Freelance Conversationalism

We’ve arrived in Cheonan and begun our lives as online English tutors–freelance conversationalists is the name I prefer. The way it works is: the website, Cafetalk, acts as a middleman, connecting students to teachers. The students pay for points, and the tutors are paid in those points, which translate into whatever currency you like. Through this job we’ve met all kinds: doctors and salesmen, house wives and horse racers, animators and web designers, even a high school kid who I’m pretty sure is going to take over the world.

Although, we don’t really “teach” English so much as advise on it. Most of our students already speak English—at least well enough to get by, and by that I mean: get a job, find an apartment, keep up a friendship. That’s more than I can say for some native English speakers. In regards to us getting an apartment in South Korea, we are nowhere close to that level.

Matt & Dani, two longtime friends of Becca, have taken us under their wing and shown us the secret to living this kind of life. Matt represented us in our apartment hunt, using his Korean to communicate with the real-estate agent, who didn’t speak a word of English. Even so, there were a handful of moments where we resorted to charades, and pointing at translations on our cell phone screens. Communication is so much fun when it breaks down to grunting and pointing.  I like drawing pictures.

I don’t know how we would have found an apartment without help. Matt & Dani have become our coaches in this strange new land. They’ve shown how out to shop for deals out here, breaking food prices down to the smallest degree. I can now tell you that a single egg costs 230 won, a tuna sandwich costs 1000 won, a spaghetti dinner—with one hundred milligrams of meat—costs 3000 won, and is dinner for two.

They’ve also coached us in our online tutoring careers, helping us get more students by tweaking our profiles. Matt & Dani have been online English tutors for years now, alongside living in South Korea and doing the expat thing. When we stayed with them there were times the four of us had skype lessons simultaneously, and the apartment transformed into an English tutoring center of sorts.

I never thought we’d go so far down this road—English tutoring to pay the bills. The way it’s looking, we’re in this boat for the next three or four months at the very least. It’s not a bad life, but so far it’s been somewhat of an in-doors one. Cave life, if you will. We have to find reasons to venture out into the sunlight, to leave the comfort of our cozy little apartment. I should mention it’s pretty cold outside. I can’t complain though, this environment had gotten me to write more than ever before. I’m finally putting work in on my novel, several short stories, and this blog.

But I have to say, I have been enjoying these days of talking, and writing, and blogging, and then doing it all over again.


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