Saturday, July 24, 2004

disappointments and The Move

I suppose the Newsweek journalist has seen fit to look elsewhere for news, because I never spoke with him again. It's possible he tried to call me on Friday morning, but my hasuk is great at blocking cell phone signals. Almost every call I've received while inside my room has been garbled or cut off or both. On rare occasions (and for reasons I can't fathom), I get decent signal strength, but as Murphy's Law would have it, no one fucking calls during those times.

Mr. Newsweek Man, if you're still interested in chewing the fat about this stupid MIC blockage, feel free to give me a call on Saturday evening, when I'll have moved into my new place.

Yes, it's The Move, and it's not a moment too soon. My hasuk room has become a sauna, and I'm not sure why. The hallway leading up to my room is usually cool. My room in particular is stuffy, humid, and hellishly hot. Could it be... the electric fan? Have my Adjoshi's words come back to haunt me? Is my fan trying to kill me?

I wasn't able to sleep at all on Thursday night. All day Friday, I was dead fucking tired. I passed off my favorite private tutoring class (Min-sung in Apkujeong) to my buddy Tom, then chowed down on a Monte Cristo sandwich (the first in years) at Bennigan's while trying to stay awake. I'm afraid I was poor company for Tom, who's currently working on multiple business projects. I don't know how he does it.

But it's not all gloom and doom: I did manage to leave Bennigan's a rather extraordinary load of shit in their very clean bathroom. I'm not quite sure how to describe the shape of my download for you. Think of huge fried clam strips or smallish chicken fingers, overly browned, and neatly lined up in a row, like shit-bullets on a fecal bandolier. If I train my anus properly, I might be able to harness this nifty bullet-power to start writing Chinese in dung. (Hahna, would you like a Dung Dalma?)

While I'm relieved to be moving out of my hasuk, I received the bad news that my new place isn't going to be my "permanent" residence. It appears I was slated to be moved into Building X, but there are no vacancies right now, so I'm being shunted to Building Y. Because of whatever rental agreement my new company has with the landlord, I have to move into Building X eventually. That's what they tell me, anyway. I don't know how long I'll be in Building Y. At a guess, only a few weeks.

The company's bujang (#2 in the company), after he finished the third training session on Wednesday, said privately to me, "I'm staking my reputation on you."

"Why?" I asked. "Is it the half-Korean thing?" My ethnicity has been an issue with this company: if you look too Korean, it can work against you, because the customers feel a white guy provides a more "authentic" English-language experience. The customers' racism translates to codified racism in company hiring policy. The bujang, who's a white Canadian, doesn't like this any more than I do, and to his credit he's been up-front about the problem. But:

"No; it's the American thing," the bujang said.

"The American thing?"

The bujang paused, then said, "Every single American I've hired for EC has fucked up in some way or other. Canadians and Brits-- no problem. But Americans..."

EC is in the process of letting yet another American go. I saw him at the Kangnam branch office: slovenly 20-something. Personally, I love to dress like a slob. It's comfortable. But at least I have the sense to mind company policy-- I don't slob out when teaching. While EC's not going to earn my love anytime soon, I've come to respect the fact that they actually devote time to training their teachers, and seem convinced of their language teaching methodology (even if I'm not sold on it). They also seem to care for students' progress, and will even cancel lessons if students don't take responsibility for their own learning. That's pretty revolutionary for a hagwon-style school: usually, it's all about re-enrollment, which represents the bottom line.

[NB: Whoops. I have to remember the company lingo. They're not students; they're learners. I'm not a teacher; I'm a trainer. It really is like learning the terminology of a fast-food restaurant: "You might've called this a Big Mac at your previous job, but here at Marx-imum Burger, we call this the Lumpenproletariatsburger."]

At a guess, the Americans in question have "fucked up" by not respecting company policy. Some were probably turned off by the split shifts and the vicissitudes of hagwon life, and they decided not to take any more shit. The decision to quit a job can be rooted in laziness, or it can reflect an honest desire to escape a truly shitty situation. I'll keep you all updated on whether my own situation turns shitty. If I feel I have to leave, I won't let my bujang's words curdle into a guilt trip. I'll simply walk.

OK... it's almost 2AM, I still can't sleep, and I need to finish packing. I doubt I'll get DSL hooked up in my new place: if I have to move again in a few weeks, it doesn't seem worth it.

Stay tuned.


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