Tuesday, I had my final kindergarten classes. My first class was a group of three really smart kids. They are like little sponges. We did a little bit of actual work—reading the new science books we had received. These kids are 6 and are reading words like evaporation and condensation as good as any native speaking 6 year old. I drew the water cycle on the board to show what the words mean. The girl said, “Teacher its like recycle.” That made me happy—recycle is another word that I taught them.
Then, I said goodbye to the other 6 year old class. Most of the kids are really good, but there was one who had me going daily to my bosses to complain when he first came. He would hit other students and teachers, stomp on feet, and bite without provocation. Add to that he’s twice as big as the other kids (he’s the one to the left in the below picture), he made that class very difficult to teach.
I used some very firm behavior management techniques on him—sometimes having to physically restrain him when he was out of control. However, I am happy to say that he has come around. I haven’t had to send him out of the class for months. And he’s learning now! He’s a little behind the other kids, but he’s trying and he’s an active member of the class. I can take only a small part of the credit, but still, it is satisfying to see that change from when he first came.
After school, I had dinner with a friend with whom I had gone to church, studied the bible, and prayed for the past two years. I have seen him go from dripping sweat in the dead of winter out of nerves when he first got up to preach, to clearly and confidently preaching from the Bible. I got to congratulate him at the birth of both of his children. He bought me dinner and we talked about our plans for the future. It was a fitting goodbye.
On the way home, I said goodbye to my local Korean convenience store owner. This guy owns and operates the corner store just across from the stadium in Gohyeon. He goes from selling ramyeon and popsicles to the high school student and middle school student that pass by in the mornings and afternoons, to catering to the drunk Soju men swinging by for another round on the table outside or some dried squid to settle their stomachs.
I’ve known him now for two years. Last year, I lived two blocks east of his store, and the past six months I lived two blocks south. I have made many a late run to get a bottle of water, and he was my Coke Zero dealer, supporting my caffeine addition. He is no-nonsense and good with cash money math (unlike many Koreans I’ve encountered).
Last October through this May, when I was living in the south part of Gohyeon, I ran into him once at the big grocery store down there. The store had a standing sale that all of their ice creams are 30% off. I saw this man putting dozens of these popsicles and ice creams into large boxes. He was buying them at retail--although at a discount—and selling them at their regular price at his store.
I told him first I was leaving in bad, broken Korean, and then again in broken English (I go America). It was the first time I saw him smile. He had a big toothy smile with polished teeth that almost seemed to big for his mouth. He took my hand and reached across the counter to give me a pat on the back and said goodbye.