Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vacation Time

Vacation time in South Korea can be broken into two categories. First is what you get at Public Schools and Universities. The second is what you hope to get at a Hagwon.

The public schools and universities tend to honour vacation time. (I haven't heard of any that haven't. Which doesn't mean it hasn't happened, I just never heard about it. ;) ) You will probably have to teach a "camp" during the overall vacation period. However, you will receive your alloted vacation time, usually after the "camp"

The "camp" is just extra "intensive" classes. (Damn my " key is getting a workout today.) Intensives are extra classes, outside your regular schedule and curriculum, that kids (and University students) take during their vacation period. Instead of enjoying their time off school they are usually forced (kids) to take these extra classes. They are called "intensive" because what is normally done in 1 semester is crammed into 3-4 weeks. For example, a 20 chapter book that normally takes 2-3 months is done in 1.

Not much of a camp eh?

At the public schools you will have to do what is often called "desk warming" or "chair warming" time. School will be closed for the vacation period but you will still have to be there. Usually a Korean teacher will be there too. A Korean teacher I used to know said that they would rotate. One teacher would be in for a few days or a week. Then it was someone elses turn. Based on what I have heard the foreign teacher is usually there too the whole time (sans their week of vacation and camp time.)

Hagwons are a whole other story. My 1st contract simply said I received 2 weeks of unpaid vacation. When I asked about booking my vacation time a few months into my 1st year I was told we don't book it. We get it after we finish our contract. It was the 2 weeks you had before you HAD to leave the contract after your VISA expired. The director considered THAT to be your 2 weeks of unpaid vacation time. Yeah, pretty shitty but pretty standard for the way Hagwons screw around the foreign teachers.

Any contract I signed after my 1st stated that I got 10 paid vacation days. Ivy school said it would be 5 days in the summer, around a weekend, and 5 in the winter, around a weekend. That actually worked the 1st year. The 2nd year they shaved a day off each vacation. The third year they tried to force us to take a TWO day vacation plus weekend. In the end they screwed everyone out of 2 vacation days, making it 3 days plus a weekend.

The next school had the same amount of vacation days. The boss said he would TRY to give us 5 and a weekend but was never able to. However, we were able to take vacation days here and there with permission. Including around chuseok and seollal.

The guy who bought that school turned out to be a real asshole and was just like the scum that ran Ivy School. He was going to give us ONE day and a weekend. It ended up being 2 and a weekend. Luckily he sold the school before I had a chance to quit.

Vacation time is a prime example of what is wrong with contracts in Korea. They are only honoured IF the director wants to. While you can complain to the Labour Office don't expect it to go to far when the OFFICIAL government policy now seems to be that contracts are not binding.

Yes, that is what I said. A contract, according to the Korean government is not binding. In a seminar that all Hagwon teachers were forced to attend in the spring of 2010 teachers were informed that contracts are a starting point not an ending one. You should expect to be asked to do things that aren't in the contract and you should accept at least part of what you are asked to do.

I particularly liked their comments about "never give an inch" not being the Korean way. Hagwon owners rarely ever give an inch, YOU are expected to. I only ever had one Director in Korea that understood what compromise was, and was willing to do it. And he honoured his word. Most of them don't. One of the pitfalls of working in a Hagwon.

What the ... hatchet job?!?!?

The expat community in South Korea is in a bit of an uproar again. Why? Well, the World's Worst Newspaper is at it again with their anti-foreigner vitriol. Kang ShinWho has yet another negative story about foreigners, this time focusing on an on-air personality, Adam Walsh.

Adam went to work on a radio program while sick. He found that he couldn't perform the job and another host took over. Is that a big deal? Of course it is to racist pieces of shit like Kunt ShinWho. In the Korea Times he has to speculate about whether Adam was drunk or not. He covered himself as he always does by attributing the comments to anonymous sources, people who posted on a websites comment section, or just parroting what AES has to say without verifying their made up "facts". In other words ... unreliable sources that no proper media outlet would use.

Adam and Kang the Kamikaze Kunt (feel free to just substitute KKK when thinking of Kang) have a history. Kang is a spokesmouth for the Anti-English Spectrum assholes. He blindly prints whatever anti-foreigner bullshit AES spews out. Adam has called AES on their behaviour, in print, many times in the past.

For my part I can understand people (them durn furriners) being pissed off but I can't understand why anyone would be surprised by the story. Yes, it is attacking someone who can't defend themself in print anymore. Korean's are never braver than when you are defenseless. Yes it uses unreliable sources. Yes it looks like character assassination and doesn't really have any "proof". But it is the Korea fucking Times we are talking about. The most useless piece of shit to ever call itself a newspaper. And Kang ShitWho, the worst reporter in South Korea and maybe all of Asia. Maybe the world. Kang shin Who and the Korea Times go together quite well. They complete each other. The Lousy Newspaper and the Lousy Reporter. A marriage made in xenophobic heaven.

In a way I can also understand why Koreans would believe the idea of someone being drunk at work. It is pretty common to see people hungover, or even drunk, at work. I have had bosses who would often have liquid lunches. I can't count the number of Thursday nights my co-workers went out on the piss. Then they would all be hung over the next day. There were times when some of them didn't even make it to work on time because they were so hung over. So, if Adam were a South Korean, it would be easy to believe he was drunk on the job. No wonder some douchebags were so quick to jump on that, it is something they probably do every week. Of course this does make them a bunch of hypocritical fucktards for complaining about it.

Mind you it is also easy to see how Adam being sick could confuse the Koreans. This is a country where you are NOT expected to use sick days. Where you are expected to come in even if you are dieing. Hell, I had pneumonia and was in a fever induced stupor and let the school convince me to teach. (They actually wanted me to be in the hospital, then when I said I could just take medicine at home insisted I came to work. I guarantee you the kids didn't learn anything then.) That is what South korean bosses are like. That is what South Korean employees are like. How could you be sick and not perform your job even if you would do it poorly? It just doesn't compute with them.

What I would like to know is if Adam is going to sue or not? If a blogger can be sued by his hagwon for posting about how the school fucked him over does Adam have any standing to sue the Times? After all, it is Korea and the truth is NOT a defense. Your reputation is more important than the truth. This clearly hurts Adam's reputation.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mook of the Week

I was looking through the archives again and came across this mook who lived and parked near my apartment. That is about the only thing that makes him special. He is a common sort of mook who parks where and as he pleases regardless of how it affects others.

He would usually park just like this. Blocking 2 lanes instead of just one. Creating a bottle neck in the cross road.

His crappy parking jobs almost caused a few accidents. The roads he would block tended to have quite a bit of traffic. There is a corner store across from where he parked. This would cause other mooks to park blocking the rest of the street.

You would see the bus driver out on weekends washing the bus in that spot. His back to potential traffic. his mind, what he has that passes for one, focused on the bus. I almost ran into him with my scooter a few times when he was doing that. He would just blindly walk backwards into the part of the road he wasn't blocking. Then when you beep your horn and yell at him to watch out he would have the old slack jawed look. Then he would look at me like I just did something wrong and mutter. Even having his mookishness pointed out to him would never stop him from mooking it up the next time.

