A turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out ~Korean Proverb


Getting Screwed and Teaching English

Where have you been?! Well, I apologize. So much has happened to me recently and I have not had consistent access to the internet over the last week.

Where to start?

So I arrive in Incheon, South Korea and my Rutgers friend Vic and two Korean friends Eunbi and Kyungmi are there to meet me. I was really happy that my friends came to greet me at the airport. We got back pretty late, met up with my friends Marten and Jessica, and I dropped my stuff off at their place. Immediately thereafter, we proceeded to an all-you-can eat Korean barbeque place… the love of my life.

I spent the first three days and nights living out of my bags at my friend’s place, a nice-sized hasuk. Hasuks are basically like boarding houses. My thanks go out to them for having me for so long and being so hospitable. Unfortunately, during my brief stay there I ran into one of the biggest problems I’ve ever had to deal with. After being asked by the professor who ran the lab I was going to work what kind of schedule I wanted, I responded with what I thought to be reasonable hours, given what I had experienced in American labs. His immediate reply was that all of his workers spent AT LEAST 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in the lab and that he could no longer hire me because he believed I was not interested in his research or working in his lab. I believe there to be some cultural differences at work as well, as he sounded thoroughly offended by my suggested work hours and further implied he was disappointed that I had only requested his invitation as a way to enter the country. He said he had no positions available anymore either. The entire situation is rather complicated, but in the end, I lost my job in South Korea 10 days before I started it.

Time to rebuild.

I searched around for a couple days for jobs in the engineering field but quickly came to the realization that it would be virtually impossible to find a job in Seoul, on such short notice, that could hire an English-speaking undergraduate. Even after having emphasized the fact that I could work for virtually nothing I received no return contacts.

As a positive, I found a really great one-room apartment at the VERY TOP OF SINCHON. This means that I have to bring an oxygen pack every time I walk up to my place because the air gets so thin. I’ve included some pictures of my place and it’s view at the end of the post.

I’ve decided to stay in Korea and make as much money as possible teaching English. Therefore I can still feed, house, and care for myself… and should I need to refund any of the people who gave me money to do research abroad, I can do that too. I’ve essentially become the type or person I’ve always hated: The white dude living in Asia to teach English because he’s really not qualified to do anything else with his life. Of course, I take solace in the fact that this is only short term for me since I will return to the States to finish my engineering degree while these other guys just stay here and waste away for unknown periods of time.

I’ve got about four separate tutoring jobs. The first is with two girls (sisters): Cindy and Jenny (English names). They are 8 and 10 years old, respectively. They are absolutely adorable and know a surprising amount of English. I meet them every day, for two hours a day.

My next student is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum of Cindy and Jenny. His English name is Frank and he is a 34 year old married man with a kid. He loves to go out and eat and go to bars…presumably because his work is so demanding. Thus, our English lessons usually consist of conversational English at restaurants, which he pays for. Also, because he is older than me and has a good job, he pays for pretty much everything... It’s absurd. As an added bonus, I think he’s a pretty cool guy. I usually meet him once a week for two hours, since he is so busy with his IT job.

My third student’s name is Yeon Ju. She is a freshman at Ewha University. What makes her really cool is that her major is chemistry, and she is learning how to play classical guitar. It’s really great because we have a lot to talk about. Also, her English is very good, even though she is very shy with it sometimes. She has been studying for about 10 or 11 years. Thus, she is primarily interested in English conversation and phrases. I hope we can become good friends, because we have a lot of common interests.

My fourth English appointment actually consists of two friends who want to study English Conversation. Their names are Jeong Min and Yeong Ye. Both are Ewha students, and old students of my friend Jessica. Another thanks to Jessica to hooking me up with Frank, Yeon Ju, and these two girls.

I’m also going to work closely with my really good friend Eunbi. I sincerely hope that by the end of the summer her English is as fantastic as I know it can be. It’d make me happy to have a friend reach an entirely new level of English and be able to have a great time studying abroad just like I did last semester.

My hope is to make as much money as possible this summer for when I return to America. This way I can pay back any grants that Rutgers wants returned because I didn’t pursue undergraduate research abroad as planned. Also, any other left over money will go to my winter trip in Europe.

Well, this is probably the last entirely news-related update I’ll be making on this blog. From now on: satirical, sarcastic… and I’m sure I’ll even regress into some sophomoric comedy.

The bedroom. Comes with everything you could need to be an authentic Korean. A small bed, awkward clothes drying rack, and television to watch the most horrid programming known to man.

My kitchen. Le Gourmet Chef.

The view from teh roof. Mind you... my building is the same height as the bulidings you see below. It's just... on a mountain.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the professor is over reacted. Was there a problem of miss communication?

5:45 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI: The last caption has a few misspelled words. Just thought you'd like to know. ;)

8:12 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, I believe that you have misinterpreted Prof. Jin-Ho Choy's intentions. You were never supposed to be the experimenter- you are the experiment, a cultural nanoprobe injected (via planned unemployment)into the homogenous Korean society. His work is funded by the Korean immigation authorities to measure certain cultural ripple-effect and tolerance levels. Your ability to make friends and sometimes-witty observations, and learn Korean, makes you the perfect volunteer. However, I must caution you that there are certain limits on how much you can "integrate", or else there will be certain pre-ordained consequences and you may never be permitted to leave for your homeplanet again. Contact me in confidence at ibarnes@comcast.net.

12:30 pm


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