I've got a new job then, starting at the very end of February. More on that later, but for my job I have to give thanks to Jason.
I possibly mentioned him at the very start of my diary but you won't have heard of him since. "Jason" is the English name of my recruiter, and has actually been quite a large influence of my life in Korea. Not in my daily life, but it was him who got me my current job, him who got me my next job and, perhaps even more crucially, him who introduced me to Matt.
Matt these days is pretty much my only male friend. Not through design, but I seem to have aligned myself with quite a lot of attractive girls, Korean or otherwise. Matt is my bastion of maleness and was also the very first person I met in Korea, just over a year ago, when Jason (his recruiter too) got him to meet me from the bus stop. Myself and Matt spend many an hour musing as to how our lives would have progressed had we not met each other, and we usually conclude that it doesn't bear thinking about. We even have our own song - "Not Gonna Stop Us" by the 15 year old Russian lesbians TATU.
So Jason is responsible, in part, for where I am and who I know, but until last week he was just a forgotten part of last year. But knowing my contract here was almost up, he phoned me last Tuesday wondering about my plans. Not out of concern for my wellbeing of course (recruiters are notoriously unconcerned about teacher well-being; we're just a commodity) but to see if he could get me a new job, and thus net himself about a million won (£500) of very easy recruiting fee from the school.
I met him on Saturday then, after my YMCA class. It was the final YMCA lesson of the year and of the current course, concluding with a test and then pizza. The test was very easy, not just my own arrogant opinion, but it really was far too easy. The class has got much better in the last few weeks though, because the class numbers have dropped to about six regulars, and thus all the dregs have been shaken out of the class. It meant we had a pleasant group of good students left, many of whom are giving me a run for my money.
The Japanese single mother [later note - not true, she simply had a beloved pet dog], Yuka, is probably better than me now. She's got really good. Then there's Canadian Sherry and NZ Dave who are both almost as good. Sherry is quite pretty but could benefit from wearing some make-up in my opinion, and being Canadian I'm not able to get on with her due to my prejudice against Canadians. She does study very hard though. She wears dungarees too, something that suits only lesbians. Dave is a thoroughly nice guy, and myself and Maebh (who also attends the class) want to befriend him. Dave has a Korean fiance whose father has cut her off completely because she is engaged to a Westerner, even though he's never met Dave.
There's another Japanese girl too - Kaori - who is often too shy to show how good her Korean might be, and there's an Australian too, Luigi, with an accent that does extremely odd things to the Korean language. Then there's Maebh too, as I said.
After the very easy test all the four YMCA classes got together for a party. As it was noon at a Christian organisation you might correctly guess that this party was not a depraved orgy of debauchery with dancing girls and oiled up maniacs squeezing out their juices, but a civilised affair with pizza and cola.
Still, although civilised, I did my best to be charming and gentlemanly. I was called a gentleman by Hyo-Ju (the primary gin girl) on Sunday actually. She said that British men are all gentlemen and, understandably surprised, I asked how many she knew and she said "you." This is what happens, I suppose, when you know a girl for over six months and don't attempt to sexually molest her. You live and learn.
The two lucky recipients of my charms - both of whom are probably still scrubbing themselves in the shower today - were my old Korean teacher when I was a mere beginner, and a girl from Uzbekistan. My old Korean teacher is a tall and delightfully innocent-seeming girl with clunky glasses that won many admiring glances from myself and Tim "back in the day" of the first Korean class. It's been many months since I'd seen her and I think she's had sex in the interim, because she was looking far more "dangerous". Wearing glasses and dressed in black, with her hair combed back, her eyes looked less wide and innocent to the world. Her excuse for her prolonged absence was just that she'd been busy, however. She'll be my teacher for the next two months.
The Uzbekistan girl was lovely. Although I harbour great dreams of penetrating her, I actually want to use her Russian speaking ability. I still want to go to Russia after Korea and so want to know some Russian, and so I intend to ask her to help tutor me. Apparently, as Maebh told me later, she is only 19 years old and so is also just ripe for corruption.
Anyway all this was a prelude to meeting Jason at 1.30pm outside the YMCA. He arrived only a little late, running and calling my name.
Jason, there is no other way about it, is a seedy, selfish, single-minded, cheating, lying, two-faced little man. He was looking shorter than I remember, fatter too, and more ragged, and with thinning hair. Despite all this, I nonetheless like him. He's motivated and very gregarious, and exists in his very own focussed world of making money and womanising, and is absolutely foreign to the concept of thinking of others. It simply doesn't cross his mind.
Matt knows him much better than me. Matt knows about his unsuspecting (possibly uncaring) wife, Matt knows about his penchant for callgirls, Matt knows that his desire for money above all is actually a desire for more callgirls/"girlfriends" above all. Matt knows that there is no reasoning with Jason about anything, you either accept him or not and then prepare yourself to be caught up in his whirlwind.
He took me to a Burger King, where Matt soon joined. I'd been speaking to Matt the few days before, and so we knew what Jason proposed deal was. It is this:
Matt finishes his job mid-January. Then he goes travelling round Europe for a month, seeing perpetually unofficial girlfriend Rebecca in Ireland in the process, before returning to a new job in Korea. This job looks to be at Jason's school in the countryside, where Matt's cousin Nicky used to work. This would be great, as it would mean access to country dwellings during the summer.
