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myfooteprints adventures on the road

changes

SOUTH KOREA | Friday, 7 November 2008 | Views [567]

my life has been shifting in sync with the change of seasons this past week. last friday, marissa and i made the trip from daegu to sokcho with a brief stop in wonju. visiting the hospital where i'd spent the five days following the fall was a little surreal. i felt more fragile walking those sterile halls once again. marissa eyed me cautiously as i ascended the stairs. some x-rays and a chat with my doctor told me what my body has been telling me for the past few weeks: i am healing. my spine is in alignment and the fracture has sealed. my vertebrae, which looked like a lopsidedly crushed coke can, still looks like a lopsidedly crushed coke can and presumably always will. whether this will cause me any long term anguish remains to be seen.

we randomly run into a random american who, upon asking a polite "how's it going" on my part, cheerfully responds, "great.  i don't have aids."  he proceeds to tell us in the time it takes to walk down one flight of stairs that he used to work for bill clinton, got a job working for tony blair and currently resides in britain.  before going our separate ways at the bottom of the stairs he asks with a smile, "hey!  are you guys on facebook?"  i'm not sure whether to laugh or cringe.  i end up doing a combination of both.  are people like this for real?  i'm torn between finding such interactions comical and disturbing.

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through my tired eyes and foggy mind, the neon coating of the coastal drive up to sokcho pries me from the shallow depths of a shallow sleep. such a familiar stretch of road. nostalgia plays its faded movie clips on the screen of my mind, jumping from one image to the next. some make me smile. some make my heart ache. all make me yearn to be back in sokcho. a return to home.  

the flashing, pulsing and dazzling neon reds, greens, yellows and blues illuminate the tarmac peeling away before us. my eyes toward the mountains see nothing but dark looming silhouettes in the distance. sleeping giants resting under the heavy quilt of night. yang yang. naksan. seorak-dong. sokcho. home. we drive to ecc. not the same school i had know. mrs kim has moved house, erecting a massive four story school of concrete and ideas that at first glance intimidates me. this is not the school i know. but it is the school i have agreed to work at for the next four months. i enjoy the nervous anticipation that creeps up my spine, tripping over my coke can crushed lumbar. 
mrs kim greets me with a hug and i am taken aback. a nite of firsts. it will be my first introduction to the new school, which mrs kim proudly guides marissa and i through. and to the new crew of teachers occupying the ghosts of the teachers that came before them before them. most of the ghosts, old friends of mine, now scattered over the globe. the new faces will have yet to prove themselves. the new school is a fortress of rooms, some filled with nothing more than a desk and chairs, others filled with computers and lecture hall seating. a truly impressive structure.

i drop into hyun sook, my old partner teacher's class and am ecstatic to see most of the students from my favorite class from two years ago.  i'm greeted by big smiles and questions and when hyun sook tells me that i'll be teaching this class staring on monday there are cheers.  particularly from me.  despite everything i've heard about a downward spiral of negativity amongst the foreign contingent at ecc, i can't help but feel very excited to be back.
i run into a few of the new faces and a lot of the familiar faces of the korean teachers i had worked with before.  mariss and i leave the school with most of the korean teachers in tow and we all meet up for a tasty meal of spicy kamja-tang, a rich stew of pig's spine and potatoes.  simply delicious.  
following the meal and the catch up conversation, marissa and i head back to what will be my new home in sam ho.  building 102 room 103.  the place is a sty, but at least it's my sty.  i stand idly by as mariss lifts all my belongs from the car into the place.  by the time we sit down, i am feeling exhausted and am noticing the initial twinges of a cold coming on.  despite my fatigue, i am coaxed into heading out to meet the new sokcho crew for a quiz night at a nearby restaurant.  robert, one of the more senior teachers at ecc, has prepared a fun mix of trivia for the group of thirteen people that showed up to participate.  i feel like little less of a stranger when i'm greeted by felipe and chris, who were among the first people i met in sokcho.  we team up as 'zombie souffle' and proceed to dominate the game.  thanks in no small part to chris' half a century of experience.
after a weekend of cleaning up, social drinking and a more formal introduction to my new workmates, mariss heads back to daegu and i settle into a week of teaching.
with a week put in i can say that i am extremely happy with my classes.  i recall talking with some of the taekyeong professors down in daegu about the rewards of teaching young adults.  yet from everything i heard the consensus is that the students whose english level is enough to carry on a conversation are few and far between.  during one of my classes this week i recall having a conversation about the similarities between algiers in algeria and korea regarding occupation by two occupying countries and the consequent division of a once homogenous state.  not only can these kids carry on a decent conversation in english, but they are smart, studious and keen to learn.  how rewarding is that?

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