Monday, March 5, 2012

Breaking Points


In the ESL industry our jobs are a bit unique. We don't work for a public school, and we don't work for a private academy (학원). We work for a community center, which means that we function like an academy, but that we're non-profit like a school. This keeps the prices a bit lower, and gives students opportunities that they may not otherwise have had.


One bonus for us, about teaching at this community center is the semester breaks. We have 4 semesters in a calendar year, three months each, and at the end we have a week without classes, called "semester break". Most of our students think that this is a vacation time for us, and while we may take our vacation during these weeks, we only get two weeks vacation, while there are 4 semester breaks.


So, during these weeks we do office work. We clean and organize, plan lessons and create curriculum. It is a mental break that we are very thankful for...when we get it.

You see, when we are sick, we get paid sick days. However, our employers are smart and instead of hiring substitute teachers for the day AND paying us...they just reschedule the classes from that day for semester break, and we "make up" our sick days. Pretty shrewd, huh?

In addition to this, a couple of years ago the center started a few new programs which function on a different schedule, and are therefore in session during what is (for some programs) semester break...

That is, until this past week. Most of the peripheral programs were closed this past semester, or ended this semester, and so, for the first time in years (note the plural), we actually had a semester working break!

It was wonderful. I was able to get organized, I filed an filtered my many folders, changed classrooms, redecorated and learned some new teaching methods.


In addition, we were able to write our own schedules for the week. We were in at around 10:00 every day, and finished by 3:30 every day. Also(!) Thursday was a Korean holiday and we arranged to take Friday off (by working extra M/T/W), so we are now in the middle of a four-day weekend!


So, what did we do with this glorious extra time? Well, we slept in a bit on Friday morning, and then got all dressed up and took a train into the city. From there, we had short chat with some friends before heading to one of our favourite places in Seoul: The COEX, a huge complex which includes one of the largest malls I've ever been to, multitudinous restaurants, music stores, a movie theater, an exhibition hall, an art museum, a fitness center and a handful of business offices and meeting venues. You step of the subway, and directly into the hustle-bustle of the mall.

Our first stop was Unos Chicago-Style Pizza. We shared a couple of pies, laughed and mapped out what the rest of our evening would look like.

We walked over to the giant movie theatre, and checked out what was showing. We didn't recognize any of the titles, but a few looked interesting. So we walked over to the local Apple vendor and watched the trailers on a giant iMac. We ended up choosing Man On A Ledge, and after grabbing a few bags of candy at the Sweet Space kiosk, we enjoyed our film. It was a cool heist / revenge movie, with an interesting cast. The acting was lacking and the script wasn't very good, but the story and concept were great, and on the whole it was well executed. We really enjoyed it.

After this, it was around 8:00, and we decided it was time to head over to what was supposed to be the main event of the evening. Just across the street from this giant underground mall, is a tiny jazz club, called Tokyo Jazz. We were very unimpressed by the look of the place. I was actually quite embarrassed, because it had been my idea to go there. We ordered a couple of horribly over-priced drinks, and soon had headaches from the cigarette smoke which lingered in the room. However, we were determined to not have the evening ruined, and soon we were laughing and having fun. Live music wasn't scheduled that night until about 9:30, and at around 9:15 we were almost ready to leave, but we decided to wait and at least get a taste of the live music. 


We were so glad we did. The music was fantastic. We stayed for another hour, and barely even noticed the passing of time. The trio played some of the coolest live music I've ever seen. We will definitely be going back to this club.

That night, we slept over at a friend's house and spent the next day with them. We played Wii, went for a long walk along the Han river (the weather was wonderful) and cooked a delicious meal together.

I'm incredibly grateful that I got to take this mini-break from work, and that I got to go on a city-date with my love. I just wanted to share a bit of my joy with you all. Thanks for reading!
Oh, this was also a GREAT weekend for photos. All of the pictures in this post were taken over the weekend.



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