Just a garden variety mook in Korea.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You know you are bored when ...

... you actually read a blog post about Kim YuNa's break with Brian Orser AND then click on a further link to an article.

I was bored waiting the 10 minutes for the Daily Show to download and logged into The Marmot's Hole. After skimming 2 posts I started skimming the third one titled "Brian Orser Gets Canned". Ok, I admit the only reason I started skimming the post was because I misread it in my boredom and thought it said "Brian Orser Gets Caned". I wanted to see why he was being caned and by who. Oh well.

Then, because I still had minutes to kill and nothing better to do I hit the Forbes link and skimmed their article about the subject. But it paid off because I read something that made me chuckle. Kim YuNa said:

Do you think it's really true that my mother decided on her own to part ways with the coach? I'm no longer a child.

You are a Korean female who is 20 years old. Of course your mother still decides things for you. :)

Sounds harsh? Well, that has been my experience in South Korea. I have known a lot of Koreans, not just women, who are told what to do by their parents. Even when it comes to marriage.

One Korean woman I worked with my 1st year seemed very liberated. She was around 30 and single. She didn't have a boyfriend and had no interest in getting married OR having kids. She hated kids, which is why she taught adults. Then I went home for a month.

2 weeks after I was back in Korea, and at another job, I got an invitation ... to her wedding. 6 weeks before she had no boyfriend let alone a fiance. What happened? Her mother. Her mother decided enough was enough it was time for her to get married. She was introduced to a guy and told she would marry him. Like a good piece of chattel err daughter she obeyed. Now she is married, with child and very unhappy.

I have been told, by Koreans, that this stems from their neo-Confucian culture. It is the child's duty to obey the wishes of their parent. Even if it is something they don't want to do. If they don't do what their parents want they are bad.

Korean parents often do make decisions for their children, even when they are adults, and the children dutifully obey. Which is why YuNa's declaration that she wasn't a child had me envisioning a teenager having a tantrum saying they weren't a child anymore.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What the ... rude hello?

Stig's comments, and 3gyupsal's in a previous thread, reminded me of something that never fails to irk me to some degree ... rude hello's. You are probably wondering what the kimchi a rude hello is.

A rude hello is when someone greets you in a rude manner. They shout it. Or shout it repeatedly. Or say something stupid instead of hello. Or do it when you are obviously busy, or talking with someone else. Or do it in passing. I think you get the idea.

Once, and this has happened many times, I was walking home from work in YongAm-dong. I was talking to a friend on the phone. I heard something behind me. It sounded like someone (middle school girls it turned out) saying "Nice to meet you. Where are you from?" Since I hadn't met anyone, and I was busy on the phone I ignored it and kept walking and talking. A few seconds later a girl starts screeching at the top of her lungs "Hello! Hello! I said hello!!!!" My friend could hear them loud and clearly on the phone. I turned around and yelled in Korea "Shut up! I am on the phone!" Then I told them they were very rude.

You will get some people (and it isn't always kids, adults do this a lot) who will shout hello out the window of a moving vehicle. Or better yet they shout "nice to meet you." We haven't met you moron. Shouting that out of a window is not meeting a person, nor is it saying hello.

Strangely enough this has ONLY happened in Korea with one exception. Once, when I was in China on vacation, a guy shouted hello from a passing van in a parking lot. Without thinking I replied back in Korean, saying hello. Then the guy started nattering on in Korean. "Oh. You speak Korean. I am from Korea!" What the kimchi?!? The only person stupid enough in China to shout hello like that ... was a Korean.

I would usually carried my Ipod with me when I walked to work. With the music turned up it was easier to ignore some of the stupidity around me. That still wouldn't stop people from screeching hello at me. Repeatedly. Or, as I mentioned elswehere, some would even jump in front of you screeching it.

Or you get Koreans who will just keep repeating a word or two at you. (Not necessarily to you but AT you.) For example I had a kid once that evidently was never taught hello. He followed me around a store saying "Wow." in a moronic way 5-6 times. Or the idiots walking down the street who, as they pass you by will look at you and say "Ok!" What the kimchi? What is ok? My clothes? You approve of my presence in your country?

Or the even stupider people who wait until they have passed you and say "hello" or worse "nice to meet you." I can't remember how many times that has happened. You know, if you have passed someone it is bye not hi. and if you never talked to them you didn't meet them.

It isn't just that they are rude. Acting like this makes the person look like a fricking moron. What else would you call a person who doesn't even know how to say hello politely?

When I teach I try to make sure my students will never act like this. I teach them that there is a proper time and place to approach someone. I also try to teach them to do it in a proper, respectful way. Now by respectful I don't mean "Hello Sir." I mean using proper manners.

I would always ask them if they would shout hello at Koreans they don't know. They would say no. Some would say "No, they might get angry." So ... why approach a foreigner like that? And why be surprised if they get angry when you do? If you wouldn't act that way with a Korean don't do it with a foreigner.

I have no problems with strangers saying hello in a polite way. I always return it and if I am in the mood will exchange pleasantries. It is the morons who approach me in a rude or disrespectful way I have no time for.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What the ... celebrity?!?!?

I often heard people, foreigners, go on about how we are treated like celebrities in South Korea. They go on about that is why people stare, people will buy you drinks, people will want to talk to you. We are treated like rock stars! What the kimchi?!?

I always thought that was a load of horse shit. It was a way people could rationalize most South Koreans treat foreigners, at least the English speaking ones. That way they wouldn't have to use the zoo analogy. I always found being pointed at, stared at, commented at, talked about made me feel more like an animal in a zoo.

If Koreans were running up and asking for my autograph I may have fell for the celebrity analogy. But they don't. They treat you like an oddity, sometimes one that is barely tolerated. The staring and pointing get old. Especially the hostile staring. As does the constant muttering of "foreigner" in Korean whenever they see one.

A celebrity? Grow up and stop trying to rationalize the bull shit so you can pretend everything is sweetness in light in the land of the Morning Calm and Afternoon confusion.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Goodbye Korea

Well, after ten years of Morning Calm and Afternoon Difficulty, I'm finally closing down my Korea station, and moving on.
I've thought that it was time to go for quite a few years now, and it very nearly came true two years ago, when I was run out of Daegu for trying to kill a Korean teacher at the middle school I was working at.
But then Flint needed my help, and I came to the 'ju to work for him for a couple of months, and that led to me finding a job at the hagwon which I finished working at on Friday.
I had hoped to stay for one more year, and lure Flint back for more cigars and tapping on the deck at Dunkin's, but my director decided the kids could use a change of pace.... er, face. She thought a new teacher was in order, and I was given my walking papers.
I tried (half-heartedly, I must admit) to see if there were any other opportunities here, but nothing turned up. My folks were urging me to come back to Canada and try getting a job as a teaching assistant in my hometown, and that seemed the likeliest of possibilities for my future, when the job of a lifetime, literally a dream come true, popped up in my inbox one day.
I am leaving Korea, spending about a month in Canada, and then going on to my dream job - wait for it - teaching English in London, England!
I am so excited, I can barely contain myself. The opportunities, the history, the chance to live and work in the capital of the UK... words fail me. It's what I've wanted to do most of all, ever since I came to Korea and found out I could teach. I never thought it would really happen, as the difficulties and drawbacks seemed nearly insurmountable. But that's all changed. I'm going.
I have lots of memories that I'll be sharing here, and I just might cobble something together on a new blog about life in England.
My final days here have been kind of anti-climactic. My director didn't even bother arranging any kind of farewell party or dinner or anything. The kids'd been told I was leaving before I had the opportunity to inform them, and they seemed, for the most part, kind of neutral about it. So my time there just sort of petered out, rather than ending with a bang.
Oh well, I've had other, more enjoyable (and memorable) departures from Korea that I can look back on fondly. It's been ten years, as I said, but now it's over.
Goodbye, farewell, and amen.

