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Monday, April 11, 2011

Turning Rabbit; How Two of My Co-Workers Ran Away

It took everyone by surprise, it certainly was not on my radar. But yesterday for lunch, two of my co-workers, fellow teachers of mine, never returned to their classes. At first, I thought that something maybe tragic had happened, but as I talked to other teachers and the pieces were put together it appears that they with bags in hand, and plane tickets in their pockets fled, they high-tailed it. Flew the coop. Went on the lam. Broke free. Turned Rabbit. Two flew over the Cuckoos Nest, and probably by now they are back in Canada. And they didn't tell a soul that they were leaving.

They were a Canadian couple from Ontario. Ari, the guy who was almost in that bar fight that I wrote about here. http://theruskie.blogspot.com/2011/04/almost-fight.html And his girlfriend Sarah, were here for around half a year. In the past month, I worked at the same school as they. We'd catch the same bus in the mornings, eat lunch together, hail taxis home, and in general, just hang out with the rest of the western teachers at the Villa. But as of yesterday, that's all changed. They're gone. Shaking the dust off of their shoes (that they can probably now wear indoors.) and they'll probably both never use chopsticks again.

Hired as foreign teachers, we sign a one year contract with a school. In return, we are given an apartment to live in and they buy our plane tickets from our homes to Korea, and, of course, while here, we're given a salary. It's a pretty sweet deal. Not a fortune. But not a bad deal. In a definite way, you are committed to one year. If you don't like teaching or living in Korea after that one year, then you can leave. But if you do enjoy it, you can sign on for another year. That simple. If you absolutely detest it all. Then, tough. Man up. Its only a year. You'll get out alive. You should have some money in the bank afterwards, and you'll probably grow from the experience. And, at least, you'll have some stories.

However, there are cases, at some Haegwons (private schools) in South Korea where the pay is shoddy, and you are cheated out of either money or time. They've been known to heap up more work upon you than you originally signed up for. So people cutting out early, is not unheard under such circumstances. Which I think is understandable. But with our haegwon, from what I've heard, comparing it to other schools as far as pay, vacation time, work load, and administation, we're kinda lucky. And I don't see why anyone would just up and leave, unless of a family emergency or some such thing. Which could be the case. But I doubt it.

I think its determined that this couple cut out because, well, like so many of our generation, they are discontent with the idea of working. And perhaps homesickness had a thing to do with it. In fact, 6 months,(about the length of time they've been here), is the exact time that culture shock begins to set in, and a person begins to see this new culture they are apart without all the freshness and novelty. A sense of disgust sets in and you are tired of every pecularity of a certain culture. It took me a year of living in Russia, til I felt like I had it. I hopped on a train to Finland, and then a boat to Sweden. But then I came back. And that is the main point. I took a weekend getaway, but I came back to what I was committed to.

As for these 2 teachers, maybe culture shock was the case. Who can really know. They left their explanations as empty and perplexed as their classrooms. I knew that Ari, liked to complain alot about the school and the fact that he had to keep returning to it every Monday. He was mainly living for the weekends here, where he could drink his beer and stream basketball games. He hated Mondays with a passion, and loved Friday afternoons with the same fervour. I just thought his complaints were sort of normal for people working during the work week. I also don't think Ari was into the whole teaching thing. While Sarah, his girlfriend was a bit more into teaching. I actually think she was an education major. She had this appropriate teacher's voice blaring in the adjacent room next to my room. But I think that maybe Sarah, was having a hard time living in Korea. She never struck me as the traveler's type. Some people are adaptable and others aren't. I don't think she was. Everyday for lunch, she never wanted to eat at the cafeteria. Which was free for us; they'd go to this same kimbop shop and pay for the same exact food everyday. I think it was just that she was picky and longed for familiarity. If there was a fluke day, that they did eat at the school. She never got a plate, but ate stale crackers instead.

So now putting both these two together, a guy who may've enjoyed living here but detested the work, and a girl that probably liked teaching but couldn't hack the difference of her surroundings. The pieces fit exactly were they had something to be unhappy about, and they talked secretly of getting out, I guess.

All this is speculation, of course. But what I do know...is that I have a bunch of extra students heaped on me, for a short while, because of the immaturity of these two. And I don't doubt that the Korean administration and teachers probably feel and naturally suspect that any of us, other foreign teachers, could just up and leave and therefore we can't be trusted and are probably, as Western kids, stamped as spoiled brats.

Oh well...I wish the both of them good luck in whereever they wind up, and in whatever they do. They were getting to be friends of mine. But if someone like me feels sort of embarrassed because of another's flakiness, it must be something.


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