I Almost Worked for a Cult 26

Paralysis and analysis

Our accommodation beside Ehwa Women’s University was impossible to find. We took a taxi from the subway station, but the driver couldn’t find the place, and instead of actually looking at the directions we showed him, he told us to get out! He didn’t take payment though, which I suppose was sound enough.

Herself was in agony. She could barely walk. We were tired, hungry and out of our minds with worry. It was late on Saturday night and the streets were filled with weekend partiers. We certainly stuck out like sore, homeless thumbs. A plastered American lady asked us if we were ok. I don’t know if it was dehydration, hunger, tiredness, or what; I started to tearfully tell her what had happened to us. It just came pouring out of me. I left out the bit about leaving the keys in a bag of shit. We had to be seen as purely sympathetic characters here. Ahem…

She listened, wide eyed, and when I had finished she just waved her hand and said “Oh, Korea!” in an ironic fashion, like this sort of shit happened on a daily basis! Maybe I needed that. She offered to help us find our guesthouse. Her phone had data, whereas we only had herself’s phone which still had its Irish SIM card.

She got us to the front door and bid us good luck.

I checked us in and brought our bags up to the room. The room had two beds, a bathroom and a working kitchen. It was big enough and comfortable. I went down to the 7/11 to buy some painkillers and ice for herself. I was having a mini panic attack about doing this. How do you ask for something you need in a language you can’t speak yet? Ugh. Well it turned out to be fine. The dude behind the counter was a big bald Californian called Charlie.

When I walked in he greeted me with “Hey, foreigner!”

It was delivered in a friendly, welcoming way. Not in a hostile, racist, Pegida way. We got chatting, he told me a bit about the area – where to eat, where to drink – all the basics. Nice guy that Charlie.

I brought back the painkillers, ice and some food for herself. Charlie had given me directions to a McDonalds. The first one I’d been to in Korea! It was glorious!

We ate our burgers in silence, and afterwards herself dozed off. I couldn’t sleep for ages. I had to process all the shit that happened in the space of 11 days or so.

Sunshine Academy, the Korean wing of a fundamentalist American “Christian” cult, had taken in what they thought to be two vulnerable Irish people to teach in their school and eventually become fully fledged brainwashed members of their organization. Their tactics to achieve this were based on guilt and shame. These were tactics that had been used by the Catholic Church, and proven to have been successful in Ireland, for hundreds of years. Sunshine Academy obviously weren’t up to date with the current condition of the Irish psyche. We were no longer a nation of people being strangled by the yoke of colonialism or the Catholic Church. No, we were a modern, enlightened and educated people who didn’t take no shit from nobody. We have Twitter. We are “woke”.

The only way you’ll pull the wool over an Irish person’s eyes nowadays is by throwing an IRA themed costume party.

I had this vision of Mr Yun, Mrs Joy and Mr Boyle in their staff room having a good ‘ol chuckle. Mr Yun snapping his fingers, “Gosh darn it, we almost had them!” He then calls the recruiter and tells him to send in the next two suckers for an interview.

I had another one of Mrs Joy turning to Mr Boyle saying, “I think they just didn’t get our sense of humour at all. I mean, was the wedding practical joke just a bit too zany?”

We never saw or heard from those cunts again. Although, I did, and still do, keep an eye out for them. I don’t think they were the forgiving type of Christians.

This part of our stay in Korea is always the bit that we kind of skip over when talking about our time there. It’s not that we’re ashamed by it or anything, nah – we were just too fucking traumatised to discuss it in detail until now. (Herself is actually too traumatised to read this, well that’s what she says…) Plus, it was only like eleven days of a ten month stay, so, you know -focus on the positives and all that.

This series will continue. There are loads more messed up stories to come. This is just the beginning! It’s just the end of our interaction with the seedy fundamentalist Christian underbelly of Korea.

Is this misery porn? It’s not meant to be.

It all works out in the end.

Trust me.

Persevere!

Next time: Down and out in South East Asia

I Almost Worked for a Cult 24

Doing a runner

We went out on to the street and tried to find somewhere for lunch. There was a Paris Baguette café just around the corner from the apartment. It served good coffee and questionable sandwiches. We had a couple of gorgeous caramel macchiato and some disgusting sandwiches.

The staff in the café were staring at us the entire time, texting on their phones. It was unsettling. I was convinced that they were cult members and were informing on us. WhatsApping Mr Yun.

