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Korea – First Days Teaching English

Korea 001

There are untold numbers of people wandering the world and making their living as English teachers. In its way, teaching ESL is the modern French Foreign Legion attracting all manner of people from the fully ...
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Korea 002 – Arrival

ARRIVAL When I saw Seoul from the air, my heart sank. It sprawled snow covered for miles in all directions, a crush of aggressively square buildings without a tree in sight to break up the ...
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Korea 003 – The Mad Biker

THE MAD BIKER I'm glad Robert was the first person I met on that cold miserable night. In some ways he was so weird he made the place I was staying and the situation I ...
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Korea 004 – Salarymen at the Hof

After our meal of bi-bim-bap, Robert and I began to walk back to the Inn Dae Won. At the first corner we encountered more salarymen. Five of them, obviously very drunk, were coming towards us ...
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Korea 005 – Charles and Coffee

My reverie was interrupted suddenly by the arrival of Charles from London, England. He was about 38 years old and to my eyes one step away from a hospital bed. He was gaunt, red eyed ...
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Korea 006 – Ajimahs and Salarymen

AJIMAHS AND SALARYMEN Sleep didn't come easily that night, tired as I was. I thought about Robert and Charles and Ajimahs and Salarymen. At the time of course I didn't realize it fully, but I ...
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Korea 007 – The Bathhouse

THE BATHHOUSE When I woke up the next morning, my room was still pitch black and I was chilled to the core. I was disoriented at first but slowly realized where I was. I lay ...
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Korea 008 – Going South

GOING SOUTH My second morning, after another wet and frustrating encounter with the shower from which I emerged rather dirtier than when I had entered, I packed my belongings and then slipped my arms through ...
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Korea 009 – Train to Taegu

I finally reached the train station only to find another vast expanse of wide roads, elevated access ramps and thousands of vehicles blocking my path. There was no way to get across except for once ...
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Korea 010 – Kyongju & Pusan

The next day, I went to Kyongju by bus. The Koreans are very proud of the ancient city of Kyongju and the past glory it represents. Kyongju, I was told by a Korean man on ...
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Korea 011 – Seoul and the Inn Sung Do

THE INN SUNG DO The Ajimah at the Inn Dae Won was glad to see me back and put me back in my old room. The Inn Dae Won hadn't improved in my absence, but ...
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Korean 012 – Spinning Koreans

THE MUNWHA AND KIBUN Every day that I hung out with the tourist/travellers made it more difficult to look for work. I pretended to myself that I was here only for a short time and ...
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Korea 013 – Munhwa Language School

Two hours later solely due to my own efforts, I found myself in John Valentine's office, out of breath and suffering from shin splints. I had subsequently gotten lost in underground Seoul so badly that ...
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Korea 014 – My First English Class

After I left the classroom, I found Mr. Kim in an office and asked him what was going on. I had come for an interview and a tour, not to teach. I wasn't ready to ...
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Korea 015 – My Morning Routine

The days at the Munwha drifted surreally by, the change from one to the next barely noticed in my exhausted state. Getting ready at 5:30 in the morning in cold darkness was always a struggle ...
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Korea 016 – The Subway War

I enjoyed going to Kyongbokkung. It was one of the larger stops and had been designed to double as an art gallery. There were often interesting displays of painting, photography or sculpture gracing the walls ...
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Korea 017 – Weasel and Dust

WEASEL AND DUST I began work at KAL (Korean American Language) on Wednesday and quit on Saturday after three nightmarish nights. The manager was a Mr. Kim. During the interview, he did all the talking ...
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Korea 018 – A Job at FLS

FLS I learned through another teacher that FLS, the imaginatively named Foreign Language School, was looking for an English teacher on very short notice. One of their teachers who they were counting on for the ...
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Korea 019 – Insane Bus Drivers

In the end, things worked out very well. Some other classes were formed and my hours increased and FLS became the cornerstone of my life for the next six months. My routine didn't change much ...
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Korea 020 – Mr. Lee the Director

The front door was usually locked with heavy iron bars that early in the morning. I went in through the back doors and walked up the stairs. There was an elevator, but I could never ...
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Korea 021 – My Battle Cry

On the rare occasion when he had something to say to all the foreign teachers, Director Lee communicated with us through Barry, a New Zealander in his early forties. Barry had spent many years teaching ...
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Korea 022 – Student Nicknames

In spite of their bizarre ways, my inability to adapt and the resulting trauma, I became very fond of my students and Korea. It was like being faced with a child so obstinate and so ...
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Korea 023 – The Guys and Itaewon

THE GUYS AND ITAEWON Each night when I returned to the Inn Sung Do, my pace quickened as I approached the door. There was sure to be another teacher there, fresh off a stressful day ...
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Korea 029 – The Foreigner Party

THE FOREIGNER PARTY One of the highlights of English teaching life in Seoul is the foreigner party. There are many types and all are worth attending. Some are hosted by long-term ex-pats with real jobs ...
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