Tag Archives: funny

Keep Your Gift

I just finished one of the more strange and frustrating conversations that I’ve ever had with a coworker. Although not a typical conversation, it perfectly exemplifies my frustrations with working in Korea.

Mr. Choi and I recently came in second place in a nation in a teaching competition with over a thousand schools. We worked together to create an innovative lesson plan. Mr. Choi has received many special honors, but I’ve mostly excluded because I’m not a Korean or a career teacher. To make sure I don’t feel too left out, the National Office of Education wanted to do something special for me.

This was my conversation with Mr. Choi today:

Choi: Taft, I have good news! The representative from the NOE was impressed with your teaching. She was sad that you could not attend the meetings or celebration, so her office gave approval to give you a special gift.
Me: Wow, that’s really nice. What is it?
Choi: She said you can choose anything you want. The budget allows up to 400,000 won (about $375). She suggested a coffee maker.
Me: That’s generous, but I don’t drink coffee. Maybe something different? Since I’m moving soon, maybe we could request something nice for the teachers’ office that all of the teachers want.
Choi: Ok, let me call and ask…. No, I’m sorry that’s not acceptable. It must be something just for you.
Me: I am moving soon, and I’m short on room, so maybe not a thing. I’ve been dying to go skiing. How about an extra day of vacation and a ski pass? That’s much less than 400,000 won.
Choi: Ok, let me call and ask…. No that’s not acceptable either. They cannot give you an extra day off because of your contract.
Me: How about just a ski trip, then. Even if they include transportation, admissions, and rental it would only be 250,000 won.
Choi: Ok, let me ask…. No, they can’t do a ski trip. They said it’s not a good gift. They suggested a coffee maker again, but she said you can pick whatever you want.
Me: No, apparently I cannot pick whatever I want. How about a gift certificate to a restaurant? I would definitely use that.
Choi: Ok, let me call and ask…. No, they said that a gift certificate is not acceptable because it’s not really a gift. It must be a physical item. Maybe you want some electronics.
Me: I’m so over this. Pick something you want for your family and request it. Tell them it’s what I want.
Choi: No, that’s against the rules. They would not allow it.
Me: I have an idea. I want to buy a new suit before I leave. The one I want costs about 330,000 won. That is a physical thing. It is within the price range. And it’s something I actually want.
Choi: Ok, I’ll check… No, they said that’s not a typical gift. You should pick a normal gift.
Me: That’s it. I’m done. This is completely insane. Tell them I would pay them 400,000 won to never talk about this again.
Choi: But you must pick something.
Me: I already did. Their move.

I love the lifestyle in Korea, but I won’t miss working here. Everybody talks about “the rules” constantly, but I’m starting to suspect that there are no codified rules. The “rules” are whatever the person in charge happens to decide at the moment.

Until next time.


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Maybe I am an Idiot

I’ve written a few posts about how my coteachers last year assumed that I was a moron. I like to think that I’m smarter than your average bear, but today was a prime example of the fact that I’m no genius.

This morning I went to Incheon Airport near Seoul. While walking from the airport train station to the departure area, I passed an indoor ice skating rink where a few dozen kids were skating.

Seoul Airport Skating Rink

The first thing that I noticed was that there were several kids using walkers – those aluminum things that people use to keep their balance when they need more than a cane.

Seoul Airport Skating Rink

My first thought was, “awww those kids are so brave! They don’t let a handicap stop them from skating.” Instead of keeping this to myself, I turned to my friend and told her what I was thinking. She started laughing so hard that she almost fell over on the escalator. She had to explain to me that the walkers were not for handicapped kids; they were a training aid for kids who can’t skate well.

….maybe I am an idiot.

Until next time.


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Hospital Nightmare

After publishing my last post, a friend got in touch with me and told me about about her crazy experience with the same hospital. Her version is better than anything I could write, so here you go:

I have a hilarious story about Dongsan Hospital.
I went there a few months ago on a weekend for the morning after pill (you need a prescription here)… I fill in all the papers and sit down in the waiting room. Ten minutes later a half dozen doctors come in and start questioning me.
They start off innocent enough: When did you last have sex? When was your last period? Etc.
Then it gets really personal: Who did you have sex with? Did you wash your vagina?
By this point I’m furious! Everyone in the waiting room is listening to the doctors question me.
Another 10-15 minutes of awkward questions. Finally I look at the clipboard the doctor has and it says my birthday is 1998 instead of 1988.
It turns out that they thought I was a child prostitute.
Then they start in on questions about how I got to Korea, why I was here, Etc.
Best part is at the end one of the doctors tried to ask me out. I said, “are you joking? Five minutes ago you thought I was a prostitute!”

I can’t decide if I’m more bothered by the fact that they automatically assumed she was a prostitute or that they asked so many embarrassingly personal questions in front of the whole waiting room.

Oh, Korea…

Until next time.


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Obama English School

Everyone knows that our president has many talents, but who knew that he had this kind of reach?

Obama, English, hagwon, avademy, Korea

I wonder if the students get to meet Obama?

This actually makes sense to me. Obama is one of a handful of Americans who all Koreans seem to know. Every time we see a black person on TV (educational videos), at least one kid yells, “OBAMA!”

Until next time.


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