Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mein Chinese Kampf

Well, well, well!

Well? What word did you expect I'd start my first bloggage in half a year with? In fact I reckoned I'd throw a trifecta of wells at you. A veritable bouquet of wells for my dear readers, both as a "what is going on in this crazy world here?!" as well as Joe Walsh "Hi there how are ya? It's been a long time..."

Since going to the fourth world, I've just been unable to blog. I call China the fourth world because it has the second largest economy in the world, so it's not third world, but so much of what I see there, even in the capital, is stuff that makes me feel like Dr. David Livingstone discovering an unknown, prehistoric tribe that has remained hitherto untouched by civilization! The internet, for example, is a constant challenge in China. Now, I went over there knowing it would be, but China, at every turn, has proven to be about three times as complicated as expected. So I go over there expecting a lot of blocked sites, like anything to do with Google. I got a new Outlook email because my Gmail account doesn't work in China. I KNEW that was going to happen. I expected that. What you don't expect is the general wifi drought that has left every internet stream as no more than a trickle at the best of times. Combine that with cafes, hostels, restaurants and places people go to use internet assuring you that they have internet. Then when you try it you find out, yes, there IS internet, only it doesn't work. Ubiquitous throughout Beijing, these places!

So even if I were to get a VPN to give myself a false IP address to enable sites blocked by the Great Firewall of China to work again, I have to try to download it and navigate it using the pitifully slow internet in China, when I can GET internet at all. I managed to hook up to a VPN with the help of a guy who is a bit more tech savvy than myself. He tried several times to download the VPN but the internet cut out after 45 minutes or so and he had to restart the download. This took the better part of a day. A whole day to download something that should take minutes!!! But he got it and then gave it to me. I paid and now use it every time I log onto the internet. So why no bloggage? Because even WITH the VPN, I get an internet stream that is too anemic to do anything and even at that it cuts out on average every minute or two. What I've typed here so far, for example, would have taken me about a day and a half realistically speaking, had I the patience to try for that long from my hostel room in Beijing. I would have flashed up the VPN, then chosen a country. Korea is usually my first choice. The IP address would have been established and I would have gone to Blogger and probably written the three wells before Korea gave up on my weak wifi signaling ass. So back to the VPN. Let's see, how about Azerbaijan? They're usually good. Again, thirty seconds or so till critical mass. Next we'll try Saudi. Okay seems like a decent strength. Now to Blogger. "This page unavailable."

With the amount of work I have to do, I just didn't have time for that nonsense. So, this blog has missed out! No Christmas or New Year's stuff. No updates on the tremendously eventful five months in China, and the insanity at the place where I have been working, nothing about the Korean Queen getting ousted, and, holy moly, nothing about the self-aggrandizing man child who's going to be like Jack lusting after the blood of Ralph and Piggy. Every POTUS has his signature quote and I'm predicting Trump's to be, "I know you are, but what am I?"

So what brings me to the computer today? I have a steady internet stream and some free time. I am off for a month and visiting Heather, Mike and the whole Peet/Spiwak family right now. I got to Korea on the 4th of January. So I've been here for a week. What have I done so far? Nothing! There's a reason for that but I can't tell it to you without recording for posterity another of my infamous tragic travel tales. Are you ready for another tragic travel tale, kiddies? Okay then, just sit back and we'll continue VPN free and wifi uninterrupted! God I love Korea! After I've been in China for five months...

So it all started back on the 2nd of January. I was taking a plane to Taeyuan in China to meet some people at an international school there. I've got to continually look for other employment options given the temporary and tenuous nature of the work I am doing right now. So I booked a flight for the evening of the 2nd. I had spent most of the day packing up all of my belongings so I could store them. The hostel where I live, in a tiny shoebox of a room with no fridge, no stove, no cooking allowed, and the woeful wifi, (for $1200/month), had agreed to store my stuff below the stairs for 60 RMB a day. That's about 12 bucks Canadian. Not terrible I guess... Better than paying for the room.

I hadn't been able to book a hotel in advance for my overnight stay but didn't think it would be tough to find one. My liaison there would be a girl named Faith. She had sent me a map of the area where the school is and I figured I'd just look around for a hotel nearby once I arrived. Show a taxi driver the map, tell him to take me to whatever hotel, badabing, badaboom. But that wouldn't make for any kind of tragic travel tale now would it?

