Thursday, July 18, 2013

The End

A lot to say, and not a lot of time to say it. I started this blog entry two weeks ago but it never quite finished. That said, I'll try my best to piece it all together quickly...

I had one of my best weekends of the year on the weekend of the 22nd. A bunch of people came down to Mokpo and we went to Jeungdo Island together. The Daejeon crew (Jonathan, Amber, and Sarah J), Stephanie, and Maggie joined some of the Mokpo crew (me, Liam, Annie, Lizzie, Robyn) in Mokpo on Friday night. We decided we shouldn't go to an island that's only accessible by ferry since it would most likely rain on Sunday and the ferries stop running even when there's fog out. With our luck, we would probably get stuck on the island and have to call our schools to let them know we wouldn't be making it in on Monday. We kicked it around Mokpo late into Friday night but met up with them again on Saturday morning. On Saturday, Tracey, Maggie, Jonathan, Stephanie and I went to my students' basketball competition. It was a pretty awful game (both teams played horribly), but I cheered on my kids regardless. The final score was something like 12-11. FINAL SCORE. YEAH. That's how bad of a game it was. No wonder my kids think I play well. We then headed to Liam's soccer game since he coaches his students. After that finished, we headed to the bus terminal to go to Jeungdo, which is famous for the salt farms and mud lakes. So there happened to be a festival going on which seemed to be a big deal for the locals but almost laughable for how small it was in my eyes since I've been to a fair share of festivals now. We found a 할아버지 집 which is like a pension but not really. A grandpa rents out a room of his house essentially. It was awesome. We checked out the (sad) festival and saw a street next to it so walked down it. Behold, it led to a beach. There was a sad looking beach umbrella on its side on the beach so we decided to play on it. Suddenly, I had a realization. We could make ourselves into a K Pop group. Long story short, it happened and it was hilarious. We pretty much had a photo shoot. Some people went to get alcohol when it wasn't their turn and we made a day (what was left of the day) of it.

We even made names/nicknames and personas for each of us. It was legit. I had a lot of fun doing it. So essentially we created the first Fulbright K Pop group. Here are the group details:
Name: DM (Dream Makers)
Ammy: Leader, Main Rapper, known for being a bro.
Amber: Vocalist, known for having the best aegyo in the group.
Annie (stage name: Anniepang): Vocalist, Lyricist, known for being 4D and unique.
Liam (stage name: Loveliam): Vocalist, Visual (for females), known for being the poster boy who likes to show off his body.
Maggie (stage name: MC): Vocalist, singer-turned-variety-show-host, known for being fun.
Sarah: Vocalist, Visual (for males), known for being sexy.
Steph: Vocalist, Main Dancer, known for being sporty.
Jonathan (stage name: Prince): Vocalist, singer-turned-actor, known for being mysterious and pensive.
Robyn: Main Vocalist, known for being mature and wise.
Lizzie: Maknae, Vocalist, known for being shy, girly, and feminine.
Debut song: Let's Get Weird
Second song release: Slow City (ballad)
First Mini-album release includes: "Let's Get Weird", "Slow City", "MSK (Mudskipper)", "Sex is Fun, but Party is Better", and "Never Have You Lived".
It was such a great weekend. At night we just hung out and played drinking games (Kings primarily). It was also a good group to just hang out with and a nice weekend to close up the year.

Later that week, Tracey's parents came into Korea to visit her. It was also Teachers Sports Day on Thursday so they watched Tracey play volleyball in the middle school versus high school game. I played field hockey and tug-of-war for the middle school. I wasn't that good at field hockey though...

On Friday the 28th, I headed up to Seoul for the ETA Final Dinner on the 29th. I had some shopping to do on Saturday morning for my host family and school teachers so I decided it would be better to go in earlier. Final dinner was kind of... anticlimatic, I felt. Others may disagree but for me, it didn't feel like goodbye for a lot of people. Truthfully, I probably won't see a lot of these people for a while (if ever again), but it didn't seem that sad to me. I think I'll stay in touch with those I would talk to anyway so it doesn't matter. I didn't even take that many pictures. Here is one of the Mokpo crew and one with Tracey.

