Category: speech

Bittersweet goodbyes

There have been a lot of goodbyes in my life lately.  At church, at Bible study, at school, at teachers dinners and meetings, even in neighboring cities….it’s been a very sad week for me.  But I keep reminding myself that this is really a good thing.  I’ve been in Korea for over a year now.  I’ve invested a large percentage of my life into this place.  I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve poured out my heart and life and soul into this country.  The goodbyes are bittersweet, to be sure.  But how much more tragic would it be if I had lived here for an entire year, and WASN’T sad to be leaving?  How much sadder would it be if I had spent so much time here, but hadn’t plugged into the people here at all?  If I had just considered this year a “pause” in my real life, and just spent all of my time here looking to the future, waiting until I could get back to where I was comfortable?

The goodbyes are sad, of course.  I can’t say that I’m HAPPY that I’m leaving these people and places that I’ve come to love so dearly.  But I AM happy to be so, so blessed.  I am happy to have made wonderful friends here, to have such precious experiences and memories from the past year.  I am happy that a part of my heart has been embedded into the people and culture of Korea….for the rest of my life.  And, at the same time, I am happy to be returning to America.  Because I know that I have just as many blessings waiting for me back in the states, as I have in Korea that I am leaving.

So this blog is just a collection of photos, and also a short video, of some of my favorite goodbyes this week.  Captions explaining the pictures will be below the photos.  Enjoy!

School dinner with all of my teachers and Elizabeth, the Fulbright teacher from the middle school.  She said, “I feel like I’m crashing the high school party!”  Hahaha…

Goodbye ceremony at my school.  They presented me with an engraved plaque in appreciation of my work this past year.  It’s beautiful….and weighs a TON!!  Still trying to figure out how I’ll get it home… =/ 
Me taking on the world.  My farewell speech to the teachers of the school – completely in Korean.  I so love this picture :).  It’s also great being able to compare my first speech last year, with my last speech, and note how vastly much my Korean has improved :).  

Some of my favorite class pictures from this semester 🙂

We went out for dinner to celebrate Lin’s birthday

Me and Jeong-min

Check out Lin’s reaction below when I said happy birthday to her in Chinese!  It’s only about 19 seconds, but soooo worth watching!  Priceless!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I took a bunch of my second year students out for dinner.  After the usual chaotic confusion of deciding where to go with a big crowd, we had a really good time.  And then the waitress gave us soft drinks on the house, because she said that “it’s so beautiful to see foreign teachers spending time with their students outside of the classroom.” (Highly paraphrased, since it was all in Korean, lol)  I’m really going to miss the generosity of Koreans….

An adorable little coffee shop in Pohang

Coffee and patbingsu – the best patbingsu I’ve ever had!!  Left to right – Da-seom (Korean), Yustia (Indonesian), Zack (South African), and Alejandro (Peruvian).  I love my life 🙂
A letter from a winter camp student: “Dear Lauren, today is the last day that I can see you in Korea.  I’m sad when I knew about your leaving… 🙁  It was so sudden, but it is fortunate that I know your leaving before you really leave!!  So I can write a letter like this <3.  Did you have a nice time in Korea?  It is best if every moment is full of happiness, but I think that you may have been sad or disappointed here.  Although it is real, do not fall into sorrow, Lauren.  Because you have even more great memories!  I know!! :D
I hope you take away good memories to your hometown, and make a smile every time you think about Korea.  Also, congratulations with back to America, have a nice time with your family :).  Oh!  Don’t forget to upload to Facebook.  Haha.
I have something to tell you.  Even if I told you before, I want to tell you again.  You really are such a great teacher!!  Your class is very lively and full of energy.  And I’m always looking forward to class.  Maybe other students, too.  (I think your energy must have been passed to them!!  Lol)  I’m convinced that you will be a wonderful teacher in USA, too.  I will support you!  Fighting! <3 <3
Whenever I see you, I think you’re great.  Cuz you came alone to a strange place, and you always smiled.  Thinking about, “could I do that??”
One of my hope is going to the USA.  I’ll let you know when I go to the USA!!  I wish I could see you again :).  The time with you was special, and it will remain good memories in my heart.  Thank you and love you, Lauren!!  Good luck in everything!!!  Love, from Chae-yeon.  

