So close to one year!
At this very moment in time I’m 26 days away from my trip back to the US, and even fewer from my last day at school for the year.
This month, and to be fair basically the past 3 months, at school have been pretty much a joke. It’s been fun, don’t get me wrong, but the amount of real learning happening is almost non-existent. Long gone are the days where I was having to actually plan real lessons and reasonably expect all my classes to happen. But with how much pressure they had during exams, I almost don’t mind. Let them be kids and play a bit.
Take this as an example of how little they’ve been having class.
So in the week prior during one of my third grade boys classes I’d drawn this little pattern on their chalk board. And when I came back, a week later, one of the kids goes, “look teacher we saved your picture!”
Which either means that not a single one of their other teachers actually needed to use the chalkboard entirely for a week (most probable situation), or they really pushed to keep this on the board for some reason. Which I highly doubt.
Basically there’s just been a lot of “games” and doing nothing. And starting out the window apparently.
However one positive is that I was able to get a LOT of studying done for my upcoming TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) Exam and the kids are always fascinated if they ever happen to come peek at what I”m working on.
Most of them have never encountered anyone studying Korean as a foreign language so they love looking at my notes and the sample test questions.
One fun little bit from month 11 is that I finally got to see one of my Korean friends who I met while teaching in the US who I’d hadn’t been able to see since I arrived in Korea. So finally, 11 months later, he and another one of my friends from university who is also an EPIK teacher in Korea met up in Daegu on a Saturday.
Daegu was really cool, and I’d really like to go back and spend more than a few hours there next time.
But seeing both of them, people who I know from back home, was refreshing as it always it.
And then suddenly before I knew it, without ceremony, it was Christmas.
Christmas in Korea was something that I had been trying not to think about all year. I didn’t want to let myself wonder how sad I was going to be without my family for the first time, or think about all things I was going to be missing out on back home.
And while it wasn’t my usual Christmas by any means, it turned out to be one of the best weekends I’ve had in Korea so far. Thanks mostly to good friends here and my family back in the US. All of whom went out of their way to make sure we properly felt like it was Christmas.
My festivities began on Sunday, Christmas Eve. That morning a friend and I took the train up to Seoul for our church’s Christmas Eve service.
Then we headed back to Daejeon and actually almost missed our train because the traffic getting from our church to Seoul station was horrific. Taking the train home and not a bus was a smart move.
Once back in Daejeon we headed over to a little foreigner bar in town to have a gift exchange party and see some people who won’t be renewing their contracts for next year. It was a pretty small group of us, but it actually ended up being really fun and I was glad to be with familiar faces on Christmas Eve.
Then my friend and I went back to my house where we made hot chocolate, watched a Christmas movie, and had a very relaxing evening.
Christmas morning we woke up at about 9:30 with the sun pouring in the windows, something I haven’t slept in long enough to see in a long time. We took our time getting up, made some coffee, and then wandered over to the Paris Baguette by my house to buy some little goodies for breakfast.
Something about walking through my neighborhood in our pajamas on Christmas morning in the cold felt appropriately festive. We grabbed a nice little assortment of pastries, wished the owner a Merry Christmas, and came back to my house.
Sitting around with good coffee, good company, and absolutely nothing to do was exactly what I wanted from my Christmas morning. Eventually my friend left to meet up with her boyfriend and his family and I spent the rest of the day working on this blog, looking through all my photos from the past year in Korea, and enjoying the fact that I had nothing to do.
Sometimes staying at home and doing nothing isn’t good for me. But thankfully this was just what I needed. No pressure, no forcing anything, just pure relaxation. And I hadn’t actually been in my apartment in the middle of the day in who knows how long, so I was enjoying sitting in my pajamas with coffee working on my computer as the light came in through the windows in a way that I almost never get to see.
Eventually I ate some leftover spaghetti that I’d made a few nights before for dinner and waited for my family in America to wake up on their Christmas morning.
My mom had sent me a box a few weeks earlier with a bunch of beautifully wrapped Christmas presents from my family and my grandma which had all been waiting under my tiny Christmas tree to be opened together via video chat.
When they were eventually all awake on the other side of the world we had the same kind of Christmas morning that we usually do, except that I was represented by a computer screen. I couldn’t eat breakfast with them, or sit by the Christmas tree, or smell the candles that my mom always burns. But it was still lovely.
We opened presents together, chatted, and it felt pretty darn normal.
After Christmas our school lives were pretty much entirely consumed by the upcoming school festival. Each of the third grade classes spent the better part of a month practicing their dances literally all day everyday. During all of those classes where we weren’t having class they would often just rehearse their class dances.
Then a week before the festival there was a competition between all the third grade classes to see which three would be allowed to perform at the festival itself. It was a beautiful combination of adorable, impressive, awkward, and hilarious. Middle school students are another breed of human.
After the competition it was determined which three of the classes would be allowed to perform at the festival, much to the disappointment of the other classes. But as it was a Friday afternoon I’m sure that was all quickly forgotten.
That weekend was New years Eve and I went up to Seoul to meet some friends.
Saturday was really chill and I got a lot of studying done in a cool little cafe called “Get Some Coffee.”
That night I met up with friends in Itaewon and it was fun but thanks to some wicked pollution that day I had a really bad headache. This was the reading from when we’d left Daejeon and it only got worse in Seoul.
So I peaced out of Itaewon a little early.
Sunday night was the New Years Eve party we’d all bought tickets for. I’m still searching for the proper way to describe what this event was. It was formal, like suits and fancy dresses, and took place in three different ballrooms in this gorgeous hotel in Gangnam. But there was also a DJ and free drinks so as the evening progressed “classy” is maybe not the word I would have chosen to describe the whole thing.
But it was really fun, and I had an awesome time with my friends.
After New Year’s is when the weather really took a nosedive. I’ve had mornings walking to school that were objectively the coldest temperatures I’ve ever experienced in my life. (Reminder I’m from Florida.)
And while it’s certainly an adjustment, I actually don’t mind it that much. Compared to sweating everywhere all the time like we did here this summer, I can handle putting on a few extra layers before I leave the house.
Then, at last, we finally had the festival. During the first half of the day each class decorated their classroom into some theme and other students could walk around and come play the games or do the activities that each classroom made. There were haunted houses, murder mystery activities, a photo booth, board games room, and even an arts and crafts room. I got a tattoo from one of my favorite students.
The haunted house was the main attraction by far. The students from that classroom had blood painted on their faces and clothes and everyone who entered had to walk through a maze as they scared them. We could hear the screams even from our office.
Then after lunch were the performances. It was a solid three hours long and there were TONS of different students and talents involved.
It’s been both a slow and also incredibly busy month.
I know I say this every single time but I truly cannot believe that it’s been 11 months here. Although the longer I stay the longer it feels like I’ve just always been here.
I’m excited to go back to the US and see my family in 26 days and I’m excited to officially be finished with my first year here!
If you made it through all of that, good for you. I don’t know how this got so long.
Thanks as always for reading. Hope this finds you well!