American [no longer] In Korea

The New Jersey of Asia


Read Next

Just Three Guys And We're Having a Good Time / What's a Night Club?

A month before I left Illinois for Korea, there was this girl in my salsa class that I wanted to get to know. A few days later I knew her, and as it turns out, she grew up in Busan. I hung out with her a lot during my last week in America, and she told her best friend/ex about me. She said he was really interested in meeting me once I got to Busan, saying how he's a super nice person. I chatted with him a few times on Skype, and he was just. This Friday I invited him and his boy to get dinner with a big group of GETs (Guest English Teachers) in Deokchon.

Our group met and the plan was to eat at this Italian restaurant that someone said was pretty delicious. When we got upstairs I was immediately unimpressed by the decor which looked like a purple doll house, and smelled like a purple doll house. There were even pillows on the seats. Imagine twenty foreigners packed into this gaytalian doll house and yeah, that's when I decided that I would not be eating with them. I went back to wait for the Ex and his friend as well as Brett who was coming all the way from Hadan. When the Koreans arrived, Ex introduced himself as Joe, and his buddy as Jeon. They spoke the best English I've heard out of any Korean so far. Fluent enough to fuck around with, plus they looked like jokers from the very beginning.

Jeon and Joe, being seniors at PNU had no reason to ever be in Deokchon. So we wondered around for a while until we decided on Okkudak, a famous baked chicken joint next to a famous fried chicken joint. Damn near died and went to heaven. Joe and Jeon were so interested in getting to know me. Of course they started with the obligatory Korean questions, "How old are you? Where are you from?" I haven't gotten the blood type question yet, but pretty much everyone in Korea and Japan knows their blood type. It's kind of like astrology to them. To make sure I understood their culture, they told me that as my seniors, they would buy this meal, and that I would get first round at the bar. Going Dutch is more popular in Seoul, but Busan is a friendlier city so they pay like this.

We finished the chicken and went to Wa Bar, a beer garden.

Jeon was the bigger ball-buster of the two for sure. He floored me with this fucking story:


On The Very First EFL Teacher Blog Ever

I teach at a private school, or 학원. Private schools can be typically thought of as cram schools here. My Jungcheol Junior Academy is just one branch of a larger chain that is still only a small part of the massive 학원 ecosystem in South Korea. As many Koreans have told me, it is usually South Korean mothers who insist on lengthy private schooling following what is already a lengthy public school day. This is just an update, though, so I won't be going into serious discussion about education in South Korea.

How to describe my experience teaching elementary students? I think Will Ferrell, discussing the dance teams he coaches during his downtime, really nails it: "Anywhere from 4 to 50 kids. And just...a lot of energy, a lot of motion, a lot of fun, lot of high-fivin, and a lotta smiles." Well, sometimes. Fonzie-style double-thumbs-up and projected enthusiasm are a lot easier to fit into a classroom setting. But elementary schoolers are still a lot of fun. Especially for the first few weeks, I was a rockstar in the hallways. The students still greet me and bow most of the time, but there's a lot less screaming, which is nice. In class, I was somewhat lost my first few days. Even now, after absorbing the routine of my school's proprietary lessons, I sometimes confuse the class. I try to speak slowly, but this is probably how I sound to many students:

I work fairly hard for an English teacher here. I am at work by 1:30 and am on my feet from 3:00 until 9:30, which still gets pretty tiring. The last half of my day is spent teaching middle schoolers, who are, as we all know, different from elementary schoolers. One thing that has really amazed me about teaching classes of middle schoolers is that character of these classes (many of which have had the same students for a decade) seems so defined. For example, I have a dead silent class. This is what the class has grown into, and this is how the students act within the class. I have a creative, talkative class: my conversation class. I have your classic troublemaking class-by far my most difficult class. Overall, middle school may give me a nice range of class types but, as everyone told me beforehand, it is much more tiring than teaching elementary schoolers. What's more, a few of the students' days have been longer than mine by the time that they are at Jungcheol. Because of this, I am never quite sure whether my job is wholly ethical, but, now that I'm here, I do the very best I can.

Rendering New Theme...