Trials and Tribulations

28 Apr

Throughout my research and reading on Korea I must have read and scanned over a hundred blogs.  I couldn’t wait for my blog to join the rankings of the other expats living it up in this crazy place.  Never did I foresee that my blog will be filled with screams of anger and frustrating plights!  “As long as I am working in the public school system I would be fine”, or so I thought.  Expat’s blogs filled with cries of anguish and frustration usually worked at Hagwons (private academies), not those in the public school system.  I never could fathom why people still chose to work at Hagwons if the public school system is an option.  There are many reasons for this.  At Hagwons working hours are different as some people only start at midday or even at 4pm.  Yes they still have to do their 8 hours a day but for some waking up early is just not an option.  Also to apply to the public school system is a lengthy process as the visa has to be obtained prior to arrival.  With Hagwons many teachers enter on a tourist visa (gained at the point of entry) and then do a ‘visa run’ either to Hong Kong or Japan where they apply for the E2 Visa.  Thus many people decide to come to korea and two weeks later thy are teaching at a Hagwon.  I did not.  I took the long route because fewer things could go wrong.  Yes in the public system we are guaranteed of our pay checks at the end of each month and we do have a safety net.  Expats teaching at Hagwons do not.  And still after everything I still wouldn’t want to work at a Hagwon.  I guess what I am trying to say is that it doesn’t matter how much research you do and how well you prepare yourself for the adventure to come and teach in Korea nothing will be able to prepare you fully.

Things will go wrong and you will be treated as a second class citizen.  Many Koreans have told me directly that they are racist.  Comforting.  Thus it is no secret that Koreans in general are xenophobic and racist but the level of disrespect I have experienced is unbelievable.  And this coming from a white South African whose whole history revolved around racism.  I am not racist.  It’s important for me to say this because of the generalisations and stereotypes that shadow me as a white South African.  Therefore I would like to be treated as an equal.  Not as a clown.  Not as second class citizen.  As a teacher!  As a friggin human being.

This blog entry is very dark and somber but hopefully it will be the last one!  I am pushing myself to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.  I took a day yesterday to recollect my thoughts and to get some perspective.  After all my troubles with my school and my apartment, Monday was jut the last stretch.  In my mind I had one of two choices:

  1. Pack my bags and go back home.
  2. Start over.  Take a breath and start this whole experience over.

I went with option 2.

On Monday my school finally arranged for my appliances to be delivered.  So at 5 pm my co-teacher and I went to her car.  The LG truck (that supposedly came all the way from Seoul) was already parked in the school yard.  For some or other reason we had to wait for something.  In the rare view mirror I notice a washing machine being loaded onto the truck.  I thought maybe the LG guys got it wrong and thought they had to unload everything at the school.  So eventually we made our way to my apartment.  They bring in my miniature fridge.  I am glad they got me small one because the big one at my previous apartment used too much electricity.  Then come the washing machine.  As it did not come in a box I immediately knew that it wasn’t new.  When I had a closer look I saw that the thing was ancient and filthy as hell.  There is washing powder stuck on the outside of the machine and not all the buttons were there.  Inside the drum there is so much fluff and shit I don’t even want to know how long it has been since this thing was cleaned.  I asked my co-teacher why they gave me an old machine.  She did not know.  She phoned the administration and asked them.  They told her that the school had this washing machine and they did not need it anymore.  Don’t get me wrong I am so happy I finally got the damn thing even if it is filthy, but why the lies.  They showed me a paper with a picture from the LG catalogue whit my washing machine and fridge.  How they ordered it from Seoul.  How the reason I had to wait a month to get my appliances was because they had to get the money from the DMOE to buy my appliances.  If the school had this ruddy old thing standing around why then the lies?  I was told that they did not know they had a washing machine standing around.  And after they had realised it they cancelled the order.  My second question is now why the hell then does the wrestling department have a brand spanking new washing machine.  And why did they get my old ruddy machine from the wrestling department on Monday.  Why!  Why do they keep on lying. When I refused to live in my moldy apartment the school wanted me to pay the cancellation fee.  They informed me that the school is ‘poor’ (their exact words) and cannot afford it.  The confusing part is that the school applied for a subsidy from the DMOE for the cancellation fee, and the DMOE actually paid it, not them.  Lies Lies Lies!  As if I am the stupidest being to walk the earth.  Why do I still not have my TV?  Why did it take two months to get to this point? Why?  I blew up!  I lost it completely and went off on my co-teacher.  Why the hell do they treat me like this!  I am sick and tired of this shit!  These past two months has been a treacherous journey for me and apart from the general culture shock, I have to deal with this.

So here are the facts, my school do not give a damn about me or my well being.  My coteacher is too concerned about her reputation than to fight for what was promised to me.  They can force random drug tests on me and my vice principal made it clear that every minute I am late will be recorded, but they don’t have the decency to make sure my living conditions are according to standard.

Fuck them, Fuck them all!

So today will be day one.  I am starting my Korean adventure over.  I do not want to have these two months over ever again, but for my own sanity I have to start fresh.  So here goes – Hello Korea!  Please don’t screw me over!

Cheers from Kimchiland!


5 Responses to “Trials and Tribulations”

  1. GRRRL TRAVELER April 28, 2010 at 15:06 #

    Wow Christo. I feel angry for you. Waiting over 2 months for positive change & for your apt to get into sanitary/decent shape (very cordially & patiently, I might add). You finally get to a better apt but now w/ the appliances! Your “poor” school is profiting off of you, they’re pocketing the money from the DMOE & giving you the crap. Tell them to reorder that washer from Seoul. Speak to the DMOE about how the money they’re paying for is not affecting your situation any better. Philosophy change for you: “Give Respect where respect is either given or earned”. Don’t give up the fight but be a South African and fight- fight for your light at the end of the tunnel! Strike fear first, be an asshole & when they “finally” get the point they can’t doormat you, THEN relax and be your travel cool self. Don’t let up just yet. We’re all rooting you on!

  2. christodewit April 28, 2010 at 15:17 #

    Thanks Christine! The fact that all you guys support me makes it much easier. I will keep on fighting but the fighting will take the backseat now! Travelling is what i’m here to do and when i’m the happiest. But yeah I will bitch and moan! I will scream and write my story to every English medium in Korea. People should know that Haksan Middle school is not a place where you want to end up! I love your blog and actually printed your posts out! I Love It!

  3. Amanda April 28, 2010 at 16:15 #

    Christo — I believe that not only are we observed, but our schools are observed as well. I have been asked many times about the quality of my life here by my coteachers and coworkers.

    I honestly feel like this is something to bring to the DMOE’s attention. The fact that they got money from the DMOE for YOUR BASIC LIVING NEEDS and they are spending it on extras for the school is absurd. Someone needs to know. Even if they can’t fix it or change anything, DMOE needs to know. If only for the poor English teacher coming after you to that school.

  4. Jackie April 28, 2010 at 16:21 #


  5. kaalvoetinireen April 28, 2010 at 20:24 #

    All I can say is, good luck! I must say I still prefer Hagwons and I don’t even teach 6 hours a day! Hope everything works out for you.

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