I read the news about the ferry disaster yesterday between my 5th and 6th grade elementary classes. It was very difficult for me to be upbeat and cheery in class after reading about this tragic accident, but knowing that my kids wouldn’t have heard about it yet, keeping face was very important.
Jeju field trips are an institution in high school. Last year my first graders went for 4 days, taking a plane instead of a ferry. Jeju is known as “the Hawaii of Korea” and those teenagers and teachers would have been so excited about the trip. When I think about the numbers my eyes well up. The teachers who were on the ferry are not 9-5ers. In Korea, high school home room teachers are at school from 08:30 to 22:00 every weekday and 9:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. They see the kids more than the parents do. I often asked my students what time they got home- the answer was often 11PM or after, and their parents would usually already be asleep. The teachers on the ferry were like parents to these students. I taught 2 grades last year- about 620 kids. I can’t imagine a whole grade being wiped out. On the way back from out teacher’s trip yesterday we listened to the radio- it’s all very different from the BBC. Real time, raw, on the ground reporting and witness statements. Awful.
My high school Facebook profile’s newsfeed is dominated by passenger videos, screenprints of kakao talk messages between trapped high school students and parents, the last messages between loved ones. Pictures of unused lifeboats, passengers sliding on the boat as it’s tilting and sinking into the water and howling grandmothers, mothers and fathers in Jindo. Knowing that many Koreans don’t like swimming…
My thoughts are with the families of everyone affected by this horrible accident. I hope that the survivors can find the strength to carry on and that they can live their lives in a way that will honour their missing friends and loved ones.
Korean kids are so special. They are so kind, cute, lovely, funny. They work so hard. It’s an extra blow, losing humans with such great potential. Truly a dark day for this wonderful country.