Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More of the Story

How did I decide to go off and teach in Korea?

After I found out my contract would not be renewed, I naturally started looking at the Want Ads. Most of the jobs still available in west Georgia private schools were either a) too far for a reasonable commute (especially with gas prices in the stratosphere), b) for beginning teachers, or c) requiring relocation.

Then I saw an ad in the AJC Classifieds for Pegesus Recruiting, which promised good pay teaching conversational English in Korea--all you need is to be a native English speaker and have a college degree. It sounded really interesting, but vaguely suspicious, so I began to do some research. Turns out that there are dangerous shoals and other hazards to navigate while charting these seas, but it's quite possible to make landfall in a pretty good position.

Are there stories of Westerners being lied to and ill-treated? Yes. Some hagwons (private English institutes) are slow-paying, some require that you work lots of overtime, and some misrepresent the location or housing you will get. My friend TB took a position in China, and never received his textbook until he had been in the classroom for three days.

Korea was not unknown to me, as I had a college roommate who was half-Korean (military dad)--her Mom always made sure we had a jar of kimchi in the fridge. I read numerous blogs by expat teachers in Korea, learned about the country and culture and decided to go for it. I applied with a few different recruiters and soon received exactly the offer I was looking for, from Korea Connections: a dependable public school position in Seoul with top pay.

The best resource for job seekers has to be Dave's ESL Cafe; my favorite blogs (so far) include The Daily Kimchi, An American in Geoje and Where the Hell Am I?

I am an unrepentant foodie, and I greatly look forward to Korean cuisine. Kimbap nara are the inexpensive local diners that dot the citiscape; kimbap per se is a rice/seaweed roll along the lines of sushi, but with lots of stuffings besides seafood--raw or otherwise. The variety of dishes at these places is bewildering, but fortunately, a freelance writer named Mary has a thorough description of common fare at her webpage (Warning: don't click if you are really hungry). I don't know what most of this stuff tastes like, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Anyway, as of now, I am collecting up the documents I need to send to Korea to complete the transaction and get a visa, and starting to box things up--beginning with books. I know one I'll take with me, my 1974 edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary. As Hawkeye once said when asked what creature comforts he brought to Korea: "The dictionary--I figure it's got all the other books in it."

1 comment:

maryeats said...

Thanks for the props! Glad to be of help. My first year in Korea was a sad mess of Curry and Rice.