We finished up and set off to find a PC Bang. I had seen one that morning across the road from the train station. We cautiously made our way there, keen to avoid bumping in to Yun or Joy.

Every PC Bang that we had ever been in so far in Seoul had been jam-packed. They were always full of teenagers quaffing energy drinks and furiously playing StarCraft or Fifa. This one was deserted. It was equipped with all the latest and greatest in PC gaming technology. Best of all, it had a functioning air-con system. Oh, the cool air. How I missed thee!

There wasn’t a sinner in the place, though. We approached the counter to see if there was a bell or something that we could ring to get attention, when a door to the rear of the room flew open and a large bald man wearing a Bluetooth headset came in and started screaming at us.

M – Hey, we need to use the internet. How much for one hour?

BM- No! Closed! No internet! Closed! No Internet!

M – Relax, ya big galoot!

He pushed us towards the front door. We obliged. Another cult member, I presumed.

Herself suggested that we climb the hill to find another establishment. The decision was made to walk in the opposite direction of the school and train station. Somewhere that hadn’t been infected by the cult.

We soon came to a kind of square, well an open space, littered with western style pubs and a load of teenagers with skateboards. There was a giant, bustling PC bang on the corner. We went in and paid the money to the friendly staff. Nobody passed any remarks on us. They were too engrossed in their gaming sessions to care that a couple of distressed looking foreigners had entered.

We took our seats at side by side machines.

M – Ok, let’s look at some temporary accommodation first. Something that we can pay for in cash if we need to.

H – Ok. Good idea. No harm having a backup. Let’s price flights as well.

M – Really?

H – No harm. We’ll cover all bases. Just in case.

M – Ok, cool.

We booked accommodation close to Ehwa women’s university in Seoul. It was fairly cheap. €50 for five days. Our flights home would clear us out, but it was a hit that we were prepared to now take. Our minds were made up. Anymore shit from Yun or Joy, and we were out of here.

Back to the Emerald Isle.

Back to the land of living in sin without judgement!

Next time: A dash and an injury

I Almost Worked for a Cult 23

We gotta go now!

( Dialogue key M – myself, H – herself, MJ – Mrs Joy)

I was shaking. I think I was in shock. It must have been shock. I felt freezing cold all of a sudden, and my arms were going numb. Maybe it was a stroke?

I walked around the apartment. No air conditioning unit was installed. The bathroom was fucking rank. Herself opened the fridge and a cock roach scuttled past her feet. The kitchen had no cooker, or any appliances for that matter. All it had was a sink and a few plastic cupboards.

I grabbed herself by the arm, told her to follow me, turned to Mrs Joy and said, “Give us a minute.”

I guided herself up a couple of flights of stairs to get out of Mrs Joy’s earshot.

M – Ok dude, we’re out of here. That’s all I can take.

H – Calm down. It’s bad, but just calm down. We’ll talk to her.

M – I’ll talk to her. We’re not staying here. The fucking state of the place! A bag of shit, like! A fucking bag of shit!!

H – Ok. Just take a breath before you do.

We went back down to the apartment. Mrs Joy wasn’t there. We waited for a few minutes and were about to leave when she arrived in the door with a large garment bag and a pair of hideous, white, women’s shoes.

MJ – This is your wedding dress. You can put it on now and see if it fits.

Herself jumped at Mrs Joy.

H – I will not be putting that dress on! Where the hell did you get that from?

MJ – It is my daughter-in-law’s. She is American. It is an American size.

I think that was supposed to be a reassuring comment, but it was delivered like a put down. I followed herself’s lead and got up in Mrs Joy’s grill.

M – Ok, this has gone too far. First of all, you can put that wedding dress back in your car. There will be no fucking wedding. Not on Monday, not the week after – never!

That’s right, I said fucking. I cursed at an old woman. I didn’t care. At that particular time, she represented every fucking mental thing that this school had done to us in the past week or so. I was letting out a few days of frustration. It felt good, man.

M – Here is what’s going to happen. We are going to leave until 2pm. In the meantime, there will be furniture delivered to this house. That means a bed, chairs, a table, and everything else that we need. You will have our contracts printed out for signature and on the table when we return. If you do not complete this, we will not be working for you. Do you understand?

Mrs Joy shook a cigarette out of her soft pack of Marlboro. She lit it, took a deep pull and said “Mm hmm” through squinted eyes. She turned on her heels and left myself and herself on our own.

