August 24, Last Day of School

I wish I could tell you that something special and exciting happened during school my last day but it wasn’t much different than the last few months of this contract. C did have us play a game with the fifth graders so I did have more interaction than usual. Plus, I didn’t cry so that was good.

We waited to tell the kids that it was my last day until the very end of class and they didn’t do much more than say goodbye. Of course one boy from last semester who I remember bowing in a 90° angle after he committed a grave error said “You can’t leave! Don’t forget us!”

Luckily I had already felt distant the last few months so this lukewarm goodbye wasn’t as heartbreaking or disappointing as I had expected. S invited me to her classroom where she gave me a very meaningful note and a cheesy but cute nightstand made out of one of our selfies.

I was hoping to make it through the day without more awkward goodbyes but alas the new subject teachers wanted to pull together for one last awkward meeting to say farewell. The female science teacher is going on leave for six months so it was a dual session.

C gifted the two of us a special set of tea from Jeju. E asked me what I would do when I got back to the states and I told her I hope to return to Korea very soon. She didn’t listen to my answer because her next question was “Are you going to get a job? Are you going to school?“

Luckily the little party lasted no more than 15 minutes and I just ate a tangerine to avoid any further explanation. We eventually parted ways and before E went back to her classroom she told me “if you ever come back to Korea let me know so we can meet up and hang out”

Because I am gracious I didn’t call her on her bold faced lie and agreed. We didn’t meet up this semester, not once, so I don’t hold her to anything.

C led me down to the principal and vice principal’s office to say an official goodbye. The principal, imposing as ever, invited me into her office while the stray cat that she once talked to instead of me curled around her legs. At least it gave me something to talk about.

Finally the day was over and as we walked walked out to the parking lot C admitted that she would miss me and that she also envies me.

I found out later that she is jealous of my freedom and sometimes regrets not moving to Jeju when she had the chance. She said she gave up the job because her mom didn’t want her to go.

I’m not entirely sure I imagined the tears in her eyes when we hugged goodbye.

The whole day was fairly anti-climactic but that was expected. However, I couldn’t let things end that way so I decided to say my own goodbyes to the neighborhood.

I took photographs of the graffiti and other sites that caught my eye.

A group of 8 feet tall middle school boys passed by me and I heard a distant hello. I turned around and said hello, much to their surprise, and a few more of them echoed their peer. A few moments later I heard one say 안녕 only for his friend to chastise him for using casual language with an adult. Good boy.

My wanderings took me to the base of the local mountain and I decided once again to climb it in a dress. It’s fairly low and not very steep but my journey was interrupted by an older woman flinging her arms out and physically preventing me from continuing on the path.

She turned me around and led me down by the small of my back explaining in an urgent whisper that there’s a strange man. I didn’t get all the details but I think she meant he was exposing himself to passersby. I was incredibly grateful in that moment then for her concern and prevention. And wow what a way to end the afternoon.

The previous day I had given away some kitchen and housewares to a local Hungarian student who is actually quite nice and we ended up meeting again for dinner.

It was a bit like the magic had worn off on the second date and I think she just needed someone to talk to about the hard time she’s been having. Nevertheless she did give me some brownies she made and also asked me to text her when I got to Busan to let her know that I arrived safely since traveling alone can be difficult.

The rest of the evening was spent digesting dinner and shoving things into suitcases. The next day, after all, would be much much more important.

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