Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Beginning

I've wanted to write a book about being an English teacher in Korea for six years now. Here's the prologue, which I sat down and hashed out at lunch today for tonight's writer's meeting. I hope you like it.

The Call

It came while you were sitting on the balcony at home. Or while you were sitting on the couch next to your best friend, waiting for the same call. Or perhaps it came while you were taking the kids you'd nannied to that really annoying restaurant they were so fond of, so you missed the call and he had to call you again, later. But it came.

"May I please speak to Mike?" Or Doug. Or Sara. The accent is crisp, and it's impossible to tell if the caller is old or young, white or yellow.

"This is she," you answer.

"My name is John Lee, and I'm the academic director for GDA Junior. My associate Eoin gave me your phone number and said you'd be expecting my call." John Lee could be anyone. You are no closer to understanding the identity of the other individual on the line. You have an uncle named John Lee and he's as whitebread as anyone.

"Yes, this is a good time to talk," you answer.

"Great," he says. "I guess my first question is, I've got your resume here in front of me, and looking at it I find myself thinking. With your experience, you could teach anywhere in the world; why in hell would you want to come to Korea?"

This is your first clue that this is not going to be a typical job interview, if any job interview conducted over the phone can be considered typical (and as an international educational mercenary, you will learn that, in fact, it can). You give your answers professionally. Or you don't. Maybe you are better at reading this faceless stranger, and you respond to his unorthodox question in kind, and the two of you hit it off great, while your friend on the couch cringes because all he can hear are your responses and not the stimulus that brought them on. Or maybe you're too nervous to make that switch, and stick to the way you've always done things. You shouldn't have been nervous. You'll later find out that this enigma, this John Lee, doesn't bother calling unless he's 99% sure he'll hire you. At any rate, in less than a half hour, the interview is over.

"Alright, thanks for your time. I will talk to my boss, and I'll be in touch soon. In the meantime, I am sending you a link to our school's website and a sample contract. My phone number is +82-11-2087-1174. I keep my phone with me at all times, even in the shower, so if you have any questions feel free to call."

The line disconnects.

'What the hell!?!' you think.

Or you turn to your friend and say, "We totally got the job."

Or you call your mom and say, "Well, I think I got a job for next year," and when she asks where, you respond, "Are you sitting down?" Because you are going to Korea.

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