First day of school

If you had asked me last night if I was nervous about school today, I would have said no.  I mean, it’s true that I knew I was expected to make a speech to the teachers, but I had been told that it could be in English.  That’s no sweat, I’m a pro at English :).  Well, I got to school bright and early Monday morning, and amid the hustle and bustle of hundreds of Korean high school and middle school girls trying to get to class, I was told that I would not be introducing myself in English, but in Korean, and it would not only be to the teachers, but to the entire student population.  Actually, I had to do it twice – once in front of all of the teachers at the morning assembly meeting, and once for the school’s TV broadcast!  Indeed…they stuck me in front of a camera who’s feed was being broadcast into every classroom, gave me a microphone, and told me to talk.  In Korean.  It was sooo nervewracking.  That would be unpleasant on any day, but the fact that I had not had time to prepare – mentally or physically – made it all the worse. 
But it’s over, and I survived.  Everyone is soooo nice here.  The teachers all clapped enthusiastically, and a few patted me on the back once I got back to my seat (yes, I had to stand at the front of the room and address them all as a group), and several who spoke English came up to me afterwards and commented on how amazing my Korean is.  Now, I do have to say, I am highly skeptical of anyone calling my Korean “amazing”, but I think the point was just that they recognized how difficult it was for me, and appreciated that I was making an effort to speak their language….however poor the effort might have been :).  I’m hoping, too, that the broadcast will give me some brownie points with my students in class.  They’ve heard me make mistakes in Korean, so maybe they will be more OK with speaking and making mistakes in English.  Korean students are notoriously bad at being unbelieveably shy when it comes to speaking English. 
I didn’t teach any classes today, but I did make a friend.  One of the other English teachers sought me out after my speech and we talked for a long time.  She just moved here a little bit ago from Daegu (about 45 minutes away), and many of her friends are still there, so she seemed glad to have a friend.  I know that I was.  She took me on a tour of the campus – we walked all around the school, and she told me stories about the school, and tips and suggestions, and things I needed to do or not do.  She gave me a schedule of classes, too, which was wonderful, since up until now I had no idea what the school schedule was like.  I’m looking forward to teaching, but at the same time, I’m really glad that I didn’t teach today.  Making 2 speeches in Korean AND teaching classes would have been too much for my poor nerves :).  Oh, I forgot to mention that I also gave gifts to my principle and vice principle – which required more Korean.  I’m wiped out :). 
This weekend was rainy and I didn’t go out much, so I did some digging on the internet for things to do in Gyeongju.  I had quite a bit of success.  I found an ultimate frisbee club, a dance studio (athough I’m not sure what kind of dance), an English speaking service (although no one seems to know where it is), a park, an outdoor concert hall, plus a random assortment of other things, too.  There is a group on Facebook called the Gyeongju Foreigner’s Association – I joined it yesterday and started talking to some of the members; I’m supposed to meet one of the girls sometime this week so she can show me around.  Also, my host parents own a bike shop, so yesterday while the weather was good my host father took me on a bike tour of the city.  It was lovely.  Even though we can’t communicate, we still have fun together.  It definitely motivates me to improve my Korean, though. He also showed me how to get to my school from my house on a bike, since that will be my primary mode of transportation. 
So, all in all, it’s been a good past few days.  It’s really hard and at times it’s overwhelming, but I kind of expected it.  I didn’t come to live immersed in Korean society and not expect a little culture shock :).  I’ve been going to bed incredibly early the past few days – my brain is constantly on overdrive, trying to undestand what’s going on around me, so my 8:00 pm or so I’m exhausted.  But I’m hopeful that that will pass as I get more adjusted to my new life.  More updates to come soon!