I got to the Beijing airport a few hours before my plane left. It was actually way too early for me to arrive since I wasn't going to need to go through immigration. I bummed around, had a meal, wasted time and then got on the plane. It was less than an hour in the air. Simple flight. So I got to the Taeyuan airport and immediately wanted to find a place to use the internet so I could find a hotel. I found a coffee shop. It didn't look like anything fancy. Kind of a bit downscale for an airport if you ask me. I went to the counter and asked the girl if they had wifi. She showed me a strong signal on her phone so I asked for a coffee. She showed me a menu. Oh great! Designer coffees. I just wanted something from a pot. Oh well, I chose the Americano without paying much attention to the price. What I got was a small cup of burnt liquid. It was harsh, thick and nasty. And as I got to my seat and organized my thoughts, I realized I had paid 78 quai for this cup of coffee. "quai" is a word used in China for Yuen or Renminbee that is like the word "buck" for dollars. 78 RMB is about 15 bucks Canadian! For a shitty cup of coffee! I've been shocked to see this sort of blatant rip off pricing here in China. I thought it was going to be cheap but since they have thrown common decency to the wind, Beijing has become an expensive city. Maybe the most expensive in the world. In a country that is supposed to be cheap! And the internet? They did indeed have internet! It was a strong signal too! Didn't work, but it was a stellar signal! So I went to the help desk near the coffee shop and this very nice girl named Catherine, whose English was pretty solid, helped me out. "Catherine," and "Faith" are not REAL names, just English nicknames, of course.

I approached the counter and said to Catherine, whose name I didn't know quite yet, "I am trying to find a hotel but the airport wifi doesn't work on my phone." She replied, "Yeah, I know. It doesn't work." Then she got out her phone and decided to use her own personal data minutes to help me. I thought this was a very nice gesture and wished there were some way I could help her in return. Ask and ye shall receive. Just then a cockroach scuttled across the marble counter in front of Catherine. She shied, so I swept it off the counter and onto the airport floor. I then stepped on it. I lifted my food and the cockroach casually walked away. Not fast. Just at a casual pace. I figured I should let that badass bug live. So I did. Anyway, back to Catherine. She found a hotel near the school using the map that Faith had given me. Then she wrote some directions in Chinese for the taxi driver. It was absolutely perfect! The hotel was a 5 minute walk from the school and the driver got me there in about 35 minutes. It cost 53 quai. CHEAPER THAN A COFFEE!!!

So I get the room paid for and get up to it. I was on the 6th floor. I open the door and I am not sure which sense kicked in first but the first sight was a big no smoking sign and the first smell was smoke. Not like someone was sitting in my room roasting weenies and marshmallows, I like that kind of smoke smell. No, it was like the smell of an airport smoking room, only stronger. Someone had obviously disregarded the sign. For a LOOONG time. The walls were sticky with it. I felt like I should put on my pollution mask.

Anyway, time to eat. I was hungry and I was pretty sure I had seen a brightly lit building up the street a block that might be a mall or department store or something like that. So I went out looking for some food. I got to the intersection just a block up the road from my hotel and sure enough there was a brightly lit mall called Sky Store or something to that effect. There was the matter of crossing about eight lanes to get to it, but not so bad a deal. I should be able to find some food in a mall.

Now, crossing eight lanes in China. Different than any other country. Oh you can make comparisons but I've lived in Jakarta and that's the worst traffic in the world. STILL not as bad as China when it comes to one simple little thing: when your pedestrian walk light turns green, you have to be on the balls of your feet and have all your wits about you. It's not possible or probable that someone will illegally turn and barge through pedestrians, it is GOING TO happen. And the walkers of China just let it. These jerk-offs who refuse to wait for their turn arrows or at least for the human beings to finish crossing the street, are the tribe untouched by civilization I referred to earlier. And I've had lots of Chinese students. At one point or another every one of them has bragged to me about their 5000-year-old culture. I can't tell you how often I think, as I live amongst them, "In 5000 years, nobody has figured THIS out?" Because it seems to me that if you are a culture that obviously can't control its sexual urges, has spent who knows how long trying to reduce its population to manageable levels, maybe somewhere along the line someone might have thought to teach the younger generation that selfishness is easy and using overpopulation as an excuse for being an asshole is easy. When you have so many people, it is all the more essential to think of your fellow man and at least act in a polite manner. Nobody? 5000 years? Nobody?

I was doing a class one day on people you admire. I extended it to creating your own superhero. I gave them a superhero example from my own fertile imagination named Tiananman. Tiananmen Square, where that unknown hero stood in front of the tank. You all remember the Tiananmen tank man, don't you? He's a hero in China even though nobody knows who he was. I contend that maybe he's not even Chinese. The way these people all get the hell out of the way of any jagoff in a motor vehicle, (or even a bicycle), who selfishly abuses the pedestrians' right of way is shameful. Just shameful! So a hero is needed. Someone who will stand in front of the cars, motorbikes, or even the worst offenders, the buses of China and force those jerks to obey the laws and honour the pedestrians' rights. Tiananman. I drew a quick cartoon of him on the board.

