Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

ALMOST THERE. Nice ring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THEN (A week ago)….I promised to return sooner rather than later. I have updates on the latest in my search for a school home in Asia, China specifically. So, I have bombarded recruiters with the expected documents(rehashed resume, pickled pictures, and covered and smothered cover letter). The reception has been great, a lot of bites. I have begun a process of interviews that began on Saturday and will conclude on Friday. Two of the next few are final interviews. Hopefully, I can speak with and build some kind of rapport with school staff and get a contract in the process. I have talked to recruiters, mostly. Tonight, I spoke to two Chinese school managers, who seemed eager to have me join their staff.

NOW…..I have whittled down the search for a job in China to two schools. One of the jobs is a well established chain in a city with a large expat population. The other is a smaller city in a cold climate with higher pay for less hours per week. I interview with the former tonight and at this point undecided on a location. Both locations/jobs have yet to send me a contract for review, although one of the jobs has a pretty standard pay rate within their family of schools. I plan on making a decision by the end of the week as to which school I’d like to be a part of as a new teacher. I don’t know how to feel about it just yet. It is still an idea/dream with no paperwork at this point to me.

The first school, even though I know I’m just a number for the recruiter, seems like the safe bet. Standard housing, decent salary and about 19 foreigners on staff in a city that is small, but has a Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hutt. The other is very small with less than fifty foreigners in the entire city. I know no matter where I end up I’ll be immersed in Chinese culture. I plan on learning the language. Yes, I plan on learning one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. I think the more I’m forced to communicate in broken Chinese the better off I will be. Learning Chinese was never on my bucket list. I know basic Spanish, but so does the average Taco Bell employee.

I’ve detailed this journey up to this point and plan to continue writing upon my arrival in the Chinese mainland so to speak. Like many journeys, the impetus was a breakup. A year and a half ago, I wasn’t very hopeful of a future without my girlfriend and her daughter. It’s been a long time since I’ve had something to look forward to. I want it all now. I want to visit the Buddhist temples, hiking trails and caves. I want to go skiing. (Yeah, I said it. I’m still a black man.) I want to study mixed martial arts. I want to drink and be merry with my co-teachers and other expats. I want to eat the food and listen to the music. (Well, at least to say I did listen to Chinese music.) The process has been a long one, but not really in the sheer audacity of  the task. I’m trying to pick up and move to a foreign land to do a new job without knowing the Native tongue. It’s party time. The journey continues….

Don’t cry. Dry your eye. I’ll be right back.

I know. I know. It’s been a long time since we’ve “seen” each other.

I should have called or something, I know. You were SO worried. I know. Well, I’m back and the news is not all that great. I’m still applying, still registering on ESL job sites, still trudging on. I’ve probably duplicated several queries to schools. I’ve tweaked my resume, cover letter and all things ESL to the point of utmost sexiness. Surprisingly, I’ve only had a few telephone interviews and a couple Skype interviews. I have to confess though. I haven’t been as steadfast in my pursuit of “Teaching in Asia” like I should have been over the past month or so. I got a little jaded. A little ah, let me send out a bunch of emails to the latest postings on TeacherGig.com, eslemployment.com and bayt.com. I’ve played Skype chase with a few recruiters, ignored a few of the shadier variety, but continue to pursue employment with schools in Asia. Why? Because it’s Bruce Lee and egg rolls and kimchi and dark haired, kimono wearing golden Buddha chopsticks and rice adventure. Clearly, I’ve never been there. Clearly, my stream of consciousness rant may call into question my motives for teaching children. Well, let me be clear. I enjoy children. I want some of my own. I tried. My girlfriend lacked maturity at age 32 and we’ve both moved on. Whoa, tmi like a mutha… Seriously, the most important reason I want a job teaching English is to return to a profession that is respected and morally rewarding. I tried sales. There are only so many elderly women you can sell useless items to before you realize your underwear smell like gasoline. (Gasoline draws in Hell. Please catch up.) I will always be a writer. Some would say it’s a calling. I say it is just one thing I don’t have to put much effort into. I’m hoping teaching young people, even if they reside on the other side of the Earth, will allow me to find another thing I can contribute to this world. I turned 36 years old in November. A man begins to think of his legacy after age 30, at least mature men do. I want pay something forward. The Mayans were wrong, so I have a few more seasons of Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead to look forward to. I’m rambling, I know. Back to the point of the post…umm? So, the latest news on the ESL front is, I’ve shifted my focus to China. I kept stumbling out of the blocks with recruiters in Korea. I don’t know if it’s my dark skin or that I’m a man lacking blonde hair. Whatever it is, the recruiters in China have been more receptive. I have two prospects with openings beginning in March. That would be right up my alley. Even though I’ve all but tied up all my loose ends financially here, an extra month or so to save dough/cash/moolah will be helpful. I’m talking like I landed a job already. I will hopefully interview with one recruiter tonight and another tomorrow or this weekend. I’m not going to give up. I have scanned every possible document I own. I have become an ESL job search expert over the course of three to four months. I’m do a legitimate contract. I’m not one to do the “it’s a new year” spiel, but dammit, it’s my time. Tune in next time for an update on my progress. I promise I’ll be right back this time.

