Right before I left for America, I cleaned out my office, organized the English classroom, said goodbye to my classes, and made a farewell speech to the entire faculty. When I returned I was to make the switch from Gilju Elementary to Sung Hee Girl's High School, and was under the instruction from Taebun to head over there as soon as I returned. I shouldn't have been surprised then, when at noon the day before I was to go to my new school, I got a call from the Education Center supervisor and was told to return to Gilju for one month.
It made sense with my contract, which went from March 25-March 25, but we were all told months ago that because of the influx of people applying for EPIK, the late March orientation would be removed and all new teachers would come in February. Thus, Gilju was supposed to have a new teacher when I returned, and I could start at the beginning of the school year at my new school instead of a month into it. The supervisor explained that the move was probably now impossible because Gilju didn't get a teacher and they would expect me to return. She then called both of my schools to reverse all of the transition arrangements.
Thus, I returned to Gilju for the duration of this month, and everyone including the principal was confused as to why I was back. At first, between the jet lag and the confusion, I was really frustrated by this. Because teachers in Korean schools must change positions or schools every couple of years, I would have to adjust to an entire new staff of teachers (excepting Mrs. Shim who stayed on with 5th grade English) and confuse the students when I suddenly return for the new school year and am replaced by a new teacher in a month.
Korea is Dynamic, and these inconveniences are both minor and irreversible anyway. After I let it soak in for a day, I found it relieving to come back. Gilju is comfortable for me, rather than jumping into an entirely new environment as soon as I returned. I know the classes, and I get to share my knowledge with the new Korean English teachers and help them adjust to co-teaching with someone who knows the ropes. I now also have more opportunities for advance communication with Sung Hee, which was difficult before because of their own faculty changing and my being in America. I'm also their first foreign teacher, so I think they aren't quite sure what to do with me yet. I've met some of the faculty twice so far, and I'm really excited because it seems like everyone is such a perfect fit to my personality.
There's also Yena. This year, Elementary English education added 2 hours a week for 3rd and 4th grade, which originally had been just 1 hour. Therefore, there are two new teachers for 3rd and 4th grade English, where last year Mrs. Im had done both. I've had a stroke of amazing good fortune as a result of my return and the reworking of the system, because the new 3rd grade English teacher is a kindred spirit. I'd not gotten close to many Koreans in the last year, because most of those that I knew were married with children. Yena, however, is exactly my age with the same college degree (English Literature) and has a passion for world travel, having done both mission trips and internships abroad. She also now lives only a few blocks away. When we first met and she asked me if she could find mozzarella cheese anywhere in Andong (not a chance), I knew we were destined to be friends forever.
What I had originally thought to be so inconvenient has turned out to be a complete blessing for my entire new year here.
Andong also recently has acquired a new set of Native Teachers, bringing our EPIK number up to 24. We can also now claim to be a multicultural set of EPIK foreigners, as we have added a pair of Canadians and a South African to our American mix. We are so progressive.
Because of our bigger number, we have formed groups for Elementary, Middle School, and High school teachers so we can keep ourselves organized and supported. Bonnie and I have taken up the chairwomen roles for the High School group, with Scott and Katie on Elementary, and Helen and Erin on Middle School. Andrew was appointed supreme leader by the supervisor because he still has seniority as being the first in Andong. My how our numbers have jumped in under 2 years.
Now that I'm aware of my ever-changing current schedule, I will return to my blog posts about the Southeast Asia trip. We did, in fact, make it past Ho Chi Minh.