Now, here is exactly what I'm talking about. I have this cartoon on my Chinese phone. So I go downstairs, get my phone, plug it into this computer and, no surprise at all, "This device has malfunctioned and is not recognized by this computer." So I have to go back downstairs and get my Kindle. The Kindle camera is an absolute piece of shit that randomly focuses whenever it wants. So I spend about half an hour getting the best pic I can of it. This is what I got.

China!

Nice eh? A picture of a picture that's out of focus. The best I can do. Why? I don't know exactly. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the phone that wasn't recognized has once been rescued from a squat toilet full of shit. Yes, this is my "Poo Phone." THAT'S another good China story! Or maybe it's just the settings and tweaks that China puts on everything that makes everything there unique, or in global terms, incompatible with everything everywhere else. It reminds me of a few things I remember when I first came to Korea. Like baseball. Koreans decided to make the game more "theirs" by saying the strikes before the balls. So you would hear counts of "two and three." They've since stopped because it only adds confusion, not personalization. China may eventually change a few things too. Like most light switches in the country. Up is off and down is on. Like bank machines. Only country I've ever been in where the machine requires you to press another button to get your card back. Causes all kinds of problems and I'd guess thousands of eaten cards a day, but, it's the Chinese way. So it's better. I'd go into education here but it would take too long.

Back to the story. I took a deep breath, got my game face on and started across the road. The light gave me well over a minute to cross the 6 lanes. Should be enough. As I walked across I looked at the sparkling lights of Skymall or whatever it was. Then I saw a KFC out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head for a fraction of a fraction of a second to ascertain if it actually was a KFC. It was. What? Why am I feeling something in front of me? I quickly brought my eyes back to the street in front of me and there was a woman on a moped falling to the road and looking out her helmet at me in a sort of "I'm helplessly falling but still not going to blame myself for this problem I've gotten myself into," face. I reached out and grabbed her, then steadied myself. It was actually miraculous than I didn't get a foot run over and she didn't hit the pavement. I then turned into Dustin Hoffman and, I am not kidding, I said, "I'm walkin' here!" Then I continued across to the KFC.

I KNEW it would happen and had said to my co-worker, Allen, who lives just across the hall from me, that it was going to happen before I left China. Sure enough it did. I thought I was going to push someone off their moped, but instead stopped this selfish mopedist from falling. Will she give the pedestrian the right of way next time? Nope. But with more Tiananmen like me, someday China too might have some semblance of order in the streets. If police actually enforced traffic laws, and didn't break them themselves, maybe China wouldn't be such a chaotic and dangerous place to walk and drive. Common courtesy would fix it in a jiff. But it's easier to be selfish. Fuck everybody else. That's one of the upshots of the 5000 years evidently.

So anyhoo, got some KFC, got safely back across the street and back to the hotel. I watched some TV, Chinese league basketball, and ate some chicken. By golly it was time for a beverage. I went across the street to a 24 hours convenience store to get some water and a beer or two. Now, to be quite honest, I have found the taste of Chinese beer to be okay, but it's so weak it's frustrating sometimes. I've spent afternoons with Allen in the hotel bar having one after another and feeling nothing but the urge to take leaks. Many and frequent leaks. It's as if some sort of diuretic has been substituted for the alcohol in some Chinese beers. And even the best ones, you're gonna have just over 3% alcohol anyway. Some, I don't think even have 2%.

But I went to get one or two anyway. So I go to the beer fridge. It's not turned on. This is quite common. I don't know what the warm beverage attraction is in China, but sometimes a(n) Herculean effort is required to get a cold glass of water. I, being a resident of a fridgeless room, like a nice, cold beverage when I go out to get one. Even Pepsi! Warm cola! WTF? So I look in the ice-cream freezer and I find one frozen bottle of water. So, here again, China, I buy the frozen bottle of water, a warm bottle of water, two warm bottles of the strongest, (3.6%) beer they had, which was Budweiser, and go back to the hotel. I open the ice and chew as much off the top as I can. I start pouring tiny little bits of warm water into the ice to make a bigger and bigger reservoir in the ice. After only about an hour and a half, I am able to drink cold, though watered down, beer. But it's the struggle I face daily in the Middle Kingdom. Mein Chinese Kampf.

So I finally finish my beer, such as it was, and decide it's time to hit the hay. Got to meet up with Faith at 9 AM. It's almost midnight. So I turn out the lights and go to bed. NOW that 15-dollar coffee starts going to work. Between that and the smell of nicotine in the room I'm basically up all night. I was studying for an exam during university one time and a friend, who was also studying, gave me some caffeine pills. He also happened to be my roommate, Peter. We were awake all night long. We trashed about 30 records, I mean scratch shit outta them on the turntable, then threw them at the wall and broke them into thousands of little pieces! Then we had a pillow fight and left foam and feathers everywhere. I forget what else but we thoroughly trashed our apartment. Then we went to bed and spent the night telling each other how exhausted we were and how much we wished we could just fall asleep. It was one of the longest nights of my life. Hellish! Well, this night in China? Same deal. Only nobody to pillow fight with, listen to music with, or complain to. It was terrible!

