Someone Has to Say These Things…

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

The Big D is saying things that nobody else will. He is speaking for people whom British media will not give a voice.

Despite everything that people have said against him, he is still going.

Hear what he says about what is going on right now. There are certain people trying to cover their asses.

Listen and get your eyes opened.

Why Bosses Are Bad…

A great article which I came across by accident today:

Definitely worth a read… it’s exactly what I have been thinking about work for ages.

Grouped under ‘Environment’, but maybe it should be under ‘Health”…

More Experiences…

After a prolonged period of relative blogging silence, I think everyone may have noticed that I am inexplicably still here and might wonder what the exact story was… well, for those who don’t know, here we go (unfortunately, not quite as briefly as intended)…

Let me preface this by saying that since I wrote that last note, I have abandoned every shred of credulousness that I used to direct toward people who felt they were entitled to comment upon the foreigner’s situation in a place like Korea. It does seem to me that I was allowing commentators’ false pessimism (and the pessimism of some people around me, no names mentioned) to colour my perception of the situation so that I couldn’t really see what was happening. I’ll come back to this briefly before I finish but first, let’s look at what happened…

Firstly, after about seven or eight months working for the KDLI in Icheon, it was becoming clear that it was a bad fit stylistically, a situation worsened by the employer’s desire for me to be doing the job in a certain way, but unable to communicate their desires effectively. I well recall that during my two-month (!) winter break, my slumbers were broken at 7:30am one Monday morning by my handler there (a Navy Lieutenant) asking me if I wanted to re-sign for another year, and quite aside from not liking my slumbers broken at 7:30am on a Monday morning, I also didn’t like the idea of an extended unpaid vacation each year and a host of other issues which I felt were affecting my health in a negative fashion (like a stodgy diet in the canteen geared towards younger people getting much more exercise and providing the energy they needed for it, long immobile commutes in the shuttle buses and hours each week spent sitting at my desk doing prep work). So I kissed goodbye to a KRW2.8million/month job and returned to my old job teaching kids in Changwon.

And this went on quite well for about six months, until the Friday evening before the 2014 Chuseok weekend… the Boss called me in to his office and said: “Andy, I have a big problem.”

“What is it?” I asked: “Am I doing something wrong?”

“No,” he said: “It’s not your problem, it’s my problem…”

As it turned out, the decline in student numbers his business was experiencing was hitting his bottom line sufficiently for him to be unable to pay me after the end of October: “Please find another job as soon as possible,” he said.

So yet again I was facing another winter where I had to find something new. But after having to deal with a terrible bunch of young students when I had already decided that it was not for me (and the return to Changwon was really just convenient at the time), I decided that enough was enough and would not accept offers to teach children any more, and placed advertisements around my usual wide swath of Internet job sites accordingly. And I had a big surprise (or three) to come …

One day I had a phone call out of the blue from someone in Daegu about a new adult teaching position, which was all the more surprising because when I heard him speaking on my phone the first time, I mistook him for a recruiter with whom I had been in contact for quite some time, so this experience was somewhat disorientating, giving me the misleading impression that a shift back north of Kyungnam was beckoning. We arranged to meet at the ‘Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’ at City7 and Saturday morning that week, we got together to discuss it. His English nickname was Charles, and it turned out (as I discovered some time later) that he was a high school friend of the hagwon owner in Daegu, whose English ability was very limited. As our conversation progressed, I had the strange feeling that this wasn’t actually an ‘interview’ at all, and pressed him on the point: “No,” he said, and proceeded to tell me what the new employer wanted me to do.

This has been a recurring theme over the last few years: if they want you, you have the job. It’s that simple. The school in Yangsan took me on twice, my old employer in Changwon knew me well, and I didn’t even have a proper ‘interview’ for my current job – rather, a lecture about what I was going to be doing.

So I arranged to shift all my gear to Daegu at some expense (and I won’t go into details here) and started making materials for the start of December. But what I didn’t know was that this new place, which had started only the previous October, i.e. two months prior, was already having the same problem as my two-time ex-employer in Changwon, except with adults, which beggared belief as it seemed to be in a prime location – in deepest Jung-gu with potential students milling all around! However, we had a holiday on Christmas Day and when we came back on the 26th, Jazzy, my friendly coworker, broke the bad news to me just as we were in the final teaching period of the evening (which you may recall was also a Friday): As of completion of classes, I was out of work. Again!

