Alternative Social Networks to Try… 1: MeWe

With all the little issues and niggles I am having lately with our first official online session, it has been hard to do much of my own online stuff, so I decided to do a series of brief introductions to alternative social network platforms.

Hi again everyone,

My attention was grabbed today by a link on Gab (of which more in a later article) to a piece over on ZDNet about MeWe, so that’s as good a place to start as any… I have been on MeWe for a couple of years now and it really seems to be a place where anything goes, which is fine with me.

It has a typical three-column interface which (in its basic form) is rather bright, but the good news is that they will sell you a different skin for a couple of dollars. I don’t often spend money on social web sites, but after a few months on MeWe, it seemed like a good idea, and I have never looked back.

You have completely free speech here plus 8Gb free storage. They are constantly asking you to upgrade when you log in, but I am ignoring this (for now).

A point to be made here is that many of the people you know from FB are already on here, “just in case”. If not, perhaps you could persuade them?

You are invited to MeWe:

You can also see MeWe on FB:

When the Haemo-Globbin Comes Throb-Throb-Throbbin’ Along…

With immaculate timing the current Coronavirus panic set in just as I was due to have another colonoscopy. Predictably, things did not proceed as planned…

It had been expected to just happen as normal: first the purge, then the laying prone on the gurney, unconscious, while the medics did the dirty work; usually a short and painless procedure, but alas, it was not to be! First I screwed up with the purgative, and then, on the day, my blood pressure was too high. Again. And again. The nurse in charge decided that the colonoscopy could not proceed because of the danger of accidental bleeding resulting from any internal injury during the procedure and decided that it had to be postponed (!) until my blood pressure had been stabilised at a more “normal” reading, and I ended up discussing it with a cardiologist, who put me on Norvasc (calcium channel inhibitor) for fourteen days and gave me a little book to write my daily readings in. Readings that I would take with my little Panasonic BP meter that I bought back in 2008 and appears to still be going strong. Alas!

Now, when it comes to the reading of blood pressure, I personally have a few gripes. When I went back into education in 1985 (because the job situation in the UK was so atrocious), one of the first things we studied was physiology, and we were trained in how to use an actual sphygmomanometer in combination with an actual stethoscope to listen for the Korot’koff Sounds and measure blood pressure, so I already have a very good idea about how to do this with the most basic equipment… but when the new regulations about annual health checks for foreign employees in South Korea kicked in at the end of 2007 (immediately after Lee Myung-bak was elected – remember?), I decided to get my own dumb-bell set plus my own BP meter (as the local Hi-Mart in the centre of Changwon had a range of different models available at the time). I also paid close attention to the technique required in order to avoid systematic errors when taking my BP each day. What I discovered was:

Posture was very important: Whereas the use of the sphygmomanometer/stethoscope pair allowed a range of body positions so that an optimum body posture could be employed (and most specifically, avoiding abdominal compression which would render misleading pressures), not only my own wrist BP meter but also a lot of the ones commonly available in public places involved a position in which the user has to sit down and lean forward. When the patient is overweight, this results in the abdominal fat deposits being compressed, increasing abdominal pressure and giving an elevated reading, so care is needed to find a posture which avoids this error. At home, I now take care to sit with my back straight and no pressure on the abdomen, and abdominal muscles relaxed, measuring elbow on the desk and supported by the other arm, as recommended in the device’s operating instructions.

Muscular exercise (for example, with weight training or more aerobic forms of exercise) causes the muscles to absorb fluid from the rest of the body, lowering the overall blood pressure. This can be seen by monitoring your BP some time after exercise.

Blood pressure taken in the early morning after awakening is usually the lowest (except actually during sleeping) because all body muscles have been relaxed during the night and have yet to tighten up due to normal diurnal body movement. BP peaks during the afternoon and evening and then begins to decline again. At one point (about eleven or twelve years ago) I would get up in the morning and measure my BP and get results like 50/30 (!). A normal (or more accurately, nominal) reading should be approximately 120/80 and even moderate daily exercise should maintain this. Again, measuring your BP some time after a long walk (for example, but allowing time for your body to relax first) should give a reading very close to normal.

My gripe with the typical automatic BP monitor seen in many public places in Korea is precisely this: that they encourage a bad body posture by forcing patients to be slumped forward, increasing abdominal pressure. To this I would add that in Korea, one is not allowed time to rest before taking a seat and being expected to take a measurement. The result is that (again) readings are too high and in the wrong posture to isolate the readings that you are trying to take. I have lost count now of how often – going back at least ten years – I have had to move rapidly between hospital departments for things like routine medical exams. Ridiculous!

Now obviously, with training in biomedical science and having twenty-four-hour Internet access, I do a lot of research online. Norvasc (which was prescribed in the first instance) is supposed to reduce ambient BP by up to 12/6 (systolic/diastolic), but so also is beetroot juice because it contains a lot of nitrate, which the body reduces first to nitrite and then to nitrogen (II) oxide, a potent agent for several processes including the relaxation of the artery wall muscles. I bought a liquidiser but unfortunately it wasn’t powerful enough to cope with raw beetroot, so whilst shopping at Lotte the other day I noticed that they sold at least two beetroot/apple juice combinations (one more expensive than the other). As it happened, after only nine days the Norvasc took my BP down to normal levels, but laboratory blood tests on sample taken concurrently with the initial consultation indicated that I was hyperlipidaemic (i.e. had a level of blood lipids deemed above normal range) and the consultant has now put me on Atacand and Lipitor. The actual blood pressure medication was therefore changed, although I was instructed to finish the last of the Norvasc pills (one per day) before changing to the new prescription.

Although this might seem a rather negative outcome, we have to remember that a lot of what has been observed is the result of an enforcedly static lifestyle. The walking distance between either work and home or home and wherever I would buy food and drink is very short and not likely to result in sufficient exercise; likewise, there is a great shortage of entertainment around here, so the result is an oversupply of food, boredom and a sedentary lifestyle. The human body did not evolve for the urban environment. Also – of course – people are being asked to stay at home while the Coronavirus issue is current, further compounding the problem. The consultant said that I should get at least thirty minutes of walking exercise per day, something which used to be normal until about two years ago because there could often be a long distance between home and work (or, at least, the nearest bus stop). If it had been possible to return to the area here where I used to live – in the north of the city, thirty to forty minutes’ commuting time – this would have been less of a problem, but last year, my manager was very insistent that she wanted me to be living as close as possible to the office in case of the need for a sudden interview. We have had no “sudden interviews” since I returned here, so that seems to have been a waste of time; now we discover that it has been deleterious to my health too.

