For a while now, I've had this silent agreement with myself and now I think I'd better make it public so that I will have extra eyes on me, making sure I keep to it. Here it is:
I will not take a job teaching English.
Slovenia is a tough and uninviting place for a foreigner looking for a job. Just like America, if you are from south of here, the country will open its doors to you if you want to do the tough and yucky stuff, join a road crew, clean toilets, work the late shift on an assembly line.
If you are from due north of here, then you're probably coming from the home office in Vienna or Dusseldorf. A two year assignment and a cushy corner office.
If you are from anywhere else, it is a pretty tough slog. But if you come from a country with a popular language, then-- you're in luck! -- your brain and your tongue are your ticket to low waged and insecure day labor! Yes, you can be paid a couple euros an hour to better the lives of Slovenian business men and students, to watch them step on your head as they climb their career ladder, while you dangle on the bottom rungs. Yes, you!
Look, I'm sure teaching English has its charms, and for full disclosure I will say that I spent a month or two tutoring a friend in the language, so I am a bit familiar with how it goes and know it isn't the worse thing ever. But, howsabout if I just want a normal salaried job? What then?
I know of a tiny few foreigners who have normal office jobs, and while I was happy for them that they were in the right place(being married to the right people to bring them in to the organization) to get such positions, I wasn't envious because I was content to keep on freelancing while I patiently waited for my own "career" or interesting position to come around the corner. However, after two years of being here, I'm beginning to get skeptical and am starting to set my sights lower. After all this time, I'm beginning to think I'd be happy to be neatly folded into a company, with a punch card, regular payroll, water cooler chats and whatnot. Oh cruel irony, Slovenia, what I dreaded most in America has now become my greatest aspiration.
I am trying not to be bitter and hold anything against this place. I don't think the founding fathers of Slovenia ever had any lofty ideas of this country being a place where people could come from other places and make their fortune. Heck, I don't even think they want it to be a place where the natives have much of a shot at making their fortune. This is a place that lives on workplace discrimination. A place where someone at a job interview told me "It might be nice to have a black person," knowing full well I had no legal recourse.
So what's in order? Social change! How do we get it? By activism, marching in the streets, signing petitions, and maybe -- and this is where I can contribute -- by refusing to teach English.