Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Orient Express

Well, (as I am wont to start a post with), it's been some kind of day, lemme tell you hwat!

I got up this morning with the Peet/Spiwak household. I felt a bit under the weather, though, being better than it has been in months, the weather took some getting under. But under it I went. Unexplained headache, ague, stomach uneasiness and general lethargy. I felt as though I'd drunk the night before. Exactly as though! But I'd had not a single drop. So, I have to blame the blahs on the fantastical new developments in my life the past few weeks have fashioned for me. And the stress-induced symptoms that may or may not have been caused by them.

New paragraph for this: I AM GOING TO CHINA. Five words I had no intention of ever uttering. But here we are. Not maybe any more. For SURE I'm going to China. Life never misses a chance to say, "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" to me!

Because of that I had shit to do! I had no time for physical mutiny! I had to get rolling! So I went out to the streets of Itaewon where there are a half dozen travel agencies at least, and I determined in my mind to buy a ticket to Hong Kong no matter what! The previous day I had visited Ettehad Travel, among others, but all they could find me was a 200,000 won, (200 bucks), ticket with only one bag allowed. I talked with the guy there though and he was very nice. Wahed might have been his name. He said, "Do you mind if I ask your profession and why you are leaving Korea for China?" To which I replied, "ESL teacher," and he gave a knowing nod or two. He said, "Do you know how many times I've heard that lately?" It's not just me, folks! So that sort of makes me happy. Incidentally, he also gave me a tip on moving my stuff to China. A logistics company called C.I.L., Corean International Logistics. I went on their website and booked an appointment for them to come to my house and estimate how much it will cost to move me to China. That's tomorrow, Tuesday, September 6. We shall see... I did this when I moved home last time. There are companies for foreigners who are very professional and give you folders and free pens and stuff like that and charge thousands of dollars more than the Korean companies. I'll see if this is a foreigner company, or if they are a Korean company. What I mean by that, to be clear, is not that they are owned by foreigners, they aren't, none but the huge UPS or FedEx sort of logistics companies are, there are just some who specialize in dealing with foreigners, and charge WAAAAY more, and some who give their fellow Koreans a fair deal. I sure hope it's the latter otherwise I'll just rent my apartment for another month and leave my stuff here.

So anyway, I didn't buy that ticket because I need more than one bag. Today I figured I'd go to the travel agents at 8:30 and see if they had any better deals for me. The one I knew, which I had used several times back, WAAAAAY back in the day, Unique Travel, was closed. The sidewalk in front of it was being bulldozed. I didn't hold out any hope that it would be opening today at all. The next nearest was ABC travel and they were closed. I went to Ettehad prepared to take his ticket from yesterday and hope for the logistics company to be good, but THEY weren't even open. In fact, none of the six places I tried were open. But I called one and he said to come back at 10:30 or so. It was 9. So I went back up the hill to relate my fine morning stroll to the Peet/Spiwaks, who were earnestly attempting to get to Everland by 10. That, in Peet/Spiwak language means, "LEAVE" by 10 and at 9:30, they were still about half an hour from departure. Not bad though, 10 AM. Not bad.

They DID manage to get on the road by 10 and I packed all my crap up that I had taken to their house, like, a month ago, to do the camps, and FINALLY I was going back to my home in Gangneung. But I had to buy the ticket first because you need a ticket to show that you are leaving Korea before the pension office will release your pension money. They want to be SURE they're getting rid of you. THAT is what I had to do once I got back to Gangneung. I'd read that the pension offices pay on the 10th and it was the 5th so I figured time was of the essence. And it was. So I packed up all of my things except a few shirts that I will bring as luggage to China. I left a big hockey bag and a backpack by the Peet/Spiwak door and at 10:30, the time the one travel agent told me he'd be opening up, (and he promised to call me back), I was out the door.

It was significantly hotter than it had been on my morning stroll and I started sweating like Brock Turner's female swim teammates. I started with Unique travel only because it was the easiest place to start. I didn't expect it to be open. But it was! JUST. I mean the girl hadn't even turned on her computer or finished her morning coffee. She found me a ticket that was 173,000 won and allowed for 15 kilos of luggage. So I took it. Then I caught a taxi.

