Monday, March 24, 2008

Something New Part 3: Seoul Gives Back

Going to Seoul normally empties my wallet and sometimes even requires an extra mid-weekend trip to the ATM. I’m not always sure why- there’s never been any singularly pricey purchase; Seoul is just an expensive city. I can easily spend more in a weekend in Seoul than what I spend in a week and a half in Cheongju. The weekend of March 8th began no differently. Even though I wasn’t teaching on Monday until 6 and could have stayed longer, my wallet decided that I should accompany it back to Cheongju that Sunday evening. My plan was quickly derailed.

After exiting the recital hall of the Seoul Arts Center on Sunday around 9:30pm, I switched on my cell phone and promptly got a call from my boss.

Here is an approximation of the start of our conversation:
“Are you still in Seoul?” he asked urgently.
“Good. I have a proposition for you. Do you want to teach a 2 week novel class in Seoul?”
“Yeah, I’d definitely be interested! When does it start?”
“Tomorrow at 9.”

After working for my boss for over a year, I’m no stranger to disorganization and last minute changes, but I was definitely caught off guard by this request. I had some reservations about taking on this class, namely that I hadn’t read the novel before and would need to commute between Seoul and Cheongju, but the advantages were numerous. My co-teachers would be able to cover some of my classes so I wouldn't have to go back and forth every day. The class sounded interesting, I would be paid more than normal and I could have extra time to explore Seoul. Most importantly, here was an opportunity to diverge from my normal schedule and environment. I decided to take him up on the offer and we agreed to meet at 8 to go over the details of the class. I hurried back to the apartment I was staying at, booted up the computer and scoured I read what I could and felt basically equipped to give an overview of the book in the morning.

I arrived at the office by 8. My boss wasn’t there. We later talked for ten minutes before I had to go into class.

Since I'm editing this post two weeks later, I've already finished teaching one session of the class. The class met 9-12, Monday thru Saturday for two weeks. We read “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles for the first week and “The Woman Warrior” by Maxine Hong Kingston for the second week. The writing portion of the class was structured around a writing text called “Evergreen”. The students wrote a 30 minute essay in class and another essay for homework. In addition to reading the book and writing the essay for homework, the students had to memorize 30 vocabulary words and prepare for a daily quiz. Sound intense? This was the students’ spring break.

It’s been two weeks since I drafted this blog entry. Why has it taken me so long to post it? I was busy the first week preparing for the Seoul class. I only had to teach Monday and Wednesday in Cheongju, but I didn't have a computer at the other apartment I was staying at in Seoul and couldn't update. The second week, as detailed below, was rough. Chris had visitors and he needed the other teachers to cover some of his classes, which meant they were unable to cover mine. I had to teach every day in both Seoul and Cheongju.

The Week of 3/17 - 3/22 Tally:

10 bus trips between Seoul and Cheongju-> 15 hours on the bus
5 6am cab rides-> 1+ hour
5 afternoon cab rides-> 1+ hour
10 subway trips-> 1+ hour
waiting for various modes of transportation-> 1+ hour
walking to/from work/transportation-> 1+ hour
6 classes in Seoul-> 18 hours
11 classes in Cheongju-> 22 hours
= that's why I haven't updated

Sustained by many cups of coffee and a newly acquired ability to nap on buses, I made it through my most intense work week yet in Korea. It went by quickly, probably because I did little besides teach and commute. I wouldn't want to adopt this routine for a regular schedule, but it wasn't as horrendous as I thought it would be. When I went to bed between 11 and 12 and triple-checked that the alarm was set for 5am, I resigned myself to being tired the next day. By acknowledging the absence of opportunity to get sufficient sleep, I actually got rid of my normal sleep anxiety and slept deeply. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the Seoul class and this probably contributed to my generally positive attitude throughout the week.

After teaching the second day in Seoul, my other boss called me and asked if I'd repeat the class for another student. I agreed. The next two weeks should be comparatively pleasant since the other teachers will be able to take my Cheongju classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

I'll post again soon (haha, "soon") about my students and the office in Seoul. Back to work!


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