553 all out

Dinner with GS Construction, after nearly 200 hours of teaching time...

It’s hard to even start describing the last week. It’s so special, so emotional and so difficult to get through that putting it in to words seems to some how trivialise the whole experience. Then again, not to try would be an insult to how much effort people have put in to making my send off special, so I’m going to have a good go.

I’m tired as anything. Every night this past week has been a night out. I’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, and put my body in quite an impressive state of disrepair, but it’s all been worth it.

Saturday night was the big one. Mark and I hosted a joint leaving party in Hongdae (mark is leaving one day after me, after following me out a year ago… stalker!). Obviously we had to go all out to make it a big night, so we ended up dragging in about 50 people and dressing up as Ajummas (batty old Korean women) for one last blow out. Watching Gogo’s slowly fill up, Mark and I donned out costumes and hit the dance floor, dresses and visors flowing. As you do. Somebody bought in some Tequila, then some more. Somebody else shoved a ‘flaming Dr Pepper’ in front of me, alongside numerous bottles of beer…. Everything was starting to go in a suitably blurry direction.

We made it downstairs just in time to catch ‘Galaxy Express’, a local rock band I’ve come to love so much that I spent a good chunk of time on my final day in Korea tracking down a copy of their debut album. FF – our long time favourite grungy live club – features a dangerous hour of free cocktails from 11pm until midnight. The bar staff simply pour endless paper cups full of spirits and mixers, that most of the guests simply consume standing at the bar as soon as they’re produced.

This may explain why Mark doesn’t remember one of the most touching moments I’ve experienced in Korea. Avid readers (let it go!) may recall I went to see my friend Jason’s band play a couple of weeks back. At that gig I gently and sarcastically hassled him to come and play our leaving do, but since then I’d thought no more about it. After the final band the DJ started playing his usual mix of pop rock, but after about 15 minutes the curtains raised once again, and Jason’s band are already strumming the chords to their opening track.

He proceeded to dedicate pretty much every track to Mark and I, as we jumped around like fools at the front. I’ve never seen anybody get on stage after the headline act at FF before, and it made the night feel like it was made for us, although the lively (thankfully incomplete) stripping at the end was a little terrifying! Thanks Jason, you’re a legend.

The rest of the night drifted into a haze, a special end to a very special 18 months. It would be criminal, however, not to gloss over all the other farewells I’ve had over the last few days.

IZM – my favourite class – took me out for Korean BBQ, sashimi and seafood soup as well as far too much to drink on Thursday. I will never forget these guys, they’ve been collectively my happiest teaching experience, and never failed to make me feel welcome, and I love them all.

A whole load of my individual students took me for meals, out for drinks and bought me some wonderful presents. My colleagues joined me for a send off dinner and bought in a fat cake for the final day. Kay, the old Berlitz receptionist, even trekked an hour across town just to go for a coffee and bring me a Korean passport case that’ll help me to treasure the memories every time I head somewhere new. Not that I’ll need any help, I’m so touched to know just how many friends I have in SK.

It’s been 553 action packed days, but now it really is game over. Farewell Korea, it’s been emotional. I’ll be flying my signature covered Taegugki (Korean flag) high on the wall of our Dublin apartment. A quick sojourn in the UK, then it’s onwards to Dublin!

J x x x

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