Week One, Take Three

Eight days ago, I started my new contract in Seoul, after the chaos that was packing up our Wonju house and leaving for the big city. Some of the few things that I knew about the job included that I would be teaching five different levels of kids for at most five hours per day, and that I would have a Korean teacher to assist me for the first time. Although this meant many more working hours per week than 2016, it was a far better arrangement (time-wise, at least), than the nine-hour-per-day academy job I held in 2015. I didn’t know what the five different levels would mean – would they range from never-exposed-to-English-before to virtually fluent? I was also wary of the effect of a Korean co-teacher on the class – would they be helpful and make my life easier, or were they simply a set of eyes and ears that the school would use to keep tabs on me? In the first week, my work would go from the chaotic fog of the unknown into the comfortable familiarity of another year of teaching kids in Korea.

The first aspect of my work that I explored was the commute. Every day, I have a painless, four-subway-stop trip from our home, with a brief walk from the station to the school. Leaving the door of our apartment to reaching my classroom takes only thirty minutes – a brief commute for a city as vast as Seoul.

Upon reaching my class, I met my co-teacher. She is a lovely lady who is very capable at communicating in English. I was worried that I would constantly be piecing together what the school wanted to me, but my co-teacher instantly filled me in on the exact situation. I was relieved. The only unfortunate part is that I do not have her in my class for the whole day.

The kids came next, in five waves. Each class was more advanced than the last, although not by as much as I was hoping. Level 1 kids have had little to no exposure to English, whilst Level 5 kids are on about the same level as the mid-tier children I taught last year. My dreams of a purely conversational class where I would be exploring complex issues and fiddling with grammatical minutiae were dashed. At least they were all relatively well-behaved. The only times that I struggled were during the Level 1 and Level 2 classes. My co-teacher is not present in these classes, and they were not able to understand most of my instructions, and this frustrated both the children and myself. Of all of the levels, I’d rather have a co-teacher in lower levels (at least for the beginning), but we can’t always get what we want.

Despite some small niggles, I can see myself being comfortable at the new school. The first week was mostly spent giving children books, learning names, and playing games. Only towards the end of last week did we actually start to do any book work. Once that started, the teaching rhythm came easily. Another year, here I come!

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So, I Have a New Job

After a week of unemployment, I managed to secure myself a job in Wonju. I count myself rather lucky indeed. Why? While I may still be teaching, I am doing so on much closer to my own terms than my last contract. My new job is far more suited to me for a number of reasons: it is a part-time job, I am generally teaching elementary students, and, unlike my previous contract, I will have the ability to take time off to go on holiday, cover Dota events, and generally be more flexible. Most importantly, the job will provide me with a visa to stay in Korea for another year. Having this job takes me one step closer to being able to write and create gaming content full-time. I hope that it is the next step down a road that I truly want to walk down. For now, it’s just another step.

I was put on to the job by a fellow South African who is now learning to play Ultimate in Wonju. Kris, ever concerned with my well-being and ability to be a funcitonal human being, managed to find out that the friend’s school was looking for a part-time employee to cover some classes that were currently being taught by Korean teachers. I later confirmed this with the friend, and messaged the head of the academy in hope.

I waited a few days. There was no reply. I spoke to the friend again, explaining that their boss had not got back to me. On the outside, I was playing it cool. On the inside, I was a molten, swirling mass of emotion. I really wanted the job. It sounded almost ideal for my needs. My friend politely explained that the boss was overwhelmed with the beginning of the school year, and that the boss was very keen to have me. Heartened by this news, my emotions cooled, and I began to wait once more.

A day or two later, the boss replied. She was sorry that she had not responded to me sooner, and arranged a meeting at a nearby coffee shop for the next day.

At this meeting, I was not sure who was more nervous – me or her. She seemed to be warm, kind, and thrilled at my interest to join her crew. We discussed details of the job. We drank our separate beverages. We shared a little bit of our respective life stories. After about half an hour, the meeting was done. I was to start work the next day! Whilst I was saddened that I could no longer spend my days entirely at a nearby PC room or in the house, I was happy to once again be earning an income. In my brief moment of unemployment, I felt deeply castrated by the fact that Kris would be working hard whilst I sat around in search of employment. Now, I will be able to work shorter hours without taking too much of a pay cut compared to my previous job. I am much more comfortable about the situation.

Kris and I are still in the early stages of our new start in Wonju. There are a number of significant events ahead. The Ultimate season starts soon. In about two months, the next Dota Major event will take place, which I am hoping to travel to and cover. Later today, I leave for Dubai to spend a weekend with my mother. All of these things are bright lights that we look to if we are having a mediocre, frustrating day. Around these events, we both need to work hard. And we will. We know the rewards that await us. We also know that there is one place in which we can find limitless energy – one another. Now, I must get off my lazy butt and pack. Thanks for listening. Chat again soon.