My alarm clock is set at 5.30, but lately I have less energy than I usually have, and I only get up at 6.10. I have to take a bus at 6.47. Bus 196.

The first lesson starts at 7 am. A wonderfully sweet, intelligent engineer.

We talk about our mutal dislike of the box of cakes you inevitably get handed at a Slovak wedding. It’s this standard white box. It’s full of all kinds of cakes. They’re always awful. People try to get rid of them by leaving them at work. When I have a box like that I take it to all my students. Going from firm to firm, hoping at least some of them will like these sand like cakes….

Then we talk about a very intimate problem he’s facing. I doubt I can help him with it, but I listen, with compassion, and – hopefully – fairness.

I write down new words for him in a notebook. We go over them at the end of the lesson.

Near the end he asks me what I think about global warming. He’s sure I have read many articles about this topic. Actually I haven’t and I don’t know what to think about it. He is afraid that his toddler son won’t see his 30th birthday if we don’t come together as a species and take drastic measures to stop the oceans from rising.

I have given up preaching about topics like this, I am kind to whoever I meet. I have given up wanting to be right about certain things that don’t affect me personally.

At a certain point this world will stamp you so often down into the ground that you give up feeling anything more than is strictly necessary.

So if the world really gets destroyed in 30 years, I hope it will be like 40 years, cause by that time my mum will probably not have to witness it. Other than that, bring it on. The planet doesn’t need us. As a species we have measured, weighed and found wanting.

I do love certain people. Like this students. All of my students today.

So on to the next.

A lady with black curls, she could pass for Italian. We read the book ‘Chasing the scream’ together, which greatly expands her vocabulary. She is one of the few who asks me lots of personal questions and I have no restraint in answering them. My troubles seem to both make her sad and make her laugh.

On to the next.

By now I am at home and the student visits me there. She gets comfortable in chair. I like that. I like to have lessons where students feel relaxed and at home. We improvise job interviews and she laughs a lot. She does ask why I look so serious today. I say I have a bad headache. It’s a lie, but I do have a bad headache. She asks a few intimate questions. Since I am sort of disconnected from this world today, I don’t ask anything intimate myself. I try hard to help her English along. She’s a smart lady who needs to hear something only once or twice to remember, so that’s fairly easy. Even with this headache.

Then I have to deal with some rather unpleasant changes to my teaching schedule. AGAIN. You can only do what I do if you accept that you live in permanent chaos.

More interaction with students follow, but then I have a break. In the break I rewatch some episodes of the psychotherapy show ‘In treatment.’ Until the last student of the day comes at 19.00. She tends to leave at about 21.00. She has remarkably big eyes. She laughs a lot. When she tells me stuff about herself I am often very surprised. She looks like this angel with no problems, but that’s not true of course.

By 21.00 I am pretty drained. And then am lucky, very lucky, cause I have incredibly sweet, considerate students who really want to learn something and who teach me a lot too, Slovak, Hungarian, things about their work, things about Slovak politics, their hobbies, psychology, the human soul…

Is it the life I wished for myself? No, it’s very different from that. Is anything else possible for me? Not really no.

I live like Charles Bukowski, but with a bit more of a work ethic, less booze and next to zero literary recognition.

I feel like am living an almost meaningless life, but then the faces of people in completely mind numbing jobs flash by and then I know I should be grateful.

Of all the ways a human life can be led, especially if one has lots of money, I march -literally- through my days, explaining the basic grammar of four languages, and, probably much more important, spreading some kindness and maybe a wee bit of inspiration and support among about 30 people a week.

There is no perspective and I will be doing this as long as circumstances permit or as long as I don’t get cancer or a heart attack. My two most likely causes of death.

It’s not heaven, but it could be worse. It could be far worse.


I have deliberately left out the tenderness, the love, the fire, the passion, the romance bestowed on me during the day. That is in fact truly amazing, and hard to incorporate into this blog post about my work day. I am most grateful for this. It’s overshadowed by my anger at not seeing more interesting, more succesful ways of life, but I am grateful.