H – Is she after leaving?

M – I think so.

I walked over to our balcony (oooh – luxury) and looked out on the road. I could see Mrs Joy’s Integra driving slowly in the direction of the school.

M – Yeah, she’s gone. We’ve a couple of hours. Let’s go find a PC bang.

H – Ok.

PC Bangs were 24 hour internet café’s. There was one in every street corner in Korea. Because we had no computer access (I broke my I-phone on week 2!) we relied heavily on the PC Bang to do our digital business.

We hadn’t openly said to each other that we were doing a runner, but at this stage we had each one foot out the door.

Next time: Doing a runner

I Almost Worked for a Cult 22

Time to break free

Mrs Joy’s boot was goosed. (Once again, that’s trunk for those of you who speak American.) The crash had fucked up the mechanism for popping it open.

I had to drag our bags out through the lowered back seat from the front of the car. A lovely, awkward, sweaty endeavour. At least, I thought, I wouldn’t be doing this again for another while!

It took a couple of trips to carry all our gear up the three flights of stairs. The lift was conveniently out of order. Mrs Joy smoked a cigarette in the stairwell and watched me with interest. Probably was thinking of a way that my strength could be used for Christ. Beat the Jesus in to people, or something. I dunno. She was looking at me anyway. Made me uncomfortable.

Herself stood opposite her, giving me the occasional apologetic glance. She wanted to be able to help. I knew this, but I was happy enough to be the cart horse until her back healed. I’m fierce sound like that.

When all the gear was finally brought up, and Mrs Joy finished her fags, we were beckoned to the front door of our new home. Our first Korean home. Hopefully our only Korean home!

Mrs Joy opened the door and walked in, followed by herself. I was doing that lazy man action of trying to drag all the bags at once, so I didn’t really get the first glance at the interior. Herself had that honour.

I dropped the bags on the floor, had a look around, and left my jaw on the floor with the bags. This wasn’t an apartment. It was a crime scene. A crime scene from a Cronenberg movie.

The first thing that hit me was the smell of human shit. Not the smell of human possessions – actual human shit. Shit from an arse.

There was a fucking bag of human shit, from a human arse, in the middle of the fucking floor.

Now, we’ll take a brief segue in to toilet etiquette in Korea. Hooray!

People generally don’t flush their toilet roll in Korea. Something to do with the width of the pipes, I think. They have similar toilets to the ones we have in Ireland. Some places even have those electronic Japanese toilets that warm your arse, have USB ports to charge your phone, and best of all – play music to mask that “throwing a handful of gravel on a corrugated iron roof” sound that you’ll make after a heavy night on the Guinness. Most bathrooms are equipped with bins beside the toilet that you are supposed to place your used wipes in. Many of these in public bathrooms were overflowing with other people’s dirty leavings. I never once did this in my entire time in Korea. I flushed everything. I’d say I was personally responsible for 97% of toilet clogs in Seoul during the latter part of 2015. Fuck it, the alternative was fucking disgusting.

Anyway, that was the general Korean attitude to bum wiping. The previous occupants of our new home, well looking at this bag it was evident that they flushed no solids at all down their toilet. It looked like all the waste was binned instead. They must have been environmental engineers.

The second thing to hit me was the heat. It was fucking roasting in here. Between the heat and the stink, I was beginning to feel faint.

The third thing to hit me was the complete lack of furniture. No bed, no tables, no tv – nothing.

Oh wait; there was one thing – a bible. That solved one problem for us.

Mrs Joy handed us keys. “This is your apartment. Please move in and I will take you to dinner.”

Move in to what? This was a shell! A shell that stank of shit!

Next time: We gotta go now!

I Almost Worked for a Cult 18

Better put a ring on it

On the Friday morning of our first week, we were greeted by a very hoarse and pale Mr Yun.

He explained his condition before the morning prayer:

“You will have to excuse me this morning. I was partaking in a revival for the past few days. Mr Boyle will lead our morning prayers.”

Mr Boyle nodded graciously and prayed that God would heal Mr Yun’s voice. Yun smiled and took out a lozenge and popped it in his mouth, just to be sure.

How did I see this? Well, I had not been closing my eyes during “prayers” since the first meeting on Monday. Why? Well, I didn’t trust the cunts, that’s why!

