Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Big Short

This is quite a brilliant microcosm of our messed up world right here. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook the other day and although it has an emotional and uplifting side to it, I could have chewed nails and spit bullets. Mostly at Kevin O'Leary, a double whammy of embarrassment for me. He's not only from Canada, but he got rich in the education racket. And if I've learned one thing about the education racket, not just in Korea either, it seems that the educators are left in the classrooms, (and sometimes not even there), while the money hoarding scheisters and antisocial businessmen, like the erstwhile Mr. O'Leary, rise to the positions of power. Now it was only a software company that made educational CD's and DVD's that got him that seat in the Shark Tank, so I can't say he's made anyone dumber like some of the people I've met along the way. But he's earned that title of "shark." And when this decent, hard-working, salt of the earth man stood before him with a billion dollar idea that he still hasn't really shared with the world, O'Leary smelled blood in the water.

"No distributor? Well, if I give you my 150 grand, I'm going to need you to QUADROUPLE the price or I just won't make any profit." Look at the farmer who hasn't sacrificed his conscience to Mammon when O'Leary says that. He doesn't say anything, he just gets a wrinkle in his forehead and a, "WHY?" look on his face. Like any of us would who don't make livings by cheating and chiseling and call it "business," or "economics," worst of all, "hard work." John Paul DeJoria, the guy who gave this farmer 150 grand is going to easily turn that into millions because everybody is going to have these Tree Teepees on their trees within a few years. In the world! But O'Leary wanted MORE! If the farmer charged what he wants to charge, $4.50, and continued earning a dollar for every Tree Teepee, the business would have plenty of money. Billions. Because I bet billions would sell at that price.

If that were allowed in todays market economy, or whatever euphemism you want to use to describe fucking your brother over for a profit, every tree in the world would have one of these things at the bottom. The water saved would MASSIVELY help the world! But that's not all. Fuel for pumping the water wouldn't be used. Untold gallons of it. But we can't have that, can we? Because some greedy douchebag wants to take an idea he had nothing to do with and make a ton of bank from it.

Now imagine O'Leary had his way. Raise the price to 12 or 13 bucks apiece for these things. Now not every tree in the world would have one. Now only the rich farmers would buy them. More oil and water would be used, (really wasted), and although he would be making considerably less, this bullet-headed buffoon would think himself a brilliant man because he's "earning" 8 dollars from every Tree Teepee sold and not just 1 dollar. And people would respect him for it! This man who is responsible for wasting water and fuel.

Don't be too quick to pat DeJoria on the back either. I heard HIM commenting on how they should charge 7 or 8 bucks apiece for these things. That too would price a lot of farmers out of the market. Why can't this guy say screw you businessmen and your cheaply purchased 20%, I own 80% and I am setting the price! I need you for some quick start-up capital. Keep your goldbricking noses out of the rest. O'Leary should understand this. He got his Mom to lend him 10 grand to start up his first company. I bet SHE doesn't expect 20% of HIS earnings. He probably hasn't paid her back yet, the wanker.

The very worst part of it is when this psychopathic Scrooge comments on this farmer's father and what a hero he was. You just tried to scam his son and millions of farmers worldwide, waste rivers of water and tankers of fuel and you want to curry some favour and look like you might not be the great big asshole you have just shown yourself to be? No, you don't get to feign human feelings of respect for his father, you crocodile! Fuck you!

See what I mean? I just get so mad when I see this. What gets me so mad is not the act, it's the complete apathy the average person has as a reaction to it. "Well, that's business." "Well, he's doing his job." "Well, he has a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders." This is all something very familiar to farmers: it's bullshit. That's all. The lesson I wish everyone could take from this little video is how harmful doing business for maximum profit like this really IS. You do it right, with honesty and morality and that's good for everybody.

But it just doesn't happen like that any more, does it? I just re-watched "The Big Short." You may recall I noticed a shirt of mine in that movie and now to me it's known as, "The Big Shirt." It's several blog posts ago. And, in the same vein, guess where that shirt is now? I have been asking Kevin O'Learies of Korea for years to make me a Kia Tiger jersey. I don't fit into any of the three sizes they sell all over the country. I've been to many places and a few times now I've run into the very Asian YES strategy. "Yes, we can make you a jersey." You wait for two weeks or a month and go back and in that time the company hasn't developed the technology or skills they thought they'd be able to when they promised to do the thing knowing they couldn't do it. Then you just shake your head and tell them they've wasted a month of your time and THEY get upset with YOU.

My good buddy DB, also a big Tiger fan, told me he had found an online company who ensured him they could make me a jersey. They asked for a shirt to give them some idea of my size. I didn't have anything to give them but "the big shirt." So that's what DB sent them. At his expense. It's been a long time. I'd say a couple of months at least and, lo and behold, they can't do it. Not only that but they aren't even going to send back the shirt. And DB and I have to just sit back and take this shit. THEY are the business and THEY have earned respect. Why don't I feel that way? Is it just me?

I don't think so. But, as Steve Carell's character in "The Big Short" said in the movie, "All these people are getting fucked and they're walking around like they're in an Enya video!" People think of me as particularly negative, but I think there's at least a little of other people being ignorantly positive too.

Most people will look at this video and see a heart-warming tale. It was sent to me from a site called something like "Women's Tear Jerkers." But it just made me seethe.

However, perhaps my anger at the horrible people in businesses, banks, and governments SHORTING us all was offset a tiny bit by a few pieces of good news. The epipen princess WILL be investigated for wrongdoing and stock in Mylan has plummeted accordingly.

