links i find vital

where it all started for me! (btw it starts off with like a min of music)
a seoul radio station interview about bssk
a bunch of interviews with black expats in soko
find family on facebook: Brothas&Sistas of South Korea

Saturday, January 01, 2000

questions: is esl a real job? sending your photo. dealing with stares, parents, students

Sent: Monday, September 24, 2007 6:55:38 AM
Subject: Perspective on Korea

Hi, I wanted to take you up on your offer again and ask you a few more questions about teaching/living in Korea, as you have been very helpful so far. never a problem. hit me up with any questions at any time.

I read one of your blogs on myspace, where you were going back and forth with non-Black ESL teachers that were talking about how offended they get and how they warn Blacks to stay away. I definitely agree with you - we've been catching hell our whole lives for being a, in a small way, it might actually be refreshing to experience a person that can just tell me to my face what they are thinking about me. Like you, I'm definitely forgiving on someone in Asia that would do this, as they do not really know that much about Black culture. thus far, things have been as i suspected. a little problem here and there, but nothing worse than back home. one sister here, tho, her biggest issue has been with her esl colleagues. they would constantly bait her with "dont you agree that those koreans are so racist?" etc, trying to get her to say something, wanting to bond with her i guess? and when she'd decline to participate in such conversations, many attacked her with "whats your problem? why dont you want to be our friend? why do you have such an attitude" and throwing around reverse racism. whateva. she knows it's not her who's the problem and has learned to keep on, like we do with every other issue.

That being said, though, how do you really like Korea? i love it here.

How do you deal with the stares? i hardly notice, actually. i am thick, and black and had locks, then an afro; outside of my own community, i get stares everywhere anyway. occasionally someone does make eye contact with me, i just smile and do a low bow. for the children, it's more like they're excited to see a foreigner and want to say hello but are nervous about their english. with kids, i smile and wave and say hello, and they'll almost invariably respond with wildly waving and smiling back, saying, "hello nice to meet you!"

Do the students, other teachers, and parents respond well to you? yes. i guess? i have no problems with my coworkers, they are all hella cool, but i think it could be b/c cdi is more diverse than other schools, and the teachers there dont talk/act like most who were raised in a bubble. i have no interaction with parents, cdi and the korean staff deals with any issues that may arise. the students are no problem at all, i adore them. but i have taught before, so it's familiar to me.

I have a previous ESL student turned director who is helping me with my applications now, and she is bi-racial, and she openly admits to the difference in treatment she got from Koreans as opposed to some of her friends. Do you experience this? i dont really have any "korean" korean friends just yet (gypos yes) so i cant really say. it's b/c communication is hard. if im being treated different, again, it's nothing new. i dont worry so much anymore about how Mr. Jones is being treated, i know who i am, and know what i want to do.

She also told me that, when sending off my applications, the picture I send needs to depict me being as fair-skinned as possible because it is what the employers are looking for. I appreciate her frank honesty; I just want to know if you had to do something similar and did you experience any delays in your application process once they saw your picture. i have for sure heard that your picture should be like a passport photo: shoulders and head, neat in appearance, flattering lighting, etc. I didnt send in a truly honest photo, but b/c of vanity.
this is what i look like (and im wayyyy thicker than this photo shows):
and this is the photo i sent in:
it's a photo from 5 years ago. but in all honesty, i sent this photo b/c it's my favorite that i have of myself, i look so young and skinny in it! :) i didnt care, i knew they'd hire me anyway, i was confident in my teaching abilities.

Overall, can you tell me some things that you like and dislike about living in Korea, as compared to America. I live in Atlanta, GA, so I am definitely expecting a BIG change. im from san diego, and the black community there isn't, i imagine, nearly as huge nor as tight as it is in atlanta. i would guess that yes, you're in for a big change. im sorry, i dont have any advice, save for come in with a positive mind, im sure it's nothing you cant handle. as for what i like and dislike: i miss my community. there are many black people in itaewon (the foreigner part of town) but they're mostly african, and mostly men, so, ya know. AND it's really hard doing things b/c i dont speak korean. it can get lonely. but i keep in mind that im here by choice, and not forever, i could leave it i wanted to.

Are you anywhere near an American military base there? I know we have some over there, but I just didn't know where exactly. the base is near itaewon, in seoul. i dont know about other parts of korea.

I didn't want too much...just to get inside the head of a black female that is living abroad and doing something utterly different with her life, like I am trying to do. I quit my job, working in a cubicle farm, to do something different like teach ESL. In my ESL training alone, I found it to be fulfilling...and I know it will have its days of being not that likable, like any other occupation.

I read where someone non-Black wrote on your blog about ESL not being a real career. How do you feel about that? that guy was an a-hole. as if esl isnt important? one wouldnt say being a teacher is not a career. fucking racist thing to say, isnt it? b/c non white people are the students, it must not be important. puh.

Do you find the work fulfilling? yes, i love it. LOVE it.

Ironically enough, that person also wrote that people who are young and have a degree should go into the military as an officer. That's what I did after college. He also said that it might be a boring career, something I have to disagree with. I went into the Navy as an officer to be a pilot. For nearly 2 years, I trained to be a pilot, which obviously didn't work out. When I arrived, I was the first black female officer to be on that base in that capacity in a 3-year my life was anything but boring. The "stares" were common, as I'm sure the backhanded comments were, and this was the United States Military, 2002-2004. Just an indicator that some white ESL teachers, or some white people period, will lack a perspective on life that they will never be able to truly understand and appreciate because they don't live it. But, I digress. I just wanted to get your input on living and teaching in Korea, from a personal perspective. As always, if and when you get the time to reply, your comments are very much appreciated. Take care.

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