Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Worst Language School Ever: Shantou Jail

The English teaching racket has its fair share of horror stories. You get off the plane in a foreign country, and it turns out that those modern, lovely facilities you saw on the website were, hmm, from the web. I've heard plenty of these stories -- the Korean hogwans have a particularly bad reputation. I mean when you start with a name like that, what can you expect?

A recent news story, however, has me thinking that you can get a lot worse: A young Malaysian woman acting as a drug mule was captured at Shantou airport and, according to one of the articles, is currently passing her time in jail teaching English.

The stories -- through no fault of their own, they seem well done, especially for something as sensitive as this -- leave you with many questions. Why exactly would Shantou jail inmates be interested in learning English? Since no one in the history of the universe has ever been searched at the Shantou airport -- especially flying in -- who didn't the dealers pay off and therefore piss off and contribute to the ruination of this young woman's life?

Do the women actually know they are being used as drug mules? The stories are ambiguous on this point, with some leaving you believing the women are naively unaware, and others with the impression that the women are reluctantly acquiescing to the pleas of men who have seduced them. In the end I guess it doesn't matter since they are going to jail and, barring some miracle, the grave for this offense.

One interesting point, made in Singapore's New Straits Times, is that the number of drug smuggling offenses committed by foreigners coming into Guangdong has tripled in the last couple of years. Somewhere, somehow, though we read nothing about it and it officially doesn't exist, there is a drug-dealing syndicate or two on the other side of Umi Lazim, the woman in Shantou jail, who will turn 24 years old in a couple of days on January 4th.

Additional articles on Umi Lazim and drug smuggling: