Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Times

I have just begun a six-month extension of my contract in Suji, to end at the beginning of March next year. Old teachers leaving, new teachers arriving, new students and classes and schedules...the only constant has been the stubbornly hot and humid weather (seems like just yesterday I was complaining about the stubbornly cold and snowy weather of the unusually long Korean winter!) Needless to say, the past month has been a strange interlude of beginnings and endings...knowing that I was originally supposed to be leaving Korea around this time has been both a daunting and exciting experience of emotion. I'm very happy with my decision to stay a bit longer beyond my original contract- saying goodbye a few weeks ago to the teachers who were with me for the past year really drove that home...I would have harbored big regrets if I was joining them on the plane back to Minnesota.

At the same time, I was still along for the ride of experiencing their last month in Korea...their last favorite meals, last noraebong nights, last mornings of being greeted in the school lobby by dozens of miniature adoring fans, screaming their names and grabbing at their clothes (a.k.a the kindergarten students, fresh off their buses, relishing the sight of their beloved teachers for the first time that day). This certainly posed a major clash of emotion, nostalgia, confusion, and just about every other sort of powerful and overwhelming feeling you can experience while abroad...
I think I had them all covered for the entire month of August.

And now, I have been here one year (as of August 12th, not that I'm counting or anything). Just about nothing is as I thought it would be, one year ago. Just about everything is still uncertain...except for the most wonderful feelings in the world at school, seeing my students for the first time every morning (admittedly, I get just as excited as they do, as in the morning scenario described above) and having those moments when everything feels okay just because one of my little 6 year olds hugs my legs and says, "Bret-a-nee Teach-a" (I'm an easy sell- they don't even have to say anything along the lines of "I love you," or "You're the best"...just hearing them say my name in accented English is enough!)

Some of my classes have changed now for the new school term...I am still teaching science and reading/writing classes to my elementary students, but I am now also a social studies teacher. Interesting concept, teaching Korean students about the American meanings and connotations of words like "community" and "leader" and "suburb." Some of those concepts just don't quite translate the same into the context of Eastern society...but it has been interesting to reaquaint myself with the building blocks of American society again...

Especially when, to my suprise, our social studies textbook featured a photo of Minneapolis within the unit on "cities and suburbs"!! I gave my students extra reward stickers if they could tell me what was so special about the picture- a picture of Lake Calhoun in the foreground, with the downtown skyline in the background. A few of them ventured creative guesses: "This city has a sea surrounded by offices where the people work. The people move around the city on boats" (there were lots of canoes and kayakers in the particular picture). Um, no...that would be more along the lines of...Venice? Another only said, "It looks like a beautiful and very wonderful place to live!" (It did- and it does- and it is!)

But, lo and behold, one student finally noticed the caption that read "Minneapolis, Minnesota" and jumped out of his seat, screaming in excitement because he recalled that I am from there! I almost matched his excitement- seeing this picture of home and being able to tell my students, "That's my home! I live right near this lake in this city!" was such unexpected joy and nostalgia. was definitely a wave of homesickness...but also cool to know that my students can have a little bit better of idea where I come from.

And next...Sue Haeg is set to arrive in Korea on Friday, September 17th!!!!! Can't wait- I have almost a week break from school for the Chuseok holiday and will be happily spending it all with my mom!!