Lantau-China. Buddha.

 

This blog will be about positivity. That is the promise I’ve made to myself. I realize I ranted and spewed venom in my last post. I have had to take a step back in my judgement of recruiters. In the four to five months that I’ve been dealing with recruiters, I have experienced the entire spectrum as far as quality services. But before I get into my experiences since my last posting, let me give a quick update as far as my status. I am still waiting on my FBI background check. Hopefully, I will have an idea of where it stands after the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s it. Once I get it back and apostilled, I will be qualified to teach English as a Secondary language at most schools worldwide. Now that the housekeeping has been done, I must talk about one really good experience with a recruiter. I would say the best experience I’ve had with a recruiter so far. I liken it to meeting a future multi-year girlfriend. You know you’re going to get caught up, but you like it for however long it lasts. STC Consortium Limited, a U.K./British recruiting agency, has been the most thorough and accommodating recruiting agency, I’ve dealt with to this point. How so? First, like most recruiters, there is a website/job board where I uploaded my CV/resume. I was contacted within a few days by email, asking for the usual picture, passport, letters of reference, etc. After sending the requisite documents, I was immediately contacted to set up a Skype interview. Actually, I just finished the interview and this blog post may be prematurely lauding services yet to be rendered. However, I have a feeling about this one. I spent about an hour speaking with, not the recruiter, but the CEO of STC Consortium.

Maybe it was her warm British accent or her motherly affectations to my questions. I don’t know what it was exactly, but it felt right. I did my usual interview spiel, why I want to teach in China, the history, culture, the food, teaching any age, blah blah blah. But it wasn’t really blah blah blah afterwards. I was told STC Consortium was given the task of recruiting up to one hundred teachers, ten were already there in country and exactly what STC’s role would be in the process of my placement as a teacher with them. I was also assured that even if I didn’t decide on a placement in China, STC would be in contact with me, as they look to expand into other countries, specifically Malaysia. I think of myself as a good judge of character and I felt good when speaking with Susan of STC. She’s a former educator. And more importantly, taught ESL in a classroom. When we ended the interview, I felt good and thought she genuinely, in my words, “gave a shit”. Every recruiter I’ve dealt with up to this point has treated me like a number. You email them and they get back to you a week later. You interview with them and have to email them to prompt further actions. These are symptoms of a recruiter with more than one client that demand their time. Hey, it is what it is. However, I’ve worked in customer service related positions and I always treated each customer like they were the only person I had spoken with during the workday. It can be done. STC Consortium, so far, has done just that. It was almost familial. She told me a STC representative based in China would contact me next week about opportunities. I feel good about this one. After breaking out my voodoo doll and needles for the last Teaching in Asia entry, I am lighting the incense and rubbing the little fat dude’s stomach on this one. It’s almost karmic. A true Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Question: What makes a good recruiter? The answer will vary greatly from person to person more than likely. In the next few paragraphs, I will attempt to break down my experience with a recruiting agency that has really dropped the ball in serving my interests. First, my idea of a good recruiter is a person or organization that makes the client feel like they are a priority. A little special attention to someone, who may not expect it, goes a long way. I think another good quality for recruiters is the ability to adapt and structure the working relationship to establish the client’s strengths and improve or PR spin the hell out of any perceived weaknesses. That said, in my last blog post, I mentioned I had been in contact with several recruiters and realized there was no real advantage in using one for ME. I stand by that assessment due to recent developments. I have been diligent in the “gathering” process of recruitment to teach in Asia. I decided on Korea and have been in contact with recruiters of varying levels of professionalism. Greenheart Travel, in my opinion and experience, should be avoided like the plague. As I wrote in my last blog without naming them specifically, I conducted a Skype interview with a representative of Greenheart Travel, that had never been to Korea. She asked me scripted questions and did not give me any new information. She merely regurgitated EPIK guidelines that can be easily found on the EPIK website. Then I told her my status in acquiring the necessary documents to work in Korea. I didn’t hear from Greenheart Travel for a week. No follow up. No next steps. No contact. A week later, I get an email alerting me that I would speak with an EPIK representative the preceding week. The email included possible interview questions, a link to a time conversion website and a few other useful bits of information. I responded by emailing that I would be prepared and it was great that the process was finally happening. No response from Greenheart Travel, still. However, I had a great interview with an EPIK recruiter. She discussed minor changes I needed to make with my application. Namely, she wanted me to indent the paragraphs on my essay (EPIK requires applicants to write 500-800 word essays detailing why they want to teach in Korea.) and lengthen one of my letters of recommendation. The EPIK representative asked me why did I want to be an ESL teacher and why I chose Korea instead of other countries. I as anyone with common sense would told her that I was interested in learning Korean culture, language, food and history. I ran on and on and on. She smiled and had to cut me off. She also asked me how I would handle disciplinary problems in a class of thirty. That’s just a few of the questions I was asked, as the interview was about 45 minutes long. I was also given the opportunity to ask my own questions. We concluded the interview with an overview of what changes I needed to make on the application and she lauded me for having a great tone, accent neutral speech pattern and that she personally had no trouble understanding my English. We said our goodbyes, smiled (she was beautiful by the way.) and waited for the Skype burp and black screen. Two days later, Greenheart Travel sends me an email that said:

