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

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

how it all happened.

2006 Full of cultural pride and afrocentricity, the Supa Dupa Fly Seoul Sista is a proud pinay african american; the product of a Black father and Filipino mother. as i write this, i am 30 years old. i was raised in a 'hood in southern california.

i used to hate school. i got so-so grades in high school. i got to college, grew up a little. in college i took africana studies classes and it changed everything. i grew to love school & love learning. i love black studies. I learned that what and how you teach can make all the difference. I am the first in my family to graduate from college. I finished in 2002 with a BA in Fine Arts (emphasis painting) & a BA in Africana Studies (emphasis humanities) & I concurrently did a minor in English Literature.

After graduating, i worked at a local afrocentric cultural center as a teacher and program coordinator. i left after two months b/c of the drama- i came to find that i was the 4th to quit that position in less than 6 months. i continued to volunteer as a teacher a couple days a week b/c i really loved the classes, but the office politics was too heavy for even volunteering. i looked at working at a couple other black centered organizations, but the pay was always so low.

eventually i got a job at $9.50/hour working full time in a field that had nothing to do with my majors in college. two years later, i got fired. so got another job. left that one. found another. this went on for a while, jobs in call centers and customer service, getting fired or quitting, working and living. over and over again.

i worked full time, even held down two jobs for a while at one point, but still was broke all the time. i never had any savings and worried about where i was going to be 5 years from then, 10 years, still broke? when my car would break down, i'd ride the bus to work until next payday, or my dad would give me money for repair. i still went to my parents house to do laundry every week so i wouldnt have to pay for the laundry-mat. i didnt like this life. im a college graduate and was at the highest paying job i'd ever had at $12.50 an hour.

i felt like i wasnt making enough money to do things that grown up people are supposed to be able to do- have my own apartment (always had a roommate b/c of rent), go on vacation, go to plays, donate to charity- i was the one who needed charity! and god i missed travelling. whilst in college, student loans and grants and scholarships allowed me to spend summers abroad - Ghana, Togo, England, France. now school is over and i couldnt afford a french restaurant. i think sometimes that i wasnt trying hard enough, that there was a job out there with a livable wage for me, but i just didnt find it yet. i didnt know what to do.

one night whilst working a graveyard shift a brotha friend of mine im'ed me from japan. i remember when he left, and how excited i was for him. a light went on in my head and i resumed the esl job search that i had started years prior. here it was years later, i hated paying rent, i was always broke, and had no fears about leaving the country.

i talked a lot to my friend in japan and was feeling like esl is something that i could do and do well. i'd daily browse, and esl related yahoo groups. another girlfriend of mine left for japan a month later, we kept in touch and she loved it there. i got hype, i went online, and re-applied with nova.

nova turned me down. so i applied with aeon. aeon turned me down. i thought maybe i just didnt have it. my friend in japan was so encouraging and told me that there were so many opportunities, i shouldnt worry about these two companies, i could get a job offer elsewhere. it is harder, he told me, for a person of color to get a job, but not impossible. and so after these two of the major eikawas turned me down, I dusted off my ego and pressed onward.

whilst on an online esl forum i stumbled onto korea. i learned that the esl market is much bigger there. learned that the wage for korea is comparable to japan, but it's not unheard of for the korean employer to pay your airfare over, as well as give you free accommodations. the cost of living in korea was also less than japan. since i didnt know the difference between korea and japan anyway, i looked into getting a job in korea (i do know the difference now, btw, ha!).

whilst on an online forum for esl teachers in korea, i encountered quite a bit of discouragement. people went on about the discrimination and racism there. a lot of "i'd never come here if i was black," and "you'd better have a tough skin" and "dont come here, go to japan where there's more tolerance" etc. After reflecting on that, i realised that a lot of this discouragement came from white people, as many esl teachers in korea are- they are the easiest to get hired as koreans equate english with white people. they found themselves in another country experiencing racism for the first time and were having a hard time with it. "No way does this type of racism happen back home," they assume. As "progressive" as they are, they assume that there's no way a black person could handle all the discrimination . ultimately i decided i'll pass on their advice and come anyway.

i learned that korea is a very homogeneous society and have a lot of misconceptions about foreigners. i think the only thing most may know about black people is what they see on tv. im not mad at korea for that. a little mad at the american media, but not at korea.

i've just signed a contract with cdi and leave for korea on 02/09/06. im really really excited. yeah, me!

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