Happily, at least according to the cardiologist yesterday, this is not an irreversible situation but it does involve a number of lifestyle changes which – to some extent – had already been in place. My alcohol consumption has generally been low recently as I have tended to want to hit the sack rather than stay up; the only trouble being that what I have been drinking has tended to be two or three cans of foreign cider on special offer, the issue here being not just the minimal alcohol input but also the deleterious effects of the sugar – fructose – which is a natural component of cider. My online research seems to suggest that this should also be avoided, but the trouble here is that it is a sweetener added on a truly industrial scale to a whole range of foods and beverages; very difficult to avoid. However, the cardiologist said that for a person my age, this should perhaps be expected, but could be mitigated eventually by diet and sufficient exercise. Now, if it would just stop raining…

Latest Check-up: November 4th 2019

Just this Saturday, the hospital’s automated messaging system texted me to let me know that it was time to see Prof. Kim again, and perhaps also render blood samples!

It’s hard to believe that it is now twenty-two months since part of my colon was excised and the two ends stitched together again; hard to believe that in that time I have actually had three jobs (although two of them are the same one) and gone from here to Jinju and back. As it happens, when asked by manager Jamie recently whether I wanted to stay, I gave her a “maybe” answer – until I remembered that too many students really want to teach kids, and this is something that no longer interests me. So later, the answer was “no”… probably because yes, it has been stressful. No kidding!

Another thing that hit me kinda hard – ouch! – was when I wondered if I could find my old domicile, back in the north of Miryang, on Google Street View (yes, unfortunately I still have uses for Google). That was back in March 2009 – ten years ago! – when I finally left Changwon, where I had been for my first six years in Korea, to take on my first public school job, and looking back, I now think that was a major error, especially considering that after I left the KDLI in 2014, I ended up working at the same place in Changwon again, although not for long, as Mr. Lee’s customer base was already shrinking.

Lo! and Behold! – it was still there, and although there had clearly been some more building in the area since I was living there; remarkably the unoccupied plot in front of the entrance was still rough ground with someone’s veggies growing on it. Some things never change!

Anyway, it’s been a long time, and I have been working in so many places around the country, but I still think that Changwon was the best place for actually living, largely I suspect because it has a more “human” scale than bigger places like Busan and Daegu, and actually walking to where you want to go physically rather than taking public transport, for example, is often not unrealistic, not to mention healthier. Miryang was also not actually bad – in fact, getting out of bed early and walking from my place across the island to the school, and walking back again afterwards, was by no means a drawback. Likewise, Changwon is a place where routine exercise (in the sense of getting plenty of walking in) is both easy and pleasurable.

Other changes to my Lost Geography have taken place within the last ten years – relatives, including, alas, my own mother – have passed on in that time and even returning to my own country appears extremely unpalatable; it’s unclear at the moment what the best option might be.

Now we return to today, and my latest conflab with Professor Kim. Since I last saw him, one interesting change has taken place: recently, I came off the generic Lopmin (Imodium) capsules that were prescribed for me as an antidiarrhoeal because I was finding that they were perhaps somewhat too effective (i.e. a bit too powerful for my own sensitive and residual gut); it was at times difficult to pass stools because they were so dry and stiff, so I experimented several times until I felt that I could be confident not to shit my pants at an inopportune moment, such as, for example, when shopping or in the middle of a lesson.

At first it was a bit dodgy, but I think it may have been helped by a couple of things: firstly, the fact that I tend not to drink a lot of water on work days, and secondly that when I do drink on work days, it tends to be quite strong coffee, especially for “breakfast”, which otherwise I normally leave out. On one hand, therefore, there is reduced water intake coupled with a strong diuretic (high-strength, “shoot-me-to-the-Moon” coffee), and on the other, there is the prevention of the gastrocolic reaction by, er, not eating. I think that this combination is assisting my truncated gut to perform its natural dehydration function more normally, as less digested food is passing through it, and secondly my body is running lean on water anyway. The result is mainly stools with normal colour and consistency, although exactly when they demand to be released still tends to be rather random like, say, two or three a.m. Generally, however, it is no longer so bad; I think the main thing is avoiding a large meal to prevent the gastrocolic reaction taking place at an unhelpful moment… I need hardly repeat Professor Kim’s admonition to lose weight.

He and I discussed this and the main problem is getting enough sunlight exposure for my skin to manufacture sufficient Vitamin D naturally. I take a number of supplements for this regularly but obviously, natural is better and my little “issue” here is that normally I have little exposure to sunlight due to the desk-bound work that I often perform (and also spending much of a working day indoors in any case), so getting enough daylight input is rather difficult.

Clearly, this means that the job itself (and the associated work) is therefore something of an “issue”. Another is the preponderance of mainly female prospective students who want to teach kids, something I lost interest in a long time ago. So the adverts are out and I am looking for something new (which I also mentioned to Professor Kim, as this would make routine checks more difficult). Some might complain that perhaps I protest too much and should just suck it up, but the fact remains that after all this time in Korea, some disillusionment has long since set in and the general teaching environment is demotivating for someone like myself. I need something more relevant and appropriate to find my mojo again. I used to teach kids for the purpose of survival, and not because I enjoyed it.

Shortly after my contract ends, I will have to go to the Gu Hospital again to have my colon inspected with a large and fearsome tool, and as I have elected not to re-sign before that time, I don’t know quite where I will be at that exact moment, but as always, I remain optimistic. Time and again a job has come along (sometimes almost too late) and I have been here for another year. I had hoped to have transitioned to something else a long time ago, but unfortunately circumstances have prevented this. Perhaps that is where I should be focusing for the remainder of my time in Korea.

Great Stuff!

Had to add this once I saw it. A whole load of stuff at Ill Will Press.

Handle your shit:

Final Quarterly Check and the Future

Regular readers of this pointless screed – all two of you – may have noticed that the due date of the fourth and final quarterly check has come and gone with little from myself by way of the usual commentary, and indeed, you would be quite correct. That, however, is down to my erstwhile employer deciding to let me go when I had expected to re-sign (and even had a two-year apartment contract to prove it). This turned out to be another minor disaster, but we are now close to some kind of resolution, so, blogging time again…

Long-term readers will also recall that when I first set foot on Korean soil, I had signed up for a hagwon job and proceeded to stay in that job for almost six years; it was, in fact, only some shenanigans on the part of my then-boss relating to national pension payments that finally caused me to throw up my arms in despair and transition to my first public school job.