Then, next day, I didn't have to write an exam, I had to meet with prospective employers and try to remain engaged, engaging and awake. I actually did okay. But then we got to the end of the technical stuff and it was time for a bit of a tour. Faith knew I wasn't scheduled to leave until 8 PM so I had the entire day. I told her I was interested in seeing some of the town. Tourist attractions, housing, restaurants, malls, shopping areas, supermarkets, you know, the places I'd go if I took the job and lived there. So she offered to do that. I thought that was awfully nice of her! Even though it was an especially high pollution day. I have pics on my phone of the streets we walked down where the houses at the end of the streets look as though I took a Kindle picture of a picture of them. It was nasty! First we went out for some of the local specialty noodles. There are so very few tastes that I just can't stand but cilantro is one of those tastes. These noodles were covered in cilantro. But I eventually ate some noodles that were made from beans. Never tried anything like that before but they were good. Then she showed me the campus. Most things were either locked or in use so I didn't really see much. Then she decided to take me to an amusement park in town. When we got there, it was closed. This is holiday time in China and they pick that time to repair the rides at the amusement park. Oh well, let's go to a temple. I always enjoy temples and this one was pretty good. I have pics of it, but again, my camera is not recognized by this computer.

Faith explained that we had been in the old part of town this while time and I have to tell you, it wasn't knocking me out. It was dirty, dinghy and not looking like a place I'd want to live for a year. I'd read a bit about Taeyuan and have a friend who has lived there so I knew it was responsible for about half the coal in China. I was expecting dirty, but this went a bit beyond my expectations. However, we went to another park and walked along a river for a while. It was nice. I confided in Faith about my job and how it wasn't really a job and she admitted that the school really wanted me to work there. So it was a successful meeting. But it was only 2ish so Faith got us another cab and we went to an extraordinarily gigantic area of town where there were massive parking lots, fair grounds, just spots for shows and exhibitions. Then nearby there was a library and several kinds of museum. It was a LOT of walking getting from one place to another but I was impressed by the modern architecture and the stark modernity of the area in comparison to the old part of town. There was an art museum, a museum and a science museum. We decided on the museum museum. We walked there only to find it closed. But right next to it, that is, about a 20-minute walk away, was the science museum. We tried that too. Closed. I showed up in Taeyuan on a day when it was closed! Crazy!

Faith and I were actually having good conversation and getting a kick out of the bad luck we were having. I told her that this was par for my Chinese course. I told her a few of my banking stories and the poop phone story and she laughed. She was a really great gal! I'd show you a pic, but...

We ended up getting a coffee, (for 15 RMB or 3 bucks), that was WAAAY better than that 15-dollar shyte and then I just gave up and said I should go to the airport. So I did. I got to the airport in plenty of time to eat a Subway steak and cheese and catch my plane.

The flight back to Beijing was uneventful but as soon as I got back I had to pack everything down from my room and put if under the stairs. Since it was a late flight, this was all being done at around midnight. Then I paid for storage and rent upon my return late in January. That settled I went to bed. The next morning I got up early, went to the wrong terminal, almost didn't make my flight because of it, but caught the flight to Seoul. Only I couldn't take out cash from the Chinese bank machines before leaving. That was the plan because I don't trust Chinese banks at all. They suck. Nuff said. I just didn't have the time to stop at one and take out a pile of cash from it. I already had quite a pile of cash with me but I needed more. Anyway, no worries, I was told by a few people at work that our Union Pay ICBC bank cards would work at machines that accept Union Pay cards. I had looked it up online and read several things about that on several sites. It sounded safe. Korea has a huge number of Chinese tourists coming and going so they want to make sure they leave as much of their money here as they can. I thought it would be no problem. But, China.

I tried several bank machines here, was guaranteed by two people that my card would work, even went on base to use an American bank machine and none worked. If you read the literature on bank websites, a card like mine starting with a 6 will work. I doesn't. And I have to say, I'm not that surprised. My struggle.

My final bellyache, literally, is that the very day I got here, perhaps because of the sleepless night in Taeyuan, low immunity and walking around all day getting a little start on a case of black lung, I got some sort of wicked Chinese flu! I haven't been this sick for this long since I was a kid. I went more than two days without eating. Never before have I done that! I have lost about 20 pounds. I haven't had a beer in over a week. I was a mess! And me without a job to take sick days from! DAMMIT!

So I'm just now starting to be a partially functional human being again after a week of this flu. The job search goes on. The vacation goes on. I haven't, (thank God), passed my ague on to any of my hosts. I will be returning to my struggle on the 25th but just might blog again before then. Maybe the legend of the Poo Phone. It's a good one.

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.

Honestly!

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...