The word ‘working’ is clearly one than needs to be redefined for anyone who finds themselves teaching in Korea. If you ever end up being employed by a Korean public school, you’ll quickly learn that ‘working’ actually means ‘being physically present at the place where you are employed’ much more than actually doing anything productive.
For instance, I ‘work’ for 48 hours a week. What that actually means is that I teach for 22 hours a week, but have to be at school, doing whatever I feel like, for another 26 hours a week. So, even if my first class of the day is at 11:30, I’m still getting up at 7:15 to be at school and deskwarming by 8:30.
So, I’ve been spending a massive amount of my free time here at work improving my French.
Learning a language in a country where no one speaks it is really not the easiest way to do it! I’ve been spending a lot of time learning with the Rosetta Stone program, which has been really useful for finessing my grammar and my accent, but leaves something to be desired in terms of content. At times I feel like the program should probably just be narrated by Dustin Hoffman, as so many of the phrases seem like something that would come in handy if I were having a conversation with the Rainman. Can you imagine needing to go up to someone and say:
“There are six blue plates and four green plates.”
“These are my shoes. Those are my wife’s shoes.”
Not exactly the stuff that stimulating conversation is made of.
On the other hand, I’ve also been learning a lot more by listening to music, watching movies, and reading in French, which is entirely more profitable although so much more exhausting! I am, however, slightly ashamed of the fact that I was way too shy to practice speaking French at all with my last couchsurfer from France. She was so fluent in English, and our conversations were always so interesting, that I couldn’t quite bring myself to start blundering around awkwardly in a foreign language–it would have been like throwing a wrench into a well running conversation.
If only my friend David, a 40 year old French Divemaster who lived on Koh Tao when I did, were still around to have rambling bilingual conversations with – that inevitably turn into one sided philosophical discourse and the dispensation of life advice. It feels so much more natural when neither of you are fluent in each other’s language (or sober)!
The only problem with talking to David is that since a certain day a couple of years ago, I can’t help cracking up every time he tells me (and he often does), with one of the sincerest expressions I have ever seen on a man’s face, that being my dive buddy on my ‘naked dive’ (a ritual that every aspiring Divemaster must ungergo on their 100th dive) was one of the most memorable experiences he’s ever had.
It’s not as bad as it sounds though – though this never fails to stop everyone else listening to start rolling on the ground with laughter!
He’s always actually referring to a moment at the end of the dive. By this point he’d run out of air from laughing too hard and was breathing from my alternate air source. We were floating in the middle of nowhere, nothing but blue around us, when a massive silhouette began to emerge from the distance. Excited as all hell, we, being overconfident young dive professionals, obviously started swimming toward it as fast as we possibly could, thinking it was some sort of massive shark or something!
Finally as the silhouette’s form begins to take clearer shape, we realize that it’s a gigantic marlin! It, unfortunately, seemed to notice us at that exact same moment and started swimming right at us. As marlins are open water fish and rarely seen by divers, we’d never heard any stories about whether or not they’re safe to run into. But, the meter long sword on its nose pointed straight toward us and only coming closer, managed to convince us pretty quickly that heading to the surface in a reasonably timely manner might be our best bet!
But really, everyone’s always so far into hysterics by this point over the fact that my naked dive was ‘one of his most memorable experiences’ that no one can really hear him trying to explain that!
Come to think of it, I think I did prefer ‘deckwarming’ between dives at my last job to ‘deskwarming’ between classes at this one.