Thursday, July 10, 2014

Miss H's weaselly hagwon

I sure picked the wrong time to try and revamp my vlog. 

It seemed safe to expect things to calm down now that it's the end of the semester. They always do. Once the frenetic rush of grading and inputting is finished, events taper off. There's half a week where students are allowed to complain about their grades and plead on bended knee for clemency, and then the grades are finalized and printed and handed in. (I just did that today, as a matter of fact.) Then, after that...nothing. If you don't have summer classes, you're a free man for two whole months. From July 2 (the end of the finalization period) until the first Monday in September, it's vacation time. 

Customarily, things calm the heck down during that period. 

But not for us. Oh no. We lead a charmed life, Miss H and I. Just a scant two weeks before I leave for Vietnam, my fiancée's school decided to pull the rug out from under us. They asked us to move out of our apartment.

I know, right? 

We were shocked, of course. We've been here a scant four months. Moreover the whole reason Miss H signed a contract with this school is so we could have this huge apartment all to ourselves. That was the agreement. Now all of a sudden the school says "You have one month to move out"? Oh no they didn't!

So we went in and talked to Miss H's immediate supervisors in person last week. They backpedaled and clarified, assuring us that they wouldn't revoke our housing completely; this was simply an expensive apartment, too expensive to have just one teacher and her pseudo-spouse living in it. They'd provide key money and rent for any other apartment, as long as said rent was ₩400,000 per month or less. According to the contract they'd signed with Miss H, they were legally obligated to do at least that much. 

There wasn't much more we could do but agree to that. I'm the moocher here. I don't work for Miss H's school, and was allowed to stay with her in this apartment for no extra money down. But it just wasn't fair of the school to kick our stilts out from under us out of the blue like this. 

Miss H and I quickly decided that there was no way we could find a new apartment, rent it, pack up this apartment, and move everything we owned in the scant ten days remaining before I departed for Vietnam. It just wasn't happening. So we went into meet her supervisors again just a couple of days later and asked them if we could stay in this apartment if I forked over my share of the rent. The supervisors told us that our place costs ₩800,000 per month for the school to rent, and I'd need to stump up half. After a little hemming and hawing and a halfhearted attempt at bargaining, I acquiesced.

But now I'm rethinking even that. If I shell out ₩400,000 per month (roughly $400), that's almost three thousand dollars I'll lose by March 2015—for no reason at all. It's money which should be used to make a security deposit on a stateside apartment, buy a car, and acquire miscellaneous housewares. Miss H and I got it in writing that no one else would be billeted with us in this place, but unfortunately we never secured the school's assurance that we'd never be charged extra rent or made to move out. The school's got us over a barrel. 

I wasn't finished yet, though. On Thursday I marched to the Itaewon Global Village Center, which is on the same floor in the same building as the international clinic where I got my travel vaccinations two weeks ago. The Global Village Center, according to its own website, "offers a variety of services to support foreigners living in the area, and we have classes and programs that help to facilitate cultural exchange and understanding between foreigners and Koreans residents." Among those services is free legal consultation. I made an appointment at 10:00 AM on Tuesday the 8th to see a lawyer. 

Here's what he said: there's nothing in the contract to prevent the school from charging us extra for this apartment. They only agreed to let this apartment to the two of us exclusively. As the lawyer put it, "It was a favor, not a promise." However, there was one spot of hope: if we had a witness to corroborate the school's agreement to let us live here at no extra charge, then we'd have a case. He advised us to get in touch with Miss H's recruiter and obtain her testimony, which I thought was a good idea. I'll keep you posted on what comes next, but...

All this would be hard enough to deal with if I wasn't leaving for Southeast Asia on July 12. That sure complicates things. It's really put the pressure on both of us. But Miss H and I really don't want to move. It's costly, it's a lot of effort, and frankly, we feel that we were promised this apartment and shouldn't have to abandon it because Miss H's school is worried about the bottom line. Moreover, after what we went through in Gwangnaru (living side-by-side in a studio apartment and sharing a twin bed and all that nonsense) we feel that we're owed a nice big apartment for our final year here in Korea. 

And now you've heard the whole story. The fight's not over yet. I'm not going to pay those crooks a single won if I can avoid it. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

revamping the vlog

As you (should) already know, I'm a blogger. What some of you may not know is that I attempted, for a embarrassingly short while, to keep a vlog as well. I've linked to it a couple of times, but I try to avoid saying too much about it, because it's incomplete and poorly-kept, with overlong and badly-edited videos. It's as underdone as chicken tenders at Chili's. 


I'd like to change that. 

I need a decent microphone and some updated video-editing skills. But once I master those, I'm going to revamp that blog of mine. 


Well, since I already cover everything related to travel, cocktails, flying, and writing on this here blog, I'm going to take a different route with my YouTube channel. Oh, of course I'll put up interesting travel videos (should be plenty of those coming from Southeast Asia). Once I move back to the USA, I'll also set up a camera in the kitchen and start making video cocktail reviews instead of just text. (Perhaps once I reach Cocktail Review No. 85 or 90 or 100, whenever that may be.) And when I get back stateside I'll resume my flying career, too: specifically my quest for a single-engine commercial pilot ticket with instrument, floatplane, taildragger, and high-performance ratings. I'm sure that'll make for some interesting video fodder too. I may even need to get a GoPro...

But all that's in the future. For now, while I'm here in Korea, I can definitely do better with the vlog. 