After the dinner, all the ETAs (or most of them) went out. I ended up staying out until 6am. When we left the club, the sun was literally up and the sky was bright. It's been a while since I've done that.
The last day I saw Tracey was on Sunday morning. She got a haircut so I went to see her to say goodbye. It's easy for me to say that I got closest to Tracey this year. I saw her so often and we got along well. I opened up to her a lot this year and relied on her for many things. She's been my rock and I honestly have no idea how I would have gotten through this year without her. I honestly believe God purposefully placed us together at our placements. Awesome.

After Final Dinner, time slowly trickled away as the year started to wrap up. My school had final exams from July 2-4 so I had no classes. I had lunch with the English coteachers on the 3rd but otherwise, I relaxed at my homestay. I realized I hadn't stayed home in Mokpo for a while so I decided it was best to use the remaining time with my homestay family. My host mom told me that they decided to buy me a hanbok as a goodbye present and souvenir. What an awesome and epic gift. Hanboks are legit and super expensive (the really nice ones). I wasn't doing anything special other than spending the last weekend with my homestay so on Sunday the 7th, I went to get my shoulders fitted. That's how I knew the hanbok was legit. They made it after taking my measurements so it was going to be a really nice hanbok. The last weekend chilling with my homestay was really chill and relaxed. On Saturday, the entire family went to get lunch at this restaurant that was in the middle of the forest. It was a restaurant specializing in chicken so I ate all different types of chicken, including raw chicken. It was actually really delicious. I wasn't sure what it was since it was mixed in the Korean red sauce with pears (looked like kimchi) so I ate it and realized it was some type of raw meat. After eating it a few more times, I realized it was raw chicken.
There also happened to be a river nearby the restaurant so my host family and I played in it for a little bit. My host sisters and I caught small river fish for fun.
The next week my hanbok arrived. It is really beautiful. My host family is such ballers. I can really tell they made an effort to make me a part of the family and take care of me. I really do love them.

The last week teaching was bittersweet for sure. I had a lot of old student visitors. I really miss my old third years. I was surprisingly close to them even though I taught them for a short period of time. They were such sweet kids. A lot of them brought gifts, letters, and love. It was touching to have so many of them come to say goodbye.
The last week the teachers were really sweet to me too. I've gotten really close to the teachers at my school and I honestly think I am one of the few ETAs (if not the first ETA) to have done so. I went out to dinner with a few of the young temporary teachers one day.
The saddest day came my last day. A lot of my current students come to say goodbye, leave letters and gifts, and take pictures.
I actually cried the last hour of the day. I thought I would make it and honestly I wasn't even that sad the entire day. I didn't think I would try and I was never on the verge of tears. However, one of my favorite students and the daughter of my piano teacher, Juna made me a scrapbook album.
The minute I started flipping through it, I realized how much I was going to miss my students (the good ones). I started to tear up and then the tears started falling. My crying in turn led to Juna and Seri's tears. 어떻게! It was a really heartfelt and bittersweet Friday. I had so much to do, I didn't finish everything I wanted to do like write the letter to the next ETA. Instead, I'm going to email it to Tracey to give to the next ETA since she's part of the Orientation Coordinator Team and will see the person who is picked for my school next. All I know is I love my kids. I gave them all my email address and Kakao IDs and since then, I've gotten quite a few messages and emails. I'll miss them. I hope I'll meet them again someday.
Saying goodbye to my host family was really hard too. I was leaving Friday night for Incheon airport because my flight to North Korea was Saturday 8am. My host mom and host sister 요진 took me to the bus terminal to see me off. I started to cry and I think they were starting to tear up. I'll miss them a lot.

It's been an awesome year. There were definitely some ups and downs but at the end of the day, I will always look positively back on this grant year and my experience. I would not ask for anything different because it was the best experience. With that, I'll leave it at that. I'm horribly with goodbyes and I hate doing them because I like to believe it's not goodbye, but rather, I'll see you when I see you.

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