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 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 7

Shit gets weird

Ok, before shit gets weird, officially, I have to explain where we were at in terms of our immigrant status. Because we went out before securing employment, we entered the country on a 90 day tourist visa. We were about 45 -50 days in to this visa at this point. All the schools that we were talking to were going to fly us to Japan for our visa run and were covering our work permits. The school we were now going to visit were no different.

This school, let’s call it Sunshine Academy from here on out, offered to fly us to Japan for a week after term started, once we fulfilled all their requirements.

The morning of the interview was an absolute scorcher. I had brought a suit from home to wear on such an occasion. 100% wool.

I’d taken about six steps outside the apartment before that first cool bead of sweat started its doomed journey from the nape of my neck all the way down to the crack of my arse. By the time I got to the air conditioned train, it was way too late. My shirt was ruined. It was soaked through. I’d have to soldier on and wear my jacket over my soaking wet shirt.

I was incredibly uncomfortable and dehydrated. When I’m dehydrated I completely lose all connections with reality. I stare in to space, I don’t pay attention to people, I just generally disassociate. I think this was why I didn’t have a complete melt down later on in the day.

We were supposed to meet the school secretary, Mrs Joy (fake name, remember?) at the train station. On the way out we were treated to our first views of rural Korea. I say rural – there is something deeply unsettling upon viewing a fifty story apartment block out on its own surrounded by rice fields. It just didn’t seem right.

Our train stopped in a town that looked like a dystopian version of Mullingar. Well, a more dystopian version. There were neon church signs everywhere, lit up in the daytime. I could see the tower of a casino poking up behind a hospital that was so dirty if you looked at it long enough you’d get an eye infection. The pavements were all cracked and overgrown with weeds. Herself assumed that there must have been a refuse collector’s general strike. Rubbish bags were strewn on street corners and outside bars and restaurants. The town stank of rotting meat.

An elderly woman with heavily contoured makeup waved over at us. Herself asked me if it was Mrs Joy. I read a lot of crime fiction, but my skills of deduction are absolutely atrocious. I argued that it couldn’t be her. My reasoning? Well, I deduced that due to the fact that she was sitting on the bonnet of a modified two-door Honda Integra, smoking a fag, she couldn’t be a school secretary.

My poor judgement struck again.

Of course it was her.

Nothing about the next few weeks was going to be normal. Looking back, we should have turned on our heels there and then, but no, we were open to new and strange experiences. Our parochial Irish prejudices had to be left at home, where they belonged.
Next time: Shit gets weirder.

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 6

John Bull Recruitment

Our “honeymoon period” ended after five weeks. We’d sort of acclimatized to our new surroundings, and it was time to start work. We’d siphoned off enough cash for two plane tickets home, just in case things didn’t work out.

Herself was an excellent money manager. She had worked out that we could spend another month tops, fluting around and seeing the country before admitting defeat and heading home. Although, we decided that defeat was not an option, and began to apply for jobs.

Do you like dealing with recruiters? I don’t. They’re usually full of shit. Recruiters for English language schools in Korea are the worst recruiters that I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with. They operated on a level of bullshit that would fertilize a 100 acre farm. They were also some of the most rude and insulting bastards that I’ve ever had a professional relationship with.

All of the recruitment calls were done through Skype. I had to turn my camera on so they could get a good look at me, and have a good judge of my abilities through my appearance. They never had their camera’s on, the fucks. None of their questions focussed on my previous work experience. All they were interested in were my looks and nationality. It was like a mixture of Your Face or Mine and Immigrants X-Factor.

One recruiter asked that I change my nationality to English so that the schools would look more favourably on me. I pushed him on this, asking why it’d make a difference. His response was that the Irish had a reputation for drinking too much and being unreliable. He obviously had never been on a stag weekend in Bristol, the cunt.

In fact, I really took issue with the alcoholism accusation. This dude must have been a recluse, because I have never in my life experienced the levels of drunkenness that I have on the streets of Seoul. The Koreans love to drink way more than us Irish. This isn’t a sweeping statement, it’s an undisputable fact – they are proper piss-heads. Maybe it was just that summer, but it was as if Seoul was hosting the projectile vomiting Olympics, and events were being held on the corner of every street.

We didn’t deal with that guy again. Nothing like being forced into calling yourself English to end a professional relationship.

Another charming guy informed me that I was too big, fat and hairy, and that I’d scare the children. I laugh about that now, but at the time I was genuinely hurt by it. I was wearing two t-shirts on that call. Ahem…

Both of us soon realized that we were making a silly mistake during this process. We were interviewing separately, when we should have been interviewing as a team. Interviewing for different jobs in different locations was not going to work. We thought it’d be like home and that we could commute from our apartment to wherever we eventually ended up working. It was naiveté on our part.

Herself looked up a solution to this problem and found out that some schools liked to hire couples. It saved the school money on apartment costs (they covered the rent and bills etc.) and probably guaranteed at least one full year of teaching service. As far as the schools were concerned, couples tended not to make any rash decisions. Well, most couples didn’t.

We did an interview on Skype for a couple’s position in an area not too far from the DMZ. The recruiter got back to us twenty minutes after the call ended to say the school would like to meet us.

Shit was about to get weird.

