A busy mother in northern Manitoba has found a unique way to take care of her kids and pay the bills: teaching English to students more than 9,000 kilometres away.
Korean immigrant Eun-Nae Yoon moved to Thompson about a month ago with her husband, an airplane mechanic at Calm Air, and her two children, aged two and six.
She wanted to find work, but ran into a problem finding a babysitter in the community of around 14,000.
"It was impossible to find one, so I had to stay home, basically," Yoon told CBC News.
However, Yoon was undeterred in her quest to find a job. Fluent in both English and Korean, she turned to a job she'd held in Korea: teaching English by telephone.
Around 10 p.m. weeknights, after her children are asleep, Yoon starts calling her students in South Korea. Yoon teaches two hours per night, five nights per week, spending about 10 minutes with each student every night.
While it's late night in Thompson, it's early afternoon in Seoul, so Yoon reaches her students, mainly adult doctors and businessmen, at work. Busy professionals in Korea pay as much as $150 per month for an hour's worth of weekly sessions in conversational English.
"When I first call and tell them I'm calling from Canada, they say, 'Yeah, right. Get out of here!'" Yoon told CBC News.
"The first question they would ask me is, 'Don't you have a big phone bill?'" Yoon adds with a laugh.
Online phone service cuts bills
Calling overseas as much as Yoon's job requires can be very expensive. Yoon's long-distance English lessons are made more profitable through the purchase of an "internet phone" from a Korean telecom firm.
Yoon's telephone connects not through a traditional phone jack, but through her computer. When she calls Korea, her voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service charges her around one cent per minute, payable to the Korean company.
For 40 hours of overseas calling per month, Yoon pays about $30 using VoIP – compared with at least $290 per month through her local telephone company.
Her internet phone does have some glitches – occasionally, it just disconnects.
"Just because it's internet, you know, it goes off sometimes," she admits – but with a call back and an impromptu lesson in apologies, she gets her English session back on track.
While the technology is imperfect, it has allowed Yoon to get around her babysitter shortage, work from home – and make a decent wage doing it.