Also, I read about the CEO of Trump's campaign who was in charge of rooting out voter fraud, committed voter fraud. I think he claimed Florida residency to avoid state taxes, (cuz Florida doesn't charge them), so add tax fraud to it as well, but he doesn't even live there. I like to call this being Gertruded. Or maybe Gertied. He got Gertied. Gertrude said, in Hamlet, the oft misquoted line, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." And when people rant on and on about homosexuals going to Hell, then get caught with homosexual prostitutes, they got Gertied. And if I ever start a business and overcharge people or cheat, lie and steal like a good businessman is supposed to do, then you have every right to point the Gertie finger at me. You know what, while you're at it point a friggin' gun at me too and pull the trigger cuz I'd rather be dead than a scum-sucking bottom feeding parasite like a banker, synthetic CDO salesman or a crooked businessman.


But those weren't the feel good stories of the week for me. Nope. I woke up a couple of days ago with this all over feeling of RIGHTNESS in the world. I thought it might have been the weather. Or maybe I was psychically feeling a person looking at my resume and saying, "Why don't we hire this guy?" But then I read that Stephen Harper quit politics and that feeling was explained.

To quote another Shakespeare play, (Troilus and Cressida), "Good riddance!" He's done his share of this kind of damage to the world himself. With luck, he will start a trend. Maybe O'Leary will retire. Maybe they'll both take up MMA and have a match to the death that ends in a tie!

That's probably too much to hope for.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chinatown Calculations

Tell me honestly, would you hire this guy? I am giving my Konkuk University Summer Camp student, Lion, his certificate of completion. He was a very good student and I liked him a lot. Everybody in the class will remember a few key English sentences from my classes and one will be, "Lion, please sit down." I said that about a million times. He has ants in his pants but he was really good. He made the thunder machine for our performance. I STILL don't know how he did that. It really sounded like thunder!

Anyhoo, I've sent out 25 or 30 application packages in the last month and haven't even had an interview. This is the longest drought for me ever! I'm starting to wonder if I haven't been blacklisted or if my email is corrupting my files when I'm sending them. Or maybe it just could be that I look old in the pics I send with these packages. The ads are always asking for pics and, of course, discriminating against old, ugly, fat people, sigh, like me. A LOT of ads in my field specify FEMALE teachers as well. And now with the extenuating immigration disadvantages I have, things are pretty hungry here in Korea.

The only action I've had at all has been from China. And, well, I've heard them described as Koreans on crack. Every obnoxious, callous, selfish behavior Koreans have unfortunately become known for, amp it up a bit and there you have China. I'm not saying this because I haven't lived there, I'm just paraphrasing what I've heard from some of the people who have lived there. It's not making me want to rush into any contracts, lemme tell you! And the people I've been in contact with have been OBVIOUSLY trying to con me over there where they will have me trapped and they'll be able to boost class sizes from only 30 to 100, cancel the bonuses promised, raise hours from only 30 to 50 hours a week, and things like that.

But I have been in indirect contact with some people over there who tell me that the work is fine. They just don't like the cities where they are. This is not necessarily a bad thing for me because I am a bit different from the contacts I know over there in that I like the boring countryside. So I am actively seeking employment in China now, a place I have repeatedly sworn I would never work. I am reminded of the Mad TV "Lowered Expectations" skits. That's how it is in relationships, isn't it? Anybody else feel like that's how it is in work? Employers expect more and workers expect less. Even though I am constantly getting better at what I do, it seems more is expected of me. And it's harder to find work.

Maybe I'll have to start lying my ass off like everybody else.

I see these people faking themselves out all the time bellyaching about Korea every day mid contract and then Korea is all mermaids and unicorns when they sign on for another year. Is that weakness or strength? Are you a strong person if you can con yourself into being satisfied with a crappy situation, or are you ungrateful if you expect more? Am I a weak person expecting my experience to earn me a better job situation? Or should I look at the millions of people who would give almost anything to have the job I'm complaining about and count myself lucky?

I guess I'm a dreamer, and I've said this before here, but I believe this "strength" we see in people who can be satisfied with less and less is a symptom of the greed that is destroying our world. It's the Soma we are all swallowing instead of doing the hard work needed to fix the major problems that are leading to our deteriorating human condition. The millions of people who would love to have my situation really should have a better situation along with me. That's what I believe. And there's nobody who can convince me that the resources of the world aren't plentiful enough to make that a reality. But we're conditioned into believing that this is so. If that's true, then the rich shouldn't be getting any richer. If THEY were satisfied with even remaining in the same condition while my condition was deteriorating, THEN I might try to be happy in mine own self as the saying goes. But that's just not the case, is it?

I'm sure you've heard about this bitch. And there are sooooo many examples like it in the medical profession! If people are keeping people sick to make money, then it's a safe bet they are keeping people poor to scoop up all of the resources of the world for themselves. And THAT'S the injustice I don't really want to convince myself into believing is okay. If you think it isn't firmly embedded in our systems, guess what her father does. Ding ding ding! Joe Manchin III the senior U.S. senator from West Virginia. And he's not even a republican!

I'll go even further, cuz that's what I do, and say that people who ARE constantly trying to force themselves to fake happiness, and distance themselves from any negativity at all, (even if it's true), and pasting smiles on their faces, and yessing every no into legitimacy, they are part of the reason that they, (and we all), are having so much trouble finding GENUINE happiness. I believe in the pursuit of happiness as much as the next person but it seems to me there are a lot of sour grapes in the "happy" people out there. The people in the above video might be saying things like, "Well, I didn't really want to have more than 10 days off a year anyway," or "I probably won't notice the difference between 15 students and 30 students per class anyway," or "Well, I suppose the outdated, antiquated, Korean education methods are good enough..."

