Incomprehensible


I still don’t have a sense of how Korean culture works.  I’ve read so much about how confuscianism dictates how society works, but it still doesn’t make sense to me.  Maybe this will never make sense to me, as I will never fully buy the arguments for why anyone should accept everything society says we should accept, no matter what continent I live on.

For example, defensiveness:  D. B.’s redirecting my logical arguments as personal affronts to Korea.  Then there was my recruiter, Joyce, who asked me how I liked my teaching assignment. I told her that it was okay, but that next time I would like to be placed in a more vibrant area with more street life, such as Lenn got near the Anyang subway station.  Joyce’s response to this was to blame me for not getting my paperwork in earlier and telling me that Lenn got what she asked for because all her paperwork was turned in at the end of October.  Huh?  Why the blame?  Why the defensiveness?  Did Lenn really ask her for a vibrant area with street life?  I seriously doubt it, as none of us knew anything about any of these locations prior to coming to Korea.  And in Joyce’s case, she asked me my opinion!  And I was talking about what I wanted in the future!  Deflection and defensiveness seem to be the knee-jerk response to anything that does not tow the party line or that invites open inquiry or thoughtful criticism.   There is no logic to this.  I am banging my head against a wall here…

Today I wanted to let the Vice Principal know that I would give him a private lesson to catch him up with the rest of the teachers in my class for teachers, as he missed a lesson.  He didn’t understand what I was trying to say, so after trying to get several people to translate, Y stepped in.  Only she didn’t understand either, and it turns out she told him I would be willing to teach another class to more teachers.  So I explained to her that wasn’t what I meant, and she said she would fix it.  After lunch, we both went to his office and I joked that Y was fired as a translator and let her explain what I really had offered to do.  He said he had been sick and too busy and that he wouldn’t be able to come anymore to classes, which Y believed was just an excuse and that for some reason he had given up.  Later, I realized that since he was no longer attending, there was no reason for the other teachers to fear being in that class.  Unbeknownst to me, she went and had another conversation with him, and then she showed me an instant message he had sent all the teachers saying that because he was no longer in the class, everyone was free to sign up for it.

Wow.  Somehow he knows nobody wants to be in the class because of his presence.  I sure hope he doesn’t think the mistaken offer to teach another English class was meant to underscore how unpopular he is.  I sure hope he doesn’t think my offer to bring him up to speed wasn’t an insult, or a way to tell him he wasn’t good enough.  I have no clue why he would mention his leaving as a reason other teachers should want to come.  I just genuinely wanted to give him an important and helpful lesson!  Now, my wanting to help feels like I have created some misunderstandings.  And I need the Vice Principal’s help if I am going to fix this co-teacher problem…

I have to fill out a form to get my airline tickets reimbursed.  Even the structure of this form supports my claim that my full ticket should be reimbursed.  In the United States, if I were to document such a claim, I know that it would hurt my case if I only requested half of what I thought I was owed.  Here, if I fill out the entire trip, it will create a backlash.  I have filled out the request for the entire trip.  It sits in my desk and I am afraid to turn it in.  Legally I should back up my claim and document it, even if they give me nothing.  Culturally, I know it is suicide for my career.  I know if there is a backlash, that would be unethical.  Yet with the kind of incomprehensible and often illogical processes I have been encountering, I have a feeling ethics can and do get set aside and I will be “managed.”  I must be brave and turn in the form requesting full compensation.  I can throw a rock and hit a new job, and there are other school districts I can work for without D. B.  Just shut up and speak only in class, is what I seem to be hearing.  I will never give up on my convictions and, by the looks of hagwon-a junction, I won’t have to worry about being unemployed here in Korea any time soon.

To be conscientious in a country with limited vision is mind-blowing.

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