Looking back, that was something of a mistake, and the adventure of transitioning from one employer to another virtually every year since then has been both unwelcome and expensive; before hitting Jinju, I had had the luxury of being able to remain in Daegu for two years, but only because I was fortunate enough to have two successive employers. Hopefully I can put all of that behind me now, but it is curious to observe firstly that Oneself is still somehow considered a desirable foreign employee even when knocking on the doors of 57 (and having had medical treatment for bowel cancer, no less), and secondly that I can return to a previous position with something approaching nonchalance.

As it happened, the last employer had someone else in mind (male, British and younger) who had worked there previously and they therefore had no intention of re-signing me, but had (I heard, don’t ask me how) been given instructions to “go through the motions”. They also had a student feedback system but for some bizarre reason, my co-teacher (who was also the officer in charge) decided not to pass any of it on to me, which would have been quite helpful; in fact, he hardly ever told me anything at all for his remaining time there, leading to a situation (as my Canadian co-worker would probably confirm) in which I was basically flying blind, and spending a lot of my time sitting there with apparently nothing to do. Important information often came to me from his Korean co-worker, something which I gather she also found irritating, to say the least. The final straw for me was when I was handed my annual teacher evaluation (which both of us foreigners actually failed) and one of the students’ comments was: “Please teacher, no more homework!” – which was insane because the speaking classes had no homework. Can you spell “lying, lazy little toerags”?

Thankfully, I received that evaluation the week I left, promptly replaced it in its envelope and forgot about it; after all, my Canadian co-worker, who is a professionally qualified teacher with mucho experience of all kinds of teaching, but ended up sitting next to me having become disenchanted with the outcome of ten years spent teaching at the local university, himself complained about how we were faced with the impossibility of changing our style to be more suitable on account of the fact that at no time had we actually been briefed on the criteria for evaluation. One’s working life in Korea is littered with these scintillating samples of silliness, but looking back, I can vouch for the fact that my experience of similar work in Taiwan was little better.

So… the time came when the final quarterly check was due, and this meant a blood sample (ouch), CT scans and a final poke of the endoscope up one’s nether hole, but alas, it was not all to be: the purgative, this time, was extremely difficult to get down and I ended up with a load of it coming back up from my stomach all over the living room floor of the new apartment, as I made a dizzy dash to the bathroom, early on a Monday morning. That meant that the final endoscopic examination would eventually have to be performed at another hospital where they didn’t use lemon-flavoured (aaarrrghhh) CoolPrep polyethylene glycol plus minerals to push it all out in a matter of hours (it really leaves you drained, in more ways than one, believe me). The following Monday I went to get the results from Professor Kim and he told me that there were no visible signs of the spread of cancer, and I wouldn’t have to go there again for a couple of years, apart from the endoscopy, which would eventually be arranged at another hospital locally. Sounds positive to me!

When we come to the transition back to Daegu from Jinju, alas, it was not so straightforward, although by returning to my usual removal guy, Mr. Cho, I was able to save about ₩500,000 over the previous year’s removal company and, indeed, ₩200,000 from his own quote the previous year! Alas, confusion about where he was supposed to go to and from where meant that I got stung for another ₩100,000 to cover the cost of driving back to Jinju from Daegu before we could finally set off. Then the usual temporary chaos of everything dumped in any open space in the new place (I’m still slowly shoehorning everything into place even now) and the inevitable need to clean up a second time due to the mess this process generates.

Alas again, having already had a prolonged and awkward transition to Jinju from Daegu, I then had the same from Jinju transitioning back to Daegu, but worse – I was not able to get my expensive deposit back immediately because of the particular position of the property – in the north of the town, in a downtown barzydown area full of coffee shops, eateries and noraebangs, away from the “action” which would have been some distance away, around the university – and lost much of my final salary and severance paying the deposit on the new place. Thankfully there has been some minimal cash flow in the interim and at the time of writing, the Jinju landlord has found a new occupant, but I had to take a trip back to the apartment last Monday, as the latter person seemed to think it wasn’t clean enough! I travelled there, spent five or six hours scrubbing the place, then came back to Daegu… to wake up the next morning as stiff as a board, thanks to all that muscular exertion. The good news is that it seems that I may get my deposit (minus costs) back this coming Saturday. So that’s positive, too.

The downside has been that of the two normal sessions which we would have in a week (three weekdays for one course and the weekend days for the other) will not be fully operative until next month (May) as student recruitment is somewhat down again (and hence so is the salary), but the reduced workload has a benefit in the sense that there is an appreciable extent of lesson planning and material preparation and this needs some time to complete. Now, if I can just get enough sleep (yawwwnnn…), I can get it all done.

The other little issue I have been finding is that the combination of downtime and excess effort, on top of being notionally still a cancer patient, has all been very demotivating; everything has seemed to be a drag and this is not “me” at all. When confronted with impending mortality in the shape of a gut tumour, then the operation and sharing a very small cancer ward with others clearly in rather worse shape than myself, and then heartlessly being told that I was being released from my job and everything else that followed on it… you have no idea the levels of stress I have had to cope with at the same time as having to handle all these other things; the FDD had literally only just been removed and I had returned to my old Daegu home on a January afternoon when the phone call came, telling me that I would need to find something new! You have no idea what strength I have had to pull together, and from how deep within myself this has had to come; unbelievable. My mind has been greatly changed by this experience; I have no patience any more – none at all. If anyone gives me any hassle of any description, I will be triggered because I just cannot stand being messed around or held up any more. As Beethoven discovered before he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, Fate has knocked at the door, and one emerges from the experience transformed, although not in a way that many people would consider positive because one now takes a very negative view of a lot of one’s environment, society, politics etc. Zero tolerance from now on. No more bullshit. Everything I see is stupid, and disgusts me.

To conclude, when we ask the question of what happens next, I will be remaining in this position for some time to come, unless something dire happens. The new apartment is great-ish, being of very stable temperature when the weather is cold (and it was surprisingly cold until the middle of April) and having a small blessing in the form of an actual wardrobe next to the bedroom, something I have not been fortunate to have before. It is easy to keep clean (although I am still trying to rid the place of the odour of the previous occupant’s dog food) and there are marts and convenience stores a-plenty here, although there is not much in the way of entertainments, but I dare say I will find something eventually (as I don’t have a good cash flow right now, maybe staying home and getting the paperwork done is preferable).

