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So… Let me tell you about the bad stuff.

Tower Blocks

Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.
-George Bernard Shaw

A list of eight things I hate about Korea (so far).

1. Materials given to teachers.
I have to prepare for classes by creating work

that centers around a storybook that is prescribed based on the kids’ age and level. The problem is that I have no choice in what books I use. This means that when a book comes up like”Nowhere and Nothing”, I have to do my best to make it work. “Nowhere and Nothing” is 150 word story with pictures about a little black boy who is decidedly clinically depressed. Throughout the story he is depicted staring at the ceiling on his bed, sprawled out in the sitting room armchair, or sulking on his doorstep. In each instance he is visited by either his mother or father who asks “What are you doing? Where are you going? Why don’t you go out and play with your friends?” to which he replies “Nowhere. Nothing. I don’t have any.” It’s very repetitive and is anything but positive. The biggest issue with this is that I need to squeeze two weeks out of it and it doesn’t thrill the kids. It’s ten hours of the world’s most depressing children’s book. I’d be a better and happier teacher handing out razor blades and playing Coldplay full blast.
For some strange reason, I can’t help but think about 2pac’s Shorty Wanna be a Thug when I read the book. In my mind, this kid is gonna become Shorty from the song: “He was a nice middle class nigga, but nobody knew the evil he’d do when he got a little bigger.” Tragic.

2. Stuff that is expected of teacher.
I have thirty-two 45 minute classes with about five to ten minutes break in-between each. In addition to this, I have ten 45 minute intervals spread throughout the week, during which time I am meant to be preparing my classes. Not a lot of hours, right? Well because of just how shit the material is, it is expected of us to prepare enough material around these classes to fill the gaps. I’m fine with this. In fact, I agree with it. However, what the boss actually describes would require about a 1:1 ratio of class vs. prep. Basically, what the gaffer wants is a super-animated interactive class with as much stimuli as possible, which take loads of time to make. He clearly has no idea.
Now, I came here because there is a recession on which really restricted the jobs I could get and the career path I would have as a direct result. This job is not much more than a holiday for me and not a job I want to do for the rest of my life. I am not going to break my back and spend all my free time making amazing class materials. In my spare time, I am going to visit as much of Korea as I can and get as drunk as often as I possibly can. I don’t actually care that much about education, but at least I’m honest about it.

3. Working with people whose job it is to know English, but are shit at it.
My Korean colleagues all speak English like Jar Jar Binks and some of the stuff they teach the kids is just not right. They have no perspective, knowledge or bearing on English-speaking countries’ culture either.
Whilst this effectively makes me a hypocrite, because I know zero Korean, have no teacher training and have no idea what I am doing, I do speak English adequately enough to teach it. Also I didn’t hire me. As a side note, the hiring process involved checking to see that I had a bachelor’s degree, requesting a photo or two (probably to check that I was white) and interviewing me for all of five minutes.
Not everyone speaks like Jar Jar Binks, but almost everyone over-pronounces words. Nice-uh, lunch-ee, test-uh, etc… I’m not sure where they get it from, but it’s contagious and I’m sure will come back to the UK over-ee-prounounc-ee-ing everything-ee.

4. Most of the kids are little shits.
Seriously.

5. Korea isn’t all that advanced.
Before I came here, I was dreaming of a land where technology would be so amazing, that it would be like stepping into the future. Here I am now and I’m not that impressed. Unless you’re using 4G on your phone, the internet’s really slow. Every computer and device we have at work is beyond archaic. Most of it is outdated and cheap to start with. And looking around, as far as technological advancements are concerned, I feel that they aren’t anymore advanced than us. Yes, they have automatic doors and when you get coffee, they give you a beeper to take to your table to let you know the coffee is done, and other little delights like bells on tables at restaurants, but by and large, not I’m just not that impressed.
And the question is: do I really need a toilet that wipes my arse for me or can I just do that myself?

6. Some things in Korea are really slow.
Lots of things are slow here. And I don’t mean a slower pace of life, I mean that some things can be annoyingly slow. The pedestrian crossings give me roadrage. They are so slow, it’s beyond belief and in the bitter cold, all you want to do is get home as soon as possible.
Elevators are quite possibly the worst, though. They must take about 30 seconds a floor, but when you’re going up ten flights, you have no option but to take the elevator.

7. Ugly buildings.
Ugly buildings are everywhere. What would otherwise be quite a beautiful landscape is replaced by horrific concrete 30 story tower blocks. And there are everywhere – you really have to see it to believe it. Hundreds of indistinguishably horrific concrete blocks lined up one after the other, sucking all the life out of the city, making you feel that there is no escape from this characterless dystopia.
I read a ridiculous figure that something in the region 80% of the population live in these buildings.

8. I have a massive craving for real meat and cheese.
Korean food is great, but I can’t imagine eating kimchi for the rest of my days. I bet there is a circle in hell where they just feed you kimchi.
We get a free lunch at work (even though I’ve been told there’s no such thing) which is made of rice, soup and kimchi and it’s terrible. There simply isn’t enough meat in meals here and rice doesn’t cut the mustard. After six weeks of eating almost the same poverty lunch, I daydream about New York deli sandwiches every lunchtime.

These eight things have lead me to start sniffing my board markers in class and glue when I’m in the teacher’s room. I haven’t been found out yet, even if my kids always ask why I have glitter glue on my nose.

READ MORE KOREAN DISPATCHES: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN

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