I have never been a morning person [insert mom’s laugh as she snorts that’s an understatement,) but my thirty-minute bus ride to school from my apartment in Yesan out to the farmlands of Yangsin is truly one of my favorite parts of the day, and there are some mornings in Yesan in which I really don’t think I could smile any bigger.
Take today, I boarded the bus with my travel mug of instant coffee and school bag and sat in my usual seat (half-way down the bus, across from the set of exit doors and within arm’s reach of a stop button—prime location.) Once settled, I saw sitting across from me the same Ajumma (아줌마), grandmother, for whom yesterday I pressed the button signaling the driver to stop. The old woman remembered me (not hard to do as my olive-tone and big, curly hair makes me stand out among Koreans) and pointed me out to her fellow ajummas, already returning to their farms from the market in this early hour.
After a fit of giggles and fast conversations among themselves, Ajumma asked me, in English, where I am from and where I am going. After a short conversation in Kong-lish, she left the bus waving good-bye to me and happily yelling, “Goodbye America Teacher, have a nice day!”
As if it would be possible to have a bad day after that.
When I got off at my own stop, I was immediately greeted at the school’s gate by one of my kindergarten students running toward me to grab my hand and cuddle it against her chubby cheeks.
Her grandmother, walking up, explained in Korean that she is taking my student to get her vaccinations, but she doesn’t want to miss my class, because she loves me. Then, my beautiful, dimpled, kindergartner looked up at me and repeated her grandmother’s statement:
“Teacher, I love you.”