Three Weeks to Catch Up On

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve added an entry. I have good excuses this time. I bought a great new computer from a friend and passed the old one off to a new arrival in Korea. It’s candy red, fast, and has a lot of disk space. That weekend, SJ was able to help me get broadband service in my apartment. So I got internet on Saturday, promptly got a virus on Sunday. It totally killed the computer to the point that the next week SJ ended up exchanging my hard drive for a new one. That was a week ago. Since then, I’ve been gradually loading my old stuff on this computer and setting it up with my web sites again. But I noticed that the domain for Zenpickle.com had expired. So I renewed that, and while I was shopping, bought the domain for ZenKimchi.com for the blog’s new home. But it took a while to set up the nameservers, getting the files down and up and configured to the database.

Anyway, nerd stuff.

I haven’t been writing a journal, but I’ve been taking notes on stuff that’s been going on the past few weeks.

Eddie is officially quitting, and the management is still not doing anything to help improve morale and prevent others from following Eddie’s lead. The latest bad move is that they’re making the Korean teachers come into work during their vacation. As far as I know, they’re the only school doing this. It has something to do with Mrs. Lee’s outdated philosophy that underlings that aren’t working get into mischief. And besides, free labor is free labor.

There’s a new student in the kindergarten that has joined one of the “bad kid” classes, and he fits in nicely. He sports a mullet with red streaks dyed into it. Seriously. I think his English name is Victor, but I just call him “Mullet.”

That’s one of the ways we keep our sanity around here. We give nicknames to people and try to come up with the most creative and descriptive ones. Brant’s favorite nickname from my list is my name for Amy teacher, who has a distinctive feature that she shares with Jennifer Lopez. I call her “A. Lo.” Then there’s Eugene, who lets out the most foul farts in class. He’s now “Pew-gene.” We also have Lost Angela, Great Scott, Screamin’ Gene, sMelody, Peter Pan, Peanut Butter and Kelly, Sylvia Gold, Bi-polar Betty, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Lily Monster, Crystal Meth, Luda-Chris, Nick-elodeon, and Cindy-rella.

The end of the month rush was compounded with the addition of having to teach open elementary classes in front of the parents. Only the foreign teachers taught in front of the parents while our Korean partners had meetings with them afterwards. We started keeping a scoreboard on how many of our kids quit after the open classes. I was the first to be on the scoreboard, but the mother retracted her threat, to my disappointment.

Generally, the mommies have all liked me a lot. One of the best compliments, in my opinion, was a woman admiring how my teaching style was so out of the box. I only had one detractor, and that was the woman who threatened to take out her kid. So while the other teachers had to deal with pissy parents unsatisfied with their teaching, I dealt with parents unsatisfied by my claiming that their kids weren’t that bad. Seriously. Some parents insisted that I tell them that they had bad disruptive kids. One woman would not get up until I admitted that her son was sometimes rude. Later, I found the boy crying in the lobby after his mother chewed him out.

The foreign teachers also didn’t have to do report cards this month, but we still had to do phone tests, or as Trisha wants us to call them, “Happy Calls.” It’s tough trying to come up with questions and making sure the kids know them when they get on the phone. This time I just patterned the questions after stuff they said in class anyway.

“Tim, what do you say when you have to use the bathroom?”

My phone went out two weeks ago. I could take incoming but couldn’t make outgoing. I found out that the school was supposed to be giving me my phone bill every month, which it had been neglecting. I thought it was included in one of the other utility bills I’ve been paying blindly, not being able to read what the bills themselves are for. Even after I approached them about it, it took them a few days to get me one, and it was a bit steep. Eric came by my desk Friday.

“Bring the money Monday, and we’ll get it paid.”

“Bring you the money Monday? You guys have again messed up royally, and I don’t even get an apology? No, you pay it Monday and take it out of my next paycheck. A 120,000 won phone bill was not in my budget this month.”

They paid it Tuesday.

