End of Part I

I woke up early Friday. I watched the latest episode of “Lost” while drinking my coffee. It was an episode concentrating on one of the Korean characters and was very good. I was a little nitpicky on the details (using culturally inaccurate chopsticks in the flashbacks). What I found amusing was that I was feeling for the isolation of these Koreans among Westerners. Then I went outside — the lone American in a crowd of Koreans.We were all dressed up for graduation. There was a different atmosphere in the lobby. Teachers were talking more than usual and in upbeat tones. We all piled into a school van and headed to the youth center where we hold all the big productions.

The kids had arrived before we did. I was more relaxed than in past productions because my role in this was minimal. I just had to say a few words about teaching Vesta and Hera and call out their names and their awards.

For the most part, the kids were well behaved, especially compared to last year’s graduation. The biggest snafu was that Eric accidentally knocked the podium over.

At the very end, the teachers were called onto the stage, and everyone applauded us. Brant put his arm around me, and the lights got into my eyes. I started misting up. Then they called the students up so the parents could photograph us as a group. Crystal came up to me, clinging and crying. She knew that it was goodbye. The crowd started milling about, and I didn’t want to mingle. I did that after the Christmas talent show. Instead, Crystal and I went to a corner on the side of the stage and sat at the piano, where we cried and said our goodbyes in private. I played a song for her that I wrote for my son ten years ago. It was a very good moment with the girl I considered my surrogate daughter this past year.

The kids then went on the school buses back home. The rest of us went back to Brighton, and we had a long lunch break. Brant and I went to a Japanese restaurant that we used to go to. I was quickly reminded why I never went there anymore. The sushi was either frozen or slimy.

We then picked up our new passport photos from the photographer. Brant and I both need them for our new visas.

I took a small nap at home. I felt exhausted after the emotional graduation. I only had three elementary classes to go before I was finished. Brant had pizza parties and played for the rest of his classes. I tried to at least teach a little something in my classes — mostly because I’m too cheap to pay for pizza parties. At the end of my second class, I told the kids quickly that it was my last class. They looked shocked. It was as if I was leaving the school because of their behavior that day (we were goofing around). While teaching my final class, Ellen knocked on my door with my previous class in tow. She said they thought I was kidding that it was my last day. She had explained everything to them. So they wanted to properly say goodbye. I gave them all my remaining business cards with my email address. That class was the core of most of my most achieved elementary kids. I was very proud at how much they had progressed this past year.

Liz Teacher was showing “Harry Potter” in the gym, so I sent my final class to watch the movie while I discussed final plans with Liz and Jeremy.

6:55 PM — the bell rang.

I was no longer an employee of B-school English School.

I finished cleaning my notoriously messy desk and packed my pictures. Ellen Teacher is taking over my desk. I then went home to drop off my stuff and change clothes. At 7:30, I returned to the school to meet everyone for the graduation dinner party.

The dinner was at the great duck place that was the scene of the botched foreigner dinner a long time ago. All the Korean teachers kept asking us where it was, and we insisted that we didn’t know. We were all in such bad moods when we went, we didn’t pay attention.

It took a while before we left because the restaurant is so hidden, they sent out someone form the restaurant to guide us there. Brant and I rode in a car with Elly’s friend, who I instantly clicked with. The thing we had in common was that she used to be a franchise director for Popeye’s. My family was heavily involved with Popeye’s in the 1980s. She now sells convection ovens for restaurants. She also lives in Sillim, where I’m moving, so I may already have a new friend there.

I sat between Ellen and Brant and across from Sue and Julie. Mr. Min and Mrs. Lee arrived. Mr. Min took out a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey and gave everyone a shot, where we toasted to the completion of the school year.

The duck was wonderful. It’s in bite-sized pieces on skewers and is rotisseried over hot coals before being finished on pans at the table. The result is a smoky duck with crispy skin.

Poor Eric was begging people to drink soju with him. I think that’s the only alcohol he likes. After a few beers and some whiskey, I was in the mood for some soju, and I saw the still unopened bottle next to him and the school owners. When I showed some interest in the soju, he got excited, as did Mr. Min. We did the whole Korean drinking ritual of pouring and exchanging glasses. I still get confused with some of the rituals when drinking with someone of much higher rank, like Mr. Min. On top of that, after the toast, Mr. Min and I locked arms and did a shot together. Brant joked about us getting married.

I spent a good bit of time with Mr. Min and other bosses, along with Canada Joe — until the soju ran out. Thank goodness, Ellen and Brant called me over for something, so I had an excuse to go.

At one point, inevitably, I had to use the bathroom. Since we were in a shoes-off restaurant, we had to put on slippers to go to the bathroom. I was told it was outside, which is not unusual. The things was that “outside” meant out in the stairwell. I put on the slippers and went literally outside in the cold and circled the building, looking for the bathroom.

I ended up in the kitchen.

It was a very good time, and it ended quickly without hassle — except for Eric wanting to go to a disco. He was really drunk. The guy from the restaurant drove us in a van to the B-school building. Brant and I made sure Eric got into a taxi to go home, rather than drive.

With our good deed of the day done, we went to Jjokki-Jjokki for our last round of beers with Injoo, Jeremy, and Liz — and Nuna. Injoo was hungry and ordered the smoked chicken. Yes, more foul. Nuna gave us a complimentary plate of ojingo with nuts and seaweed. It’s funny. We never ordered ojingo, so I don’t know why she thought we would like it, but we did end up eating a lot of it and enjoying it. We also played our “Nuna” game and got all the way up to 49.

This morning, I got a call from Jay, my new boss, saying they had my ticket for Osaka, and that I was going there on Monday. He wanted me to come by to pick it up today. I told him I’d be right over. I gave Eun Jeong a call, saying that I was going to be in the area and wanted to see if she wanted to get together. She didn’t answer her phone.

The door bell rang.

It was Eun Jeong paying me a surprise visit. That was a great surprise. Unfortunately, I had to leave right away. The whole trip was only going to take two hours.

I went to Seocho and got my itinerary, immigration papers and my passport.

When I got back, Eun Jeong told me Eric had called. I called him back. He wanted to know when I was leaving. I was so scared they would kick me out of the apartment before Tuesday, but he seemed okay with me sticking around until then.

Eun Jeong and I walked to the B-school building to catch Canada Joe, Brant, and his Korean friends latching a foam mattress to the roof of an SUV. He had finished moving out of his apartment. They left.

Eun Jeong and I had a small dinner together, and then she returned on the subway. She was fretting over tomorrow being my birthday. I told her not to worry. I’m more concerned about getting my move and visa taken care of. We can do birthday stuff after I’m settled.

I’m still in the apartment until Tuesday, but this is basically the end. I no longer work at B-school. It’s all H/S from here on out.

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