Monday, May 28, 2007

Over the Last Month....

So I'm sure you can see that I have been quite consumed over the drama at work... In fact, I am still consumed by it, but I'm really ready for it to go away. I quit that job at least once a week in my head and I'm only staying now for the money. Here is the funny thing about all this: I might, just might, be offered a promotion out of all this bullshit. I guess that would make my resignation more meaningful, wouldn't it? Oh, the irony. Actually, the attempts at co-optation... But in this situation, is there really any difference?

But my life has not been all drama, no siree...

*At the beginning of the month I went to a spectacular wedding involving a friend who was Tibetan refugee in Nepal before moving to Korea and another friend who is an incredible and amazing Korean activist (and whose father is a famous martyr who immolated himself during the movement for democracy in Korea). The wedding was replete with a traditional Korean music, a hanbok ceremony, live entertainment involving a Nepali singer of certain fame and Korean drumming troupe and then a change of costume from Korean traditional wedding wear to Tibetan. Wow! And it was outside on a perfect day right next to Han River and everyone who is anyone in the Korean Labor/Economic Justice movement was there. And also a lot of people who are no-ones (like myself). So I got to sit around with my friends, drink outside, eat yummy Nepali-style cuisine and partake in a really special ceremony that not too many foreigners have access to... But of course, I didn't take my camera. Sorry.... (for myself as much as you)

*Two weekends ago, there was a huge Buddha's birthday celebration. It involved learning about Buddhism from all Asian countries, not just Korea; a paper lantern-making workshop; dozens of other little art and crafty things that are related to Buddhism; a concert which included groups from Tibet, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and Korea; an evening parade with all of the lanterns lit that people had made and some other crazy looking floats -like an iridescent white glowing elephant; and more good food. And no, I didn't take my camera to that one either...

*And sometime in the last month, there was also the Hi Seoul festival which was interesting only because there was a walking tour through Buk Cheon Dong, maybe the only yangban neighborhood that has been restored and is still fully intact. You can check out the old style homes with courtyards and tiled roofs; the ones with the sliding rice paper doors and nice wooden floors. You know, it's just a little peak into how people used to live (at least rich people) and you get to be a little nosey in people's houses who are living now. Both are kind of interesting. And oh, I didn't take my camera.

*What else you ask? Well, the GS has been around a whole lot more these days, which definitely makes the work drama more bearable. And I finished teaching those damn middle school students last week and tomorrow will be my first free Tuesday of summer. And the rooftop garden has yielded snow peas, strawberries, and flowers and I think I'll have some nice tomatoes in about a month. I also planted a squash vine, some peppers and an eggplant, so I'll let you know how that turns out. And oh, it is definitely summer here. It's been in the damn 80s this week. Outrageous!

Is this update sufficient? I am so ready for bed....

but don't worry, next time, I'll take my camera.

Spitting Part 3

Did you miss me? I've been a busy, busy girl.

*Let's start with an update of "Susie," now ex-but still preggie-coworker. So Susie took her case to the Labor Board. Susie had to meet our psycho boss at the LB board office for what is turning into the showdown of the century. And, as expected, they claimed that she quit and was most definitely not fired, despite the damning email from the designated bitch supervisor stating that they would give her a 30 day notice. The boss also said that Susie had been organizing us and manipulating us, and all that resulted in a one-day strike the day after Susie had been terminated. Well believe me, I wish that was true, but what actually happened was that they called a mandatory teachers' meeting at the exact time our classes were supposed to start. A mandatory meeting where they lied out of their asses for two hours, which resulted in a big fight involving the foreign teachers and pretty much all of management. Additionally, the boss' "case" involved this interesting little tidbit: she said that she knows that Susie is a manipulator and a liar because SHE LISTENS TO EVERY CONVERSATION WE HAVE IN OUR MIKED TEACHERS' ROOM. Now, this is totally illegal in Korea and it is somewhat galling that she would admit this before a government body that was about to fully investigate her, but I never said the woman is smart. She is so used to lying and changing the facts that I'm sure she didn't know exactly what she said and would change her story yet again if the issue was pressed. Not only that, but I'm not sure what it actually has to do with the facts of the case...

Now, before the LB does a full investigation and reveals their findings, they give the employer and employee a chance to negotiate a settlement. Susie's case was pretty rock-solid and I think our psycho bitch boss had at least figured that out. So after an onslaught of name-calling and verbal abuse, she agreed to pay Susie about $3000 plus her last paycheck. The deal was signed at the LB with a promise of full payment the next day.

