A day in the Life

September 24, 2016

…of a guy trying to make a living as a freelance English teacher.

I don’t think this is a rant but a warning to others who might look for this kind of work in South Korea. To some extent I am, not thinking ‘aloud’ but thinking ‘atext’; working things out on paper. Welcome to the way my mind works. Caveat lector!

Yesterday I left the apartment at 8:30 with the expectation of returning home around 7:00 and working four hours during those ten-and-a-half.  Things didn’t work out that way and I am not sure what the result was.

First, I went to a factory that had been taken over by a multi-national which wanted all or most of the employees to speak English. I was there to administer an oral level test of ten employees.  I was never made aware of all the end results of my judgement. I know  in at least some cases, the students were tested to see what sort of English class would be a good fit. All the people I interviewed spoke about job stress and drinking too much alcohol. It is possible that if an employee’s level did not improve, they might be let go. I’m not saying that will happen but, some of the employees seemed tense. The range of ability was from very low to nearly native speaker level.

After the interviews were done, I spoke with the organizer. She works at a corporate English recruiting firm – does that company description sound right? She had placed an ad on Craig’s List for corporate private teaching and similar work and I had applied. Anyway, the original position was to teach an executive at this company. I was accepted. Then the executive decided he would rather have a Korean English teacher. Then they offered me this level testing gig. Then the executive decided he wanted a foreigner and I might have that job. The level testing gig was moved to a new day. …

The people at the recruiting firm were not exactly jerking my chain. As middle-men, they had to adjust to a variety of schedules and whims.

Another similar company has also hired me to teach a few classes in October that will conflict with teaching the executive. I may have to cancel or reschedule two days. It didn’t seem a big deal to me because of all the rescheduling I had been through at the hands of the recruiters.

We discussed this and the recruiter is delivering messages to and fro to see what to do when I miss those days.

So we separate and I have three hours until my next gig, which is maybe forty minutes away. I buy a drink at a Paris Baguette and type for a while.

At the next job I am replacing a teacher who had to return home for a funeral. I actually don’t know how much I will be paid. I had the time free and feel this is the compassionate thing to do. I do expect to be paid.

And when I get there, I learn they have nothing for me to do and I should go home.  I had already worked there Monday and Wednesday and had a schedule for Friday. No, they tell me, I am not needed because the students had come in the day before. I did not raise my voice but noted that I had organized my day around this work and had traveled a hour to get there and would travel an hour more to get home.

I am not good with money.

In this case, as noted, I wasn’t expecting to receive a lot of money for the work, but I do need to convince myself to fight for the hours to be paid for. It hardly mattered what the rate was, I deserved it for the 2.5 hours I had expected to work there.

I think I will be paid for a satisfactory amount of hours there.

At home two hours early, I checked my email and saw an email from the second recruiting company. This is the company with work in October. They have offered me a two day Presentation Skills in English class and a three day Presentation Skills in English class. They interviewed me for the two day class and offered the the three day one as well.  Both take place a significant distance south, in the same town but for different groups in different locations. The two day event will pay X won and the email I received asked me if I would do the three day class for X won. The pay for two days is good if not worth dancing over. The pay for three days – the same pay or 1/3 less per hour – is still good. Better than sitting at home, not being paid.

I am not good with money. Imagine a Victorian trying to explain inter-racial sex to another person’s children and you have an idea of how uncomfortable I am in walking the line between appearing to be greedy and having a desire for fair pay.

After I finish this post, I will craft an email explaining my point. My main concern here is that the same company is hiring me to teach similar material -but of differing durations – at the same cost. If a sixteen hour course is worth X, then a twenty-four hour course should be worth 3/2X.  A complicating point is that the money offered per hour would not be enough for one hour or even two. It would be worthwhile for four or more because I only travel once and the activity causes only one conflict rather than a continuing stream of them.

Freelancing is challenging!

September 8, 2016

things-you-should-know-before-hiring-a-freelancer

Image from.

In early July, I moved to Incheon, where my wife had been transferred, from Busan, where I had worked and my son went to school.  We were a happy family again…

A week later, I went to Gangwon Province to work at an ESL camp, returning to Incheon in mid August. Two weeks later, the whole family – all the in-laws – went to Jeju Island to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.

