More Random Things


So I mentioned the cops standing sentry in front of the donut shop to Pat, and she also concurred that they don’t do anything all day.  I told her donuts must be pretty valuable in Korea, for the cops to guard them.  Gotta keep those donuts safe.”Don’t you have phoney jobs in America too?”  No, I told her.  I should have explained that nobody would be willing to pay for such decoration.  I told her about the greeters at Walmart.  There are greeters here in most of the major stores.  They say thank you for coming to our store and bow to you.  They also serve as preemptive shoplifting agents and stopped me to tape up a shopping bag I was bringing in.  Never mind that the sling type messenger bag I bought can hold a zillion items, but that doesn’t get checked.  At the Emart, when you check out, you are expected to box items or bring your own shopping bags.  They will give you a shopping bag for points from your Point Card, but you have to pay for them if you don’t have points.  I asked about the point card, and I guess it is like a Target Card, but for free like a Safeway Club Card, where your shopping adds up points and you can eventually purchase some featured item with the points.  But since I can never know what those things are since I don’t know Korean, it’s kind of pointless to get a Point card!

Pat asked about teaching in America.  I explained how teachers in America have to fix family problems, what little support they get from their administrations, and what low pay they have.  Teaching in Korea, she explained, is one of the most sought after jobs.  I wondered if this was out of respect for teachers and she said no.  The only reason is because they have reliable paychecks and job security.

She asked me how I discipline students.  Well, I told her, I’ve only taught briefly at workshops, so I’ve never had any students act up for me.   I tried to make her feel better by telling her that Spoken English classes don’t require homework and stress, and that the classes get to stand up and do fun things, so the students don’t feel the need to act up as much.  She said discipline is a problem.  “Do you hit the children?”  I explained how it was illegal in America, at least in the public schools.  “How do you get the children to behave then?”  she asked.  I explained that we address disorder before it gets out of hand.  “How?”  By splitting up groups, or making the lesson more interesting, or isolating the child, or giving extra work, and at last resort sending the child to the Vice Principal’s office.  I told her I had heard corporal punishment was now illegal in Korea too, and she said yes – but you can still hit the palms of their hands.  We make them hold their arms up all class.  If a child acts up, we make the entire class hold their arms up, so the entire class hates the child who acts up.  She says she had to do this the previous year when many students did not turn in a homework assignment.

I have been asked about a half dozen times what my teaching philosophy is and about my training and my classes in the past.  I am regarded as something of an expert in teaching spoken English.   All of which seems rather bizarre to me, since the Korean school system is generally hiring kids fresh out of college with zero teaching experience…I guess they missed the memo on this.

The emphasis on learning English is astounding.  Even to Koreans.  Even to Korean teachers.  It seems not long ago the Korean President made a decree that ALL SUBJECTS should be taught in English.  Teachers and parents alike revolted and the decree was rescinded.  I told Pat, “Gee, you might as well all just become American at that point…”

Fortunately, there are a lot of programs about pride in Korean culture, so it hopefully won’t be disappearing at the horrifically fast rate it has been.  But then there is the terrible brain drain going on.  They go to America to study and never come back.  People send their wives and children abroad so they can get immersion in English, and some don’t come back.  Maybe it is one of those – you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone things.  Me, I’ve been mourning the death of American culture most of my life, and yet of course there it was all around me, just in an evolving form.  Pat already asked me about the most sought after jobs in America, and I told her most people just want to work less.  I think my next conversation with Pat will have to be about the law of diminishing returns in regards to the stress factor in becoming a world economic power.

Oh.  Forgot that when I asked about my classroom, I was told that I have to travel from room to room.  I expressed disappointment, because that means I can’t put up permanent visual aids on the walls.  “Teachers travel in Korea.  You will just have to get used to that.”  I am dubious.  At least at the hogwan videos on youtube, the teachers all seemed to have their own classrooms…