Well, of course the drama continued. The next day a different supervisor called Susie to tell her that they wouldn't be paying her April pay because they had to negotiate how much Susie owed her... "HUH?" you say... Yeah. Susie consulted the LB once again and they told her that if psycho boss wanted the money, she would have to sue Susie for it. So today, Susie went yet again back to the office where she was met once again with an onslaught of insults and verbal abuse and then only given $1000 of the $1750 she was owed. And the boss told her, no threatened her, that if she went to the LB again, she would sue Susie for everything and leave her a broken, penniless woman. Well, I'm not sure that she could actually do that, but she is so vengeful that I don't doubt that she'd try it.

That's the thing about this boss. You can't have a rational conversation because everything turns into victimization. Her victimization. But she is out in cold blood for this teacher who only wants the money she is owed so that she can get on with her life.

And now what, you may ask? Well, I don't know. I'm not sure that even if Susie pursues further legal action that she'll be able to get the rest of that money. I think unfortunately, the best she can do is report it and have it go on file what a sleazy f'n boss we have. Where's the justice, man?

And as a side, it turns out that every single foreign teacher has worked illegally for this employer at one time or another and if it didn't mean that we'd all get fined and deported (even though we haven't actually had much choice), it would be a great way to get this woman shut down for good. She is has no business being a business owner.

And oh, in case y'all are wondering over whether or not she'll get deported... Well, they tried, but can't do it because she is too darn pregnant. So she was issued a special 6 month visa, which should be enough time to get herself sorted. And she found a new apartment not so far from where I live now....

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It'll make you want to spit part 2

So a couple of months ago, I wrote this post about a girl I called Susie. Susie, as you might recall, was 6~7 months pregnant at the time. Susie was in great danger of getting fired for said pregnancy, but by some miracle, managed to negotiate a 3 month maternity leave that would start sometime in the middle of May. This maternity leave would not be paid and she agreed to give up many of the other contractual benefits that most foreign teachers here get (free plane tickets, a pension that you can claim when you leave Korea) for being allowed to keep her house and her visa during her maternity leave.

Fast forward to this Thursday. As you may also recall, Susie is an extremely overweight girl. So overweight, that you could not actually tell she was pregnant until the eighth month. Her obesity coupled with the pregnancy, of course, has made her pregnancy a little more complicated. So after a check up on Thursday, she came to work with a doctor's note saying that she has severe chronic hypertension and that she should spend the rest of her pregnancy laying in bed.

When the manager saw the doctor's note, Susie was met with skepticism and incredulity. Not only did the manager say that the notarized document was a lie and that any doctor would write it if a patient asked, but also insisted that Susie open her medical records for the school's inspection so that they could judge for themselves if Susie was well enough to come to work. Susie objected. When she objected they decided for themselves that it must be a lie and demanded that a 8.5 month pregnant woman with severe chronic hypertension work for another week and half, because that was what they had verbally agreed to.

Susie, in a brave and rare moment of standing up of herself, could not be persuaded to work against the doctors orders. Management then accused her of not caring about the school or her students. Why is that she was only caring about herself? Here is Susie, leaving us all to hang out to dry.

Well, please pardon me for a moment while I do a little bit of editorializing: But DUH! What the fuck? Of course a women who is 8.5 months pregnant is going to put the health of herself and her child ahead of some crappy school that doesn't give a shit for her. And use your damn brains people: it's a liability to have her working there. If something happened to her while she was working, who do you think would be responsible? I know that I would sue the pants off of you. And win. And furthermore, did you not know that you've had to hire a teacher for 2 months? Is it really her fault that you've had your thumbs up your asses for all this time?

So after a day of stressful meetings, Susie was basically told to pack up her stuff and move out of her apartment. And then later in the evening, it was followed up with a call saying that the school would be reporting her to immigration for breaking her contract and that she would basically have to leave the country within 2 weeks. (How she could actually do these things being 8.5 months pregnant and on bedrest is beyond me..)

The next morning, we had an emergency meeting at school where management decided that it was really important to tell their side of the story. Of course they hadn't fired Susie. She quit. And of course she didn't have to leave the country within in two weeks. That was all a big misunderstanding, but we should all know that Susie is a liar and has been manipulating us all this whole time. The meeting went on for 2 hours and turned into a huge argument between the foreign staff and the management and ended with everyone being dismissed except me and another foreign teacher. We were sat down with the big boss and explained to one more time.

When she failed to convince us, it ended in her trying with all of her might to make herself cry. She was shaking and making sobbing noises, but just couldn't make the tears come. Pardon me for being so cynical about this, but she has pulled this act on me before. And I know that she stabs every single one of us in the back to make herself look good whenever there is anything slightly controversial at school. I have already been blamed for the low morale amongst the teachers at school. And I'm sure I'm seen as the ringer leader in the Susie revolt.

I am sick to death of the owner of this school. I am sick to death about the way "Susie" has been treated. And the rest of the management is no better as far as I am concerned. I think they would take everyone of us down if they could.

I am seriously thinking of packing up and leaving in June. I just don't know how much more of this I can take.

These are the kinds of things that can really make a girl hate living in Korea.