In between all that and continuing to this moment, I have been looking for work.  Summer isn’t the peak hiring season for universities although I applied to all within, first 50 km, then 80 km and then as classes began, up to 120 km away.  Nothing.

I had been looking at piece work but didn’t want to commit in case I found a long term employer.  And so, now I diving into piece-work.

So far, I can’t complain about being too busy. I spend an hour or two a day on four websites: Koreabridge, Dave’s ESL Cafe, Craig’s List and Facebook specialty pages with job listings (you need to be invited to these so no link here). Of the group, Craig’s List has the best short term listings. Or, it has the most, which might not be the same thing.

Now is a good time to note that I have an F-6 visa, different from most native speaker English teachers, and working at a variety of places is permitted. As a university instructor, my contracts included a clause that I would not work off campus without the permission of the university. In other words, working off campus sometimes meant breaking the contract rather than breaking the law.

And so currently on my plate are:

subbing for a few days for a person going home for a funeral,

an interview for teaching one evening a week at a high school,

and working in a nearby suburb with a young professional and being paid by his corporation.

The thing is, the funeral was put off a week (I don’t know how that works), the professional wants to meet me today, next Tuesday but can’t, and not can because I don’t have subbing to do and the meeting I was going to have with the high school at 5:00 but couldn’t because of the subbing was moved to 6:30 and now back to 6:00.

I look at ten positions and mailed three to five applications a day and when I get responses, they don’t always include information on the position.  Today, I had to ask an employer (No, let’s say client. It sounds better) to refresh my memory on the details.

I now keep Google Calendar open all the time in a browser and will now record the details of every position I apply to in a dated file, “applications Sept 8” to help me keep track.

My brother-in-law is a dentist and an incredible guy.  The thing about dentists is, they are masters of production line throughput in a way that I don’t see with other medical doctors.  While the freezing is taking effect in a patient’s mouth, or an X-ray is developing (that might be an outdated phrase now, do digital x-rays develop?), he is doing the actual fingers-in-mouth work or interviewing a patient or parent…. At his home, he has horses and the farrier (I mean the guy who trims the hooves and works with horseshoes. I think that’s the right term) was in to work while I visited. The two discussed the similarities in their work, with my brother-in-law saying, “First, you find work, then you get a reputation, then you find work sites closer together and choose clients deliberately rather than desperately”.

That describes my plans, such as they are.  The three work sites are not close to home but will get me noticed.  The corporate work is likely to grow and in my interview, I described this first contract as a probationary one for both of us. We would both see how the other worked and hopefully grow from there.  They are interested and eager to find me work in my home neighbourhood if they can.

I gotta keep organized and on top of the schedules and check the postings every day.  It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.

Surprise! Now I live in Incheon

July 21, 2016

An internet friend who has blogged for a few years in Korea has moved back home and hung up his keyboard. He writes:

… I’ve felt less compulsion to blog, perhaps not just due to a lack of time, but also because I’ve become extremely familiar with this country that I now feel is truly my second home.

I’ve felt the same way.  In Gangwondo, I was one of only a few English language bloggers and felt I filled a needed niche.  Plus, the place was weird.   Now I am comfortable in Korea and I moved to a giant city with many bloggers.  I don’t know but I guess I posted five or ten things since I moved to Busan six years ago.

Some of those posts were good.  I am proud of my discussion of libel in Korea.  But I just didn’t feel the urge to blog here.

I deliberately unlocked my blog from a location.  My previous blog was titled ‘Gangwon Notes’ and once I left it, I felt strange in adding to it. Surprisesaplenty is supposed to be open.  Maybe it is too open.  For reasons hard to explain my creativitiproject blog has been going well. Open in location but focused on subject matter seems to be the way to go.

My wife was recently transferred to Incheon and I have moved there to join her. My life is currently very befitting the title of this blog as my life is in a state of flux. What will I do next? Teach?  Take the plunge and write full time?  Organize my blogs so they fit together?

I’m not giving up on this blog but I don’t know where my adventures will lead.

