Thursday, September 15, 2005

The problem with a little venting...

Pulling my hair out with problems.

This is a big topic for me. I've thought greatly about this, and I knew that I would eventually have to confront my problems. I believe it's human nature to want to run away from one's problems; to think the grass is always greener away from home, in another pasture, or in a new environment. By separating ourselves from the known, changing geographically appears to be the quick and easy fix to curing the problems in our lives. I sure did; that's why I feel I fled to Korea.

I left a relationship back home because it was failing. I left my troubles working two and three jobs when I moved back to Washington, because I failed in finding just one that fed my appetite, and gave me everything that I was looking for. I left my friends, because I neglected to realize the reality that friends change, they grow up, and friendships no longer remain the same--I wanted to look at my hometown and live my life where I grew up through rose colored glasses: but in retrospect, I failed the friends I once knew.

How do we find the remedy? I wonder whether I should have stayed home. I wonder whether I shouldn't have been selfish, to leave everything behind and seek a new life, a clean slate, a better beginning.

The truth is, the problems do remain. I've hurt many people in the process, because I wanted to run away from my problems; problems in relationships, in communication, in truth and honesty. The list goes on. Everyone and everything is the culprit; unless we confront them fully.

Now these problems have come back to haunt me. So for one, I feel friction at work. I think because I work at an English Hagwon, that everyone--namely the teachers, should be speaking English. But that's certainly not the case. Everyone speaks Korean--who would blame them, it's their native language and they feel the most comfortable speaking their mother tongue? Plus, I'm the minority; the only foreigner. So they joke, they mingle, they discuss--even gossip about one another-- in Korean. Meanwhile, I'm left feeling lonely, pitiful, like a real 파 보 (stupid) American, going about my day, pounding at my work and my teaching, growing more and more angry at them because of this language barrier.

And they have the gaul to ask me about correct English grammar and phrases, in their broken English, because they refuse to speak English consistantly and practice like they should. Why the hell am I practicing my Korean EVERYDAY--it's certainly NOT to keep speaking English only (believe me, I would be speaking in French or German, if someone else there would understand me!) But alas, I gripe to myself--and my co-worker Seungbo, who's really the only other person who speaks to me in English besides my boss, Susan, occasionally. But it's infrequent. A kid does something funny or says a cute little comment, and everyone laughs. I stare, having no idea what transpired; then it's back to work. It gets dull. And no one translates. So I sow these bouts of anger and dispise by studying Korean--thinking that if I transcend this anger into something useful, it will finally get me somewhere.

Yesterday, I made a few comments to Seungbo in French. He had no idea what I was talking about; I just said how nice the day was, that everything was calm and relaxed, even the kids were behaving. But he had no clue what I was talking about, even though I sure did because I was speaking in a language that I understood; so his reaction was to flip me off, because he didn't understand me, and he thought I was making fun of him.

I said, "T'as l'audacité de me faire comme ça, de me donner le doigt, hein?? Maintentant, tu me comprends? Je me sens mal comme ça tout le temps, tout les jours, car c'est toujours le Corée parlé ici, et moi, je ne comprends rien... et que tu n'as auqune idéa de ce que je te dise, tu me fais comme ça? Vraiment.. maintentant, tu marches dans mes chaussures. Now at least someone understands how I feel here." (English: "You have the audacity to do me like that, to flip me off huh? Now you understand me, don't you? I feel bad like that all the time, everyday, because it's always Korean that's spoken here, and I understand nothing...and since you have not the faintest idea of what I'm telling you, you flip me off? you get to walk in my shoes...")


So Seungbo wasn't at all pleased that I gave him the third degree about everyone speaking Korean. It's not their fault that I don't understand Korean. But it's also my fault for not relaying to them that I think they ought to speak English everyday--otherwise they won't improve. And right now, their English sucks. Period. Seungbo speaks English to me everyday because he's forced to practice it. In turn, I try to speak Korean, but I'm very limited.

This language barrier is alot harder to deal with than I thought.

Like Mondays--this past Monday, when we usually have our 20 minute 'Teacher Meeting' (Right, more like Korean teacher meeting, while I listen to blah blah as I prepare my day's classes). And my boss, Susan, asks me if I have anything to say to the other English teachers, as I blankly stare at her, thinking...
Oh, excuse me, do you want me to ADD anything to your conversation? I didn't know I was invited. Or should I just vent and say that I think these meetings are a waste of my time because they're always in Korean... you expect me to improve my teaching? How? Where's the training I was promised? You pay me more, so I'm supposed to do more, right? No, I didn't know we actually had CASSETTES or VIDEOS other than in Korean that I could use to teach in my classes. No one ever told me. So I'm sorry if I actually care about my classes and the kids that I teach---I'd rather instruct them on English they should know rather than using these hypothetical situation books that use outdated and badly translated English. You want me to monitor their learning, how, by playing games all the time, especially when I get to see the kids but just an hour and a half a week? And you think MY presence is going to help their English, especially when it takes WEEKS for them to understand me teaching them a single lesson, when the Korean teachers instruct in KOREAN they learn a bit faster, no? So why not coordinate BOTH NATIVE AND KOREAN TEACHERS CLASSES ALREADY?????? Why do I have to do teach a class when the students don't even do their homework, and they don't learn a sliver of what I've taught them, because I see them few and far between?
I want to be logical and sane about this, but I think enough is enough. The pay is not worth this headache. In fact, I would be happier if the workload were a bit lighter, if I had a 30 minute lunch evereyday perhaps, and if I were able to coordinate my classes with the Korean teachers. Why put so much stress on the kids? And parents think because our school has a native English speaker, they're automatically going to improve their English? Good grief.

So for this week, (sigh) it's already Friday and the weekend brings the Korean Thanksgiving Holiday--I won't have much room to speak to my boss about what I think of the meetings and of the teaching. But for crying out loud, the kids I teach will not learn well by this method, and not all students are like the mere 10% I have that DO actually understand me beyond, "Hello, how are you? Fine, thank you" as memorized from the textbook we use.

These are but a few of the problems I have faced here. I can't keep letting them slide--by not communicating, by not being honest and truthful, by thinking they'll just go away or get better in time. I have to confront them, whether I like it or not. And where is starts is sometimes, just a call back home...that, and maybe a little hair-pulling too!

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