Posts Tagged 'work'

Update

The rumor was true.  My Supervisor from Hell™ is indeed being transferred to Naju, and so I am getting a new one on Monday.  I’ve already met the guy, and he’s awesome.  His English isn’t great, but it’s better than SfH’s, and he’s very friendly, has been to the states, and loves both Boston and the Sox.  So, this bodes well.  Maybe my luck is changing, eh?

First week of the new semester went well.  Korean kids spend much of their vacations in various other forms of school, so there isn’t as much of a post-summer rowdiness issue as I have experienced in teaching in the US.  But, there’s still some, so I took this week relatively easy for them.  Next week though, it’s back into the abyss.

I’m really, really enjoying my new scooter.  Makes getting around the island quite easy and pleasant.  It also makes it easier for me to get around to take photos like these:

Field of Sunflowers

Field of Sunflowers

and

Dolduksan

Dolduksan

I can theoretically drive it all the way to Mokpo, but I’m not quite that brave yet.  Maybe after another week or two, once I’m more comfortable with the highways.

Apparently, come October, I may be essentially the only foreigner on the island. They can’t find replacements.  The irritating Torontonian (or whatever they call themselves) left in August, and he taught at the high school. Lisa, who teaches at the “English Town”, leaves to go home to Nova Scotia in October.  There’s a guy who works at the local hagwon, and while I see him more these days, it’s still not really regular. That leaves me, that guy, and E. However, E is married to a Korean, and we (the other foreigners) don’t see her that often, and we’ll see even less of her when her baby is born in September.

According to the recruiter that works to find jobs for this area, nobody wants to work in rural areas, and they’re having a really difficult time finding anyone to come work here. Hopefully they’ll find someone soon, or I’ll have to recruit someone myself!

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Stuff.

I find myself sleeping much better here at Lisa’s apartment where there is air conditioning, though she has no curtains so I wake up pretty early from the light. I wish this were my apartment and not hers, but hopefully in the process of repairing the collapsing wall in my apartment building they will also use that time to renovate it as well.  By the time I move back in, the lack of air conditioning will not be an issue, thankfully, but I would love to have some improvements in the apartment, like wallpaper without huge patches of mold. I’m in this apartment until Sunday morning, when I move up to Damyang for two weeks to teach teachers that are, on average, about 15 years older than I am. Awkwarrrrrd. After I get back, I move to the house in Gunnae, though what I am doing between August 22nd and September 1st (when school starts back up again) I have no idea. It could be anything between having that time completely off and sitting in the office from 9-5. I obviously am hoping for the former. Hopefully the annoyance I have caused my supervisor this week will sway things in my favor. I wish I knew when the estimated date is to finish repairing my apartment building is, but here in Korea, even if I could find out such a date, it would likely be wrong, sadly.

I’ve been hanging out with Erin in the evenings, as her husband is away in Seoul working at a hospital (he’s a doctor) this week, and I have been feeling a little lonely since Marc left on Sunday. Plus, this means that I don’t have to worry about buying food while I’m here at Lisa’s (since I am only here for 3 more days).

I have been having to revise my lesson plans every day, often on the fly, as the energy level of the students seems to vary from day to day far more than it does during the school year. I got them interested yesterday by providing candy as a reward for “winning” the lessons, but that always feels like cheating to me. I am somewhat comforted by knowing that most other foreign teachers, even those in Seoul, get the same uninterested response from their kids (well, the middle school kids anyway), so I am able to remind myself that it does not mean I am a bad teacher. I wish I didn’t feel quite so much like I am merely here to entertain the kids while teaching them a modicum of English, but since I only see each class once every 2 weeks, it’s hard to make progress with them outside of what they get with their Korean teacher. They mostly do traditional school work with their Korean teacher, so when they do see me, all they want to do is play games. Makes me feel somewhat devalued, but it also makes my job easier, as when I am feeling low energy, I can just play hangman with them or something.

An Update!

 

Sorry for being so irregular with my updates.  I have been jumping through endless bureaucratic hoops in regards to my job, and it has left me with not much inclination to write about it elsewhere.  I will simply sum it all up by stating that in the last month or so, I have threatened to quit my job three times, I have threatened to get my boss fired twice, I have gotten my boss’s boss in hot water, and I now have the personal cell phone number of the director of secondary education for THE ENTIRE PROVINCE.  When will administrations learn that it is rarely ever a good idea to try to jerk me around?  I just end up making sure that it bites them in the ass.

