Saturday, 7 August 2010

Meeting Sunny’s Family

Certain key factors can either make or break your teaching experience in Korea. One of the most important, in my opinion, is your co-teacher. As Jess wrote about earlier, Korean co-teachers have an extraordinary weight on their shoulders, and are expected to carry it voluntarily.

Sunny, my Korean co-teacher at Gucheon Middle School, has been an absolute pleasure to work with. Her cheery disposition and warm smile always did the trick of cheering me up during the rough patches of my contract. She took every challenge in stride, and never hesitated to go above and beyond the call of her duties. Today was a perfect example of her willingness to help in any situation.

An unusual pain in Jess’ back (don’t worry, it was nothing serious) forced us to make an unplanned trip to the Andong hospital. We gave Sunny a call mid-trip to find out the clinic hours, and she insisted on meeting us at the bus terminal in person.

She greeted us at the terminal with open arms, escorted us to her car, and drove us to the hospital. Along the way, we found out that she initially had dinner plans with the in-laws, but that she was “Dynamic…just like Korea!” She didn’t even think twice about re-shuffling her plans to help us out.

Our hospital “adventure” was slightly chaotic to say the least. To make a long story short, there’s absolutely no way that Jess and I would’ve been able to see a doctor without Sunny’s help. The hospital was a fortress of corridors, side wards, and people bustling around in every direction. Each step of the way, from triage to testing, was a good five minute walk away. Blindly running around the hospital corridors trying to translate each and every sign would’ve been impossible on our own. Luckily, this story has a happy ending. We did what we had to do, and headed out happy and healthy.

Instead of going directly back to the bus terminal, we accepted her offer to visit her apartment and meet her family. Her high-rise was only a few minutes away from the hospital in the quiet outskirts of Andong. There we met her husband and two daughters, and spent the afternoon chatting with them like old friends. Her husband doesn’t speak very much English, but that didn’t stop him from joining in the conversation whenever he had the chance. Her daughters were quite shy at first, but quickly opened up once the conversation started rolling. They were sweet, soft-spoken, and very inquisitive girls with an obvious desire to practice their English conversation skills.

Later in the evening, we all went out for a delicious jjimdak (a very spicy chicken and noodle dish) dinner, and finished the evening off with iced coffee and a movie. After the movie, we returned back to their apartment, and were promptly invited to spend the night. As Sunny prepared one of the girl’s rooms for us, her husband opened up a bottle of wine and pulled out some roasted garlic for us to snack on. We stayed up with them all night talking about our year in Korea and reflecting on some of the best and worst times.

Today started off a bit rough, but it certainly ended on a good note.

- Ken

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