Mook Of The Week

This week's mook is whoever put the sidewalk in across the street from the elementary/middle school in Oksan. The street that runs past my hagwon runs another block south before ending in a T-intersection at the school. The sidewalk was installed running east and west from that intersection. Railings were put in place to separate the sidewalk from the street, and the usual signage about looking out for kids was added. There're speed bumps on the road as well, encouraging everyone to take it slow where children are apt to be crossing the street. Not that it slows the mooks down very much. I mean, if you're a stupid shit-for-brains moron with no more brains than God gave a tree stump, why would you slow down for a speed bump, or a sign, or a child in the middle of a crosswalk?
That's why the sidewalk was a great idea. It gives the kids a kind of a refuge from the mooks going past.
the sidewalk (east and west) STOPS in the middle of the block, forcing whoever is using it back out onto the street.
What the kimchi?!
Who installs half a sidewalk?
A mook, that's who!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bank Account and Bills

A word of advice if you are going to work in Korea, actually two words.

First, open your own bank account. For you. If an employer starts talking about opening an account that they have access to they are trying to scam you. Only YOU should have access to your account. I have heard of several people falling for that scam over the years. You also DON'T have to have an account at your bosses bank. Transferring money is EASY and cheap in Korea.

Secondly, pay your own bills. Bill payment is very easy in Korea. In most cases they will take it right out of your account. For those that don't most banks have a machine that can read the bills (most have bar codes they read) and you can make payment there without going to a teller. Even in the worst case scenario you just go to a teller and pay it.

One of the way Ivy School scammed money out of foreign teachers was by "doing us a favour" and paying our bills. They deducted money and then when you were leaving deducted more saying you didn't pay your bills. Since most hagwons give NO pay stub you have no way of proving what they did or didn't deduct.

By paying yourself you can prevent BS like this from happening to you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

YouTube Whackjobs

I have mentioned my old YouTube page before, and the attention that it still receives. Usually the attention is from angry Gyopos. Angry because I dared to talk about problems I had in Korea.

The pro-Korea faction uses some of the same tactics as an apologist. Most are just angry, hateful, and come off as more than a tad insane. Some, a few, take a more rational approach. Mind you even when they do you can see where they just don't pay attention to reality at times.

The anti-Korean faction is just as bad, sometimes worse. By anti-Korean I don't mean people who post their negative experiences in Korea or criticize it. I mean the idiots who are just as hateful and racist as the Korean Kimchi Kommandoes but focus their bile at Korea. But I digress.

I recently had one nutjob make a nasty post on an old video about racism. Actually, he posted the same thing 5 times. Then he removed the post, I guess he didn't realize that you still get notified about the post he made. THEN he sent a friend request with the statement that I should know racism is worse in Japan than in Korea.

I use nutjob for a few reasons. First, the racism video is over 2 years old. I don't really use the site much anymore. Except for teasing some of the whackjobs with text I have only posted 1 video in over a year and it was saying why I am not posting anymore.

Secondly, IF the idiot actually watched the videos he would know that I don't live in Japan, haven't lived in Japan, and only ever visited Japan for an overnight VISA run to Fukuoka. How the blue hell would I know what racism is like, personally, in Japan? Having lived in South Korea for 9+ years I do have an inkling of what it is like there. Which pro-Korea nutjobs don't like hearing. :)

Now if I was to answer the guys question based on my time in Japan I would have to say South Korea is WORSE than Japan. Much worse. based on my 2 days and 1 night in Fukuoka I was never stared at, never pointed at. I noticed no one rambling on gaijin this or that. And if I based any answer to the question on that limited experience I would be a fucking moron.

Finally, why the hell would I add some whackjob who spammed me with attacks as a friend?

It still amuses me to see just how stupid many of the people using YouTube are.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mook of the Week

I dug into my archives for this weeks mook. This one involves stupid parking AND driving through a crosswalk.

I was sitting inside the Dunkin Donut's near work, it has no patio :(, watching the mooks go by. I noticed an SUV parked ON the sidewalk in front of the bank.

After about 15 minutes I noticed a guy walk between it and the bank. It was hard to tell if he was putting something in the passengers side or stopping to have a whizz. He did look very mookish so I wondered if it was the SUV driver. I was right, he came around and hopped in the drivers side.

Then he proceeded to back up while people were using the sidewalk, and standing around the crosswalk waiting for the light to cross. (I didn't get pictures of that as I was shooting video of it.)

Of course he only had one way of getting off the sidewalk without driving over the curb. That was by driving through the crosswalk.

Being a mook he didn't bother looking to see where pedestrians were when he started backing down the sidewalk. Nor did he pat much attention to the cars on the street when he pulled out into the crosswalk and onto the road.

Sadly, this type of behaviour was fairly common. The stupid parking and not paying attention can all be seen on a normal day in South Korea. The driving through crosswalks I saw at LEAST once a month.

A sense of entitlement, horrible driving skills, and oblivious to those around you. You sir are a classic mook.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What the ... health superiority complex?

Talking about being sick in South Korea reminded me of something. have you ever have a friend who would act as if they were superior than you for one reason or another? I had one, a fellow Canuck

If you got sick a couple of times it would be lorded over you. "You get sick easily. I don't." If you and others had been sick, even once, in a period of time you would hear "I guess I am healthier than you guys." or "I am tougher than you guys." You might be sick once in 6-7 months and she would bring up every time you had been sick in the last 5+ years. All the while going on about how she rarely if ever got sick.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you are working with kids it is a lot easier to catch something than working with adults. Their hygiene is dodgey at best. Hell, you can say the same about a lot of Korean adults.

Parents send the kids to school and hagwons even if they are feverish and hacking up a lung. Koreans never seem to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. They don't usually wash their hands after using the bathroom. As I mentioned before, one of the nice things to come out of swine flu is that Koreans were TAUGHT how to wash the hands and told to wash after eating and using the bathroom. unfortunately once the hype over the illness died down so did the attention to hygiene. I taught kids and my "friend" taught University students.

Of course she was also ignoring reality. She was conveniently forgetting the times she was sick. The times you listened to her whine about being sick. How she was dieing. Not once throwing her bullshit back in her face. For some reason I put up with it. Mind you, we aren't friends anymore.