The end result is that I’m now being paid $500 a month more than I initially was, I am being moved from my grody apartment to a house on a mountainside (which I will have all to myself!), and they are paying for me to buy a scooter/moped/motorcycle to compensate for the fact that my house is in a village of about 500 people about 15 minutes away from the main town (and any sort of groceries, etc).

Marc is now here, which has been helping my mood a lot.  What has *not* been helping my mood is the fact that it’s been a week since I’ve had heating oil, and thus a week since I’ve had hot water.  There is only one place that delivers oil to my building, and every time I go down to talk to them, they keep saying “Tomorrow, tomorrow…” which is getting a little tiresome.  But, things like this are sort of a fact of life, since I basically live in the third world part of a second world country.

Marc and I at Namdoseokseong Fortress

Gagye Beach

Panorama of Gagye Beach

One of the more shallow reasons that I chose this particular job at this particular location is the proximity to beaches that it offered.  Being an island, Jindo has 3 or 4 beaches, two of which are relatively nice.  The neighboring county of Wando, about an hour and a half away, has the best beaches, but Jindo’s are more than adequate, especially for someone who grew up swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately, there aren’t too many buses a day to my favourite of them, Gagye Beach, but it’s relatively easy to get there on the weekend, and if I really need to get out and go swim, I can take a taxi there for about $10.  Considering that I’ve seen beach fees that high in the US, I don’t cringe too much.

I’ve been to Gagye three times now, and the waves have ranged from relatively standard beach waves to almost none at all.  The water isn’t clear like the Caribbean or anything, but it’s clearer than the Gulf and the parts of the north Atlantic that I have been able to swim in.  The water, when the light hits it, is relatively blue, though up close it’s kind of a greenish-brown.  I’d say it’s probably most similar to the beaches I have visited in North Carolina.

Students from Jindo and the surrounding areas (some come from as far away as Mokpo, an hour away) come to the beach for various sports games and competitions, and there have been groups there each of the three times I have been there.  The students tend to mob me, as I’m not only an unfamiliar foreigner, but I’m also a chance for them to practice their English.  Sometimes their constant giggling gets on my nerves, but for the most part I find it more charming than obnoxious.

The first two times I went to Gagye, I went on the weekend.  However, last week I ended up being let off work around 1pm.  Since it had been a relatively stressful day, I decided to use the time to go to the beach.  There was a girls high school there, having boat races between the shore and one of the islands not far away.  I got some good photos which I will post later.  It was a good way to spend my afternoon, and made me feel less in a “why am I here/why did I do this?” mood and more in a “I just worked one hour and am now at the beach, on salary.  I have an awesome job.”.  Sometimes I do feel like Korea was a mistake, and so when I feel like that, I try to see the positives in my job that many people would love to have, and it makes me feel a little bit better.  In reality, I have quite a nice job.  I earn about $2700 a month essentially tax free, I have full benefits, I have a furnished apartment and free meals at the school, I live on a beautiful (if smelly and dirty) island in the Pacific, I work somewhere between 3-6 hours a day, and when I finish a class, my students bow to me and thank me for teaching them.  Not a bad gig, all things considered.


Stuff

1. I had dinner yesterday with the two expats I get along with most here (A Nova Scotian and a North Dakotan – seen above with her dog) and a Korean co-worker, and they are all really glad that I stood up to my supervisor. They say that I have really done a service for whoever works after me, because everyone before me let the supervisor push me around, and now she knows that she can’t always do that to foreigners. So, maybe she will be less likely to push so much in the future.

One thing that I didn’t talk about here was that when I went in to talk to the supervisor about the housing/etc situation in regards to me quitting, I went in with the phone number of the labor office and an English-speaking employment lawyer (they’re cheap here and often work for ESL teachers who are getting jerked around) on an index card, which I had labled in both Korean and English. When she started to make a fuss, saying that she felt her “alterations” to my contract were within reason, I pointed at the card. She quieted down and grumbled. Then after I said “If you do not follow my contract, I will quit, like I said I would.”. She fussed again, and said that if I quit, she would not write me a letter of release (which they are required to do if I leave after more than a month of employment), and so I pointed to the index card again, and said “If you don’t, I will call.”. She fussed some more in Korean, and I picked up the phone and started to look at the card, and she freaked out and told me to hang up, and then her English mysteriously improved (we had been speaking through a coworker who knew a little more English than usual) and she said she would see what she could do, which is how I got to where I am now. 

