Should I stay or should I go?

The time has come to decide: to re-sign or not to re-sign?

In the next month or so all NETs will be approached by their schools and asked whether or not they intend to commit to another 12 months teaching.

I personally made the decision to leave Korea after the one year mark some time ago, but now that the time has come to let my school know I’m surprised to find myself weighing up my options.

Staying pros

–         Ultimately I want to become a teacher back in the UK and two years’ teaching experience will make me a much stronger candidate for my preferred university

–         Even if I don’t end up taking up teaching, being asked to renew a contract looks good to any potential employer, and my school would hopefully give me a glowing recommendation if I save them the inconvenience of having to bring in another inexperienced newbie

–         Also ESL teaching provides an opportunity to build confidence and skills in a relatively low-pressure/minimal-responsibility environment

–         I would get to start over with a fresh bunch of first-graders. I know the mistakes I made with this years’ lucky lot and how to avoid making them again

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Not a viable disciplining method apparently

–         I would get to see my second-graders graduate

–         I would get to see my first-graders through into the second grade and witness that awkward, hairy transition from adolescence to young manhood

–         I would get to save more money. A low cost of living and free accommodation makes it possible for an NET to squirrel away a tidy sum of money (or so I am told). Think of the bounty I could return with after a two year stint. I could buy a mortgage or a car or even a 13-inch sculpture of Hogwarts

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–         I could continue to use Korea as a base to explore more of Asia. Once I head back to the UK I’ll probably be needing to knuckle down for a good spell, and nipping over to Japan for some sushi won’t be quite so convenient

Going pros

–         I would get to hang out with all of those clowns in the UK that I love so much

–         I would get to eat cheese and pickle sandwiches to my heart’s content

–         ‘Humidity’ and ‘precipitation’ would disappear from my vocabulary forever

–         I could begin moving forwards with my career

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Progress

–         I could work with people that speak my language (theoretically). This is kind of a pro and a con because I would definitely miss all of the hilarious lost-in-translation moments that you get in an ESL classroom

–         I wouldn’t be able to nip to Bali on my summer break but frankly who needs Bali when you’ve got Wells- Next-the-Sea

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Cracking huts

And while Mount Fuji is fairly impressive, you can’t beat Mount Snowdon

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Definitely not humid

And Shanghai is great and all that, but how about some cobbles?

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UK: cobbles galore

It is a tough decision, and I’m glad I’ve thought it through before coming to my final conclusion (not really a habit of mine). In the end though, those cobbles are just too convincing.

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Sweat and the city

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to talk about how hot it is. On the chance that a future NET happens to stumble across this blog I feel kind of duty-bound.

Coming from probably the mildest place on the planet my experience is perhaps a little more extreme than others’, but here is an idea of what you can expect if you come to teach in the city of Daegu…

– You will start the day as you mean to go on, soaked in sweat. Likely as not you may also find yourself suffering from temporary amnesia and a headache due to severe dehydration

– Over the course of the day you will drink enough fluids to see a camel across the Sahara and back again, and yet your thirst will never be quenched

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– You will apply your makeup halfheartedly, knowing that in all probability it will be swimming in your belly-button by mid-morning

– You will not leave your apartment a minute before you absolutely have to because you know that as unthinkable as it is, it really is 30 degrees out there at 7:45am

– You will finally understand and appreciate why everyone around you has been walking at a snail-pace and taking the escalators, and you will follow suit

– You will forget your cynicism regarding the efficiency of handheld fans. Your fan will become an extension of your person and you will genuinely panic if you find yourself without it. You will put serious consideration into the idea of buying in bulk so that you are never without one

– You will arrive at school resembling something dredged out of a bog. You will eventually accept the futility of blotting paper and roll with it. But you will avoid mirrors all day

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– If you have the misfortune of experiencing broken ac or a school that unexpectedly chooses to withhold the ac then the moment that you step into your office anticipating that beautiful icy blast that usually welcomes you into your refuge will be the most heart-stoppingly terrible moment of realisation you have ever experienced

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– Most of your conversations will be weather-related. The answer to the question “How are you?/How have you been?” is always ‘hot’

– Your students will look like comatose slugs

– When you come across an inexplicably lively class at the end of a long day you will panic because you have sweated out all of your your energy reserves and there is a distinct chance you will pass out mid-lesson

– You will shower twice a day, regardless of your previous hygiene standards. It won’t be enough

– When you arrive home you will get naked as fast as humanly possible and lie beneath your ac panting for around half an hour

Lost in Hong Kong

Well I’m back, and  after 10 days of heavily humidified walking, climbing, boating, biking, sightseeing, family-bonding and over-indulging I feel more ragged than when I left. But it was well worth it! Here are some photos and random observations from my time in Hong Kong:

The first thing to note is that Hong Kong loves plazas. I can’t stress this enough. There are almost more plazas than people. They are literally everywhere. If you were to fall from an airplane and land somewhere in Hong Kong, odds are you would land in a plaza. They are magnificent places with the most elaborate bathrooms you will ever use, but it is highly likely that you will lose several hours of your life trying to find an exit.

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Random giant robots (probably jaeger prototypes) guarding the entrance to a plaza

The next thing to note is that HK is distinctly less cutesy than Korea. And the more surprising revelation is that I was disappointed about that fact. Having spent the past 6 months in the Kingdom of Cute I’ve become accustomed to every object, surface and person being laminated in a glaze of hearts, kittens and kisses. During my trip I found myself questioning why the manufacturers of my various purchases hadn’t thought to include a cute poo or a baby panda on any part of their product.

HK kids aren’t as cute either. I’m not being biased. They just aren’t. Korean kids are the most adorable in the world.

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Children’s heads made from porcelain at the Museum of Art. Not so cute

Like the cute paraphernalia, I’ve grown to love the Konglish that abounds in Korea. The original interpretations of English spelling and grammar I see on signs and stationery on a daily basis are always entertaining and often inadvertently profound. Presumably because of its colonial history HK has far less misspelled/misplaced English about. A win for navigation but a loss for laughs.

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No Konglish here, sadly

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The food and drinks are more expensive in HK than in Korea (drinks in particular) but much tastier, tortoise jelly aside.

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Aydan surveys a hard-won view
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Hannah at Chi Lin Nunnery
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Blossoming tea at traditional tea ceremony
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Tai O, traditional fishing village on stilts
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Tian Tan Buddha
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Singing bird at Yuen Po Bird Garden
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Don’t be fooled by the seemingly tranquil and picturesque setting, it belies the herculean effort that it took for us to return our little boat to shore before the end of the rental period. It turns out that there is a, previously undiscovered, family disposition to suck at rowing a boat – a shortcoming that the welts on my hands and twinge in my side are attesting to several days later
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Our journey across Plover Cove Reservoir in a 4-person cycle-cart was moderately more successful than the boating expedition, however, we did still career into several posts while singing Disney ballads, almost ran over a couple of teens taking selfies and I personally sweated half of my body weight out of my forehead