My god, these children have put my heart through the wringer. I walked out of ECC for the last time today and still, even with the two packed (ish...I still have time) bags in the corner of my room, I haven't processed that this is it, I'm leaving.
The weekend after the temple stay was pleasantly busy. We all went out to dinner at a shabu shabu buffet which is nice (you grab raw meat and veggies from the counter and cook them in your broth with tasty sides) with a few friends and my replacement Alicia. Really yummy if tortuously hot with the steam. That actually turned out to be a theme for the weekend. The next day I ran around to several grocery stores (including Costco where I tried bulgogi pizza which is actually viable) to prepare for my potluck. It was suuuuuch a nice time, lots of people came and I had the opportunity to say a nice goodbye to a lot of them in between running to the kitchen to refill the onion dip or make more bruschetta. Good food though, if a bit assorted in flavor. We had pizza, sushi, the stuff I made, hodu kwadja (walnut nuttella donut balls), kiwi, a blueberry whipped cream cake and chicken. We even had soondae which is Korean sausage, but blood sausage. The blood part doesn't faze me, I had that in Scotland and it was fine. Howeeeever, this was described to me as "pig colon" after I had already put it in my mouth. The taste wasn't a big deal but the...sponginess...was unexpected. I was happy to try it though and be adventurous in another small way before I leave. After we ate, we went out to Sponge and had a drink and there was one of my favorite bar characters of all time. He was an older man in the army with a button down tucked into tiiiight dungarees. He seemed to enjoy shakin his ill disguised behind and he was pretty entertaining to dance with.
The next day, Alicia and I slept in and went for a walk in the eastern part of Hanbat Arboretum. So SOOO pretty! There is this whole side of this park that I hadn't discovered. I always knew it was my fave spot in Daejeon with the art center and Expo bridge and have walked there many times, but it was made even prettier with rock gardens, maple gardens, water falls, and multiple fountains. However, this was made ever so slightly less enjoyable by the near 100 degree heat with drenching humidity. Oh. MYYYYY. God. We basically shade hopped the whole way there until we found a shack that sold water and bagged milk shakes and took advantage of both. Then we walked for about 10 minutes and soaked our feet in a delicious air conditioned waterfall. Then we walked for about 10 minutes and went fully clothed into a fountain. Then we scooted the 20 minutes home and I took a cold shower. I remember last year when I talked about the heat pooling around my ankles and I felt that again, like I was literally wading through the temperature. WOOOOW.
However, despite the continued monsoon rains, I think that day broke the dog streak of summer. Now, nights have the slightest most minuscule hint of a breeze which is absolutely palpable progress. This entire week has still felt really hot and really sticky, like it has for weeks and weeks, and I still think I will freeze my behind off when I get home but it has been more bearable here at least. Class-wise, it's been one long goodbye. Nothing much changed from the little episodes I talked about earlier, they just grew more frequent. Tuesday, I got the sweetest little note from David, one of my older kids at the end of his journal that said "Beckey Teacher, I miss you. God bless you, love David." and when I looked up he just put his finger to his lips because he was embarrassed and then he put a separate letter on my desk, elaborating that 'this is not forever goodbye, thank you" and giving me his email. So so cute. Thursday, I said goodbye to my fave Tues/Thurs class with Phantom of the Opera on my laptop because we read it in class. I expected the two girls to love it but the boy was quietly singing along as well, SO adorable. And one of the girls handed me this letter, faithfully reproduced:
Hello, I am Jasmine. I loved you so much because you called me Sweety, or Sweety Girl. And, I loved the words, too! Anyone (she meant no one, I asked her) called me with this words. And, you didn't yell at us at all. I won't forget you, never. Thank you for teach me with lovely words. You act good to me than a new teacher. Love, Jasmine.
To say today was hard is like saying that Koreans sort of like kimchi...understatement. I was not prepared for that, or maybe I was just dreading it so much that I didn't think about it. I got teddy bear socks, a fashion umbrella, and a letter that said "to Beckey I love somuch. :) (Heart heart heart heart heart heart) SUNNY"
My last class with Brown I handed out fruit by the foots (like I did to all my kids, all kinds of HILARIOUS watching them dubiously put it in their mouths and smack like a dog with peanut butter...without meaning to demean my kids with canine comparisons) and we played a ton of games. Then, The Great Goodbye began and I gave each of the girls a huge hug. I was choked up but managing until I saw Irene sniffle out of the corner of my eye. "Sweet heart are you crying?" "Noooooo......" and then it started. I gave her one more hug and my co-teacher told me it took her a while to stop crying.
Then...UCLA. We did the lesson, played a rousing game of duck duck goose and this time I did not have the self control to not cry before the kids, I definitely cracked first which they thought was funny. I just felt their little arms go around my neck and it made my heart ache to know I wasn't ever going to see them again. They have been my lifeline back to sanity and human connection this entire year and even though I know they'll move on soon, they'll never know how important they became to me. All of these thoughts pressed against my head until I seriously reincarnated my father at the end of The Return of the King, crying but fighting tooth and nail not to sob. I got great hugs, and then we went upstairs. This is when the emotional tugs crossed the line into sadistic because Hannah and Sunny in particular just grabbed hold of my hands and would not stop saying "Don't go don't go, come to my house." Sunny literally wouldn't let go and after many hugs, I tried to gently make my way to the teacher's room so I could stop crying but then he crumpled. Like, seriously face screwed up, lower lip sticking out, chest heaving kind of wailing. I gave him one last hug and ran because I knew the longer I was there the more upset he would be, he couldn't calm down until I was out of sight but I was just as much running away so I could calm down. Even so, I was still leaking at the eyes when I took the elevator down to close out my bank account and in a bout of ill timing, it happened to be with Anna and her mother. The mom saw how upset I was and made Joy translate that she was so thankful for what I had done for Anna and I was the best teacher she's ever seen. It was so so sweet and I was overflowing with emotion. I even started crying a little more when I was on the way to the bank and my favorite parking attendant greeted me with "Heh heh heh, my daughter!" Good god, for all of its hardship, this country is not making it easy to say goodbye. The rest of my classes were fine. The same class that threw me a surprise birthday threw me a mini surprise going away party. With 10 mins to go in the class, they produced all of these gas station bags from the cabinet and gave everyone chips and juice and cookies in honor of my departure. I also got a sweet letter and a weird photo frame...and then another weird photo frame in the next class complete with a row of plastic red chairs flanking the front and a note saying "This is Rina. You not forget me."
And then....freedom. I am here, about 12 hours left to go in the country and time for one last post...