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Life. Don’t talk to me about life

It’s been a kinda depressing couple of days.

The ‘ajosshi’ teacher told me on Friday that the hagwon want to cut both my hours and my pay. My initial reaction was, as is my wont, passive. I suppose I thought (and still think) that I deserved it for my mistakes and mediocrity. I mentioned it later that night to two of my other colleagues and they seemed moderately angry on my behalf. One of them said, ‘We have your back on this.’ Which, in proper English, I imagine means that they’ll support me if it comes down to it.

That made me feel a bit more self-confident. Yesterday morning I wrote an e-mail to my recruiter, so hopefully he’ll put in a word for me soon. I also looked at various posts on Dave’s ESL Café and found something I’m sure I’d read before: someone said something along the lines of, ‘90% of all hagwons will screw you over to some degree.’ The idea that my hagwon wants to do this to me now when I have just a month left on my contract – and only two weeks during which it would be in effect – seems to illustrate exactly this fact.

I don’t intend to accept this, and I can threaten them with taking them to the Labour Board and with blacklisting the hagwon. We’ll have to see how it pans out.

Yesterday I went into Seoul aiming to meet up with Paul and maybe Rachell from the Korean class but it didn’t happen. In the first instance this was because I decided to go to Yongsan and finally buy the new laptop I’ve been thinking about pretty much all the time I’ve been in Korea. After wandering round looking at machines and talking to some of the vendors, asking them about battery life and English Windows, I finally settled on a model that I liked and seemed to fulfil all the criteria I had in mind (although, at 1,690,000 won, it’s a bit more expensive than other contenders). I told them I wanted to buy it, and, after some failed attempts at communication, they let me know that it isn’t in stock. They’re going to ring me next week. I was also given the card of the girl who I spoke to after I had made my choice – even though she doesn’t speak any English (as opposed to the two guys at the stall (if that’s the right word) who at least had a little Yeongeo).

Then I went to Gangnam and bought a book and a CD (Year’s Best Fantasy 5 and Out of Exile by Audioslave respectively) and had a late-ish lunch of a jumbo Quizno’s sub. By this time, the timing was wrong for meeting Paul. I went to Insadong next to look at potential souvenirs and gifts. I decided not to buy anything because my bag was already on the full (and heavy) side.

After that it was off to Hongdae to meet some of my fellow Ansanian English teachers (they call themselves the ‘Ansan Massive’) at the Hookah bar. We drank vodka and fruit juice and partook of (apparently a melon-flavoured) hookah. This was my first time, and, while any sort of smoking is anathema to me, I felt I couldn’t really refuse (not that I minded). The inhalation was nothing – no taste, no indication that I was breathing anything but air. The exhalation revealed a very mild taste; I’m not sure how to describe it – it didn’t seem very melony – it was slightly fruity, flowery, perfumy, smoky. But it was pleasant enough.

The party at the Hookah Bar was divided in two – I was on the side with all the people I knew; on the other side were a bunch of people I didn’t know at all (excepting one person). Our side left after a while and went to Sincheon (I think that’s how it’s spelt) to look for a couple of places we’d been told of. We didn’t find either and eventually ended up at a place called The Bar. It was a fairly nice place – not nice in the literal sense, but pleasantly grotty. The music wasn’t too bad. However, maybe because of deepening tiredness and incipient nausea, perhaps because, as usual, everyone else was having a much better time than me and the music was too loud to have an effective conversation, I started becoming invisible. In other words, I became withdrawn and unnoticed. Earlier, I’d asked the DJ to play a Metallica song (‘King Nothing’ – Load seemed to be the only Metallica album they had, although there was an empty space next to it); he nodded reluctantly and pulled the CD partway off the shelf, as if he would pick it up later. Of course, he didn’t. Feeling more and more lonely and sick, I left some time no too long before five.

I sat in a tiny park near the public toilets for half an hour or so and, having been informed (via the magic of mobile telephony) that the girls had gotten a taxi and the boys would probably leave soon-ish and that the subway started up at 5:30, I went to the nearest subway station. I got back to Ansan at around seven o’clock.

After a few hours sleep I got up again, feeling tired, but not badly so, and started making a move to meet Paul in Seoul. He rang me to call it off just as I was approaching the subway station – he’d bumped into friends who were leaving tomorrow.

Now, I’m going to see if I can work up some interest in a game of Monopoly – my first ever in Korea.

(There is more I could add to this post, regarding a conversation I had with a colleague last night, but I’m not going to write about it now; my excuse is that I don’t have time.)

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