As part of preparing to move on from Korea, the husband signed us up for a TEFL course so we could grab ourselves some certification. There are a lot of countries that require teachers to have certificates in TEFL, even if they have experience.

It’s clearly a box to tick.

I’m only in the second module and already a bunch of it seems like utter bollocks. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. I’m sure it is all soundly based in linguistic studies and has been tested in particular classrooms. Just not classrooms in Korea. I’m sceptical how much will be useful in classrooms in Vietnam.

So far, there has been extremely little that I could use in my teaching here. Firstly, it has been geared primarily toward teaching adults. If you are teaching in Korea, you are most likely going to be teaching kindergarten and elementary, maybe middle school. There aren’t too many jobs teaching adults. Secondly, much as I like the laid-back, natural-acquisition of language stuff that they are laying down, that’s not how it works in a classroom that is part of a Korean business. You need results. You need concrete results, such as fully completed books and ever higher test scores.

I think the issue is that the goal of EFL in Korea isn’t to become fluent in English, it is to pass a test to get into a good university. It *is* grammar focused. It *is* rule based. It *is* about being right or wrong so it does need to be corrected. And it does start when they are about 5 years old.

To be fair, I’m only in the third module of the course, and am hopeful that in the ten modules (eleven if you count the grammar module) that there will be some other things that I can take away and use while I am here in Korea. I don’t mind the studying, and I don’t even mind spending the money… I would just like the effort and expense to be worth more than a ticked box.

To finish up today, I can see now why so many new, fresh-faced young teachers that pop up in Korea with their TEFL certificates are often so disillusioned about what teaching English as a second language here is really like. It is so idealistic in the course, as though you will have all the time in the world with a class full of laughing, engaged kiddos hanging on your every word, eager to learn the mysteries of English, to teach them how to be fluent speakers and writers. Again, hopefully as I move further along the modules, they will have more information on how to deal with communication and cultural disconnects within the school administration, how to deal with just pushing through books because completing them is more important than teaching them, or students who are exhausted, bored, and wanting to be anywhere else in the world but in yet another hagwon class before they go home to have their supper at 10 o’clock at night. Because that information would still, even after five years of teaching here, be hella useful.

Something to Blog About

It is unreal to me that it has been more than a year since I’ve last added a post to the ‘Tales. Unreal, and a little sad.

There was a time when I was a regular blogger, and I think the writing was good for me. There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t been blogging, even though there has been loads happening.

  1. After the Immigration Debacle of 2013, I felt like most of the people who were coming to my blog were only interested in reading about that nonsense, and for me that chapter is closed.
  2. I started blogging as a way to keep family and friends updated about what was going on in my life when I first moved to Korea in 2005, but with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a million other places to keep folks in the loop, blogging started to fall away as seemingly archaic and a bit much when my snippets and stories were so readily available in other, more convenient places.
  3. Blogs these days seem to be more about specialisation, not about personal spaces in which to just write and share thoughts about whatevers. Maybe that’s not true, and I’m out of the “blog loop” (probably not a thing), but it feels true. People are experts in things and they write about those things. I’m an expert in nothing, without anything really to add to what scores of others are already saying.
  4. I’m lazy.

That last reason is the biggest problem. I’m lazy and writing is work, even if I enjoy doing it. Still work. And I’m definitely work-adverse.

But recently, the husband (yah, got married since I blogged last year… this is what I mean. Shit is still happening in life – new job, new city, two new cats, new husband – but I just don’t bother writing it up) and I have started seriously talking about “what next”. What we are going to do after Korea and how to go about doing it.

We think we know the when and the where – a move to Hanoi, Vietnam in late 2017 or spring 2018 – and now we are going through the steps of figuring out here to there. And I think that could be a cool process to blog bits about. Someone might find it useful, but more importantly, I may think it is cool to look back and use the blog as a memory aid.

Part of what triggered the idea to write about all this was looking back through my pictures of my trip through Vietnam in 2007. I was lazy then and didn’t label any of the pictures – not even to differentiate between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. I can look some of the places up now and try to piece it all together… but I wish I had been smart enough and motivated enough to just put a blurb on them in the first place. It may have really helped me attach more concrete memories to that trip.

I promise nothing. But I’m seriously thinking it may be time to fire up the old brain again and get writing.

