Friday, February 03, 2006

Blog searching---in wanderlust

So I invariably do some Korean blog searching and I come across another foreigner in Korea (the foreigner is usually a teacher, of course), who like me, has a hopeless case of wanderlust. His name's Alex. And it just happened to be coicindental, amid my searching for the term wanderlust that I came across his blog.

Photocredit from a temple stay trip: Alex from The Adventures of the Rejected Anthropologist; entitled "Morning light from the mountain ridge, near Pyochungsa."

In the midst of my reading, I am awestruck by a paragraph that I read, as he recollected his teaching experience since the beginning of his current hagwon. I sunk back to earlier times, when our school had teachers meeting, all in Korean...

" The Korean teachers are all excellent and incredibly good people (and I love them all—-one especially) but there was a time when they communicated in the office almost exclusively in Korean. They asked questions in Korean and were answered in Korean. Which means, all the information they were receiving, the foreign teachers weren’t picking up on. We were never insulted by the Korean-speaking in the office, as the bosses supposed. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a beautiful language and one that I am slowly learning. The issue was always about communication amongst the teachers. If everyone is to get along and know what to do, people must communicate in a common language. Needless to say, it was a huge mess of confusion 90% of the time. Still, I was positive. I rationalized things—-the school is young, they are still forming a system, still learning. The administration is inexperienced, still figuring out how to make the school work. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. I was unbelievably forgiving. I made some careful and very constructive criticisms of certain things and this was taken well. They promised to do better and make some changes for the good. Unfortunately, things just got worse...."

Which was, and yet still is, the same for my case. New school, admin still working out the kinks, and yes, in the preceding paragraphs, Alex talks about~very coincidentally~his office manager Helen...where, in my case, we have an official, self-prescribed princess, named Ellen, who has not only been the longest Korean teacher at my Hagwon, but who has sought since at least my beginnings with the school, to be the office manager (that is to say lightly; she would probably prefer Vice Director if given the choice, I assume with her personality.)

Nevertheless, I got to thinking: perhaps these occasions are all too frequent in Korea. A new teacher, a relatively new schoo, teacher remains positive, school gets worse, finally all-hell breaks lose and nuts begin to crack. I have felt at times, almost to brink of exhaustion, on quitting the school---namely because, as Alex stated in another paragraph, how the other teachers were becoming sick with exhaustion, having to take frequent trips to the hospital.

And yet, I have already made two trips to the hospital this month alone because I have been sick with exhaustion.

First I believed I had the greatest hagwon on earth (well, at least in Daegu). Then, as the months wore on, and I gradually was given less time to break and breathe between classes, everything started to come together for me : was I actually being taken advantage of from my director, who not only has helped me out on several occasions, but seems as well to have sacrified alot for my well-being?

It's apart of the contract.

I come to find that I nearly negotiated NOT to have health insurance simply because (1) I was told it was very expensive, and foreigners normally don't need health insurance, and (2) my director was unable to register me because the last Candian teacher (who yes, was deported, and for privacy's sake, I will not go into that) kept his health registration card, thereby making it supposedly impossible for me to get health insurance with the school unless he sent back the health card.**

Later, I find out, my director kept paying for the last Canadian teacher's health insurance, even though he had to leave Korea last Spring, because she thought he was going to return and work for her. Ha! (I saw with exasperation, because of the circumstances of his leaving he will not be allowed to come back to Korea for 5 years, so she spent all $350 plus dollars on health insurance, in vain.) Now I'm going to request reimbursement for this month's sickness spending... argh.

It's amazing how time shows it's true colors. Be aware, all you teachers out there! ;)

~ Chelsea


* Yes, to my surprise, I have not yet seen another expat teacher in Korea with the term wanderlust in their blog title (yes, there was a little, "hey, you stole my..." thinking--which quickly turned to, "hey, wait a minute.. this is interesting...." realization.) So check out the site.

** Later, I come to find out, this is all bullshit. You simply do not negotiate having health insurance or not. NOW it is required to have health insurance, if you are a foreigner working full-time here in South Korea (see also this link for Jan 2006 Newsflash). Needless to say, with the new Australian teacher addition as support, I will have health insurance!

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