Hopefully, as the financial situation improves, I will be able to get about a bit more, especially as one advantage of working weekends is that your own “weekend” is a couple of weekdays, so you can actually get shit done. Likewise, things which have broken down/worn out/disappeared in the last year or so should be replaced fairly swiftly (and I have been rather put out by how things have been suddenly becoming non-functional). The bottom line in my experience, however, remains true: that when the going gets rough, you have to make a decision. When faced with possible premature mortality in the form of cancer, and having never needed major surgery before, I decided that the reward was worth the risk. When ousted from my still-new job because of the need for treatment, I found a new job and relocated; and so it goes on. Life remains a series of decisions, and one surely discovers oneself, in the most literal understanding of the expression, when the decisions you are faced with relate directly to your survival.

Swings and Roundabouts

So here’s the thing… the Air Force had their interview session at the end of last month, and decided not to re-sign me, and to some extent, I am actually sympathetic to their POV. However, that meant that I had to start looking for something new (which has evolved into a continuous process over the years; it merely becomes more intense at certain points).

As part of this, I approached my previous employer on the off-chance that they might reconsider and take me on (bearing in mind that they always seem to have some kind of retention problem). My old manager seems to want me back also, and she said that she would try to find some arrangement with the senior management…

Fast-forward to today, and I had already set up a couple of online conflabs with recruiters (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). The first was a pre-interview discussion with the recruiter before going to see a place in Daegu tomorrow afternoon (and I am going to do that, so off to bed early-ish tonight), and wouldn’t you believe it, Skype settings were out and we had to use the cell phone instead… the second was with another recruiter discussing what I was looking for, optimally, by which time I had sorted the sound out on Skype, but he didn’t have a camera…

Anyway, as this meant another brief jaunt to Daegu, I let my previous manager know about it. She in turn took this as a cue to contact Head Office in Gangnam re the “Andrew Situation” and apparently, the latter think that I should go to Seomyeon (literally around the corner from my old employer, YBM) in Busan for training at the end of the month before resuming duties in March.

Ahhh, but there will be a fly in the ointment: there was much bad feeling between myself and the upper echelons last time, firstly because I already had accommodation, was happy with it and did not like the size or state of what they were offering me, refused to move out and expected them to pay for it; and they did… because, of course, it was actually part of their contract. Secondly, however, they surveyed me regarding the perceived efficacy of their “training”, and I gave them rather low scores; I gather that they were not pleased… whatever.

This time, of course, the situation is very different. The accommodation offered by the Air Force last year was basically a single high-schooler’s room with a (very small and rather shitty) ensuite bathroom; I arrived with little less than a house full of furniture and a pile of books and other stuff to follow, and there was no way that it would all fit in, even though it might otherwise have been possible. Why? Essentially because each room was allocated fixed furniture (i.e. was intended to be permanently resident there until replaced) and this had to stay in the room. However, I had – only a short time before – purchased both a new (large) desk and a very new bed; and I was not prepared to part with any of my stuff, so I had to find a place in town. Luckily the Air Force has its own coaches, and one of these does regular rounds each day ferrying people to and from the town with a set route. That part wasn’t too bad, but it did cost me ₩400,000/month plus utilities. Hint: the AF doesn’t offer any financial assistance for external accommodation…

Now if I go back to Daegu, I will have the same problem again if I go back to my old employer; Chris, the Canadian who came up from Seomyeon to take my place, finishes his contract soon and you can bet he doesn’t have any of his own furniture. At the same time, another possible job in the centre of town would require me to find a new (unfurnished ) place thereabouts, which is unlikely to be as cheap (!) as its predecessor there. This situation arose because (in the course of my travels around the country) accommodation would alternately be unfurnished (and therefore a right pain) and then furnished, then unfurnished, etc., until I decided that I had to be obstinate and insist upon places being unfurnished to avoid forever having to buy stuff and then get rid of it, again and again, despite the fact that it was new because the next place did not have sufficient space.

This all got real old, real fast

I hate to refuse an offered job which is actually what I want, but because of everything that has gone before, I am likely to blow a gasket tomorrow. It was because of all of this shit that I learned to say “no” in Korea; and so there is also a Plan D in the back of my mind which involves a D-10 visa and staying put in Jinju for a couple of extra months. Just sayin’…

The final point of attrition is this: this same company released me early last year (they said that I had agreed to it, but I hadn’t), so I lost my final month’s salary payment, my severance pay, had to pay another month’s rent and utilities on the old apartment because I couldn’t move out immediately, had to lay down five million deposit on the new place plus the first month’s rent on the new place, and of course, all of this went down at the most expensive time of year for moving, which cost me another 1.3 million… oh, and I also had to pay for my operation in the University Hospital… do the math (as they say). In addition, as they have proven quite incapable of recruiting sufficient students for a quorum for both their weekday and weekend courses, for five of the ten months I was actually working there, I only received half salary (as payments depend on lessons, right).

What kind of mood would you be in at this point?

There is a whole set of issues relating to the employment of foreigners to teach English here. Long-term readers (all two of you) will recall my previous remarks, long, long ago, of my co-worker whose (American) friend decided to leave because every employer here seemed to expect new employers to be twenty-something graduates with two suitcases and a drink problem, yada yada yada, and that is certainly demonstrated as fact by experience, but another is that many outfits consider bean-counting to be good business practice rather than efficient operation and profitability, resulting in the kind of race to the bottom more characteristic of the average App Store. That means that very often, the foreign teacher is accommodated in something rather reminiscent of an English shoe box, and if you are the kind of person who likes to study, learn by tinkering with shit and collect books and things, it’s not conducive to comfortable life. That’s the issue.

So tomorrow may be fraught. Frankly, I am not in the mood to do anything remotely involving “negotiation” and you can bet your last <insert financial units of choice here> that the management of the company have decided what they want, and that’s not what I want.

Watch this space…

The Next Day…

What a surprise! It seems that the company is now solvent and confident enough to offer the full assistance to the employee to help pay for their independent accommodation; the only snag being that the previous incumbent will still be there until he leaves, and therefore my manager will have to help me find a new place (and it will have to be unfurnished, of course…). This is because… he has to familiarise me with the materials, which have been simplified (and one probably altered completely). I will then have to go to the company’s offices in Busan, where he used to work (and come to think of it, so did I, but… different company) for some pertinent training.

