dragon in the heart of the city
you understand the words that are coming
out of my mouth?" Chris Tucker,
Rush Hour .
was only back in the states for two months
when I received a phone call one day requesting
my assistance. I had placed my
resume online seeking a teaching position
in the Philadelphia. I had been
interviewing with several institutions
but nothing compared with the offer I
received on the phone. They offered
free housing, relocation compensations,
healthcare, a small taxed salary, and
a round-trip airfare ticket. I
thought this was a great opportunity.
The only thing was that I had to
travel over 6,000 miles form my place
of origin. I had to relocate to
a new country, South Korea. I slept
on the idea and the next week I agreed
to take the job.
whole new world, a dazzling place I never
knew..."Aladdin, Walt Disney
shot of the Seoul skyline
had three weeks to prepare for my departure
to South Korea, from the date I accepted
the offer. I told my family who
were supportive and not that surprised.
I had just returned from a three-month
trip to Ghana. I had sent all my
important documents for proper entry into
the country. I was slapped with
a $67.00 FedEx bill, this trip better
be worth it I thought. I knew then
I was going to be a long way from home.
I did some research on Korea prior
to my departure to familiarize myself
with the culture. I was content
with my decision and had an open-mind.
My family and I had a Karaoke (Nore
Bong) Party the day before I left.
I wanted to have a Korean experience with
them before I left. I was not going
to be alone because Justin, my best friend/boyfriend,
was accompanying me on this journey.
We were going to embark on a new adventure.
Who would have thought that two
young adults from North Philadelphia inner
city would make Korea their home for a
I stepped off the plane and it was like
technology heaven. Everything was
super modern. My new boss picked
me up from the airport and drove me to
my new place. Justin was coming
over the next week. My boss is
a short Korean man who was a fast talker.
We arrived at my place and I was
amazed at how modern Korea was compared
to some of the pictures I looked at.
Uh-oh, a single bed, but I requested a
queen and I was promised it. I
knew then it was the beginning of a rocky
road. Justin accompanied me the
next week. He was just as amazed
on how modern Korea looked, compared to
what we imagined. Neon lights,
skyscrapers, everyone looking like they
are modeling for Dolce Gabana and Prada.
It was as if I was in downtown
Manhattan all the time.
America. God shed his grace.."
America the Beautiful .
had committed myself to a year of teaching
American English (yes there are many dialects
of English.) I never knew how much
our language affected the world until
I was offered a position in Korea.
There are so many countries requesting
Native English speakers to commit at least
a year to teach their children English.
Globalization at its best people.
Anyway, I decided to offer some
expertise as a natural speaker of English.
It is funny I received a degree
in Physics, worked as a high school math/cultural
studies teacher in Philadelphia,
PA, and now I teach English. I
was in store for a rude awakening.
children I teach are well behaved, much
like most students in Korea. They
value education and are forced to attend
school all day literally. I work
at a Hagwon (private language institute).
Students got to regular school
from 8:00am-2:00pm and then they are required
to attend various private academies after
school between 3:00pm-10:00pm.
Then they are expected to do homework
when they get home. I know most
eleven-year-old students who are doing
homework until 11:30pm. Korean
students have excellent work ethics and
mannerism to adults; however, they lack
social skills. Most ESL teachers
like me responsibilities consist of teaching
proper pronunciation of words.
We mostly conduct speaking emphasis lessons
with reinforcement in grammar.
It is a call and response method of teaching.
It is very effective. This
teaching job teaches the students, in
addition to helping improve your English
skills. The only thing is that
my vocabulary diminishes slightly because
I am forced to speak elementary the majority
of the time. Language barrier is
really an issue for me.
mentioned earlier about my single bed
versus a queen bed. Well, that
was an administration call at my job.
I found out by the end of my first
week that this institution had no policies
and that they changed face without warning.
They talk behind your back and
smile in your face. They were very
inconsistent with rules and regulations.
It was and nightmare. We
needed some order and we fought for it.
It is still rather tense, but it
is functional. I was grateful to
have a few co-workers who also shared
the same concerns.
sister. Seoul sister.
Gotta let you..."Lady Marmalade
Jacquie, Jay and Kay
that is right. I am a Seoul Sista
and I had to start Seoul searching.
I asked the Creator every night,"Why am
I here?" My boss lied to me, the
administration is dysfunctional, and on
top of that, there is underlying prejudice.
Koreans perception of Dark tone
people are not good. They look at East
Indian people as servant level or just
migrant worker level. They do not
have a high regard for African Americans
especially males. They think that
we are not intelligent and the men are
gangsters. Now, my job hired me
but they used to talk to me as if I was
incapable of comprehending anything.
The images of people from African or East
Indian descent are of impoverished, illiterate,
or violent conditions.
always looked forward to the weekend when
Justin, Kay (African American sister in
the picture ), and Amirtha (Sri Lankan
sister in the picture ) visit Sontan or
is there we can escape the ignorant Korean
society and submerge into a blissful day
of colorful people. Sontan is a
famous town in South Korea that is next
to the largest American Air Force Base.
There are many people of color
from America, Africa, and Asia.
The nightclubs are good, but they close
early because of the Army's curfew.
The music is Hip-Hop and reggae mostly.
In Itaewon (a neighborhood
in Seoul) has an array of cultures.
We frequent Middle Eastern and Southeast
Asian food a lot. There is also
a West African restaurant located there.
It is like walking in Harlem around
116 th St or West Philadelphia in the
University City area. There is
so much to do in Seoul and the Koreans
there are a little more receptive to foreigners
because there are a lot of us there.
I reflect and I prepare for my next challenging
week as I leave either place. I
remember those precious moments because
they are vital in my everyday sanity.
you look at my life, you'll see what I
see." My Life, Mary J. Blige
bridge made of rocks
know that there is a purpose and a reason
for this experience. I learned so much
in my first 90 days. Even though
I encounter a series of challenges, the
people I met and Justin by my side makes
the stay enjoyable. I reflect on the good
everyday, and I leave impressions on my
students. They will have a different
outlook on the darker hue people. I consistently
talk about the positive of my culture
in America and Africa. I do not allow
mismanagement or prejudice interfere with
my work. I came to Korea to share my knowledge
and learn a culture. It is I will continue
to fulfill my mission until I embark on
a new quest.
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