The Newness Can Stop Now. Please.

Just spent THREE HOURS trying to steal a decent internet connection.  With nothing to do but flip through 80 channels of bad Korean tv while I search, search, search, for a working connection.

Well actually Korean t.v. is REALLY GOOD at doing documentaries on some of the many esoteric tribes and cultures, traveling, wildlife, etc.  around the world and especially all over Asia.  Too bad I can’t understand half of it.  We also get a lot of Chinese and Japanese period dramas, which are subtitled into Korean.  The pan-Asian baseball finals are right now, and I guess Korea is head to head with Japan.  It’s actually a breath of fresh air from the home shopping networks, bad comedies, never-ending news, soap operas, the worst selection of American movies, the constant parade of Korean bimbos dolls, and the all night long at-the-chalkboard-cramming classes.  But the documentaries are first rate, the images from the historical documentaries are totally engrossing, and I am absolutely in love with the old movies.

Tried to get coordinated for a bank account for a week now, and I’m totally broke!

And I keep asking EVERYONE how to get reimbursed for the airfare and nobody will tell me!

Tried to get a phone for a week now as well.  ARGH!!!!


Thing is, to get any of these services you need an alien registration card, which I’ve had since Wednesday.

For some reason, the only person that can help me is my co-teacher, and she is absolutely swamped with duties and our schedules rarely coincide. Not blaming her at all, but I also don’t understand why anyone else can’t help me instead of her.  Today I went to the office and told them a list of all the loose end problems I have.  I told them I can go to the bank on my own now, if they can just find a way to give me the details so I can get direct deposit of my paycheck, etc. etc. etc.

Went to get a phone with my co-teacher, and they needed my bank account number, which didn’t exist, so she went home and I went from phone store to phone store to phone store searching for ONE that could speak enough English to explain their plans so I don’t sign away my first born child…

There are ten billion phone stores here.  At the last subway stop commercial district, there were about EIGHT of them.  All about four storefronts away from each other.  Some right next to each other.  There are, as near as I can tell, only three telephone companies and many of the stores sell plans for two of them.  I asked the co-teacher, why so many?  Couldn’t tell me.  Are they selling the same phones?  Yes.

And my LAN line doesn’t work at my computer, so I can’t print out my handouts, and any internet research I do at school is ALSO from a stolen wireless connection.   Thank god I brought my flash drive, so I have to go bother other teachers trying to do their lesson plans to print for me.  (today I printed out 200 copies, which is only 5 classes worth – and there doesn’t seem to be any paper anywhere.  I still have 360 more copies to go)  Then, when I go to the classrooms, I can’t work the A/V equipment because all the instructions are in Hangul, and I’ve only had a two second lesson in its use, because I’ve never had any dedicated time for training and there are never any unoccupied classes.   Try programming a monitor in a totally foreign language…

With jealousy I listened to my fellow English teachers working in the public schools talking about their ENGLISH ZONES.  That’s right – ENGLISH ZONES.  They get:  their own classrooms with attached office.  The desks are not forced into tight little rows, but in groups.  They have room to move so they can do activities.  Their computers and A/V are in English and work seamlessly together.

Me, I have to pray I can steal a connection, while I try not to curse.  I had to buy external speakers on my own so the kids could hear what I’m playing, since I can’t get the A/V equipment to work.  I have to hold my laptop over my head so 40 students can see the tiny screen, and the (insert adjective here) boys won’t get out of their desks to get closer to the screen.  40 students is just sick and wrong.  The class size in Thailand was 25, and THAT was barely manageable to do interactive, communicative games and dialogs with…

For a glimpse of my lessons, you can go to:

For this last lesson, I talked about the roots and genesis of Soul music, it’s evolution, the impact of Sesame Street, how rhyming sounds and English spelling often differ, how English phonics has had to incorporate influences from other countries, how it differs from Korean phonics, which is pretty logical and pure, and why listening and connecting when the spelling doesn’t match what we hear is the only way we can learn where the exceptions are.  I have the kids brainstorm lists of rhyming words and write sentences incorporating the words, which always provides opportunities for common pronunciation and grammar blunders to look out for.

