Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Working in a foreign country is difficult and can be frustrating. Working with Indonesians in Indonesia as an American is a practice in patience and adaptability. One must learn to mosey not speed walk, to expect that anything you need done post haste will take twice as long as if you don't care when it's accomplished, to know that traffic and/or weather are excuses for anything from late arrive to a task not being completed, and understand that anything worth having done will require multiple requests and follow up.

That all being taken into consideration, now add another layer of confusion.  I work at a Korean school.  The misconception, or at least my preconceived notion, was that Koreans are much like the Japanese. Organized to a fault, businesses that run like well oiled machines, on time and above all efficient. That may be the case IN KOREA but it couldn't be farther from the truth here.  As an example, when I tell people I work with Koreans they expect that the kids are quiet and orderly and attentive.  
courtesy of

If only.  The kids mostly grew up here and are firmly entrenched in Indonesian nanny society.

But I stray, back to chaos and frustration at work. I started in August and never got a contract.  I asked, I inquired, I queried, I even investigated. Anyone is a position higher than mine was subject to questioning.  In the end I was told that Koreans don't really believe in contracts, but they are required by the Indonesian government.  Since I was showing up and getting paid, I really shouldn't worry about anything.  Other than getting 1/2 the medical reimbursement since I was only there half the year, I was a regular member of staff.

Uuunnnntttttiiiiiilllllllllll January. We'd all been notified before holidays that we would be getting a raise when our new contracts came out in February.  Great! Merry Christmas!  It wasn't enough to keep up with inflation but it was something. Of course, what you say or do at one point has little to no bearing on any point in the future.  Upon return to class (which was still the end of 2nd semester 2010, not 1st semester 2011 which would start in February) we were told contracts were still in negotiations.  The teachers were standing together and either we all signed or no one did.  Unionization in a bastardized way.  I'm still in support of it.

February, the new school year.  And now the story has changed.
The conversation between the "Head of International Teaching" who is Korean, and I went a little like this:
Korean HoD: When you sign your contract you'll only get half the raise everyone else gets because you've only been here one term.
You did pass your probation without incident but . .   
What probation? 
It's in your contract.
I've never seen or signed a contract.
You what?
I asked and asked for a contract and never got one.
Ohhhh, hmmmm.
I show up and get paid but I've never even seen a contract.
Well, when you get this one it will only be for half the raise.
I'll talk to the native teacher head of English.

At which point we broke off because it was pointless.  Needless to say, after a week of negotiating, "mafia thug tactics" (not my term), passive aggressive threatening of my work visa and hours of waiting, I ended up signing, at half the pay raise because I needed to get my visa renewed, had just confirmed my apartment for six months and mostly I needed to be able to plan my life.

Last week and this week the issue has been meetings.  We had a meeting last Friday that ran and hour and a half and should have been sorted in 30-40 minutes.  Today we had a meeting to go over what the meeting next week will cover and to advise of a meeting on March 14th. In addition to being mostly useless, now they are redundant.

Deep breath, just accept the things I can not change and don't let them drive me mad.

1 comment:

  1. I lived in a building with mostly Koreans in VN. I wanted to kill them all. The children were loud, obnoxious and downright RUDE. They made Vietnamese kids look like sweet angels. I totally understand you.