That’s definitely the Adams genetics coming through there. I don’t take no for an answer, and I *will* take things to a higher level if I have to (I really was going to call the labor board), and I will not sit down until we have come to some sort of agreement. I am not someone you really want to try to fool, when doing so may piss me off. I generally see right through that sort of thing, and I will have none of it, and if you *really* piss me off, I’ll probably try to take you with me. And apparently, if I were to leave this job, I’d be taking the supervisor with me, especially if I involve the labor board. The Korean at dinner confirmed this.

I swear, I’m not really an automatically contrary person, I just always seem to be underneath someone who thinks they can push me around by lying to me. I get more naturally contrary every time this happens though, and it has happened a lot in my life, so by this point, I have how to deal with these people down *pat*.

Shiro and Erin

2. It looks like Marc will be coming in on the 11th! That’s like, 16 days from now! Today at work I will be writing up a letter confirming the dates they have listed as my vacation, which I am going to make them sign. Basically it will say “Kelsey Freeman’s personal vacation days (days on which she may leave the country) are from July 17th until July 27th.” but in much fancier, more official language. Once they sign that, if they fuss about it, “the index card” will come out of hiding again. I don’t want to use the “I’ll quit!” threat if I don’t have to, but unfortunately it seems to be the only thing they listen to. Hopefully things will quiet down again soonish. Not counting today, I only have 14 teaching days left before my vacation, then I have my vacation, then a camp, then a 2 week workshop, then I start the new semester, and hopefully that after the craziness of all that, things will fall into place a bit more. Well, at least until winter vacation comes around and I get to go through this whole rigamarole again.  

3. Now that I’m almost positive I’m staying here in Jindo (well, somewhere on the island, at least), I’ve started to get a couple more things to make my apartment nicer. I got a second rug, since the first one has been relegated to in front of the sink, and so this one now sits next to my bed. I want to get two to three more, depending on what the new house is like. I want one for my feet to rest on when I’m sitting at my table/desk, and I want one for right outside the bathroom, because I often have to get out of the shower mid-way and turn the water heater back on (it sometimes turns off at random), and the linoleum takes forever to evaporate the water, so sometimes it’s still there when I get back from work! I also need a fan, unless the rumor that the house in Gunnae has AC is true.

4. Koreans are really into acupuncture. The other day, I said my throat was bothering me, and one of them took out this little pen with a tip similar to the metal tip on a high-quality mechanical pencil but with no lead or anything, and then started poking at and pressing on various points on my middle finger with it. It was a very strange sensation. Not sure it did anything, but who knows. My throat *was* better the next day, for what it’s worth.

5. Lisa showed me a restaurant one block from my apartment that serves pizza. It’s pretty good, but they stuff the crust edge with sweet potatoes instead of cheese. It’s weird, but surprisingly good. I actually eat the crust here, instead of putting it aside.

6. It hasn’t rained in a few days, but it hasn’t been sunny either. The clouds are extremely low, covering the tops of the mountains that cover the island, which are generally only about 1000-1500 feet at best. It’s very pretty, and reminiscent of cloudy days in Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland, but it means it’s very damp too.

7. Here in Korea, you are considered to be one year old when you’re born, and you also gain a year at New Years in February, I’m 24 by western standards, but I’m already 25 here, in September after my birthday I will be 26, and in February I will be 27. It’s weird, and I always have to remember to subtract a year or two from someone’s stated age. Until I started stating my “Korean age”, people kept saying “You’re so young!”, and now I know why – they were thinking I was 22 years old! Oops.

8. As much as I rag on the Koreans, most of them are incredibly nice people. The other day, I taught my co-teacher here at Jindo the Americanism “favouritest”, and I used the example “some of my favouritest foods are fried chicken and watermelon” (hellooooo southern upbringing…), and just now they brought me a whole tray of fried chicken and watermelon. This is literally one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me, right up there with when Peter broke into my room while I was gone to Boston during Valentines Day to work on my Div III (he was an intern, with access to keys, though entering a student’s room is a huge no-no) and left me a cute handmade valentine on my desk, back when we were dating.


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