Tuesday, November 27, 2007

a comment on "money -the wedge that dividees us all"

This is a response to Chris Seto's blog money - the wedge that divides us all. I started to write it in his comments section but it got too long and involved so I moved it here. I suggest you read it first, but I won't make you.

The quality of the public education system here (in Korea) is slowly deteriorating, and this is mainly due to increased quality and attention in the 'cram' schools. As attention is focussed on the more elite schools, it is removed from the public system, causing problems there to multiply. Public schools are jammed with 25-40 children in the classroom with one teacher. It is impossible for the teacher of a class this large to cover the same material as a class with 13 students or fewer (which is the class size maximum allowed at my school). Many classes may even have as few as 4 or 5 students. Thus, these classes can cover a volume of material not possible in the public domain. It makes me sad that wealthy parents will put their money into a 'cram' school instead of the public schools. With the amount they are paying me they could pay two more public school teachers and divide the class in half.
That's the fairy tale.
Everything here is about status, education and appearance. The first questions a Korean will ask me will be my place of birth (obviously), age, education, and marital status, and then they will comment on my clothes and looks. The reality is that here, having a child in cram school covers the issue of status and education. If the public school system deteriorates then the gap will be larger and thus the status of the wealthy higher. This is the culture, and has been for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, I have come to realise that I am an accessory to it. I teach wealthy children at a prestegious academy and make more money/year from this job than many Koreans will see... ever.
I am in a moral quandry.
I can't just tutor public school children for cheap or free because it's illegal here. You have to be careful who you tutor because if they wish to increase their status and tell the wrong person, you're out with a kick in the ass and a black mark on your travelling record. I am contracted to work here, and I will be here for a while. Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do?

Dear Santa

This is a clip from the letter to Santa blog of an environmentalist named "No Impact Man" that I really love and wanted to share. You can read the full blog here.
Dear Santa,
I was thinking how when I talked to a bunch of third graders a while back and I said to them, "How many of you know the feeling of really wanting something and then when your parents finally get it for you, instead of feeling excited, you feel kind of disappointed and sad?" Three-quarters of the kids raised their hands.
I was also thinking how most of my stuff has the effect of pulling me away from my friends and family--because I use it alone--when joking around and having fun with them actually is really effective at making that wanting feeling go away.
I was thinking how all this stuff that doesn't really make me happy also has the effect of hurting the planet as clouds of carbon are produced as the stuff is manufactured, delivered, used and finally disposed of. I was thinking, on top of that, how so many people get stressed out by the debt and high costs of a Christmas full of presents.


Wow. He said it and I love it. It's true; the wanting feeling never fully goes away no matter what you get for Christmas. He is also right that new things separate you from people instead of bringing you closer together (generally speaking). I am very far away from many of the people I love, so time spent with the ones here is that much more important. If I don't spend time with the ones I can, then I spend time alone. While that can be good... nobody wants to be alone for Christmas.
I guess what I'm saying is, have a Merry Christmas season guys. To those far away, I miss you. To those close by, I treasure you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

routine and the night bazaah

It's strange because every weekday I get up, hand out online, talk to friends, sometimes do a little yoga, and go to work. Then in the evening I come home, go online and then go to bed. Sometimes it's almost like Korea is really similar to home! I used to do the same thing when I worked in Scotland too (except then I worked longer hours and didn't have weekends off). My life has become routine and lethargic. I see the same people every day and do the same thing. Sometimes the conversation differs, but not always. My consolation is that weekends are always different and fun. Like this past weekend!

Anyone who has been to Malaysia (as I did with SSU), especially KL, most likely remembers one thing beyond the amazing architecture that sets it apart...

the "Night Bazaah!"

Anyway, I'm not in Malaysia, and there isn't a "night bazaah" here in Korea (that I know of), but there is an awesome market that totally reminds me of one! Sure it's much colder and daylight... and the wrong country. That's ok though, the Nampo market here is SO much fun! Chris and I went this weekend and walking through all the shops and stalls I was brought back in memory to bartering with Ben and Miah ... and Amber playing air guitar with a street musician while we all had beers and snacks. Great memories. The market here is huge, and you can get nearly everything you could want, as long as you're willing to walk around in the chilly weather and look for it. There's food vendors, restaurants, hand-made pottery, trinkets, clothes (both new and not-as-new), weapons, wood-burning, statues, shoes, bags...watches.... well. You get the picture!

So... excitement on weekends and drab rut on weekdays. Sometimes I feel like my week days are a waste of time (except that it's getting me money to pay off loans). A waste of life. Work is fun, but routine and ... usually the same. I follow a curriculum that repeats every weak, just with a higher level of difficulty every Monday. What to do... what to do.

I love when I get to see Chris and everyone on weekends!
During the week... I'm BORED!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Goodbye Twinkle

My sweet puppy. You've lived a long time; I like to think it has been happy. I hope so. I'm sorry I abandoned you in the end. I've loved you more than any non-human I've known; I still do and think I always will. My heart is broken that my last goodbye was actually goodbye forever. You have always been loyal and loved me, even when I was gone for so long. I'll always regret that you were left with strangers. I'm sorry you couldn't understand. I knew the end was near, but always thought it would be another day. I'm so sorry I can't be there for your last hours and minutes. I'm sorry. I hope you know that I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you. I love you Twink. So much.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Friends in Korea

Jessie and Justin are in South Korea!


Chris and I got to hang out with these two a bit this weekend, and despite the fact that we're both sick with bad colds, I had an awesome time. We hung out in Busan a bit on Friday night and then Chris and I went to Gimhae (where they live) and hung out with them there. Those two are SUCH great hosts! They pulled out Sangria, wine, soju (voldka-like Korean alcohol), crackers, tuna, cheese (very expensive here), and bread sticks. Visiting them showed me just how rusty my host skills have become! We went out for dinner and saw a bit of the city too. It was awesome to see them. Really nice. I think we'll end up trying to hang out every weekend or so, for at least a day. Especially while the weather is so nice (a little chilly for my tastes, but I'm not going to really complain. I've also figured out most of my Christmas presents for my family and even have gotten a few! Woo hoo!