C had left for her daily training across town when the classroom phone started to ring. I never answer the phone because it is never for me and is always in Korean.
However, not two minutes later I got an email from the kind office lady that explained G was trying to call me and that I should call her back.
G and I had a date to meet later that day to get coffee and give me my requested recommendation letter. In the middle of typing my response, or should I say finger pecking at the Korean keyboard, there was a knock on the classroom door and the same office woman came into the classroom. She must have booked it up four flights and across the school.
She explained in Korean that G was trying to reach me and I should call her back. It was really sweet that she made the effort to come all the way to tell me so and then there was a moment after she explained that she started and stopped a sentence then wrung her hands nervously.
I’m all about instigating so I asked her what she had on her mind. She asked if it was really true that I was moving to another area to which I replied yes but didn’t offer an explanation as I probably should have. She then said I was really well mannered and the kids really loved me and at this point I started to go cross eyed because it was an unexpected amount of Korean listening practice but I did my best. She’s always been a really kind and helpful lady for scanning my documents at the office, pointing me in the right direction, and writing me cute emails whenever I leave goodies in the teachers area.
It was really nice to hear the compliments and for a moment I felt like a jerk now that everyone in the school definitely knows I’m not leaving Korea, just this school. And as when these things happen, I wondered if I made the right decision about not renewing my contract.
But then I thought again, the love of the students doesn’t make my apartment bigger, it doesn’t make my salary higher, it doesn’t create cleaner air or more trees in the city, and it certainly won’t cancel the two weeks of English camp during my two weeks of summer vacation. I love that the students love me and I know I can make those relationships elsewhere too.
When I met G for coffee, after a very stressful encounter with a barista who asked me a slew of café questions that I’ve never heard in my life before despite visiting cafés on the regular for the past year, she looked at me suspiciously and said I’ve lost weight. “Don’t lose any more!” she commanded which I found funny; there has never been a day in my life that I’ve been threatened by being underweight. She asked again why I was moving. I suspect that G is a bit forgetful for reasons that are too sad for me to consider.
I explained again that I wouldn’t have any vacation if I renewed at the school and I need to visit aging family. Plus I really miss being able to see the sunset and nature in general; for some reason I didn’t consider this when I moved to a city of 10 million people.
S told me the other day when I commented the school members seem pretty quiet that the next place I go to could also be that way and she wished I wasn’t moving. But she said it with an air of understanding and resignation of why I was doing it anyway. Also with a promise of another meal at her home.
G remarked that she was surprised because no native English teachers ever move out of Seoul if they can help it. I’m the only crazy person who is moving from the capital city to an unknown. I told her I suppose many of them don’t want to move out because they like the (perceived) convenience of English services, nightlife, foreign population, and dating potential. I rarely club and you know that after the last disaster dating is not a priority, and truthfully it never much has been. I’m of the “if it happens it happens” persuasion.
We agreed that my Korean ability plus all that made the scenery change a good fit. G was excited that I already have a connection in the form of my Busan tutor:
“And she said we can go to her parents’ farm and make kimchi and pick sweet potatoes!”
“You love that kind of stuff, don’t you?”
That I do.
We parted ways at the crosswalk. With my letter in hand I felt the changes coming and looked forward to them with open arms.