"How old are you?"....
"What's your job?"...
"How tall are you?"...
"Do you consider Fred Durst a national hero?"...
Being bombarded with personal questions is a cultural difference that takes some getting used to for most foreigners. I kind of like the questions though, it makes me feel like I'm on an Asian game show.
There is one question I don't like, however: "How much money do you make?"
This question makes me uncomfortable because the salaries of most native English teachers are inflated. As an after-school teacher I'm on the low end of the scale, but still feel over-compensated. Yes teaching can be very difficult, but It doesn't seem fair that Koreans are thrown into a competitive job market after years of intense education, while foreigners have abundant opportunities based on a language that comes naturally.
Here lies the conundrum. If it feels bad to get paid for teaching English, why does it feel so good to get paid for market day?
My co-teacher "Kyu" came up to me one afternoon and said:
"Erik, tomorrow school market day. Grade 5. Bring stuff to sell. We will teach market phrases."
I imagined fake money, price tags, a classroom decorated like a department store. Instead I get to market day and it's chaos, every 5th grader has hard cash and a pile of goods. Alright Kyu I like your style.
I'll admit I got a little too into market day. I don't know what happened but I escaped formal teacher mode, It was like I blacked out for an entire class and woke up 20,000 won richer. The 2-dollar bills I brought from the U.S. were flying off the shelves, and I was selling twinkies for at least double market value. American stamps were a hit too. Not to boast, but my market stand was clearly the best one there. I circled around the room visiting my students' stores, looking to spend money, but honestly nothing caught my eye. I purchased a few notebooks out of sympathy and a Christmas ornament before returning to my profit-driven stand.
As market day concluded I tried to return the money but Kyu refused, stating it was fair business practice. Selling 2- dollar bills and stamps to 5th graders didn't feel like fair business practice, but I listened.
Does market day make me a bad person? Perhaps, I mean I'm no Panda Ross.
Oh yeah because Chad Future exists.