I really didn’t have that kind of money budgeted. After paying child support, I had enough from saving two months to make a major purchase (the computer), and then scrape by for the rest of the month. I only have 80,000 won to last me until July 14th. One of my lucrative private tutoring gigs petered out after the mother changed her mind and put her daughter into a summer English intensive course. And foodwise, I’ve learned how to stretch a few won.

I was even able to stretch it enough to treat River to a homemade fajita meal after a truly harsh day. The girl has been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and we were starting to think she’d pull a run on us, leave the country overnight. Before she had learned to say “No,” Eric had heaped a lot of extra classes on her back. She looked haggard. Much whiter than usual. She had even sacrificed her Saturday morning to go to the photographer so that the school could hang her portrait next to Brant’s and mine, completing the Whitey Wall.

I was happy she showed up. She lives closer to me than anyone else, but she has never known where my apartment was. She liked the fajitas, and that was a good compliment coming from a Texan. I introduced her to Iron Chef on the computer.

Later that week, Soo got her an appointment at a spa for a deep tissue massage and an afternoon of relaxation. It was comparatively inexpensive, and I should do this when I get money again. I just need to get over my shyness. It’s bad enough to be stared at for being the only white guy in the park. It’s another thing to be stared at for being the only naked white guy at the spa.

One of my problem elementary classes, the one where I’ve been giving the kids English names based on my high school friends, added another kid. I named him Trey to keep the trend going. As of late, he hasn’t been showing up, so I guess that was short lived.

With my kindies, I’ve been trying to get more creative, especially in fifth period, where we’re supposed to teach them drama. I’ve given up on that pipedream. Besides, as soon as the kids started getting to learn their lines, management changes the plays we’re doing. So instead, I’ve made a CD compilation of skits and songs from Space Ghost, Sesame Street, Homestar Runner, and They Might Be Giants. I’ve even resurrected my sister’s choreographed routine to “Particle Man.” It’s funny to have Korean kids beg me to play “Triangle Man” again.

Well, teaching the kids a strange song about odd superheroes went well with the Spiderman craze hitting the school right now. Every kid is Spiderman. In the playroom, the kids have taken a break from shooting each other with their guns built out of Legos and are now slinging “webs” from their wrists.

Brant, River and I went to see “Spiderman 2″ Friday night at a nice theater. We had to take a taxi to get there. We got great seats too, where we could stretch our feet. It was neat reacting to the movie with people reading a different language than what I was listening to.

After the movie, we discovered a Popeye’s in the building. We got some biscuits and split a catfish poboy.

The whole weekend was rainy, so that cancelled our 4th of July plans. Instead, SJ came over, and we cooked and watched “Iron Chef” and “Sex and the City” on my computer.

This morning, Eddie let me in on his secret plan. Last week he insisted on meeting with Mrs. Lee and her husband to talk about how they’re running their business into the ground. On this Thursday’s meeting, if they’re not there, he’s going to just walk out of the meeting. He’s also planning on leaving as soon as he gets paid on the 14th, rather than August 1st like he originally said he would. So things may get really hairy in a week and a half. And if things don’t lighten up for River, she may leave in August. On top of that, the school is planning on holding a special intensive summer session, for which they’ll need to hire another foreign teacher temporarily. So manpower will be short soon. I’m glad that Eddie gave me a warning first. The poor guy has been going through hell since his wife moved out. He’s been picking his daughter up from another school and having her sit around at work during the afternoons. She’s become a regular fixture around the place.

Honestly, things aren’t that bad. They could be better. They could also be a lot worse. Eric has tried to get me to take on extra courses, and I’ve turned him down. His argument was, “You’re the only foreigner who’s not working overtime.”

“If all your foreign teachers are working overtime with no end in sight, I think that’s a big flashing red warning light that something’s wrong with your labor situation.”

Of course his English was not good enough to pick up on half of what I said. I hate having to dumb things down just to communicate with my boss. I have more intelligent conversations with the six-year-olds.

Outside of work, things are fairly peaceful. I have found some basil plants at a florist, a rare find indeed. I have high speed internet. I just finished watching every episode of “Sex and the City.”

Life’s still pretty darn good.

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