"It's like our school owner only cares about money, not education, and sometimes he'll say something but later change his mind, and I hate when people lie to me."
When asked why he left his last job in America, Bartleman explained that in America he had lost his job after economic realities forced his boss to make some cutbacks, and he had gained a reputation among his coworkers as 'the one who always complains.'
"Office gossip did me in. I get so tired of that garbage."
He came to Korea to get a fresh start, and to work in a totally different atmosphere than that of America, but was disappointed to find that here in Korea, "A lot of the same bullshit happens -- I can't believe it. I thought Koreans were different."
When asked to give details, Bartleman described the way his colleagues acted unfriendly toward him after he refused to go out eating "that weird Korean food" with them; finally, on the advice of a friend, he did, but found they were not entertained by his jokes about kimchi farts and garlic breath.
"I tried to have a good conversation, but they didn't find my stories about how Koreans are crazy, and the education system is screwed, entertaining. I explained to them all the ways I think America is a better country -- not to judge them, of course -- just to be honest -- and described how Korea should change so it can be more like America, and they kinda just spoke Korean for the rest of the night. I totally don't get it."
Meanwhile, first-year teacher Amy Forland has also been disillusioned by her first year in Korea.
"You know, I've found some people here are rude. That was shocking to me, that Korea would have rude people. All the rude people is why I left America. I always had this image of Asia as a place of quiet, zen-like peace and calm, and beautiful rock gardens -- I watched 'Memoirs of a Geisha' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' like, ten times each before I decided to teach overseas, but life here is nothing, I mean nothing like that. It's so noisy downtown in the big city."
When asked how much of Korea's culture they've experienced, both described their efforts to reach out and engage in Korean life:
"We go to different parts of the city: like, sometimes we go drink in Hongdae, and sometimes, we go drink in Itaewon, we regularly drink in Kangnam, and sometimes we even go drink in Hyehwa," naming three different districts of Seoul.
"One time, when Brock was sick," Amy confides, "We drank in Myeong-dong." They make efforts to meet Korean people, too: "I have a bunch of Kyopo friends, and sometimes we hang out with our Korean co-teachers. They speak pretty good English, because most of them lived overseas."
When asked about the Korean language, Forland said she's learned ten useful phrases from her co-workers, while Bartleman explained that he can communicate a lot by pointing and smiling, and he has friends who can go places with him to speak Korean, but both have been disappointed to find Korea was different from the way they imagined it.
Says Forland, "I've never had a job in America, but here in Korea, it seems like my boss just wants to overwork me and pay me as little as he can get away with -- I'm sure that all bosses in America understand their workers, and always tell them the truth, and treat all their workers equally. Maybe there are places here that work like that, but I feel pretty justified in judging all of Korea according to my first year experience as a hogwan teacher."
And what is that judgement she feels qualified to make?