My last day of school and the end of my grant year was July 20th. Since then I’ve been traveling around Korea and not thinking much about blogging. But I’ll get a few more posts in before I leave.
The last day of school came suddenly. I’d been saying goodbye to my classes over the last two weeks – after their final exam – but this was disrupted by the arrival of postcards from the second graders’ penpals in Japan. It was really exciting to be able to do this exchange with them, even if we almost didn’t make it in time! Other than the penpal postcards, I’d had a final game planned for my classes, but sometimes they asked to watch a movie instead, and if they had one ready, I let them.
The last day of school I hardly saw my students at all. Instead I attended the final teachers’ meeting of the semester and gave a brief speech thanking the school and saying goodbye in Korean. Of course my execution wasn’t as great as what I’d rehearsed on the bus to school, but I did get a few laughs – and only partially at my expense.
There was a closing ceremony for students which ended well before noon. The only thing left in the day was a final teachers’ lunch at a nearby restaurant. Although I said my goodbyes to YGHS teachers, I have plans to meet most of the English teachers once more before leaving Korea, so the moment wasn’t quite so sad.
Instead, I was thrilled about being on vacation and spent the afternoon at the beach. Under our visa from Fulbright, we’re permitted to stay in the country around a month after the grant year ends. I’ll leave the country in mid-August, giving me plenty of time to meet people and travel.
On my way home from the beach I ran into some of my most energetic students and had a conversation in which I taught them that being “chicken” means scared. Nope, the grant year seemed far from over.
After school ended I consistently woke up before 7am for nearly a week. I had dreams about lesson planning and rushing to classes. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’m still expecting to go back to school when this weekend is up. And then I have to remind myself that it’s not the weekend.
Warning: Sappiness Ahead.
I’ll really miss all the wonderful people – students, fellow teachers and friends – I’ve met here. But in some ways, the parting isn’t so bad, softened by promises to keep in touch and Facebook.
However what I won’t be able to keep in touch with is Busan. All of South Korea too, but especially Busan. I think ETAs usually develop a fondness for their placement(s). While I’ll always have sweet memories of my first placement in Gimhae, I really did fall in love with Busan. I’ll miss living in a big city that manages to sometimes feel like a small town. I’ll miss the multiple Innisfree and The Face Shop stores within walking distance of each other. I’ll miss Nampo-dong’s busy street cluttered with tourists and Gukje Market’s cluttered stalls owned by ahjummas who ask me why my Korean has a southern accent.
I’ve lived near Colorado’s beautiful mountains nearly my whole life, but I’ll miss living by the ocean. I’ll miss having a beach just 10 minutes away and several more just a bus or subway ride away. I’ll miss trying to get a right-side window seat on my commute to work so I have a better view of the ocean.
I’ll miss noraebang (karaoke, if you must) at Seomyeon 수 노래연습장 with Nadia, Ted and Janine. I’ll miss impressing out-of-towners with the fact that this noraebang has a river inside. A river.
I’ll miss dog and cat cafes. I’ll miss Gong Cha and how easy it is to find bubble tea. I’ll miss the thrill of finding good foreign food – real hamburgers, sandwiches without unexpected ingredients, any kind of Mexican food – after days of rice.
I’ll miss Korean food too – that goes without saying. Huge steaming skillets of pone spine stew and melon-flavored ice cream for dessert. Bubbling pots of chicken and vegetables smothered in a bright red sauce. A deceptively cheap bowl of handmade noodles filled to the brim with broth and toppings. Kimbap, found cheap at every turn. And of course, meat sizzling on the grill, accompanied by a perfect and seemingly healthy balance of sides.
So before it’s too late, I’ll savor it all while I can, holding back tears at each goodbye, and reassure myself, that someday I’ll be back.