The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our patience, our humility, and our camaraderie. COVID-19 has taken much from us: most significantly, the tragic loss of life for those who have fallen victim to the disease. Additionally, many
have suffered loss of financial stability, have been isolated from loved ones, had travel plans cancelled, and haven’t been able to leave their homes.
But through the darkness, there have been glimmers of hope, and even joy. For some, staying home has formed stronger familial bonds over game nights and shared meals. Others have reconnected with friends around the world for birthday parties, pub quizzes and happy hours thanks to online connectivity tools like Zoom being normalized. Home cooking has become an art, with amateur bakers and chefs honing their skills, and kitchen cupboards incubating sourdough starters and kombucha.
With these kinds of stories in mind, we asked the faculty and staff of SFS for their “silver linings:” what have been positive results of the COVID-19 cloud?
Meagan Mathews, Elementary School Grade 2:
I was able to finally accomplish a lifelong dream of getting my scuba diving license and even went on to get the advanced certification (bonus!) And it was my first time visiting Jeju which was really neat.
Calvin Kamphuis, High School Business & Economics:
I had the opportunity to solo travel around South Korea on my new motorcycle. I had spent all summer looking for a motorcycle, and ended up buying a Honda CBR 650R. For those of you who know, this is definitely not a "touring" motorcycle.
I learned that quickly when my saddlebags exploded after coming in contact with my back tire at the first intersection of my trip! After a day's delay, and a new topbox to carry all my stuff, I was off. The plan was to circumnavigate South Korea, so
I started on my 15 hour route down the west coast. Some good food on Daebu-do, and inhaling some bugs while speeding over bridges led me to my first guesthouse in Gunsan. The next day I continued to Busan, driving past some flower fields in Jeollanam- do, and the Dinosaur Museum in Goseong. I spent two days relaxing and eating seafood with a few friends near Haeundae Beach, and then headed on my 12 hour trip back to Seoul up the east coast. Staying the night in Pyeongchang in some of the Olympics housing helped me feel well rested for the final hours back to Seoul.
Over this trip, I was able to experience South Korea in a way I haven't before. I saw many beautiful mountains, rivers, and seasides, and met many kind people, with one even giving me red bean ice cream shaped like a fish, and bae pears at a rest stop. I learned a lot about Korea and motorcycles, and look forward to doing it again.
Edie Moon, Drama Director:
I had no idea how much I had missed in Korea over the past years. This summer, with no travel, few if any tourists, less traffic and clear air, the Korea of my childhood came to life for me in a way that I could not have foreseen. I fell in love again with Korea. Our trips to Jeju opened my eyes to a history that I had largely not understood growing up here. It is true that some of that history was covered up by the government for many decades, but visiting the Jeju 4.3 Peace Park and Museum unearthed history in a way I could never have expected. Seeing the Haenyo (women divers of Jeju) in person as they took their daily dives for their catch of sea life reminded me again of the strength of the Korean
Hanok village in Seoul visited and photographed by Caroline Law.
people and Korean women in particular. Whether it was visiting art museums, exploring beaches on the eastern shore of Korea, finding new neighborhoods in Seoul, or taking writing tours of nooks and crannies in the city, each experience led me to artistic, spiritual, and cultural renewal. Right now, I have maps that are worn in the best way possible from regular use during travel. They have been taped and retaped, and I hope to continue to use them in the months to come. The days passed so quickly and so beautifully. Though I missed my family in the US desperately, the time here in Korea was about as inspiring as a vacation could be. Yes, I fell in love again with a country that has been my home almost my entire life. There are still so many more layers that I hope to peel back in the future, but how grateful I am for the month and a half I had.
Caroline Law, British School Year 9/Key Stage 3 English:
One of the main reasons why my husband and I wanted to move back to Korea is the potential for travel. We used to live in Busan, and didn’t think that we could find a better transport hub than that (weekends in Tokyo, anyone?) - until we moved to Seoul. The global pandemic and resulting restrictions may have put a stop to our long-distance travel plans for a while, but we have found there to be plenty of options available for local exploration, both right on our doorstep and a little further afield. From hidden coffee shops to hanok villages, Seoul and its surroundings have so much to offer, and our ‘pandemic silver lining’ is that we have been able to see just a little of this beautiful country without putting ourselves, or others, at risk.
Hannah, Middle School Individuals & Societies/Language & Literature 7, and Paul Rader, Director of Sports:
As it turns out, we had been planning on staying in Korea this past summer before we knew COVID-19 would be an issue. We were expecting our third child in late July, so we knew flying back home to the US in the summer wasn't really an option. We haven't been back in the US to see our families since the summer of 2018, and while we were sad at the thought of not being able to see and reconnect with our loved ones back home, we were also so excited about the new little addition to our family coming soon. Once the complications of a pandemic become a reality, an added bonus was that instead of spending the summer here alone, we were surrounded by our amazing school community. Our two older sons were able to partake in the incredible summer camp here at SFS (they did seven weeks!), and they had a blast! Additionally, in June, we were able to go on a trip to Seoraksan and Sokcho, a part of Korea I had never even visited despite living here in Korea for 12 years! Korea is an amazingly beautiful country, and we were in awe of the mountains and the coastal area the whole time. The air quality has been incredible this year, and we spent every moment we could in the great outdoors! Our little boy, Francis ("Frankie") was born at the end of the summer, and we couldn't be more thankful. He has brought us so much joy and hope during these times. While it's been a difficult year in many ways, we realize just how much we have to be thankful for.
AhYoung Chi, High School Head of College Counseling and Dave Han, High School Mathematics:
We weren’t in Korea this summer because we were moving [to Seoul], but we did not travel home like we normally do. Besides saying farewell to friends, we got to say farewell to Hong Kong, which we wouldn't have had the time to do if COVID-19 didn't get in the way. Definitely a silver lining!
- The Banner