Yesterday was the final day of work for the Principal of Yeongbok Girl's High School. A man who I have said "hello" to once, "nice to meet you" once and, now, I can add "congratulations" to that very short list of personal exchanges.
I was told there would be a dinner, but didn't think much of it. I thought it would be like every other staff party: held at a restaurant with lots of soju, speeches and noraebang, but I wasn't told exactly how important retirements in Korea are (depending on how important you are, of course).
First of all, it was not just the retirement party for our Principal, but also for our head librarian. The two men had worked together at Yeongbok for thirty years, but they had also gone to university together, so are quite close after all this time. The party was a joint party, held at a fancy wedding hall, and their wives were dressed to the nines in their hanbok. I was wearing what I wore to school, my hair was a mess, I wasn't wearing any make up... I basically looked a disaster. This didn't stop the Principal from wanting to be seen with me, though, and I stood, smile frozen on my lips, as the photographers snapped photo after photo.
I stayed for several speeches and then left early as I had prior engagements- again, I didn't think it was such a big deal...
In any case, thirty years of committed work in one school is something worth celebrating, right?