Hot Seat

Duncan Lewis

'Big Dunc' as he prefers to be called, is here teaching in Thailand for two reasons - Thai women and cheap ale. Not necessarily in that order. He just can't figure out which is more important. If you're genuinely interested in teaching methodology and the development of your students, I strongly recommend you give this interview a miss. Just don't come crying to me.

Q

Thanks for baring your soul Duncan in what is sure to be a very candid interview. You do realize that there might be people out there who view you as a whore-chasing alcoholic?

A

I'm a teacher who likes a drink and who likes the company of a Thai female. If people want to put labels on me then so be it, but I'm certainly not ashamed. There are plenty of us around. I bet that 50% of the self-righteous pricks on your discussion board Phil, dabble now and again in the murky world of paid sex. If they don't pay for it in hard cash, then they probably pay for it emotionally.

I think that my story is similar to a lot of others. I came here in about 1995 for a holiday with a couple of good mates. We had a week in Bangkok, which was fantastic, and then had three weeks down in Pattaya, which was even better. I'd made up my mind before we got to Pattaya that Thailand was where I wanted to be. I'm an engineer by trade, and although I did have a good look around for any openings in my own field, I didn't have much luck, so teaching has been the answer.

Q

Let's take the drinking first. Doesn't it seriously affect your performance in the classroom?

A

As I said, I do like a drink but I would never let it affect what I do in the classroom. I have a good skinful at the weekend (Friday and Saturday) but on a school-day night I'll make do with 2-3 large bottles. I can drink that kind of amount and get up for work at 7.00am no problems at all. There are times when you fancy a little tot at lunchtime but the school I work at is pretty isolated and there are no good places to go away from prying eyes. It wouldn't be good if a student copped you with a beer at lunchtime. I did go through a stage of sneaking a little hip-flask into school and enjoying a little snifter with my morning coffee. Problem now is that I keep forgetting to fill up the flask. Hahaha.

I'll sometimes pop into the 7-11 for my smokes on the way to work and see all those Bacardi Breezers and that kind of stuff. It's tempting but once you start drinking in the morning, it's the downward spiral.

Q

And then there's the women. Temptations all around?

A

I can never sort it out in my head which one I could never give up - women or beer? As far as the fillies are concerned, it's like I'm in this permanent Garden of Eden. Every time a student asks me to give her private lessons or something like help her with homework, all sorts of terrible thoughts go through my head - situations, scenarios. I'm as randy as the next man. Show me a guy who doesn't get these thoughts and I'll show you a liar. But seriously, I do keep the teaching work and the romance separate.

Q

Do you ever date students?

A

No, I would never date students at where I work. Not while they are enrolled in a course I'm teaching. That would be a bloody nightmare. I've knocked about with a couple of ex-students and one or two have become a notch on the bedpost (regrettably), but they get too clingy and start talking about futures together. I can't be dealing with that. I'm not into no long courtship and singing up at someone's balcony. I guess that's why I'm more into the 'sex-workers' and women of looser morals. I like the thrill of no strings attached anonymous sex.

Q

Don't you ever get worried about a nice, respectable student seeing you out and about with one of your ladeeez "Khun Ma, Khun Ma, there's my teacher" and you've got your tongue down some brass's ear?

A

This used to worry me a bit but what business is it of theirs who and what I do in my spare time. Actually the problem never comes up because I live in a suburb of Bangkok which is at least a 40-minute bus ride from where I work, and if I do private students I make sure that none of them live in the immediate neighborhood. Never shit on your own doorstep. In my little part of Bangkok, you rarely see another foreigner and I'm something of a celebrity. They recently opened a big Pizza Hut and I bedded two of the waitresses in the first two weeks it was opened. I don't care about those people seeing me out and about.

I'll tell you a funny thing though. One of the teachers at my old school was 'caught' playing computer games in a local internet cafe with a bunch of kids. He got carpeted by the school management because they felt it wasn't appropriate behavior for a teacher. I couldn't believe that. What business is it of the school's what you get up to in your own free time?

