This evening, one of my old students, Jae-in, accidentally climbed into my cab. It was definitely fate. I told him to go ahead and stay in and tell the driver where he wanted to go, that I would get off after him.
He looked exhausted and stressed out and not at all himself. Jae-in is the one we used to call "the mood maker", because if there was ever any tension between the students and the teacher, or a student and another student, Jae-in would crack a joke and everything was set right again. The last few months of school he spent lovingly growing out his hair, which has now all been cut off into an army buzz. When I pointed it out, he pulled out his wallet to show me a photo he had no doubt taken at the pinnacle of its perfection, right before it had to go for high school.
Jae-in always did his best to speak to me in English, but he was just never very good at it. Now that he's no longer my student, I felt free to just chat with him in Korean and it was nice to hear him just speak as himself (even if I couldn't understand it all). I'm sure he got a kick out of hearing me speak like a child as well, although he didn't once crack a smile or giggle. He finishes school at 9 pm every night, and lives a long way away, but a lot of our students have ended up at the same school, and of course Jae-in is excellent at making new friends, so he's at least not lonely.
It's times like these that I really appreciate the Korean style relationship between teachers and students. In the States, I'm sure it would be frowned upon for a female teacher and male student to share a taxi together, and would at the very least be considered odd, even between the same sex. That distance isn't always healthy, although I do understand the reasons for it. I feel like a lot is lost, though.
Anyway. It was the world's way of sending me a message, I think. That even though the last two days have been a veritable black hole of suck, there was a life that came before, and there will be life to come after. I'm going to get this situation worked out eventually. And in the meantime, the students are keeping my spirits up by trying harder in class than I've seen them do in a long time. Not one time in the last three days have I had to say "sit down" or "be quiet" or "hey, listen". Students like Jae-in will always be there, no matter what kind of co-teachers come and go.