Not having someone go off like that anymore is nice. It is something I have noticed in the last couple of days. No one seemed to take pleasure in my being sick and going on and on about how healthy they are.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What a difference.

What a difference being sick in Canada compared to South Korea.

I got sick Wednesday. It struck out of no where. Nausea. Chills. Aches. Extremely tired. Gas. Good god the gas. I took something for the aches and fever. Ate dry toast. Drank water. And stayed in bed. (Or on the futon.) Within 24 hours I was starting to feel better. By day 2 it had passed for the most part.

In South Korea umpteen people would have been telling me to go see a doctor. All the doctor would have done is given them a needle in the hip. It would have given them analgesics, vitamins, and distilled water. Maybe they would have gotten something for nausea. Nothing you can't get on your own here, or in Korea.

Due to the ease of access Koreans go to the doctor more easily than Canadians or other Westerners. They go to the doctor for the sniffles. For a common cold. There really isn't anything a doctor can do for a cold or a 24 hour bug that you can't get at a pharmacy and take care of yourself. Really, you don't even need the pharmacy. Rest and liquid is the most important.

No doctor. No problem.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dealing with Management

A useful tip from the Seminar for Foreign Language Academies concerns dealing with the higher ups.

In many ways this is good advice wherever you work. If you have a problem with management don't confront them publicly. If you want to question a practice or policy don't do it publicly. It is considered bad form to question the higher ups decisions in public. They will consider it a challenge to their authority and an affront to their dignity. Which in the East means they lose face.

If you have a problem or question talk about it with your boss one on one. It may not get you anywhere but it won't cause them to lose face.

Now, based on my Hagwon experiences, this isn't always extended by management to the employees but it usually is. Of course it doesn't stop people from saying shit when you aren't there. ;)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Work Hours and Obligations

Some good advice from the Seminar for Foreign Language Academies concerning work hours and duties.

The Korean attitude towards work is different from that in the west. They do work long hours, although a lot of the time it is busy work or just sitting around. They tend not to gripe about it at work. Mainly because if it got back to the boss they may end up having a new asshole chewed out, or fired.

When a Korean is putting in long hours they really don't like to hear a co-worker who is doing 30 hours a week whine if they have to do an hour or two of over time. The Koreans often don't get any over time. They won't be sympathetic to your complaints.

Some of them will actually be jealous of the lesser hours and "special" treatment of foreign teachers. Special treatment being that we expect our contract to be followed. Koreans, as the Seminar "educated" us, don't believe contracts are binding.

If you are coming to Korea to work be aware of these things. Your Korean overlords, err bosses, will expect you to understand that doing extra work or hours is your DUTY as an employee. This could include coming in on some Saturdays, doing special events. And often they don't expect to have to pay you to do these extra duties, even if it would mean overtime.

Ivy School was notorious for pulling shit like that. They would have Kindergarten Concerts, special "bazaar", or as Mrs. Kim said "badger", days, Sport Day, etc. All of this would require extra prep time (and not the classwork kind of prep) and often would take up an entire day, or the better part of it. The first year they paid us properly for it (overtime). After that they started screwing us over.

And when it came to the concerts your duties would include performing number or two. of course you weren't informed of this until a week before it. IF you were lucky.

The expectation level of Koreans is quite different from what we are used to in the west when it comes to our work hours and obligations. Being aware of that and prepared to deal with it is a good idea.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Since I talked about the seminar that teachkoreans.com put on for the Korean Government I figured I would take a look at them. Who are they? What do they do?

Well, it isn't a school. It is a recruiting company run by two people, one British and one Korean. Yes, the Korean government had recruiters put on a mandatory seminar to instruct foreigners on cultural differences and sexual assault. Their site LOOKS professional and polished at first glance. When you start to peruse it you notice things though.

One of the first things I noticed is that the "cultural differences" they informed current teachers about in their seminar were pretty much IGNORED on their website. Which, considering how it was crammed down our throats and some of it is actually good, seems strange.

Some of the stuff on the site seemed good. Some stuff they did mention on the website had me shaking my head. Other things made me wonder if a Korean wrote the site. Some of it made me wonder if Chris in South korea had written it.

The Good

The site does give some good basic info. They touch on some things, like a lack of planning. Or the fact most Hagwons want happy students not necessarily well educated ones. But the key word is that they touch on it. Nothing in depth. Nothing too detailed.

The Bad

They left out some important things, like the aforementioned cultural differences. Or glossed things over.

First is health care and insurance. They say Korea has NO National Healthcare system. Then what the hell is the National Health Insurance I was signed up for my last 4+ years in South Korea?

They do mention employers have to provide healthcare 50/50 but make no mention of NHS. That is a fairly important thing to leave out because if I remember correctly the law says they have to put us on the NHIC or a private 50/50 plan. If we want the NHIC that is what they are supposed to give us. Kind of an important fact to leave out.

Odds are they meant to say FREE healthcare rather than National Healthcare.

Next you have housing. They say;

"You will be provided with a single studio apartment/bachelor suit free of charge that is within walking distance to your school. You may find your place is a little smaller than you are used to but it will be comfortable nevertheless. If you arrive with a positive and realistic attitude about your housing you will be pleasantly surprised."

Or you won't be if you are put in an older, and therefore cheaper for the school, apartment. They then go on to give you an unrealistic expectation after saying you should have a realistic attitude.

"You will have your own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and washroom. The bathroom will have a toilet, sink and shower but don't expect a bathtub as they are uncommon in Korea."

That certainly doesn't set a realistic expectation for people. Your kitchen will be a nook in your entrance and is often an after thought. They would have better off saying there is a kitchen nook. Calling what you will get a kitchen is not reasonable. Also, bathrooms don't always have sinks. Your shower is part of your bathroom and not a separate stall. After saying people should have realistic attitudes it would be better to give them realistic information.

Some of the comments on the Korean language were a little strange too.

"The Korean language is called Hanguk- ugh. It is the only language in Korea and is used by 80 million Korean speakers."

Hanguk-UGH? Not to nit pick but it is not pronounced UGH. More like UH. If you are going to tell people how to say something in another language and spell it phonetically in Englishee do a better job.

The most important thing for you to know is that it is not necessary to learn the language to live and teach in Korea.

Ok, maybe that should be under The Ugly and not The Bad. That is a very stupid thing to tell people. It is true, you can get by without learning Korean, but it is a stupid thing to tell people who are coming to live in a foreign country.

The important thing to do is learn some basic words and phrases that will get you through life in Korea EVEN if you are only there for a year. Learn how to say please, thank you, hello, good bye, your welcome. Right, left, straight. Learn some of the basics. You don't have to be fluent. You don't even have to be able to string a sentence together.

Whether you NEED to know some Korean or not to get by it would be nice if you knew some basics in the language. Forget the fact that it would simply be polite to learn and use the language, it would be necessary if you deal with those Koreans who have no English.

The Ugly

Where to start? How about with one of the stupidest statements I saw on the site.