Sometimes it seems to me as if trying to put together a reasonable and stable lifestyle in Korea is like trying to build a house on a sand bank… but thankfully all of the contacts, information and web links were still organised – and still ongoing – on my computer from the previous three months, and eventually led me (via a temporary winter camp job in Changwon) to where I am now, down in Okpo. And after the initial six months here, everything is stable again. For now.

But here we discover an important point: the search for employment should be ongoing. I have a constant stream of e-mail notifications and e-zines coming in to various Inboxes, which automates the process considerably; this is the product of years of signing up on different recruitment web sites, and keeping them relatively updated, periodically. I also have contacts with a range of recruiters, although I do not bother them often because of this. It seems to indicate the wisdom of avoiding the most popular places when looking for jobs; although, when asked, many people with experience might recommend a site like ESLCafe, in reality it is getting hammered and likewise with the advertisers there. When Charles contacted me, regarding the job in Daegu, it was because they had found my details at the Korea4home web site, which in point of fact I had almost forgotten about and was in need of updating. I have set up e-mail accounts and apps to deliver most of them to my cell phone and, more latterly, to my tablet; both devices also carry copies of essential documents for correspondence when mobile.

Surprisingly, I almost ended up at a kids’ hagwon in Seoul, as the manageress there was desperate to replace an American teacher who wanted to return home at very short notice due to health problems in his family (and surprisingly perhaps, despite my misgivings, I do regret this a bit, in part because of the experience I would have had with the technology). But the teacher changed his mind suddenly and I was out on my ear (again), but the manageress there had been very serious about signing me up ASAP, and had assured me that the job was easy because it was all electronic (based upon a tablet platform, you probably know the chain) and my age was not an issue (I had just turned 52 in October)!

I was in the right place, at the right time… it’s that ‘recurring theme’ again…

Because the last few years have been so choppy, and because the tables have had to be turned so that it was myself who fired the bosses rather than the other way around, remaining in a positive frame of mind has been difficult, but the realisation has come to me that I should not become despondent about finding new employment here as I grow older; the jobs are still there. There have also been changes in documents and visa issuances which have allowed me to stay and left me feeling much more confident. Plus, I had been looking at the possibility of shifting to another country, and it was while I was conducting my job search in January that an FAQ on a Cambodia-related recruiting web site finally put my situation into perspective: when asked whether there was any difficulty about being an ‘older’ job candidate, the (native speaker) recruiter responded that ultimately there was no requirement other than patience waiting for a new job to come along – in other words, yes, an older candidate can get a job (in Cambodia), but they just have to accept that it takes longer.

And that little light came on in my head, finally.

And so I end this piece by returning to the point mentioned about about pessimism: there is too much of it from foreigners directed against their own personal misfortunes in Korea. I am not talking here about (say) crimes committed here against foreigners, but rather the frame of mind which causes them to go online and vent their spleen rather than seeking viable alternatives or new directions. All you have to do is look at your options as they present themselves to you, judge which is best (and what changes you may have to undertake), then make your decision and stick to it. This means accepting the initial difficulties you may encounter and being patient while they resolve themselves. In my latest position, this latter stage is now complete, and a new semester began a few weeks ago; and after the initial paperwork was completed, until the next semester, the work is relatively light.

We should remember that a foreigner already resident here has some advantages over the neophyte, not least that they already have their documents deposited, and the recruitment process is relatively straightforward and mechanical. Five out of the last six jobs I have had did not even have a formal ‘interview’; two of them were temporary returns to former employers where I was already a known quantity. I now have a track record of some thirteen years since deciding that my attempt to have a career in science was leading me exactly nowhere and I needed to make a change; and although I was not ultimately able to make the change I planned for in the beginning, the whole thing has been, and continues to be, something of an adventure, although I would definitely describe myself as ‘less adventurous than some’.

But the bottom line is that planning and patience win the day. I was fortunate to be offered a temporary position on a winter camp in Changwon and this allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to be offered my current position, ironically because most of the company’s existing staff were up north around Seoul and liked it there, thank you very much, and were apparently sniffy about coming down south to Geoje, even though there seems very little wrong with the place. They liked their city lights and the entertainments that went with them, it seems.

So we conclude that life has dealt us a salutary lesson. Planning, patience, preparation, an adaptable attitude and being located conveniently have allowed my career here to continue. To those who complain to me endlessly about dwindling job opportunities and getting older, I offer this lesson to you.

August 10th 2015

Edited: October 2nd 2015