Monday, August 31, 2009

The New Digs Got Me Standin' Up Straight

Recently two co-workers, a couple to be precise, were finishing up their contract at the school I work for and it occurred to me- luckily before it did anyone else- that their apartment would be up for grabs. I ran to my supervisor and pleaded for it and she warned me: this apartment would cost me extra. Thinking of the growing curvature in my back from leaning over for half a year in my shower and kitchen I begged to know the expense. She said with a heavy sigh, 100,000 won. Would I still be interested? Ladies and gentlemen, 100,000 won as of this writing translates to $80.47 US Dollars. Considering my last apartment in Boston was $750.00 with at least $200 extra dollars in utilities, involved two roommates at each other's throats, and was right next to the commuter rail line that made my room rattle when it passed like in the Blues Brothers, I gave her a Cheshire Cat's grin. "Oh yeah, I can swing that."

Here's the digs:

This is room is where the bed and couch are and it's already larger than the previous studio I lived in. Outside the gated balcony lies some of the most beautiful foliage I have seen in the concrete jungle. Now the best part..

Hooooley shittttt. That was mainly the first thing I thought of when I saw this bathroom. I mean, hot damn that's a real shower! That is not a sink with a hose out the nozzle. That is a vegas hotel room shower stall. De-licious. My back feels better already.

The kitchen though is my favorite part.

I have an oven now! A kitchen table with chairs! There's a device I can put my wet dishes in to be air dried! A legit fridge! 80 bucks. All this can be yours for 80 bucks.

And the willingness to uproot yourself into an entirely new paradigm with an infant's grasping of the language but still....80 bucks.

Those are my closets. That is my little bitty TV. It's actually a regular sized TV but compared to all the negative space around it looks like a golf pencil dropped into a mine shaft. That sounded grosser than it should have. Moving on..

Inside one of said closets. The interesting thing about moving in here is that suddenly I want to spend money for no reason to fill up all the space but common sense is staying my hand.

Moving into this apartment marks the start of my sixth month here in Korea. I have a bicycle now with a basket, I can read Korean perfectly, I understand the language and can communicate moderately well in any situation. I am learning how to be an effective kindergarten teacher more and more everyday. It has truly been a remarkable shift in just half a year. It defines the phrase that a single day can change your life. So if you're on this side of the world, hey, gimmie a buzz. There's plenty of room on the couch for ya!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Much Ado About Swine Flu

There is a global pandemic going on right now in case you didn't know it. It is sweeping the world with the fury of a turtle on meth but it is enough to terrify the current culture I am habituating to the point where now my Hogawon has declared a draconian law that we cannot leave the country in anyway shape or form until Christmas. And even then we must return by at least Dec. 30th so we can have four days to display signs of the virus before classes start back up on Jan. 4th. [NOTE: that means that out of a year contract we have had, beyond weekends, two working weeks of vacation. Think about that before signing with a Hogawon over a Public School if you're interesting in coming over here. They get five weeks.]

Now on the one hand this makes a degree of sense. We deal with children, no one wants to see children being hurt and they see this as a preventative measure to insure the safety of their clientele and reputation as a safe educational haven amongst stiff competition. That's on the plus side of their argument. Now here are my counters:

-This more than implies that Swine Flu is a "foreigner's disease" and that only those with contact from another country will get it, despite the amount of Chinese and North Korean workers that move in and out of South Korea like it's the Mexican Boarder. Regular business is done with Japan and America resulting in expensed trips abroad for these sakes: are they immune by proxy of intention then?

-This is a culture that issues an anti-biotic at the start of a runny nose, has terrible pollution, and insists that Kim chi can cure the Swine Flu, yet finds it rude to blow your nose in public? Not a single child in my school sneezes with a hand over their mouth and I have yet to watch an adult do it on the street as well. When afternoon classes break all of the children stampede out into the hall of our school to be individually fed a snack of cold rice noodles or Korean pizza with the same fork! That's over a hundred children swapping spit in the span of three minutes four times a day. Beyond that, when you go to a restaurant your table is littered with almost twenty small dishes by the end of it, most of them soup, and those soups contain three to four spoons for the three or four people eating from it together! Seriously folks, we need to have all taken a mid-level high school biology class before being sat down to discuss the spreading of germs by the kleenex impaired.

Now here's my most practical one:

-Nowhere in the contract that I signed does it say anything even remotely allowing to be told where I can or cannot go on my vacations or for how long. I am granted the eleven days off that I worked my butt off for by contract. Therefore it is none of the school's business on what day I return. The counter argument is that the parent's of the children are concerned. That's a valid counter, but one that should be dealt with by the school directors and compensated accordingly. It just plainly is not our responsibility. If this was a government mandate that would be one thing, but it isn't. It's the directors trying to exert control over something they simply have no right to.

In my opinion the Public Schools are doing it right. They are delaying the restarting of schools after the summer break for a week in hopes that this magical number of seven days will allow children returning from their various trips abroad to have enough time to display any illnesses by the ending of that seven days and therefore not go back to school to infect the other children. That's what the directors of my Hogawon want to do with us by making it that we can't return later than the four days before school restarts. The problem though is that what if we do return with swine flu and are laid up? They still are going to be out teachers with no one but themselves to cover for it while having to pay the sick teacher's sick pay and medical insurance expenses, hence doubling their own expense. Also, what about the kids that come back with it? What do we get for compensation of them infecting us? Shouldn't everyone be forced to take a thermometer exam to see if you are displaying a high fever to be allowed into the school again on Jan, 4th just like they do at the airport when you land in Korea now? Simple logic and not the least bit as racist as these ridiculous edicts imply.

Right now it goes without saying that all of the teachers are more than pissed about this decree. There is organizing on how it will be fought because it will have to be. Until this government tells me that I cannot do something I am not going to be told what I can do on my contractually allotted and well earned vacation days. The outbreak of the swine flu is a terrible thing to have happened, but it is not the onus of the teachers to make up for these unseen circumstances, it's the school's.

Needless to say, more to come as we start this interesting second half of my twelve month contract...