Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'm Alive!

Sorry for the radio silence but this has been a hectic week to say the least. I left Jeff and Sau Ching’s on Tuesday morning and was picked up by a driver at a nearby hotel. Jeff and Sau Ching were really great to me and I couldn’t thank them enough not only for putting me up but for telling me so much about Korean customs, Korean Language, and the English teaching business in Korea.
I got to the school that afternoon and they had me leave my luggage in the teacher’s lounge and start following someone around to classes. Cameron was my tour guide for the first day and the teacher whose classes I would ultimately take over (mostly).
What I have managed to learn so far about my job is this: The school is a privately owned English ‘Hogwon’ or Private tutoring school. Mr. and Mrs. Kim are the owners and seem to be pretty focused on money. Basically, if the money keeps coming in, then they are happy. My fellow teachers are two Americans and one Canadian, Will, Jonathan and Sean, respectively. They have all been really great to me thus far, showing me around, walking me home to make sure I don’t get lost (strong possibility) and they all took me out to dinner on Thursday so I could try some ‘real’ Korean food. The rest of the teachers are Korean women and they are all very sweet. They have all taken on English names (Sally, Susan, Lynn, Debbie, Christina) to facilitate the process of teaching English – the kids, also, get English names.
In the morning from 10am to 1:30pm we have the ‘Kindergarten’ classes which seem to be the same as our elementary school. The rooms are all given fruit names so that everyone knows where they are supposed to be. The youngest class – the five year olds who don’t speak a word of English – are all housed in Apricot class. It goes up from there – Apricot, Kiwi, Banana, Melon, and Orange. The Orange kids are about 7 years old. Guess which ones I have? Yep, Apricot and Kiwi. Why, you may ask, do they give the most inexperienced teacher the littlest kids who speak no English and stare at her like she’s from outer space? Good question, I’d like to know as well. Most of the time I feel like I’m a clown at a really lame birthday party where the kids are supposed to learn something but always end up crying for most of the day.
In the afternoon we have the private tutoring classes, basically the older kids that come here afterschool to learn more English. Those go from 2:40pm until as late as 7:30pm depending on how many classes you have that day.
Cameron, the guy I was replacing, only moved out of the apartment on Friday so the school put me up in a ‘love motel’ (the concept of which I’m sure is not lost on anyone*) for a couple of uncomfortable days. It seems to be pretty par for course so I’m kind of mad they didn’t tell me that was going to be the case. I would have packed differently. But it seems to be the Korean way to not tell others what you’re planning. It’s not uncommon to have Debbie (she’s pretty much in charge of this circus) come up to me ten minutes before my classes start and tell me that I have all different classes. It may be a hierarchical thing; I am English Drone #4 and will do as I’m told when I’m told.
When I finally did move into my apartment, the code they gave me for the internet was not working, so its taking another couple days to get that fixed – hence my extended absence from the webbernets and my blog. The speed of the internet here, however, is ridiculous. I could probably download the Universe in the time it takes me to go to the bathroom. Just imagine the speed the internet would have to be if the entire country were internet addicts.
They feed us lunch at school which I have mostly been eating. I’ve stopped asking what things were, though, because that just leads to unpleasant feelings. I ate a whole portion of dried, seasoned squid legs before I asked what it was and I really wish I hadn’t because it tasted good.
My credit card doesn’t work in the ATMs here so I am working on a non-cash basis which is fine except for the fact that the buses don’t take credit cards. So either I walk to work every day (about 30 min. – not too bad, but inconvenient) or I get this sorted out. I asked Debbie about it and she said she would give me a cash advance this month, which worked out well.
Hopefully I will get my internet working soon, and I will be able to talk to you all on Skype! Hope everything is good back in the Ol’ U S of A!

* Aparently, I have to clarify. This is just a pay-by-the-hour hotel, not a brothel, mom.

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