I know they probably weren't all teachers but if they were... The situation is getting worse in Korea and it seems the teachers who know how much better it USED TO be, like me, are the ones who are dissatisfied with things. We KNOW we used to have a better chance at the good jobs that seem to be unobtainable nowadays. We KNOW there used to be more of an effort made at least toward tolerance of foreigners. I used the "English" tab on the bank machine today and couldn't transfer money. I got some error message but couldn't understand it because it was in Korean. The "English" button gets you SOME English. Websites that used to be in English are being removed. To do any immigration now you have to make an appointment on a website that doesn't work. And they KNOW it doesn't work. All us people who know things weren't always this bad sound like we're complaining about Korea when we mention how bad things are getting. And maybe we're the ones who should be going to China. Where things are getting better and better and might just end up being as good, someday, as things were in the heyday of Korean ESL teaching. Or is that my excruciatingly persistent optimism again?

See? It's just not fair! I'm actually an insanely positive person, but when I complain about Korea, when I am brutally honest about Korea, people read me as a downer and don't want that kind of negativity spoiling their well-constructed castles of false positivity.

And that could be another reason why I'm not getting hired. The injustice! I just can't win!

I even think that if I DID go to China and ended up in a place that's worse than the average job in Korea, I wouldn't complain as much because I have no memory of things being worse in China and I'm told they are actually getting better. To put a fine point on it, people think I'm whinging about the state of things in Korea and they are bothered by it. What I'm really doing is bitching about the deterioration of things in Korea and they really shouldn't ignore that. But whatever. If they do it leaves more jobs open in China. Which I STILL don't want, but may end up taking.

So, if you notice I haven't blogged or emailed or Facebooked you in like a year, it's probably because I'm working in China where I can't do that sort of thing.

Fair warning.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

F-ing People Taking All The Good Jobs!

So it's August 22nd. Still no job.

I finished the last camp on August 9th and have been in Seoul for almost two weeks optimistically thinking that at least one of the places I have applied to in Seoul would contact me for an interview. Just an interview. Not necessarily a job.

But so far no takers. ESL employers these days are looking for someone 20 years old with 20 years of experience. I had more luck finding work when I was closer to the first one than the second. In fact I HAVE 20 years of experience pretty much. But I am slowly forgetting everything I did when I was 20.

Those were heady days! New province, new school, new church, new friends, new girlfriend, new hopes and dreams... And in the 29 ensuing years nothing from that list, apart from a couple of the friends, remains. And those friends and I only chat from time to time on Facebook.

I'm finding out that more and more employers in Korea are also looking for Koreans. People who have Korean blood and have lived in the U.S. or some other English speaking country, or who have managed to somehow attain a high level of English proficiency. For the whole time I've been in Korea I could see them working towards that. The immigration system is geared towards these candidates as well, making it a cinch for them to just slide into pretty much any position with little to no paperwork and making the process for a foreigner like me a blindingly tedious month or so of paperwork, forms, certificates, rules and regulations. Even the camps are sick of the immigration crap. The camps I did this summer didn't even bother with it. They left it up to me.

And though the average kyopo, (Korean who has lived overseas), THINKS he/she is just as good a teacher as a person like me who has dedicated a life to studying, learning and implementing solid ESL techniques, not just found a jackpot of riches to be had for just showing up in a classroom and speaking English to some confused kids, he/she is not. I've had a few of the more, (to use an oft employed euphemism for the attitudes these people end up with), "honest," kyopos tell me that the only reason I get paid more than them is because I'm white. However, I still believe that us "white" folks, who try to keep things interesting, fun and on the educational cutting edge, are worth more because our students learn more. Practically every day one or more of my friends in the field post articles about how homework is useless, or how kids don't learn vocabulary through studying extra vocabulary, or just good educational philosophy or lessons.

The average kyopo hoards several of these plumb jobs, ends up working far more hours than he/she should, and this results in terrible teaching. They show up to class unprepared, read from a book or do some boring repetitive vocab. teaching, assign some homework, then move on to the next payday, I mean class. The thing is, it is now so much easier, less work and less frustration for employers to hire these ESL mercenaries in Korea that employers put up with the inferior teaching. And I'm not saying they ALL suck, but a lot of them do.

I admit to enjoying the advantages of authenticity over my career. Learning English from me seems more authentic than learning from a Korean who looks like all the students. Kids can't pat the kyopo's belly or stroke his, (or her), arm hair either. They don't have coloured eyes or hair. They're kind of boring looking. Why would you want to eat Mexican food at a restaurant with a kitchen full of Chinese people? Or Chinese food from a place with a kitchen full of Mexicans? And, I admit, that IS an advantage I have. But it's now been overtaken by the ease of hiring someone with an F visa.

Now I can GET one of these, mind you! I'd have to pass a difficult Korean language exam and apply for citizenship I think. Or I'd have to get married to a Korean.

The bottom line is, I should be hunting for a Korean wife, not a job. If I got a wife, I'd qualify for an F visa, and I'd have no problem getting the better jobs I see advertised for "only F visa holders." I dunno... would it be worth it?

No more immigration problems ever again! What a thought! But I'd have other problems. MANY other problems.

