Monday, 27 August 2012

End Times

Well, we are sat in the Incheon Airport Hotel ready to board our flight tomorrow morning. We have packed our bags and we're ready to go. Weather permitting (there is a huge typhoon expected to hit the Korean peninsular tonight) we should be heading out at 9:35am. Good timing, huh? It's set to be the biggest typhoon Korea has seen in over ten years. Oh, joy! Let's keep our fingers crossed for no delays!

So, my last day of school was probably my best day of school. It began as it usually does, I boarded my bus and set off into the mountains. I watched the scenery roll past my window for the last time. It's funny how until something is ending you don't realize how much you take it for granted. The bus pulled into Damok and I walked into school. I still wasn't sure which students knew of my impending departure and which students didn't, so, I said "hello" to anyone I saw as I usually would. I put the cake that I had bought for the teachers in the fridge and set up my classroom for the days lessons.

I taught 5th Grade first thing, we just had a regular textbook class (a pretty good one as textbook classes go) and at the end I announced that I would be leaving. The students were momentarily sad until I offered up sweets. I had a photo with the class and sent them on their way. A big deal wasn't really made which was nice. It felt conclusive. 5th Grade are / were my favorite class along with their teacher and I shall miss them most of all. 4th Grade followed and we played some fun games and I gave them sweets and took a photo, they seemed a little sadder to see me leave and were telling me that I should stay which was sweet.

Lunch rolled around and I said goodbye to Mr. Chae who had to go to Hwacheon on a business trip.

Side note: (best Mr. Chae line ever the day before my leaving dinner): "Tomorrow, I will kill you with soju." I live to tell the tale.

After lunch I gave my final two classes 2nd Grade and 4th Grade afterschool. The 2nd Grade kids all brought me little gifts and notes that they had made for me which was really heartwarming and sweet of them. They were a great class and I was so grateful they had taken the time to make little letters for me. After classes I sorted some last minute administration things out with my co-teacher and then we all ate the cake that I had brought in. The principle gave a small speech telling me that he appreciated all of the hard work I had put in, and that the students will miss me, and how he is always pleased to see my happy face. He wished me good luck and we cut the cake together. It was nice to talk properly with all of the teachers for one last time. They all told me they would miss me and that the students loved me and I'll stop there before this starts sounding egotistical. It was nice to hear all of the positive things that they had to say but I'll take it with a pinch of salt.

Come 5 o'clock it was time to leave. As I was walking out of the door some of the straggling forth graders grabbed hold of me and tried to make me stay, but alas, I was on my way. I waved goodbye to the students and to the school and said my farewells to the teachers and I was on my way, watching the school fade out of view, out of my life.

Natalie and I spent about an hour on Friday evening finishing things up around the house and making sure everything was packed and then we said goodbye to Nathanael, Russell and Deanna and got on our way. Watching Sachang disappear out of the bus window was sad, but it felt like it wasn't the end. It felt like I'd be coming back on Monday. I had made Sachang my home for a year and it was like saying goodbye to a close friend, although I'll miss it, it will always be with me.

We have had a wonderful weekend in Seoul. The hostel we stayed in was very friendly, clean and welcoming and we had a great time there. We got talking to a couple of people from India and Pakistan who were in Seoul on business, who were really lovely.

It was Natalie's Birthday on Saturday and in true Natalie style she decided she wanted to go to the zoo, which was fine by me. We headed out to Seoul Grand Park which really is Grand, it's huge! There is so much to see and do there that you couldn't possible do it in a day. We focused solely on Seoul Zoo and we must have spent about seven hours there, getting our £1.50's worth. We saw a tonne of animals that we had never seen before, huge hippos, naked mole rats, lots of different snakes and insects, bears and wild cats, huge eagles and performing flamingos. It was so hot, we slugged our way back to our hostel and freshened up before going out for dinner. We had our last Korean BBQ and we really enjoyed it.

Other highlights from our last weekend in Korea include the dog cafe (a cafe in which about twenty dogs are running about for you to play with as you enjoy your chocolate latte). A trip to Myeongdong. Lunch in Namsan Park. Shopping at the COEX mall, (although it was stupidly busy) and chilling out on the picnic bench outside the hostel. I sent all of my money home today and thus concluded all of the last things I had to do before I leave Korea.

So, here we are. I'm sat looking out of the seventh floor window at our favorite airport guesthouse, we're about to go and have some dinner and wait for news of the brewing storm. If our flight is unaffected we'll be waving goodbye to Korea tomorrow morning, it's been an amazing year and I've met some truly wonderful people. I'll need some time to get some real perspective before I can accurately make sense of my time here and blog it with a sense of denouement, until then, this will have to do.

Farewell, see you in Bangkok.

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