Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Last Night in Korea

And all of a sudden, it's my last night in Korea. Wait, what? In twelve hours, I'll be on my way to Incheon Airport with two suitcases and a backpack, and in twenty-four, I'll be landing in San Francisco. I'll be home so very soon.

I haven't gotten around to blogging as much as I'd intended to this past week, so here are a few quick updates:

1. After bumming around in Seoul for a few days, I went to Goesan for Fulbright Orientation where I led four workshops over a few days. Two workshops were for discussing identity: one to support LGBTQ-identifying ETAs and another to support Asian-Americans. The next workshop was to introduce different methods and resources for people who want to continue studying Korean on their own throughout the year. Many ETAs showed up to this talk, which was very encouraging. The last workshop was for all fifty secondary school ETAs; it was a crash course on how to plan a unit. Honestly, if there's one thing I can say about teaching, it's that one hour-long lesson isn't nearly enough for any topic in education. But just as important as preparation is practice, plain and simple. I've been pretty encouraged by the enthusiasm and earnestness I've seen in the new ETA class. I'm confident that they'll do a great job this coming year.
Katelyn, Tracey, Seijin, and Jemarley taking a break from Fulbright duties to play Bananagrams at a local makkeoli bar!
Judith's and my unknown reunion!
And I know I've already said this, but I'm especially excited about the teacher who will replace me at CSHS, Courtney, because she is determined to be exactly the kind of teacher I think is most effective: passionate, accessible, and involved in students' lives.

Unrelated: to my great surprise, one of the new ETAs, Judith, is actually a family friend! Her parents have been good friends with my parents ever since my family lived in Philadelphia (nearly thirty years ago)! And, awkwardly enough, we've even met. Four years ago, our parents' church had a reunion in Philadelphia, both Judith and I attended. So we met, took photos, and even played Bananagrams together! We obviously didn't leave very lasting impressions on each other, since both of us thought we were meeting for the first time last week. I think it's hilarious! The world of Taiwanese-Americans can be very small, indeed.

2. During the weekend, a typhoon was sweeping by Korea, and it brought a lot of rain with it. I'd planned to go hiking with a friend, but instead, we went to Cheongju, a smallish-city with not too much to do. However, it was still bigger than rural Goesan. (Aside from a new cafe/jam space on the outskirts of town, where I karaoke-d for hours on Friday night with new friends, there's nothing to do in Goesan.) Katelyn and I watched a movie, ate great 칼국수 and 빙수 and explored Cheongju's own "mural village", Suamgol, in the midst of a drizzle. It wasn't the most exciting thing to do, but after being cooped up in the marble halls of Jungwon University for four days, it was excellent.
Katelyn and me in the colorful Suamgol, Cheongju. Brownie points if you can spot what's wrong with this picture...
4. I spent a good chunk of my last full day in Seoul running errands, and it was more than a little frustrating. I had to cancel my phone contract and my bank account. Long story short, it was more of a hassle than I'd expected, mostly because I had to do almost every transaction in Korean! I'd thought that big branches of phone stores and banks would have some competent English speakers in the capital city, but that was not the case. Even the resident English speaker at the bank tried explaining the procedure to me for about five minutes before switching back to Korean. Ugh, Koreal life. I managed to get these two simple tasks done in three hours, and in the meantime I picked up a few useful vocabulary words, such as 계좌 ("account") and 해지하다 ("to cancel"). Whew.

Catan! Photo taken by Katelyn
5. And as for my last night in South Korea? I hung out in Hongdae and played Settlers of Catan with my friends (역시... I mean, what else? It's what I did on my "last night" in the US two years ago.). Ooh, we also got dessert from Ben's Cookies. Their milk chocolate-orange cookies are amazing!

It was a chill and really enjoyable evening. There's nothing else I'd have rather done!

Hm... so how do I feel? In all honesty, this night doesn't feel at all different from any other night I've spent hanging out with friends in Seoul. I have a feeling that the reality of leaving won't hit me until I'm en route to the airport, or maybe not even until I've boarded the plane. Nostalgia doesn't kick in as early for me as it seems to for other people. But that's not to say I'm not cherishing every last moment I have here. Even though those moments are dwindling, why waste any of them dwelling on the very fact that they are? Too meta and unproductive for me.

Next time you hear from me, I'll either be at the airport or at home.

안녕하세요!

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