So for now I'm going to keep hoping and throwing out resumes. But it's tougher than ever out there.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Camp Season is Over

There we are! My Konkuk University class. I know, they look a bit young for university but they start 'em young here. Heh heh. Actually, these are my kids from the Konkuk University children's English camp. Just finished. So now I'm trying to get me one of them sweet, sweet uni gigs full time here in Korea before the new semester starts Sept. 1. I thought I had a pretty good leg up on a full time job at Konkuk since, A: They are hiring, B: I applied along with my application for the camp, C: I met all the teachers I'd be working with and we all got along well, D: I met the director, Yoojin, who also works for the full time English department, and WE got along well, E: I went above and beyond doing all of my own immigration work, which was hours and hours of sweat, tedium and frustration, as well as giving my kids a wide variety of fun activities and a great learning experience.

I had to go to Immigration and sit for hours and hours because their online appointment reservation site doesn't work. I sat for 6 hours watching person after person do what I did and tell the people there that the site is down only to be shown that it works on their computer. THEIR computer. The one at the immigration office. The funny thing was that when a Korean dude came in and told them the site was down and they referred him to the in house public computer in the next room, he came storming back into the office saying that even THAT computer doesn't work with their stupid website. And furthermore, he raged in Korean, I am not a foreigner and these extra frustrations are not meant for ME! He was yelling and carrying on far beyond anyone before him who, although not Korean, had met with the identical situation. He, and only he, received individual help immediately.

The rest of us had to wait until the end of the day when people who could not make appointments were accepted. So I get up to the worker behind the window and tell her I am just there to let them know I am working at a camp. You know, doing the legal thing. I have the camp contract, the letter of release from my employer, and the camp business license, which, luckily, I had. During the 6-hour wait I had time to ask what I needed to let them know I was working a camp. I asked if I needed the business license and was told I did. So I called Yoojin, who emailed it to me. I then went to the in house, public computer and accessed my email to print it out. The printer took a little tweaking but eventually I was able to print it out. I had two black dudes waiting for me to get off the computer so I made sure I signed out of Gmail before relinquishing the computer. I don't want to be prejudiced here but... they were Nigerian. There are tons of Nigerians all over Korea who wait for people at phone booths, bank machines and computers so they can get personal info after they leave. I once had my yahoo email hacked in Manila and had 700 bucks stolen from my account in Korea. So I'm careful now. It's well known that a lot of these scumbags are Nigerian. Sorry, Nigeria, but these dudes are making you all look bad.

Anyhoo, this is another difference in the whole camp thing. I have never had to do the immigration thing for any of the camps that bothered to do the immigration thing. Usually they do it themselves or they send me WITH a Korean who basically does all the work. Because I was alone and doing it all in English, the worker had to go by Korean immigration rule #468: "If you have to use English, make sure the foreigner is sent home to retrieve some unnecessary document or other. DON'T allow them to finish in one day no matter how well prepared they are."

They found a "problem" with the wording of my letter of release. I had the contract for the 2-week camp. The 2 week camp. I had a document signed and dated from my employer saying that I was released to work at the Konkuk University camp. It was written under the specifications I received after calling the immigration hotline here in Korea. The worker behind the protective glass said, "It needs to say that you are adding a workplace. It doesn't say that. Then she asked me for a camp schedule and the number of my boss and got me to call him. Usually Seoul Immigration is pretty reasonable but she pulled out all the stops, this girl. I managed to get ahold of my boss and he told her on the phone that I have permission to work at this camp. STILL that was not enough! He had to fax a paper to immigration the next day and I had to go back and get a piece of paper attached to my passport. NONE of this would have happened if Yoojin had gone in, or even if a representative, (Korean), from the camp had gone in with the info. But I wasted like 12 hours of my free time doing the exact thing I hate worst in this world. That's gotta score me some points with this camp!

Then I did things like making some really cool paper airplanes and shooting them at targets; digging up dinosaur bones; making helicopters and dropping them from the second floor onto a target; making a rainstorm in the classroom; watching dinosaur fights; other arts and crafts and lots of games and fun; and showed up an hour early every day. I was SURE I'd be noticed and considered for the full time job!

Above are pics of the helicopter dropping. It was fun. The center circle on the floor was 3 stickers. Only one student got the 3. They all ran up and down the stairs a few times to drop their choppers. In the sweltering heat. I was sweating just staying on one floor watching them.

The other pic is our project. The Um A/C ing air conditioned umbrella. From D.U.C.K. corporation. David Umbrella Company Korea.

Isn't that cool? I thought it was. And we had a sales demonstration all prepared. We had thunder storm sound, some students squirting squirt guns into the air, a few throwing lightning bolts they had made, (very cute), even a thunder machine one student had made that REALLY sounded like thunder. It was a can with a spring hanging out of it? I dunno how he did it but it was cool.

The whole class was all excited about selling the Um A/C ing and doing our performance. Everyone had a part and it was super well done! But none of the judges came to out room. Of the classes whose items were chosen, only one was even close to as good as ours, I thought. The students were disappointed, I could tell. But that's the sort of disarray these camps have a habit of deteriorating into by the end. The camp was a success because the kids had fun. It will be a HUGE success if I get the full time position at Konkuk. That has yet to happen.

I asked Yoojin to put in a good word for me and write me out a letter of reference. I got an email from her today, mid August, saying she will probably get to that "sooner or later." The school year starts Sept. first. I hope it's not "later."

Anyway, I have been staying with my awesome friends, Heather and Mike and their family. I'm typing this on Mike's computer. They set up a username for me. They let me eat their food, sleep on their futon, and I feel like a member of their family. I have said a million times that I will never regret not having kids. I don't think I will. But I know once I go back to Gangneung and have a day of silence and rest or two, I'll be looking forward to coming back here next time. Here, where I get used as a Kleenex, punching bag, missile target... Where I get stepped on by dogs and kids several times a day. Where I find "presents" that were secretly placed into my coffee. Where the aromas of pee and poo are not limited to the bathroom. Nor are the pee and poo themselves. Where I find myself thinking I'll tell these ungrateful, lazy kids to clean up this mess, then find myself doing it for them to save time and argument.

