Ruby Ramblings

The Airing of Grievances
September 21, 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Korea, Travel

Now, when you move to a new country, it is to be expected that strange things, things outside of your norm, and the just plain unexpected will happen. The apartment building that I live in with all but two of the other teachers at our school has left the realm of cultural relativity and entered the realm of slum.

I have stooped to airing my grievances on my blog because I think it’s pretty clear that neither my boss (because he’s getting a great deal and doesn’t have to pay the “key” deposit over and over since he’s been keeping folks here so long), the landlord, or anyone else for that matter seems to care what happens here.

Here’s the shortlist of bullshit that has happened in the four months I’ve been in this particular location:

  • Someone walked into my apartment and stole my purse while my friend stepped out to have a smoke and left the door unlocked.  Not even being in the building (or the room) is enough protection in this shithole.
  • Jim’s bike was purposefully knocked over when someone didn’t like where he parked.
  • Someone left a turd on the fifth floor landing.  One teacher really thinks it was human, but there has been some speculation.  Either way, the landlord didn’t have it cleaned up for several days.
  • Someone broke the hallway light, seemingly on purpose.
  • I woke up at 12:30  tonight to the sound of my downstairs neighboor yelling and throwing dishes.
  • The man who lives across from one of the other teachers is heard repeatidly beating his girlfriend.
  • A random drunk woman walked into one of the teacher’s apartments, started making herself noodles, and then climbed in his bed.
  • Jim’s mechanic thinks someone purposefully put dirt in the engine of his motercycle.
  • One of the teacher’s had his scooter stolen from our garage a couple of months ago.
  • The putrid smell that comes out of the sewer right in front of our front door that frequently fills the entire building with the smell of a frat-house, morning-after-beer-shit.

The piece de resistance was this afternoon, in broad daylight, as I was walking to work, a man comes out of the shadows, cock in hand, wanking off and staring directly at yours truly.  Fortunately or unfortunately, this isn’t the first country, or the first place such a thing has happened.  Actually, I believe the subway in D.C. was the biggest offender, where I had to make sure I never got too engrossed in the book I was reading on an hour-long subway commute, each way, to work in Congress, or I would end up with a pervy sitting too close.

The long and the short of it is that dick does not embarrass me.  I find it simultaneously to be one of the most desirable and laughable parts of a man.

I don’t think older Korean men expect you to stand up to them.  As a younger woman, I’m supposed to cower away in shame while his age and status protects him.  Instead, I looked him square in the face, punched him, albeit not very hard as I’ve never really punched anyone before, spat on him, and gave him a glorious flying bird as I stormed away and he was left the one cowering in surprise.

So I’m left none worse off than before, and possibly with a chance to actually use my unlady-like biceps, but the issue that still stands is that our boss has us living in the worst part of town, and clearly doesn’t give a shit.  This on top of the fact that some of his dinner conversation at the company party included a discussion about whether it is better to go to prostitutes or just find “wild” girls (his stand was that wild girls have more muscles “down there”).  I missed this part, but apparently he had the new Korean female staff in tears harassing them.

Men jerking off in broad daylight is only one tiny part of a huge problem that women here are still viewed as toys.  I did see the part where the boss forced all the new staff (myself included) to drink two giant mec-so bombs in a row (soju, the local vodka type drink and meckchu which is beer).   Say what you will, but through years of practice and possibly luck of some genes, I can drink a lot of men under the table.  One new Korean staff was not so lucky and ended up leaving hurling and in tears.  He forced her to drink more and called her weak.  I’ll gladly throw back a few, but I was appalled at how he forced someone who clearly didn’t want to be there to do the same.

And how am I supposed to have a professional working relationship and make demands of someone who acts like this?  Get through the year and find a different place to work?  But where does that leave the people who come to this branch after me?  And will they have to live in this shithole, slum apartment?

Who else out there is having similar experiences in Korea, or are we at a particularly troublesome school/location?

I was trying to find a Festivus clip, but this was way funnier:

8 Comments so far
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I’ve found that pointing a camera at anyone causes the same kind of reaction as the punch-in-the-face does. Bonus points if you can get the flash to go off at just the right time.

Professional working relationship? Meh. For better or worse, most Koreans recognize the system is screwy, and they do what they can to work within the sometimes-impossible boundaries provided. I feel for them at times – especially when it comes to the drinking.

Meanwhile, I’m sure you don’t want to say whereabouts you are… But even in the largest, nicest parts of the city / country you’ll STILL see spitting, drunken old men no matter how nice the building’s outside…

Comment by Chris in South Korea

Damn, I’d be asking for a new apartment if all the crazy things happened in it like yours. I would imagine your Korean co-workers and directors would feel quite embarrassed with your situation.

Still, full points for putting up with it, but I don’t think you should have to.

Comment by David

Well, it’s been made pretty clear that we are not “allowed” to move. The director has an amazing deal having us here, but there are clear reasons why. There is one teacher in the last three years who managed to get out of this housing for this school, he had to take a pay cut, and had to pay a $5,000 key deposit even though it is in our contracts that the boss should pay it.

I don’t really care about drunk, spitting old Korean men, I step over passed-out ones every day on my walk home from work. It’s the repeated theft and violence that is wearing on all of us.

Comment by therubycanary

Wow… just wow. You gotta get out of there, despite what they say. Korea is safe, but your description of the area sounds very *un*safe, for men and women both. Take care!

Comment by TC

Gosh! I can’t believe all this. I now feel lucky that all I ever have to deal with are fat comments.
Good for you for punching the old man. I do want to mention the drinking as a social activity. I do think that it is nice to socialize with your coworkers, but I hate how this culture uses this extreme drinking as networking. The year that I got here I remember reading in the paper that companies could no longer have “best drinker” awards-officially anyway.

Comment by Talya


Interesting solution. Now I would have busted out laughing, then asked him where he lived so that I could send his poor with a sympathy card for having to put up with that *significant glance* during their marriage. Unless of course the good ladies of Korea had had the wonderful sense to refuse him in which case I applauded them whole heartedly. Then walk away still laughing. A punched nose lasts a few hours, a crushed ego.. a lifetime.

Comment by Kiri

I had the same incident happen to me during my first year here in Korea (man, cock in hand, wanking himself in front of me) and I wish I had had the same balls as you to punch him in the face. But I was young, naive and he was twice my size so I just threw him a look of disgust and ran upstairs to my apartment.

Sorry to hear about all the other bad things happening there with you. Directors here have been known to be tight with their money and you do come across a lot of them that can be real jerks when it comes to how they treat women. Good luck with your situation though! I don’t know if you plan to stick it out until the end of your contract, but if you do, hopefully you end finding a better position at another school after you finish with this one here.

Comment by candiep20

Oh, I’ll definitely make it through the year. It’s already half over already anyway. The school and the kids are great, it’s the little surrounding stuff that has gotten out of hand. Luckily I don’t have to interact with upper management very much.

I’m planning to do some travelling/volunteering in Mongolia and Cambodia after May and then come back and work (although I’ll be looking for a job at an awkward time then.)

Comment by therubycanary

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