Hagwon Blues

As I’m writing this, I’ve been in Korea 14 months and change.  I’m on contract at my school until the end of February 2012 and I’ve got a contract that my manager put on my desk Friday afternoon stating the terms of me staying another year.  It’s unsigned for one reason–in a meeting about me renewing, I was denied time to go home.

When you teach in a hagwon, there are no substitute teachers, no one except other teachers filling in on their planning time.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised (How can I be expected to go 2 1/2 years without a visit home?, I said) when my manager told me she couldn’t see to it that I got 2-3 weeks off in the spring to go home to America unless another teacher agreed to stay over on their contract long enough to take on my classes.  But I still am.

I love my life in Korea, no doubt.  But I also love my grandparents and my brothers and sister and extended family and friends.  I love goat cheese and mangoes and fresh baked good and farmer’s markets and the James River and mimosas at Sunday brunch.  I want to take my dog Berkeley on a walk and sleep with my cat Wonton curled up on the pillow next to my face like he’s been doing since he was just a few weeks old.  I want to talk to talk about Cheerwine and 821 and Lamplighter and okra and not have to explain myself.  Just for a little bit.

It’s not ideal, but I’m going to see if I can finagle a few days off around Lunar New Year.  We already have a 5 day break, so if I can get a few days off around that time to go home, I’ll be happy to see my family, even though the dead of winter isn’t exactly the best time to enjoy all of my favorite things.

That unsigned contract has given me a lot to think about.  I can’t be Alexa Abroad indefinitely without one key thing: more vacation time.


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