Korea has 4 distinct seasons:

When I saw that lead in to the section on weather in South Korea I thought "Oh fuck me! How stupid are these people?"

Some of the STUPIDEST things I read on their website were in the section on Korean children.

"Despite their workload they are generally well-behaved, enthusiastic and respect their teachers."

Hahahahahahaha!!!!! Yeah. Right.

Then there is this gem.

"There is virtually no bullying in Korean schools"

I don't know what drugs they are taking but only a real moron, or someone with NO idea of what goes on in Korean schools, let alone society, would EVER make a statement like that. Considering the incidents, and their severity, of bullying that make the English language news in South Korea this statement is insane. And that is without even bringing up the whole Junior-Senior BS that goes on.

The UGLIEST has to be leaving out the cultural differences that they went on about at the Seminar. If the site is supposed to be there to inform people what to expect if coming to South Korea to teach English leaving out that information is a gross error. Why not let people know that the contracts are not considered binding? That things will change at the last minute? That your boss will expect a lot more out of you?

Now that is an easy question to answer. In the end the website is part of their business. If they started telling the whole truth they would have less people interested in coming to South Korea. People just might shy away from working in a country where you legally binding document isn't. Where your conditions are subjected to the whim of your master errr Director. Not very surprising, after all their paying client is the school. Not the person looking to teach.

What the ... attitude 2?!?!?

All that talk about rude Expats and the banter with Mr. Anonymous got me thinking. Who were some of the rudest Expats I encountered in South Korea? What nationality were they?

Some of the rudest, most obnoxious, arrogant Expats I had the bad luck to encounter in South Korea were ... Mormon missionaries. Some were yanks. Some were Canucks. Some were supposedly from Europe. Which goes to show that mookishness knows no boundaries.

The first school I worked at was nicknamed "The Mormon School." The owners were Mormon. The morning desk staff were Mormon. If you walked in during the AM you would hear the front desk singing hymns. Mormon Missionaries would drop in all the time. And the Missionaries seemed to be the worst of the crop.

You would be having a conversation with a co-worker or student and the missionaries would feel the need to interject. Regardless of the topic. Without so much as an excuse me. Or even introducing themselves. That is when they weren't hogging the ONE computer we had for staff and students to use.

One time a co-worker and I were talking in the staff room. One of the missionaries let himself in. I was telling Matt how I learned what "do you want to die" was in Korean. This mookanary felt the need to chime in and lecture us on how no one should be teaching us words like that. He was given some prime examples of other words he didn't like ... and told that since he didn't work at the school he could get the fuck out of the STAFF room.

Several missionaries felt the need to inform me, and friends, that they don't care about us. By "don't care about you" they meant they didn't care what we did in South Korea or what our religion was I assume. Or maybe they meant they literally didn't give a shit about foreigners at all. And that is the wording some of the used ... "we don't care about you". They were in South korea to "save the heathens". Nice attitude. Great way to make introduce yourself. "Hi, I am Elder Asshole. I don't care what you are doing in Korea. I am here to save the heathens. Hoo Rah!"

Then you had the ones that insisted you use their title "Elder". Imagine some snot nosed little shit 10 years or more your junior insisting that you call them Elder.

Some of them even fell into the "sense of entitlement" category I discussed in a previous thread. I remember one day when I was hurrying to work. I had a couple of minutes to go or I would be late. Two Moron ... errr Mormon missionaries ... were coming up the sidewalk. It was a huge sidewalk, 4 Expats could walk side by side on it. At the last second these two cut in front of me. I had to stop or plow into them. Unfortunately, I chose to be polite and stopped.

One of the mooks said "Hi. are you in a hurry?"

Biting my tongue I said "Yes, I am almost late for work."

He said "oh" and then started asking some inane question. I ended up shouldering them aside and hurrying to work. Made it with seconds to spare.

I know friends who had ok encounters with Moromon missionaries. I know those who had encounters like mine. Unfortunately all of my encounters with them were bad in some way. They just came off as too full of themselves and too mookish.

Mook Of The Week

Well, my time in Korea is just about up. I haven't had any responses to my applications, and nothing appealing has appeared on my radar.
But, Flint and I have many photos of many mooks to expose, so let's get to this week's idiot.
Flint and I used to spend our Sundays on the patio at Dunkin Donuts. It was a busy intersection. There were a lot of opportunities to see ritual idioting behaviour, as well as a never-ending parade of Korean hotties to shamelessly ogle.
Tap, tap.
There was a taxi queue next to the building, as it was just down the block from the bus terminal. The queue would stretch around the block, and the taxi drivers would often take up room in a travel lane, in a crosswalk, and generally slow traffic down. But god help anyone who did the same thing! The cab drivers would beep their horns and swear at the offender for doing the same thing they just did, and are about to do.
There aren't any back alleys, and not a lot of loading docks for Korean businesses, unless it's a major concern like a department store. Delivery trucks stop at the curb in front of whatever business, and bring in the supplies across the sidewalk, blocking traffic. Sometimes they'll park on the sidewalk and block pedestrian traffic.
Now, one afternoon, Flint and I witnessed the delivery to end all deliveries, perpretrated by this week's mook. He was bringing supplies to Dunkin's, and leaving it by their front door. But he wasn't piling it near the door, he was piling it in front of the door.

Your average mook will always do it. it never fails. They'll go to the narrowest point of any lane of traffic and stop there, blocking up the works for everyone else. There's been many times that Flint and I have seen this entrance blocked by mooks milling around, seemingly without any other purpose.
But this... This was a guy working for a business, and not even thinking about the business, and how someone might want to get in and spend their hard earned dollar.
You sir, are a mook!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Planning and Notification

Some more information people going to Korea to work and live should know about courtesy of the Seminar for Foreign Language Academies. Beware of poor planning and notification. (Something I warned about in a previous post.)

I find it funny that they tried pawning this lack of professionalism in a workplace on culture. One thing they failed to mention is that MANY times the Koreans WILL be aware of the changes. Maybe a week or more in advance. No one tells the FOREIGNER until the last minute. I don't know about you but to me that sounds more like an unprofessional workplace or idiocy. But Koreans consider it to be a "cultural difference."

However, it is a GREAT warning to give people who are coming to Korea. EXPECT things to change at the last minute. Often literally.

Expect to have to come up with ideas to teach a class with kids of several different levels of ability as the bell rings for class.

Expect to be told what you will be teaching for intensive classes, or even regular classes, at any moment.

Don't get angry ... it is cultural. Try and work it to your advantage.

Koreans and Contracts

Here is something that would have made a difference to me when I first came to Korea if I had known it. Something anyone considering coming to South Korea should know beforehand. Your contract can, and if you work for a hagwon probably will, be ignored for cultural reasons.

On April 23, 2010 a mandatory seminar for all teachers working in Hagwons was held. One part of it that stuck in my craw concerned contracts. Basically, it is government policy (this seminar was held on behalf of the government after all) that contracts are not binding.

Yes, a contract, according to the Korean government, is not binding. Contracts are considered a starting point not an ending one. A starting point for what wasn't mentioned? A starting point for future negotiation with the Hagwon having the upper hand? A starting point to show that you have agreed to terms to be followed and are ready to start work? Well, not the latter.