Q

Where are you favorite stomping grounds if you fancy some female company, because teachers are taking notes?

A

There's so much of it in my own neighborhood that I don't ever contemplate hitting the usual sexpots like Sukhumwit or Silom. I live in an apartment building that has a lot of lonely girls hahaha but they have to be out by 3.00am. I can't stand getting up in the morning and taking a shower and ironing a shirt with a pair of beady eyes watching me.

Q

I bet you've always got some stories for the teacher's room on a Monday morning. How many of them begin with "Have you got a minute - let me tell you about last night"?

A

I work with about six other teachers and they're all male. Most of them live with Thai girls or have steady girlfriends. There's only one guy that I really connect with. He likes a drink at lunchtime, so if we're on the same schedule. he'll sometimes get me to check his breath for traces of alcohol.

To be honest, I've always hated the whole teacher's room environment thing - a bunch of teachers all sitting around moaning about school policies and why they can't get their students to perform. Bores me to death. I'd rather go out for a pint. Too many teachers take the job far too seriously. It's not even as though learning English is a matter of life and death for most Thai students.

Q

Back to the beer. Is Kloster strictly for lightweights?

A

You don't see that about much now do you? I generally stick to the 'imported' brews like Carlsberg and Heinney. The Thai beers are way too strong for me. If I've had a night on the Singha, I wake up with the most unbelievable headaches. I dread to think what they put in that stuff.

Q

Beer and women are cheaper in Vietnam and Cambodia so I've heard. Have you checked these places out yet?

A

I think you hear mixed reports and it's never a case of everything being better than Thailand. In a place where the beer and women are cheap it's usually offset by something like accommodation being expensive or that you can't get an internet connection. I've been thinking of doing a visa run to either of these places and checking things out but I'm something of a lazyarse.

Q

Er......dare I ask about your teaching qualifications?

A

I did actually do a TEFL course when I settled here in the mid-90s. It was one of those cheap, four-day things but it got me a certificate, and employers seem happy with it. I've got a top engineering qualification as well but that ain't much use in a classroom. I'm always honest with prospective employers. I'll say straight out that I haven't got a degree, and they don't seem to mind. It goes without saying though that I work very much at the bottom end of the market. There's always plenty of room down there. I've got no illusions of grandness - I know I'm hardly international school material.

Q

Is it difficult to get your act together for 9.00 job interviews?

A

It's not difficult to get my act together but it can be bloody difficult trying to find places. All these schools that pay about 25,000 baht and take on the likes of me, all seem to be in the back end of beyond. You end up getting about three different buses and then you're still nowhere near it. My record for turning up late for a job interview is 4 hours!

Q

So you move around a bit then?

A

I've had quite a few jobs in the past six years yes. But I can truly say that I've never walked out on a contract and dropped a school in the shit. I hate to see teachers do that because you do have some sort of responsibility to the students. The schools I don't care about - they deserve what they get, but you do form a bond with your students.

Q

The ajarn jobs board must be a godsend?

A

Hahahaha. It's like a religion Phil. Every day at about 5pm, I'm in the same old cafe checking the jobs board. The owner of the cafe knows me very well and I always use the same computer. If I go in and there's some kid playing games on it, the little bugger gets kicked off. No messing.

Q

What do you think people reading this are really going to think?

A

I hope they'll admire me for being honest. You wanted something a little more honest for the interviews on your site and I hope this one has filled the gap. I'm a chancer of the first order. Thailand gives me the chance to teach and earn a living, and I'm taking advantage of it. Simple as that.

Q

So what about the future? You can't live life indefinitely as though it's one big party. People might start to get jealous.

A

Well, things are certainly tightening up, but there will always be places for teachers like me to find work. The problem will come when it's no longer financially viable to earn 25,000 or 30,000 baht a month because all the money is eaten up by visa runs and a rising cost of living. Perhaps 30,000 baht a month is the best I can ever hope for but that doesn't mean I'll always be able to survive on it.

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