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"sweet hell"
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kimiki



Joined: 19 Dec 2008
Location: south korea

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:04 am    Post subject: "sweet hell" Reply with quote

I believe it was Walt Whitman who coined this phrase, describing his vocation as a poet. It comes to my mind now as I look back on my time teaching in Korea. Almost can't believe it, but it's true, I did it. I survived 3 full years in the ROK and am on my way home now...waiting in the airport for my connecting flight. Wanted to write a post to encourage any who may be in a place of anguish or doubt, as I was at various stages of my time there. There were times when I felt very off track of my life plan, and regretted going to Korea. But I weathered through it and managed to:

--meet my financial goals
--learn a lot about teaching, curriculum development, and more
--meet some really special people
--stay in 1 school the entire time, negotiating for better conditions each year and build a good relationship with my boss
--and somehow most miraculously, keep my long distance relationship alive with the man I really love, in spite of several temptations (and 1 or 2 transgressions...a-HEM! :/ A lot of lonely nights there, what can I say....)

If I can survive the ultra-tricky work and social scene here in Korea, anyone can. Specifically, here is what helped me/my advice to any who might want or need it:

1. Save your a** off!!!! Entertainment and socializing are the obstacles here. Do free stuff. Get a kindle, learn to love reading, walk, bike, cook at home. If you find yourself in a social circle you're spending more than you planned to every weekend, thanks to spontaneous jaunts to this place or that, regular noraebanging, brunching or drinking expensive imported beer...put the brakes on. Fast. You might have to find new friends. Some people just can't live any other way. Don't get caught up with them, you can find other stuff to do.

2. Get over your fear/trepidation of immigration and all the red tape issues. I had the fortune of living literally a stone's throw away from the immi office in my city. This helped me get over my strong unconscious dread of going there. I used to go in with little questions (not trivial stuff, genuine q's) to get myself comfortable with the place. I also used to eat lunch in this buffet place that was in the same building, where most of the workers have lunch every day. Some of them got to know me from seeing my face so much I guess, and when the time came that I had a couple of rather big issues they were remarkably helpful, I'll never forget it. But even if you can't see your local immigration office basically from your window, as I more or less could, just find out exactly where it is. Go there. Forge the path there. Check it out. It's an important resource for us and we should feel comfortable accessing it.

3. Take classes online to develop your skills. Either in a new area or in ESL, if you see a future for yourself in this field. It's a mistake not to invest in education at this point in time, the job market being what it is and also since there are so many good courses/programs available online.

4. Don't become friends with people at work. Don't regard them as your friends. Keep a professional facade on and keep it on tight. I could go on and on with my thoughts about this but to sum it up-- I suggest keeping in mind two things: one, Korean people have, in my experience, an uncanny ability to hear only what they want to hear, see only what they want to see. I found consistently that things I told people were-- not only spread around the office like wildfire-- but also twisted and misinterpreted in the most perplexing, inexplicable ways. And no, it was not due to language issues. It happens when people have a rigid idea of something and are determined to maintain that rigid schema, because it suits them for various reasons, and therefore try to fit any new piece of information into that set of thoughts one way or another. Eventually I learned to give people as little information as possible. This made life much less frustrating for me.

5. Exercise-- it's the best stress reliever ever.

6. Learn to love humanity. Even if you have treacherous coworkers as I did, try and remember that any act of meanness is an expression of suffering.

7. Dave's is great too. there are some really smart people here, good insights, support and advice abound, you just have to weed through all the posturing. Plus when you feel like you're losing it you can come here and vent. It helps a lot.

Most importantly, it helps if you really love kids and have a genuine passion for teaching.

Also, on a more provocative note, it helps significantly if you work for someone who secretly wants to bed you. My hagwon owner was a genuinely decent human being, who I know admired me as a teacher because I was rigorously devoted to my work. But the fact that he took my side on so many occasions, said yes to almost everything I asked for, and smoothed tons of shit out for me, times that were my fault and times that weren't, was I'm pretty sure due to the ongoing, unspoken sexual tension between us.

Take that however you want. It's just a fact of life in my opinion. Carnal desire and basic pride are huge motivators of human behavior. It's less of an issue in an atmosphere where people play fair. But that's not the case here. My point is, there are enough strikes against us in this environment. Make it work for you if you can. It's a useful tool.

Well, hope this is helpful to someone. Though more likely it's a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing. And I'm fine with that! Bye everyone, thanks a lot for your help and tolerance here <3

And thanks to Korea, what a journey it's been!!! I will always love and be grateful to this place (in spite of the fact that I never wish to go back, lol). It's a charming country, best students ever, society and culture at a crossroads and I hope they take the high road. Could be a really cool place someday.
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NYC_Gal 2.0



Joined: 10 Dec 2010

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Cooking at home (for foodies at least) costs a lot more than eating out. Also, saving one's ass off isn't necessarily everyone's goal. Not everyone is here for the short term, so living like a miser isn't desirable. Save a reasonable amount, and don't deny yourself that wedge of cheese, anniversary gift, or weekly date night.

