Pictou County portal opens in Seoul, Korea

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was submitted to The Advocate by Pictou County son, Andrew MacLachlan)

When Jonathan Pratt opens up with the first lines of Barrett’s Privateers, there’s a grin on his lips and an expectant look in his eyes. He knows he has started something that can’t be ignored and he knows he has back-up. In fact, he has three other Pictou County boys as back-up.

“Not a surprise,” you are thinking to yourself.

Would you be surprised if “Jon-oh” and the boys were in a pub in some tourist trap overseas? Maybe not. Bluenosers tend to find each other out when they’re away.

What if I were to tell you that the four men are sitting around the teacher’s table in the cafeteria at Dwight School Seoul, a leading international school, where all four are employed as professional educators? And, to make things more interesting, none of them knew the others were there until they arrived.

Jonathan Pratt, son of Susan and Joel Pratt of Greenhill or Alma (depending on the day or the wind) has been in Korea the longest, since 2005. He is teaching design technology in the school’s “Makerspace” and co-ordinating the middle school’s Personal Projects. He’s the one who is always ready with a Maritime tune. Now he is raising a family there — twin boys.

Tristan Roddick, son of Vonda and Darrell Roddick of Westville, and partner Jill Briand (of Halifax) arrived in 2013. He is teaching social studies and higher level geography. She is teaching biology and winces when Tristan starts to sing. They have been international travellers for many years. A big man with an even bigger personality, Tristan leads by example and spends lots of energy in building community. Don’t ask about the Hawaiian shirts he wears on Fridays!

Gavin Collier, son of Liz and Dan Collier of Stellarton, arrived with his partner Jessica in Seoul last August. They held previous teaching positions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and various other international postings over the years that have somehow come full circle to Korea. He is teaching middle and high school mathematics in a country with very high expectations. No pressure there, my son! And he does his best to make sure Jonathan doesn’t break into song. It’s a lost cause.

Andrew MacLachlan, son of Susan and Dr. James MacLachlan of the Caribou Shore, Pictou, arrived in August as well. His wife and daughter have stayed back in Lennoxville, Que., for the year as he starts out. Andrew, or “Mac”, is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme co-ordinator and is also teaching senior level history. He has seen work all over the world in nine different countries and five different continents. Mac wears his kilt to school every payday. It’s tradition. And somewhere in his new apartment are electronic bagpipes that deserve more attention. Some day, maybe he’ll be good enough to join his dad in the Na Gaisgich Pipe Band and play outside the deCoste Centre. Some day.

A life lived working as an expatriate every day far away from home has its challenges and rewards. One of the rewards is the friendships that develop. Another reward is the fun or sometimes silly or bizarre experiences that one encounters almost every day. The fact that there are several men who can call out “Iron Men, Wooden Boats!” in the hallways of this school is uncanny. The rest of the international staff at Dwight School Seoul have embraced the fact that some magical portal has opened up and deposited four characters from the same patch of Nova Scotia earth into their midst. All will acknowledge that the school and community is richer for their presence. Or maybe they have just surrendered to the dogged power of Nova Scotian pride.

It is pretty much every lunch that there are at least two of the Maritimers at the same table. Invariably, one of them claims a Pictou County quorum and conversation shifts to hurricanes, summer festivals, pizza politics, fishing, hockey and “Home”. The bystanders stare with forks or chopsticks frozen mid-air and with bemused looks of both confusion and fascination on their faces.

That adventuring spirit that brought Scottish settlers and adventurers to Pictou County in the first place hasn’t disappeared for many of its sons and daughters. Some have left the nest for adventures that take them far away. But it’s nice to be able to look around the table, any table no matter where you are, and see that familiar twinkle in the eye or a knowing smile that tells you… you are home and with friends.

With love to all our connections in Pictou County, from Seoul, South Korea.

“…It’s been six long years since we sailed away

And we just made Halifax yesterday…

God damn them all!

We were told, we’d cruise the seas; for American gold

We’d fire no guns, shed no tears!

We’re four broken men on a Halifax pier,

The last of Barrett’s Privateers”

Link to Dwight School Seoul: https://www.dwight.or.kr/