Accepting a new contract!

Last Friday I finally got my letter of release!  I immediately emailed it over to Young Hoon Elementary and first thing Monday morning I had a contract sitting in my inbox.  That was yesterday.  I looked it over and printed it out before giving it to one of the office assistants to fax.  Now its Tuesday and I got my “welcome to Young Hoon” email!

Its such a huge weight off my shoulders to know that not only will I be able to leave my current atrocity of a “school” but that I’ve got a great job lined up with a month of summer and winter vacations!  I don’t know what age I’ll teach yet but I asked for 4th grade and  I’ll be working with 3 of my current coworkers (Susan, Sara, & Brian).  We are apartment hunting together in the upcoming weeks  and hopefully we can find somewhere with 4 apartments and have our own Seoul version of Friends!

With my new-found vacation time I’m going to try to do some backpacking in Vietnam and get out to the Pacific Northwest US over the summer; likely for a little backpacking with my same troupe that I went through the Southwest US last summer.  If all goes well I’ll end with a stint back in NJ before teaching the second half of the school year in Seoul.

Teaching this week has been a little tough but that’s mostly due to the students being off their rockers.  I’m sure things will settle out again soon and I just created a social story to help our “favorite” student behave on the bus and throughout the day.  I enjoyed meeting some new friends and practicing my Korean & Russian last night at a coffee shop and am looking forward to my second Korean class tonight!

We are supposed to be paid in 2 days but I don’t think any of us actually expect to get our paychecks on time.  When I brought up the payday last week with my principal she said “maybe” and they are still expecting me to repay half my flight out here (roughly $430).  I told them “maybe” I’d pay them when we get paid, but am going to do my best to keep my money.  My contract says nothing about having to negotiate or pay for a letter of release like they forced me to.  I’m prepared to go to the ministry of labor if they withhold it from my paycheck (which is what I’m expecting to happen).

Thanks for following and cheering me on through this struggle.  The support has certainly been welcome and I haven’t lost sight of my real motivation for coming to Korea.  I am loving living abroad and learning about the wonderful culture here.   They tell me its all part of the “honeymoon” phase but in spite of all the garbage I am dealing with at work I am really having a great time!

Payday… just kidding

Today was interesting.  I’ve been on the job for a week already.  It somehow seems like longer but I guess that’s good since I feel like I’m already used to the routine.  We are supposed to be paid on the 5th of the month; I spoke to my administration yesterday about this and told them I expected the week’s worth of pay.  They informed me that the first paycheck comes after 1 month since they do direct deposit and I don’t have a bank account yet.  This seemed slightly off but I planned ahead and knew I would be fine.  My coworkers had a different experience.

They have all been here for more than a week(duh) and fully expected to be paid today.  Unfortunately it appears my school is encountering some financial trouble and they have decided to break contract with ALL the teachers by not paying us on the 5th.  They (I wasn’t invited to this lively meeting) were told that they will be paid on Monday, maybe.  Immediately talk went through the foreign and Korean teachers about what was going on.  We were told that enrollment was low but the math didn’t quite add up since tuition from only 2 students in our AM program pays for 1 teacher’s salary.  My coworker Colin even went through the math about other expenses with our principal and it didn’t quite add up.

A handful of Korean teachers walked out early (we are contractually obligated to stay until 6pm) and those of us without students gathered to discuss.  As the newcomer who was owed 1/4 of the rest in this paycheck I felt my voice wasn’t much help but stood by everyone nonetheless.  The gossip was that the school may be going under; an unfortunately common occurrence in Korea.  Apparently this is the 3rd time this year they have been late on paying the Korean teachers but the first time for us foreign folk.  At this point I don’t think that is looming but it certainly keeps things interesting.  We have a foreign teacher meeting tomorrow to discuss our options and decide how to respond.

Somehow I still feel pretty calm about it.  My main worry was that I would be sent home.  That would only happen if I failed to find a new job and the ease at which I was offered positions while still in the States pales in comparison to how quick the process goes for qualified teachers living in Seoul.  Hopefully this all settles down soon but either way I may be looking for a new school in the coming months.