I wrote about how I got my job working at Digital eMation and that was followed by a lot of good questions and things that I realized I should share with people for clarity purposes. One thing I wanted to mention; I was the first foreigner that worked for Digital eMation directly. There were Canadian supervisors, but they worked directly for Fox. So I was the first international minion, as I used to say!
Was it a culture shock?
I was very appreciative to have gotten my start teaching because that's where I learned a lot about Korean culture. That first year was when I came up with my theory that helped me survive Korea.
"If it doesn't make sense, it makes sense in Korea." - Deborah Anderson's consciousness
I'm also very observant so that helped me in explaining how things work, what to let go and what to bring up. I remember once, I emailed the vice president because when we were eating lunch or when we were congregated together, there would be times where I heard my name over and over again, but they weren't talking to me. One thing a person in a foreign country knows is that, even if you don't know the language and what people are saying, you know what your name sounds like. So I messaged her just to tell her that I felt uncomfortable constantly hearing my name when they weren't talking to me. What they were saying could have been innocent, but since I didn't know what it was, it was awkward. It stopped after that.
I survived a lot of differences by justifying the heck out of what they were doing. Sometimes it was less stressful to find out the reason or make up a reason than dwelling on any particular issue.
What kind of work did you do?
I learned a lot about Asia's part in the animation process while working in South Korea. To make it simple, the creativity (e.g writing, character design, storyboards, etc.) is done in California by Fox or whatever company is outsourcing the work. Korea and other Asian countries is where the "grunt work" is done (e.g. animation, background, coloring, compositing, retakes, etc.). We had important deadlines to meet so that each episode or straight to DVD movie could get out on time. As a 3D Artist, I got the opportunity to work on Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Scooby Doo.
Specifically, I was a 3D modeler and I modeled vehicles, props and backgrounds. All of the cars for Family Guy and The Cleveland Show were done in 3D. If there was a complicated shot that was hard to draw in 2D, they would give it to our department. For example, there's an episode where Stewie and Brian go to Canada (2010 - "Road to the North Pole) and in one shot, they are on top of a hill and the camera rotates 360 degrees around Stewie's head. That would be a really hard shot to draw by hand, so they had the 3D department create Stewie's head in 3D and rotate a camera around it which is a much easier process.
What was your work day like?
I worked 12 hour days and worked 6 days a week. So, from Monday to Friday, I worked from 10 am to 10 pm. And that was just the regular work hours, there was no overtime. On Saturdays, we would get off at 6pm or a little earlier. For the most part, I didn't mind the work load. That is...until a WHOLE DAY went missing. Let me explain. This was my daily routine:
Over time, they decided to give us one Saturday off a month (not everyone at once) and some time after that, they would let us go home early (6 or 7pm) one day during the week. I believe these incentives were given purely because there was a foreigner working. If it had been all Koreans, I think it would have been hard core all the way through. Lastly, I had 3 vacation days a year and Korean holidays. And this wasn't like in America. You got THAT particular holiday off only. They may have let us go early for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve (I can't remember).
So, obviously, you spoke Korean, right?
I did not speak Korean fluently and still don't, unfortunately. I couldn't even communicate at kindergarten level. I was really good at pronunciation, so much so, that when I would speak to taxi drivers, they would call me 한국 사람 (Korean person). My co-workers and I would use our broken Korean and broken English to communicate. As far as work goes, I was doing art, which is visual, so we were fluent in hand gesture and I learned my colors and some other terms in Korean. A lot of animation terms are the same, just with a Korean accent. I did take a class when I was a teacher and I have loads of books, so I hope to be able to speak Korean one day.
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One thing that sucked about not knowing Korean was when it came time for our yearly health check, which they paid for. I'm a very private person, but when your health results come back in Korean, you need someone to read it. Luckily (sarcasm), my results came back saying I was anemic, so for the rest of my time at Digital eMation, my director would be "supervising" my plate at lunch and dinner to see if I was eating my vegetables. It was all in love and at least I had that accountability.
How was it being the only black person in your department?
It's kind of funny the way Korean culture works. A lot of my Ko-workers who worked with a black person every day at work, could still go out with their significant other or friends and be shocked to see a different black person walking down the street. Koreans are very different from Americans in that way. I always explain it that Koreans never get used to seeing foreigners for some reason and exclaim loudly/looked surprised in public. But if aliens came down today in America, after about two weeks, we would be over it and it would no longer be a novelty. Just a cultural difference.
In general, I was more a "foreigner" than a "black person". But I can tell you, it feels I lot less "dirty" to be the international token in Korea than the black token in America. I didn't mind when they would show me off to visiting studios. I also didn't mind getting free stuff (known as "service") in stores simply because I was a foreigner. I got many a free fruit and jello cup on my way to work.
Why did you leave?
If you noticed from my previous post about how I got my job, I said I worked for Digital eMation from 2010 to 2011. My leaving had nothing to do with Digital eMation nor the workload. In addition to being a private person, I'm a very "behind-the-scenes" type person, so I don't like attention. I'll go so far as to not tell people at work that it's my birthday so it's not that domino effect of "Oh! It's your birthday!" exclaimed loudly (so the entire office can hear). So, I left Korea partially because I missed my family and hadn't seen them in two years, but ultimately because I didn't want to be stared at anymore.
Koreans definitely stare at all foreigners, but being chocolate and tall doesn't help. When I kept my hair in twists, it was minimal, but when I decided to wear my Afro out, I would get pointing and laughing. There's some people who can deal with all of that and it's not a big deal to them. I'm not one of those people. So, even though I originally wanted to work at Digital eMation for at least two years, I headed back to America.
If you have any questions about my experience, please feel free to reach out to me on my Contact page. I'll answer what I can!
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