I've been watching a lot of vlogs on YouTube lately (specifically the QiRangerKWOW, and HowTheWorldWorks), and I love 'em to death. Here are some things that they all do well:

  • they supplement their speech with text, music, and hi-def images, artfully edited into the video as a whole
  • they talk about pertinent, up-to-date, and interesting subjects
  • their bedside manner is engaging and fun, and their speech is practiced, fluent, and clear

I can do all that stuff, easy. Might be a little rough once I first start out, but I'll get into the swing of it. 

So what kind of topics will I talk about, then?

Something that people keep telling me I'm great at discussing in an interesting, meaningful way: history and wordplay

Once per week, I'm thinking, I'll do an installment called 5-Minute History, where I'll talk about some obscure and little-known topic that nonetheless had far-reaching consequences on our civilization and society. As the title suggests, these videos will be about five minutes in length. 

On certain days of the week, I'll have shorter and supplementary columns: Slang Saturdays (wherein I discuss the origin of an idiom or colloquialism) and Word Wednesdays (wherein I discuss the etymology, cultural significance, and historical context of English words). In short, I am going to create a whole new world for me and others to play around in online. And maybe learn something along the way. 

Sound boring? It won't be, trust me. 

I'm not sure when all of this will get started. My first order of business is to create a neat channel trailer for this vlog and inform everyone of its revitalization. I need to get familiar with video editing and figure out how to insert music, voice-overs, images, video clips, and so on. But you guys here on the Sententious Vaunter will be the first to know when the new-and-improved Vaunter-vlog starts up. And who knows? This might be a nice segue into the world of radio, something I do on the side that could get me hired one day. 

Stay tuned, vlogsphere. Ex Post Facto is going to get a whole lot sexier. 

Nope, even sexier than that. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

the Pope is coming

I noticed something interesting on the subway TV screens last week: images of Pope Francis interspersed with Korean churches and cathedrals. I didn't think much of it at the time, but a quick Internet check confirmed my suspicions.

The Pope is coming to South Korea.

Between August 14 and 16, His Holiness, in his big heavy robes, will flit about this hot, steamy peninsula succoring the victims of the Sewol disaster, conducting Mass at various Korean cathedrals, presiding over the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs, and just generally doing papal things. There will be a parade near Gwanghwamun and (if the article I linked to above is to be believed) over 100 million people will be in attendance. 

I find that a little difficult to believe. This city's population is just over 10 million. I don't see how it could swell by 1000% and not explode. I don't think that many people could physically fit into this town, not even if they flung a bunch of pontoons into the Han River and turned it into a peanut gallery. 

Anyway, Miss H and I return from Hong Kong on the 7th of August, so we'll be here in time to see Francis. If we feel up to battling our way through the teeming throngs, we may try to get a glimpse of the fellow. It'd be cool to say we saw the first New World pope on an official mission of mercy. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Southeast Asia travel prep

I've made great strides in preparing for my upcoming Southeast Asia tour. I had some free time on Friday, so I took the subway to Anguk Station and climbed a tall, sinister, sweaty hill to the Vietnamese embassy to apply for my visa. I was expecting a grand, colonial-style brick building with curtained windows, armed guards in crisp uniforms, and velvety carpet floors, but what I found was a series of squat little huts with peeling white paint and asthmatic air conditioning. The rusty gate hung half-open and the tiny apron of rough asphalt inside was empty. There wasn't a single Vietnamese person in sight. Behind the desk in Hut B4 was a young, surly, sniffy, trilingual Korean woman just back from lunch, who imperiously asked for my passport and jabbed an application form and a pen at me. I filled it out while the other supplicants, a sharp-dressed harabeoji with his two hyperactive grandchildren and a harassed salarywoman, hovered in the background. Ten minutes later, I had a pink slip in my hand commanding me to bring ₩95,000 to this very hut at 5:00 p.m. on Friday the 27th of June. Boom. Visa applied for. 

I took a cab to Itaewon and the international clinic there to get some immunizations. Dr. Kim, educated in the United States and almost wholly without an accent, gave it to me straight: according to the CDC, I didn't need malaria meds unless I'd be traveling to the uncharted interior of Vietnam or Cambodia. As long as I was sticking to the cities, I'd be fine. After a two-minute discussion, the good doctor directed me to his head nurse, who jabbed me with a 6-month flu shot, a three-year typhoid injection, and a first-time hepatitis A vaccine, which I was instructed to renew in half a year's time. The harridan scribbled three entries into a vaccination card, thrust it at me, took my payment of ₩143,000, and bowed me out of the waiting room. My arm was sore for the rest of the day. I attended a World Cup-themed dinner party in Hyehwa later that rainy evening and raising beer bottles to my lips became an unpleasant chore. 

I have also successfully reserved a four-berth soft sleeper on the SE3, the two-day train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City departing at eleven o'clock on the evening of July 14th. Seat 61 recommended Vietnam Impressive as the best travel agency for booking train tickets, and not without reason. I was very impressed with their fast service and their clear, forthright run-down of timetables and payment information. I'd recommend them to anyone. Their notification request system seems a bit spotty, but less than 24 hours after I sent a follow-up e-mail, I had payment and reservation confirmation in my inbox. My view of Vietnam is going to look like this: 

Reckless Wonder

So...yeah. Flights are reserved, hotels are booked, train tickets will be waiting for me, and everything's go for launch on July 12.

This is gonna be great