You’d think finding a Korean teacher in a country that’s homogeneously the same would be easy. As of now my journey has been been a roller coaster of hope and disappointment. Learning Korean is important for me, living here and not being able to speak it makes me feel disrespectful, buying fruits and vegetables I feel like a child pointing to things and holding up my fingers indicating how much, I feel awkward in the car of those teachers who offer me rides home unable to create small talk and the personalities of the teachers I work with remain hidden, as does mine. Fortunately, there are ways to communicate without language, but for me those are not enough.
There are many ways to learn Korean over the internet and through apps, but for me, the self discipline always fades after the first initial weeks. I need a teacher and I need that routine of them coming to my house. I need that hour set aside for nothing but Korean. So far my success rate has been an abysmal zero. My first inquiry was to ask the other natives in town if any of the teachers at their school would like to teach me, but apparently like me they are contractually unallowed to give private lessons. Strike one, I thought. As if sensing my predicament, fate decided to toss me a bone in the form of Chris, our orientation leader and program coordinator. He sent a Facebook message recommending some ways for us to learn Korean, most of them online except one. An after school extra help service called Kumo in various subjects (for kids). They would send a teacher to your house for a half hour a week, they would teach you, give you a book, homework and tests. It sounded perfect and promising, Chris had even used it and endorsed it. It’s as if my prayers had been answered. The following day I mentioned it to my Korean co teacher, she laughed saying it was for children, I told her Chris said you would laugh and she called the company for me. They gave her the name of the Korean teacher and she called. I was eager to hear the news, but disappointed by the results. My co teacher (Ms. Su Hee) said the lady told her that because I was an adult it would be twice the normal price at 66,000 won about 66 dollars, and that she only teachers for about 10-15min, less than half the time of what she is supposed to. I thought it had to be a joke, how could she possibly think someone could learn a language like that. Su Hee called the company again, told them what happened, they said that was unacceptable, called the lady and then called my co teacher back. The lady said the reason for the price was because she said she was going to come twice a week (a lie)…….twice a week at 10-15 minutes is still twice the price of what it should cost. Strike two. Back to the drawing board I went. The following day my Su Hee asked me “Joe, how about learning through Skype,” I thought it could be a possibility. She had found someone who taught Korea to foreigners in the city she lives in. While promising, I didn’t want to jump on the opportunity just yet, I told her I’d think about it, I still had one more card to play.
Rewind three weeks ago when I first moved here. I think I wrote about it, but anyway I went in search for air to put in bike tire and I ran into another foreigner (Matt) accompanied by an old Korean man, Mr. Son who speaks four languages and has lived in Boseong for some time. I hadn’t seen him since that day and I thought it was due time I paid him a visit and he lived in the building across from me. On Wednesday before going to my flat I went to go say hi to him. I wanted to see how he was doing and after my two failed attempts also ask him if he knew any Korean teachers. He told me he would see what he could do and allowed me to borrow two books from his library, The Book Thief and The United States and the Division of Korea, 1945. On Thursday I received a message from Matt (Mr. Son didn’t have my number) telling me to come to his place at 18:30, he found a teacher! I was excited about the prospect of finally finding a teacher. I arrived to his place at 18:30 expecting the teachers shortly, he told me there were two and they should arrive any minute. As the minutes dragged on and the sky changed color we waited. We went outside so he could smoke a cigarette and I asked him questions about his life. At 86 he still hasn’t forgotten English, it just comes out a little slower then it used to, mentioning many times during our conversation that he’s getting old and he hates it. When the sky was dark he told me to go home, he’d call me if they came. Disappointed I was resigned to the fact they weren’t coming, only to receive a call by Mr. Son at 21:30 saying he was sorry, but they weren’t coming, maybe another day. Thanks for the call Mr. Son, but I had already gathered that. Like the sun fading from us as we sat on that step talking, so too faded my last opportunity to find a Korean teacher. Strike three.