Thank you for taking the time to apply for the Spring 2013 Teach in Korea EPIK program. Although we found you to be a very qualified and enthusiastic applicant, I regret to inform you that the Korean Ministry of Education has not selected you to move past the interview stage of the process. We have received many qualified applicants for the program, and the Korean Ministry ultimately has the final say in the selection process. It seems like the process is especially competitive this round. It is EPIK’s policy not to disclose why an applicant does not move forward, so unfortunately I was not given any further details about why your application was not accepted. If you would like to continue to pursue your interest in teaching abroad, I encourage you to take a look at our Teach Abroad programs in other countries. We also have programs in China, The Republic of Georgia, and Thailand. Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope that you choose to pursue other means of cultural exchange, traveling and working abroad! I wish you the best of luck!

 

So my obvious email response was: Are you serious? The ENTIRE country of Korea (the other side of the line of demarcation at least) has no available slots for a “very qualified and enthusiastic applicant”? I find that hard to believe. Especially considering I had such a great interview with the EPIK representative. I’ve interviewed for numerous jobs in my lifetime and I am pretty accurate when determining if I blew it or not. This I refuse to believe. Recent college graduates with no TESOL certification or English related degree are currently EPIK teachers. I won’t accept this. I said all of this in my response to my “rejection” email. Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from GREENHEART TRAVEL. The other way GREENHEART TRAVEL screwed me is by sending my application to EPIK as I was trying to gather better letters of recommendation. Before my Greenheart interview, I was told that one of my letters (the one the EPIK recruiter dinged me for.) needed to be longer. I was told by my recruiter (I will keep it anonymous because I’m a professional above all else, anger aside.) that she could send it, but she knew they would want something a little longer. She also told me to make my lesson plan longer. I promptly fluffed out my lesson plan which my Greenheart recruiter reviewed, assured me it was okay and told me via email to get my letter to her to ready for EPIK. Well, she decided to send it early and never contacted me. Some might say, I should have contacted her. You’re right. But who’s the recruiter? Why would you shoot a client in the foot by sending an application packet that doesn’t live up to your company’s standards? You have set me up to fail in this. This is unacceptable. I don’t know how this should play. The EPIK representative told me to make corrections and submit those corrections to my recruiter. Then I get the damning email above. So that’s it? The end of my journey? NO WAY! I’m not scratching off an entire nation after a 45 minute interview (that went well) and a recruiter who could care less about me as client. I’m not done yet. I’ve been in contact with other recruiters in the past few days. Hopefully, I can resubmit my application and get a placement in EPIK, GEPIK or a hagwon. This last experience has really opened my eyes to what can happen if you, by luck of the draw, choose the wrong recruiting agency. DO NOT USE GREENHEART TRAVEL! I can only hope no one experiences the lack of respect and professionalism shown by this agency. Hopefully, my experience is an isolated random luck of the draw incident. I hope so as I would like to do something life changing, like teaching English abroad. I hope this is not typical recruiter behavior. Prospective teachers please keep your eyes open and be careful in this process. I have been officially set back by my recruiter’s negligence and my naivety.