2. It's a government office. It will stink. Nobody enjoys going.

3. Take classes in a school, in person. They're much better than online, and more highly regarded. It is not a mistake to invest in education if you aren't taking out any loans.

4. My boss is a great friend, and we go out often. She's even signed my release letter for my new job, and we still hang out. Don't overgeneralize. My former coworkers were horrid old bags. This can be the case anywhere.

5-7 seem about right.
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JustinC



Joined: 10 Mar 2012
Location: We Are The World!

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! What a journey! You worked in one school in one country, we should all bow down to your superior knowledge of how to ****-tease a boss. Well done.

"that any act of meanness is an expression of suffering"

I can imagine what the source of their suffering was..
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Dave Chance



Joined: 30 May 2011

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well at least the OP is candid about using sexual tension as a tool to get what she wanted.
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JustinC



Joined: 10 Mar 2012
Location: We Are The World!

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"1 or 2 transgressions...a-HEM! :/ A lot of lonely nights there, what can I say....)

If I can survive the ultra-tricky work and social scene here in Korea, anyone can."


Would've been entertaining as a blog.
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fermentation



Joined: 22 Jun 2009

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't believe in absolutes but as a general rule of thumb, I agree with number 4. The workplace needs to be professional.

Quote:
I found consistently that things I told people were-- not only spread around the office like wildfire-- but also twisted and misinterpreted in the most perplexing, inexplicable ways.


Same thing happens in almost every type of Korean society. Even in the army. I learned that a bunch of adult males can also gossip and try to manipulate eachother like highschool girls.

7. Dave's would be a lot better if people here were less serious and everything wasn't about whining vs apologism.

As for the last bit, so you admit that you use the power of your vagina to get what you want. At least you're honest. I'm pretty sure I would too if I had one.
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lemak



Joined: 02 Jan 2011

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fermentation wrote:
you admit that you use the power of your vagina to get what you want.


Maybe it's a dude.

Generally agree with the points listed anyhow. I think it's important to look at an endgame when you come to Korea also. It's an easy place to get stuck in (even for those who don't like the country very much). Work out an aim and stick to it....stay for 2 years/stay until you've completed your online masters/stay until you've saved 30,000 bucks/stay until the kids have reached school age etc. Don't just float around the place like a wet fart killing the best years of your life with lethargy, booze and bitterness because you can't be bothered moving on with your life.


Last edited by lemak on Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dave Chance



Joined: 30 May 2011

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fermentation wrote:
I don't believe in absolutes but as a general rule of thumb, I agree with number 4. The workplace needs to be professional.

Quote:
I found consistently that things I told people were-- not only spread around the office like wildfire-- but also twisted and misinterpreted in the most perplexing, inexplicable ways.


Same thing happens in almost every type of Korean society. Even in the army. I learned that a bunch of adult males can also gossip and try to manipulate eachother like highschool girls.

7. Dave's would be a lot better if people here were less serious and everything wasn't about whining vs apologism.

As for the last bit, so you admit that you use the power of your vagina to get what you want. At least you're honest. I'm pretty sure I would too if I had one.


I'm sure a lot of us guys would.

And this then legitimizes me to use muscle and brawn to get my way.
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newb



Joined: 27 Aug 2012
Location: Korea

PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
1. Save your a** off!!!! Entertainment and socializing are the obstacles here. Do free stuff. Get a kindle, learn to love reading, walk, bike, cook at home. If you find yourself in a social circle you're spending more than you planned to every weekend, thanks to spontaneous jaunts to this place or that, regular noraebanging, brunching or drinking expensive imported beer...put the brakes on. Fast. You might have to find new friends. Some people just can't live any other way. Don't get caught up with them, you can find other stuff to do.


Yes, that's what I've been preachin' for years to newbies. Good work OP for meeting your financial goal. While I met my first goal in three years. I'm on my way to meet my second financial milestone after my fifth year.

Quote:
2. Get over your fear/trepidation of immigration and all the red tape issues. I had the fortune of living literally a stone's throw away from the immi office in my city. This helped me get over my strong unconscious dread of going there. I used to go in with little questions (not trivial stuff, genuine q's) to get myself comfortable with the place. I also used to eat lunch in this buffet place that was in the same building, where most of the workers have lunch every day. Some of them got to know me from seeing my face so much I guess, and when the time came that I had a couple of rather big issues they were remarkably helpful, I'll never forget it. But even if you can't see your local immigration office basically from your window, as I more or less could, just find out exactly where it is. Go there. Forge the path there. Check it out. It's an important resource for us and we should feel comfortable accessing it.


Immigration issues could be viewed as a little fraustrating and intimidating at times, but a bit of self-study and getting over-prepared could ease the pain.

Quote:
4. Don't become friends with people at work. Don't regard them as your friends. Keep a professional facade on and keep it on tight. I could go on and on with my thoughts about this but to sum it up-- I suggest keeping in mind two things: one, Korean people have, in my experience, an uncanny ability to hear only what they want to hear, see only what they want to see. I found consistently that things I told people were-- not only spread around the office like wildfire-- but also twisted and misinterpreted in the most perplexing, inexplicable ways. And no, it was not due to language issues. It happens when people have a rigid idea of something and are determined to maintain that rigid schema, because it suits them for various reasons, and therefore try to fit any new piece of information into that set of thoughts one way or another. Eventually I learned to give people as little information as possible. This made life much less frustrating for me.