And with Matt's old job vacant, I quite simply step into his shoes. This is a good thing as Matt's job is really quite easy. Matt wouldn't be leaving it, if not for him needing to take a month away.
The hours are 3.30-9.30pm. My current hours are 10am-7pm.
It is only 5 classes a day, 25 a week. My current is 8/9 a day, 43 a week.
Matt's apartment is much nicer than mine. Bigger and more peaceful. It's also near a university which means a good variety of bars and restaurants.
Jason seemed most pleased that everything was working out so easily, and the pieces of the jigsaw fitted just as well for myself and Matt. Jason's excitement grew as he proposed, nay demanded, that in celebration we would all, in January, visit his favourite room salon.
After a year in Korea, I have no idea what the term "room salon" used to mean to me, but here the meaning isn't too ambiguous. Prostitution in Korea is illegal but, most bizarrely, if another product is being sold then sex is allowed to be sold on the side. Thus there's quite an industry of coffee-girls, pretty young things than zip about on mopeds to home deliver coffee plus a few extra perks. And room salons are no more than glorified bar-cum-brothels, or so I hear. Slightly plusher perhaps, and more respectable for the middle aged Korean businessman to visit (which they do with incredible frequency).
Jason was bouncing with excitement as he declared this wonderful idea, which is to take place in January. Although Jason's intentions are most clear, Matt assures me that it is quite acceptable to just have a few drinks at these venues and not have to worry about being mounted by hordes of these pretty young things.
From prospective brothel visits to a visit to the orphanage, as that was what followed the meeting with Jason. With more volunteers and more organisation, it's all much easier now and once again I felt as though I achieve some teaching.
Next Saturday, which is Christmas day, I will be spending lunch time with the orphans. Now, don't be getting any ideas that this is a kind, self-sacrificing and selfless thing to do, it's because the meal is at the US Army Base and is free. The US Army, not known for understatements, will apparently have a colossal spread of Christmas food that I can tuck into like a barbarian. I'll try and avoid to speaking to the orphans as much as I can and concentrate on cramming my greedy pig face with free food. After that, me and Matt are planning to spend the night in Busan, at an expensive hotel which apparently has an all you can eat and all you can drink buffet. Thus it is quite clear that if by Sunday morning I haven't evacuated the largest chunk of faecal matter you have ever seen, then I'll likely be dead.
That was my Saturday then. Sunday was a little more serene. I met with Suk-jeong in the afternoon, that's the pretty Korean ex-teacher with body and breasts that make me dribble in her presence. I'd not seen her for about a month, since my braindead showing at the Geoje-do trip with her friends. But on Friday night, the Castle School teachers all got together and drank, ate and made merry, and she joined us. We went to a norae-bang, where I was forced to sing a couple of Korean songs, and also "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana, which I did remarkably well. Or so I lead myself to believe.
It was nice to see her again, but I stress "see", as there's more personality and life to the ants - and now cockroaches - that patrol my crappy apartment. Actually, that's rather harsh, she's a very pleasant girl and at least she doesn't crawl into my food and die.
The evening was a bowling trip with the Gin Girls, plus Maebh, plus Jama and three Korean friends of hers. These Korean friends were very loud and boisterous and scared the poor, quiet, conservative Gin Girls a little. The bowling trip had been something planned for quite some time but only finally arranged after ridiculous amounts of "you know, it would be great to go bowling sometime". Unfortunately, there was no bar at the bowling venue and thus my bowling suffered. It was also hampered severely by the Gin Girls and Maebh laughing every time I bowled, due to my apparent "bowling waddle".
I went for dinner with the Gin Girls afterwards, and if I've been sounding a little pervy earlier in this entry then you can be assured I always redeem myself in their presence with my exemplary behaviour - indeed, it was over dinner that Hyo-Ju complimented my gentlemanliness.
On the way back home with Hyo-Ju, after taking the bus back to Bangchon (our area), she happened to notice her mother in a small restaurant, and so we joined them. With two other women - one the owner - they were drinking crap wine, and may be have been slightly sozzled. They were most enamoured with my presence and my few paltry words of Korean. And for about half an hour, we sat and chatted, drank wine and laughed, and it was perhaps the highlight of my whole Sunday. Nay weekend. All that time with nubile young ladies, but together with three sozzled middle-aged women - ajummas as they're notoriously known in Korean - was the highlight. I was most charming with them. It seems an unfortunate reality in my life that my charms are most effective with middle-aged to elderly women.
It's Tuesday now, and the countdown to my last day (which began a long time ago) is nearing the climax. Six more working days to go, and then I'm away. I told some of my classes, and they responded in quite a touching manner. Mostly, at least. Some kids seemed relieved, but one class reacted as though I'd booted them all in the stomach, and cried out "No" and seemed quite distressed. You have to wonder why, as the highlight of any lesson for me is getting a kid to cry, and I try to avoid playing games at all costs.
Ok, I must go now as all the lights in my school are out, I'm the only person here, I just had to converse in very broken Korean with a mother who appeared with gifts, and I'm very hungry. Have a good Christmas and New Year, and at the rate I update these days I may extend that to Christmas and New Year 2005 too.