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bikeandbridge1Summer has truly arrived and the air is thick with small birds, dragonflies and the high sawing call of locusts.  The students complain about the heat and I get cold in air conditioning.  It has been some time since I last wrote. Although not overtly ‘new’ anymore, the surprises this culture offers are even more enjoyable. Like the water fountain that sporadically spurts rhythmic jets to the tune of ‘Oh Micky you’re so fine’ and takeaway shops delivering to anywhere along the tree-covered riverside.

The strangest thing about the homesickness that weaves itself in and out of my life here, is realising that I don’t actually have a life to go back to in the U.K. Family and friends, of course – but a house, a job, my purpose and dreams don’t belong there anymore.  Ironically, actually going home might bring up greater feelings of displacement than ever before.  But this all belongs to the future, where I should leave it for now.

Perhaps the feeling of ‘missing’ that tugs at my heart sometimes is for my loved ones. Perhaps it is for a new adventure, or maybe it is for the writing I have neglected.  Probably it is for all three.

And it is interesting that the small ‘missing’ factor of my largely contented and happy life is where my introspective attention is drawn. But so it goes with many folk! Stories are not written about contented, happy people, after all.  Momentum comes from desire, desire from a lack, and our story-loving, time-travelling minds like to assess situations to predict what happens in the next chapter. For me, the next chapter will be here in Korea still, exploring ever more hobbies, putting up with my yowling cat and trying to be a better teacher. On melancholy missing days I remind myself that I am laying the foundations for future dreams.  For now it makes sense to follow the Korean proverb “한 우물을 파라” – ‘When digging a well, keep digging in one place.’

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Half my lessons were cancelled last week so that the students could practice for Sports Day on Friday. A couple of students from each class would come to me, half an hour before their lesson was due to start, for permission to continue skipping practice instead. I’d pretend to think about it and then say ‘Ohhh, alright then’.  Their faces would light up, they’d thank me ardently before leaving, and I’d return to drinking tea and reading my book.  What can I say?  I choose to use my power for the good of all.

That situation lasted for a few days until I received a text from the captain of class 3:5, saying that I was to join their team for some sporting activities.  This scheme was initiated by my co-teacher who has taken it upon himself to offer me as many experiences of school life as possible. So it was that I swopped my teacher shoes for trainers, marked my book and went to learn dodge ball and a stick-jumping race.

Together each class had chosen their team outfit from an online site. Kitted out in a red t-shirt I scooted up to the big city gymnasium fearing a little that I would be the lone teacher participant in the sporting events. I was reassured by the sight of male teachers in their fifties sporting anything from silky pink, polka-dot trousers to Hawaiian skirts, while giving serious team pep-talks.

Along with these wonderful team costumes, what struck me most about the day was the absence of individual competitions. Arm wrestling was the only one on one game, and players were always surrounded by their own class cheering them on. All the others were team games – even the one running race was relay – everybody participated, and everyone seemed to be invested in the outcome.

At the end of the day my “Threeee – Fii-ive!” team were number one in the third grade, and won the 50 dollar first prize. I can safely say that this can in no way be credited to my dodge ball skills.

Belén Lobos

Out of the ordinary stories in images and words Periodista independiente

Sophia Sheridan

en-route to something, somewhere, it began...

another side of the world

Teaching in Yangsan, South Korea. Travelling where the wind blows.

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