Recruiter Kate Upton has probably been to Korea. If she hasn’t, she would at least have the decency to lie to me. NO, this picture is the right size. My blog is just small.

Let me preface this entry by saying “These blogs are my opinion. Everyone has one these days. And like so many others I make mistakes by assuming when all of the facts are not present. And I jump to conclusions erroneously occasionally if a particular subject makes me angry, sad or joyous.” Such has been the case when I have personally (through Skype and international phone calls) spoken with recruiters. I like so many others before me, who have entered this journey to “Teach Abroad”, walked into the jungle without a guidebook. But once you get into the jungle, you begin to find your way. Not a ‘GPS get you right to the spot’ kinda navigation, but the simple navigation that allows you to avoid danger and know where to look for food. The reason I’m getting all Rudyard Kipling on you is this realization: If you are applying to EPIK, you don’t need a recruiter. If you want to teach in the Korean Public School System, you don’t need to go through a recruiter. After speaking to a few recruiters last week, I realized I had done all the legwork in my OWN journey. And like I prefaced, I may have come to this conclusion from assumptions about the recruiters that I spoke with last week. In my last post, I mentioned working with a particular agency and how helpful they had been with my application to the EPIK program. The recruiter had me expand on my lesson plan and recommended I lengthen one of my letters of recommendation. AND it was really helpful. I assumed recruiters, all recruiters, either had experience as a teacher OR had experience dealing with the school system that would prove to be valuable as the process moved along. I also erroneously thought the recruiter did a little bit of the legwork as far as getting a work visa and reviewing contracts. Let me put this into context by paraphrasing the conversation I had with a recruiter via Skype. Young 20-something, sexy in a librarian kinda way, doe eyed recruiter: Well, tell me why you want to teach in Korea? Me: I blah blah rewarding blah blah experiencing blah blah beautiful culture and history. Doe Eyed Recruiter looks down at her cheat sheet and fires off about four to five “typical job interview questions” and asks “Do you have any questions for me?” Me: Well, what can you tell me about the process? What are my next steps? Before she could answer, I explained to her the status of the required documents (passport, apostille bachelors degree, apostilled FBI background check, letters of rec and my EPIK application) and asked what her experience had been. Doe Eyed Recruiter: Oh, I’ve never been to Korea. Me: Um, I didn’t hear you. Can you say that again?Needless to say, I concluded my “interview” and began to rethink my need for a recruiter. Well, that’s not exactly when I ended it. I did manage to ask if their service would assist with my work visa and was told they would not be assisting. So I asked myself, what exactly are these companies doing for me? Here’s my assumption. The recruiter identifies a prospective teaching candidate (not really, they email them photos and resumes daily) and walks them through the paperwork process prior to an actual interview. The recruiter conducts their own interview, determines how flaky the candidate is and attaches their company name to that teacher’s application to the EPIK program. A recruiting agency gets “gold stars” for teachers who excel and some kinda monetary compensation per head from schools or the government. The recruiter may prove useful once a teacher reaches Korea. I have seen plenty of recruiter sponsored get togethers on their websites, proving the familial atmosphere that awaits a potential prospect. I mean, I get it. But I’m not a young person looking to find myself overseas. I’m almost 36 years old and kind of chewed up. I don’t have to meet new people to feel comfortable around foreign language speakers. I lived in Germany for two years and my college roommate was Japanese. My junior and senior year was spent hanging (mostly getting drunk) with international students from Brazil, Korea, China, Mexico, Guatemala and Canada. I’ve been to sake parties and Quienceneras. But I digress. Here’s what I learned over the past two weeks. I as a teaching candidate have specific needs. For instance,  I want to teach at a school that offers prepaid airfare. Hagwons or Korean private schools seem to be the only schools that offer this kind of accommodation. I was told by an EPIK school teacher, currently teaching in Korea that EPIK usually doesn’t prepay airfare, but reimburses within thirty days in their case. EPIK is gearing up for a school year and hiring process that begins in February. Bottomline, I can submit my documents to EPIK and foot the bill for a flight to the school. OR I can find a recruiter (In this case, use of a recruiter is essential because they are in contact with the private schools) and always be upfront about my financial need for a plane ticket. Also, this personal prerequisite, makes other countries that offer prepaid airfare a selling point an option in my search. These journal entries might become Teaching in the Middle East, if they pay for my flight. Here’s where I stand in the journey to teach in Asia: I received another letter of recommendation from a college source over the weekend. (Letter of Recommendation count stands at five, now.) I am waiting on my FBI records check. I have apostilled bachelors degrees, a passport, extra passport pictures for the visa, TESOL certificate that came with a letter of recommendation verifying it’s over 100 hours of coursework, and a completed EPIK application. I’m only missing a job offer, contract, plane ticket and a useless doe eyed 20-something librarian like recruiter to hold my hand and tell me that I’m going to make it after all.