Before all of that transpired, there was the appointment at the adult hagwon that had been arranged by a recruiter the previous day. I had located the place in a side road close to the Banwoldang subway station and went in but, oh dear… clearly a good place, but wanting me to do things that I don’t have either experience or interest in. Debate, IELTS, movies, no thank you, and I said so. Apparently they were expecting me to just walk in and sign up; but I didn’t, not least because I had to go to the other place possibly also to discuss signing up. Embarrassing; but this has been a regular occurrence with recruiter-mediated interviews over the last few years.

Something odd has happened in the recruitment process in Korea… I’ve been having more joy sometimes doing the whole thing myself. I kid you not. Increasingly I am being told about possible positions but being oversold in some way… I had already been thinking that despite efforts on my part to avoid it, people looking at my resume were seeing things that weren’t there, as if reading between the lines and filling in the white space with what they were looking for. This will never work, because it means they are making assumptions without discussing things properly with me beforehand, possibly also misrepresenting me to the customer, and wasting everyone’s time. Might I also suggest that the recruiter should have been asking about whether I had anything else under consideration (which I did).

So now I have to pack everything up again and get ready to go back to where I have been before… but hey, look on the bright side: you get the full salary and they give you a monthly wedge for your digs, and with that kind of remuneration, you can afford somewhere decent, even in Daegu.

Edited February 9th, 2019

Cancer Update: Third Quarterly Check

Things seem to be proceeding in a satisfactory fashion… but once I sat down and started writing, this blog suddenly became unexpectedly long!

After visiting Daegu again last Tuesday, I made sure to text Professor Kim on the Friday morning reminding him about letting me know the results as soon as possible – and reminded him again by text the following Monday morning (just in case, you understand). He very kindly obliged a short while later with his usual reassuring “nothing to worry about” response.

However, as if a mere text message (from the Male Professor Kim) were not enough, his locum last Tuesday, (the female) Professor Kim actually called me yesterday (Tuesday) lunch time to pass on the news. Which surprised me, firstly because I tend to receive very few calls on my cell phone at any time, and secondly precisely because of that exact time, as it would otherwise (probably) be one of those annoying advertorial-type robotised calls from the phone service provider (in this case, LG), which has been a regular irritation ever since I first signed up with them. Unfortunately I have (after fifteen long years here) still not learned enough Korean to understand what their automated calls are actually about, so they remain a noisy, jangling and rather pointless mystery. I realise that this is Korea (where English is not the native language), but surely, by now, there is a sufficient quorum of native English speakers to justify at least a minimal English language service?

We might now ask the question: where to from here on? As this is the third of four quarterly blood tests, the last will be in February and will include a (hopefully final) CT scan to give a visualisation of any otherwise undetected neoplasms. Not sure right now how frequently after that it will be necessary to keep checking, but rest assured that despite a constant feeling of tiredness (due to having to hit the bathroom several times each night), I am feeling well, with only the odd twinge of still-unsettled fatty tissues resulting from the operation itself to remind me that it ever happened… and starting to think about what I will be doing next year.

Looking back over the previous twelve or thirteen months, the remarkable thing has been how painless the detection, treatment, removal and convalescence have been in the course of all this. Using the robot for a laparoscopic procedure avoided a lot of the tissue damage that would have resulted from a more conventional (i.e. open) abdominal technique, and hence faster recovery and much less post-operative pain. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that I would have been much happier remaining in my previous job than having to find and secure a new one. This would have made the immediate post-operative period much less stressful – not to mention less expensive.

Something does need to be said, however, about the reactions of other people to the process, as my rapid recovery may have made them think that everything was normal. I assure you that this is not the case; although I may appear to be walking around in my typical manner, it is simply not possible to lose a foot of irreplaceable large intestine and not experience adverse effects. That part of the body is largely responsible for the removal of water from your solid wastes (as digestion is largely focused in the stomach and small intestine), and removing it compromises this function. This means that you need some kind of pharmaceutical intervention – the Lopmin capsules – to slow down the natural process of peristalsis and increase the residence time of food in the gut, thereby allowing it to remove water to a more normal consistency of stools. Alas, perhaps, my gut seems to be quite sensitive to Lopmin and the result of this is that I have made a habit of coming off the treatment temporarily at weekends to allow it all to pass out, as even the most minimal daily quantity still seems to be slightly too much, resulting in a regular ‘plug’ of drier material which is difficult to void at first. Having said that, the feeling afterwards is wonderful, but you do start to feel somewhat bloated by the mid-week…

Part of the reason for this is that the differing lumen diameters at the two joined ends make voiding (and retention) more difficult than they were originally. The part of the gut removed was that which (under normal circumstances) is perhaps less involved with desiccation and more with storage prior to voiding. This meant that semi-liquid digested food would otherwise be difficult to contain until at least some of the storage function could be restored – but to achieve that, the narrow lumen in the upper part of the anastomosis (the point where the upper and lower ends were joined) has to expand sufficiently, and the simplest way to achieve that, it seems, is to relax the smooth muscle in the gut wall so that the wall itself can expand to accomodate what needs to be, er, retained. It is no exaggeration to say that without Lopmin, retention would be impossible and I would always have to be a short dash from the nearest rest room; I kid you not. So that bloated feeling does at least give some reassurance that you are not going to shed a stinky load in a public place at five seconds’ notice, which was much how it was immediately after the operation. For this reason, I am also hanging on to my small supply of adult diapers…

All of which has meant that another regime of health management has had to be incorporated into my lifestyle. It is not hugely taxing, as in reality it amounts to little more than acquiring a few additional minor habits, but one’s social life is affected by all of this, and diet also. For example, I would not wish to be out every Friday or Saturday night because nowadays I am using this time to allow the release of several days’ stools, meaning that I have to stay at home for convenience; likewise, it is not a good idea to eat too much because what goes down must, eventually, come out, and one may become rather bloated by midweek without some attention to what one is eating. Finally, it is worth remembering that there is something of a moratorium on alcohol consumption with a view to avoiding the retardation of the healing process, at least for the first post-operative year.

The impression has come upon me that my apparent wellness has demonstrably been misleading to onlookers, who think that I am fully recovered and able to resume everything one hundred per cent. right now, but this is far from the truth. For example, I have been told that it would be helpful to lose weight, and I cannot do this if people constantly insist on offering me food. Sugar in particular is known as the primary fuel of cancer, and it has been proving difficult to transition to a more suitably ketogenic diet; the environment here does not seem to support it – indeed, from a sugar-avoidance point of view, Korea is getting worse due to a rise in the presence of franchised, Westernised-style restaurants, coffee shops and other places like the Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours-style bakeries. Professor Kim’s original admonition to avoid carbohydrate and err towards more animal protein has one unfortunate aspect, in that it requires spending more on food at a time when my salary is being squeezed by things like paying for my own accommodation, and repayment of the operation (and other associated) costs. Whic I think is also slowly tapping this job on the head!

