Friday, June 10, 2011


This is hard, you guys.
I just said goodbye to Lauren five minutes ago. I've gotten better at the Buddhist "all things must pass" thing, at not being caught up in trying to hold on to things. I know that it's wisdom in action. I'm not quite there yet.
We both choked up a bit and made it quick. 

I'm off to California in a couple of hours and when I get back in two weeks, she'll be gone. I have no reason to think we'll ever be in the same place again. Sunday mornings will seem so empty and Starbucks may go out of business.

The last two days were hard enough; Wednesday the school went to the Lotte World amusement park and some of our favorite students rode the rides with some of their favorite teachers. Last evening was the graduation ceremony.

I emceed that and did pretty well, other than when I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 graduating class of Saint Jos... I mean Saint Paul Preparatory School." Hey, eight years at one school...

I'm a ridiculous squishy-soft Muggleheaded goof at goodbyes, but I managed to not get emotional into the mike as I introduced our 20 graduates one by one. I was somewhat stunned when Ron, the principal, announced that the students had voted me Teacher of the Year; I haven't won anything since a volleyball/badminton set in 1964, and the volleyball was punctured at that. This award is a lovely little glass pyramid whose bottom has the school logo and my name and award.

I'd rather have a plastic lamp in the shape of a woman's leg; I could put it in my window. (But that won't stop me from keeping this pyramid with me always.)

There were a lot of hugs and photos and some tears (no, not mine) as the graduates said goodbye after the ceremony.

Later, eight or so of us teachers gathered for beers outside our local mom-n-pop. Looking around the table, I found it all so odd: some of us leaving forever, some for two weeks, some for the summer, some staying through the summer and then leaving forever...

I wonder if I'll end up feeling like my favorite character, the 900-year-old Doctor in Doctor Who, just going on and on (in my case, in Korea) while people come, get close to me, and leave.

Now it's over the ocean to see Nate and Bodhi and the family and wonder when I'll see them again after this.

This is hard, you guys.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

School's out for summer

The final exams are done, the grades are in. All that's left of the school year is today's school trip to Lotte World, the indoor/outdoor amusement park here in the city, and tomorrow's performance day, eighth-grade promotion, graduation, and staff/parent/graduate dinner. I'm a little nervous but very pleased that the seniors want me to MC the commencement ceremony. I'm practicing my insult stand-up act so I'll be ready.

Just kidding. Probably.

For those of you who've been losing sleep over my last blog entry, about the wonderful student-- I'll call her Haesun-- who is one of my favorites and who, after I caught her giving clues on a quiz, told her mother that I don't like her (Haesun), your long international nightmare of sleeplessness (note to self: edit this before posting) is over. Thank God, so is that sentence. It lasted longer than the Gulf War.

We worked it out, thanks largely to that very blog entry. I asked Ryan, our dean of students, for advice, and he suggested that I let Haesun read my last blog entry; that never would have occurred to me. I printed out the entry (minus the pic of me in a red dress, even though her mother had petitioned the school for a reddress of grievances) and gave it to Haesun. It showed her that I really meant what I'd said that I do like her; we talked awhile and everything's fine.

I gave the American Lit class an optional extra-credit assignment on To Kill a Mockingbird; the other students either did nothing or made a drawing, but Haesun spent many hours cutting chopsticks, folding paper, molding and painting figures, and building a diorama of the famous scene in which the people in the courtroom balcony stand to show respect for Atticus as he leaves:
It's another example of the tremendous amount of work she puts in every day; she aced the final, her grade for the semester is 100.01 percent, and everything is beautiful in its own way.

So... I hate reviewing for finals, writing finals, proctoring finals, and grading finals. But it's finally over.

In two days I'll be concentrating hard on keeping my plane over the Pacific rather than in it and then I'll be in Ventura, north of LA, visiting what's left of the family. (I've been a little out of touch... is Blossom still on TV?)

Then it's back to school for the summer, with two two-hour classes a day. (So the title of this post is a little misleading, but Vince Fournier didn't get famous by singing "School's out for two weeks".)

When summer school's over, I will have been in Korea for three years, at St. Paul for two, and I've just signed a new two-year contract.

...yeah, that's not a very snappy ending for a post. Hmm... okay... true story: most of the teachers were at a bar last night celebrating the end of finals and there was a soccer game on the TV. Somebody asked who was playing and I said, "It's Korea against Ghana... hey, it's Ghana-rea!"

Yes, I'm wicked impressed with my wit. Somebody has to be.