I’m not killing it, but I’m definitely in the hunt.

This is my fifth installment of my quest to Asia. I am no longer frustrated with the process. I didn’t meditate, drop a tab or swim Lake Minnetonka to reach my calmer disposition. I’m simply taking a more pragmatic approach. I can only get documents when they come on the agency’s time line. If that document’s arrival exceeds the agency’s expected delivery date, only then can I raise Hell, legitimately. Surprisingly, I have not had to do much Hell raising lately. I’ve been actively in contact with Greenheart Travel, a recruiting agency for Korean schools. I submitted digitized documents and an application for the EPIK program Spring semester. I will interview with a recruiter on Tuesday of this coming week. Greenheart has been really helpful as far as sending document checklists and next steps for the teacher type of documents. One thing that impressed me and made me feel much more comfortable about the application process was the feedback my recruiter gave me. She recommended I submit another letter of recommendation because it was too short, lengthen the lesson plan required for the application and I saw that I mistakenly left an item incomplete. Sara is definitely the most professional recruiter that I’ve come across since I began submitting applications to recruiting agencies a few months ago. I am leaning toward Korea, now more than ever, even though I’ve received a solid inquiry from a recruiter in China. I received a sample contract of $6,000 yuan, shared housing and a few other amenities. I like the idea of working in China, as I know a few people who have made the trip, but one of my deciding factors is prepaid airfare. Most Korean schools have prepaid flights and/or flight reimbursement. EPIK provides prepaid flights to Korea. Chinese schools usually offer partial payment or a set price for reimbursement, but none I’ve come across have offered full prepaid flights to China. If I can keep $1,200+ bucks in my bank account, that’s more money that can be spent on food, clothes and gaining some lucky Asian woman’s attentions. On another note, my quest for apostilled documentation is nearing completion. I’m happy to report I received two copies of state apostilled bachelor’s degrees as requested a few weeks ago. (See my sarcastic big bass pose with apostille in hand above) I am currently waiting on my FBI background investigation for the second time. When I have that in hand, I will mail it off to the U.S. State Department for their apostille. AND WAIT, this time patiently. I’m hoping to have that big bass pose by mid-November at the latest. If that happens, I will have done all that needs to be done here, short of getting and signing a contract from a school and attaining a work visa and foreign identification card in Korea. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. I will get there when I get there, all in all. Oh, another resource I can recommend for newbies is youtube. There are several teachers currently in Korea that have posted and continually update videos outlining anything from the application process to the price of toothpaste and milk in country. I have found this guy’s videos really helpful and he responds fairly quickly to comments and questions about content.

I’ve also joined Korean teacher and Expat forums, submitted my resume to several ESL job sites, recruiter sites and expanded my search to less favorable destinations to see what other locales have to offer. Early in this journey, I found myself latching on to only applying for positions with the Big Three (Korea, Japan and China) in the beginning of my search. Now, I have been in contact with recruiters for schools in Mexico, Thailand, Colombia (yeah, I know, thrill seeker here.) and Chile. I wish I could say I had a system and there was a method to the madness. But honestly, I’m sure I’ve sent my picture, resume and academic documents to over seventy different recruiters over the past few months. I’ve joined, by entering my resume electronically, over seven or eight recruiting agency websites. I have searched old blog posts for outdated job openings, copied the contact info and cold contacted the recruiters. I am taking a break playing tag now and focusing on EPIK as my main choice. The Korean government and their department of education have money to spend and seem to be a stable place for me to start my ESL teaching career. And I will get to Asia, God willing.

