The Substitute

February 1997 in Seoul, South Korea.

I officially started substituting for JT's brother's classes after he and his betrothed left for the States. The hagwon provided a motorcycle (like a Honda Trail 90) that I rode around to different hagwons and apartments to teach. My typical routine would be:

Put on a helmet, put my hands into the huge glove/mitten things that covered the handles and kept my hands from freezing off, ride the cycle to the hagwon, enter up the back stairs, "teach" a class, leave.

When I left I would ride to an apartment where 3-5 kids would be waiting. I would work through a textbook for 50 mins, then mom would bring in a tray of treats and/or juice. We would eat and maybe play a game for 10 minutes. Then I would leave. On the way out mom would hand me an envelope of cash. Usually 25-40K Won per hour.

Off to the next apartment. Repeat.

Initially my days were not packed with classes because the hagwon owner didn't trust me yet. But it didn't take long 'til positive feedback flowed in from the moms. I made a point of greeting them in Korean and doing a bit of small talk at each visit. After each session I would praise their kids' English skills. Pretty soon I was gold.

Once a week I would ride the #5 Purple line over an hour all the way from Omokkyo to Jamsil? where I met a young lady for 2 hours of free-talking. We drank Cokes and chatted. She was a grad student and quite smart. She was studying North Korean politics and the concept of Juche. This was right at the time Hwang Jang-yeop defected. He was one of the main "architects" of Juche and so we spent hours talking about this news and about Juche. She was quite thrilled to be allowed to study North Korean politics at such an exciting time. Definitely one of the highlights of my substitute stint. She paid me 100,000 won for the 2 hours. Maybe I should have paid her? Or at least paid for the Cokes?

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