Abrupt Change

As of yesterday, June 5, I am no longer teaching online with Live-English.  There is one student, in particular, who I will be sorry to lose, Du Yang in Shenzhen.  Unfortunately I have no way to contact him other than through Live-English.  His English improved greatly in the short time that I worked with him on almost a daily basis.  We were beginning to enjoy great conversations as he gained in confidence and fluency in speaking English.  I believe that online English instruction one-on-one with a teacher is the best way for a student to improve their English quickly, especially for those who haven’t had much practice with speaking.

I was unable to teach my online students yesterday because of interference with our Skype connection.  The calls kept being dropped, the sound was being pulsed so that I could not understand what students were saying even though I could hear them.  The video came through clearly at first, but then soon broke up and then turned into a static screen with a bilious green color.

The first time it happened, I tried to call the student from the Live-English website instead, but I couldn’t find his name.  When I tried to access the student pull-down list of names, it only gave me names ending A-L.  The list had been cut in half.  I wasn’t able to access the full list… and my student’s name ended in S.  So I called Stephanie at Live-English, who was not at all supportive.  When I told her that there was a problem with the website, she didn’t believe me, and thought it was incompetence on my part.

Finally, she berated me for not doing what I should to overcome these technical problems.  I said that I didn’t think that I was tech-savvy enough to do this.  I did not care for her way of dealing with these problems, which was the same M/O she’d used previous times when I needed support, so I quit.  I was too frustrated with problems with Skype, but also problems with her service and her attitude.

But I am sorry to lose Du Yang as a student.

I like teaching online and I’m going to start my own consulting service as an ESL teacher.  If you know of anyone who would like to study English with me online, I am charging $20 an hour.  I can be reached at my email address:  libertyferall@gmail.com

Back in Kuala Lumpur

I’ve been back in Kuala Lumpur for 13 days now, and it’s been eventful.  At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the faster pace of the city and dazzled by all the people.  I realized that I’d been suffering from sensory underload at the beach; I hadn’t even realized that I was feeling deprived of all the sensual stimuli of living among a density of people.  I am learning that despite my love of nature, I am truly a city person.  All I knew was that I was too lonely, and that my life lacked zest.

Although I had a job interview at a language school a couple days after I arrived, the woman I’d scheduled the interview with had apparently forgotten all about it as she wasn’t there and the staff were not expecting me.  I think she was giving me the interview as a favor to a friend, and didn’t want to hire me for just a couple of months, as I’d told her about my job at UCSI starting in August.

I’d already arranged to volunteer at Hostel Cosmopolitan doing housekeeping in exchange for a place to stay, so that’s what I fell back to.  I could look for other work that pays, but as I already have a little income with my online students, this should see me through until I start teaching at UCSI.

I walked into a trying situation at the hostel, though.  There was a guy from Sri Lanka, a big, handsome man, who had apparently swindled three Philippine guests out of a couple thousand ringgit, promising them jobs at his sister’s new restaurant in Germany.  It was all under the table, of course, so when he cancelled their airline tickets ten minutes after going with them to the ticket agency to buy them, and pocketed the money that got refunded, the police were not very helpful when the matter was reported.

The Philippine woman cried and the other guests took her side.  They decided to carry out a citizen’s arrest of the fellow.  Loud voices in the kitchen woke me up that first morning at the hostel.  I went out on one of the computers in the lounge, but the altercation between a highly aggressive, verbally violent young Dutch man and the Sri Lankan moved within a couple feet of where I was sitting.

Thief and con man or not, the Sri Lankan fellow handled himself well, and stayed in control of himself despite taunts and threats from the Dutch fellow.  I was displeased and taken aback at the prospect of a scuffle when the Dutch guy threatened to slap the Sri Lankan, and intervened to calm things down (without really knowing what was going on).  The Dutch guy backed off then, and sat at another computer, saying that he didn’t want a fellow like that continuing to stay at the hostel.

I told him that I wasn’t sure that I wanted someone like himself staying at the hostel, that his manner and speech was violent.  He told me the story of the swindle, and I asked him if he’d witnessed it or was the woman crying the only proof he had of what had happened.  Apparently it was, but it wasn’t sufficient evidence to me.  It had convinced all the other guests, though.  And maybe the Philippines were swindled; I’ll never know they cleared out at the same time the Sri Lankan did.

The Dutch guy felt thwarted by my intervention and blamed me for letting the Sri Lankan guy get away.  He continued to assault me verbally when I encountered him a couple times afterwards.  He was friends with Zara, the young Malaysian woman who worked the front desk, and Zara was friends with Noemi, my roommate in the dorm.  Zara was coming in and out of the dorm at night, continually waking me up by turning the light on every time she came in.  Mostly she just wanted to use the mirror in the room to comb her hair.  I asked her politely not to come into the room at night when I was sleeping.  She didn’t see any reason to stop because she was friends with Noemi, who was also in the dorm.

One thing led to another and these three people were playing tricks on me, stealing my locker key, shampoo and conditioner, etc., until I felt so harrassed that I felt that I must leave the hostel, although with what money and where I would go, I didn’t know.  I spoke to Mr. Naim, the manager and owner of the hostel about what was happening.  He said that he’d investigate, but he doubted that these people were conspiring against me.  Later, after he talked to them, he said that I was right and there was a conspiracy against me.  He asked Noemi and the Dutch guy to leave and find another place to stay, and had a talk with Zara, who chose to leave his employ after that.

