Friday, March 29, 2013

It was the better of times... was the worse of times.

Our school has been having its spring break this week, and some of my colleagues have been jetting off to Malaysia or Thailand (or, in the case of our counselor, Brian, a honeymoon in Italy--but he's a Cornell graduate, and you know how privileged they are). But I feel I've made good use of my time at home.

Qin Jie and I had a Korean class on Monday and reviewed together on Tuesday; we've gotten to the part where we're supposed to remember which verbs go -어요, which ones go -아요, and which go -애요 in the present tense. "Supposed to" is the precisely appropriate term here.

On Monday, I went to Itaewon for a farewell drink or four with my departing hashing friend ToT and other friends.

On Tuesday, I went to Itaewon for dinner and my first good talk with Tori, another hasher. She's a good example to me about prejudices; I didn't take to her at first because she's a heavy smoker, her arms are completely covered in tattoos, and--because she's Southern and in the Navy--I jumped to the contusion that she's a redneck. Turns out, she's a terrific person and very well-read and interested in the same kinds of New Thoughty, Buddhish spirituality that I am. Shame on me for prejudging her like that, missing the mark so widely, and losing out on months of good conversations we could have had.

Then, after dinner, we had drinks with ToT et al (whoever he is) again, because why not?

On Wednesday, Qin Jie invited me to her apartment, in the building next to mine, to show me how to make fried rice. You wouldn't think a Chinese person would suggest putting ketchup on fried rice, but she did, and it was good. Then our new colleague Dave--who incidentally is a great running partner and is becoming an enthusiastic hasher--was passing by on the way up to his apartment and invited us up to join a couple of our other friends/coworkers for drinks and pizza.

Yesterday, I went to Bongeunsa, the Buddhist temple across from the COEX Mall, which once a week holds a 2 1/2-hour Temple Visit program for foreigners. But I'll post about that soon. Then I came home and made fried rice; it's probably not as good as Qin Jie's, but I didn't get sick or burn anything down, so good on me.

Today I rejoined the gym near my house, which in the past I've only used for running during the coldest winter months; I need to build up my gerbil-like upper-body strength. Dave, who speaks excellent Korean,went with me and he was so damn charming that the lady at the desk let me start today, even though the membership is for April. The downside is that I worked out and now my arms are quivering as I type.

Meanwhile, I've also done spring cleaning to the point where the cat has space on the floor to lie down. Hey, it's not as bad as it sounds; he's a pretty big cat. (I exaggerate the messiness for humorous effect.) (Not by much.)

(Happy Easter, by the way!)
So I've been making strides at getting my house (mentally and physically, as well as literally) in order. It's the better of times. But, also...

All of my closest friends here are about to leave and who knows if I'll ever see any of them again? This, as I've said before, is the hardest spiritual lesson of all for me: learning to let go, knowing how to say goodbye. I have leaned on these people, Kat, Jane, and Val, when I've needed someone to lean on, and tried to be there for them as well. I'll miss them--Kat's leaving in a couple of days, Jane in a couple of weeks, Val in a couple of months--very much. And Tori, whom I'm just getting to know and care for, is gone in a few days as well.

There's uncertainty at school, as Ron, our principal ever since I've been at St. Paul, is leaving. I've enjoyed working with him, as he trusts his teachers, and his laissez-faire attitude has allowed me almost free rein to teach the way I want to. If you know me at all, you know I bridle under close supervision. I think I'm a pretty good teacher and I've enjoyed being my own department head. I'm grateful to Ron for that.

A few weeks ago, two men jetted in on different days to see the school and be interviewed, and Mr. Park hired one, Dr. Wilder, to take over in the fall. But now he's going to start *this Monday* instead. It's always a little stressful (though often in a good way) to get a new boss. Dr. Wilder is obviously very well qualified, but the uncertainty of how things will change...

And then, of course, everyone in Seoul could be evaporated in a nuclear fireball any day, so there's that.

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