I Almost Worked for a Cult 31

Ridiculous Suggestions, an ending

An English language compound.

Run by Russians.

In Korea.

Close to the DMZ.

Nothing dodgy about that, eh?

That was the first solid offer we had received since turning down Cambodia. We almost accepted it too, until I was offered a seemingly more legitimate position. It would be a position that I ended up accepting too, and one where herself would come on board as well after a few weeks.

Ok, I got a bit ahead of myself here. Please allow me to use a flashback, within a flashback. (Jaysus, you’re being spoiled with narrative devices, wha?)

We’d been pretty much drifting around Seoul for the three weeks or so after our horrific experience with Sunshine Academy. It was a combination of PTSD, severe back pain, and chronic procrastination. A deadly combination, in fact. I hate to always go on about money, but believe me, eating out all day and renting rooms in guest houses has a way of eating in to your funds. We were almost in to the “let’s get the fuck out of here” fund, before herself had what seemed like a strange proposition.

Have you heard of couch surfing before? I hadn’t. Apparently (this is how it was pitched to me) it was like Air BnB, but there was no charge. You could stay in someone’s house, free of charge, either on a couch, blow up mattress, or bed if you were lucky. Herself really gave it the soft sell (tainted love!), but all I could think about was being murdered in my sleep and an embarrassing photo of me turning up in the national newspapers. It would be my confirmation photo as well. The one where I have a blonde bowl cut and a beige denim jacket and check shirt. That was the ensemble that earned me my MilkyBar Kid nickname in secondary school. I like that photo, but years of abuse has made me hate it.

I didn’t know at the time, because I’m not a fucking psychic, but this suggestion would end up introducing us to our saviour in Korea, and a friend for life. I won’t use his real name, I wouldn’t want to embarrass the man. He knows who he is.

Let’s just say he was a kindly Brit who took us in to his home, gave us some incredible support and advice, and didn’t make us convert to Protestantism, or steal our land, or make us give him our potatoes. He really looked after us while we lived in his home. In fact, he looked out for us for our entire time in Korea. I’m not a religious guy at all, but this dude was our guardian angel. A Spurs fan, and a grandmother from Monaghan, but sure nobody’s perfect.

We got to know his kids, his circle of friends, and the fun side to Korea. If we hadn’t have met him, we would have returned to Ireland with a very bitter and twisted vision of a country that wasn’t that bad actually. It wasn’t a utopia, but sure, where the fuck is?

We were staying in his house in Illsan when I received my legitimate teaching job. Our British benefactor helped us move to our new town, kit out our apartment, and help us settle in. We finally had a sense of security in our new home. After a few months of weirdness, we were about to embark on a structured, calm, and settled year teaching Korean kids English.

I just read that sentence back, and laughed out loud. The year teaching was more fucking mental than the first few months. I have so many fucked up, crazy and weird tales to tell you about my time there, but it’ll be under a different title, and at a different time.

And now, dear reader, we come to the end of I Almost Worked for a Cult.

Thank you kindly for reading and following these stories for the past few weeks. It’s been incredibly cathartic writing about this experience. Herself could only bring herself (grammar check loved that sequence) to read this a few days ago. She had forgotten about a lot of what happened. She said she had blocked it out, possibly as a coping mechanism. It was mad, wasn’t it? Or are we over-reacting? Nah, we can’t be. The whole thing was fucking insane.

It’s affected me in a few different ways, both positive and negative. It’s really made me question why religious groups have so much power and are allowed to operate with virtually no regulation. That’s a hot take, but just have a think about it. In Ireland their influence is still great, and in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. Telling people how to live their lives based on a racist, homophobic and misogynistic book that was written in the dark ages (allegedly) is fucking bizarre. It’s mass hysteria (pardon the pun). Anyhoo, yeah, it strengthened my mistrust of religious groups.

I never want to have to interact with a religious organization like that ever again. I don’t think they should be outlawed or anything, each to their own and all that, but I just don’t want to have any part in their fantastical nonsense. And I don’t want their fantastical nonsense to have any impact on me or the way I live my life, educate my future children, or how my country’s health service is run.