On Policing – a rambling exploration of violence

June 10, 2016

What is it like to be a police officer?  On the one hand, there is this letter by a police officer’s wife (heavily snipped):

Dear Officer,

I want you to know that I see you.  I see you choose the booth in the restaurant that allows you to have your back against the wall.  I see you walking to your next traffic stop while you hope that it isn’t your last. … I see your cause and I want you to know that I appreciate it.

I need you.  We need you.  America needs you.  I know that the world isn’t making it any easier for you to wake up with the same passion you had when you first started.  I know the world is making it extremely difficult for you to feel like anyone is on your side.  I know the world is making you feel like the only allies you have can only be found in each other.  I know that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to put your life on the line for a world that has seemingly turned their backs on you.

I wish I knew how to fix it.  The only thing I know how to do is support you.  I’m aware that there isn’t a magic solution that will make the world see you for who you are; the amazing men and women in blue.  I just want you to know that I see you. I need you to know that you are appreciated by a vast majority who is in your corner.  I need you to know that you aren’t alone.  I need you to feel the presence of those who love and support you.  We are rallied behind you and ready to defend your character at any given moment.  You are honorable.  You are courageous.  You are worthy of a nation’s support.

And on the other side, police officer tased teen into coma.

police violence

 

The letter is from the wife of a police officer.  I am the son, grandson and husband of police officers.  If my eyes were better, I might be one myself -or at least have applied. The two extremes posted above, plus the killing of Sammy Yatim by police officer James Forcillo in Toronto have made me unsure of where I stand.

Background on Yatim.  The mentally man stepped onboard a bus and threatened the other passengers with a knife.  They were evacuated, police arrived and Yatim was shot by Forcillo:

On August 19, 2013, James Forcillo was charged with second-degree murder. On July 30, 2014, he was also charged with attempted murder. On January 25, 2016, Forcillo was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, but guilty of attempted murder.

At issue in this case was how much of a threat Yatim was.  The passengers had been removed, but the man had a knife.  How far apart were Yatim and Forcillo? Did Forcillo need to approach Yatim at that time?  It appears he, and other officers, could have waited outside the bus.

I’ll return to this in a moment, but I wrote “unsure of where I stand”.  That is still unclear, even in what line or side I imagine exist to stand on or in.

There is one more bit of history to include. My own father was investigated for a shooting.  This was long ago and I do not know the details. Maybe it is better I don’t.  Maybe the question here is, ‘Am I brave enough to learn family history?’

What I think I recall is my father and other officers had a man in a car surrounded. I think he was an escaped convict or possibly a suspect in a violent crime.  It was suspected that he was armed.  In the course of events (how neutrally I phrase this), the man’s hand dipped out of sight and someone (this is not an evasion – I don’t think anyone knows who it was) fired.  At this point, every officer emptied his pistol.

One important point I can add for the education of any  readers. To fire less than every bullet in a revolver or automatic gun requires more control than firing two or three.  If a person thinks his/her life is at risk, there is no benefit to a halfway measure.  The dead don’t get any more dead so firing more shots than needed has no downside.  In any case of a killing by firearm, the fact of the killing is important and should be legally actionable, but the bullet count is not important.

This is a key difference between the Ontario Provincial Police (and probably police in all of North America) and at least one police group in South Korea.  Here in South Korea, officers are trained (how well, I cannot say) to wound, to aim for a leg or arm.

Back to my father.  The killing was ruled justified and aside from nightmares, my father and the other officers received no punishment.

Training now is far different for police officers.  in the 1960’s, my father was hired either right out of high school or soon afterwards.  Police today are often university degree holders and older hires, late twenties or so, are preferred.

Fifty years ago, a few members from every detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police were sent to Wasaga Beach for a long weekend holiday in May -known as the May two four weekend.  They weren’t there to relax but to rein in the motorcycle gangs that converged on the otherwise quiet village.  I am too young to recall, but my father would return home bleeding at night on occasion.  Who were these bikers to disrespect the law and who were these officers who did not have the confidence to stamp the problem out? For that matter, who were the general public that didn’t give enough support to the police to handle the matter safely for all concerned, especially the police that were wounded in such battle?

I imagine if a similar problem presented itself today, enough force would be found to charge all gang members at the location and people would accept the rationale for the arrests.

Today, police in Canada are armoured more by their badge than their vest or weapons. If a police officer is threatened, the public normally sides with the officer.