This requires a new paragraph too because although I have been in a thousand taxis in Korea if I've been in one, I've had bad drivers, roundabout routes, people who fake like they don't know where to go, the whole works. But this guy took the cake. I get in and he asks where I'm going. Nobody knows Samho Villa so I just told him, in Korean, when to go straight, turn left etc. Criticize me if you will about not learning the language after the eternity I've been here, but my taxi Korean is impeccable. EVERY THING I told him he questioned, repeated back, hesitated, hesitated, hesitated until finally at the last second, after repeating the direction a dozen times in Korean, English and Swahili, he did what he was told. We reached Samho Villa and I told him to wait for me while I retrieved by big hockey bag and backpack. He faked like he didn't understand what I was saying. I seriously thought about just getting another taxi but it's hard to find one on the hill and with my heavy load...

I get out of the house and find this dude scouring the neighbourhood for me. I guess he thought I'd stiffed him. And I suppose he didn't read the big, GIANT sign on the side of the building he was facing, the one I was exiting, that read, "Samho Villa." So I got back into the taxi and said, in polite, well enunciated Korean, for him to take me to the Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. Somewhere EVERY taxi driver ought to know. Possibly Seoul's most common taxi destination. He's blathering on about Samho Villa and Samho Garden. I thought he was saying that the place I went to was Samho Garden, not Samho Villa. As he's blathering, he's missing the more convenient turns to get to the bus station. He takes me out to the street that goes the completely wrong direction. So I start in with the repetition again. In every language I could I told him to take me to the bus station. He keeps going straight but hesitantly likes he's even putting an ounce of effort into following my directions. So I tell him, again, in Korean, to forget about Samho Villa or Garden, I want to go to the Gangnam Terminal. Body language. I start doing the bus driver dance saying the Korean for bus, which is understandably difficult for this moron to understand because it IS, "BUS-eu." So I go HEAVY on the EU to make him comfortable. Then I change my tack and start saying U-turn in Korean. Again, I have to give the guy a break because he has to make the very complicated mental transition from U-turn to "U-ton," with the "on" pronounced like the word "on." It's actually slightly different but I was saying it in proper Korean pronunciation and he continued the charade. We passed by two places he could have made a U-turn. With clearly marked U-turn road markings. I am SCREAMING at this motherless fuck to U-turn and he's getting closer and closer to the u-turn area with no oncoming traffic and then hesitating like he's going to turn then missing it and acting like there was nothing he could have done. He was also getting closer and closer to the tunnel. After the tunnel, we'll have to go through HEAVY traffic just to get back on a road to get to the bus terminal. It will add half an hour and 10 bucks to the trip. Finally, while mumbling "Gangnam," and "Samho Garden," he does a U-turn in the absolute last chance U-turn spot directly in front of the tunnel. THEN he starts explaining to me in Korean that I didn't understand how it was impossible to U-turn until that time and so on and so forth. I told him I wasn't listening, but that didn't shut him up. Then I get the, "Chhh!" and "Aisssshh!" because he has been wronged by me.

But finally he's on the right track. Or so I thought. There is an over/underpass you need to go UNDER to get to the terminal. I've been there a bazillion times and never has a taxi driver even faked like you can take the overpass. This jackwagon, hesitantly, at the last second, pulls into the overpass lane like there was nothing else he could have done. Immediately I start complaining and he's all, "Tuh mee nul! Tuh mee nul!" Saying you can get to the terminal this way. I know you can, but you need to go all the way around it, which is a waste of money. much like going all the way to the tunnel had been. But I don't argue because, geez, why wouldn't I trust this guy? There is really bad traffic as soon as we get over the overpass and it takes forever to get to the first of what should have been three consecutive left hand turns. Yeah, that's right, a circle. At least he managed to do that right. Then we come to the second intersection and at the last second he asks me what to do. He's all the way over in the right hand lane so we can't turn left. We have to turn right or go straight. I just told the stupid dingaling to let me out. So he stops, fake hesitates again, gets horns blown at us, then finally makes a right hand turn taking us farther away from the terminal. I keep repeating, IN KOREAN, for him to let me out. He keeps faking like he's going to pull over then continues driving farther and farther away. I ask him in Korean, "Can you speak Korean?" He gets as far as he can down the street without getting rear naked choked from the back seat and lets me out. "Thank you," he says in English as I give him the money he doesn't deserve. I REALLY wanted to drive this guy in the temple and throw his unconscious body off the overpass.

