another first day.

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Today is a milestone. I am officially starting my third year of teaching here in Gwangju. I feel…lonely. Yesterday, I said goodbye to the remainder of my social circle. Gone are the days of endless g-chat conversations, negative rants about my first world problems, and being overtly snobby when it comes to new intakes that make their way into our territory. I am a lone wolf, in a sea of waygooks. I must embrace change. I must embrance change. I must embrace change.

I am currently sitting on my desk at my visiting school where I will teach every Monday and Tuesday. My circular desk is about a meter away from the rest of the tables where the other subject teachers sit all together. They sure know how to make me feel welcome…

I was introduced to the school in the morning during the morning assembly. When my name (poorly pronounced and dismantled thanks to the vice principal) was announced, gasps and looks of astonishment were a plenty. I proceeded to give a big bow followed by a wave, ending off with a peace sign.

I have done this three times before, so this was not that interesting to me whatsoever. I couldn’t even muster a fake smile for the kids, who stared at me all wide-eyed and jaws drooping down to the floor. I’ve seen it all before. Nothing is no longer new to me. I felt no excitement and no motivation to please. The only thing that was going on in my head was what I was going to prepare for dinner and how I desperately I wanted to nap.

I have experienced this before during my second year of teaching. The feeling of nothingness, the lack of caring, the yearning to do anything else but teach English in Korea. It was my sophmore slump. It came and went. But what about now? Is there a name for a third year slump? Probably not because no not a lot of people stay in this country for this long of a time. Who knows, all I know is that I am definitely going through it.

Third year for me is all about money. Money for my travels, money for my savings, money for my loans, money to share with family. Money. It is also about new beginnings. Two new schools, a new apartment, a new intake, a new start. New. Lastly, this year will mark the year where I hope to decide whether teaching is the career path I would like to take. I’m still not sure whether I would be satisfied with becoming a teacher, overseas or back home. I think i’m good at it. But what will happen to my dream of becoming an office worker. To be a drone working for the man, trying to work my way up the corporate ladder. A psychic in Bali told me that dream will end in complete and untter sadness. What does she know?!

Three more hours.



In Uncategorized on April 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Dear Shandy,

Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been too busy sleeping and streaming episodes of the real housewives during my free time (oh, and of course wasting all my money).

Today, I would like to talk about one of the reasons why I love Korea. Mr. Shin. He was my co-teacher last semester. He’s the science teacher at my visiting school that I go to on Mondays and Tuesdays (aka the orphanage).  Since he teaches science while I teach English, I had to fend for myself in the trenches, trying to fight off crazy cannibalistic orphans. You’d think I would hold some sort of resentment towards him, but that is not the case. He’s just a really nice guy, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

Even though he’s no longer my co-teacher, he still drives me to the orphanage all the time. At first he stated that my new co-teacher would be taking on that responsibility, but when he arrived at my house to pick me up after that long winter vacation, he told me he will continue our morning drives to school because, “you are my brother.”

When I arrived in Korea around late August, Mr. Shin was the first Korean I met. My first impression was obviously negative because I’m a judgemental person. He looked mean, and gave off an aura of not wanting to be there. We were warned about this during orientation, some Korean teachers can be very hostile towards native english speakers because they get no extra pay for this extra responsibility and they may see it as an other thing to do in their ever-growing workload. Many of my English teacher friends have experienced the ‘hostile co-teacher’, thank God Mr. Shin was not one of them.

As is the case with most Koreans (especially down south, the Texas of Korea as I like to call it), many of them never have the chance to talk English, and once they are out of school, all english ever learned slowly starts disappearing (like our french capabilities). When Mr. Shin got in the car with me to drop me off at my home on the first day of our meeting, he confessed that he had not spoken or studied English in over 10 years, and that many teachers and adults in general around Gwangju are very shy when it comes to anything English.

Our first car ride was silent, radio was turned on after a couple of minutes because the uncomfortable situation was becoming more obvious and unbearable. Luckily I had just come from orientation, and I still had some Jean-Pierre in me to be capable of being a social slut. That’s when I started asking a lot of questions, and told him everything I knew about Korea. Once I started talking, he immediately turned off the radio, answered my strategically easy yes or no questions, and nodded with agreement or disagreement at my many anecdotes about Canada and my experience in Korea thus far.

Fast forward a whole semester later, and our conversations have developed drastically. The radio is turned off once I enter the car, we’re comfortable enough to ask any questions and problems we may have, and we even delve into some serious topics and debates about Korean life once in a blue moon. There is obviously the occasional “pass” which is code for the conversation is too hard and my English can’t go that far and looking through both our cellphones for the Korean translations of certain English words and vice versa.  But those instances are becoming more and more rare, which pleases me.

Mr. Shin confessed  that he didn’t understand a lot of the things I was saying during the first semester, which was pretty funny considering we had so many car rides together. The positive was that although he only nodded and agreed with everything I was saying even though it went right through one ear and out the other, now he can understand me a lot more and can contribute to the conversation. I’ve also developed an uncanny ability to understand broken english. Mr Shin would throw words around and my mind automatically goes into problem solving mode, trying to piece those words together and decipher what message he was trying to convey to me. Usually, after he speaks his broken English, he asks me to say what he just said, but in a complete sentence, and he memorizes it for future use. It’s amazing.

