My Last School Lunches in South Korea

My cousin remarked that she didn’t know what sort of lunches I ate working in Korea. So this one is for you, Tiff.

These are the last school lunches I had – the students get the same thing. It comes in a little trolley and are rolled into each classroom. The students would get in line and get different little dishes onto the lunch tray.

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Deep-fried meat of some sort, kimchi, apple, green vegetable, rice, and spicy seafood soup.

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Rice, Korean curry, steamed red bean bun, kimchi, strawberries.

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Rice, meat and rice cake soup, plant roots, fried fish with a mayonnaise sauce, kimchi, and tangerines.

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Rice, vegetable soup, spicy marinated beef, and fish cake.

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Rice, beef radish and tofu soup, japchae, kimchi, and spicy pork and rice cakes, and strawberries.

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Rice, vegetable soup, kimchi, spicy marinated spare ribs, crab and fruit salad, and orange.

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Who I Am

I am not special. I am not beautiful. I will never be rich. I will never be able to retire early and travel as much as I want for many many years in my life. I am not especially talented in anything. Nor can I sing, dance, act, or do anything to become famous. I am no genius, and only have elementary knowledge of the general subjects. I am clueless when it comes to money matters – savings, investments, and business. I am weak and what physical stamina I had back when I was a child has long deteriorated over the years. I will not be remembered by the people of this time. I will not be one of the great people of our time.

But this is what I am.

I am Carmen teacher. I am called (affectionately?) Caramel teacher, 칼멘 teacher, knife-noodle teacher. I have a semi-celebrity status in my school. I had over 800 kids in two years. I am a proud teacher who calls her students her kids. For my students, I am sometimes an actress, sometimes a singer, sometimes a comedian, sometimes an advisor, sometimes a confidante. I have created games that failed miserably and games that were amazing. I have tried to expand their mind and understanding of the world as they know it. I have introduced foreign concepts and foreign people. I challenge them. I praise my students when they try their best, no matter if they’re right or wrong. I express my disappointment when they misbehave. My students know that I’m disappointed in their actions and not in them. I take the time to speak to them one on one. I play and talk to them even outside of class. I am never out of energy when it comes to my students. I never give up on them even when others do. I know that they are imperfect because I am too. I care deeply for my students. When they think of me, they think of my constant smile. Every day, every class, to every student. I am kind. I am encouraging. I am supportive. Sometimes, I’m discouraged but I always find my way back. In the end, I have expressed my gratitude and wishes for them. I have received their messages of thanks. I accepted their apologies and thanks. I have seen them cry tears for me. I have cried and shed tears for them. I have said goodbye with a heavy heart.

I am a teacher. I am Carmen teacher. But in a week, I will no longer be Carmen teacher.

And I will work hard for the next students when I get the job, the chance, the opportunity. Because the joy of working with these young minds and the heartbreak at the end is all worthwhile.

This is who I am. I am a teacher.

Goodbye Video Message

I don’t think I have it in me to express what I feel to my students in person so I made a video. I’m really bad on video too – I can’t talk properly, I look away from the camera every other second, it’s chaotic. So I wrote my message… and translated it since I don’t think my students would understand me entirely.

Truth? It’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable playing it for the 14 different classes and having to sit in the same room. But I’ve always been the type of teacher who gets a little sentimental at the end of the year and I’ve chosen this way to release those feelings this year.

It’s end of two years. They were a special two years for me.

Well… without further ado, I present my goodbye message.