Yeah. They're not even my kids and I grumble and mumble when I do their chores for them, but I miss them when I am living alone in the blissful non-chaos without them. And Heather and Mike? I can't think of two people I'd rather hang out with. One of their dogs is great too! The other, not so much. But I'll live with her neurotic habits if it means I get the privilege of participating in the non-televised reality show that is the Peet/Spiwak family household.

I don't want one of these of my own, mind you, but it gives me the satisfaction of knowing that, I could probably handle family life. It also helps me understand the insanity of people who tell me they wouldn't trade this craziness for anything in the world. I have made that trade. And I'm good with it. But, I can see some parallels here with Buddhist philosophy and actually, teaching in Korea. Life IS suffering. The key is to take joy in that suffering. There is some joy in howling kids, begging dogs, stepping on Lego, finding surprises in your beer, and being peed on occasionally. I have found the joy in that and actually love spending time with this family! Maybe I'm growing! Yay!

Surely then, somehow, some way I will, before I shuffle off this mortal coil, be able to walk into a Korean immigration office and find, during my visit, at least a little bit of joy in the suffering I will be subjected to.

We all need goals.

Anyway, next goal is to get full time work again. I'll let you know...

Monday, July 25, 2016

One Camp Down and One To Go

Well the sticky, slimy, disgusting Korean summer is here. The best thing I have found in my many years over here to be doing at this time, is getting the hell out of this country for at least a month, preferably a couple. It's unbearable for people who LIKE summer. Then there's me. I curse the heat, the humidity, the mosquitos, the rain and the endless battle to get a good night's sleep. But I have to say, along with some other people, who warily commented on this to me lest we jinx it, the mosquitos have not been that bad this year. The heat? It's been relentless. The humidity? Like ballsack sweat in the air. But the mosquitos have been conspicuously absent. I think the foggers have been working overtime due to the nationwide Zikaphobia. Yeah, every city has foggers. It's one of the few loud noises coming from the Korean streets that I actually like. Much like the sound of a bug zapper going off, you just KNOW the very loud drone of the fogger that you can hear a few blocks before it gets to you and a few blocks after it passes, means the death of blood-sucking vermin. Not long ago I remember kids riding their bikes and running behind those foggers cheering and whooping it up. I share the sentiment with those kids, just not the desire to inhale the toxic chemicals. You know, those kids I saw back in the day... they're working age now. Perhaps running hagwons and putting English camps together. Maybe even heading up the English departments of universities. Hmmmm... That could explain a lot...

Another thing I like to do, if the money, or the vacation time isn't there, is the wonderfully lucrative Korean summer camps. I remember camps of days gone by in which I met some awesome friends and worked for some awesome people and grew very close to some awesome students. The work was endless. Not a moment to yourself, but the afterglow when you finished was similar to what I imagine opening night on Broadway might feel like. Worked and worked and worked; had setbacks but pulled together as a team to overcome them; pulled off the impossible in a challenging timeframe; rescheduled; dealt with little emergencies; had disagreements; made up; re-rescheduled; had a visit from the regional supervisor who mandated NEW challenges; got the kids to co-operate and finish their projects; re-re-rescheduled at the last minute; impressed the parents; had a nice celebratory night, (usually around a campfire), with director and teachers; muddled through the farewell ceremony with a bit of a hangover; and finally were rewarded with a bulging envelope of money.

Well, just like my experience with hagwon teaching over here, things have changed at the camps. Where to begin? So many differences! I guess first things first, the method of getting chosen for the camps has changed somewhat. It used to require an interview, but now there are highly organized online application processes, which, if passed, are followed by visits to schools to be interviewed by panels of camp aficionados, followed in turn by sample lessons that are sprung on the teacher with little to no time for preparation. I had one interview, oh so many years ago, for a camp that consisted of the director, Mr. Lee, asking me what I would like for the camp and me replying, half seriously, "I dunno. Beer every night?" We GOT beer every night. Flats of it! None of it went to waste mind you! And it was probably the best camp I ever did! I heard later that Mr. Lee took some flack for the beer budget but the camp was a huge success so he didn't get punished.

The camp I just finished, no meetings before or after. No socializing during the camp time either. I don't know a thing about the people I worked with. It was only one week, but at the beer camp I was just describing, after a week I could tell you the reason they were there; their dreams, hopes and aspirations; their first sexual experiences; their nicknames; past lovers by whom they were jilted; waist sizes; toothpaste preferences; Saturday morning cartoon theme songs they know; scars, emotional and physical; locker combinations; banking PIN numbers; communist sympathies; past crimes; their favourite drinks, foods, sports, hobbies, breakfast cereals... I could tell you much of the life history of all the main teachers, helpers and administrators. Needless to say, I like the old way better. At least on this point.

