I guess I am literally counting the days. I have an objective. There is to be an end. At this point, I am counting the days until I can close Volume Two of this project.
I am quite drowsy, for I have left this so late. It is Friday evening. At this hour, I used to try to catch “House of Cards,” the notorious American TV political drama modeled after the marvelous original British series. I think the season of programming has ended, though. It would be logical because the main character, the diabolical “Francis Underwood” just schemed and wormed his way into becoming President after orchestrating the downfall of a man who considered him his best and only ally through a crisis. His role is played by the fabulous Kevin Spacey, while that of his terrifyingly cool and purely power hungry partner in crime and betrayal is played by Robin Wright. I’ll have to be patient and wait for reruns. Nothing interesting being on TV at this hour, I decided I had better do the blog.
I stayed late to give oral tests to some government employees. Many come all the way from Seoul, or Sucheon, or Suwon, some four or five hours away, to have this test in Busan then return. They are hoping to qualify for employment classifications that can get them promotions, raises and assignments abroad. Some of them actually beg the tester for a high score. They can ask, but I cannot give. I can evaluate on the basis of merit. Tonight, the last five persons I tested merited 80 or more. In fact, I rated one person at 100%; he’d been privileged enough to have studied and lived in the USA for give straight years, and spoke exceptionally fluently. I rated another two at 98 and 96. It is really a pleasure to converse with most of them, for they have interesting jobs. One guy I tested is a high-ranking officer of South Korea’s spy agency. I asked him who he was spying—foreigners, organized criminals, dissenters? He denied all. He said their job was to protect the government, but that South Korea was generally safe and free of internal troubles. He did remark with a smile that monitoring dissenters “was not his department.” I guess he is well trained to keep secrets. I recall a similar conversation with the head of South Korea’s national security department, a guy who worked directly with Lee Myeong Bak every day. He said he was trying to get out of the department and couldn’t wait to leave it. Yes, it is all interesting. Usually, I speak with agriculturalists or marine biologists. Oh, there was this woman I talked tonight who is a social worker assisting female marriage migrants. That was one of the highlights of my exchanges tonight.
One of the testers, a colleague in the English department, was driving by and noticed me as I was walking home so he stopped to give me a lift. Actually, I was enjoying the cool evening air, but had been a long time since I had chatted with this particular fellow, so I accepted the lift. We had tea on the balcony of my building to let us catch up with each other. He told me he has put in his notice and will be leaving the job and the country to return to the States this summer.
On that note, I also chatted with a colleague with whom I used to talk with regularly because he was the first colleague I met at this job and, in fact, had a hand in hiring me. Since I was hanging around to wait to do the testing tonight, I dropped by and was surprised to find him in so late on a Friday afternoon. Anyway, we caught up a bit. He is not leaving, but is considering his options. Things are changing. For one thing, all future contracts will be for two-year terms. (Funny, when they are stepping up the monitoring and warning us about meeting the minimum requirements to keep in their good books and avoid being considered for dismissal (not getting offered a renewal). But, hey, we or they can pull the plug any old time.) Another thing is recent changes to the pension system. Still, this particular colleague feels quite secure. The employer asked him to be the featured native English speaker in a promotional video. He’s been given a script and everything. Who knows, though? Once they filmed my class work, but nothing came of it. Despite this guy’s self-assurance, another change has affected his family. His wife and son are heading to Canada for the summer so that his son can accumulate enough months of residency in Canada to avoid being automatically sent into military service after he is 18 years of age. The boy has dual citizenship and is now 15. There used to be a choice in such cases, but now South Korea is saying even those of dual citizenship must join the army unless they have had long enough recent residence in the home country. Therefore, the kid and his mom are flying off so that the boy can avoid military service. In my view, I think they are looking into moving to Canada for a longer term.
There is something in the air, for I was in touch with a Japanese colleague first thing this morning. It has been quite a while since I last talked to her, too, as I never her see her on our floor at work. She invited me to meet her off campus for lunch tomorrow. If I have time, I’ll tag along for a Japanese “song festival”.