You should also expect to be asked to do things that aren't in the contract and you should accept at least part of what you are asked to do. In other words, bend over and take it up the ass. If you are lucky you will only have to take it part way and not all the way.

"Personal rapport is more important to employers and managers than legal agreements." Whether they like you or not is more important than a supposedly legally binding document. I actually heard a variation of this over the years. Often I was told that a verbal agreement is more important than a written one in Korea.

I particularly liked their comments about "never give an inch" not being the Korean way. Hagwon owners rarely ever give an inch, YOU are expected to. I only ever had one Director in Korea that understood what compromise was, and was willing to do it. And he honoured his word. Most of them don't. One of the pitfalls of working in a Hagwon. The minute you don't give an inch, hell the minute you don't agree 100% you become ... a bad teacher.

It is interesting that they don't inform you of these facts before you sign your unimportant yet supposedly legally binding agreement. Even now, it is NOT something that they are telling people who are coming to Korea. They will let you know once you are there. Maybe.

For those of you working in Korea what would your reaction have been if you saw a clause telling you this in your contract? (Of course not everyone does read through their contract ... but for those who do. ;) ) Or if you were told about it BEFORE coming to Korea?

I would have definitely thought harder about coming and it just might have been enough to make me say no. This would have seen me walking away once I started getting jerked around by a Hagwon since it essentially means that I have no recourse if they decide to ignore the agreed upon contract.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What the ... attitude?!?!?

My brother and I were talking about living in South Korea over rum and a cigar yesterday. (Appleton Estates rum and a fine R&J No1.) He asked what it is like dealing with other foreigners in South Korea. For the most part I didn't have many problems but the attitude of some foreigners pisses me off.

I have encountered many who have this strange idea that just because we are both foreigners I HAVE to talk with them. I MUST WANT to talk with them. All I can say is get over yourself moron! In some ways this is more annoying than the Koreans who just want a free English lesson, even if their English is horrible.

They will stop you anywhere and expect you want to converse with them JUST BECAUSE you are both foreigners. I don't know where they get the idea that because we have one thing in common, being foreigners, I will want to talk with them. Or that common courtesy means you MUST talk with them. Hell, a lot of foreigners in Korea are people I would never waste my time talking to in Canada. So why would I do it in Korea? Because we are both foreigners? It is like some strange sense of entitlement the asshats feel. You MUST respond the way they want. You MUST acknowledge them. When you don't it hurts their widdle feewings.

I am not talking about someone just saying hello. Common courtesy says you respond. Whether it was with a hello, a wave, or a tip of the hat. But that is where common courtesy ends. There is no requirement to engage in a conversation with people. If you voice or show disinterest and people persist THEY are being discourteous, not you.

Here is a prime example of what I mean. A guy by the name of blaseblasphemener posted on Dave's ESL Cafe a several years ago about his encounter with another foreigner in a book store. What he posted went like this;

So I'm in the English Book store today, around 1:30. It's a pretty small little store, and I'm browsing. This guy is also looking at books and is coming towards my direction. Out of, oh, I don't know, common courtesy, and probably against my better judgment, I say, "How's it going?" There's like a 4 second pause from the guy, then, "Good" in a totally disinterested voice. "What school do you work at?" I ask, trying to recover gracefully from being dissed. Another loooong pause. "...... Esl". No return question. "Oh, uhhh, I work at ....., do you know it?" (very well-known in this city). "No." end of conversation. Me holding back from knocking arsewipe out.

So I ask, why do I even bother? Have common social graces slipped sooo far that people can't even muster up the energy to try and be nice? I feel like a wanker not saying hi to people, and then when I do, most people act like I'm a stalker or something. I just don't get it, but I think that is the last time I will say hi to a stranger. It just seems f@#4ed up to me, modern world, korea, whatever, be-damned. I'm not in Seoul by the way, so seeing a foreigner is still a pretty rare occurance.

This is the kind of whining these type of people do. They really need to learn what common courtesy means. He said hello. It was answered. Move on. He said the guy sounded disinterested yet tried to engage him in conversation. Guess who the rude asshole really was?

Idiots like this also ignore the other persons point of view. Not to make excuses but you just don't know what the guy was going through in his life. He could have had a death in the family, broke up with a girlfriend, or just been having a horrible day and didn't want to talk to anyone.

So, some asshole you don't know comes up to you and says "How are you?" while you are trying to find something on a shelf. Not hi. Not Hello. "How are you?" You answer with a terse good and keep doing what you were doing. That way you exhibit common courtesy by replying while sending the message you aren't interested in talking. The guy starts trying to hold a conversation with you based on that reply. You give more signs you aren't interested in talking. The guy persists. Who is the arsewipe again? Who needs a smack upside the head?

Then, when this type of asshole gets together with his butt buddies, usually after leaning on some liquid courage, they start whining and thumping their chest. (Or in the case of the "brave" soul in this example they wallow in their anonymity online.) "Me holding back from knocking the arsewipe out." Showing how brave they are when the object of their ire isn't around. They whine about what losers people like that are. Not them of course. They could never be losers ... in their mind.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What the ... whackjob?!?!? 2

Talking about Ross reminded me of another greasy, stringy haired, dirty blond head case. He went by the name of Tyrell. He was one of those people that you meet and just feel ... that you don't like them. Their later actions and words prove your instinct right.

The first time Tyrell introduced himself to me I was sitting at a table with some friends. The friends were all female. Tyrell walked up, quickly said hi, to the women, sat down, and then started hitting on the women.

I don't mind meeting new people. I don't mind if they are interested in women at my table who I am not dating, or interested in. If you invite yourself to someones table at least be polite about it. Don't be an asst. And Tyrell was an ass.

He started droning on and on about himself. He was from Canada and is a poet and musician. He was a neuro-surgeon back in Canada. (Yes, he really said he was a neuro-surgeon. I will never forget it because it was SO fucking out there.) Now he worked on his poems and music. (Yes, he never mentioned that he was really in South Korea doing what most pale faced foreigners are ... teaching English at a hagwon.)

I get a kick out of the number of foreigners who are teaching English in Korea but never identify themselves as a teacher. I am a poet. I am a writer. I am a musician. You are there on an E or F VISA teaching English you are a fucking teacher. I know quite a few musicians, many of whom have started bands. Some of them have recorded albums. One of them complained about his job interfering with his music. Your job is what got you hear, your music is a hobby. If it is that bad quit you job and live off your music. Oh yeah, you wouldn't be in Korea if it wasn't for the job. But I digress.

The ladies weren't really interested in talking to him but it took a while to clue in. He noticed some women at another table and eventually left. I was then subjected to listening to the women folk talk about how "oily" and fake Tyrell was.

Another time. the first night one of my co-workers, lets call her Sissy, from the hell hole known as Ivy School came out, Tyrell reared his greasy head. He immediately started hitting on her, badly. The usual obviously fake stuff. She blew him off, and not in the good way.