So things have settled down somewhat since then.  Zara had been doing the housekeeping as well as the front desk before I arrived, but she had very little interest in doing it, and the place was actually pretty dirty.  I’ve enjoyed the challenge of bringing up the standard of housekeeping here, and I’ve enjoyed the social life that the hostel offers, now that the Zara clique has left.

I ran into Noemi on the street the other day.  She no longer looked so powerful or content.  She looked more like a hardened member of the criminal underclass and when she saw me, the flat hate in her eyes was disconcerting.  I’ll be glad when she returns to Borneo, which should be any day now.   I guess her new situation is not so favorable as what she enjoyed here.

Mr. Naim brought in a couple workmen to clean the air conditioners on the third floor.  Then he hired a work crew to lay down a new floor on the fourth floor.  Every day when I finish changing bedsheets and sweeping and mopping the third floor, doing laundry, and cleaning the toilets, sinks and showers, I have a great sense of accomplishment that I’m leaving that floor really clean.  It’s the most physical labor I’ve done in many years during my five-hour shift from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., but it’s satisfying work.

This morning I went to the new egg place around the corner, and brought the plastic carton to hold 10 eggs that the owner had given me the last time I bought eggs there, urging me to recycle and reuse it.  The eggs only cost RM 2.40 (about 75 cents).  Then I bought a kilo of potatoes for RM 3.00.  As usual when I go out on the street, I have to wend my way through the moving cars and bikers who dominate the space and claim first rights.

I haven’t had much luck with roommates here.  There was a pregnant woman with a young child who Nor caught going through my things, about to steal my cell phone.  She got turned out, too.  Then there was an American woman who spent a couple of nights in my room before changing to another one.  I asked her to turn off her cell phone at night because it was disturbing my sleep, but she wanted to use it for an alarm clock.  Now there’s a young woman from Japan who coughs a lot and is an insomniac.  I suspect she has radiation sickness from Fukushima.  She wears a face mask most of the time, but in the room much of the time all she wears is bikini underwear.

Overall, I much prefer the male guests who stay here.  I enjoy talking to them and sharing meals.

 

Settling into beach hut on Cherating Beach

I’m sitting on the worn wooden porch of the hut where I’m living right now.  I’m looking out on a small field with a white horse grazing on long grass.  It has a dirty long tail that reaches the ground.  The tail’s quite luxurious, actually, and the horse is continually flicking it to keep flies off.   Maybe I’ll buy it some carrots when I go into town today.

To my right is a hill that rises steeply above us, tropical jungle, lush green trees and vines suspended from them.  There is a particularly splendid large tree bridging the earth and sky which looks like the tree of life.  To my left, in front of my beach hut, is a large palm tree where I saw two monkeys playing this morning.

I went to have my lesson with my Russian student online who works in Siberia at the restaurant nearby, but the signal wasn’t strong enough for us to have video.  I need to find a stronger signal for teaching on Skype.  In my room, I can only get one bar (out of 5 which show how strong the signal is) – that’s enough to email, but not Skype.  After our lesson when I returned to my hut, the monkeys had taken the lid off my trash can.

I’ve been studying the Malaysian language since I arrived here in January.  Now I am starting to speak in sentences.  It’s quite an easy language to learn, and I find that I don’t have to work very hard at remembering new words.  I’ve studied ten lessons in a very good book, and worked my way through a couple children’s workbooks.  I really enjoy workbooks.

I saw eight monkeys foraging for food in the trash as I went out for breakfast at one of the open cafes on the main street here.  Maybe it wasn’t a whole troop, but there were enough monkeys moving about to make me a little nervous to walk past them.  Macaques.

There are so many birds here that I’m not familiar with.  I’ve been listening to their calls.  Some have lovely songs.  It’s been raining off and on.  There’s a gently breeze blowing right now… a proper zephyr, it is.  It cooled off quite a bit last night.  I didn’t sleep too well, all these jungle sounds kept me awake, peepers, birds and frogs… and I could really have used a blanket.  Also both pillows were feather, which I’m allergic to, so I’ll remedy all that today.

But the energy by the sea is very gentle and sweet.  Once I get used to it, I’m sure I’ll sleep well.  I have a roommate, a pale yellow lizard about 4″ long.  He doesn’t take up much room on the wall, but I can hear him moving about.  I also heard something chewing on something early this morning.  I was careful to discipline my thoughts not to imagine too much about what that something was.  I think it was surprised when it heard me moving; it’s probably been a while since someone has lived in this room.  I didn’t hear it again, so I think it moved on when it realized the room was now inhabited.

I had to kill off the fire ants on the steps of the porch yesterday that kept swarming out of a hole.  But I wasn’t surprised to find a hazard here.  It was their cheapest room, only about $3 a day, but it has windows on both east and west walls that catch a sea breeze.  It’s actually a good size and has a sizable square bathroom that you step down into.  The bathroom has nice tiling, but a funky toilet with the tank mounted on the wall high above it.  At first I had to pump the plastic handle to get it to flush, but now it’s flushing easily.  Surprisingly, there’s a mirror on the wall, (although not above the sink) and a good, long sturdy towel bar.

So I was up early and went out by the beach.  I watched two guys pull up in a car just before dawn.  They were waxing their surfboards, even though it started to drizzle.  The waves didn’t look large enough to surf, but I noticed later that they were considerably larger.   Fabian, my new French friend, told me that surfing season is really over.  The best waves are in November and December during the monsoon season.  We’re entering the dry season now, but it’s still plenty wet.

It’s just about time for the leatherback sea turtles to come in and start laying their eggs.  I’m looking forward to seeing that.