Space Cadet

About six weeks ago, a notice was posted on the teachers’ room door that our manager wanted to have a meeting with all of us on a Thursday after classes.  This was right around the time for open classes–when parents come in to observe a lesson–so I was relatively unphased except for being a bit annoyed that I had a Skype session with a graduate school admissions counselor that evening that I wanted some time to prepare for.  Our head teacher assured me it would only take about 5 minutes and wasn’t a meeting about anything negative, so when we were told that another ECC was shutting down and we would be absorbing all of their staff and students in July, I was stunned.  We were asked to keep it under wraps until all parents at both schools could be contacted and made aware and assured that our jobs were safe for the duration of our contracts but that there might have to be some downsizing eventually.

Oh…….?

I was just shy of being at my school for 9 months, which is around when teachers are asked if they would like to extend their contracts, which I was planning on doing for another 6 months.  But with the word downsizing hovering somewhere in the future, I started to worry.

About 2 weeks went by and I decided to go speak with my manager who told me that she was unsure of whether or not I could stay after my contract’s end in late August because the school joining ours had a small student body and 2 brand new teachers with nearly their full contracts still left to fulfill.  That was not the answer I expected.

Although ECC isn’t the best paying hagwon or the one with the most desirable hours or the most vacation days, it’s a large and dependable company.  That’s why I chose to work for them and here my sense of stability was being shattered.  I was told I’d have an answer by mid to late June and that was that.  I was left to wait.

I spent the next few weeks in a state of unsettled feelings, unable to focus on much of anything and analyzing every little interaction I had with my manager.  Then this past Wednesday, I was sitting at the teachers’ computer making my weekly lesson plan to send home to parents and my manager came up to me and said she’d have an answer for me by that Friday.  Two agonizing days.  Then, she asked me about the new visa requirements, which says all American citizens must have an FBI background check for their E-2 work documentation.

Oof.

Back in January, the Korean government switched things up for us US citizens and a state background check would no longer suffice.  Instead, an FBI background check would be required, which takes about 3 months to process.  Three months that I just didn’t have.

Various rumors have been swirling about the ex-pat community that you didn’t have to get the background check if it was your first extension and they turned out to be true.  I didn’t find that out until Friday afternoon after 6 o’clock though, when I marched (read: timidly tip-toed) into my manager’s office and demanded (read: politely asked) to know if I still had a job through March.

“Oh hi Alexa.  It’s Friday, isn’t it?  I got in touch with Immigration after calling them about 10 times–you know they never answer–and you don’t need the FBI check because it’s your first extension.”

“*blank stare* So….. does this mean I can stay?”

“Yes, you can extend your contract through the end of February.”

I wish I could say I let out a joyous whoop or smiled or had really any kind of reaction but after weeks spent somewhere between nausea, wanting to cry, and wanting to scream out of frustration, all I could think was “whew.”  I didn’t start to feel happy and amazed that I got to hold onto my incredible life and students in Korea until several hours later.

I haven’t stopped smiling since!

All weekend I’ve been telling people the good news but my two favorite reactions have been from two of the Scottish people in my life.  The “mysterious D.” as he likes to call himself ever since his first appearance in my blog, was so excited when I told him I got to stay in Korea he immediately halted his walk home from work to pop in to a convenience store and buy a celebratory beer.  Louise, who is back home in Edinburgh counting down the days until she can get back to Korea, wrote on my Facebook wall in all caps how BLOODY AMAZING it was to hear that I’d be staying at ECC.

Now that that’s all cleared up and the secret’s out about the merger, I should be able to stop being such a space cadet and return to my blogging duties free of mental block.  Today I went to Changdeokgong Palace and as soon as I can get my camera batteries recharged, I’ll be posting pictures of the palace grounds and it’s incredible “secret garden.”

Oh, and one more cause for celebration this weekend–my co-teacher Jennifer got married!  She’ll be moving to America after her honeymoon in Thailand but we all got the opportunity to attend her Western-Korean fusion wedding.  The uber Korean parts were the best though!

case in point

Editor’s Note:  Three causes for celebration!  Just off Skype with my mom and she’s coming to Korea in September!!  ^^

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