I agree 100%. While in Korea, I realize that I and other FTs are being scrutinized and judged by Koreans for every little details. I learned that it's always good idea to separate work and personal relationship.

Thanks for yor insight, OP. Good luck.
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KimchiNinja



Joined: 01 May 2012
Location: Gangnam

PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fermentation wrote:
Dave's would be a lot better if people here were less serious and everything wasn't about whining vs apologism.


Again, with this word "apologism", what's with that?
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John Stamos jr.



Joined: 07 Oct 2012
Location: Namsan

PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KimchiNinja wrote:
Again, with this word "apologism", what's with that?


Apologizing for Korea's faults... getting it, buddy? Captain Corea (less so), Steelrails, The Urban Myth, Madoka and PatrickBusan. (Three of them are Canadians, I believe-- just sayin'). They gang up on people who speak negatively about Korea and they run the show here. Welcome.
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wishfullthinkng



Joined: 05 Mar 2010

PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KimchiNinja wrote:
fermentation wrote:
Dave's would be a lot better if people here were less serious and everything wasn't about whining vs apologism.


Again, with this word "apologism", what's with that?


it's a word invented by people who are butt-hurt about korea for whatever reason.

there seem to be four types of people on daves.

the haters who hate everything korean with very little sound reason. (a decent sized but quite verbal group, often found in itaewon talking about who has the better local sports team and contemplating the existence of kimchi)

the people who toe the middle line and see the pros and cons of korea (unfortunately the very, very small minority, often found avoiding the first group like the plague)

the few people who are all about korea, covering its flaws (the "apologists", although people seem to get them confused with the previous group. these people are often koreans who can be found drinking seven bottles of soju and asking foreign girls if they have boyfriends)

and finally, the people who don't seem to care either way and just talk about silly things like costco and the mysteries of why their local gs25 stopped carrying garlic bread flavored snyders pretzels. (the majority of posters on daves, often seen hiking up mountains and attempting to procure cold cut deli meats at grocery stores)
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PatrickGHBusan



Joined: 24 Jun 2008
Location: Busan (1997-2008) Canada 2008 -

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting story OP...

Glad you "made" it out alive.

As for the "sexual tension" angle...how would it work for same sex work relationships (male teacher, male boss or female teacher - female boss)?

Perhaps it would be a tad more challenging to exploit carnal desire as a motivator for a straight teacher and employer who are of the same sex...but hey perhaps some people can try it out and let us know how that works out Wink

As for your points, they are quite valid. Especially 1, 2, 3, 5, 7(within limits).

I would say 4 highly depends on each person and where they work. I became great friends with co-workers at some of my jobs, while at others it remained strictly professional. This included many Korea co-workers. Office chit chat is culturally blind. I worked in places where other FTs were far worse than fellow KTs and vice versa.

6 is also debatable. People are selfish by nature (how selfish varies). Acts of meaness are not all borne of suffering, some are responses to other people being idiots at work or offensive.

I did enjoy the parting good wishes for Korea, a place that could conceivably become "cool" one day...coo for whom, now that is another debate. Wink

Good luck on your return home OP and here is hoping the man of your life who awaits you there does not mind your one or two transgressions in Korea. Laughing
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tatertot



Joined: 21 Oct 2008

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wishfullthinkng wrote:
KimchiNinja wrote:
fermentation wrote:
Dave's would be a lot better if people here were less serious and everything wasn't about whining vs apologism.


Again, with this word "apologism", what's with that?


it's a word invented by people who are butt-hurt about korea for whatever reason.

there seem to be four types of people on daves.

the haters who hate everything korean with very little sound reason. (a decent sized but quite verbal group, often found in itaewon talking about who has the better local sports team and contemplating the existence of kimchi)

the people who toe the middle line and see the pros and cons of korea (unfortunately the very, very small minority, often found avoiding the first group like the plague)

the few people who are all about korea, covering its flaws (the "apologists", although people seem to get them confused with the previous group. these people are often koreans who can be found drinking seven bottles of soju and asking foreign girls if they have boyfriends)

and finally, the people who don't seem to care either way and just talk about silly things like costco and the mysteries of why their local gs25 stopped carrying garlic bread flavored snyders pretzels. (the majority of posters on daves, often seen hiking up mountains and attempting to procure cold cut deli meats at grocery stores)

The word "apologism" wasn't invented by anyone on this board, but it is kind of used wrong on this board. It is a general term used to describe the defense of a position. C. S. Lewis is a famous Christian apologist, for instance.

Wikipedia wrote:
Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. Early Christian writers (c. 120220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists.
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wishfullthinkng



Joined: 05 Mar 2010

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tatertot wrote:

The word "apologism" wasn't invented by anyone on this board, but it is kind of used wrong on this board. It is a general term used to describe the defense of a position. C. S. Lewis is a famous Christian apologist, for instance.

Wikipedia wrote:
Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. Early Christian writers (c. 120220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists.


sarcasm my friend, sarcasm.
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