Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Year 1 - Winding down


It has been a while, hasn't it?

When we aren't being baked by the intense heat of summer in Korea it seems like nature is trying to drown us. Although rainy season ended a week or so ago Korea is being deluged with rain of almost biblical proportions. There has been a LOT of flooding.

The rain started Tuesday and has been coming down in torrents since. It is supposed to continue like this until Friday. Here is an article on the weather, and the flooding. and

Work has been very busy, with 10-12 hour days. It is "summer camp" for kids. The school itself isn't doing too well, and even summer class enrollment is down. However, there were a lot of hours to be had.

Rather than trying to find out what is really wrong, and why things are going downhill, our director has decided it is the fault of the foreign teachers. Things have been very tense off and on, usually on, for the last few months. Her attempts at making things better always seem to backfire because she doesn't really have a clue how to fix things. Part of this is because she spent too much time away from the school, and is out of touch. Now that she is back, she is making things worse.

Our school has a bad reputation. Unfortunately for the director, it isn't because of the foreign teachers. It is because of her religon. She is a Mormon, and the other Christian churches here HATE the Mormons. Hell, most non-Mormons hate them here because they tend to proselityze all the time, and are always trying to convert people. Think Jehovah's Witness, and Mormon door-to-door activities in North America and you will get the picture. Our school has a reputation of being a Mormon/Religious school.

Now this could have just been bad mouthing by people from other churches. That type of bad name is easy to dispell. Unfortunately for Mary people get to see religon when they enter the school. Mormon missionaries pop in a lot and spend hours in the lobby chatting with the receptionists, using our computers, and surprise surprise talking religon. It is nothing to come in during the morning or early afternoon and to hear the receptionists singing hymns. One of the Korean teachers was using the bible in class as a teaching tool for grammar of all things. Rightly or wrongly, the school has the reputation, and it isn't going to go away by blaming the foreign teachers. Of course, it is easier to blame someone else than to look at what might really be wrong.

There are other problems too. Some caused by foreign teachers, others by the Director. Some of the teachers aren't that good. There are the South African's, well only one now. Her pronounciation isn't the greatest, nor is her grasp of English. Probably because Afrikaans is her mother tongue not English. She treats the highest level students as if they were begineers, and is alsways leaving the classes for sundry stupid reasons. Students don't like taking classes with her. One of the other teachers has problems as well, some of them similar, treating students in a condescending way. The rest of us don't seem to have any of these problems. These are things the Director can and should blame on us, and deal with.

There are problems with the desk staff. At times there is a war between some of them and the English and Korean teachers. The office manager is in way over her head but doesn't want to admit it. She screws up a lot, but covers it up well, and the Director trusts her blindly. Church buddies don't lie to each other, or so they say. They can't keep good people working at the desk because of the Office Manager.

So even though I talk a lot about how much I love it here, all is not skittles and beer. Luckily, I tend to just ignore the bullshit, do my job, and have fun. When I need to I wade in and out. There are a lot of good things about being here so I try not wasting my time focusing on the negative all the time.

One of our Directors wacky ideas to improve things here was our great move on August 3rd. She decided, without any consultation, that we all needed to move into a new building. Hilda and I were in 1 building, on different floors. The other 3 shared a building, and a floor. Hilda and I had NO problems with our neighbors. They were usually at each others throats, and doing things (like REALLY loud music) just to annoy each other. Yeah, moving us all into one building will REALLY make us one big happy family. Add to that the fact that the day she picked to force us to move was during the busiest time of the year, summer camp, when we are pushing 10-12 hour days, and the saturday we move on is a fricking working day. Move in the AM work in the afternoon. Instead of living 1-2 minutes away from work we are now a 15 minute hike, which in the heat of summer feels more like 30 minutes. We get to work soaked in sweat. As you can imagine we did bond a bit over the move, but not in the way she would have liked.

That said, the new apartments are sweet! My apartment is larger than my old one, and is set up in a nice way. My little kitchen-foyer is separated from my main room. I have a small storage balcony. The room is also pretty soundproof, so neighbors aren't that annoying. Hilda and I share one floor, along with 2 rooms of Koreans. The rest are on the floor below us, still being pissy with each other. It is also brand new. All in all a nice place.

The weekend before my birthday was party time. We partied every night, Friday to Monday. :) Saturday some friends came in from Seoul, and we met with some other friends and had a great time at a bar called Albatross. More about Albatross later. Monday night was just a small party with my best friends here; Eun Young, Hilda, and BumSuk. Eun Young left her car home so she could drink with us. We started out with dinner and soju at Jae Yu Boen. From there we went to Albatross for the rest of the night. They had bought a blueberry cake for me, it was lush. We drank, sang, and partied until about 1:30 AM. (Had to be up at 5:30 for work. ;)) Hilda brought her digital camera, and BumSuk had fun playing with it, dunno if I want to post the candid pics he took though. ;) It was a fantastic night.

Which brings me back to The Albatross. It is almost like a little slice of the maritimes in Korea! The bar is patterned after being inside an old sailing ship. Hardwood everywhere. An old wooden ships steering wheel is hanging from the ceiling. You are greeted at the door by a life size statue of a pirate with a hooked hand. They play pretty good music, and not at the deafening level of most western bars here. Then again most western style bard look the same here. The Albatross has atmosphere.

The owner/bartender is pretty cool and lets you select music to play. There is a pretty good selection of music from the 70's to now. One of the bartenders tends to get too mellow at times, and that can drag the mood down, but that rarely happens. BumSuk burned it for me. They play it for us. In fact, a few times we have walked in the bar and they were already playing it! It was so cool to walk in and hear Great Big Sea playing, or Stan Roger's singing Barret's Privateers! It is almost like being at Maxwell's, or Jamieson's. The Albatross has a Maritime atmosphere. :)

Life has its ups and downs, just like it does everywhere. Luckily, there are more ups than downs. As Great Big Sea sings it:

"And I say way hey hey, its just an ordinary day and its all your state of mind! At the end of the day you just got to say its all right."

Take Care,

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