What else? Well once you GET the job, and to toot my own horn here, TOOT, I'm pretty good at these things so I get the ones I apply to, you get reams of paper describing the things that will be happening during the camp. This past camp I got reams of paper written in Korean describing what would be happening, but it didn't matter to me because I know that there is no amount of planning that will overcome the basic need for improvisation at these things. It's what Koreans are worst at and it's where I shine. So while people were stressing about schedules and details, I was stresslessly saying to myself, and actually to other camp staff, "We'll just end up going with the flow." And, as always, we did. So I guess that's one for the NOT changed side of the board. I don't think these things will ever be planned enough to where everything goes off without a hitch. The camp I just finished wanted me to take care of the pool activities. Well half the things that were planned were impossible to carry out because of campers' heights vs. the depth of the pool, the campers' swimming abilities, faulty supplies, weather, hot deck outside the pool, slippery deck outside the pool, and just the pounding rays of the sun. But I expected that sort of thing. I have to brag a bit and say that I took the supplies they had purchased and threw together several pretty good last minute ideas that were fun for the kids. A couple of other people had some good ideas and some of my ideas were not used. That's just the way these things go. And that's not likely to change.

So another difference: At these camps, teachers/counselors like me are no longer living with the kids; putting the kids to bed; eating with the kids; 24/7. I went to the camp from about 8:20 to 1:00 every day. I didn't sleep in the dorms with the kids or tuck them in at night or anything like that. I didn't help them get ready in the mornings. The parents did all that. It was a much less intimate experience with the campers, the same as it was with the co-workers. Again, I have to say I like the old way better on this point.

And then, the bane of my existence, immigration. Huge difference! The old camps, I'd just get a little letter of permission from my employer, or nothing at all and we'd just do it all under the table in cash, and Bob's our Uncle. Now! I STILL don't understand the best way to go about doing these camps. I suppose having a job where your employer allows you to do camps is one way to go. But now there are these F visas and people who are Korean, but not Korean doing all the jobs foreigners used to do. They are living in the U.S. but are summering in Korea to make some money for tuition at college. That's an instant F-something visa and you can write your ticket. For a guy like me who used to be the preferred camp teacher, it was not so easy. I had to first get permission from an employer, and if you go way back into the archives of this blog, you'll see that that is not always easily acquired. Then you needed to get a written letter of permission. After that it was pretty simple: you gave that letter to the camp and they did all the immigration work because they speak Korean and they have little to no problem at the immigration office or with the immigration technology. NOWadays it's a whole new ball game! I still needed a letter of permission from my boss but the camps have told me to go to immigration myself. I had to call the immigration number, 1345, and get the proper information that they want on the letter of permission. Then I had to fill it in and get my boss to fill it in. THEN, and this is the difference, I, EYE, AYE, I had to do the immigration work. Oh, and it just flows off the keyboard as I type it, but it's not as easy as all that, let me tell you! You'd think that all I would have to do is just waltz into the immigration office, take a number, wait and then give somebody my alien card, camp contract, and letter of permission so they know what I'm up to. NOOOOOOOO! That's the kind of thing that Korean immigration has NEVER trafficked in: simplicity. No, I have to first call the number. And I have to say, the person on the 1345 line was very helpful, spoke great English and told me all I needed to do as though it were humanly possible, bless her. She probably thinks it is. The fact is, I have to make an appointment before going into the immigration office and letting them know I'll be teaching a camp. She just threw the HiKorea website at me and told me to make an appointment as though it were something the immigration department of this country hadn't hired the most diabolical minds available to make as demoralizing as possible.

I still think there may be a way, but not if you don't speak Korean. And not if you don't download a few invasive Korean computer jacking programs that are necessary to navigate this site. I actually accessed the site from Canadian Google and was given a warning that the site where we have to register and make appointments for immigration matters in Korea was DANGEROUS to my computer! And, yeah, I go on there and it's asking me to install "Active X" and some keyboard program. Every time I x them out they pop up again and then notices telling me that Windows has blocked these programs from popping up come up too. So basically, I'm two days away from starting a camp and thanks to Korean Immigration ingenuity, I am unable to do the legal thing and give them the letter of permission I have for this camp. The same thing happened for the last camp. I gave the director my letter toward the end of the camp and I suppose he will give it to immigration. I don't know if the same will need to happen with this next camp at Konkuk University or not. Probably. As far as I'm concerned I've done my due diligence. If the inspectors come around the camp and ask why I'm there, I will have my letter of permission. That's the best I'll be able to do. Gee, I wonder if this is exactly the situation Korean Immigration was wanting to fabricate. They will say I should have made an appointment. I will say it was impossible. They will question my computer skills and slap a hefty fine on me for flouting the Korean legal system. Don't scoff. It's happened to me here before.

I've told the camp supe about my struggles. We'll see what we can do...

And there is still another difference. As already described, I used to love that fat wad of cash at the end of the camp! Now the Korean 50,000 won bill, (where the largest used to be the 10,000), has thinned some of those fat wads, but not only that: camps have for some reason, and through some clandestine wheeling and dealing, made it pretty much a standard thing to keep the camp workers waiting for their money. This first camp said in their contract that I will have to wait up to 10 days for payment. We all know that means 10 days. And this next camp, at a MAJOR university here in Korea, where university is EXPENSIVE, have written into their contract that payment will be within a month of the end of camp. No big, bulging envelopes at the end of camps any more. I had to do some solid thinking on this and I can't come up with a good reason why this new fad would be! Oh I can come up with a few BAD reasons... But that's Korea. One person waives payment for a week after camp and the teachers, who have limited visitation times, return to their countries unpaid, and suddenly EVERYBODY want to pull THAT scam. So a MAJOR University like Konkuk decides they will pay their workers a month after they're finished. That's a LONG time. Why? They can't afford it? A big university like that? No, it's just that everything is done the most corrupt way possible and every year comes with new and improved methods of screwing other people. I've probably missed a few since I've been away.

