3 Camps and a Spontaneous Vacation

Man, I wish I were free after camp! After reading Marta’s post, I am so, so envious. I’m also so happy for her, that she’s going home soon ^^! It’s been far too long overdue. Hard to believe that the day is almost here! You go, Marta, for sticking out for 2 years! Whoo!

As for me, I’ll be here in Korea for at least another 2-3 months. My contract ends in September, but I’m not going home straight away…I think I’ll hang around for a month to see friends, travel to parts of Korea I’d missed, and then maybe jet off to South East Asia somewhere before coming home. I have very conflicting feelings about the notion of return (or remaining…or continuing on somewhere else) which I’ll save for another post.

This summer break will be really cramped for me. Whereas Marta will finish her camp and then be let free into the world (*sighs of bliss*), I will start camp, squeeze in a hectic 10 day vacation (more below), then return and work camps at an addtional TWO SCHOOLS. That’s right, I’m doing three camps this summer. Which is sucking the life out of me just thinking about it.

My first school camp is the regular one-week affair. Then, a few weeks ago, I received a call from my old co-teacher (worth a blog post on his own, but I digress). He had moved to a different school last semester, a small elementary even further out into the countryside than I am, and asked if I’d like to be their guest teacher for camp. This was the first I’d heard from him since he left, and was completely caught off guard when he asked. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it at all. I actually like desk warming, since it’s the perfect time to take a break from all the children (ergh) and just relax with a book or something. But, seeing as how, “No, I want to sit at my desk and watch movies instead” was not a reasonable excuse, and technically by contract, I’m obliged to service whichever schools want or need me, I said yes. Even in the moment I said it, I felt regret – apparently I hadn’t quite learned assertiveness from Adele, like I thought I had.

But, whatever. It’s just a 3 day camp, and it would be interesting to see what teaching with him is like again…WRONG, it got changed to a whole week. Ok, fuck, fine I already said yes.

Then another school called, Munmak Elementary. They’re the elementary in my small town just down the street, and they asked if I would come in for THEIR camp. I said hell no, because I’m already running two camps, and have barely a week to prepare for second semester. My head teacher called to say I couldn’t fit it in my schedule…then 10 minutes later, they called back “asking strongly” for me to go. Apparently my right to say no means nothing to them. My head teacher then came into my office, begging on their behalf for “just one day,” while simultaneously apologizing to me and thanking me for agreeing to do it. Say wut? Ok, so apparently she was just coming in to tell me I had to do it. Needless to say, I was extremely pissed off, even if it is just one day. I have to schedule time to meet with that teacher now to go over camp plans, or else FLY IN BLIND which is what I’m sure will happen. I said no, absolutely no, and that didn’t mean anything. Nothing like having your free will steam-rollered by someone – not even your own employer. And of course, all of the “kind asking” was in fact just telling me I had to do it. Fuck off with all the horseshit.

That’s my biggest beef with EPIK – you are completely beholden to whatever shit they throw at you. Your contract is so vague and open-ended that you are basically whored out to every school in the district that thinks they need you. I mean, one day? Really? They said that I would be there as an assistant position, but if they only need an assistant for one day, do they even need me there?

Current feelings regarding work here

ANYWAY, to cut this rant short, but summer will be VERY busy. Even more so because for my summer vacation, Scott and I decided to…

GO TO VIETNAM!!

The famous Halong Bay (totally on my bucket list)

Our original plan was to go camping along the East coast of Korea (snore). We need to save money! we kept telling ourselves. We should see what we’ve missed in Korea, it’s our last chance! All the while, our hearts were aching for Vietnam, but we kept denying it.

Then last weekend, we went out and got properly sloshed with Greg, who was recently returned from Vietnam himself (this was the Night of the Corn Cob…). With bellies full of makkeoli, we were like, “I want to do it! We can do it! Let’s go to Vietnam!”

Two days later, we clicked the “Reserve Ticket” button with, honestly, fear. Like, HOLY SHIT I JUST SPENT SO MUCH MONEY ON SUCH A SNAP DECISION. Scott is still a little worried, but I’m jumping for joy!

Since we bought our tickets only 2 weeks before departure, our cheapest option was to buy two separate flights: Fly into Kuala Lumpur for a one-day layover, then into Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon). We’ll return to Korea 8 days later from Hanoi. A zillion hidden fees later, both flights came out to about $500. Could’ve been cheaper, but we were planning last minute.

Still, I was so excited. I’ve been in love with Vietnam since watching the season 5 episode of No Reservations (with Anthony Bourdain). Maybe its his smoky smooth narration, or the delicious foods, or the fact that he’s called it his favourite country and even has a second home there, but Vietnam is just…LOVE. We get to see two countries, the two main cities of Vietnam in one go, and everything in between! Maybe even pop into Cambodia for a bit! It’ll be such a breeze! Right?

WRONG.

Apparently Vietnam is freakin’ TALL. Like 31 hours apart tall. Sooooo now we have barely over a week to span 1,956 km, while making stops in between at whatever beaches, villages, and ruins catch our eye.

Holy shit…From http://www.indochinabiketours.com

This is going to be one serious trek of a vacation. No beach lounging here. It’ll be cramped sleeper buses, sweltering hot villages, and visiting remote mountain tribes for us (Scott’s personal bucketlist item – he loves doing portrait photography and has quite an impressive portfolio). With 70 L backpacks ready to be filled, and a Nikon d5300 in the mail for me, I am more than stoked for this vacation. Why plan for camp when you can browse travel itineraries instead??! In preparation for the trip, I’m going to read The Quiet American by Graham Greene. I also have a copy of The Sorrow of War by Bao Binh to be finished. Because (and I think it’s true) nothing captures a place, a time, a feeling, like a good novel.

On the plane, I like to read fiction set in the location I’m going to. Fiction is in many ways more useful than a guidebook, because it gives you those little details, a sense of the way a place smells, an emotional sense of the place. So, I’ll bring Graham Greene’s The Quiet American if I’m going to Vietnam. It’s good to feel romantic about a destination before you arrive. (from the article How to Travel by Anthony Bourdain)

So there it is – a shitty summer work schedule all smooth over with the Vietnam trip of a lifetime. AHHH I WANT TO GO NOWWW!


4 thoughts on “3 Camps and a Spontaneous Vacation

  1. This sounds like it will beat any other plans you could possibly come up with for East Korean explorations. This has passion oozing out of it as I read it. Staying in Korea…ESPECIALLLLLLLLLLLY after getting sucked into the camps will just set you right back at your desk with an anger and bitterness. You need to escape to a place you dream of. Making your dream come true…priceless.

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  2. Great book to read before the trip to get a better understanding of the country “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places” by Le Ly Hayslip. Google it!

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