Monday, February 16, 2009

Well, I'm back

I doubt that I'll be as entertaining here as the Wonder Girls were in my last post. (For one thing, I ain't shavin' my legs). K-pop is mostly about all the namjas trying to be N'Sync and all the yeojas trying to be the Spice Girls (aside from the Korean teens trying to be gangsta rappers-- don't try to imagine it), and the undisputed monarchs of the genre are Big Bang and Wonder Girls. If you think the Nobody clip was silly, yeah, it kinda is, but the official video includes several minutes of lead-in in which the guy for whom the girls are supposed to be background singers is stuck in the bathroom stall with no toilet paper, which necessitates the Girls' rise to fame. (I prefer the clip I posted.) And you hear that song a thousand times and not get it stuck in your head. I dare you. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Anyway, the important part of my trip to Seoul went very well, I think, and I have high hopes for the future. Everything else was a pain in the duff. I forgot my iPod, so the time went very slowly. I lugged my heavy laptop the whole way, hoping to get a return email from my student who teaches in Seoul (not having written down her phone number, and not having considered that after she gave it to me in Facebook chat, I wouldn't be able to retrieve it if she wasn't online). We had tentatively planned to meet at Seoul Station once I called her to set a time. I never reached her, but left her an email saying I'd be at Dunkin' Donuts at the station from 7 to 7:30 p.m. if she could make it. The shop was SRO, so I stood outside it, a million travelers brushing by me, for a half hour, in vain, and then another two hours waiting for the train home, with not a thing to read.

It was 100 minutes to Seoul, at 190 mph, and another 75 minutes by subway to the suburb where the school is. And it was freakin' cold, dude! On Saturday I'd gone hiking with Luke at the Daegu Arboretum; it was 65 degrees and I wore a t-shirt and jeans. The wind chill in Seoul on Sunday was in the high teens. (Winter's made a Favresque comeback here, too... it's 2 p.m., temp 32, winds gusting to 23 mph.) I'm trying to find a tunnel to work.

However... I met Tony, the social studies teacher at the school who'd been my contact, and Bob, the principal, at the Yatap subway stop and took a short bus ride to the school. It's about the size of the Manchon LIKE school, but ultramodern. I had an hour-long interview with Bob, which I think went very well. Then we all went to lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and swapped jokes and whatever they call those Vietnamese taco-looking wrapper things that look like Rubbermaid raw material till you soak them in hot water and fill them with comestibles.

There's an good chance they'll have an opening in the fall and I think I will quite likely be offered it. (Chickens? Hatch? What?) They pay 600,000-800,00 Won ($470-$620) more a month than I'm making now, and the teachers live in nice, modern apartments (with lofts!) There is some uncertainty, as they have outgrown their floorspace in six months and the company has bought a big campus five miles south of Seoul, in a city of 200,000 that is not on the Seoul mass transit system. Who will be at which location? Where will they live? And what about Naomi?

It would be a very great deal more work than I'm doing now if I got it, lesson plans and clubs and tons of homework to grade. And, frankly, I've come at last to really like Daegu. And Heeduk is my friend (though all my other friends will be leaving over the course of the next year). But... I would be doing something more worthwhile, more of a challenge, with a bigger upside, at a place where I could see myself having a (rest of a) career, for ten years perhaps. But I might not get it, if there's an it to get, and it's possible I might not take it if I did. (I doubt that, though.) (Am I using too many parentheses? [Yes.])

We shall see. For now... to quote Samwise Gamgee in the last line of The Lord of the Rings: "Well, I'm back."


Cindy said...

Hi, was this your first trip to Seoul? How is it compared to Daegu? I'm interested to know if there are still many orphanages in the area. I hope to teach there or Thailand 5-7 years.

Stephen J said...

Hi, Cindy.

Yes, I'd never been to Seoul, aside from being over it while flying into Incheon; my only real impression was, and still is, that it's huge. I only saw Seoul Station, many miles of underground (the Daegu system has two lines and one transfer point; Seoul has twelve of the former and three dozen of the latter), and a little bit of the suburb of Bundang. I'm afraid I can't tell you much else.

I spent over 50 years in towns with about 25,000 people, so Daegu seemed gigantic when I got here, but after Seoul, it feels kind of cozy in Daegu. I've also made some friends I don't work with, so that helps Daegu seem more like home, too.

Either place next year would be fine with me.