The wad of cash is not as big as it once was either. I remember when a million a week was pretty standard at these camps. Now I see some paying a million for THREE weeks. It's happening with ALL jobs in the ESL racket over here. People are getting chincier and chincier. Longer hours. 30 hours a week is the norm now. For ages here 20 was considered the absolute max. Vacation time is down to 10 days when the minimum used to be a month. The standard job here is basically a screw job. But I guess people keep taking them.

And speaking of getting screwed, if you are with me in Korea or in a country to which this:

absolute crap is exported, DON'T BUY IT! I can not stress that strongly enough. Spaghetti is my favourite food and while in Korea I have suffered through some awfully weak attempts at Koreanizing the centuries old art of making spaghetti sauce, but I have always made it through. None were hideous enough that I couldn't finish. None that I can recall at any rate. But THIS stuff! I added good meat, spices and veggies to this sewage. What a complete waste! I had to scrape it all into the toilet. I'm not kidding. Absolutely horrendous! I had the garlic and onion kind. I have to believe the other kinds couldn't be worse, so I won't condemn the entire line of products, but I've been so violated by the one kind, I'm scared to try the others. Yes, violated. When you buy something that says it's spaghetti sauce, you expect something that tastes at least a little bit like spaghetti sauce. Folks, I've had ketchup on spaghetti many times. I don't hate it! But this red dyed baboon mucous is the worst thing I've tasted in a long time.

I remember back in the day in Korea when I used to have a lot of food surprises like this. The cheese that was actually made from carrots. The hamburger buns that turned out to be filled with brown bean paste. The tomato that turned out to be a persimmon. Those are funny stories. This one is not funny. It's tragic. I wasted food and money because of that imposter sludge. It's about 4 bucks a jar too. Only a bit cheaper than REAL spaghetti sauce. I admit, I was penny pinching. I'll buy the stuff I trust next time. The place still reeks of that pseudo Italian sludge. YUCK!

Anyhoo, here's:

the group from the Seoul Club camp. I really enjoyed that camp! The kids were pretty good and the co-workers were too. I hope it's the same at Konkuk. Okay from top left going left to right, top to bottom, Patrick (student helper. 3rd year doing this camp), Me. 2nd row: Yoon, Zoe, Sophie, Eyad, Lizzy (NYU student and registered hotty), Ye Weon, KC/Casey (Head teacher). Bottom row: Jaimie (from Vancouver! My fellow Canuck), Hee Weon (Ye Weon's sister), Sun Hoong, Jad (Eyad's brother), Lushin.

They were fun, but I wish I had the chance to get to know them all better.

Anyway, on to Konkuk. (I hope)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

If I Had a Billion Dollars

... and now for the updated version: "If I Had A Billion Dollars," by the Scantily Clad Gender Indeterminate Musicians.

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
Well I'd buy you a house
I would buy you a house, (in Vancouver).

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
I'd build you a wall around yer house
A great Great Wall to keep out peasants.

And if I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
SURELY I could buy a better hairpiece!
A nice reliant kind of a hairpiece.
And if I had a better hairpiece, I'd buy yer love.

If I had a billion dollars
I'd gild the streets of D.C. yard by yard
If I had a billion dollars
You could make a speech, it's not that hard
If I had a billion dollars
Maybe we could make little tiny orange kids in there somewhere...
We'd have orange kids but we wouldn't have orange pets.
Well can you blame us?

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
I'd buy you some oats,
But not with milk or water, that's gruel.

And if I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
I'd buy you an exotic pet
Yup, like a banker or a senator.

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
Well I'd buy you Steve Jobs remains
Oooh all those crazy Apple I-Phones!
And if I had a billion dollars, I'd buy your love.

If I had a billion dollars
We wouldn't buy Wal-Marts any more
If I had a billion dollars
We'd take over Target cuz it costs a little more.

If I had a billion dollars
We wouldn't eat the poor for dinner.
We'd eat the middle class for dinner!
Of course we would! And we'd eat more!
And buy really expensive ketchups for them...
That's right, all the fanciest, Dijon ketchups. Mmmmmm!

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
Well I'd buy you a green world
But not a fossil-free world, that's fuel.

And if I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
Well I'd buy you some art
Like an Irving or a Blank.

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
Well I'd buy you some flunkies
Haven't you always wanted some flunkies?
If I had a billion dollars, I'd buy your love.

If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
I'd be president.

*(Alternate ending contingent upon upcoming American Election)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I Wanna Be Sedated

It's painful not to pretend. That's deep.

A cousin asked me how I'm doing. Just yesterday. I talked about the prospects of camps and finding a new job here in Korea at a university. He commented on how exciting my life is.

Well, I think he's right. In a way. Exciting and terrifying are similar. I didn't tell him that the camps are dependant upon getting permission to work elsewhere from my official employer over here, who I recently had a big fight with and quit. I've been told that the permission will be given, but many of the things I was told by this employer did not happen. Add to this the fact that I have already given them a signed, but not dated, letter of resignation. To show trust. I can't tell you how many times showing honesty and trust to a Korean employer has bitten me in the arse. So often that I should, by now, have come to expect it. But I continue to employ this terrifying/exciting trusting approach, which most Asian people see as stupid. And, by golly, it has made me feel stupid a time or two. But my position is that if I have to go through life not trusting anybody, what kind of life would that be?