An hour later she went to another bar with some co-workers. Who did she run into there? Tyrell. What did he do? Acted like it was the first time he had met her and started the old BS again. She almost pissed herself laughing at him. (I said acted but he seemed so spaced out at times that it is entirely possible he wasn't acting. His addled mind just had extreme problems with memory. And truth.)

The incident that still has me laughing the most happened when I was at the the "foreigner bar" I usually frequented with 2 female friends. One I was REALLY interested in. We had been spending a lot of time together. The other was a friend of hers who barely spoke English.

I left the table to use the bathroom. On the way back I stopped at the bar to pick up some more drinks. Who do I see at our table? Tyrell. Once again trying to chat up the women. EunJin had this pleading look on her face. like "please come and get rid of this asshole." I sauntered over towards the table, listening the closer I got.

Tyrell was once again going on about his fantastic life and career. It was basically the same old BS rehashed. He talked about his previous life as a neuro-surgeon. He went on about his music. then he added a new dimension to his BS, he told them he was half owner of the bar and played his music here every Wednesday.

Now in case you ever use that lie, make sure the people you are talking to aren't regulars at the bar. Also, make sure they aren't friends with the owner. Your house of lies tend to be revealed and fall apart quite easily when that happens.

I decided it was time to get rid of Tyrell. The funny factor had moved into pathetic. I made some comments about his part ownership and then called the owner over. Tyrell left before the owner reached the table. :)

Most people couldn't stand Tyrell. He was just too fake. Everything he said and did, including how he carried himself, screamed fake.

One summer he died. There were rumours of how that ranged from legionnaires disease to, from the Koreans, fan death. (Turns out it was his heart.) The people who a few days before had been ignoring him or deriding him started to organize a memorial service. I didn't go. When asked why I said because I am not a hypocrite.

When Tyrell was alive I couldn't stand him. I didn't wish him dead, just wished he was not around me. He was fake and sleazy. He wasn't someone I would ever hang around with in Canada and just because we were both foreigners in South Korea didn't mean I would hang around with him there. Why would I go memorialize him?

In fact, I found the people memorializing Tyrell to be a bunch of hypocrites. When he was alive they didn't want him around. They would make fun of him. Many of them would drink booze he paid for and as soon as he was out of earshot start making fun of him. The memorial was all about them assuaging their guilt or putting on airs. I dislike that more than I disliked Tyrell.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Flint, I hope you dye!!!

As I hit another birthday I look into the mirror and ponder my grey hairs. I don't really have a lot. Not as much as I though I have. Then I remember the first time I dyed my hair and why.

I never dyed my hair until I went to Korea. In past posts I have mentioned how Koreans, both adults and children, freak out when they notice you have grey hair. or as they call it white hair. Koreans will have the offending hair yanked right out of their heads.

Now you are probably thinking that I dyed my hair because of Koreans pointing out my "white hair". You would be wrong. It was actually my foreign co-workers who drove me to do it.

I only had a little grey on the sides and a touch in the back. Even though I have more now it really isn't a lot, and I have stopped dying it. Hilda and Matt used to drive me up the wall going on about my grey hair. Matt, well he was a snot nosed kid of 23 or so and god only knows what his natural hair colour was. He would dye it bright colours and wax it into fine spikes. Hilda, she had more grey in her hair than I did, and she is 4 years or so younger than me. Dave, well his problem was more losing hair than having it turn grey so he didn't care as much.

Hilda and Matt would drone on about how I should dye my hair. Hilda once actually said I was making all of them look old by not doing it. When I finally did dye my hair it was just to shut them up. Not a good reason. At that point, I kind of liked it and kept it up.

Funny side note. I actually wanted to dye my hair light brown once and was told no. The owner of the hair place I frequented was great. A nice person and a fantastic barber. She always did a great job at what would be an insanely low price back in Canada. when I told her I wanted my hair light brown or blonde she told me no. She was adamant it would not look good and she would not do it. In the end I figured she knew more about it than me and I went with something darker.

Getting your hair dyed, at least for me, is much cheaper in Korea than Canada. At Blue Club, and the one in GaGyeong-dong, Choengju is GREAT. Owner brews up FRESH coffee, good coffee, while you wait. But I digress ... at Blue Club it costs 20,000 Won for a cut and dye. Here in Canada it costs over $20 just for a cut and wash. But I digress again. Dyed hair ... grey hair ... white hair ... Koreans freaking out.

Spock pretty much has a full head of grey hair. He never dyed it and probably never will. (Much to his wife`s chagrin.) The first time Koreans meet him it might be mentioned. It might not. Then it is forgotten. I think the reason Koreans seemed to freak when they saw some of my grey hair was because they just weren't used to seeing it. As the dye came out it was like BAM! Grey Hair! Of course they would comment, it was something they weren't used to see. Now they sometimes did get too in your face about it. Which can be ... disconcerting. Nay annoying. :)

Now that I am home I haven't dyed the hair. I did buy some "Just for Men" but it sits unused in my bathroom. As I think back to why I started dying my hair the reasoning seems stupid. If I dye it again it will be for me, because I want to.

If I never dye it again it will be because I want it that way. I was foolish for my reasoning. Matt was shallow, which I always knew. God damn that boy is the definition of shallow. Hilda was shallow, which for some reason I ignored.

What the ... anchor?!?!?

I was watching The Daily Show and heard a term I had never heard before. Anchor Baby. The term refers to the children illegal immigrants have in the US in order to get a foot in the door. The child will have US citizenship and will therefore be able to sponsor the parents.

Fox news latest cause celebre is lashing out against Anchor Babies. I found it interesting to see them only go on about the children of illegal immigrants. I can remember reading articles about South Koreans who travel to the US to have their children so the kids will have US citizenship. South Koreans actually call it birth tourism. Hell, I didn't just read about it, one of my old co-workers did it. Both of his kids were born in the US for the sole purpose of getting US citizenship. (What makes this kind of shake your head funny is that the last time I was talking to him he was getting ready to immigrate to Australia with his family. Not the US.)Isn't that pretty much the same as what the illegal aliens are doing? The only difference is one is in the US illegally while the others is abusing a tourist VISA.

Why would South Koreans be doing this? According to the Korean times it is used, mainly by wealthier Koreans, so their kids can get US citizenship thus avoid mandatory military service and have access to the US education system. If my old co-worker is any gauge another reason is that it puts a family member "there" who can later help other relatives get into the US, visiting relatives, on a tourist VISA to have their kids. Pretty much exactly what the illegal immigrants are doing that has Fox's panties in a bunch.

