Biggest difference between Saigon in 1969 and Bratislava in 2019? Apart from the reunification war there are less big differences than you might think. The most obvious similarities being, for example, that corruption is rampant. You can’t buy a war helicopter on the black market here, but still, widespread corruption. The women are überfeminine, everyone with any ambition wants to learn western languages  and for some unknown reason Slovaks tend to admire French culture…

The Vietnamese hid in tunnels and Slovaks hide in cabins in the mountains. Not with kalashnikovs, but with booze.

Call me crazy but I think I would rather enjoy a good war. Or as Chris Hedges says it in the title of one of his books ‘war is a force that gives us meaning’.

The only war here is in me. And the enemy relentlessy asks: what are you living for?

Work has become the center of my life. With lots of geeky escapism in between working. And as long as I do not magically write bestseller or some other popular product to land a mountain of cash it will remain this way.

Tuesday and Fridays are normal. Thursday can be long, but Mondays and Wednesdays get kinda crazy. On Monday I teach from 7 am to 8.15 pm, but it’s just two languages. Wednesday is a different story, I start at 7 am and teach Dutch at a bank, then I teach French and German at an IT company, then I move on to teach English at a place that builds and installs elevators, then I teach English to someone in logistics and I end the day teaching Dutch to a lady who works for an insurance company that sells insurance to other insurance companies.

Compared to that a regular Thursday is a breeze. I teach German at a multinational, then English at the same company, then I teach English to a lawyer at the food court of a shopping center. Today I noticed I was not the only private teacher there, almost right next to us there was a German one on one class going on.

After the lawyer I teach three hours of Dutch to my most advanced group.

I get home at around 9.00 pm.

On Thursday there are no students who lead me into temptation.

Today is a typical quiet day and for once I don’t even have a killer headache.

I am on the slow train to retirement in fairly good health and I really can’t complain.

It’s a lacklustre job, when I get home I have seen and listened to so many different people, I have adapted myself again and again to other people’s needs, likes and dislikes that I just want to be alone and defeat myself by replaying the second world war on a piece of cardboard. Out of 17 games the side I would like to see win has won only 2 times.

This is the advantage of the only child.

I can keep myself busy.

It’s also how I ended up developing so many voices in my head because as an only child the only conversations I got were with fictional characters. There would be fictional generals discussing their strategy plans in my head for hours and hours each day. I didn’t have such elaborate boardgames back then but I had enough Playmobil to orchestrate a deceny reenactment of Waterloo. Except that the French usually won. As I have said before, I always back the underdog, because I am the underdog. At least I have always considered myself to be the underdog in this strange game of life where we compete over resources, opportunities, money, housing, connections, status, etc…

Does work make me unhappy?

On the whole I would say yes, because if I wouldn’t need to work and deal with so many different people I would isolate myself and perhaps do nothing else except solo geeky escapist stuff.

Zuzana disagrees and says that if money were no issue I would most likely meet lots of people, see therapy clients and organize plays since I have this unexplicable urge to brighten people’s days, share stuff am excited about and create something.

If I am unhappy it’s because I am not satisfied with what I create, but I do enjoy brightening people’s days and I would dare to say I’m pretty good at that. Even when I am not in the mood to see anybody.

My inspiration for teaching has always been Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam. If you know that movie it explains my attitude better than I could possibly describe it.

 

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