So, it’s the last week of school. I guess it’s time for some reflection. The prospect of writing this blog and trying to sum up my experience in Korea is rather overwhelming and no matter what I write I’m sure I’m not going to do it any kind of justice.
When I first arrived in Korea, I was both nervous and confidant, excited and anxious. The orientation period flew by and I was shipped off to my new home. It took a while to settle in here. The first few weeks of school were tough and adjusting to life here wasn’t easy. The first few weeks were full of exploration and new experiences but by the end of October things started to settle down and I started to get into the swing of life here. I became confident in my teaching ability and lessons have proven to be easier and easier to plan ever since.
The things that made life difficult here almost always came down to communication issues, whether it was with regard to cancelled or re-scheduled classes, or simply not knowing how to ask simple questions. Eventually things just started taking care of themselves. The more I got used to the fact that I’d just have to roll with the punches the easier life became.
The first semester was definitely easier than the second mainly due to having more available co-teachers. I feel like in the second semester I was trusted more to teach on my own which worked against me rather than for me as trying to control a class of kids who don’t speak your language can be a constant struggle, no matter how experienced you get at it.
The kids have (for the most part) been what have made this experience so worthwhile. Although there have been bad classes they have mostly been a joy to teach and get to know and I’m sure that I’ll miss them in the months to come. I haven’t quite figured out how to tell them that I’m leaving yet, I’m really not sure whether they’re aware of it or not.
There are things I’ll miss about living here and there are things that I won’t and I guess I should spend some time talking about those things. We’ll get the negative stuff out of the way first, in list format, things I’m going to be so glad to leave behind:
Not being able to communicate effectively (and therefore struggling to fully engage with the culture), the spiciness of the food, dak glabi stomach (something that I’ve spent many hours on the toilet dealing with), soju, kids that won’t listen when I tell them to sit down, kids that scream, kids that try and poke me, the bitterly cold winters and ridiculously hot summers, the raspy voice of the man in the bus station, the lack of individualism (this is one of the key players in reasons I couldn’t stay here for another year), couples who wear the same clothes, having to say hello to everyone, soldiers being everywhere, the hill I have to walk up every single day, taking walks and stumbling across army bases that just get in the way, people gozzing everywhere, the smell of smoke, the smell of sewage on Seoul sidewalks, and kimchi. I won’t miss that at all.
Then the things I’ll miss, and long for: kids that laugh at my jokes, engaging with students and having fun with them, school dinners with Mr. Chae who tries to get me to eat super hot peppers, sharing a coffee with the maintenance man every morning, the beautiful bus journey through the mountains, the gushing rivers, the mountains, Korean barbeque, the smiley buzzy faces on my students when they’re enjoying my class, school lunches, the fresh air, the low cost of living and extremely generous pay packet, rides home with my Kindergarten teacher, the five day market, the way Russell sulks when he loses a game, Nathanael’s home cooking, norae bang (karaoke) , and the sense of achievement I get out of my job.
All in all I’m looking forward to leaving, after all, I have a lot to look forward too, this time next week I’ll be at the airport flying out of this country for the first time since January. I’ll be moving onto a totally new chapter of my life and will no longer have to worry about lesson plans and motivational tools. This week will no doubt fly by, today I had my final Kindergarten class and was presented with a lovely booklet full of pictures that my kids drew for me, and a CD of photographs from throughout the year, it got emotional in there. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to the fish restaurant for the last time to get some of that wriggly octopus we are so fond of, Wednesday we’ll be having dinner in town for the last time, Thursday I’ll be having my leaving dinner with my school followed by Birthday cake for Natalie, then Friday marks the end, we’ll be getting on a bus and leaving Sachang-ri behind. Leaving my students behind. Leaving this life behind.