But I didn't. I'm leaving Korea and these frustrations. For China, and new and different frustrations. So I grab my heavy baggage and start my 20 minute walk in the hot sun cursing this asshole the entire way and thinking that this is a great send-off from Korea to me.

And if you think Koreans are getting BETTER, here are a couple more interesting things to watch.

It's not just the vastly improved job offers in China and the vastly worse job offers here in Korea that are causing this mass exodus. At least I don't think so. Don't you just love that girl? And people wonder why I am the exact opposite of what she describes white dudes in Korea as. I tried my hand at dating Korean women, but that wasn't what I came over for. And after a few short, hilariously crash-and-burn relationships, gave up on them so that wasn't why I stayed. What she doesn't take into account, is that some of us can't find JOBS in our "developed," countries. I have found that a LOT of people in under and undeveloped countries over here think money just falls from the skies in the developed countries. I hate those words too, developed and undeveloped. There are many ways the undeveloped countries have outdeveloped the developed ones.

I'm not going to generalize, like she did, and say that they are ALL like her, but I've seen way too many Korean women like this. I could talk about her below average looks by Korean standards and how she probably shouldn't be as big a princess as she seems; or how somebody should pop her dislocated shoulder back in, (seriously! anyone else notice that?); or how devoid of personality she sounds; or mention that she posted about her US military boyfriend who dumped her and that this is probably a sweeping damnation of all white men based on one bad experience; but I'll draw your attention to what I see as the most telling part of the video that reveals, really, all you need to know about this crazy little bitch: when she's talking about winners, she uses Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as her examples of perfect white men. Immediately you know it's not for looks or personality. Neither are winners in the social sense of the word. They're standard nerds. A lot of people say Zuckerberg is an asshole. But that's not what qualifies as a loser to this girl. Hmmmm... what could it be she is looking for in a man? What is it that ties these two guys together? Why does she use these two as her models for the perfect white man?

The other vid reminds me a lot of the taxi driver. He's trying to act as though, "Sorry, I don't serve foreigners is something beyond his control." Like my taxi driver, "Sorry, I can't drive you directly where you're going without pissing you off. You're a foreigner. It's against the rules." Same at immigration, as you, no doubt read a few posts ago, "Sorry, no matter how organized you are and how perfectly you've prepared for this visit, we can't give you what you want without finding some superfluous thing to make you go fetch and come back tomorrow."

Every time I come back to Korea I remember the good times for a while and hope it's going to be a new me here, but little by little the bad stuff starts piling up. And a little bad thing to me gets multiplied in a hurry if it's something like the customary hagwon boss screwjobs. I wasn't just mad at the Shims for all the stupid crap they pulled while I worked at their hagwon. I was mad at them and all the other people who did the same crap to me. And in that way I am feeling the equivalent to a generalizing, group anger against all Korean hagwon bosses, perhaps even, to my embarrassment, to all bosses or even all Koreans. I don't think it's gone that far, but I worry that it might someday if I don't get out of here. I think the headaches I was suffering were from years and years of getting frustrated with Korean bosses, administrators, and fake educators who were turning schools into businesses. It came to a head when I got it all over again here.

Do I think China won't have schools being run as businesses and administration members who will cheat me? No. But the thing China has going for it, and for me, is that I haven't been cheated by Chinese people. At least not in China. Yet. It's going to happen. When it does, I don't think I'll hold Korea, Japan, Indonesia or Canada against them. I sure hope not. And, hey here's a thought, maybe I will be at an actual school and they'll keep the cheating to a minimum. Then I'll actually be happy and stick around for a while! There I go being all positive again.