They didn’t side with Forcillo and his position was no defence at sentencing.

The mandatory minimum prison sentence for attempted murder with a restricted firearm was never intended to apply to police whose job is to protect the public, a lawyer for a Toronto officer found guilty in the shooting death of a troubled teen argued Thursday.

But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.

“It’s not a licence to kill,” Justice Edward Then said of police-issued guns. “Police officers are entrusted with the use of a gun for a particular purpose. In this case the jury has found that it wasn’t to serve and protect but it was with the purpose of attempting to kill.”

I feel Forcillo’s profession, and it is a profession now, unlike in my father’s day – does earn him special consideration when on trial for actions done while on duty.  I am definitely not talking specifically about Forcillo, as I know only some of the details available to the public. Here is my reasoning.  In the past, and probably still, killing a police officer who had identified himself as such, was a greater crime than killing someone who wasn’t a police officer.  I feel this is fair because police are required to approach danger while others are welcome, even encouraged, to move away from danger.  Making the killing of a police officer a more serious crime was a way to protect people who worked to protect us.  In the same way, giving the police some greater leeway when they use force seems fair.  They aren’t supposed to retreat from danger the way I, for example, am.

I don’t feel the police should get a free ride, should be able to murder with no consequences.  But I do feel reduced consequences are reasonable.

Hmmm. I do feel I cleared up at least one point in my own mind. “But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.” He definitely should not be exempt. But the possibility of a lower sentence should be open.  If the standard sentence is five to ten years, I feel Forcillo should be looking at three to ten years.  He should not be exempt from a long sentence, but his position as a person who could not run away should mean something.

Now, in reading Boingboing, one might come to the conclusion that police already are free of many legal restrictions and punishments we civilians are bound by. That link is to posts tagged with ‘police’ and a few are not relevant but most are.  I can only hope they are American poli… Not, I don’t want any police officer or department to be so poorly overseen. For the police to be protected, the public has to have faith in them.  I have faith but not quite as much as the wife that wrote the letter excerpted above.

I will finish with this thought.    My father was a patient man with me but also an angry man in general.  Kind-hearted, generous and friendly, but so often angry.  I know what it is like to be a police officer’s son and we heard from the wife of a police officer.  I wonder if police themselves are able to talk about such things.  How do they stay professional – or what makes their professionalism break down?

New direction, same posting rate?

April 17, 2016

I enjoy blogging.

Really.

I do most of it these days at creativiti project and Evolution Creation Busan. I, uh, don’t really care for the name of the latter blog but I do post there once a month or so.  At creativiti project, I post a little more than once a week.

This article at motherboard has encouraged me to attempt something similar: Facebook group identifies rare species in Cambodia.

…the loss of a generation of scientists under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s has stunted scientific research into the country’s wildlife for half a century.

But over the past three years, a social media group set up by a pair of nature enthusiasts wanting to share their encounters with the country’s wilderness has mushroomed into a dynamic online community of “citizen scientists” that has provided experts with insights into the distribution of some of the country’s native species and become a portal through which members of the public have witnessed newly-discovered species for the first time.

My goals are a little less grand.  I would love to find rare species but I would settle for less-known species.  Korea has a thriving biology field at universities but I would like to share such information in English.

I enjoyed making such posts and want to do more in that regard.  If I have enough content, perhaps I will look at transferring it to Facebook.

fsgh

Alternative Reality Gaming as an ESL Activity

October 11, 2015

I’ve just finished day one of two of KOTESOL International Conference.  Some presentations were better than others but one, though not the best transfer of information seems the most interesting to build on in the next semester.

An Alternative Reality Game has many of the following elements: fictional narrative, interactive, transmedia (takes place in the real world and online in a variety of media), “This is not a game” mentality (don’t break character), puzzles and codes.  The 1997 Michael Douglas movie, The Game, is an example and another one is given below.

Oh, the talk was given by Paul Starr of Seoul National University.  He gave a good talk that explained the basics but I don’t think it got into the “Participants will then be asked to design some basic ARG elements for their own learning environments.” part described in the conference guide.  To be fair, he had a lot to cover in a short time and I did become interested enough in the idea to want to learn more and that’s gotta be an indicator of success.

