Suddenly, it was over, my twenty-four months (about eleven of them good) at "Ava*** English" in Bucheon.
I am now in a small city called Hamyang (pop. 20,000 in the city [읍] another 20,000 in the surrounding 250-square-mile county [군]), making the county area very rural -- 80 people per square mile versus Seoul's 45,000 per square mile. As I am resting in Hamyang the next two days, I have the time to relate the story of my last few days in Bucheon:
The new guy arrived on Tuesday, but was secluded and not introduced to me. Thursday was my surprise-last-day. Then came a few stressful days of harriedly packing my things, thoroughly cleaning the apartment, finding places to store my things (temporary and longer-term); frantically ferrying my bags back and forth between places; even finding a place to sleep was a challenge. I finally got going with my across-South-Korea travel plan (see post-146) on Monday evening. I've been very seldom on the Internet since then. This is my first post in nearly three weeks.
At about 5:00 PM on Thursday Sept. 12th, to my surprised-bemusement and disappointment, I was told to not to come in on Friday. (Note that I taught on Thursdays 5:20-10:00 PM; 10:00 being the "close of business" time; this meant that I had only twenty minutes' warning that it was my last day). The new guy would do all my classes.
The reason this was disappointing was that on Fridays, I was to teach five classes (of 65 minutes each this semester), including LN, GA (both are high-level 6th-graders), and T3 (medium-high-level eighth and ninth graders studying "TOEFL"). Of the thirty or more students between those classes, I'd had nearly all over multiple semesters, and a couple of the older ones for nearly every semester since I started in September 2011. I had a lot of success with them. I fully expected, and told them, that my last day would be Friday Sept. 13th.
I should explain that Fridays were my only "significant" day in the two to three weeks I spent there in Fall Semester 2013. What I mean is, the way the Fall schedule worked out, in all my other classes that week (Mondays through Thursdays), 90%+ of the students were either quite-new or brand-new to me (with perhaps a narrow majority being "brand new"), and classes were all low-level.. My saying goodbye to such classes meant little, both to them and to me.
My schedule was designed for the new guy, and they planned to plant his foot firmly on the lowest rung of the ladder, regardless of any other consideration, because hierarchy must be enforced and people have to know their places. This means he was given the lowest-level and most problematic classes, I was a place-holder for the two to three weeks of Fall Semester till he arrived, except Fridays, when I still had some significant classes.
Being forbidden from saying goodbye to LN, GA, and T3 seems just cruel. This is exactly the kind of stunt the managers would often pull. Always cutting corners against us, cheating on money in small ways, lying, withholding information (why was I not told of this "plan" earlier? -- The date of my last day seems important enough to merit some advance notice), social ostracism, and just any other miscellaneous bits of antagonism.
[An aside: In the months leading up to the end, I began to see that the antagonism was probably is race-based on the part of certain managers. That is to say, they want(ed) to feel superior and want(ed) to express Korean racial pride, or something, by "screwing" us foreigners and so on. This sounds like a crude analysis, and is not "P.C.", but I don't care. Over two years at "Ava**n", I accumulated some quite-specific reasons for believing this.]
Surprise Phone Call from Students
It wasn't all bad, though. One manager, the only one who has been consistently kind to me, Elly, surprised me by calling me on the phone during her LN class (high-level sixth graders). The class spent at least ten minutes on the phone. She spoke some, they spoke in chorus some, and each student said something, things like that they would miss me and that they think I was a good teacher; one said she was sorry she didn't work harder. Some students, I learned, had made some kind of cards which they had planned to give on my last day, but were now unable. Many seemed very sad, (I'm sure they would become attached to most people in my place who earnestly gave their full effort).
I told them I was sad that I wasn't able to see them on my last day. I told them, via speaker-phone, that their new foreign-teacher was good and they should listen to him (to which they replied in chorus "No!!" -- That was touching but made me cringe for the new guy and don't bear any grudge against him. In truth, I have no idea what that new guy is like, because they didn't let me meet him; they kept him sealed-off in the other building and did not introduce us, and did not have him watch my classes. He is from Canada; in his 20s; his name is the same as the Biblical evangelist formerly known as Saul. I never learned his last name; he had some kind of trendy haircut.) They had just seen him about a half-hour earlier for his first class.
An Impromptu Goodbye Speech
That phone call came on a Friday about 5:30 PM, as I was packing my bags in the apartment. I'd left Ava**n (the name of the institute) at about 10:40 PM on Thursday. After 10:00 PM on Thursday, a cake materialized. I was asked to make a goodbye speech to the five Korean teachers in the second-floor building. I didn't have anything planned.
What did I end up saying? I referenced the "farewell comedy routine" that my friend C.H. delivered in June 2012. [See post-73, final paragraph]. He actually delivered a list of jokes about the institute, something like Jay Leno or David Letterman would do. I also deliberately referenced M.R. (looks like Steve Jobs) who finished in June 2013 in my speech. Both of them also had problems at that place, and by mentioning them I was trying to get the coded message across of who I believe the good guys really were, or something like that. I don't know if anyone understood that, except potentially C.R., the young California coworker sitting and listening to it.
The essence of my speech was that most of the Korean teachers had been kind to me (the real antagonists were not present, of course), and I wanted to thank them for it. I went home and started packing.
Why did I go home and immediately start packing? Because I was also told, in yet another "kick in the stomach as my foot was out the door", that I had to vacate the apartment by Friday evening. (The institute controls the apartment.) Remember I was told this about 5:00 PM on Thursday.
Why not give a little more warning? My final work day was explicitly-stated in the contract as September 13th, but it was usual to remain a few days after one's final day, to get affairs in order. I expected to leave at noon on Sunday.
The manager who engineered this, whom I have here in the past referred to as "Stringbean", must have done this solely to antagonize me and "show me who was boss". They always did things like that. But, as I said in the impromptu final speech on that Thursday, "It's all over now".