Today was actually Teacher’s Day in Korea–a holiday that celebrates amazing teachers and all that they do for their students! There is a nationally recognized teacher’s appreciation holiday in the states too but most people do not actually take it too seriously. At my high school sometimes there would be banners up in the lunch room or perhaps over the school announcements, but even I was guilty of really not doing much in celebration of my teachers.
When I walked into my homeroom class this morning, I was met with all the desks pushed to one side of the room and the lights being off. There was one single desk in the middle of the room with a chocolate cake on top. The homeroom class was planning on surprising our teacher with the cake when she came in to lead homeroom for the day. However, when the start of homeroom came around by the indication of the school bell, our teacher never showed up… and she was usually never late. A group of students, including me, brought the cake and tried to find her in her office. She was there!! Apparently she was feeling too shy to come to class because she knew everyone would pull something like this. I thought that this was kind of sweet–her not wanting to be the center of attention even though everyone was so grateful for her! And I felt the same way too, she did not treat me differently for being an exchange student. She never spoke to me in English and she even wanted me to do everything that her students were required to like having a counseling meeting and giving her my class schedule. It made me feel like truly a part of the class.
When I returned to homeroom, I was surprised to see another cake on the single desk in the middle of the room which all the kids said was for me. They had also prepared a cake for me and once again someone was able to light up the many candles all around the cake and I got to blow out the candles. We also all took a class picture together before first period started. It was too early in the morning to eat the cake so they told me to just save it until lunch and eat it with my friends so I did just that.
For lunch, we were eating a special meal which was even served with dessert: a cupcake with a pretty carnation (the flower usually given to teachers on Teacher’s Day). The big part of the meal was 쌀국수 which is basically just noodle soup with beef. As a possible garnish, they had a side table with bowls of 고수 otherwise known as cilantro in English. Apparently, a lot of Koreans despise it!! So it was at a separate table with a sign that said “This is the cilantro you put on top of the soup to eat. Cilantro to taste” or something along the lines of that. I have found that translating these to English statements is rather difficult. I was talking to 서린 about this because she was the only one from our friend group that took any for her soup. She explained that most Koreans have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. I found that really interesting because I can eat it just fine. It is hard to imagine eating something as normal as an herb and then tasting soap.
After lunch, I grabbed the blueberry cake gifted to me by my class and shared it with all of my friends. Luckily, 혜지, 서린, and 윤세 were all in my next class (law and politics) so we were able to eat all together and bring the leftovers to our class. We still had a slice or two left in the hallway so I just ran into the room and asked if anyone wanted cake and shared the final bit.
Today’s politics class was quite fun because we were having the election of our political parties. Each of the party’s presidents went up to the podium at the front of the class and gave their platforms/campaign presentations. Our president, 윤세, did a wonderful job giving her prepared speech and she was also joined by our campaign manager 서린 who did a really good job winning the audience over. She knew exactly what to say to make our president look good. Also, while 윤세 was giving her speech, the other members of our party (including me), shouted our “fan chants” if you will which really just included our party name and various cheers. Our political party was 올리당 which is word play on 정당 (political party) so we would scream 올리다 올리다 올리당!
I am proud to say that our party won the election. :,)
The school day ended a bit earlier as usual (since it was Wednesday) but instead of going home early or attending club meetings, there was an event for Teacher’s Day in the performing arts center.
The event consisted of prepared videos and slides of the students expressing their gratitude for their teachers. There were even clips filled by alumni of the school and recent graduates which I thought was extremely sweet. Every single teacher in the school got their own slide with comments written by students for them–Even the cafeteria ladies and the janitorial staff. When a slide appeared for the front fate security staff, I almost lost it. I greeted them every morning and every afternoon when leaving and coming from school and even though I never said more than one word to them, their smiles were really appreciated. I took a lot of pictures of the presentation; I mostly took photos for all of my teachers but especially my favorites. I would like to remember what they look like even after several years.
They even included slides and comments for the forgeign teachers which made my heart swell. Of course, I clapped even louder for them!!
After the event ended, Katie and I planned to meet our supporter 혜린언니 at 연신내 for dinner but while we were walking to the station after getting off of the bus a stop early, we took a photo of the legendary 하나 은행 (Hana Bank) in our school uniforms. That was a check off the bucket list! (In case it was not clear, 하나고 was founded by 하나은행)
For dinner we went to this cheaper place that for one set price, you could have all-you-could-eat 떡볶이 (Korean spicy rice cakes) and an immense amount of extras and sides including ramen, vegetables, fish cakes, cheese, sausage, etc. The menu was kind of elaborate with cooking instructions as you had to do everything yourself: pick out the type and shape of rice cakes, the sauce, what level of spiciness you wanted, and then of course all the extras to go into the soup. It was a struggle at first but our 언니 did an amazing job–it was delicious!
Afterwards, we walked to a nearby Holly’s Café and chatted over some warm drinks until it was time to go. This would be our very last meeting together which was hard to even imagine. We had gotten so close over the past several months that separating now… was soul crushing. We gave our supporter a letter and hugged for what seemed like forever. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye but I know that this was not goodbye forever. I know we will meet again so I found comfort in that.
Well, that is all for this blog post. It was a long one! Congratulations if you got this far, I hope you enjoyed reading~
- Emma 엠마