies of all the documents the INS will require before you head overseas (tax returns, birth certificate, certified copies of divorce papers, etc.). MAKE SURE that you accompany your fiance/wife to the required interview at the US embassy in her home country. Those guys love to deny applications and tell women that they are faking a relationship to get a green card. If you are present, you can make sure that the application is approved.

There have been some recent changes to the refugee status criteria. If you haven't done so already, you should check to see if she fits into one of the refugee niches. If she does, all of this is moot and she can go to the US immediately.

Good luck!
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2003 3:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul G wrote:
But are you aware that it takes the INS about one-half the time to process a fiance visa as it does for them to process a spouse visa?


I am indeed. US Immigration law follows the will of the American people, who are generally quite xenophobic, and the bugetary philosophy of the Republican party, which is (unless you're a big campaign donor) positively stingy.

We're about halfway through a fiancee visa, but her situation has become entirely untenable. I'm in a double-bind, though. If I don't marry her sooner rather than later, she's stuck in Pakistan. If I marry her to keep her out of Pakistan, it makes it much harder for me to bring her to the US. Given her situation, returning to Pakistan is physically dangerous for her.

Cohabitation isn't an issue. What's at issue is that Pakistan is near the bottom rung of world status. Without the support of her parents (and we most definitely do not have their support), it's difficult getting even a tourist visa for Thailand. As my fiancee, she has no rights; as my spouse we have more options.

Quote:
There have been some recent changes to the refugee status criteria...


I discussed this possibility with an immigration attorney. It's a desperation ploy: The procedure is very onerous, requiring illegal entry and subsequent incarceration in an INS prison. The risk of failure is high and the consequences of failure--deportation and permanent exclusion from the US--are severe.

I've given this a lot of thought. I've decided, rightly or wrongly, that the best bet is to live with her abroad until she can get a US visa. It takes about a year to get a spouse visa, and I'll probably sign a one-year teaching contract, so the timing is not too bad.

Granted, a tiny cold-water apartment in South Asia isn't a deluxe penthouse suite in Manhattan. But I've been to Bangkok, and travelled a bit in China and Thailand. They don't seem like a hell-holes, and from the stories I've heard, even bottom-tier EFL teachers aren't living in mud huts and drinking out of open sewers.
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2003 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alobar wrote:
Quote:
There have been some recent changes to the refugee status criteria...


I discussed this possibility with an immigration attorney. It's a desperation ploy...


My apologies. I've confused refugee status with asylum. Looking at the criteria, it does seem worth a shot. Thanks for the tip!
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12165
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2003 5:22 am    Post subject: Advice Reply with quote

Sometimes people ask for advice and then do not want to hear what is said. You will have a hard time regardless of what you do. Getting a teacahing job without a degree is possible but do you know what it is like to be poor in a foreign country. Maybe you have have capital so that does not worry you.

I am sorry to see another non-teacher who sees TEFL as a solution to his life problems.
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Alobar



Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 28
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2003 11:25 am    Post subject: Re: Advice Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
Sometimes people ask for advice and then do not want to hear what is said.


I do want to hear what is said. I'm certainly taking your advice to heart. Please listen to what I'm saying as well.

Quote:
You will have a hard time regardless of what you do.


I understand it's hard. Please understand that I am not afraid of hardship.

Quote:
Getting a teacahing job without a degree is possible but do you know what it is like to be poor in a foreign country.


The question is, how poor? Poor as in living in a mud hut drinking out of sewers? Or poor as in not having a car, not having a 401(k), not being able to run to a doctor every time I have a cough?

Quote:
Maybe you have have capital so that does not worry you.


I have enough to cover an emergency or two, but not enough to live without working.

Quote:
I am sorry to see another non-teacher who sees TEFL as a solution to his life problems.


This is a case, I think, where you're not listening to me. I am most emphatically not looking to TEFL as a solution to my life's problems, I'm looking to it as a solution to a particular short-term problem. No, I'm not, and never will be, a career educator. But it seems that there's quite a lot of grunt work that needs to be done, and a considerable shortage of people with Masters degrees in education. I'm honest, intelligent, and hard working, a native English speaker, and I'm willing to drop a fair amount of money and time to get at least fundamental training.
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