I spent a significant portion of today finally getting settled in my new apartment. I’ve even managed to amaze myself* with how well this apartment came together. It’s a nice feeling, seeing everything in place before the hustle and bustle of everyday life begins to slowly transform the home into a mess. This natural process of entropy is only exacerbated by living with a dog in tight quarters. But for now? It’s nice.
With my home in order, I can finally reflect on the week that was.
If last week seemed to go by at a snail’s pace, this week was anything but. Life moved blindingly fast, and it was impossible to keep up. I met my replacement Monday morning, but I was still under the instruction to not tell my classes that I was leaving. The new girl, sat awkwardly in the back of the room, and I could not explain to the class what she was doing there. Of course, no attempt to keep rumors subdued has ever worked in the history of the human race; my Grizzlies Class found out by third period. No, I was not the source of the rumor. A few of them were sad to see me go, and a couple of my trouble students were openly elated.
I wanted to be the one to tell my other kindergarten class, the Rams, because it didn’t seem fair to them to hear it from another student. So after lunch, I told them. I was expecting them to be sad, but I was not prepared for the outpouring of emotion. They swarmed me in a group hug in the front of the classroom, and at least two students were crying. They kept asking me why I had to go, but there was simply no explanation suitable for a 6-year-old child. I think the difference between the reaction of the classes was–in part–due to the fact that all of the Grizzlies had been at this school for at least a year, and were already used to the coming and going of foreign teachers. The Rams Class had never experienced a teacher leaving, and I would be their first.
I told the rest of my classes as the day wore on, one by one. Some students were more upset than others, and some students wanted my e-mail so they could keep in touch (and I hope they do). The same process would repeat itself for my Tuesday classes.
On Wednesday, our field trip was cancelled due to rain, but we had a pajama party instead. Even I got into the fun, with some blue plaid bottoms and an old bright orange UT shirt. This is about the only time you’ll see me in pajama bottoms, as I normally sleep in boxers. We made life-sized posters, played bingo and musical chairs, made collages, and yes, even sang karaoke.
And just like that, the eve of my new life had arrived. Sydney greeted me at the door, and I had a cathartic release of sorts when the epiphany hit me: I would never have to leave her for nearly 12 hours alone during a work day again.
I was determined to give my kids one last great day. I had finished packing everything early Thursday morning, got a few hours of sleep, and then picked up Dunkin’ Donuts for my kids. So we watched Megamind in Grizzlies Class and Despicable Me in Rams Class, both while snacking on donuts. As class ended, I was told that my cab was waiting for me downstairs, but leaving would not be that easy. The Rams (and a handful of Grizzlies) gave me another giant group hug. And then one girl started crying. And then another and another. I had to fight back the tears myself–I wouldn’t miss the job, but I would miss these bright, affectionate kids. As they begged me to stay, I wished I could have taken them with me. After about 5 minutes, tears were still being shed but I had managed to free myself from the entanglement. I walked out the front door and into the waiting cab with no fanfare. My former director wasn’t even there to send me off.
With a heavy heart, I asked the cabdriver–probably for the last time–to take me to Gangdong. “Gangdong yuk?” he asked. “Nae.”
The rain pounded down as I watched the landmarks that I had grown so accustomed to over the last 10 months slip by. I was dropped off and headed back to my apartment for the last time. The moving company would be arriving shortly. I entered my apartment to see a very surprised Sydney. She looked up with this expression that said, “Hey, you’re not supposed to be home for another 5 hours.” She had been acting strangely ever since she saw the moving boxes first come out, and I’m sure this only confirmed her suspicion that something was up. We sat in this empty little apartment for the last time with nothing else to do but wait. Soon thereafter, there was a knock on the door. It was time to go.
*Literally as I wrote this sentence, a map of Seoul that I had hung on the wall fell down.