The Outcome of My UKBA Debacle

It’s been a long time now since I first got that horrible letter telling me that I was in violation of the UK Immigration Rules and would be expected to leave (or be made to leave) as soon as possible. It’s been so much time since I sent in my appeal that I figured I was just never going to hear from the UK Courts either… I mean, if the UKBA is so poor at communication I wasn’t exactly expecting much from other British institutions.

I was wrong.

Better (very) late than never, I received this past week the First-tier Tribunal’s determination of my appeal.


I hope that this is good news for more than just myself: I hope all the people that come to my blog desperate for answers to their own situations will find this update and know that it is possible to fight. It is possible to win. 

I wanted to share some of the sections from the Determination, as I believe some of the wording may give hope to others who have been (or who are currently being) screwed over by the UKBA. Check out what a judge thought of their monkey business… there is some key stuff here that could really be useful if anyone is having similar issues (note “the respondent” is the UKBA):

11> I accept that the respondent has the burden to establish the facts that give rise to the power to remove. For example, the date of expiry of leave is not conclusive on the issue of overstaying since if a valid in time application for a variation was made before the expiry of the limited leave, that leave is extended by statue while in the decision on the variation application is pending. If the decision is negative, an in time appeal could be brought.

13> A more important consideration for me is that when removal decision is taken under section 10 of the above stated Act, the exercise of discretion is involved and the burden of proving overstaying or breach of conditions is on the respondentWhilst the Immigration Rules are silent on how the discretion is to be exercised, the Rules set out factors, which the respondent must take into account.

14> Paragraph 395B of the Immigration Rules requires the respondent to have consideration of all relevant circumstances including the appellant’s age, length of stay, strength of connections with the UK, personal history including the character of the appellant, employment record, domestic circumstances, criminal record, compassionate circumstances and representations made on behalf of the appellant.

I sincerely hope reading what a judge thinks about how my case was handled will give some people the confidence they need to fight back with their own cases.

For me, now that I’ve already left the UK and established myself elsewhere, at the end of it all, all that matters is the Decision:

The appellant’s appeal is allowed on grounds that the decision is not in accordance with the law and the Rules.

My life was still horribly uprooted and I was put through a terrible ordeal… but everything has turned out well for me. And to find out now that I was right all along?

I’ll take it. Being right isn’t much, but I’ll take it. 

Draft Trash

I just went through my draft posts and trashed them all without even bothering to read them – the most recent one was from a few months ago. I can’t imagine there’s anything there worth salvaging.

New Year, New Beginnings

I know most of the people (if there is still anyone) who read my blog will think it’s a bit late to be writing a New Year post. But I’m here in the land of the Lunar New Year, which was just this past weekend, so I’m rolling with that. 

It’s been quite a year. 

For all my silence here on the blog, there has been a lot going on. I just don’t share as much as I used to. Or write as much as I used to. It was also a strange year for falling out of many of my old habits, some good, some bad. 

It’s been more than a year since I left the UK. I was going to write a post in October saying how I felt about it all, but that is right when I met an awesome guy and being here in Korea became so much more important than not being in the UK. And I didn’t write about the guy because that’s not really my style. 

Although I’m still not happy about being away from all my great friends in the UK, I am very happy here in Korea, so I’m mostly okay about the entire situation. Unless, of course, you get me drunk and ask why I had to leave. Then I still get Ranty McRagepants about the whole ordeal. 

I’m happier here in my work. Who’d have guessed it, but it turns out I’m a good teacher. And for the most part, I enjoy teaching. The kids are great and it is so rewarding to know what a huge (and, if you are doing it right, positive) part you are playing in their lives. I laugh a lot at work and although there are bad days, and tough days, there are fewer of the than there were when I was working in tech London. And when you do have a couple of rough days, at least the beer here is cheap. 

As I mentioned above, I’ve met a really great guy. This is uncharted territory for me. After a million first dates in London that went nowhere and a handful here in Korea that went straight to disaster, the date with this guy was going to be my last online date for awhile, regardless of how it went. Well, it went well and I find myself in my first really-real relationship (I’m intentionally discounting the “relationship” I had in London that went on about 11 months longer than it should have – we really shouldn’t have gone past the second date) in nearly a decade. It’s still early days (not even six months yet!) but I’m happy in it and I believe that he is too.  

Another real positive is that I’ve managed to lose just over 20kg (about 50 pounds) this past year. I was pretty strict about my consumption for about 8 weeks in the autumn, but most of it is just about eating better, not having a desk job, and stressing waaaaaaay less. With 20kg more to go, once I’m settled into the new flat and new job, I’ll be putting some real effort into it again. 