I think I’m at three now:  On the third hand, he also included a code game on his handout so some of us ignored part of his talk to solve his mini game.

I teach various classes at my university and also run voluntary activities at the “English Cafe”.  In the past, we’ve watched The Simpsons -with questions to be answered for a prize, played board games (again with prizes available) and every semester we have a scavenger hunt.  If I can get this going, next semester we will have an ARG instead of the Scavenger Hunt.

As my very first brainstormed ideas, I envision:

  • Some kind of code or QR code in the official class information for ESL students.  Leading to…
  • Posters randomly appearing on campus – at the English Cafe and elsewhere.
  • Interruptions or notices during half-times of sporting events or school festival week.
  • Directions to as many English locations on campus – the library has at least two floors with English hard cover books, the ESL profs’ offices, the TOEIC testing room, ….

The big thing lacking is a narrative.  As a sci-fi/ fantasy fan, could it be the signals of a future Dongseo student trapped in time by an experiment in the engineering or medical training spaces?  Or is that too cliche?  Whatever, I want to do this.

ARGs on Dave’s ESL Cafe

An old ARG that rests, slowly decaying, online.

Socks incorporated

Alternative Reality Gaming  Network

Finally argued enough to get them to take my blood.

September 16, 2015

It took a surprising amount of work to get the staff in the blood bus to take my blood.

blood take it

Image from here.  All other mine.

I asked some medical students to assist me and they spoke to the staff but were quickly convinced that I wouldn’t be able to give blood and they were unable to translate the form correctly.  I want to thank them for trying.

 

I took the survey to our office assistants and one was able to help me through it.  Once back at the bus, I showed them the completed form and told them I’d given blood before.  That finally made them interested and seemed to start the process.  Sitting in the waiting area, I, and four students, could hear them discussing the Wae-guk-in (foreigner) in what I felt was a breach of privacy but finally I met the nurse for an interview…and they showed me a fully translated form of the sort they had demanded I find translation assistance for! Jerks!

 

Some photos of the process.
blood donation (3 a)

 

Above my head were a set of posters.  I think the one below lists suggestions in case I feel dizzy.  It might just as well be ways to exercise to get a real good head rush after donation.  ‘Feeling dizzy? Don’t waste it.  Do some V-sits!”

blood donation (1 a)

 

Really, I was treated well.  After all, I was a hero! At home I shared the cookies, which I described to my son as the most expensive in the world.  Nobody can buy many cookies as 400ml per box. None for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

blood donation (5 a)

 

 

After I gave blood, I asked the guides if I could take their picture.  They made jokes about the sashes and a Miss Korea contest. Then they told me I could give blood if I wanted to.  I guess I had snuck in and out behind themblood donation (6 a)

Two hopefully gone medical conditions

July 19, 2015

I’m going to say ten years ago, I had a weird fuzziness in part of my eye. It was like a hair on my lens making everything I looked at out-of-focus. I could see to navigate but often held my head or eye at an angle to try to read through a clear portion of my field of view. Closing the eye didn’t help and it didn’t feel like something was physically touching my eye. After half an hour it would go away for days or weeks or months or several years now. I can’t remember the last time I had the problem but I did have it often enough to start recording when it happened and how I felt. Those notes are gone. It was annoying but strangely not terrifying. Was I just fatalistic, resigned?
I don’t think the next condition I had was at exactly the same time but the two overlapped. This condition started, I think, during a bout of food poisoning. between races to the toilet, I would relax and fall asleep. The dream would get weird and very realistic and I felt strong dejavu. Then my stomach would tighten and I would awaken trying to remember the dream.
But trying to remember also seemed like a trigger. For the next few years, I would be daydreaming and sometimes my train of thought would take me to a buried memory and as I tried to recall it, suddenly my stoamch would cramp, I would feel weak and have trouble standing – just too tired. Then it would go away. I would get maybe five episodes over a day or a day and half and those episodes would start very intense but fade. I distinctly remember two things. 1) being afraid to remember something for fear it would trigger another attack and 2) trying to remember the scene or event that tantalized just before the attack.
I think the last attack was a year ago, while at a sports camp.
Sometimes, I was unusually tired or sick when either of these attacks occured but for some of them I can’t think of any specific trigger. I don’t recall having both things happen at the same time.
I think the descriptions I gave above are vague and a little scary and I have never been able to make them clearer. The frequency was just too low for me to note any connections between them.
I’m feeling pretty good these days, aside from the entirely understandable pain and stiffness in my legs from all the running. I am eleven kg lighter than last year now. From around 2000 to 2013 or 2014, I was over 90kg and maxed out at 95._kg in the winter of 2014. Could being slimmer and healthier be the difference?
Well, I now wear progressive lens glasses, with the top third being for long distance and the bottom bit for closeups so age is still taking its toll on me.