At work, the offerings at the restaurants are essentially for younger people who need a lot of energy for their daily exercise, and hence there is a lot of carbohydrate available in the form mainly of rice. I am not saying that there is anything bad about the rice, as it makes the other food easier to eat, but it is a kind of food to avoid most of the time if a recurrence of the cancer is to be avoided, for reasons which have been discussed here previously. Anything alcoholic (other than, say, wine) necessarily tends to have associated sugar components if only to make the alcohol more palatable, so this should really be avoided, too. Even the beverages we have in our office are essentially laced with sugar and sweet creamers, as they come in sticks and the ones without sugar are virtually undrinkable. It is for this reason that I recently purchased a new coffee maker (as the old one was truly dying the death), as strong black coffee is actually a good thing – especially when you stagger out of bed of a weekday morning. Maintaining a low-carbohydrate diet is proving unexpectedly difficult, however.

All of which is making me think that a situation like last year would be much better – same style of employment, housing and diet – but that would mean losing this job and (probably) relocating to a new city, too. The bottom line, however, is that the expense of changing my diet (and other elements of lifestyle) would be far easier if I did not have to lose so much each month on renting my apartment, something which is almost unheard of among foreign English teachers in Korea. So we come to the run-up to Christmas this year with something of a quandary – stay in the current job and lose money on rent which would otherwise be helpful for my diet, or give it up and find something more suitable.

Decisions, decisions…

The Love (and Lack) of Reading

With space dwindling on all my drives, I lost it this weekend and ordered a new 2TB hard drive for my main machine.

The fact that my new KT Internet keeps flipping out every morning is hardly pleasing me, either…

It seems to be one of those things these days… when I was younger and didn’t have the level of personal technology that I have now, you would routinely find me with my nose in a book or a magazine novels by Michael Moorcock, Fortean Times, that kind of thing. Alas, my needs these days, where moving between cities has been costing an arm, a leg and perhaps several other limbs over the years, things have contracted. I am not buying books routinely, not because I dislike books or even that I cannot afford them; no.

The trouble has been that I have encountered a number of impediments to relaxed and undisturbed reading. Many of the apartments have been unfurnished and without a bed to sleep on, never mind a comfortable reading chair; and when I got my last pair of glasses, the lenses (courtesy of Carl Zeiss, would you believe) came with a varifocal profile and two reading dimples placed in a position for an upright (rather than comfortably recumbent) head position. In addition, the kind of central room lighting here is terrible for extended sessions of reading, but I never seem to move between apartments without losing more appropriate reading lamps. My own personal preference is low-intensity ambient lighting, especially for reading, ideally from proper bulbs and not from LED shit, which is enriched in blue-wavelength emissions known to damage human eyesight [1]. So my actual domestic environment for reading has not been good for a long time. I really want to change that, and with a little reaasonable effort, that’s precisely what I aim to do over this coming winter.

In the meantime, however… ironically, the oldest working HD that I have is the original 80Gb drive I used to build my first machine in Korea back in 2004. The only reason I don’t use it any more is because all the new mobos I’ve seen don’t have IDE interfaces any more – only SATA.

If not for that, I’d still be using all my IDE drives because – so many years after I bought them – they are all still working. The biggest are 500Gb and they are now idle due to a preference on the part of the mobo manufacturers for SATA; go to Gmarket and, likewise, you will see that IDE drives are rarely new. This is the way the technology has gone since I arrived here.

Contrast that with the stupid 1Tb Western Digital drive I bought the other year. Never worked. Until I came to Korea, WD drives never failed. I still have a ten-year-old WD 160Gb portable that works, even though the USB situation has changed since then. And back at home in the UK, I always bought WD and never. had. any. issues. with them.

That last one, however, I refused to exchange at the time because hey, if it fails you have to send it to their office in Malaysia (!!!) at your own expense (by which they mean by international courier, of course). Which meant that to get a replacement would cost more than buying the original, and when confronted by that and having therefore wasted the money on a dead loss, I ordered a replacement from Seagate and WTF, no. trouble. ever.

So this time it will be another Seagate, at a fair price, twice the size of the previous one, which has filled up to about 85% in the space of three years. Well, I can’t imagine why, of course, it’s another great Mystery of Asia… but in particular, I really think it’s about time to drain my fifteen-plus years of e-mails from Yahoo, which seems to have gone so far downhill (and seems to have become some kind of disgusting NWO shill, if much of its so-called “news” is anything to go by). That, however, is currently just under 290Gb in size, and it will have to be dumped somewhere, and if I decide to dump my Facebook, too… well, you can see where this is leading.

As for the cancer front, unbelievably (for an English bod like me) the next blood test is scheduled for Guy Fawkes’ Night – November 5th! The day when a pre-Elizabethan crowd failed to blow up the old Houses of Parliament with King James actually in attendance. That’s on a Monday, too; time to book a day off in advance! But as always, I’ll let all two of my readers know what happens…


Cancer Diary Update, 21st April 2018

It’s been some time since I last wrote anything about the actual cancer and treatment, due to the situation which arose at the end of January. However, it unfolded like this…

Things have of course happened since I last wrote properly about my situation, but the outstanding thing, at the beginning, has been the response of the employer at that time – who, of course, is not my employer any longer. As you will see, my case is neither unique nor non-illustrative.

Originally, when notified of the need for an operation and time away from work for the operation and the resulting recuperation, the company seemed very accommodating. To recap, they first stated that my health was the first priority, and that they wanted me to take not just the statutory (as I discovered later in discussion with Professor Kim) one month for recovery, but two, taking me up to the end of the contract, at which point, having hopefully made a complete recovery, I expected to re-sign for another year. Regular readers (here and on FB) will recall that I also received a personal e-mail from the CEO of Times Media expressing his sorrow at the fact that I had contracted cancer, and that he wished me a speedy recovery and that I could be able to resume work as soon as possible.