If you are a writer or of the creative disposition, this book will change the way you view your life and all its maladies. I’m writing this review as if it’s a part of the Nolan-directed Dark Knight movie series, the season finale of Madmen, Walking Dead or Breaking Bad. I don’t want to reveal too much for fear of my words damaging the impact this well written piece of literature contains. I am a procrastinator in every sense of the word. I have several books “In the process of” on my hard drive. (Incomplete stories about Russian mobsters, drug-dealing boxers and a long one I lovingly call “The Black Harry Potter” tentatively. Two years tentative by the way.) I’m that guy who will skip days on P90x. (Today is a cardio day by the way.) I still haven’t leveled my perks forging daggers in Skyrim to allow me to create Dragon scale armor. I’m fighting the urge to create another character that will probably attain the same level and lack Dragon scale armor like his brethren. While I jest about my video game procrastinations, I just wanted to show that I’m a habitual procrastinator. Video games are clearly an escape from actual work and I found ways to procrastinate doing the fictional work in a video game. This book showed me my deep flaws and explained the importance of overcoming the massive ogre of “Resistance” that consumes my life. Pressfield, in expansive plain-talk, identifies procrastination in its many forms and rallies the reader to battle. My writing this review after completing his book, is my own form of “Resistance”, actually. I can identify this with better clarity because of this book. Pressfield suggests a creative person to almost separate himself into two distinct entities. The creative employee and the Self/Me Corporation. Creativity comes from an emotional place, but the business of being creative has to be “professionally done”. Pressfield identifies the differences of approach for professionals and amateurs and what creative types need to do to get to work. If this book doesn’t make you look at work differently, you’re probably worse off than I am.

Here it from the man himself:

Alright, I’m back to it.

The procrastination has ended and I’m blogging again. Here’s the latest update in my journey to become an ESL teacher. I’m still at home. I’m still in the States having dreams of getting on a flight to Asia. I’m still a few steps away and the frustration is beginning to set in. I submitted fingerprints for an FBI background investigation several months ago. About two weeks ago, I contacted my local FBI field office to inquire about my case and was given a number to a CJIS customer service hub. A representative told me that my fingerprints were rejected because they were not readable. She told me to resubmit another set of fingerprints and that I wouldn’t have to pay a fee for resubmittal. She also told me a rejection letter would be sent in the next two weeks. Well, two weeks later, I didn’t receive a letter. I called today and was told I could resubmit if I included a letter stating my original case number and it would be processed. So I waited two weeks for a letter that never came and am just now finding out I could have resubmitted fingerprints two weeks ago. Great. So now I start the process again. Glad I called. Lesson learned. I’m going to stay on top of this thing better next time. While that part of the process slowed and stymied, other pieces of the puzzle have been successful. The splash of good news is that I received my TESOL certification in the mail on Saturday. I highly recommend International TESOL and TEFL Corporation (ITT) 100 hour online certification course. It was very thorough and I feel I know a lot more as far as what’s required of me as an ESL professional. I also had two copies of my bachelor’s degree notarized and submitted to the State Department for apostille last week. Hopefully, these documents will come back fairly quickly. My goal is to never become stagnant in this process. I want documents coming in while documents are going out. Keeping to this line of thinking, I contacted a source from my education reporting days to write a letter of recommendation. He came through with several signed copies of a letter I prefabricated for his signature. So now I have four quality letters of recommendation from education professionals  to add to the arsenal. My source is a former superintendent and current school board president of the county. Just to keep tally, my status in this journey stands at 1) completion of 100 hour TESOL certification course 2) four letters of recommendation 3) and a renewed passport. So, I’ve made some progress. I’ve been calling around to find a way to avoid using a fingerprinting agency to get prints. It is proving to be an expense I want to avoid. Twenty to thirty bucks per page is not breaking the bank, but free is always better. I talked to a  local sheriff’s department and the campus police at the University of Alabama who said they wouldn’t charge a dime if I brought my own print sheets. Excellent and will do. So that’s my goal for the week. Get prints, submit prints and wait for the State Department and FBI to process my documents. AND get updates every week during the process this time. I’m going to make it to Korea, China, Thailand or some parts in between before the end of the year. God willing.

How can a multiplatinum world renowned lyrical Hip Hop genius fly under the radar?