The school body is actually 1,400 students.  The faculty bathroom is super posh.  The toilets even have washlet seats – you know – those Japanese electronic bidets that are incorporated into the toilet seat?  I tried it out, pushing the buttons, even though I couldn’t read what button was for what.  One button didn’t do anything – maybe it was broken?  maybe it was soap and empty?  The second button was a forward water jet (you have to position yourself over it) The third button was a rear water jet (the icon for this is hilarious) and the fourth button is air dry, which is REALLY COLD AIR.  (kind of miss the Thai wall-mount hand-held flexible sprayer ones they had EVERYWHERE in Thailand – wish I had one at the apartment)  The school is freezing cold, but the teacher’s rooms and the Vice Principal’s office are like saunas, they are so hot.  Uncomfortably hot.  All over Korea are little humidifiers about the size of rice cookers, spewing steam into the air.  I totally forgot about the nosebleeds that occur in cold climates that are artifically heated, due to the drying out of the air.  I can’t afford one right now, so I hope I don’t start getting nosebleeds.  Back at the cabin, on the rare occasion the gas stove was on for longer than a few days, (what – twice?) I just put a pan of water on the gas stove and that took care of itself.  Here, putting a pan on the heated floors wouldn’t do anything.  When I first moved in, I asked how high to set the floor thermostat, and I was told 28 degrees celcius.  I looked it up and that is 82 degrees!  Holy crap – no wonder the teacher offices are so damned hot.

I am so upset about not being in the same environment as the other teachers, I just don’t know what to do.  I came here to be part of Korean culture, but am going to be segregated.  I want to see how they are with their hair down, not how they are when they have to go out of their way (next to their boss, no less) to talk to me.  Grrrr…

Enough for now.  Maybe I will have to spend the next year in the company of other foreigners (waygooks) afterall, and maybe I will have to just move on to another assignment and make my choice of schools conditional upon NOT being segregated.  If I embrace this isolation, it could make me focus on studying Korean better, but then I won’t get any practice using Korean.  Maybe I am what-if’g too much.  I’ve been here a week and been alone the whole time though, and only foresee more of the same.  I wonder if all the Korean teachers are hired based upon their religious faith or not.  If so, that will also put a damper on the kind of socializing that is done.  Maybe if I can talk to Jane for a minute tomorrow, she will have some advice for me.  I wonder what the school will do if their new English teacher is seen on t.v. holding a protest sign?  I wonder what the school will think if KBS decides to exploit my being abused on air?

Right now, I am running my first load of clothing.  Hopefully the dryer actually works, otherwise I will have to buy a drying rack.  I have to put a deposit down on a temporary phone already, and that may chew into David’s student loan payment. Depends on if I really do get my alien registration card as soon as they say and I can open a bank account and cash this small check I have.  I tried to take a photo of the translation Pat did of the washer controls, but the camera’s 2 gig memory card I bought in Thailand keeps crapping out on me.  I think it is time to trash it, as it is always creating errors, even though I’ve reformatted it over and over again.  What a waste of money.  Except for some gifts I bought in Thailand, and the teacher coat,  and going out ONLY THREE TIMES while in Thailand, I’ve been really frugal, yet still have burned through almost all of the money I brought.  The domestic trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok cost much more than expected (I shoulda taken the 12 hour bus ride) and the over weight fees were a huge blow.  Oh well, it was all necessary.  Next month is going to be a bitch, though.  I only get paid pro-rated for 17 days of work, despite all these pre-contract obligations I have had to fulfil, and then 300,000 won gets taken out as part of my apartment deposit.  And THAT must last me for another full month, which really won’t cover food plus all my stateside bills.  And the f*$%#g recruiters won’t answer my emails about plane fare reimbursement – how or when and what is this “no unnecessary stops” will be reimbursed b.s.?  That was not what we were told to begin with.  I am thinking they are going to pull a bait and switch on us.  At any rate, I will get back almost $500.  But when?  Okay.  Just have to make it through the first month, and then things will be okay.  Right now, I’m just praying the dryer actually dries.  Please God, let the dryer actually dry!

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2 thoughts on “More Random Things

  1. I remember when I moved to Paris I f***ing hated it. Couldn’t get my phone hooked up, couldn’t send a letter, thick opaque bureaucracy everywhere, people refused to help. Prices exorbitant. Wore plain misshapen REI turtlenecks and backpack (normal in America) and got stared at. Couldn’t take the metro without men catcalling. Ditto for trying to eat lunch in a park somewhere, so I ended up choking down my sandwich crouched in a bathroom stall every day. Felt like I was in prison.

    I know it’s really hard but hang in there! Unlike myself in Paris, there is a REASON you are in Korea. Maybe give it a little time. Maybe it’ll get less maddening, or more likely, you will find things you love, and the maddening things will never go away…

  2. Thanks!!!

    You ALWAYS have the best empathetic anecdotes to make me feel better…

    Will try to keep this in mind as I sit in my little corner every day…I think I’ve already made up my mind that I must move into Seoul or way the hell out in the country next year. Screw fancy apartment – I need some hospitality and some people around!

    Well, we’ll see what happens after school starts…

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