All of that began to unravel on Wednesday, January 25th, the day I actually had the FDD removed and was therefore technically no longer even an out-patient. That afternoon, I got back from the hospital after FDD removal and endoscopy (without anaesthetic, and with some lubricant goo still trying to escape, leading to frequent dashes to the bathroom and a sticky arse…) and received a call from one of the established seniors in the company’s Seoul office (“established” meaning that she has been with them for longer even than I remember, and I am sure there is a reason for that – right? Right?). The person concerned has never had my confidence as a speaker of English, because she never quite seems to select the appropriate vocabulary, and hence does not really seem to know what she is saying… Basically, the company had decided not only that they would not re-sign me at the end of the contract, but also that they did not want to proceed with it to the end as originally planned, and wished to terminate it on January 31st 2018. My own understanding was that they wished to end it as planned (but as I couldn’t understand her mangled English very easily, there was no way that I could be certain), and would not see any disadvantage for them in this because, as I was not working, I was not therefore receiving any salary. I forgot, of course, that they also paid my rent according to the contract, and they wanted to stop doing so as soon as possible. Seems like they resented the prospect of having to do this even though, at the time, only one more payment would be required before the end of the contract.

The lesson here is that companies like this, which often experience tough times profit-wise because they are really just a one-trick pony, can be quite ruthless; they clearly consider employees, and foreign employees in particular, to be an expensive liability to be disposed of as soon as possible. I shall return to this later, but to jump ahead temporarily to my current situation, my new co-worker Jonathan (from The Great White North) told me a similar story about his (younger) colleague at the university here in Jinju (to where I relocated recently for my new position) – said (male) colleague had the misfortune to break his leg, at which point his contract was immediately cancelled and therefore he, like myself, had to find something new rather sharpishly. And funnily enough, he did precisely that… how did that happen? It’s another mystery of Korea…

Getting back to the story… what happened next was that almost immediately after receiving the bad news from the erstwhile employer, came a call from one of Job In Korea’s (JIK’s) representatives in Seoul, Tony. He asked me whether I would still be interested in a position with the Air Force Aviation Science High School (AFASHS) in Jinju, whose information I had seen previously at JIK’s web site, and I said “yes”. He did offer me a choice of another job which would allow me to remain in Daegu (incredibly, the same salary but only three days’ working per week!!!), but having worked with the Korean military previously, and noting that the salary would be identical to that received with Times, I decided to pursue it further. The alternative, in fact, was school work anyway.

This decision, like so many made by foreigners in Korea, turned out to have its swings and roundabouts. The prime advantage of working for any government agency in Korea is that they will generally stick to the conditions of a contract and make great efforts to make sure everything is okay; the disadvantages tend to relate to things like the cost of relocation and the inconvenience of their own location and the relationship between their physical placement and the location of your apartment, and transiting between them on a daily basis. This means that some patience is often required while information accumulates, as such institutions are invariably staffed mainly by people whose tenure is short (due to being conscripted, for example, as part of their National Service requirement), and hence, as with so many institutions I have experienced in Korea, they experience a constant haemorrhage of collective memory.

As it happened, the major drag was that because this is a military institution, they had to conduct a long and lengthy background check before I could be permitted to come here and sign the contract. So I was stuck in a strange situation for a few weeks – no contract signed, a limited period of remaining E-2 visa which was slowly expiring, and no money coming in, meaning a lot of stress and tension. I was repeatedly assured that yes, they definitely wanted me but unfortunately, they could not change this requirement, until finally, on Thursday 8th March, I got the message that it would be okay to come down and sign the contract. When I received the message, I was actually in a coffee shop in Gangnam, waiting to apply for a D-10 visa (and frankly, expecting a negative response). I then took my leisurely time going back to Seoul Station, caught a KTX back to Daegu, had a shower and hit the sack, as I would have to be in Jinju fairly early the following afternoon in order to get the visa attended to!

This new position technically began the same day that I signed the contract, which was three days before the visa was due to expire (another close shave), although work proper – in the sense of being there and present in the classrooms – actually began on the following Monday… alas, there have proven to be a number of problems: although the Air Force supplied me with accommodation in the form of Bachelor Quarters (BOQ) onsite (and this would have been especially wonderful during holidays when the students were absent), it proved impossible to move in permanently because of the allocated furniture – the room had a new bed, new desk and even a new refrigerator, but this meant that I could not move in, as I had also likewise purchased a new bed, desk, and several other items previously and was not willing to part with them. This was because the allocation was permanent and it was not permitted to remove them; once in situ, they would have to stay in situ until whenever.

So this meant that I would have to have external housing, and here, again, was a unique problem in my experience in Korea – the Air Force would supply accommodation as their customary BOQ, but had no provision in their contract for assisting the new employee with the cost of non-BOQ housing, so I will be bearing this on my own (although at a cheaper level than my new co-worker Jonathan). I spent some time with a local estate agent who was recommended to me by another local foreigner who had used her services previously, and after viewing a number of mainly new (and also rather small and pokey) new-ish residences, was shown an apartment in an older property some distance from work (I had hoped to find somewhere closer). Although I thought the deposit was relatively steep at five million won (the previous maximum had been 3.3 million with the KDLI), I also thought that the monthly rent was relatively acceptable (although not cheap), and did not represent a serious financial drag. So the contract was signed, but the move was much more expensive than expected due to being during the spring moving season. But I had to move out, so I bore it.

In the long term, however, this arrangement will be beneficial. I can increase the size of my deposit as far as ten million won and have a reduction in the monthly rental payment, as is so often the case with places in Korea. So the deposit itself will then represent a saving of eight million in addition to the two million brought forward to Jinju from Daegu.

In the course of all this, I was naturally discussing the question of travel between apartment and work, and it transpired that there was, in fact, a daily shuttle bus and there was a convenient boarding point at a local bus stop not far from my new place. Although the return drop-off was much further away, I decided that again, this was no big deal because I needed the exercise and shops and banks, etc. were conveniently along the roadside. I then went to the KT guy across the road to sign up for a new Internet contract, and I was away, so to speak.

Drawing parallels with my previous stint at the KDLI, the shorter commuting distance makes a big difference; not having the same class four hours a day, five days a week means much less stress; and there is absolutely no likelihood of suffering the kinds of disadvantages I experienced with the previous (now unmentionable) employer, like not enough students to set up a new session, or the resultant slashing of my salary due to lack of a session. I may have to pay in full for my accommodation, but the salary will always be full and complete, and the cost of travelling to and from work is effectively zero. Plus, as per Professor Kim’s admonishments, I am not drinking (much) right now.

