Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Seoul Reason I Left Canada

I didn't like the outcome of the election so I moved to South Korea. Okay, okay, I was already planning on it, but saying it that way makes me sound so much more outraged and spontaneous. Curiously enough, I went not by myself, but with Boyfriend. Or rather, Boyfriend went with me. Why South Korea? We came to pay off a mountain of student debt, and figured it was teaching English in Asia, or working the rigs in Fort McMurray. We figured we'd have an easier time adapting to the culture in South Korea, though no doubt I would have looked fantastic in coveralls.

We took positions in a private school in the city of Bucheon, approximately 40 minutes from Seoul. We were hired to teach preschool in the morning, and elementary in the afternoon. My mind was filled with images of small Korean children, hunched over their desks, dutifully completing their work in silence. I should have known it seemed too good to be true. It immediately became apparent that the Asian student stereotype was a cruel lie, no doubt spread to seduce foreigners into teaching ESL.

Korean preschoolers are no different from preschoolers everywhere. They run around, hide under tables, sing by screaming at the top of their lungs. They are impossibly cute, to be sure, but I still have nightmares of a "Lord of the Flies" scenario (complete with Caitlin Teacher tied up in the corner, or perhaps roasting on a spit). To prevent this, I try to keep them entertained. Mostly I perform crowd control. I often wonder how much English they actually take in.

To get through the day, I must retain my sense of humour. That's right, parents. I laugh at your children. I laugh at the way they repeat after me when I tell them to sit down. "Shit down!", they say. Good idea, I think. You probably shouldn't shit up, or shit sideways. I try to correct their pronunciation, but have not bothered to tell them why they shouldn't say "shit" instead of "sit". It would only make them want to say it more. I laugh at the way they look shocked and embarrassed when I tell them to get their finger out of their nose. Hey kid! Did you really not think I'd notice? It's in there up to your second knuckle! Ah school, a viral cesspool.

The little carriers got me sick almost immediately. I had the flu for nearly a month. This eventually required that I see a doctor. My very kind manager took me to the clinic near our school, and luckily the doctor spoke a little English. He had me describe my symptoms, and then had the nurse stick a giant suction tube down my nose. Then he looked in my ears and my mouth and told me, "don't worry, very sick. Don't worry, very sick." Ah... haha... great. I, uh, won't worry then? When I went back 2 days later, I was somewhat anxious. What would he tell me now? "Don't worry, terminal"? In the end, I was only given a second dose of medicine and sent on my way. I am better now, but carry hand sanitizer with me at all times.

Also, it always helps to know I am being paid for what I do. Boyfriend and I are richer than we have ever been in our lives. We are millionaires in won, and we get to live in a very cool part of the world. Much better than Fort McMurray.

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