- Travel and Places
Joey Arnold: The Guy Who Didn't
Joey Arnold: The Guy Who Didn't
Here I will attempt to tell you the true story of Joey Arnold. This isn't fiction but it might have some holes. I was honored to be there at the onset of Joey's adventure and have checked in on his status via internet from time to time.
I was living in Bac Ninh, Vietnam in 2012. I was working at a small start up English language center and I was the only foreigner in the entire city. I had made friends with Andy, a native Vietnamese guy who had become an American citizen but was living in Vietnam at the time. He was a good guy who I think looks like a strong, Asian Keanu Reeves. The first floor of Andy's house was a restaurant which served the best Western food in the city. His English was also great and his calm demeanor made it one of my favorite places to hang out other than the pool hall. One day there was a bit of an excited buzz around the city. Andy, my students and possibly a few others were asking me if I had met the other American yet. Joey didn't know it but I knew of his arrival to Bac Ninh long before I met him.
Soon enough, I met him at Andy's place. I don't remember too much about that first impression except that he wasn't the BFF I had been hoping for. Joey had thin, messy hair and a perpetual five o'clock shadow that clung to his droopy face in the most unappealing way. I wouldn't say that Joey is ugly but he's a perfect example of what happens when you make a funny face for too long and it gets stuck that way. When I first met him he was a bit overweight too and wore baggy, wrinkled clothes that were studded with a gamut of different colored stains. It was also immediately obvious that he conserved water because he only showered or brushed his teeth once in a blue moon.
Joey came from Oregon. He had been chatting with a Filipina who taught English at another English center in Bac Ninh. She mentioned that he would be able to easily get a job and so he took the plunge and moved to Vietnam. I believe it was his first time out of the country and his parents paid for a one way ticket for him. Otherwise, he only had a couple hundred dollars to his name. He did get the job but he lacked teaching experience. He dressed so slovenly and gave the excuse that he didn't want the locals to feel that he thinks he's better than them by dressing up. I tried to impress upon him that a teacher in Vietnam is highly regarded and English isn't just a cute pastime for them; it was a chance to break free and get a much better career or even a promotion or pay increase. It was the difference between mediocrity or riches. I told him that he needed to emulate that and respect the position that he was in. All this, along with all the other advice I ever gave him, just fell on deaf ears.
Shortly after starting to work at his new school, Joey was fired. Andy requested that I go with him to confront the school, which I did reluctantly. They told me that not only were the kids uncomfortable with him but he was also saying some pretty nasty things about the school and the management on the internet. His complaints were very easily viewed and his boss quickly found them and then fired him. The school had put him up in a hotel and gave him a day or two to move out. Remember, he only had a tiny amount of money and no way of getting back home. Andy, being the kind-hearted guy that he was, took Joey under his wing and gave him a place to stay as well as hot meals. If it wasn't for Andy, Joey would have been a homeless American living on the streets of Vietnam.
Joey leeched off of Andy for a long time, sleeping free and eating the food. He didn't bother to lift a finger to help Andy with anything, nor did he try to find another job. He never even did the most basic thing a guy in his position should have done which is to say, “Thank you.” He spent his time on the internet, blogging and uploading videos. This is how I've been able to sort of check in with him over the years even though I've since moved out of Vietnam while Joey is still stuck there. Granted, Joey claims that he loves in there and doesn't ever want to go back to the United States but the grim reality is that he probably couldn't get back home even if he wanted to.
I spent some time with Joey but he's a bit crazy. I know that it sounds like I'm just complaining and speaking angrily about him but believe me when I say that these words are as impartial and straight forward as I could be about Joey. I pleaded with him to dress nicer, take a shower, brush his teeth and get a TEFL certificate. I gave him all the TEFL materials he needed to learn the basics of being an English teacher. I even set up a job for him and drove him to the school but he wouldn't enter the building. One thing that Joey does expertly is argue but he doesn't argue like a skilled lawyer, he argues like a lunatic that you could meet on a Los Angeles bus. Anything you say, he'll have to disagree with you and then his arguments easily get off topic or circular until you don't even know what you're arguing about but you feel frustrated. All over the internet, I always find tiny remains of these arguments or people he has pissed off, even though he usually deletes bad things about himself after a short time.
At one point, he started to write terrible things about the Vietnamese government very plainly online. That was a scary thought, because even though Vietnam isn't quite like Big Brother, they do monitor what goes on online and people have had trouble with the authorities for things they posted online. At that point, I decided to distance myself from him. I just wasn't going to go down with that sinking ship. It was only a matter of time before he pissed off some guy in the street or some police officer or something and I didn't want people to think I was on his side. I tried in vain to explain that the Vietnamese people were very friendly and they would quietly take a lot of crap from people but once they reached their limit, they would snap in the most ugly way. I tried to paint the picture of the bombing that happened just a few days before, just down the street from us. There was a guy who owed another guy some money. He came to collect and instead of paying up, it got heated and he came at the guy with a knife. No blood was spilled that day but later at night, the guy who had been attacked with the knife sought his revenge and made a home-made bomb. He put it on his motorcycle and was en route to delivering it when it went off prematurely. I saw the scene the next day and the guy's body parts were thrown in different directions and all that was left was the half charred remains of a motorcycle. When I heard about it, I was at the gym with Andy and a few of the local guys were talking. One of them was very upset. I thought he was upset about the violence in his neighborhood but he was upset because he couldn't fathom why the bomb would have gone of prematurely. I used this story to try to impress upon Joey they sort of wrath he could be dealing with but it just didn't sink in.
My biggest victory with Joey was that I eventually got him to pitch in and help a little bit at the restaurant while he was there. One day he left for Ha Noi in search of work. He started a number of jobs but never kept them long enough to collect a month's paycheck. At one point, he volunteered at a museum and even got fired from that. I'm not sure how you get fired from an unpaid position so fast, but Joey managed.
Eventually he moved down to Ho Chi Minh City where I think he was chasing another girl. From what I gathered, he has a pattern of getting some lovely Vietnamese person to take him into their house and after he's exhausted and leeched out their remaining hospitality, he gets kicked out. For a while he was meeting with Vietnamese people at a coffee shop so they could practice their English with a native speaker. This is a highly sought after commodity in Vietnam. He would only ask for some tea in exchange. I believe he lived off of tea for months at a time and he soon lost more weight than any of the diets out there can ever offer. He shaved his head and started to dress extremely nicer (compared to his garb before).
He does get some teaching jobs from time to time but I doubt that he keeps the job for too long. He posts hundreds of videos online as well as his blogs and multiple different accounts on Facebook for teaching English. There are hints of his misadventures that crop up from time to time that you can find online such as getting arrested by Vietnamese police, or Facebook or Couchsurfing.com blocking him from their websites, various drama from people he has encountered who had clearly attempted to take an argument with Joey to some sort of resolution but went crazy along the way.
I have included a video here of one of Joey's English instructional videos. He is a terrible impressionist but in his mind, he is probably thinking that he is on par with a university lecturer. Please excuse the terribly racist remarks he makes. He doesn't actually mean any harm by it, he just doesn't know any better because he's stuck in his own world. However, if you are actually able to finish the whole thing, then I applaud you because it's very difficult to watch. Just stick in there though and you'll hear some true gems of comedy.
I also am predicting that Joey will have some sort of Google alert on his name and will probably find this article in due time. If so, you'll have the treat of seeing his comments and, perhaps, I might just engage for the sake of entertainment.
As for the future of Joey Arnold, no one can say with certainty what exactly has happened but his life in Vietnam has unfolded like a twisted reality show and I hope you were entertained to learn about Joey Arnold: The Guy Who Didn't.