I laugh whenever youngsters tell me that Waka Flocka is a ‘good rapper’. I try to closet my bitterness about the state of Hip Hop, but it seeps out whenever I discuss today’s artists. I know I’m not young and I’m not supposed to relate to the music of seventeen year old rappers. I like some of Waka’s music. I like Meek Mill and that MMG movement, especially right now. Young Money has a few megabytes reserved in my iPod. But let’s be honest, Nas is an icon. If there was a monument erected on the side of a mountain depicting relevent New York rappers, it would have Jay-Z, Biggie, 50 and Nas. Surprisingly, the 40 year old MC turned businessman, is still relevent in the culture today. 50 Cent recently released a classic DJ Drama hosted mixtape called the Lost Tapes. Jay-Z teamed up with Kanye West for Watch The Throne to worlwide sales and acclaim as well. Until his latest release Life Is Good, Nas featured on a few tracks here and there, but not enough to gain new fans or get any major attention. TMZ and all the New York gossip mongers focused on his recent divorce from wife Kelis and published reports of how much he paid in alimony and child support. I’m going to talk about the music. Life Is Good is all about the breakup. Life Is Good is about living the single life, models, actresses, trips to Europe, exotic islands, Brazillian dimes, alcohol and plenty of blunts to take the edge off that LIFE. With Nas, the lyricism is always there. The albums he put out to poor sales was only because of his choice of production. This album is a perfect match of beats from some of the best (Large Professor, Swizz Beats, NO I.D., J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Salaam Remi and even the late Heavy D). Nas reminds us why he got to where he got and how to do it. Again.

REVIEW

1. No Introduction: Starts off with piano keys and an orchestral feel. Nas describing growing up in the projects of Queensbridge and “Brazillian bitches on zanies.” I was beginning to regret the download after hearing the first track, but I was wrong. So wrong.

2. Loco-Motive(feat. Large Professor): has a New York State of Mind feel to it. Sinister keys and a thumping baseline highlight the track. But Nas paints word pictures and even dedicates it to “his trapped in the 90s niggas”.

3. A Queens Story: Classic tale of the neighborhood. “Dope sold in laundromats.” Nas celebrating getting out of the hood. Memorable, but not too memorable.

4. Accident Murderers (feat. Rick Ross): Classic. This is for the new generation and it delivers. Organs, church ladies singing and Rozay’s hurry-up Tupac flow with plenty of grunting makes it all work. Just gangster music. Or Maybach Music, if you under 30 years old.

5. Daughters: Nas with a little upliftment for his seeds. These tracks are kinda formulaic for him now. It’s slow and deliberate. If you are a fan, you know it’s similar to “I Can”. Inspirational and honest account of being a father and having a daughter coming of age. Funny placement for a track like this. Fucking A&R’s trying some iTunes math here.

6. Reach Out (feat. Mary J. Blige): This one is for the ladies. Plenty of Mary doing it big on the vocals and Nas cutting the track with serious lyricism. I can see ass in short skirts with long legs and cosmopolitans spilling when this come on in the club.

7. World’s An Addiction (feat. Anthony Hamilton): Another track with an R&B star filling space between Nas cutting the track with serious lyricism. Hamilton is a good crooner, so it’s bearable.

8. Summer On Smash (feat. Miguel, Swizz Beats): Swizz can do no wrong nowadays. “Bad Bitches, Champagne Wishes… Cirroc on Splash” It’s a club hit. Nas with some designer label, model smashing and Yacht talk. All while Miguel is singing “Life Is Good”.

9. You Wouldn’t Understand (feat. Victoria Monet): Another mellow track. A radio track. I can ride to this one. Nas sticks to the formula of appealing to the ladies first and the rest will follow.

10. Back When: A reflection of life in Queensbridge. Nas depicting life as a fan of Hip Hop. A little jab at today’s rappers “realness.”

11. The Don: This is the one. The track given by Heavy D and mixed by Salaam Remi. Just real hip hop spitting. I put this one on repeat. You are not a Nas fan if you don’t like this one. “Army jacket swag, Army jacket green and black…”

12. Stay (feat. Large Professor): another throwback to the 90s. The sample is ill. Nice sax, smooth vocals and Nas spitting that real Hip Hop picture painting everday life story shit. Reminds me of my best old lady. That love hate feel to it. Unexplainable, but dope.

13. Cherry Wine (feat. Amy Winehouse): RIP Amy Winehouse. She was talented and this track did her justice. Nas and Amy just doing what they do. This will be a hit when they release it. Amy fans will laud it as a hit and maybe this album will get the justice it deserves from the critics.

