Day 2 (25/4/11)
This is going to be a two-part day, in an odd-wrap-around way. Essentially it is a day of two parts. There was breakfast, there was a late lunch and the market but between breakfast was something special for a few people, in particular my Mom.
When my parents informed me they were going to visit me in Korea both of them had a couple of things they wanted to do; for Dad it was the DMZ (we’ll get to that) for Mom, more than anything she wanted to see the tiny rural Middle school where I taught 30 students some semblance of English.
Today was Mom’s day.
I asked her to bring a few silly Canadian trinkets from home to give to the students as a thank you for the past year, naturally she overdid it. I expected no less. At my apartment, Mom unpacked thirty plastic bags all containing a pen, 3 pencils, a Canadian flag pin, a maple leaf key chain, a Purdy’s maple leaf chocolate and 2 maple syrup toffees.
See, overdid it.
When we arrived at the school after a walk through the farmlands around Oyu, there seemed to be some miscommunication. Unfortunately, my co-teacher (and top English speaker) was away studying in Daegu, which meant Kim Man-su and his Samsung Galaxy acted as translator. I introduced my folks to my principal Hong Gi-man, we enjoyed coffee and some polite Konglish small talk, and then in were trooped five students.
My parents did not travel across the Pacific to meet 16.7% of the student body. After some gesticulation and articulation it was agreed that when the lunch bell rang a quick school assembly would convene in the study room adjacent to the library.
Sure enough all the students gather with ease (there are only 30 students after all) and with short speech from me, Mom got about to handing out the goodies. And the students couldn’t accept the presents quickly enough.
Each one bowed when they received their care package from Canada. All the while, Dad surveyed the situation. Want to know a secret to a success 40 year marriage? Mom has done a LOT of stuff over the years, always being active either with her childrens’ lives or various community interests while Dad has offered unfailing, ceaseless support. It is certainly not a formula for every relationship, but for them, four happy decades denotes success if you ask me.
At the back of the class was a student from last year, Seok-jin. I think he actually regressed under my tutelage, mostly because his whole class was a clot of lethargy. He looked forlornly as my Mom handed out the thirtieth (and final) package. Naturally Mom had brought extra. I vehemently exhorted Mom NOT to give Seok-jin anything because he was such a troublesome student.
Mom didn’t listen.
With that the students took pictures in their classes with me, Mom and Dad before rushing down to scarf down lunch. I thought we’d be joining them but Mr. Hong had other plans (which will be in part 2 of this day.) Never every student bowed to my parents as they left, genuinely grateful for the gifts they’d received for a few reasons; Korean students spend a LOT of time at school so school supplies are always good gifts, most every kid likes candy, this is a very poor area so they appreciate small things like pens and pencils – every gift is exactly that – a gift and they got to meet three waygooks – seeing me for the last time and meeting my parents.
This would be my Mom’s favourite experience in Korea.
It’s a good favourite memory.