So I got back to Gangneung and immediately went home, dropped off my stuff and went out to find the pension office. I got fluky and told the taxi driver the Korean word for pension, yeon geum, and if you know my blog, you'll know why I know that word. From Gwangju. So the driver just took me to a place I never would have found from the directions I had. I walked in and there was no line-up. I showed them all my stuff including my ticket out of the country and in no time flat I had applied for my lump sum pension refund. They told me it would be 1.6 million. Woohoo! They told me it would be deposited into my account sometime at the end of the month. NOT woohoo.

I guess what I had read about the pensions being deposited on the 10 of the month must have referred only to the Seoul office. Yet another example of the newest of Korean fads. I don't know if it's just for the foreigners or if they do this to each other too, but nobody just pays me when it's time to pay. There is always a mandatory, unexplained waiting period. My job, the camps and now pension. Every single Korean won I have made since getting here has been paid to me late. Coincidence? I think not!

I was counting on that dough. Dang it! Now I will only have a little bit to spend in Hong Kong on my layover there. And I'll have the plane ticket refund money I get when I arrive in Beijing. That's gotta get me through to the end of the month. And it probably will, but I'll have a week in a brand new city before I have to work. I might just want to do some things. Won't get that chance by the looks of it.

In brighter news, the head teacher from my school in Beijing, which, if I haven't mentioned before, is Renmin University, is coming to Itaewon on Friday. I'm going to meet him there for a beer. At a place called the Wolfhound Pub. It's a place I've said many times I need to go to more often, but it's off the main Itaewon drag so I never think to go there. So should be fun. Then one last night with the Peet/Spiwak clan and it's an early morning flight to HK.

And on to a whole new adventure.

I was hoping to buy myself a VPN before going. With the pension money. But I can't. So I will likely be postless for a while. But I've heard good things about the VPN effectiveness in China. So I may be able to keep on bloggin' and share my Chinese travels with you all. Facebook - not so sure.

Only one way to find out!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Out WIth The Old, In With The New

This has raised more than a few eyebrows lately.

Colin Kaepernick is not a(n?) historian, he's a football player. For all I know, he may, like me, have had no idea what the second and third verses of the Star Spangled Banner were. Until now. And he may have had no real opinion on what Francis Scott Key meant by them or the history behind them. And if you are a follower of this blog, or have talked sports with me in person, you may know my opinion about the national anthems at sporting events. Other than the Olympics or sporting events in which the players really ARE representing their countries, I think they are unnecessary. Out of place. Almost included for some other subversive purpose. Hmmmmm.....

But like it or not, his sitting down has made a statement and has set some people to debating. In some cases even healthy debating. Good Lord, during a time when "Black Lives Matter," racism, police brutality and general inequalities of black people in the U.S. are all hot issues, I'd venture to say that even without the references to slaves and graves in the Star Spangled Banner, his gesture had some validity to it. But HOLY MOLY! Even Snopes doesn't seem to contest the idea that singing in triumph after killing slaves and hirelings maaaaaaaay not be the kind of lyrical representation the U.S. wants right now. Ever, really.

Yet there are some people, (forehead smack), who seem to jump at every opportunity to say things that piss America off thereby inexplicably GAINING American popularity. It's some strategy, lemme tell you! "It's so crazy, it just might work!"

We in Canada recently went through our own national anthem updating. Changing the word "sons" to "us" because it is more gender neutral was a huge waste of parliamentary time in the mind of a person like me who thinks those anthems are almost useless anyway, but, I agree with the spirit of the update. Our anthem has changed with the times. On one level it seemed a bit, to me, like George Carlin's description of feminist language alteration gone amok. I will not call that thing in the street a "personhole cover." Or call a ladies man a "person's person." A he-man becomes an "it-person." Little kids would talk about the bogeyperson or the person in the moon. "Come back here and fight like a person!" "For he's the jolly-good person." These are jokes you may have heard on Late Night With David Letterperson.

