My sister currently lives in Turkey. She is teaching English as a second language to executives and businessmen and ruby dealers. They are the kind of men that wear silk suits and fly around in helicopters. They are powerful and rich and it is her job to teach them fluent English, the international language of commerce.
She has been doing this for most of her adult life ever since she graduated from UC Berkeley in the early 2000s. She has lived in Cork Ireland, Paris France, Bang Pakong Thailand, and Gumi Korea. She has also had job offers in Bonn Germany, Jakarta Indonesia, and Cairo Egypt, but she has turned them down for reasons of her own.
My sister has always been most comfortable in extremely uncomfortable situations. She is a magnet for chaos and weird drama and her current situation is no exception. The last time I spoke to her she sought my advice on a problem she was having involving an Australian friend of hers with a severe foot odor problem.
“I don’t know what to do,” she whimpered. “She’s really cool and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I can’t stand it. Every time she takes her shoes off I want to throw up.”
It was a serious problem. It is customary in Turkey to remove your shoes when visiting someone’s home. It was getting to the point where people weren’t inviting her over and starting to make up excuses for it. She asked me what she should do.
“What choice do you have? Tell her that her feet stink and offer to help her. Either that or abandon the friendship altogether. Is she really such a great person that she’s worth becoming a pariah over?”
She paused. “Well, not really. Actually she’s kind of weird and really overweight. She has these two dogs and she’s super obsessive/compulsive about them. One time I went with her to walk them. She insisted they had to be on specific sides of her the whole time. They were never allowed under any circumstance to cross each other’s path. It was like Ghostbusters. Every time one of them started wandering over she would yank on its choke chain and it would yelp and collapse in a heap. It was awful. I felt like a Nazi just for being there.”
“So what’s the problem here?” I asked. “The real question is why you’re spending any of your time trying to socially integrate a fat weird Australian sociopath with stinky feet into your social circle.”
The advice was cold and shallow, but it was sound. There is no percentage in associating yourself with someone that is repugnant. You will not get invited to the right parties.
And that’s the way it goes. Tough tits. So long, kid. It’s curtains for you. We never liked you anyway. Here’s a one-way Greyhound ticket out of town. Take your fat ass and your smelly feet and hit the fucking road.
We all have weird friends that we have to deal with from time to time. Some smoke all your cigarettes and some leave their urine in your toilet, while others call you up at seven in the morning to pick them up from jail. You take the good with the bad, and from what I hear about teaching English abroad it is more bad than good.