So as I type this my employer may have informed immigration that our contract was broken by me. If that is the case I believe I have a month to leave the country or they start charging me some money for every day of overstay. I am not sure how much but in Indonesia it was about 30 bucks. Here it's probably 50. My bosses were in Spain for two weeks and were due back Monday. I messaged them Monday asking to get papers signed for immigration. The permission to work at these camps I'm signed on for. That start basically tomorrow. I have orientation tomorrow for a camp I am doing next week. Monday I received no reply. Tuesday I was told that they had missed their Monday flight. So I asked again if we could meet and sign papers. "Is it urgent?" was the reply. I said that it wasn't but I need the papers signed by Friday. Yesterday, Wednesday, I agreed to give the bosses a day to recover from the vacation. So hopefully today I'll get these papers signed.

If not, I may be refused for the first camp. It will be working in a swimming pool for a week. I think it's basically playing with kids and making sure nobody drowns. Pretty sweet and pretty lucrative. About 150 bucks a day. If I don't get the permission, I could always just say I did the paperwork myself and do the camp hoping that they won't be investigated by any immigration people. If they are, I could be deported. Then I won't be able to do the second camp, one for Konkuk University, which starts the following week and goes for two weeks. It's not as lucrative but I will be working with 9 teachers who work full time at Konkuk. They advertised for a full time teacher as well and I have applied for that position. I think that if I do a good job and the other teachers like me, I'll have a very good shot at a year of full time work at Konkuk. But not without a letter of release from my current employer.

So what I need to get today is a couple of letters of permission for the camps and a letter of release for a full time job. I've written them up but they require a signature and/or stamp from my employer. That is to say, he must agree that I can quit working for him in the middle of the contract and work for these other people, some while still technically employed by him. He has promised that this will be done, but I am quite nervous today. Up at 6 AM even though I had a late night last night chasing down mosquitoes and trying to stop sweating. It's no picnic in summer here in Korea. Especially without air conditioning. Which I don't have.

But no, I'm "fine."

And I'll be just staying with my friends, Heather, Mike and their kids and dogs. They have a full house and really don't need an extra person there for 3 weeks. Oh I will help with a little cooking, cleaning, dog walking etc., but I'll be another person using the shower, bathroom, eating food and taking up a spot on the couch. I may have said this before but they are wonderful people! I know they don't think of this as doing anything extraordinary, but I feel like I owe them big time. They stayed at my place once but that certainly doesn't make us even in my book for all the kindness they've shown me.

Heather, many years ago, worked on the Clinton campaign. Bill, that is. I know I'm not alone when I look at the current presidential front runners and see America as entirely peopled with mad political scientists. "Okay, we tried the black president, now let's see what happens when a woman is president." I see the whole country wringing their hands and hoo hoo haa haaing. I read a great comment online today about this whole clusterfuck: Hillary and Trump are both running against the only person they have a chance of beating. Are these the two BEST candidates the entire U.S. of A. could come up with? Of course not! Bernie Sanders is. Not everybody knows that because the media went out of its way to NOT cover the massive support he had while he was still in the picture. Even Heather, who I am positive knows Hillary personally, posted this on Facebook:

So what happened to Bernie? Back to the top. "Rigged elections." I thought this stupid mockery of a process would die a long overdue death when we found out that Bush cheated, and was not really the president. Not only didn't it, but they just kept him on. Well there was some doubt for a while, but when touch screen voting machine programmers admit to rigging those machines, it's time to get rid of the cheater, no? No. Now I know, and am often reassured by American friends, that there are some really DUMB people in America, but I think Trump's numbers are over hyped and Bernie's were under hyped. As for Hillary, she'll probably win. She will probably do a decent job as president. But the major changes that the majority want, and Bernie Sanders would have brought, will be delayed another 4 years. That will give the cheaters time to rig another plan to keep democracy out of America.

"The world itself is just one big hoax." We vote not with the above rigged elections but by buying stuff. Shit. I don't have an Apple computer, but many people pay extra money for what they think is a better product. Many people think Steve Jobs IS a genius and a great man. I don't think THAT either. But I suppose with my computer purchase I voted for Bill Gates. Hey, he's no Bernie Sanders, but I have two words for you: Mosquito Laser! Check it out! So at least I can hold my head up a little higher when my Internet Explorer malfunctions and I have to upgrade my upgrades and download more programs to make the other programs work again. I wish I had a mosquito laser last night! When will Microsoft make THAT available to the public? Or, will that be a bonus when you buy Windows W or Windows XI or Windows 2020 or whatever the next bug filled, incarnation of Windows will be called? I hope so.

"All our heroes are counterfeit." Imposters. I remember when the Kia Tigers had Kim Sang Hyun and he was just rockin' it! He got MVP in 2009! Now, he watches 20-year-old girls while having a wank in his car. He shoulda just said he was having a Whiz. Har har. I wonder if his car was a Kia. Look, I personally don't think less of his baseball skills, and what you do in the privacy of your, uh, car, is nobody's business. It was a victimless crime. Certainly not worse than fixing elections, starting wars for profit, revealing state secrets, racism, bigotry, corruption. I guess Kim Sang Hyun will have to run for president of Korea now and rub elbows, and other body parts with the elite of moral depravity.

Anyway, with luck I'll be able to work the camps and get things worked out with immigration. With a little more luck I'll be able to land a job at Konkuk or some other university here in Korea for a full year of work. But, as I've already said, I'd be stupid to expect the same things NOT to happen. There will be ethical and educational differences. There will be managers and micromanagers who want me to teach the way I'm comfortable because it pleases the students, but also want me to teach the Korean way because it pleases management. Maybe I'll see about some Xanax or some other sedative that can keep me in a level of consciousness, or semi-consciousness that will allow me to cope with these otherwise soul-stealing issues.

Maybe we ARE all Johnny Ramones and we DO want to be sedated. Well whatever. At least it was a pretty cool song.