And I’m typing this back in Boston.
Long story short, I was going for my masters in education and looking for some experience while simultaneously hating the living shit out of my job so I decided that teaching at a hakwon (private institute) in Korea for a year would be a solution to both situations.
Welllll, anyone who has taught at a hakwon can tell you that they’re kind of a gamble. You’ve got some good ones and some bad ones, and I wound up at a bad one. Specifically, I wound up at a bad one after my first hakwon reneged on the contract before I even started, and I was sent down south to the second one to work without any pay, ID, insurance, or visa for two months. I was an illegal alien for almost two months before I was able to get to Japan to get a visa. I eventually got my back pay.
That part, while a pain in the ass, wasn’t so bad. I had friends from my army days whom I was able to look up, and it wasn’t like I was in any danger or without any recourse. I also had a Korean friend who was a grad student when I was at the library. I wasn’t living on the streets, and people were looking out for me.
But the school!! Most of the kids were awful, and the hakwon director was fucking psychotic. I later found out that in the six months since he took over, I was the third teacher to quit. Well . . . actually, I quit, then they asked me not to quit, then I said “OK, I won’t quit,” then they said “You’re fired after this month,” and here I am wondering exactly where I went wrong . . .
And I got off lightly. A friend of mine in the same town at a different hakwon had his foreigner ID card and fucking passport illegally confiscated by his hakwon because they didn’t want him to leave on his vacation which had already been approved by the school and paid for by him. Crazy shit goes on in these hakwons, and I count myself lucky that it wasn’t worse. As bad as it was, it could have gotten a hell of a lot worse.
Then again, if it weren’t for the fact that I have to find a job in this economy, I wouldn’t sweat it. Thanks to my grad school friend, I have a part time English teaching gig over Skype, I have a book on lesson plans and going through it to get better at this, and I can always take out loans and go back to finish my masters in education. While I liked the town, I missed my wife terribly. I’m going to be here for a little while.
I have absolutely no regrets. I got to see Seoul again, and learn a bit more Korean (I really should think about getting some formal Korean classes somewhere here. I must be at least conversant in this crazy language by now). I knew the risks when I got on the plane. My old job was going nowhere, and I had to do something else. I’m glad I took the chance. In this economy, I was a gambler who took a gambler’s chance. I love all things Korean as much as I ever have; I just had some bad luck with some bad people, that’s all.
Just so you all know, I didn’t post much, but I enjoyed reading the Dope while I was stuck in the PC rooms chatting with Mrs. Fresh before I was able to get Internet, and you all kept me going. This place is like a little slice of home wherever I go, and I’m glad you all were here.
Sigh . . . off to find a job washing dishes somewhere until I get my diploma or the economy turns around. Things have been worse. If Solzhenitsyn could do a few years of labor camps and exile in Kazakhstan, I can get my hands dirty here for a few months until things turn around.
So Happy New Year, everyone, and I’m glad I’m back!!