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You’d never think I’d say good things about ajosshi, but I had two good experiences yesterday.

EJ and I went to the bank to finalize our loan to keep our place for two more years. There was a major snag when we got there. When we signed a new lease two years ago, my employer insisted on putting her name on the lease against EJ’s wishes. It’s come to bite us on the butt as it disqualified us from a low interest loan from the government. We had no choice but to take a flexible rate loan.

The loan officer did all he could to help us get around this rule, but there was nothing he could do. He explained everything in detail in English and even dealt with my harsh questions on the rusty logic in the government’s rules. You see, if a family member had signed on to the lease, it wouldn’t have mattered. But the government felt that an employer signing on to a lease meant that the employee was too well off to need a low interest loan. My thinking is that if a family member signs a lease, that means that the person comes from a wealthy enough family to help get their own place. The program discouraged independence, which I think is one of the root drawbacks of Korea’s egregiously family centered society.

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But the good thing is that I may have picked up a new friend with the loan officer. He’s a foodie and knows some good places in Seoul, so we’ll likely hang out in the future.

At work, I had a new kid who was transferred to my class after getting the lowest score in not only the whole school but possibly in the school’s history on the big standardized test we give semi-annually. He was one of those kids who did English kindergarten, which tends to be a problem in the first years of elementary English education. These kids leave English kindie with decent speaking and listening skills, but they have no skills in writing or grammar. I looked at his work while we were going over an activity together, and his handwriting looked like he was holding his pencil in his mouth. Even with the words on the same page in front of him, he couldn’t even copy them correctly, much less do any spelling. This class is in level 3 spelling, and this kid didn’t have a basic concept of phonics or letter formation.

Hoo boy!

I thought it would be a good idea to get help for him immediately. I consulted with the director about him, and she brought him into the office. While she was talking to him, he was like a hyperactive housefly in a jar. At one point, he stood on his chair while the director spoke to him. I’m no expert on psychology, but I think we have a severe case of ADHD here. He kind of reminded me of my former autistic stepbrother.

I also got a memo relayed to me from a complaining parent of a student in the same class. Going through the list of complaints, I was baffled with what information this parent was getting–or that we have another crazy parent on our hands. This person claimed that I was giving homework for the wrong units and that I was letting the kids play Nintendo in class. The class is full of young boys who constantly fight, bicker, tattle and lie to get the other kids in trouble. This class has been so harrowing that I now designate a student in each class to be the “bank” to collect money from kids who misbehave to save me the time and trouble of stopping the class each time I need to collect a fine. Can I just rid myself of this entire class?

Actually, that will come soon enough. I’ve already informed the school of my intention to leave a month after my contract is up in August. It’s timed to coincide with a trip I’ll be taking to New York. I can’t give many details right now, but I’ve been asked to speak at a convention promoting Korean food in Manhattan. Very nervous about this one but also excited. When I return, I plan to make my money far away from the hagwon industry. We’ll see how far that goes.

When I got off work, EJ suggested we go to our favorite Korean diner for dinner. I’ve been in a Korean food mood lately. So I was totally up for it. In order to get to Beomgye from work, I had to transfer close to our neighborhood. When I got on the second bus, I beeped my card, and the driver started talking to me. Immediately, I thought I did something wrong with my card, but I didn’t hear the word “card” or any Korean words I was expecting from his voice. The young man sitting at the front of the bus asked if I was on TV. Then it hit me. The bus driver recognized me from the SBS show. He asked questions about me being a food blogger and drinking makkoli on the show and where I was going.

It was awesome to be recognized. The drawback was that the show made it look like I was fluent in Korean when, in reality, most of my Korean lines were fed. But it totally made my evening. I met EJ in Beomgye, and it took an hour to take that grin off my face.

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