Rick Carter is the Human Resource Co-ordinator for English First in Jakarta. Ajarn.com asks Rick about his life as an English teacher and what made him up roots and make the move to Indonesia.
Hi Rick, welcome to the ajarn hot seat. Firstly did you ever teach in Thailand?
I didn't actually teach in Thailand Phil. I went to Thailand to do a TEFL course, and planned to stay on and work, but moved on to Indonesia at the end of my course.
What were the best and worst aspects of living in Thailand?
The best thing about living in Thailand is the food. Fantastic food is available everywhere. I have never been anywhere in the world where you can sit down at any street vendor's "cafe" and enjoy a good meal. like one can in Thailand. The worst aspect is the minority of foreigners who behave badly and create a negative image, which casts all foreigners in a negative light.
What made you choose to come to Thailand initially?
As I said, I initially came to Thailand to do a TEFL course. Following that I planned to live and work there. I had been to Thailand many times, loved it, and wanted to experience more of it.
You eventually moved on to work in Indonesia. It's not a place that's high on most teachers' lists when they think about re-locating so why Jakarta?
I came to Jakarta for the new experience. While Thailand is fantastic, I decided I'd like to try something else. English First in Jakarta offers an excellent salary package as well as provides ample opportunities to expand one's teaching abilities.
Are there many foreign teachers teaching in Jakarta. I mean are they as apparent as they are in Thailand?
Yes, I'd say there are about 200 foreign teachers working in Jakarta. EF alone employs about 700 foreign teachers throughout Indonesia. But no, they are not nearly as apparent as they are in Thailand. Foreigners are the definate minority in Jakarta.
Does Indonesia have its own version of ajarn.com? How would a teacher go about finding a job once they've arrived in the big city?
Jakarta does not have anything like Ajarn. Here is an opportunity for you Phil! The best way to find a job is to call me! If I don't have any openings, I'm sure to know who does.
I don't know why but Jakarta has always struuck me as a rather dangerous city - a bit like Manila as regards a reputation for shady characters hanging around in dimly-lit alleyways. I could be wrong of course?
Yes, that perception is common. But, the truth is, I feel a lot safer here than I ever felt in my former homes of Chicago or Los Angeles. There has never been an instance in which one of our teachers has had a problem.
There's plenty to do for a teacher looking for a social life?
Yes, Jakarta offers everything you can imagine. It's a city of about 11,000,000 people; made up diverse peoples from all over Indonesia. Indonesia has many cultural groups who speak 300 different languages. Jakarta is a "melting pot" of most of these diverse cultures, which creates a very unique city experience. If you want chic nightclubs, pubs, bars, discos, restaurants, designer shopping malls, museums, or just about anything else, Jakarta has it.
Let's talk a little about your work with English First. Are there any major differences between the way that EF Thailand and EF Indonesia are run?
I don't know anything about EF in Thailand.
Fair enough. Tell me a little about your day-to-day responsibilities as HR co-ordinator?
Well Phil, it's something I've taken on in addition to my teaching responsibilities because I enjoy working with people. I'm responsible for interviewing, hiring, policy making, and just about anything else that relates to Human Resources.
You're in the process of launching a recruitment drive in Thailand. Does that mean teachers are getting difficult to find where you are?
There are not enough people coming to Indonesia to look for work. People have a false impression of Indonesia because of unbalanced media attention of various events. One big misconception is about religion. The majority of people are Muslim but the government is democratic. It's not an Islamic state and foreigners living here face no problems what-so-ever.
What are the most important things you look for in a potential employee?
We want people who want to teach and are interested in improving as teachers. We certainly don't welcome anyone who is just in it as a means to party, party, party. Nobody here is a kill joy, we just think the primary reason a person should have for becoming a teacher is to add value to people's lives.
How do you view the current situation in Thailand for English teachers? These are not the best of times are they?
Well, I don't know about that. There is a huge market for English in Thailand. The Thais very much want to learn the language and there are more jobs than teachers. That's a pretty good combination. There are a couple of policy changes the Government may want to consider to make it easier for good, decent, well intentioned people to work there, but at the end of the day, it's their country. They have every right to manage it the way they feel is in their best interests.
Do you think that teaching English in Asia is losing the reputation of something you can 'mess about for a couple of years and then start making your way in the real world'?
I don't think so. The ESL world is very much a "real world". It's filled with students who are working very hard to learn a skill that will improve their opportunities. Those who look at it as "messing about" are the very people the Thai government is trying to get rid of. I can't blame them. In fact, I hope they succeed.
I'm struggling for a final question Rick. OK, Jakarta in a nutshell without using the words 'vibrant' or 'fascinating'?
I discussed this with my business class. First they said, "traffic", but I said we need positive things for an interview, so they came up with 'complex, modern, business hub'.