Unpaid and unsure

Another day without answers.  The owner was scarcely seen at school today; some saw it as a sign that he was working to get the money, others read his absence in a much darker light.  I’m not sure what to think about him or the administration.  Part of why I came here was to teach the kids, but that was only part.  This is a job, not volunteer work and unfortunately I don’t need another volunteering bullet on my resume.

The foreign teachers were called into the principals office after school so she could read a letter from the owner.  Many did not trust that it was in fact his own words or that her translation of his Korean was accurate.  It seemed to be a heartfelt letter; the problem was that it was lacking a solution or reason.    We were asked to trust them and be patient, that he doesn’t want to close the school but, if we starting taking drastic actions he might change his mind.

With some carefully worded questions we were able to get the principal to tell us how the owner is planning to get the money.  He is in the process of selling “one of his buildings,” we just hope its not this one.  The fact that we know he has a Ferrari, a BMW and now multiple buildings but failed to come up with the money for 2 weeks is unsettling to say the least.  Unfortunately there was no time-frame on the building sale so again we pried a few answers from the administration.  What happens if he can’t sell or it takes too long?  What about the income the school is making on tuition?

Bingo, we don’t know where the tuition money has been going but we are getting skeptical.  It gets delivered to an accountant who then pays us from the owners account.  A few teachers crunched the numbers and it doesn’t add up.  Tuition should be more than enough to cover the employees salaries.  Accusations about the owner taking money from this school for a different investment came flying out only to be retold that this school “doesn’t make a profit.”  Not the words we wanted to hear.

The good news is that the next round of tuition will be held by the principal to pay us directly, if our owner is unable to come up with the funds himself.  The bad news is that tuition isn’t due until this Friday and next week is a national holiday, Chuseok.  It takes up to 5 business days for the turn around so we’d have to wait until September 24th.  Personally, I still doubt I’ll get my paycheck on the 24th as it isn’t owed to me until the 5th of next month but I will find out for sure tomorrow.

A number of my coworkers say that the 24th is too long.  3 weeks without pay and not knowing whether or not the next paycheck will follow suit is unacceptable, by any standard, let alone when living in a foreign country.

Nobody knows what will happen; no one wants the school to close but all of us foreigners know that we can’t afford to work for free and can easily find work elsewhere.  One of my coworkers even had an unsolicited offer today; he hasn’t decided what to do with it and doesn’t want to screw the rest of us over.  We are meeting again tomorrow morning to determine if we are even comfortable waiting.

One glimmer of solace is that the principal has repeatedly said that there is a $1 million dollar deposit on the school.  If it closes the money is returned and she will use that to pay all of our back pay; provided we keep working.  Many of us don’t trust her and think she is just telling another lie; maybe its because I’m the eager new guy but I believe her.

I found the hostel I’ll stay in if I need to and will be contacting other recruiters just in case but am keeping my fingers crossed that the owner can sort this out asap!  I even was able to get the administration to agree to a contract renegotiation after we are paid.

The kids are still adorable and I really enjoy working with them but I’d like it even better if I knew that I had a paycheck coming.

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Anyang from Korea!

Ever had a birthday and someone asks if you feel a year older but you feel the same?  Well that’s kinda how I feel about being here. I feel like I should be bursting at the seams with excitement having just arrived in a foreign country, my home for the next year, but I feel just the same as when I left.  I think that’s a good thing? Or perhaps exhaustion.

It is confusing not being able to read street signs or have any conversation with my taxi driver. But, I lived in Boston for 4 years so street signs are irrelevant and how many New York cabbies can you really understand?  Had a minor incident in not figuring out how to turn on my AC and the hotel repair guy didn’t speak English. Turns out the thermostat is useless and I just need a remote so we got by on hand gestures and a double facepalm.

The flights went swimmingly well. Only hit turbulence a few times and enjoyed an assortment of food and drink.  Didn’t sleep too much but that should help with the jet lag, especially after nearly 26 hours of travel.

I’m in a hotel tonight and tomorrow and about to head to bed.  2 coworkers met me at my hotel and helped check me in. They were exceptionally nice and that bodes well for the workplace.
They are coming back in the morning and taking me to the school to meet everyone and show me around town.

There really is Wi-Fi everywhere so far and the nighttime cityscape looks pretty sweet.  Good night for now!

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