Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life Thoughts as Reflected Through Telemarketing; This Blog May Be Recorded For Quality Assurance Purposes

I have just over a month before I head back to the ROK (republic of Korea), and as each day passes, I find myself more and more excited about sinking back into my old life as Peter Teacher.

Paychecks for teachers in Korea are deposited once a month, which means you are expected to arrive with enough funds to last the 4+ weeks until payday. Let's just say I do not have these funds. Like not even a little bit. This is how I have found myself spending the past few weeks applying for every job I can find in hopes that I can get a few paychecks in before I leave for Korea. Trying to find a job that will hire you for a month unfortunately tends to limit the places one can search for such a job. And let me assure you, the craigslist gigs section truly does seem to provide as strange (pronounced sleazy) of an experience as one would imagine.

The best way to describe my outlook on life as reflected through the Craigslist job market is summed up in one word, a word that until recently, I thought I had made up. After conducting a bit more research, it turns out that it is an actual word, and oddly enough, I have almost been using it correctly. Smarmy.

Instead of taking this opportunity to share the dictionary definition of Smarmy (because, sadly, the real definition is a bit of a stretch from how I have been, and will keep on using it) I will provide you with some smarmy anecdotes of the past month, and hope that you will come to accept my interpretation of this really great word.

Estimated Fact: Over 50% of the jobs I have applied for over Craigslist have turned out to be scams.
Fun Fact: Scams are smarmy.
Probable Fact: Most scammers have bad teeth.

I have received several reply emails saying that I am hired as the personal assistant of a suspiciously non googleable attorney who is out of the country on business. Said attorney then asks for my Social Security number so they can setup payment for the tasks they will ask me to complete while they are out of town.


Another "job offer" was from a company called City Reviewing Company, who even went so far as to FedEx me a check for $2,000 (which ScamAlert sites have assured me was, well, bouncy), saying that before I cashed this check, I needed to wire them $1,500, oh, and pass along my social security number. Do people actually fall for this stuff? I guess the first sign should have been the wording of the email they sent, which, for a company specializing in writing, was comparable to the writing quality of some of the papers I graded while in Korea. Here is a paragraph taken from their email. (On a side note, if you have any interest in livening up your blog reading experience, this can easily be turned into a drinking game! Take a shot every time you see the word 'necessary.')

"City Reviewing Company will provide you necessary funds to carry out these restaurant review and store review. We will also provide you with the necessary fund you need to write reviews of the restaurants and a store. We will also need you to provide us with the necessary information which is necessary to document you as one of our review writers and this information will also apply to your compensation and necessary information City Reviewing Company will need to send to you. Below are the necessary information requested; Once the necessary information is provided, we will be able to make all necessary arrangement and send you necessary information for you to begin the reviews of the restaurants and store. You must have the seriousness and devotion necessary to writing a sincere and perfect review."


Not all smarmy Craigslist positions scam the job searcher per say, which is why I actually went as far as to accept one of these smarmy positions as a telemarketer. I had a brief foray as a telemarketer before I left for Korea in 2009, how bad could it be?

I arrived on my first day expecting at least an entire shift of training. The training period lasted less than 5 minutes, and before I knew it, I was reading from a script and harassing people all across the nation. My 5 minutes of training didn't really allow ample time to ask questions about what exactly it was I was selling, and the script I was reading from was long, horribly written, and completely incomprehensible. The one rule I was told during "training" was that I must stick to the script with absolutely no variations. I was even chastised for throwing in an improvised 'how are you' in my first call.

One must make the assumption that if I didn't understand what it was I was selling, the customer really had no idea. For the first hour of my shift, I was under the impression that I was sending magazine subscribers a $100 gift card as a thank you for their subscription to one of 200 magazines. After an hour or so of having little to no idea what it was I was saying to these people, it dawned on me that the gift card only came when the person on the other end of the phone (typically old and confused) handed over their credit card number and unknowingly agreed to extend their subscription by 60 months (60 months is around 5 years. Who, may I ask, subscribes to a magazine 5 years at a time?) being charged a total of $5 a week. Let's do the math... $5 a week for 60 months comes to a whopping total of $1,300. For a magazine subscription. Wtf.


At this moment I realized that my morals outweighed my need for a paycheck, and I quit my job as Peter Telemarketer after an hour and a half. As I drove home from my first and only shift, I felt fortunate to be in a position where I could stand up for my morals, and felt really sad for the people who have worked there for weeks, months, even years, having no other options than scamming old people out of their money for 40 hours a week just so they can put food on their table. Surprisingly enough, I received a paycheck in the mail yesterday for $14. I guess that is the going rate for joining the ranks of scammers.

I have since changed my job approach, realizing that I would rather eat Korean Ramen (MUCH better than American Ramen) for my first month than play into the smarmy practices of these really awful companies.

This post is now about 50% longer than planned, so I will wrap up with the best news of this week, received just after an interview with an adult sized diaper company. My friend Megan helped me get a temp position at an office in Denver, beginning this upcoming Monday, doing work that is in no way smarmy. In this economy, can you really ask for anything more?

Until Next Time,


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eating My Way to South Korea

Today, I would like to invite you to try some of the food I have been missing/craving since I left Korea in early December.

I have made this recipe a few times, and it is nothing short of really, really great. I replaced white sugar with brown sugar, and added slices of Kiwi to tenderize the meat. For vegetarians, or those who don't eat red meat, this recipe works well with portabella mushrooms, tofu, salmon and chicken.

Beef Bulgogi Ingredients
1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1.Place the beef in a shallow dish. Combine soy sauce, sugar, green onion, garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and ground black pepper in a small bowl. (If you prefer your food spicy, add Chili Powder to taste. Pour over beef. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
2.Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil the grate.
3.Quickly grill beef on hot grill until slightly charred and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Beef Bulgogi is really good over rice, or with lettuce to make Korean lettuce wraps, but I am a big fan of serving it over the Korean noodle dish called Japchae.


12 Ounces Korean Vermicelli (Sweet Potato Noodles)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn off the flame, and add noodles. Allow the noodles to soak for 5 to 10 minutes until they are pliable. Strain the noodles and set them aside.

1/2 Cup Shitake Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Regular Mushrooms
1 Cup Onion
1 Cup Carrots
3 Cups Red Bell Pepper

Slice all vegetables into thin strips and mix together in a bowl. Add to the bowl 3 cloves of minced garlic, 4 Teaspoons Soy Sauce, 4 Teaspoons Sugar and 4 Teaspoons Sesame Oil. Allow the vegetables to marinate for a few minutes, before sauteing them in vegetable oil for 3 to 5 minutes. Set the vegetables aside.

To make the sauce for the noodles, called Yangnyumjang Sauce, you will need...
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon White Sugar
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Rice Wine
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Chopped Green Onion
1 Teaspoon Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic

1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro (Cilantro is not used in Korean food, but, let's face it, this is not Korea, and cilantro is damn good)

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil in a pan over medium-high flame. When it begins to sizzle, add half of the Yangnyumjang Sauce and 1/4 Cup Water. Add the noodles, stir-frying for 5 ish minutes.

Combine the noodles, the vegetables and the remaining sauce in a large bowl. Serve chilled or room temperature.


On a side, somewhat related note, check out my friend's blog, My Vagabond Kitchen, featuring delicious recipes and stories of her travels. Check it out at