But on the other hand, we're not all sons in Canada despite the preference for them when the anthem was written, so, sure, update it and remove a little bit of the patriarchal shit in our lives. Nothing wrong. It'll never be important enough in my lifetime to be sure, at a hockey game, to use "us," instead of the "sons" I've sung a thousand times, but I have no problem with the younger generation singing it that way. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it's NOT abandoning our cherished culture. Sometimes it's updating issues that have become more important to our culture over the years. WHY OH WHY can't people see this? Some people anyway.

It's something we practice in so many areas in life. We get new clothes, new cars, update our computers, change from Beta to VCR to DVD, get facelifts, move, change jobs, break up, change seasons, get engaged, get divorced, get fired, get hired, and here, you may have guessed, is where I'm going with this.

It seems, although the Korean culture is one that is more loathe than most to change, particularly things pertaining to culture, they are always changing. They do, however, have a bit of a linear way of doing so. I was talking the other day about how you can mark a single day on the calendar every year when summer fashions almost instantly and right across the board, change to fall. Out with the miniskirts and shorts, and in with the skinny jeans and, well, they STILL wear shorts in the winter. Actually more for some girls. Never figured that out. "Why are you wearing pants?" "Because, um, I'm cold?" "Wonkda!" Wonkda, from my understanding, means something between different person and loser.

And in a lot of schools they turn on the air conditioners or fans on June 1. No matter how hot May is or how cool June is. And it sometimes seems that winter subways, buses and buildings are hot enough to sweat off a few pounds and summer subways, buses and buildings are cold enough to hang a moose.

So I got an email today from a recruiter I contacted about a job here in Korea. I didn't get the job, but, being in China, I got an offer from her for a few jobs available in China. We talked about one and they seemed intent on getting me over there, not telling me the details of the offer. Yesterday I sent out some reminders to prospective employers I'd been in contact with and she was one of the two who answered. The other was also in China. Her answer was basically, well, it was exactly, word for word, "Dear David, Thank you for your letter. But now you are 49 years old now.
I am sorry to tell you that Korea's school can not accept. So could you consider the school in China? I may send you the offer in China. Thank you!"

That's all. This mystery of why I can't find work here hasn't been about blacklisting, corrupted emails, even really the white beard, (which, in a moment of Korean social surrender I shaved yesterday), it has just been about that number. 49. Actually I think it's the big 5-0 really. That's how old I'll be this coming year and that's how old I am in Korean years. So no matter how good I am, how much energy I have, how perfectly I fit into the teacher profile for the position available, and even though I am the perfect Santa Claus for the fast approaching company Christmas parties, I'm 50. I can't teach any more.

So I have a Skype interview tomorrow afternoon for a job in China. As with every one I've been offered, they aren't going to give me a work visa. And, yes, this scares me shitless after the past two years of trying to dig myself out of the hole Indonesia got me into by doing exactly that, but it seems like the thing to do. I have to go over on a business visa and work. From what I've been reading, personal relationships between schools and law enforcement officials in China always supersede the actual laws themselves and there is very little that can't be settled monetarily. So I shouldn't have anything to worry about. The rep from the school told me they are affiliated with a very reputable university over there so they haven't had any trouble. I will be renewing my business visa every two months at the school's expense.

However, the contract itself will include a clause or two that warn against breaking Chinese laws. Before I even start work I will have breached my contract by breaking Chinese visa laws. I've looked it up and it IS illegal to be working on a business visa. There are a few exceptions, but the school in question doesn't qualify. This gives the employer every right to respond in kind and break some agreements and laws of their own like lowering the agreed upon salary, raising hours, class numbers, or if they don't like me, just letting me go and not paying me at all. And I've heard horror stories...

So if I'm offered the job, (which I think I will be), and if I accept it, (which I most likely will), excuse me if I'm a little bit underwhelmed at the prospects of working in China. It's in Beijing too so along with constantly working with the hot breath of Johnny Law down my neck, I'll have this to look forward to:

But in keeping with the national anthems, language, fashion etc., I'm a dinosaur in Korea. Davosaur is my wifi name in fact. I'm old. Time to get rid of me and hire two 25-year-olds.

Anyhoo, I'll let you know the details. As long as I remain in Korea I will hold out hope for something, but it looks like I'll be headed to China soon.

Ho Hwei Yo Ji. (See you next time)

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)