Notes From Exile: an Expat Memoir
By - July 13, 2023

Originally published via Armageddon Prose:

Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, my long-time-coming memoir about expat life and existential stuff in the Great Beyond, is fresh off the press.

God is dead, as Nietzsche declared two hundred years ago – an assessment that means a lot more than an ostensible statement of fact.

Should you care?

Far be it for me — in a nearly endless constellation of worthy matters vying for limited attention — to tell anyone what to care about.

But this I will say for sure: my soul, assuming such a thing exists, is rooted in these 350 pages or so.

People to whom I have confided over the past two years or so that I was writing a memoir have asked me the obvious question: “What is it about?”

I don’t know, actually, and I certainly couldn’t fit a half-decent explanation neatly into paragraph form, but here’s my best attempt: Notes From Exile is about coming of age and discovering purpose in the most remote of places – or at least getting existentially okay with ambiguity on the topic of purpose.

It’s a blend of exposition of a borderline-nihilistic neuroticism that has seemingly gripped the Western world in the post-WWII era, travel adventure, and esoteric musings on the habits of natives of various lands. Existential loneliness, the variety of neuroticism peculiar to the Western mind, presents its thorny dilemmas via often-disastrous interactions with Thai ladyboys and PTSD-riddled army vets abroad and Ukrainian punks alike. One of the recurring themes of Notes From Exile, which I had not planned at the outset, is the often-stark juxtaposition of the Western experience of the world compared to that of the divergent cultures of the non-Western world, especially in the Far East.

I’ve spent a long while — some of it well and much of it not — on the fringes, both cultural and geographic. There’s a lot to see there, which doesn’t lend itself necessarily to snippety articles. So I compiled and distilled those experiences into a quasi-coherent compendium, titled Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile.

“I’ve met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks me, ‘Why?’
Why did I cause so much pain?
Didn’t I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?
Can’t I see how we’re all manifestations of love?
I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God’s got this all wrong.
We are not special.
We are not crap or trash, either.
We just are.
We just are, and what happens just happens.
And God says, ‘No, that’s not right.’
Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can’t teach God anything.”

-Chuck Pahlaniuk, Fight Club, Epilogue

Find Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile at Amazon and Barnes & Noble — and a bunch of other places if you Google it — in digital and paperback form.

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

Follow his stuff Substack if you are inclined to support independent journalism free of corporate slant. Also, keep tabs via Twitter.

Insta-tip jar and Bitcoin public address: bc1qvq4hgnx3eu09e0m2kk5uanxnm8ljfmpefwhawv

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