Next time: Shit gets weird.

I Almost Worked for a Cult 3

Promises to Claude

I handed my notice in at work on the first Monday in June. I was actually quite disappointed to be leaving. I really liked that job. I worked with some really cool people in an interesting industry.

The question I kept getting asked in the office was, “Are you mad? Why would you want to teach English in Korea?”

I suppose the most logical answer there would have been was: “Because as a non-Korean speaker, I’d be able to do fuck all else, unless there is a shortage of big hairy men to dance in fetish bars over there. And I know there isn’t. I looked it up. You’ve to go to Japan for that craic!”

We began the horrible process of packing up all our shit for our moving day. One of our friends was getting married in Malta roughly around the same time. We ended up moving out of our house and going to Malta on the same day.

I cannot describe how stressful it was for me to leave my car full of all of our most valuable possessions in a Dublin Airport carpark for seven days. There was a PC, all my books, clothes, our kitchen equipment, lamps, my PS3…the list goes on. We were like the Beverly Hillbillies arriving in to the long-term carpark.

After the wedding, I dropped herself to her parents’ house down the country and stayed a few days.

I was putting off going home for as long as I could. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home, I just hated the thoughts of living under someone else’s rules for a few days. Sharing with herself is fine, I’m used to the routine, but sharing with people I hadn’t lived with in years was bound to be a challenge.

As it turned out, it was really nice to stay in the house for a few weeks. I’d never actually spent an extended period of time there before. It wasn’t the house that I grew up in. My parents had moved there two years previously. It was never, and never will be, my home I suppose. It’s my parents’ house. Home for me is with herself.

The dog, Claude (he said I could use his real name and promised not to sue) had a few questions about Korea. Apparently he had read somewhere that they, the Koreans, had an appetite for dog-meat. In a frank and honest exchange, I assured him that I wouldn’t eat dog-meat while I was there. This pleased him. He agreed to give me his blessing and wished me the best of luck.

Five minutes later Claude said he’d take it back unless I gave him a piece of the sandwich that I was eating. I did, and the universe was balanced once more. Claude would repeat this series of ultimatums until the morning of my departure. He was a master of manipulation.

My parents dropped us to the airport. I was quite upset saying goodbye. They weren’t the best with technology and I was worried that we wouldn’t get to talk as often as I’d like. They assured me that they’d be better at texting and would figure out Skype. Herself was a great help. She assured me that everything would be fine and invited me to go for a disgusting pint of airport Guinness.

I got one last text on my phone before we left Ireland. It was from Claude.

It read: “Where’d you hide the food you prick?” The blessing was once again revoked.

Next time: Seoul Food

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 2

Where, why & what

We’d had enough of Dublin. It was time to go.

But where?

We were both from opposite ends of the country and couldn’t decide on a new county to move to. We came to an obvious conclusion in our search for middle ground. We’d emigrate. Try living abroad for a while.

I never had a desire to leave Ireland for an extended period of time in my life. I loved home. I’d turned 30 in 2015, and I suppose I reckoned that if I didn’t at least try it now, I never would. Now that I have lived abroad, I think that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. By immersing myself in a culture and environment that was completely alien to my own, I inherited a more open view of the world. I know that sounds like a big pile of wank, but your perspective really changes when you start to be treated as an outsider.

So where would we go? Well, the way we made this decision is bound to enrage the more uptight and meticulous planners who are reading this – we tossed a coin. Cool, right?

No. It wasn’t cool.

We should have been more conscientious with our planning, but fuck it, nobody died.

We had two destinations in mind, South Korea and Canada. Our Canadian visas had been approved in January, the South Korean visa would be approved once we arrived and started our jobs. We tossed the coin down in her parents’ house on the June bank holiday weekend. One toss. No take-backs.

I was secretly hoping for Canada to win. I’d never been to North America. Come to think of it, I hadn’t ever been to Asia either, but I spoke English, so I assumed Canada would be the best place for me, for us, to end up.

Of course, South Korea won the day. I let out a big exasperated sigh of joy. We would be off to the Far East. Honestly, I was excited, but also I was secretly shitting myself. I had absolutely no idea what to expect over there.

My partner sent me links to “wacky” American vloggers who documented their experiences in South Korea on YouTube. It really, really put me off. Their apartments looked tiny. The food looked shit. The American vloggers were loud, whiny and condescending. Like they were explaining everything to a deaf three year old with developmental issues. I didn’t want to have to put up with this nonsense for a full year. Look, if something is really different, or really shit, don’t explain it in a patronising, shocked manner. Make a joke, you cunt! The vloggers were pushed to one side. I’d do some old fashioned research myself. Actually, that’s something that I’ve yet to get around to doing…

So, Korea. What would we do for work? Well, teach English I suppose. My Korean language skills weren’t exactly up to scratch for getting a job in their Tesco equivalent.

Myself and herself completed a TEFL course from one of the more recognised TEFL organizations. I enjoyed the course. It really encouraged you to be as creative as possible in your lesson plans, and from the testimonials of other users, it seemed like a very rewarding and fun job. It was settling the anxiety that I’d brought upon myself by watching a particularly negative series of vlogs.

Teaching English. Couldn’t be too hard says you. Wha?

Next time: Promises to Claude