Saturday, January 04, 2014

sheepish 9-months-later post

Saying goodbye to Daddy's airplane at Incheon airport/Seoul
So yeah. It's been awhile. No, the title isn't referring to a new baby, as thankfully our lives are quite full with the two we already had as of my last posting. But in the nine months since I last updated this blog, I guess we've had a lot of eventful moments anyway.

Most notably, we said goodbye to Korea. Korea was a gracious host. Certainly not without its challenges (goodness, were there challenges). But it was the one country that offered us visas, a job, a place to live, our son's first school, our daughter's birthplace, and for two years, a home. We made lifelong friends. We gained new food addictions. We discovered just how much we could accomplish all alone, half a world away from our friends and families, with no one to depend on but each other. And we learned just how much we really needed each other.
Lucas and his friends take a final stroll through Seoul's historic center
Carolina crawls in front of the statue of one of Korea's naval heroes.

But Korea is no longer possible. The Native English Teacher program in the public school system is collapsing. The pay for most of the remaining jobs is being capped at a level that would not be sufficient for my family. Lucas is reaching school age and didn't have the necessary Korean language or academic skills to make it in Korean public school. Plus, we were really struggling so far away from family, especially with two kids in the picture. We had to make the decision to come back to our home continent, even though it meant going back to international separation, once again.

So here we are. I'm back in Chicagoland, Carlos is back in his homeland. He's teaching English again. I'm teaching public elementary school again, although in an interesting twist of fate, I'm teaching Kindergarten for the first time ever. In a dual language (Spanish-English) immersion program. People. I can not emphasize this enough. If you know someone who teaches Kindergarten or preschool or some other form of early childhood education, give them hugs. And chocolate.  And bottles of wine. And spa gift certificates. Because wow. That is a calling of the highest form.

I used to think it was cute how Kindergarten lesson plans are full of games, songs, chants, calendar time, counting, coloring, cutting, gluing, you get the picture. "Kindergarten teachers must have it so easy!" I used to think, as I sat surrounded by papers to grade, project rubrics to design, and research projects to set up. Well, I repent. My friends, do you realize what it's like to keep a class of Kindergarteners interested in counting to 100, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY? Have you ever tried to teach a group of 5 year-olds how to use a bottle of glue only to turn around for 3 seconds and turn back to find a child covered in it? Can you envision having to assess your students' learning of math skills based on orally testing each individual student, while simultaneously keeping the rest of the class from starting an armed uprising? It's just...I just...words can not adequately express the experience of being a Kindergarten teacher. Spare time, energy, nutrition, general sanity, these are things of the past.

I've been trying to gather what little of those I can find during winter vacation, because, as I'm sure you're all curious, we're still moving on the immigration front. As I mentioned a bit in a previous post, some policy changes have opened an avenue for us (not a guaranteed one, but certainly with a lot more promise than ever before). So we're mustering up what little fight we have left in us for this one final push, and if it goes well, Carlos could end up back home in Chicagoland where he belongs. This weekend I'm in the final stage of document collection, and once this is done, our skillful lawyer will be preparing the final package to get the ball rolling. If you've been praying, please pray with us now more than ever. We will keep you updated. I may even post a new picture or two. And in the meantime, go find a Kindergarten teacher to hug. Till next time, friends!