1.4 Spring 2020 (COVID Archives)

August 20, Surprise Party

I got in to school and promptly received an email from S asking if I was free at 11.

“We are going to have a party for you in male music teacher’s room,” she told me, and I lamented having not washed my hair.

I got to the classroom and on the board were kind words from S along with a few balloons, and a spread of desserts across the makeshift desk table. All the previous subject teachers from last semester gathered, and male music teacher (well, now a homeroom teacher) made pour over coffee like old times and acted as our emcee. He grinds my gears I admit but at least he acknowledges me. And he emceed very well.

Two of the teachers had gotten me gifts– a tumblr and hand crocheted scrunchies (they are coming back in style here in Korea).

S told me the golden scrunchie would match my hair color perfectly.

I’m a brunette.

I pointed this out to her and she gestured to her dark brown hair and then to mine to say “our hair color is different”.

“Yes, but I’m not blonde. Brown can exist on a spectrum…”

“Okay, okay! Don’t get angry,” she said, in her catchphrase when I play argue with her about semantics.

The five of us chatted and it was like old times. Warm and easy. S promised that she had a gift for me and that it “was arriving”. She later texted me asking for my “favorite selfie” and now I’m a bit worried I’m about to get a blanket with my face…

The party didn’t last too long since the teachers all had plans to go out to lunch with their various grade teams so we parted ways.

I was nervous that S might spill the beans about my complicated visa situation but she told everyone, “Yes, she is moving back to the US. I hope she can return to Korea some day” with such seriousness that I thought she might have actually forgotten.

Of course, as soon as we lost the other subject teachers she asked me if I’d figured out my shipping situation.

I realized then that S was really my ride or die.

Over the last month I’ve collected gifts for S and C but wanted to make a final purchase to complete S’s gift.

She and her family love macaroons, so during lunch I headed to the local macaroon shop (common as the dessert is very popular here) and ordered a box of eight from the jolly macaroon man who spent several minutes looking for a gift box and apologizing every minute.

I gifted S the macaroons, coffee candle, coffee soap, and hand written (and tutor edited) thank you note.

I think she teared up over the macaroons more than the letter.

“You are so sensitive. Is that the right word?”


She sent me a video later of her young son opening the box and I’ve never understood my grandmother more than as the moment I happily and proudly watched my quasi nephew open his gift and say thank you (with encouragement from S behind the camera).

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