Not everything this year was great. The school I had been teaching at was less than ideal. Minimum possible pay without actually having a go, the most idiotic waste of space I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with, a greedy boss, and a flat that was more like a prison cell (except in prison the windows would have been bigger). I didn’t blog about it (although the idiot was so bad we made a Tumblr just of his quotes) because it was still okay day to day. My supervisors were great and, other than the idiot, my coworkers were fantastic. The kids were a joy and so overall, I decided not to complain or praise too much. We’ll see if there is a fight about my final pay though – that may push me to write more about what wasn’t good at that particular academy.

I’ve also been sick for a lot of the past year, which isn’t really like me. I mean – a LOT of the past year. At first I thought it was just “new to the country” germs. Then maybe because I’m old (haha… but kinda really). And even maybe because I teach a gaggle of 6 year old germ bags. Or that when you are sick in this country, you don’t get to take sick days, so you never get to rest long enough to get over it. But you know what I think it has been? My flat. The windowless (more or less) wonder palace of stagnant air. We’ll soon find out – I’m typing this out en route to my new neighborhood. And I’ve been assured that my new flat will have “normal” windows. I’m excited. 

So what will the Year of the Sheep (or goat, or ram, however you roll) bring? I don’t know. I do know that I’m starting at a new school tomorrow and I’m excited. It has already been a better experience working with them and I’m not even there yet! Just altogether smoother. Even the recruiter was amazing (Cindy at Good English, if you are looking to teach in Korea hit me up and I’ll get her deets to you) which was a nice change from the last guy. 

The new school is in Jamsil, which is actually in Seoul proper instead of lurking just outside of it as I had been.  It’s on 12 minutes to Gangnam by subway. Exciting. I can’t wait to explore the city more this year. 

I’m hoping to travel SOMEWHERE this year. I’m very focused on repaying my debt though, so we’ll see how the money goes. The new school came with a large pay-bump, so hopefully I’ll have some funds for fun this year. 

Other than that, I’m happy to roll on with whatever the year might bring. 

Into the light of the dark black night

For “Journal Writing” class yesterday, I gave my little guys an assignment to reinforce making the “Writing Hamburger” (main idea as the “bun” and the details as the “toppings”) as well as starting to create metaphors and analogies in their writing… without going into details quite yet about metaphor and analogy. They are seven.

The topic was “My Favorite Colour”. These three little weirdos all picked black. They were given the opening sentence (“My favourite colour is…”) and closing sentence (“I love the colour…”) to help them with the hamburger. Then they had to answer the following questions about their colour:

How does it look?
How does it taste?
How does it smell?
How does it feel?
How does it sound?

Haha. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they realised they were going to have to tell me how the colour black smells. But I gave them a load of example using my favourite colour (red, if you’d like to know) and they were off.

Lilly proofreading her work like a boss.

Lilly proofreading her work like a boss.

They did a great job! Some of the ideas were pretty basic (and they all seemed to think that black smelled and tasted like chocolate), but there were some real gems in their paragraphs that I would like to share with you. These are taken from all three children. Jessica, Lilly and Albert, 7 years old.


Black is scary, dark, and looks like a thief. It sounds like a ghost’s howls. Black is like a cat that rests in the library. It is the sound of lightning in the night. It feels like a ghost is holding my arm beside me.


I freaking love these children!

Did you have midterm exams at school? How did you feel?

There is going to be a handful of these “Speech of the Week” posts, I’m behind. Bad Teacher.

I am far too old to remember my high school midterms. At the hogwon (private academy in Korea) I teach at we have Big Assessment Tests (I call them BATs in my diary… as though I work at Hogwarts instead of a hogwon) every other month for our elementary students. It’s the closest thing I have in my life to a “midterm exam” these days.

BATs are stupid. They have the word “assessment” in them, but as far as I have seen, fuck all happens if a kid aces or fails the test. No one is held back, no one “levels up”. We just keep on trucking. Worse, the Korean stuff here just nerfs the scores so the parents don’t think they are wasting their money if their kid isn’t doing well.

It frustrates the fuck out of me. I wouldn’t mind the time it takes to make and grade the tests if there was any purpose to it at all. But there isn’t. I understand that we are running a business, but I think the way we do testing is costing our children, instead of just their parents.