The new place has two rooms, one smaller and one larger, and I decided that the smaller room would become the bedroom, as I had left my mouldy old bookcases behind in Daegu, and these would have to be replaced, the new ones eventually occupying part of the larger room. The kitchen area in the middle has plenty of space, including an area which I suppose most other people would populate with a dining table and chairs, but as I am single this will probably be co-opted for further storage. The larger room will be used for both work and relaxation as soon as furniture can be purchased – new bookcases, a closet and a reading lamp, and maybe some other storage to accommodate the likes of the printer and scanner. The bedroom could probably use at least a chest of drawers.

The entrance also has a nice amount of space, and it did occur to me that some kind of storage or shelving unit would be especially welcome there – as well as an appropriate coat stand or rack. The amount of storage available in the kitchen area was likewise not to be sneezed at, but I would have to do some appreciable cleaning not only there but generally, as the amount of time the place was vacant had led to it being infested by small flies, whose corpses could be seen littering the kitchen floor as well as the balcony next to the washing machine. Thankfully, the floors appear not to have been so filthy as those in the previous place in Daegu were two years ago when I first moved in.

The area itself is fairly lively, having not apparently succumbed to the depredations of the larger stores and retaining many small shops, restaurants and coffee houses as well as the more customary convenience stores; one GS25 just down the road even had my usual Danish cider in big cans, but of course, Professor Kim had told me to leave it out for the interim. And I always do as the doctors order. Sure I do!

So this brings us up to where we are right now. In my second month in a new job, and seriously, it would be so nice to stay here for a few years. Daily travel costs are zero, there are not too many lessons each day and the classes are all at the same level (high school, third grade), are either speaking or writing and I only need to prepare two lesson plans per week. This is just as well, as I have been waking up too early on weekday mornings lately to get a full night’s sleep.

It also demonstrates, again, the falsehood often propagated about the “ageism” of the English teaching apparatus in Korea. I will be 56 this year, have had a major operation and recovered (I certainly hope) from colorectal cancer and set myself up in yet another city, because I was literally snapped up by the Air Force. Perseverance and patience seem to be rewarded in the end, although it should be said that even when not looking for a new job, you need a constant influx of vacancy-related information in your Inbox and have to keep everything updated.

So let’s see how this one goes…

[No references this time LOL]


Before getting back to my Cancer Diary – and so much has happened since I last wrote any of it – let me relate that today was the first day of returning to the hospital to talk with the Professor since being discharged last Thursday, and as usual there were surprises.

See, this device he plugged into me has no proper “instruction manual” to go with it. I have really only just understood the proper function of the thing. So I have been avoiding the use of the lumen valve when in truth I should have been using it – during shopping or other trips out of my place, for example. The lumen valve, which is actuated by injecting water into the device with a syringe, prevents the outward flow of gut contents. I think you can probably figure out the rest…

The second thing is that now the resectioning operation appears to have been successful, the FDD will be removed next Wednesday. But I had received the impression (wrongly, it turns out) that the FDD was to be a permanent fixture, but no! – it now appears to only be put in place to serve as a hygienic conduit while the rectum wall was healing. Once this process is competed (three weeks after the operation), it can be removed. The remaining gut will eventually adjust to working normally as it did before the neoplasm was removed. Or so I have been reassured.

So, while I was discussing my (generally favourable) health with the Professor, he said that I was already able to resume work.

“Ah,” I said: “but the company has given me until the end of February to recuperate.” I will return to the use of this time period in a moment.

Afterwards, a time was arranged for the removal of the FDD and a barium enema x-ray shoot, which will almost certainly be the actual end of the cancer episode.

But how about the job? The company had been signalling previously that they would be “open” to re-signing me, but how “open” were they, really?

I left the hospital and walked back to our office, just down the road, to tell my manager what the Prof. had said. During our discussion, she asked me whether I had heard anything from the company in the interim, and of course, the answer was “no”; since our conflab in Seomyeon back at the end of July, I had heard nary a peep out of them.

The gist was that there was a possibility that (based largely upon negative reviews from the students, never mind the fact that too many of them needed some severe improvements in their English in order to be fully functional) they might not want to re-sign me after all. Great. Should I start looking for a new job already? If they were not going to re-sign me, then I would have to do this; the lucky happenstance of having been out of work for literally only two days before signing for the current job was the exception, rather than the rule, as historically finding something new would take months.

Additionally, when I was waiting to go to the hospital in December, I spent the weekends working on lesson plans and materials for a proposed new course due to commence after re-signing; but if they don’t re-sign me, there is no point in proceeding with this. They are not paying me right now because I am not working – and another foreigner from a different branch is covering for me while I “recuperate” – and I will only continue with that work out of a sense of goodwill _if_ they are going to re-sign, otherwise I have more important things to do with my time.

Personally, I have always felt prickly whenever this question of student feedback being in the negative zone rears its ugly head. In my experience, “proper training” is something that Korean employers tend to avoid. Lack of communication is part of the problem, but a desire to avoid wasting money, I suspect, is in there somewhere too, however irrational that may sound. After all, if you don’t communicate with workers as a matter of course and don’t provide them with the feedback and training they need for a specific job, what possible right do you have to complain, really? I myself have plenty of things that make me want to complain, but my response is tempered nowadays by the idea that simply complaining about something is not enough – one acquires greater legitimacy when complaining if one has a viable alternative suggestion, at least.

My own complaint is that a job of this kind requires far more training and orientation for someone like myself, with a lower-level academic background than some of my peers here. Otherwise, I am constantly in danger of appearing inauthentic to the students, primarily due to lack of relevant experience. So I made this point today – that I would be perfectly happy to re-sign but would appreciate further training in order to be more effective in the position. You’d think it was a no-brainer – after all, it is not every person who can simply walk into a job like mine and be perfect from the get-go. But as I say, in my experience this is a big issue with Korean employers.

The real stumbling-block for so many Korean language-related companies seems to be the lack of product diversity – what has emerged over the last few years, for me, based on my own observations, is that too many of the English-based businesses here are one-trick ponies – it is often a struggle to get the management to accept that they need to offer a greater variety of products to attract more customers. And they are often scared of negative ratings from students who really do not have a sufficient level of English themselves to (as in our case) progress to teaching their own students. Business owners are often inflexible.

So suddenly, in the immediate aftermath of a cancer operation, I am yet again faced with the possibility of having to mount a job search. I have every expectation that the company will prevaricate until me having already found a job in the meantime is upon them, by which time, of course, it will be too late… but this is Korea, so what’s new?