Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Crossing Off To-Do Lists

I tried to write about saying goodbye to my students at Taegu Foreign Language High School. But I was unable to do so at this time. It's been very emotional. Even just mentioning my goodbye meals with my co-workers at TFLHS is getting me a little choked up. Some of these men and women (especially the women) are the smartest, hardest-working teachers I know. Even when I disagree with them (or they with me), I thoroughly respect their point of view and their professionalism. Although it's not like saying goodbye to Roosevelt, which was my first teaching job and first professional career post college, it's still tough.

At the goodbye luncheon with the English Department; My present is a Korean cookbook in English.

I've been here two years. In that time I've learned a lot about negotiation, bureaucracy, cultural nuances, testing, and assumptions. (Yes, I learned some of that at Oedae, but honestly, the hagwons are run like businesses more than schools, and I was lucky enough to work for an American director which insulated me from a lot of the workplace cultural differences). These things were always a part of teaching in the U.S., but experiencing them in another country has made them more transparent to me. A lot of foreign teachers come to Korea without having taught before, so perhaps their perspective is a little different, but I have to say that even if I never return to an international position, the things I've learned here will change how I approach teaching forever.

Rather than deal with emotional enormity of leaving my students and my position, I've chosen to focus today on the necessary tasks I must complete before I board the plane out of here in 23 (really? REALLY?) days and return "home" (or rather, repatriate). I would say that it's amazing how entrenched I've become in Korea and my life here, but those of you who know me know that it's hardly surprising that I dug right in and made myself at home. For the last year, I've been slowly moving towards minimalism and so I'm not really surprised by the amount of things I've collected here (as I've been increasing my awareness of and trying to let go my connection with stuff), but organizing, packing, and preparing it does rekindle memories of Korean classes and taekwondo belts gone by.

And so, my nose is to the grindstone (as it were), and my heart is in nostalgia-ville (visiting its cousins, the tear ducts, from sentimental-town). It's a process. Ever circular, but ever forward. Especially circular as the woman whose job I took when I first arrived in Korea three years ago, Jane, landed in Korea yesterday to return to her old position. I believe I may return some of the things she gave me to their original owner (who'd have thunk it?).

I started this journey alone, with my cat and vague hopes for the future. I'm returning with a husband, another cat, a black belt in taekwondo, thousands of pictures, many more memories, and a lot of love and respect for a country that will now always be another "home." Life can change a lot in three years, or not at all. In the end, it's not what happens to you--it's who you are.

Enjoy some pictures of the students I can't write about or I'll start crying:

English Theater Festival at 외고 2010


  1. OOOOoooo I feel for you! I've been there a few times now and it is SO difficult each and every time for so many reasons. Big hugs!



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