When I left Singapore, I made a promise with myself and with my students to continue to visit at least once a year while I live in Korea. With full intentions on keeping that promise, I returned to my once "place of residence" country (home country sounds better) during my school's spring break. This was the week after ICS' spring break and my good friend/ex-roommate, James, and his wife, Kara (who is also a good friend but definitely not ex-roommate) visited me in Korea during that week. It was hard to show them around, as I was still having to teach, but I did my best to give them suggestions of things to do during the day and met them in the evenings. At the end of the week, they and I, although not together, went back to Singapore. Immediately upon returning I was reminded of the immense love that I had left behind in Singapore.
As I walked through the customs gate into the arrival hall of the airport, I was greeted immediately by 6 of my former students. I couldn't believe it. This was made even more special considering the fact that my flight arrived at 5 in the morning and since the trains were not running that early, most of them had taken the last train from the night before at 11 pm to get to the airport. The fact that these kids (plus at least 3 others who sent me messages saying that they tried to come but were either sick or denied by their parents) would care enough about on of their teachers to make this sacrifice was very touching. I definitely feel like I made an impact on these kids and that brings me more satisfaction than money could ever bring to me. In that sense, teaching is one of the highest paying jobs in the world. A special thanks to Carissa who organized the surprise. It meant a lot!
Much of my trip was just visiting my old school, eating all the foods I had missed, getting dinner with some old friends, and spending lots of time with my students. Luckily they had a short week at school due to parent/teacher conferences and Good Friday, so I had plenty of time to hang out with them. One day I met a bunch of the boys, many of whom I taught all three years in Singapore, to play some soccer. Another day I went to an "escape room" with two other students. An escape room is basically a themed room that contains many puzzles that you have to solve in order to achieve the main objective. In this case, we were trying to reclaim the 12 heads of the Chinese zodiac that once were a part of a fountain belonging to the Imperial Palace. The puzzles are super high tech and challenging, which made it way more fun than I was anticipating. At one point I was reflecting a lazar using a mirror into a certain sensor and all of a sudden a door opened. Real Indiana Jones type stuff!
On my last day, I once again met a large group of my students for a goodbye dinner before heading back to the airport. As I left and returned back Korea it was like biting into an apple covered in tree sap (bitter/sweet...get it?). The bitter part clearly being having to leave my students again after having rekindled the great relationships I had with all of them. However the sweet part, was being reminded of the opportunity for impact that my job carries and the challenge of making that same impact here in Korea. So now, back in Korea, I am driven to once again attempt to build relationships with my students here, keep my relationships with my students in Singapore strong, and hopefully make a difference.
I love my job!