I mean, this was a guy that was away for two days at a revival? A revival of what? Fucking Supertramp? This was evangelical shit. Events organized to convert (brainwash) new members of the church (cult) and bring them closer to Jesus (take all their money). No way was I closing my eyes around these lunatics!

After the meeting Mr Yun asked us to stay back. Great, I thought, more fucking wedding shit. He sat down in front of us.

“So guys, I think you should go out today and buy some rings for your wedding.”

Ha? Rings? Did this gowl fall off the stage at his revival and get a concussion?

“Excuse me?” asked herself.

Mr Yun chuckled “We can’t have a wedding without rings!”

I’d had enough of this bullshit. We were almost stone broke, in a strange land on the other side of the world, sitting in front of a smiling maniac who was suggesting that we buy rings for a wedding that we hadn’t fucking agreed to. If I had ever been exposed to a high concentration of gamma radiation as a child, it would be at this point that I’d have turned my purple trousers into rags with my exploding green muscles.

I put a hand up. “Listen Mr Yun, we are not spending money on rings for this so called wedding. We haven’t agreed to this. This entire suggestion is beyond ridiculous.”

Mr Yun inhaled, smiled, and turned around to herself.

“So, Mrs Joy has found a wedding dress for you and some nice shoes. Do you have time today to try it on?”

Herself blanched.

“A wedding dress? No, I do not have time to try on a dress. Please furnish us with our contracts and stop asking us to get married. It is not going to happen.”

Yun considered this. He took a step back and reloaded his brainwash shotgun with some guilt pellets.

“But everyone is invited. All the children are excited. All the teachers have prepared. You will get married before school and then teach your classes for the rest of the day.”

Wow. Way to upsell.

“You should not have invited anyone to a wedding or any event that we haven’t given consent to. You can go back to all these people and tell them it isn’t happening.” I roared.

The prick completely ignored me again and spoke directly to herself. It was an impressive technique to be fair. Don’t even acknowledge something that goes against your views. A proper fundamentalist.

“Your apartment will be ready tomorrow.”

Ah, he was using shock and awe tactics now. Clever.

“Mrs Joy will meet you in the morning and take you there.”

“And what about our contracts?” asked herself.

Yun waved his hand, “Talk to Mrs Joy about that, she looks after contracts.”

He turned to me.

“You look upset. What is wrong?”

Was this guy a fucking idiot, or just acting the bollox? I got up out of my seat to leave.

“I’ve work to do.” I walked out of the room and went straight to my classroom. It probably made me look like a petulant child, but I had to get out of there. I had such a strong urge to punch that man in the face. Give him a proper haymaker.

Herself followed me in to the room, locked the door and drew the blinds.

We had to hash this out immediately. Things had really gotten out of hand.

Next time: Crisis Talks

I Almost Worked for a Cult 18

Better put a ring on it

On the Friday morning of our first week, we were greeted by a very hoarse and pale Mr Yun.

He explained his condition before the morning prayer:

“You will have to excuse me this morning. I was partaking in a revival for the past few days. Mr Boyle will lead our morning prayers.”

Mr Boyle nodded graciously and prayed that God would heal Mr Yun’s voice. Yun smiled and took out a lozenge and popped it in his mouth, just to be sure.

How did I see this? Well, I had not been closing my eyes during “prayers” since the first meeting on Monday. Why? Well, I didn’t trust the cunts, that’s why!

I mean, this was a guy that was away for two days at a revival? A revival of what? Fucking Supertramp? This was evangelical shit. Events organized to convert (brainwash) new members of the church (cult) and bring them closer to Jesus (take all their money). No way was I closing my eyes around these lunatics!

After the meeting Mr Yun asked us to stay back. Great, I thought, more fucking wedding shit. He sat down in front of us.

“So guys, I think you should go out today and buy some rings for your wedding.”

Ha? Rings? Did this gowl fall off the stage at his revival and get a concussion?

“Excuse me?” asked herself.

Mr Yun chuckled “We can’t have a wedding without rings!”

I’d had enough of this bullshit. We were almost stone broke, in a strange land on the other side of the world, sitting in front of a smiling maniac who was suggesting that we buy rings for a wedding that we hadn’t fucking agreed to. If I had ever been exposed to a high concentration of gamma radiation as a child, it would be at this point that I’d have turned my purple trousers into rags with my exploding green muscles.

I put a hand up. “Listen Mr Yun, we are not spending money on rings for this so called wedding. We haven’t agreed to this. This entire suggestion is beyond ridiculous.”