Have I mentioned how funny he is? Our conversations usually contain certain questions that he goes through each time we meet, I call these permanent conversation sentences, Shin-isms.

“What did you your weekend?” – what did you do on the weekend?

“Do you a good job.” – what he says to me when we go to our respective classrooms, it’s his way of saying ‘have a nice day’

“eat a lot” – what he says every time I sit down for lunch.

“did you good job?” – what he says to me when I get into the car for the ride home, it’s his way of saying “did you have a good day?”

“You stay your home today” – a personal favorite, what he says when he has a business trip and can’t drive me to school, and when theirs a field trip and I don’t have to teacher.

“I save the world” – what he says when he finishes talking about his beloved robots, he’s introducing a new curriculum (robot class) to the office of education in Gwangju, which makes him sort of a celebrity in the teaching world. He knows a lot of teachers.

“my hope” – when he talks about anything he wants from going on vacation to eating korean bbq.

lastly “Hello Ron, it’s me…Charlie…Charlie Shin.” – What he says every time I answer his phone call. Same exact lines. Charlie Shin is his English name. I told him the real Charlie Sheen is a playboy and a drug addict.

I don’t know why I don’t fix these sentences that he says all the time for him, I guess It’s funnier this way…


In Uncategorized on March 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm

As I type this there are two korean people in my bedroom, a man and a woman, peeling off every inch of paper on the wall and (probably) gossiping behind my wagook back…

Dearest Miss. Almeida,

My battle with mold has been never-ending, fighting has not stopped for years, leaving many casualties along its path…in Korea time, that means it has been about 4-5 months.

It all started near the beginning of winter, when i refused to spend any money on heating. “I’m Canadian” I would proudly say. My co-teachers, who, bless them, always try to make small take with the foreign kid, always asks me about how I’m coping with ‘Korean Winter’. I would laugh and say “It’s nothing…I’m Canadian!” and we would all fake laugh in unison. They thought it was amazing how I could withstand such freezing weather without turning on my ONDOL (Korean floor heating technology).

After a while, and many blanket purchases later, i noticed that my windows were always wet, and my room was somewhat always…musty. I began noticing little spots around my bedroom, black spots, in random places. I didn’t think much of the situation, seeing that it was easy to wipe off. Overtime, I went inside my bedroom, I would do a 360 degree inspection and wipe off the little spots i saw.

Then Korea got fierce, a few dots turned into many, and many soon turned into too much, and too much turned into hell on earth. It was war, and i was definitely losing. My health got in the way, and I began my month-long battle with sickness. I knew I had to surrender, and call in for backup. This was not going to be handled all by myself. I reached this epiphany when I decided to look behind my closet, and then behind my bed…there, hiding all along, causing my piercing sore throat and stuffed up nose and near death experiences, was a shitload of mold, infesting….growing…living…killing me softly.

I decided to finally face my co-teacher about my problem. You know me, I can’t ask anyone to do anything because its one of my many fears in life to ask for help from people who aren’t my close friends. I prepared my speech to be accompanied by pictures (phone and camera) and made sure I acted more sick then i really was.

The first thing my co-teacher told me…”It’s very common in Korea”. I’m guessing people live with mold and just deal with it? Was that what i was supposed to do? She then followed it up with “I will call the apartment master tomorrow”. Then my mind was at ease.

before work was to be done, I had a visit from an old man in a business suit carrying a spray bottle and some tissue. I laughed to myself, “been there, done that bitch”. When he went inside my bedroom, where the mold was contained, he realized that this was not going to be handled by a spray bottle. He immediately made some calls, talked to me in Korean like I understood him, and left. The next day he came back with another man, also in a business suit, they assessed the hot mess that is my bedroom, and told me that I had to turn on my heat…really high. They spoke to me in Korean some more, I nodded like I understood, and then they were on their way. The next day a butch looking woman, who had the homeless look, wearing overalls and rags, came in and did her thing in my bedroom. She immediately closed the doors and did her thing. I heard her gag a couple of time (mold can do that to you), and then literally an hour later she was finished.

I knew that this was a half-assed job, but of course I kept my mouth shut, I’m pretty sure you would too. Besides, even if i complained, she wouldn’t have understood me anyway.

The room was all nice and mold free for a while, and I kept the heat on to keep the moisture of winter out-of-the-way. Then I went to Thailand for a week, and as a welcome home present…i came home to an old friend…mold.

we said hello, and then i immediately moved my stuff out, and moved my closet and bed, and everything else i had in there, to my living room (my house is large enough obviously).

Complaining the first time was hard enough, but doing it again would take a lot of effort and a lot of confidence building before my guts were ready to plead for my life and to get rid of the mold once and for all.

I waited until I got a new co-teacher so i would burden her with my problems, instead of looking like a whiny bitch to my old co-teacher.

So today is round three of Ron vs. Mold. it’s been 45 minutes already and I’m pretty sure a half-assed job is being done, I can feel it in my bone. We’ll see if I make it out of Korea alive…