Koreans have also taken this to another extreme through adoption. Korean parents will PAY older, white, American families to adopt their children so the kids will have access to the opportunities US citizenship gives. Is this any different than having an anchor baby? It is definitely more disturbing than having an anchor baby.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mook Of The Week

Last week, I finished my TESOL course, courtesy of Juseong University in Cheongju.
We had our graduation ceremony on Friday, which is where I ran into this week's mook.
The hallmark of any mook, as I have said, is the complete inability to use common sense. Even the simplest of snags or snafus can completely buffalo mooks and derail their entire day. The problem is, they usually take someone with them.
While I and my fellow students were busy getting our certificates, and being congratulated for finishing the course, we had left our cameras with a couple of assistants, who were asked to please take photos of the group, and the ceremony, and the handing over of the certificates, etc.
By the way, the certificate I was given mispelled my name. The mook in charge of making sure all the names were properly spelt texted me a few days before to make sure he got it right. When I pointed out that he got it WRONG, he checked the text on his phone, which sure enough had the right spelling.
But he's not the mook this week. He's the bonus mook, I guess.
No, this week's mook was one of the assistants handling our cameras and taking photos.
Now, I have a digital camera, just like most people these days. One of the things I like to do is shut the screen off when I'm not going to immediately be using the camera, as it saves the battery. I should have re-activated the screen before handing it over, but I neglected to do so in all the excitement.
The mook in question was completely baffled by the absence of a picture on the screen when he picked up my camera. I could see him milling around in the back, holding it this way and that, trying to see if the picture would show up from a different angle. Meanwhile, group shots were being posed, and individuals were taking their place next to the instructors, and all the while this mook is trying to figure out how he can take a picture without any preview available on the screen.
You and I both know that all anybody has to do is look through the viewfinder, and voila, the picture is there, ready for framing.
Do mooks understand about viewfinders? Does anybody use the viewfinder anymore?
I like the viewfinder. It makes for a better shot, I think.
Anyway, judge for yourself.
Here is the group, students and instructors, all together.

Here are the instructors: Daniel, Nick, and Dr. Kim.

And this is a shot of myself with Daniel and Nick.

These are the best of the photos the mook took, so I'll let you imagine the rest of them.
Sometimes, people remark that a really intelligent person can "think outside the box."
Mooks are not only happy inside the box, they cannot conceive of an outside, let alone imagine navigating their way through such treacherous waters. I hope the mook who took these photos is happy inside the box that I left him in, because he's going to be there for a looonnnggg time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What the ... whackjob?!?!?

I was sitting out with friends and family at my brother's Sunday night (we had a long weekend). We started talking about strange people we have met over the years. One of the strangest I have ever met lived in YongAm-Dong.

His name was Ross, supposedly that is his real name. He was so strange it is hard to know if he gave you his real name. Ross seems too pedestrian for someone as messed up as him. He was my neighbour. His apartment was in the building across from mine. By across from mine it was only about 10-12 feet away. Our windows were facing and I was 1 floor up from him. Now you are probably wondering why the kimchi I am telling you that. Well, it will help you understand part of the story better.

Imagine that it is a hot summer night, your window is shut, air con is running, and you are watching TV. The sound seems strange. In synch but something is wrong. Later you switch channels the sounds are stranger. It is hard to place it but something is wrong. Then it is time to sleep. You shut off your television to go to sleep and ... you STILL hear your television!. Or is it your television.

You shut off the air conditioner and the sound of the TV is louder. Even with your window shut. opening your window your ears are assailed with the sounds of gunfire from a TV show. Some asshole across the way (Ross) has his windows wide open and his TV cranked up as loud as it can go. You end up going over and pounding on the door (expecting a Korean) to get them to turn it the fuck down. No answer. Is it so loud that they can't hear?

That situation lasted for 3 days. The next day I talked with my boss and then my landlord. My landlord said she would call his landlord. Someone, turns out it was his landlord, ended up climbing up the wall and shutting the windows from the outside. That didn't help much. Unfortunately, nothing really changed.

I went out to dinner with co-workers the night of Day 3. Spock was giving me a bit of a ribbing because I was complaining a lot about the TV noise. He figured I was exaggerating about it. My apartment was on the way to his house. When we got within 5 blocks of my apartment I could hear the assholes TV. At 3 blocks even Spock was complaining about it. (Desperado was playing. Lots of gunfire and explosions.)

When I got home from work the landlord was just getting in. I told her to call the other landlord or the police or I was going to smash the door in and shut the TV off. She called his landlord again. This time he used his key and went into the apartment and shut off the music. The asshole who lived there was no where to be found.

That was my first introduction, of sorts, to Ross. A mook of the highest magnitude.

Spock actually ran into him a few times. He saw Ross rooting through peoples garbage. A couple of times he helped Ross carry stuff back to his apartment. Like a fridge. He had a fridge but brought home another one that didn't work.

One night he showed up at a co-workers apartment. He was drunk or stoned, or both, and thought it was his apartment. Her boyfriend was over and for some reason he took exception when Ross kept insisting it was his apartment, even though his key didn't work, and tried to force his way in. Ross ended up on his ass in the stairwell. All of this happened before Ross and I met face to face.

The first time I actually met Ross in person he almost ended up on his ass again. It was a few weeks after the TV incident. Spock had helped with the fridge and mentioned I wasn't happy with Ross. So Ross felt he had to confront me.

I was on my way to the post office carrying a box to mail. I noticed some pale stringy haired freak heading down the road. He seemed to be staring at me. Luckily, the post office was down another road.

A few minutes later the hair on the back of my neck was on end. A hand grabbed my shoulder and started to yank. I turned around ready jerking my right hand back to throw a punch. Ross was sober or straight enough to back away quickly.

"Hey man. I hear you have a problem with me." he whined.

I was thinking, stupid fuck grabs me from behind of course I have a problem with him. Who the hell is this idiot? So I played Captain obvious and said "You have a problem with me right now. Who the fuck are you?"

"I'm your neighbour, Ross. I hear you have a problem with my TV."

"Your the asshole." I replied. Then I went off about his TV.

"Whoa man. All you had to do was knock on my door and asked me to turn it down."

I shook my head incredulously and replied "I did. No one answered."

"Wow. Really. I must have gone out to the store."

"Wow. really? You must have been gone to the store for 3 bloody days asshole. Your landlord had to go in AFTER 3 days and turn off your TV!"

"Really? Well, next time ask and I will turn it down."

At that point I didn't want to waste anymore time on this waste of space. I called him a few more obscenities and left. This guy was so out there he made Jeff Spicolli look like a tea totatler. I wasn't going to waste any more time on him.

Ross wasn't good at getting the message you didn't want him around. No matter how blunt you were. One time a coworker and I were sitting at a corner store talking. Ross walked up and asked if he could sit down. I said no, we are busy talking. He replied "Oh I will walk around and come back then." He never left. He stood there for a few minutes. Then he sat down. We left.

Another time Spock and I were in the park talking with a Korean friend. Ross invited himself and then proceeded to interject himself into our conversation. He actually tried to tell a Korean that he knew nothing about Korean culture. Then tried to explain REAL Korean culture. The Korean and I left before the urge to kick the shit out of him became too strong. Spock followed fairly quickly.

The last I heard of Ross was about 3-4 years ago. He told so many lies, some so outrageous it is hard to believe someone would try and pass them off as the truth, that it is hard to know what he was doing then. If you really wanted to know. I didn't.

I always tell people that I have met a lot of people after 9 years in Korea. Most aren't that memorable. Ross is memorable but for the wrong reasons.