I really like teaching for the most part – except one class of particularly smart-alec boys, lead by this one boy who mocks me because he thinks he can get away with playing the innocent “I was just repeating what she said” thing.  He’s always the first to say hello, the loudest to speak, the most involved yet not actually participating.  He’s really smart and cute and I want to get all corporal punishment on him.  Today I said what he was doing was DISRESPECTFUL and the rest of the class kind of gasped…we are kind of screwed her as far as how much power we wield, as our classes are not graded, there are no tests or homework allowed, and so the kids know this is cake for them.  The kids are totally wiped out from studying until 10 pm everynight.  One class today I made four kids stand up all class for falling asleep.  As much sympathy as I have for them, they can’t hear or speak when they are sleeping.  In an American class a teacher might have to confiscate games, etc.  In a Korean class, I have to yell at a kid to stop studying his English flashcards for another class.  One of the students asked me if he can use his English translator in class…

On the opposite side of the spectrum are two students who’ve taken me aside asking questions about school in America.  I think I’ll actually offer the Study Abroad Survival Course I had planned.  (I have to teach two ninety minute after school classes each week)  Twice as much work as a normal class, but then again, it will be a really small class size.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but several teachers have told me about missing their children, who are studying in the U.S.  I assumed their children were in college, but no.  They’re in elementary school and middle school.  One Korean adoptee who has taught English for several years says that they send their children abroad so they can get better jobs here in Korea when they return.  Makes sense – but – he pointed out that they don’t go to the U.S. to absorb our culture because they have to return to the corporate Korean culture.  They do learn English, but they don’t become worldly, choosing to remain sheltered in the Korean way.  Those that do become worldly don’t fare so well here.  Nor do they want to come back.  Because life here is stressful and full of obligations.  Obligations they fall apart if separated from.

Teaching is actually up my alley, apart from the keeping up the good humor, which the boys sorely test me on.  It allows me to do research and try and appeal to the kids intellect, and I try to do it in a creative manner.  I also really had fun, actually the most enjoyable time of all, teaching the teachers.  Because they’re really interested, the group is small, and they have adult humor.  I think I’d like to just switch to adults all the time.  But with three lessons to plan each week, all radically different, (Freshman Conversation – which includes all three levels of aptitude, Basic Conversation for the teachers, and now this Study Abroad Survival Skills class) I find myself scrambling to pull it together at the last minute.  Not having a reliable internet connection doesn’t help any.  Once Korean lessons begin, I can imagine myself not having any life at all…

As for Korean classes, It will be another six weeks before I get a viable paycheck.  After that, the translator from KBS is offering me tutoring at the lower end of the pay scale so she can develop a method to teach Korean (she teaches English right now) to adoptees.  So I will go to her in six weeks, twice a week, until the next term at Sookmyung (they don’t pronounce the “k” for some reason) in June.  Hopefully I can win the half off scholarship from the G.O.A.L. office.  It’s definitely going to be bread and water for the next year or two.

Tomorrow, all the teachers in my half of the teacher’s office are taking me out to sushi and noribang.  They told me to think of a song and practice it.  (yeah, RIGHT!)  So tomorrow, after teaching three classes, then the teachers (and my boss) I run to the subway, go to the next station over, try to open a bank account for myself, try to purchase a phone by myself (this is really complicated and hardly anyone speaks English) then run back to school and then go get fed and soju’d by the teachers and forced to sing.  I’m happy they finally got it together to do something welcoming, but I think it might take two bottles of soju to get me through that!

KBS emailed and they said they have news.  Please call. But I don’t have a phone or time to talk.  I asked for an email report and nothing.  Really need that damn phone.  Can’t get the phone without the bank account.  Can’t get the bank account with out the school’s direct deposit info.  Can’t finish my lesson plan for the teachers without the internet.  Can’t get the internet without a bank account.  Can’t…

Oh.  Wait.  I’ve got internet now!  Must leave you all and put together the lesson plan.  Last week the teachers were wondering what politically correct words were…holy crap…they’re asking a native English teacher from SEATTLE…they are going to be soooo sorry they asked!


3 thoughts on “The Newness Can Stop Now. Please.

  1. Reading this, I had a hard time with you…
    You are a good writer or I could easily take the role of character of a book.

  2. I just checked your lessons at kenglish/wordpress.
    I love it.
    And Sesame Street was the first american television program that I watched when I was in Maine. At that time, in Korea, there were only black and white televisions, and there was no program for children and no diffusion during day time, so it was the first children tv program that I watched of my life. I learned lot of words with it.

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