18 January 2009

Too much and too little

For the past couple of years I've been working here in Busan at the YMCA Language School, it's not really a difficult job for a literate person who's not shy around people. It's probably the easiest job I've had in many, many years of working.

The hours combined with the isolation are a little much. I teach adult conversation classes from 0630 to 0830 each morning, then I'm "off" until the afternoon. I teach children from 1500 to 1800 or so. The only problem with it is that the time in between is really pretty much a waste. My part of the city has few, if any, English-speaking foreigners, so there's little opportunity for social activities, and my evenings are similar(except weekends). The nearest part of the city where I have any friends is about an hour away by subway. So my weeks are pretty empty of company.

I've always been somewhere between social and loner, so it wasn't so hard for the first year, but the shine is gone off the neighbourhood now, so I'm pretty much bored and lonely.

I decided recently that I'd had enough of this and that I'd find a new job in a part of the city with a bit more to offer me in the way of social life. This, it turns out, was a mistake. In Korea your employer owns your visa and unless they give you a formal, written release letter the only way you can change jobs is to leave the country. Now, to me, this is little better than indentured servitude. I'm unaware of the facts of employment for foreign nationals in Canada, but I'm pretty sure that they aren't "owned" (albeit only for one year of "indenture") by their employers.

My buddy Keith, worried about my mental health, urged my former recruiter to find me a different job. And they did, indeed. I was offered a job teaching in a public school near the part of the city I wanted to live in. The job hours were a bit more reasonable (though technically longer) 0900 to 1630 daily, but only about 2 hours of classroom time. The other hours were for "preparation". The other bonus was that the school paid about 20% better and they had an organised curriculum with some lesson plans available. The YMCA doesn't even give me books to use with most of my children's classes.

Anyway, I told my boss I had been offered a new job and that I'd like a letter of release with 2 months notice. She said, she'd have to think about it for a few days. Now that in itself was ridiculous, I knew that this was an attempt to delay an inevitable confrontation (Asians generally prefer non-confrontational methods, which only serves to make most Westerners angry in many situations).

So, finally, at the end of a week, she told me that they "couldn't" (I corrected her and told her that the correct verb to use in her situation is "won't"). They couldn't find a new teacher and she had looked "very hard", in 4 days, over the Christmas holiday. Bullshit, I hate it.

The next thing is something that I could have handled better, perhaps, but I really didn't (and still don't) care. I asked for my degree certificate back (I intended to apply for work in other countries). After a day, I was told that they hadn't gotten it back from Korean Immigration, I asked for the numbers and names of people she called, so that I could have my recruiter speak to them. No names or numbers were supplied, of course. Then a day later I was told that she thought they had given it back to me already (they hadn't). It was at this point that I lost it. I was so angry that I was shaking and turning purple, I scared myself, and then I started shouting at her at the front desk of the school. I could tell she was terrified, she looked like she wanted to cry and crawl under her desk. I really didn't care. My degree certificate is essential for teaching in a lot of places, for some bureaucratic reason it's the only document they'll accept as proof. MUN doesn't EVER issue new ones. She'd just lost an irreplacable document that had taken $30000 and many years for me to earn. I told her I would return to work when she could present me with my degree certificate. Oddly enough, about an hour later it miraculously turned up. The next day she took me into a classroom and chewed me out for yelling at her and undermining her "authority". I told her that as far as I was concerned her authority was meaningless if she could be so irreponsible. She also tried to get me to apologise, which prompted me to call her an "idiot". She then said that she really didn't want me working there anymore because I was too disrespectful, so I told her that if she didn't want me there she was welcome to fire me, she certainly had that privelege. Unfortunately she declined this opportunity.

So, now I'm just counting my days. Next time I'm going to another country. One without crazy indenture laws. A friend has a line on an IT job in Asia and apparently I'm on the short list, but I'm not holding my breath. Or, more correctly, I'm trying not to hope too much for it. It'd be pretty sweet though...


  1. Hope everything works out for you!

  2. I really hope so, too. I've had my fill. Life's just too short to bother sticking these sorts of situations out for any longer than absolutely necessary.

    Thanks for keeping up with the blog, and sorry I don't keep it updated more often. Maybe a new move will make me feel more like writing about what I'm up to. ;)

  3. Definitely sounds like you need a change.

    Just glad you're still alive n kickin .. i cant really say much though. I dont have a blog but im on the facebook all the time.

    Hope to see more writing in the future ;-)


e-mail notification

Google Groups Beta
Subscribe to Wandering Monk
Visit this group