Also, it really made me more cautious in my decision making and less trusting of people. I suppose the trust thing is sad, but naïveté caused a lot of issues here, we weren’t entirely blameless in this situation! From the outside, a smiling calm Mr Yun would seem like a stand-up guy. But he wasn’t. He was a fucking maniac. A control freak. A bully. All concealed behind a wall of bullshit religious piety, that in a way put us in a false sense of security. I’m sure some other poor fucker was taken in by this act, and I feel terribly sorry for them if they were.

Where are they all now? Who knows. Preaching the good word to gullible poor people, I presume. Business as usual.

Anytime I stay down in Herself’s parent’s house in Tipperary and hear the boy racers doing dough-nuts at the cross in the middle of the night, I always assume for a brief second that it’s Mrs Joy, she drove her Integra all the way to Ireland, and she’s found us.

She’s sitting in that bucket seat, smoking a fag, patting the glock decorated with crucifixes that’s strapped to her leg.

I Almost Worked for a Cult 12

Ew, Gimbap!

We spent the weekend before staring our new jobs in Itaewon. Itaewon was kind of the international area in Seoul. Actually, it is the international area in Seoul. If you wanted a taste of home, a big pair of jeans for your giant western arse, or to be attacked by a drunken American soldier, it was the place to be!

On the Saturday morning we visited a café owned by a Canadian couple for brunch. I had the most delicious French toast with bacon. It was so good! While we were digesting and enjoying our coffees, a group of Irish ladies entered, sat a few tables over from us, and started having a really loud conversation. Myself and herself stopped talking to have a nose.

It was fucking hilarious. It turned out that they were involved in the GAA set up over there. One of their team mates had gotten a bit too cocky for their liking, and they were tearing shreds off of her. I burst out laughing when one of them said, “She tells everyone that she’s from Terenure, but she’s Tallaght through and through!”  They glared at me, but then started laughing awkwardly. It was a really nice moment; it calmed me and made me feel that I wasn’t actually that far from home after all.

Our current apartment was roughly an hour and a half train ride from the school. On the morning of the first day we got up early and treated ourselves to a cronut and coffees from the train station Dunkin’ Donuts.

We normally ate gimbap for breakfast. Gimbap was kind of the Korean equivalent of an Irish breakfast roll. It was lot healthier than the Irish version too. Basically it was a long, segmented roll of sushi wrapped in tinfoil. It cost roughly 50 cent. It was very filling, very healthy, and very disgusting to eat first thing in the morning.

I could never get used to seaweed, rice and fish first thing in the morning. This bogman liked his porridge! It’d be grand for lunch, or an early evening snack, but my stomach always lurched on those early mornings. I’d have to close off my nostrils before taking my first bite, and keep them closed until the first segment was consumed. I liked the bitterness of the pickled radish, but the seaweed’s texture and taste always made me want to puke. Herself loved it. She vocalised her love of it even more when she used to see me struggling, just to wind me up. It worked.

Herself got us a couple of large bottles of water and a few notebooks and pens from the 7/11. Apparently the school would be providing us with a traditional ‘British’ lunch as a welcome. I was getting pig-sick of people telling us we were British, but a free lunch was a free lunch.

Actually, I have to elaborate on this point. I’m not speaking for everyone on the island of Ireland here, I’m speaking for myself. I’m sure it is an opinion though that a lot of Irish people will share. I fucking hate it when people of another nationality assume I’m British. Ireland is a separate country, with a completely different cultural identity, language and traditions. It’s a level of ignorance that I really have a hard time accepting.

I don’t hate the Brits. I bear them no ill will whatsoever; it’s just that I associate a lot of negative things to the word British. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Flat, warm, flavourless beer and conversation
  • Complaints over trivial matters in holiday resorts
  • Destroying football stadiums
  • ITV

Look, we have some similarities, but we’re not the same. I’d apologize to my British friends for this hard-line standpoint, but they have yet to apologize to me for:

  • The Famine
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • The X Factor

So they can fuck off!

Next time: Let us pray

Follow the series from the beginning:

I Almost Worked for a Cult 1

I Almost Worked for a Cult 2

I Almost Worked for a Cult 3

I Almost Worked for a Cult 4

I Almost Worked for a Cult 5

I Almost Worked for a Cult 6

I Almost Worked for a Cult 7

I Almost Worked for a Cult 8

I Almost Worked for a Cult 9

I Almost Worked for a Cult 10

I Almost Worked for a Cult 11