After a morning of technical difficulties in my first attempt at teaching online, and last as our school will go back offline next week, I spent the afternoon watching documentaries.
About halfway through the one about the attack on the US Capitol, Jack looked over my shoulder quizzically. He couldn’t read the title card and watching clashes between people in riot gear asked me, “is that Afghanistan?”
I sat with the entire weight of the implication from his statement for a moment before answering, “No. It’s from the US Capitol siege.”
He looked at me blankly.
I couldn’t explain the enormity of it all and just repeated, “in the US.” He had no idea what I was talking about then the clock hit 4:15 and he was packing up to leave.
Helen trailed out soon after leaving me and the chatty sub, MJ.
MJ is the MVP.
I started to pack up, too, when she told me that today was our vice president’s last day. He had finally been granted transfer to Geoje, which is where he had been commuting from every day. I know from experience it’s at least a one hour commute plus a 5,000 won charge each way to cross the mighty bridge.
Every day our poor VP was paying nearly ten dollars and sitting for two hours in the car to work at our school.
“We should say goodbye to him. Let’s go together,” she offered and I have never been so grateful.
We walked across the hall and into the teacher’s office. The other ladies working warmly greeted us, and I know most of them already from hallway interludes or the one occasion over the summer I asked to borrow a vacuum.
I didn’t know quite what to say in Korean so I gave him my thanks in English. He looked between MJ and I and admitted he didn’t know English well.
I was stumped– I knew he was finally getting a job closer to home, and wanted to congratulate him. But he didn’t know that I knew that, and it might seem rude of me to congratulate him for leaving.
What I came up with, in my infinite genius, was:
A Konglish catch phrase that means “you can do it!”
He laughed and repeated it back to me, then spoke briefly to us. I think the gist was, “I didn’t know you well but good work.”
I recovered my senses and managed to bow deeply and say 수고하셨습니다 which is a standard farewell and roughly means “you worked hard”. It’s also used as a farewell in the imperative tense when one is going off to work; MJ says it to me when I’m leaving our office to teach the kiddos in the morning, and uses it in past tense when I get back.
If I think about it, MJ might just be a polite person in general. She has a sort of Southern grace that the women in my family carry. Maybe some of it comes from the fact that she has two preteen children.
We left the office after another goodbye and walked out of the school together to part ways at the road.
“Bye bye!” she said, taking a sharp left to find her ride (her husband).
What a great lady.