Title: There Goes English Teacher (Modjaji, 2018)
Author: Karin Cronje
Reviewer: Nancy Richards
How many of us have felt the need to just get out of our rut and change direction. Well at the age of 48 in 2005, KARIN CRONJE felt the need big time – for a whole range of reasons. The direction in her case was South Korea – to teach English. Kind of random, but the universe had spoken. Amongst the reasons were that her son Marko’s Uni fees needed paying and she had a book to finish writing. Well, she went on to finish the book which despite all the grief it gave her, turned out to be an award-winner, and eventually her son got to finish his degree. But what happened in between was a journey of note, culture shock and a super-steep self-learning curve. When she left South Africa she was not prepared in any way for what lay ahead – she hardly knew where South Korea was and she had absolutely no teaching experience – plus she was leaving behind a perfectly good job (she had amongst other things, been a book publicist), a house and a much beloved, if aged dog.
So travelling this road with her – part stream of consciousness, part journal (although she never wrote one) you want to laugh, cry, seethe and scream with her. She (and the reader) learn about Korean language and body language, their social and anti-social behaviour, eating habits, education methods, temples, history and attitudes. Marko comes to visit, she switches from teaching at a children’s ‘hagwon’ (cram school) to a university, she makes and looses friends, loves, hates – and eventually comes home, concluding with a section in which she has what she calls a break-through rather than a break down.
This is one roller coaster book – described on the (very lively and appealing) cover as ‘the full catastrophe of being human.’