When Kris and I were reading up on teaching jobs in Korea, and being told stories of those that had come over, all we heard were the glowing reviews. We were treated to many a tale of a friend or relative who had come over for their initial year, fallen in love with the country, and never returned. Even some of the departing teachers from the school where Kris and I will be teaching had only planned on a year in the country before finding love and staying on. Today, we heard our first serious horror stories.
They came in small clumps, miniature rainstorms of negativity throughout the sunny Korean day. We heard mumblings of people not being paid on time. Then there were little tidbits about administrative nightmares surrounding flights. Finally, over a pot of sizzling pork, we bore witness to a perfect storm of human callousness.
We were told the tale of a teacher who, on the last day of their contract before they were due to leave, was subjected to what appeared to be simple emotional outbursts by their employer. The situation worsened when the teacher was faced with signing contracts to accept guilt for errors that were made by others, with the alternative to this being to be fired without severance pay or their flight being paid for.
However, the consequence for signing two admissions of that nature would be that they would lose their severance pay. The poor teacher was stuck between a rock and a poor place.
Hearing these tales made Kris and I far more thankful to be where we are. Our school is, by the admission of all of our colleagues, a decent and honest establishment.
Our year contract seems like a lifetime now, but I am certain that it will pass faster than we thought possible, and we will soon be leaving in the mix of emotions we saw from those teachers saying goodbye to the school today. While they were happy to be returning to their families shortly, tears were shed for the happy memories made with the (generally) adorable children.
Kristen and my hearts were also heavy, because in the past few days, we have bonded with the teachers we have come to know during our time here, and who have shown us the ins and outs of our small metropolitan. While they have left us with valuable knowledge, they leave us wishing that they would stay, so that we could further grow the friendships that had just begun to bud. Perhaps we will see them again, perhaps not. Such is the constant state of flux that is teaching abroad. We can only hope.