Waegukin - living and teaching in Korea

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Teaching Stories 

Wintery Sunday Afternoon – Bonggok-dong

Back in Korea. I missed a blizzard and the country turned white in my absence.

A couple of months ago a family of kittens arrived in the vacant lot I cut through on my way to the bus stop. Korea’s has a combination of advanced and primitive garbage collection laws: all foodstuffs must be seperated for recycling, but then they are merely dumped in a large pile on a street-corner, and this means there is a feral cat problem. All the cats, I was told, have diseases, but of course I tried to befriend the family of kittens anyway. I was unsuccesful. They always ran off when I approached, no matter how much I tried to fascinate them with twigs scratched erratically across the ground. Over the weeks they grew, and eventually scattered.

This afternoon I found one dead in the snowbank by the side of the road. It was half-grown and very thin. I don’t know why it died: the cold, hunger, a car. And it wasn’t my pet, and I won’t say it filled me with grief, but I’d watched it play, and watched its mother hunt for scraps in the rubbish-piles, and I felt bad that it was dead, and bad because it seemed to represent a feeling that had been with me since I got back to Korea yesterday. Read more