Mr Yun inhaled, smiled, and turned around to herself.

“So, Mrs Joy has found a wedding dress for you and some nice shoes. Do you have time today to try it on?”

Herself blanched.

“A wedding dress? No, I do not have time to try on a dress. Please furnish us with our contracts and stop asking us to get married. It is not going to happen.”

Yun considered this. He took a step back and reloaded his brainwash shotgun with some guilt pellets.

“Bust everyone is invited. All the children are excited. All the teachers have prepared. You will get married before school and then teach your classes for the rest of the day.”

Wow. Way to upsell.

“You should not have invited anyone to a wedding or any event that we haven’t given consent to. You can go back to all these people and tell them it isn’t happening.” I roared.

The prick completely ignored me again and spoke directly to herself. It was an impressive technique to be fair. Don’t even acknowledge something that goes against your views. A proper fundamentalist.

“Your apartment will be ready tomorrow.”

Ah, he was using shock and awe tactics now. Clever.

“Mrs Joy will meet you in the morning and take you there.”

“And what about our contracts?” asked herself.

Yun waved his hand, “Talk to Mrs Joy about that, she looks after contracts.”

He turned to me.

“You look upset. What is wrong?”

Was this guy a fucking idiot, or just acting the bollox? I got up out of my seat to leave.

“I’ve work to do.” I walked out of the room and went straight to my classroom. It probably made me look like a petulant child, but I had to get out of there. I had such a strong urge to punch that man in the face. Give him a proper haymaker.

Herself followed me in to the room, locked the door and drew the blinds.

We had to hash this out immediately. Things had really gotten out of hand.

Next time: Crisis Talks

I Almost Worked for a Cult 17

Something resembling normality

Mr Park and Mr Yun walked on with hope in their hearts, while myself and herself walked through a storm in to our shitty classrooms. We had to begin our lesson plans.

I’d pretty much reached my quota of crazy for the year, so rather than doing actual work, I spent the first two hours building forts with the textbooks on my desk.

My desk was a piece of shit rickety table that was scarred with the frustrated carvings of its previous owner. He was either in to heavy metal, or a proponent of population control; Hatebreed was scrawled in a number of places deep in the pine. They weren’t in the Christian rock genre, so I suppose they were ok as far as the school were concerned.

We had lunch with the staff at 1pm. This time it was a traditional Korean dish, bibimbap, I think. ‘Twas grand, but it was no fillet of beef, I tell thee.

Mr Boyle joined myself and herself at our table. He was such a nice man, but an incredibly messy eater. His shirt was covered in most of his meal by the time he had finished. I’m a bit squeamish around messy eaters. I always imagine a bit of their meal falling out of their mouths and landing on my plate, and I’ll accidentally eat it and catch some kind of debilitating disease. This then ruins my appetite, and I love eating. Eating is great craic.

The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent familiarizing ourselves with planners, work schedules and exam preparation techniques. My general peace was interrupted every now and then with a distant operatic blast of You’ll Never Walk Alone coming from the music room down the hall.

It was the only reminder of the potential wedding. Mr Yun hadn’t been in the school for the past two days, so we assumed that maybe he had forgotten about it – the wedding, not the school.

Mrs Joy hadn’t been knocking about either. I assumed that she and her modified car gang were probably at some drifting event in the mountains. Maybe they’d fallen out with Vin Diesel again over something.

Her absence meant that we still had not been furnished with an official contract of employment. I suppose basic office admin was difficult to carry out when you were doing handbrakes in your Honda Integra.

It was great being able to focus on actual work and not being constantly distracted by Mr Yun’s shotgun wedding. We were both really looking forward to the kids starting on Monday. Our new careers as teachers were about to begin!

Sure, we were only qualified to teach English as a foreign language, and not specific subjects like we were now doing, but that was the most exciting part of it! I’ve always loved history and English. Being able to classify myself as an English and history teacher really instilled a sense of pride in me for some reason. Maybe it was because I had some good teachers for those subjects back in Saint Pat’s, lads that I respected and wanted to emulate. I don’t know. Anyway, I wasn’t qualified, I was probably about to ruin these kid’s lives. Finish off the job the cult had started.

I was really looking forward to getting cracking on Monday, making shite of the children’s futures.

The next two days events would drastically change this outlook.

Next time: Better put a ring on it