“Nature: a place where birds fly around uncooked”
– Oscar Wilde
MUTABLE MOTHER NATURE
Sipping Mai Tai’s in the dappled shade of gently swaying palm leaves, as the frothing white crests of liquefied emerald waves tickling your toes, and the balmy sea breeze softly ruffles your hair; this is probably the kind of role you imagined Nature was going to play in your new life abroad – the provider of warm sea breezes, lapping waves and, of course, copious amounts of sunshine in shades varying from pink-and-gold dawn, to midday incandescence. What might not have been envisioned as you were day-dreaming under grey, rainy skies about the new job in exotic, sun-snogged lands, is that your future home might just be located in an earthquake zone, or in one at high risk for floods, tsunamis or landslides, and that the Mai Tai, and everything else you posses, might just end up smashed to bits on the floor or underwater, while you run or swim for your life from a less than benevolent Mother Nature.
FAR EASTERN PHENOMENA
Although wages, accommodation, medical coverage and working hours are obvious key factors to evaluate when applying for new TEFL jobs, for some people the priority is location, location, location – preferring somewhere particularly picturesque with a sufficiently laid-back lifestyle to be able to actually enjoy the views. Overall, Asia is one of the planet’s key TEFL job providers, and it certainly boasts many of the top exotically-enticing destinations, however, it’s also the planet’s riskiest area in terms of natural disasters, with almost one million lives lost over the last two decades in earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, etc. Certainly, not all of the continent sees prospective TEFLers scrambling for jobs, and indeed, not all of Asia even offers any kind of employment in the English language teaching field – for example, few if any TEFLers will be heading off to Pakistan or Bangladesh any time soon; however, Japan and China are both highly popular TEFL destinations and high-risk nations for earthquakes and tsunamis. And who can forget the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which lambasted the coasts of Southeast Asian nations, including TEFL-friendly Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, with gargantuan, life-destroying waves?
THE VOLCANIC TEMPRAMENT OF ITALY
The temptation might be to stick to closer-to-home destinations, however, if you’re assuming that the biggest risk you’d be running in Italy would be spending all your wages on heartbreakingly gorgeous leather goods, think again. The birth-place of the pizza – Naples – is, doubtlessly, a splendidly vibrant and lively city, however, it sits in the shadow of Vesuvius, the same deadly volcano which incinerated Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D. and which, despite having erupted with ghastly regularity for many centuries, has been unnervingly quiet since 1944, when the last major eruption took place. The Italian authorities themselves have a rather baited-breath attitude to the volcano’s future activity, and have in place emergency plans for when, not if, a new eruption occurs. Something you might want to keep in mind, should a Neapolitan dolce vita be tempting you.
Nor does avoiding the Naples area resolve the Italian problem; Italy has another active volcano on land – Etna on the island of Sicily – and a multitude of under-sea ones just off the Italian coast. And if that weren’t enough, Italy, generally speaking, is rather ‘faulty’ – less to do with Fiat engines, and much more to do with the fact that it’s one of Europe’s most seismically active countries – there are geological faults all along the length of the Apennine mountains range, putting about half of the national territory at moderate-to-high risk of earthquakes. In fact, Italy was the site of Europe’s most powerful earthquake in recorded history, which, in 1908, destroyed the Sicilian city of Messina Strait, killing about 100,000 people.
THE ANATOLIAN BLOCK
Let’s assume that’s put you off Italy for good, and you’re considering one of TEFL’s newest top popular destinations, Turkey. How to break this to you? Unfortunately, Turkey has what geophysicists call the ‘Anatolian block’ – the meeting point of the Arabian Plate and the Eurasian Plate as they slowly but surely press against one another. These are not two stubborn goats in a head-butting play-off, but two massive chunks of the Earth’s crust trying to push the other out of the way, a challenge which is pretty much guaranteed to end, sooner or later, in the rupturing of some part of the Anatolian block, possibly (some believe quite probably) with an epicenter only some thirty miles or so from Istanbul.
TEFLING – A JOB FOR EX-MARINES?
If you type ‘TEFL and natural disasters’ into a search engine, you will be served up with an industrial quantity of lesson plans and worksheets to use in-class with your students about natural disasters – what you won’t find are job offers worded along the lines of “Come teach in exciting [name of place]! Positions available for five strapping young teachers with a daredevil streak and an ability to run/swim/climb unusually fast (preferably with the equivalent weight of two medium-sized students strapped to their backs). Ex-Marines particularly welcome. Tefl certificate optional”, but, all things considered, perhaps we should.