Teacher Bob! (Prologue)


How did I come to this?

It’s November 2020 and I’m sitting behind a desk facing the front glass entrance out to the street, watching the cars and motorcycles splash through the puddles as they pass. It seems like it’s been raining for the past decade and there’s still no end in sight. In front of me, I have a plastic cup of strong, Vietnamese iced coffee and a paperback novel, Chuck Klosterman’s “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”, which was one of the few books I was able to rescue from the typhoon that wrecked my home a week ago. 

“Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” may not seem to be a title appropriate in a school that will soon be filled with young children, but since very few here would be able to read it in English, I am not the least bit worried. 

My employer at the language school where I work part-time asked me if I would be willing to do something out of the ordinary in addition to my regular teaching tasks. I am uniquely qualified for this assignment.

I have to sit here and be a white guy. 

Yes, you read that correctly. I am being paid an extra hour three days a week to come and sit facing the big glass window and look the part of a western teacher. You see, I’m a trophy.

There are very few white Europeans or North Americans living in this small city in central Vietnam, and the school is using my pale visage in an attempt to attract the attention of parents who want their children to learn English. The hope is that passing riders, drivers, or pedestrians will happen to see a foreigner in the school, thus giving it credibility as a language center. 

My boss doesn’t care what I do during this hour, as long as I am visible from the street. Hence I can drink coffee and read irreverent works or scroll social media sites on my phone. I probably couldn’t get away with drinking a beer, but otherwise, I’m getting paid to do nothing except be me. Sweet!

I’ve been away from my home in the US for four years now, having arrived in southeast Asia on New Year’s Day 2017 to begin a new life teaching English. My journey to this spot has been filled with experiences that have ranged from exciting and soul-filling to disastrous and frustrating. Every day has the potential for adventure or for mind-numbing repetition. With lots of opportunities for humor. 

My firm wish is to transport you to another world of possibilities you may have not imagined before, and convey the feelings I have experienced while living as a foreigner teaching English in Southeast Asia.