Teaching this past week was somewhat exhausting. There was no particular reason. It just felt like a very long week. Luckily, Korea is a small country that is easy to travel. This means plenty of opportunity for diversion.
A friend working in a different village about an hour away was able to visit this past weekend, a lifesaver after a long week. On Saturday we, and other people he travelled with, went to the Andong Folk Mask and Dance Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Korea. We also explored some of Andong (the city I live in), where we ran into many other foreign teachers that live in the area. This of course led to lots of drinking Saturday night. Sunday we went to the nearby Andong Folk Village. My friend is an excellent photographer, so I let him take all the pictures. Unfortunately that means I have none to share. Other than having no pictures, it was a great weekend.
But here’s the thing about living in Korea, it’s an emotional roller coaster. After my friend left, I suddenly felt sad that I did not have more Korean friends. I thought how we visited all these fascinating places that are important to Korea, but as foreigners that do not speak the language we did not come close to knowing what was going on around us, let alone fully appreciating it. I feel if I had more Korean friends, perhaps I’d better understand my surrounding and culture. Not wanting to dwell on the negative, I tried to focus on the fun I had this weekend. Yet this made me terribly homesick for my friends back home! So great things can easily turn bittersweet in Korea.
The roller coaster continued as I turned to teaching. Sunday night, after my friend left, I needed to prepare a lesson for the next week. The week is a testing week, where students take mid-terms Tuesday through Friday. I only needed to prepare for Monday. Fortunately that is my best day. Now I applied my American logic and figured it was mid-terms, the students are probably stressed out and want a break. So I planned a fun lesson that I was really looking forward to presenting. Apparently Korean logic dictates studying trumps exhaustion. I get to school, and one of my co-teachers informs me three of my classes are cancelled so students can study. Excitement, then sudden disappointment, again.
This is fairly par for the course. I, and any other foreign teacher in Korea that wishes to survive, accept this and move on. But it is something to consider if you are planning to teach in Korea. Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster! As long as you can deal with the low points, I feel the high points are worth it.