I’m in bed and just woke up from passing out. It’s becoming this daily evening pattern. I come home from work, take care of some business, try to find a signal on this laptop, and fall asleep mid sentence, only to wake several hours later.
I remember traveling to a country where Spanish was spoken and how exhausted I was at the end of the day. Totally WIPED OUT from working so hard to derive the meaning behind everything. And when my daughter was in the Netherlands she told me how totally wiped out she would be from absorbing Dutch all day long, and how she would fall asleep early and sleep about four hours more per night than she did in the states.
Only here is not that feeling. Here, everything is more developed than the states. The quality of life is the same. There are no real physical hardships, and all day long everyone is speaking English to me. What is exhausting is more that my job never ends. My job, it seems, is to be everyone’s English tutor.
In that Spanish speaking country I rarely got to speak Spanish because the locals wanted to practice their English as well. Thing is, I rarely had audience with the locals, so they didn’t get to take that opportunity. Most of the time it was just me, trying to negotiate basic needs to strangers in my poor Spanish as a tourist.
Here, I am constantly being engaged in friendly talk that gets twisted into English tutoring. Every day at lunch, some different teacher tries to nab me to eat lunch with them so they can practice their English. A few of them are actually interested and just being friendly, but others? Today I went to the lunchroom with different people, and ended up with three people who all waited for me to finish eating, and where I thought we were going back to the teacher’s offices, the cadre flanking me on all sides lead me to the nurse’s room, where chairs were pulled out and soon I was being interviewed by five teachers as their English-only practice. (once again, someone forgot to send me the memo) As the conversation began to wane on my part, because I was getting exhausted helping them say what they wanted to say and they were running out of things to ask, the teacher that had roped me into having lunch with him/them said, “show’s over.” and teachers disbanded and chairs got put away and we all went our separate ways.
I’m the English show.
No wonder I’m so exhausted. Hopefully this kind of exploitation will stop soon, as I’ve offered two more hours out of my week to teach more English to the teachers. The other English for teachers class had hardly anybody sign up for it because their boss, whom they all hate, is in the class. I like the guy just fine, but they all say he is a psychopath and he is only nice because I have something he wants. Whether that is true or not, I am just fine with the boss liking me. But meanwhile, everyone is moaning because they can’t go to the class and I keep getting shanghai’d (oh my god how screwed up is it that I am always saying these racist anti-Asian sayings??????) into these unstructured, unfocused, impromptu lessons? And then I am told the stories of English. How English is the monkey on all teacher’s backs. How this teacher finished his master’s degree but can’t get promoted because he can’t pass the English comprehension test. How this other teacher was told he has to teach his non-English subject in English next year. How the President of the Republic of Korea tried to mandate ALL subjects be taught in English. How the teachers haven’t had the benefit of enough English classes. How the students all know better English than the teachers. Basically, they are fucked and drowning and clinging to any Native English Teacher to save them. Sure. No pressure. I’m actually happy to help. But for God’s sake, the being taken hostage scenarios have got to stop.
Soooo the teachers are IM’g each other about these English lessons. One for beginning conversation. The other for advanced discussion about current events in the all-English newspaper, The Korean Herald. They are doing this surreptitiously, as they don’t want the Vice Principal to know because they don’t want him to show up. I told them I didn’t care what they did or how they coordinated it or how they found an empty room or anything – all I am doing was what they asked of me should the Vice Principal find out and get angry. Actually, I find their fear/hatred of him absolutely ridiculous – the guy is barely out of beginning level English speaking, and for him to be in a class with people who work beneath him but who are more accomplished shows pretty good character to me…I told them he doesn’t bite, that he’s just a student in the English class, that he’s no better than them there. “No. He may not bite you, but he will bite us.” Umm, wouldn’t he bite more if he finds out you’ve excluded him?
I am the English show.
The English show does not know/is not told the rules until after they are broken.
The English show does not challenge the logic of this culture.
Meanwhile, it is clear I have to get my exposure to Korean elsewhere.