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Uncertainty and wonderful timing.

December 21, 2011

Let it never be said that I’m a man with wonderful timing.

As I was graduating from high school and going to the University of Toronto for Computer Science, everyone was telling me that I was just a few years too late. Everything used to be awesome. If only I arrived in a more timely manner, I could have appreciated that. The rabid demand for comp sci students had dropped off, the market had become way more competitive, and comp sci had changed from this respected field to a somewhat uninteresting and risky career choice by comparison.

Then I tried trading stocks for fun (and a summer job) during the worst economic crisis since the great depression. Everyone I spoke to talked about the glory days, how easy it and fun it used to be. Now it’s all uncertainty and unpredictability. “You’d have to be insane to try to trade in this”. So I did.

So then I come to South Korea to teach English. That seems safe enough, right?

Let’s leave the death of Kim Jong Il out of this, for starters. The private academy business (the Hagwon business) is changing drastically in Korea right now due to several changes in Korean educational law. Rather than having these massive standardized tests, prestigious schools and universities now just use your regular marks when deciding admissions, causing the demand for private schools, which used to be ridiculously high, to drop significantly lower. There used to be a limitless market for English teachers here. Now, massive hagwons are closing left and right.

Wonderful timing, Kev. Wonderful timing.

Whatever though, I have a job at a good hagwon (supposedly), and South Korea is a great country to live in. It’s technologically advanced, there’s a high quality of life, and it’s culturally interesting. It’s safe and politically stable too!

Then Kim Jong Il died and everyone is emailing me asking me if I’m okay.

To give you my quick “in the thick of it” type reaction… absolutely nothing has changed here. Nobody is especially happy or especially scared about it. I haven’t seen an increased military presence. I haven’t seen a happy mood in the air. It’s more or less business as usual. Obviously I can’t say if it will stay business as usual, so I guess we’ll see. I’ll let you know if anything happens that is worth mentioning.

But there’s that word again… “uncertainty”. It’s followed me everywhere for the last several years. Oh things used to be great here in South Korea. Hagwons would never fail. You could never cram enough students into a classroom. Teachers used to be in incredibly high demand. You’d have to be insane NOT to work here.

Yeah. Moments before you got here, things used to be good.


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