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"So I guess this is where I'm supposed to introduce myself. I'm a Canadian male teaching ESL in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This will be my second stint teaching ESL, only this time I'll be teaching at a High School, using my actual teaching experience to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me - no question's too small. Take care, and enjoy the ride."

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  • Student in Korea
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  • Surviving South Korea
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  • "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
  • "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington
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  • it's not the "R" word, but.....

    So, today, I went about trying to find a reservation for my holidays that are in January and February. Its an unusual time for holidays, and its right near the end of the school year holidays, so its a tough time to get tickets.
    So today, I had the afternoon off because the kids had just finished their middle school end-of-year tests, and all teachers get one afternoon off during testing times (the students finish their tests at 12noon, so its not like I'm missing time at work.
    So I headed to the local travel agent near my house. Now, normally I shy away from travel agents.....they're a circus-carney-folk type of people who are shy to tell you the seat prices, charge you a nice fee to do something most people can't manage to do at home in Korea (search multiple travel companies for tickets in an instant). However, they can search faster for tickets than I can from home, so I thought I would give them a chance again.
    The local office near my apartment was closed, so I went by subway to the next office, located only two subway stops away from my apartment. When I walked into the office, I asked her if she spoke Korean, and she said "A little", and so the process began. I am looking for tickets during peak season, which means that searches take longer, and with the minor language barrier, a wee bit slow going, but nothing that I'm not used to. It was going fine until another "customer" came in behind me, and sat down behind me to wait for the next available service agent to help them. Then something happened which could only be mildly described as racism...the "R" word. (now, I profess to have never experienced anything like TRUE racism. Being "white" and from Canada, I hope to never have to experience something like Racism. I'm merely saying that this was something similar to racism) The service agent helping me was a female, and the other agent was a male. The male leans over, interrupts me in mid-sentence, and tells me that he doesn't sell tickets to English speakers. At first, I thought he was joking, so I asked him for clarification: "I can check the ticket prices, but you won't serve me?" He says, in perfect English, "Yes. You see, the language barrier is too difficult". So I ask him why he refuses to sell to foreigners, and, as if I'm some sort of idiot, he repeats in English exactly what he said to me earlier; the language barrier is too difficult.
    At first, I didn't fully understand what was happening. I immediately sat up, took my bag, and walked out without saying anything. I was in shock; this was the first time I'd ever been denied service in Korea, ever. And then, it all became clear to me. Their was a Korean waiting behind me sitting on a chair, and the Korean "owner" as he called himself, wanted to talk to the Korean instead of making a sale with me, and he was willing to do anything to get me out of his store, so he could possibly make a sale to the foreigner.
    The more that I thought about it, the more I was disgusted by how I'd just been treated. Here, for almost three years, I've been treated with the utmost respect, sometimes much more than I'd deserved. And here, for the first time since I had been in Korea, I was treated as if I was a second-class citizen; not worth his time or money. The shameful thing is that had I thrown a fit in his office, yelled, cussed, and screamed, he would have used that as justification for why he refuses to, "as per his company policy" to NOT sell to English speaking people.
    It happens in Korea, and I feel blessed that this is the first time it's happened to me in Korea. That doesn't change how I feel - I feel like I'm just a second class person, here, but not useful.....
    It happens, and I am sure that when I tell my Korean friends, they will be disgusted as well, however, there's not much you do about it, so you try to not take it personally, and move on.....Now I have a small inkling what its like to be treated like you're second class.....and I've got to tell you, it sucks.
    Have a great weekend all, and God bless

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