Monthly Archives: June 2008

GEPIK Orientation

Next week my wife and I will be attending the (belated) GEPIK orientation. It’s a five-day retreat with all the other new native English teachers in Gyeonggi province. At the moment it looks like being a five-day paid holiday, with free accommodation and food, even though according to the schedule and outline it will be an opportunity for “learning” and “networking”. Well, I’m hoping to pick up at least a few trips and tricks while there, but at the moment it feels a little like going on veldschool. Let’s hope that I’m wrong.

It’s a bit odd having the orientation only now, four months after the new school year started and many of the new teachers arrived. So I do feel that this event may be of limited value. I’ve already got a good idea of what my job is about, mostly learnt through trial and error after the last few months. Well, more error than trial.

The lack of any orientation or training before starting work at your public school is a major problem in the GEPIK programme. My school was shocked to find out that I hadn’t had any orientation prior to arriving at the school, and this explained why we initially had some tension. We realised that the school expected me to already know what I was meant to do, and I was under the impression that the school was going to tell me exactly what was expected of me. So things only improved after they found out that no, no-one had told me squat before I arrived.

If there is any issue that I’ll raise during our Q&A sessions at the orientation, it will be this. For the rest of the time I plan to sit back and soak up the learning. Let’s hold thumbs that there aren’t any “group activities”. I hate those.

If you want to check out the orientation schedule, click here. For information on what’s expected of participants, click here. You’ll see the veldschool aspect in the last document.


So why the cheap books?

In a previous post I spoke about the relatively good English book selection here in Korea, and how much more affordable books are here when compared to SA. I thought I’d elaborate a little on this.

Recently I ordered several books online from What the Book?, a store that specialises in supplying English-language books to people in Korea. But here’s the kicker – few of these books are printed in Korea. They are mostly imported from the US, half a planet away. So you’d think that the price would be a bit higher, considering the relatively small English-language market here and the distances involved. Actually, this isn’t the case. The price you pay for these books is DIRECTLY linked to the US dollar price printed on the book.

Here’s an example for you: I ordered the book “Spin State” by Chris Moriarty. I received the book within two weeks of ordering from the website, and I paid 6,990 won for it. This price was linked directly to the cover price: US$6.99. They even make the link on the price listed on the website. In Korea, 1,000 won is roughly equal to US$1.00.

So what does this mean? Well, using today’s exchange rate (US$1 = R7.964), this book cost me about R56.00. Keep in mind that this is the only store in Korea that specialises in English-language books, and all their stock has to be imported from the US.

Now, let’s look at the SA prices for exactly the same US edition of this book. Exploitive Crooks, ummm, I mean Exclusive Books, charges R77.00 for the book, while Kalahari asks R88.00. has a much better price: R68.00. So the same book would cost between R12.00 and R30.00 more in SA than I paid in Korea. And this in a country with several book websites and several large bookstore chains. You’d think competition would lower prices, or at least ensure that the book price reflected the US dollar price.

And this is just one example of where I have been able to buy an English-language book in a non-English-speaking country for far cheaper than I could in South Africa. This just reinforces my belief that South African booklovers are getting ripped off. I’m sure there are reasons (or at least claimed reasons) for the higher prices, but my experience here in Korea makes me a little suspicious. Korea is notorious for making it difficult to import anything, as it has protectionist tendencies. And yet books sell for essentially the same as they would in a store in the US.

I think the issue of high prices for books in SA needs to be further investigated.

Where are all the blogs?

I’ve been looking for other blogs written by South Africans living and working in Korea. I thought I’d link to these and we’d do some networking. I post on yours, you post on mine kind of thing. But so far I have been pretty disappointed. I haven’t found one single other blog about South Africans in Korea. Zip. Squat. Nada. Niks.

I’m convinced that there must be something, and maybe I’m just not typing the right search terms or something. Though “South Africans” AND “South Korea” seems descriptive enough to me. If anyone know of decent blogs out there, please let me know!

Impersonal interviews

Since the December 2007 changes to the E-2 visa regulations, people applying for this visa for the first time have needed to have an interview at the Korean consulate in their home country. This has been a hassle for most people – especially South Africans. There is only one consulate in SA, and that’s in Pretoria.

Luckily since April 2008 the consulate has made concessions for people not living anywhere near Gauteng. People can now send a CD with a video of themselves answering some basic questions, instead of going all the way to Pretoria for what is usually a very short interview.

One of the readers of this blog, Terisa, has been kind enough to send me the Korean consulate’s guidelines for this video interview. You can read the details by clicking here. I’ve placed more information on the Visas page as well.

Even though this document has lots of very helpful info on how to save the video you have made of yourself, including step-by-step instructions for burning the CD, it does lack some hints on how to actually make the video. Here I have to admit I’m also pretty clueless. My thoughts are that someone who is savvy enough to make a video of themselves probably doesn’t need detailed instructions on how to burn a CD.

If someone out there has some hints and tips on the best (and cheapest) way to make a video of yourself, I’m sure quite a few people would appreciate it if you could post it here.


Demo lesson today

Well, it’s been a busy and VERY stressful week. I’ve been preparing for a demo lesson which will be presented today. It’s apparently a BIG DEAL with the schools here, and a good lesson is important for the school’s reputation. I’ll have 20 people watching the lesson, including a vice-principal from another school, someone from the local education office, and some other English teachers, including some native speakers.

What a drama. You wouldn’t believe it.

Well, for some odd reason my day has pretty much been cleared, so I basically only have my demo lesson to do. This is great, except that all the prep has already been done, so I very little to do. But, I finally get a chance to do some updates on this site. I’ll be working on this today and the weekend, so keep an eye out.

Oh, and hold thumbs for the demo lesson!


Upcoming Demo lesson

My apologies for the lack of recent posts and updates. I’ve been busy preparing for a demo lesson, and it’s been taking up most of my free time. Nuts. But I’ve got some great new content that I’m busy putting together, and I’ll be putting it on the site at the end of next week, so keep an eye out!