14. Bye Baby: One of my favorite tracks. Nas detailing the breakup with wifey. The Guy sample is dope. This is real. Classic material.

15. Nasty: This single circulated on the Internets for several months before this release, so no surprise it would be included. Still a dope track. Nas came with it in that 90s flow.

16. Trust: Slow introspective tale of backstabbing snakes and trifling bitches. The track whistles and the hook is long, but simple “I want a bitch I can trust. Some niggas I can trust. Accountants looking over my figures I can trust…” Knowledge track for the streets.

17. The Black Bond: This one has a Black James Bond feel to it. Travel brochure, wine, jet-setting, dinner with water and tea glasses and lipsticked European designer dresses, model smashing track.

18. Roses: Alternative track with a sad bitch singing about roses and thorns. Nas just talking smashing the latest one and the money. Relationships and what that means to independent women.

19. Where’s The Love (feat. Cocaine 80s): Should have left this one on the cutting room floor. Not even worth a B-side. I know I’m showing my age. Google B-side.

I graduated with a degree in Journalism in 2000. And I don’t recognize it anymore.

The 24 hour news cycle has devastated the profession in ways that have yet to be detected. Part of the problem is the Hell-spawned Beast we call a news cycle. The second head of that dreaded demon is the growth of reality television. There are reputable news men and women out there, but few and far between. I’ve worked in a newsroom and have seen newbie reporters crack under pressure. Cracks can show themselves in the form of error, hyperbole and fluff or filibuster. As a reporter, the deadline is akin to the waning 24 second shot clock or the fourth quarter buzzer for athletes. It’s ‘give me your best effort and let’s see how you shake out’. The best journalists, in all their capacities to include broadcast, print and radio, are consistently Kobe Bryant in the fourth. When these cream of the crop professionals meet up with DEADLINE, they create accurate, timely and relevant products. These professionals, most of the time, have graduated from some of the best journalism schools in the country, have double/triple/quadruple checked facts and present that information in the most palatable way for mass consumption. Then there are the fly-by-night pros. These journalists opine without source, speak contrarily to boost ratings and value their Twitter feed like crack/methamphetamine addicts. The drug of information used to be pure, but is now mixed with half-truths, opinions and flat out lies. And I have to admit, I have formulated my opinion about certain topics based on particular reporters/analysts/bloggers views. Lately, I’ve had to take a step back and recognize that journalism is not what it used to be. Many people say anybody can be a reporter, cameraman or news person with a cell phone, now. I disagree. Anyone can report, but only a reporter can give the news. I say that to say this. I learned media law, ethics, story structure and how it all meshes. The problem with ESPN, FOX and CNN is that they have to feed the BEAST-24hr-cycle EVERYDAY. I watched this clip from one of my favorite shows, ESPN’s First Take and it got my juices flowing.

Several valid points were made by NBA Analyst Jalen Rose, former columnist and reporter Skip Bayless and my personal favorite columnist and ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith. Rose pointed out name calling players, judging elite athletes and resented that his professional basketball credentials were questioned after spending 20-plus years in the sport. Journalism of 2012 has become a profession of entertainment over substance, much like reality television has gained a strangle hold on mainstream television audiences. Controversy sells. Conflict sells. Personalities sell. If you can gain a following, you are elevated to your own show, endorsements and merchandise. There is room for that, but the key is recognizing entertainment and recognizing real news. Day after day, I watch (because I like to be entertained mostly) First Take and the heavily opinionated diatribes of Skip and Stephen A. These guys are in the business of selling a product, First Take. They get paid for their opinion, but being journalists they have to have source material. That line is very gray, though. I can call a player GaSoft (Paul Gasol), a “Team Obliterator”(Terrell Owens) and LeBrick (LeBron James) based off of performance. Amare Stoudemire, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, now with the New York Knicks, called Gasol, soft in a television interview = source. Terrell Owens had several well publicized conflicts with coaches and teammates and moved from team to team = source. Lebron James missed a buzzer beater hard off the backboard = LeBrick James. Or does it? It depends on what you’re selling. In all these cases, source material can be substantiated, but should it be said? Absolutely, is the answer the world has accepted. They wouldn’t want it any other way, now. I want my twitter feed, rss feed, television broadcast and website to have as many eyes on it as possible. Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly and the aforementioned members of First Take do one thing really well: FEED THAT BEAST.