15 km run

July 16, 2015

I’ll go swimming this afternoon and see if that relaxes my legs.

humble brag

The course was 2.8 km out and back, followed by 1.35 km out and back on the same route times three and 0.65 km and back at the end.  I had planned for a little further but needed to get home and wake up my son for school.

Although I started ten minutes later than I wanted, I am pleased with my planning.  I got up at 4:20 AM and walked around the apartment and got dressed: Vaseline various places where clothes rub and bandages on my ankles for the same reason, standard running clothes and two extra bandannas packed with my Gatorade so I could replace them as they filled with sweat.  I also packed an extra shirt but chose not to make that exchange during the run.  I needed to walk around the apartment before the run to loosen up.  As a middle-aged runner, it takes a while before I can walk comfortably in the morning.

I am not sure how the GPS device in my phone works.  The course was 2.8, 1.35 or .65 km in one direction, followed by a 180-degree turn.  I feel I ran 15km and Mapmywalk recorded 15.89km so maybe at each turn, it pretends I made it to the edge of the error bar, giving me twenty-ish metres extra on each leg.  That doesn’t quite add up.  It also shows a thirty metre change in altitude while the course varied by perhaps five metres.

Anyway, I am proud of the run and will definitely attempt a half marathon in the Fall, when it is cooler.

 

Unfamiliar with the ocean, not stupid

July 9, 2015

In my years as a lifeguard in Canada, I rescued maybe three or four people.  Here in Korea, as a capable citizen who happened to be in the right place, I’ve rescued around ten.

In neither case am I describing technically demanding rescues.  My frequent training at in-services and yearly testing in rescues involving spinal injuries has never been tested nor has my CPR know-how.

To be honest, I do remember rescuing a few people in Canada but the details were so minor that I don’t remember what they were.  Here in Korea, all ten people were riding inner tubes or inflatables when the wind blew away from shore with greater power than the rider could paddle against and so were carried out to sea.

I must admit I  thought the inflatable riders were stupid to put themselves at risk if they couldn’t swim.  An incident in Canada, involving an Ontario man pulled to sea by ocean tides and currents in Nova Scotia has made me consider otherwise.

Despite the callous online comments on last week’s story about an Ontario man luckily rescued after being swept to sea at Peggys Cove, the meme of the “friendly” Nova Scotian is not a myth.

Visitors might be forgiven for thinking otherwise after reading the often heartless remarks that met a Toronto man’s call for more to be done to ensure people’s safety at the iconic location after his friend had nearly drowned when a large wave pulled him from the rocks last Thursday afternoon.

Some examples: You can’t fix stupid. Darwinism. Idiots without common sense. And so on.

As if it’s not possible for someone with no experience of the ocean to be simply completely unfamiliar with the danger presented by the powerful, unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. People who didn’t grow up here and don’t live here, and who may not have seen — yes, they do get missed by some visitors — any of the warning signs, but who, according to the above “logic,” somehow deserve whatever they get.

There is at least one big difference.  Nova Scotia is famous for the largest tides in the world.  The Bay of Fundy is quite a distance from Peggy’s Cove but still runs two metres.

I don’t think I would blame a Korean an encounter with poison ivy because he or she would have no reason to be wary of it.  As a measure of my own (lack of) intelligence, I had poison ivy rashes three times in one year and not as a child, either.

I still think water is a universal.  It’s everywhere.  I don’t think all Koreans get swimming lessons in grade four as Ontario school children do, but they take baths.  I cannot fully excuse a Korean that gets in trouble in the water but I will be a little more tolerant from now on.