The afternoon that I told my teacher that the next class I had was going to be my last was one of the hardest days I've had. I went in with a weight pulling me down, dragging my feet, but perked up a little as soon as I saw my teacher waiting for me. We went inside and walked over to our normal table but found a group of boys chowing down and all the other tables were taken (I again had to move my classes to later in the day so there were more people there). It was packed and the only table that was even slightly available was a table in the corner with a young boy (probably about thirteen) sitting, waiting for his food. Now I had seen this boy at Genkiyaki several times and knew that more than likely he would get his food on takeout. I knew that, but my teacher didn't. Seonsengnim nudged my elbow and said in Korean "Go and ask that boy if he can move so we can sit there." My eyes about popped out of my head. Asking the boy to share the table would have been a stretch but to tell him to move completely? I kind of stumbled in my words and finally just spit out "Me?" in Korean. He nodded and said "Yeah, go ask." the boy had kind of figured out that we must have been talking about him and didn't seem to appreciate the fact that we were speaking about him in a language he didn't understand. I had shot him over an apologetic look which was returned with a glare. I had turned to my teacher. "Seonsengnim, I can't ask him that." My teacher looked at my in half disbelief half amusement. "I ask you but your not going to do it?" I'd nodded. He shrugged, laughed and then a group of people got up and left their table so we sat down at that one.
As we worked through my lesson I went over and over in my head what I would tell him. Finally we were done with the lesson and the time for me to speak had come. I had told him I had something to talk to him about. He listened intently as I explained my situation and how my next class would be my last. He just kept nodding and saying he understands and it all makes sense but when I had looked up I saw tears in his eyes. I just about started crying there. I knew that in his old age he didn't do much anymore and that our time together was the thing he looked foreword to every month and there I was, taking it away from him. All I could tell him was that I was sorry. He told me it was okay and he understood, but his heart hurt. He said that he loved spending time with me and that he was very sad that we could not continue anymore. He got up and I followed suit. He walked me to the door and said goodbye.
I'd walked to my car where my mom and sisters were waiting for me. My teacher walked by and my mom had called out a "hello". He stopped and came over. My mom told him that I was very sad to be giving this up and that I would miss this time with him. He answered "Me too." and then after saying goodbye, he left. My mom had turned around to me and said "Gabby he was almost crying." "I know." I had said. She was silent as she pulled out and got onto the freeway. After a few moments she had asked me "Are you sure about your decision?" My heart said no, but my mind and mouth said "Yes".
I cried that night. I cried for the fact that I had taken something away from my teacher and disappointed him, and I cried because it had been the first time in my life that there was a male figure who loved and took care of me. He was the first father, or rather grandfather, figure that I ever had that actually cared about me spiritually and physically, who truly loved me and wasn't afraid to say so. It was hard. I knew though that even though our student teacher relationship had come to an end I would make sure to keep our friendship intact.
My next class was a very solemn one. though my teacher tried his best to make the atmosphere light. He got weepy off and on, as did I. To soon our class was over. My teacher did not give me homework for the next class, nor did he fill in my "job well done" spaces. Everything seemed so off and unfinished. A few moments after we had finished my mom and sisters entered in, though they kept their distance to let us say goodbye.
I had tried to find something to buy that would sum up how grateful I was to him, but I couldn't think of anything that worked, so I decided that I would make him a card and letter in Korean, something truly from the bottom of my heart that I could give him. It read:
Thank you soo much for all you have done for me up to this point, I promise I won't ever forget it!
I will work hard to continue learning Korean on my own. I will work my hardest to make sure I do it! So don't worry :)
I will continue to learn, I have to.
I will continue to work hard, to put my all in it.
I will write to you every month and continue to see you, I promise,
So don't cry Seonsengnim! You have been a a good friend and like a very dear grandfather to me, thank you for that. Again I am so very thankful for you,
Seonsengnim you are the best! I love you!
He had started to cry and went over to me, hugged me and said he loved me too and that he too thought of me as a granddaughter. He gave me tips on how to continue learning on my own and told me to call or
e-mail if I had any questions. My mom went over then and thanked him and then took a picture of us together, and then with that he left.
My sisters all tried to cheer me up and even offered me kimchi (another one of my favorite Korean foods). My sister in law came over and put her arm around me as we walked out of my Korean class for the last time, tears sliding down my cheeks. She leaned over and said to me "Gabby, the mentorship has ended but the friendship carries on". She was so right!
Today I am learning Korean on my own still and hope to maybe enroll or take Korean (and Chinese) classes that are offered up at the local college.
|사랑해요 선생님!!! I love you Seonsengnim!!!|