Before I begin, dear readers, I want you to get a good look at the following picture. Study it long and hard.
This is one of many things that no one ever tells you about teaching. According to Hollywood, a teacher’s days are spent inspiring young people to reach for the stars, turning inner city kids away from gang violence with the help of poetry, and finding out that the student everyone else thought was stupid is actually a secret math and physics wizard. It would be nice if that were true, but alas, it usually isn’t. Truth is, as a teacher, you spend a lot of time planning lessons, designing worksheets, explaining things in one-on-one conferences, editing student work, and writing progress reports. Then, at the end of the school year, most of your students just turn around and throw every last bit of it away. It’s enough to drive a person to nihilism.
The last few weeks of this school year were especially chaotic. Just when we had gotten back from winter vacation and settled in for our final English presentations, the Wuhan coronavirus broke out in China (seen in red on the map below) and started making its way around the globe.
Just across the border, authorities here in South Korea (seen in green) wasted no time putting everything on lockdown. One afternoon the students went home to practice their presentations. An hour later, they all received phone calls telling them not to come back for at least a week (we teachers still had to show up for work, though – haha). In the end, the presentations were cancelled, the graduation festivities became small classroom ceremonies (parents were told not to come), and the students were headed home after just one hour. An appropriately apocalyptic end to my time in Korea.
As of today, it’s all over but the packing.
The Next Step
Yes, it’s true. After 9 years in the Far East, I’ve paid off my debts and saved up enough money to go home and write for a while. I have a lot of projects on the back burner, but most of my time will be spent working on a collection of short stories that I hope to publish sometime in the next couple of years. (Interested in reading it? If so, please be sure to follow my progress on Facebook.)
But before I do that, I’ll be going back to where it all began…
The Island Legend of J
Some of you probably know the famous family story:
My mom and dad are on their second honeymoon in Hawaii. Mom turns to Dad with love in her eyes and says, “Tommy, let’s go for a walk on the beach and watch the sunset.”
Ever the romantic, Dad replies, “Hell no! I don’t wanna get sand in my shoes!”
Mom, slightly disappointed but still drunk on island vibes, sits on the edge of the bed and sighs. “Well,” she says, “what do you wanna do?”
Nine months later, I make my grand appearance on the world stage.
This time around I’ll be visiting my old friend and college radio co-host Keith, his wife Ashley, and their son Jack (one of several friends’ kids that I have yet to meet). Keith’s airline has been branching out into the islands and naturally he wants to show me around: Pearl Harbor, the lepers colony where Father Damien did his work, the road to Hana, Charles Lindbergh’s resting place, the Kona Brewers Festival, Volcano National Park, the birthplace of King Kamehamema, Turtle Bay, a Mai Tai tasting, a green sand beach, a Big Island luau, and of course a trip to Waikiki! Not a bad finale to this important chapter of my life. 🙂
Pour a Little Out
Sadly, my time in Hawaii won’t be all waterfalls and tiki parties. Keith and I will also be sharing our grief about the recent loss of our dear friend Jason Barnes. I know it’s customary to say only good things about someone after they pass, but anyone who knew Barnes knows that all the good things are true. He was one of the kindest, most positive people this world has ever been graced with.
Rest in peace, old boy. Many tropical drinks will be spilled on the sand in your honor.
I’ll also be pouring some out for my friend Rachael, one of my very favorite co-workers-turned-friends from my Barnes & Noble days. Rachael and I shared similar worldviews, senses of humor, and disdain for annoying customers. She will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, my beautiful friend.
A Big Chunk of Happiness
Even as I’m typing, I realize that this post might come across as a little bleak: a teacher’s work is meaningless, Wuhan coronavirus is spreading, I’ve lost two friends in the last month…But lest you think I’m going to leave you on a negative note, I have to introduce you to my new favorite Instagram and YouTube celeb – Chunk the Groundhog!
This video will explain everything. Seriously, watch it. It will make your day. 🙂
Anyway, I leave Korea in two weeks. This won’t be my last post about Korea (far from it), but it might be my last post from Korea. If you have questions that I haven’t answered, now would be a good time to message me. If not, I’ll see you soon with pics of Hawaii.
Aloha! And Kamsahamnida!