Sorry, its been quite some time since I last posted. I got too caught up and busy. Since chuseok, its been quite an eventful ride. I was able to attend the children’s athletic day, go on a field trip with my school to the Daegu animal park, attend the Andong mask festival, film for a movie clip contest and travel to Busan for a weekend to visit the beautiful city and an old friend!
So hopefully this post shall make up for lost time.
I didn’t know what to expect when my mentor teacher (Elly) told me that the children would be having athletic day and that there would be no school. Since Elly probably thought that since I didn’t have to teach, I didn’t want to come to school. She didn’t directly invite me to come to athletic day, so I asked her if it was okay for me to come and watch the children participate. She was shocked that I wanted to come but overall also pretty happy. I thought the kids would probably compete in just a few sports (including jump roping) and that it’d be half day event. To my surprise, it was actually a very large event. The even started to take place at the start of school and the whole school was decorated on the outside with flags, tents, and even vendors that came to sell candy, food and prizes. The place was flooded with people, I had never seen my school so packed before! When I arrived all the children ran up to greet me warmly and were also shocked to see me there. Nonetheless it made me super excited that the kids were excited to see me and I was excited to see them. The children and all there moms, dads, grandmothers and grandfathers were there! It was super exciting.
Basically between each grade there were relay races of all different kids. They weren’t necessarily all sorts of sports that we would of found to be “athletic” back in America. Like some of the tasks were to make an announcement and such. It was so funny to watch all my children participate actively and shout their chants. The most amusing part of the whole thing was that even all the parents, teachers and grandmas and grandpas were also actively participating They had a few games (such as tug of war) where it’d been parents against teachers, and relay races and even silly games for all the grandparents. For prizes, the were giving away bars of soap, rolls of toilet paper, tissue boxes and other odd sorts of inexpensive household needs for all winners. haha I got a few rolls of toilet paper and soap myself.
It was highly amusing to watch and the some of the kids even pulled me in as well to join in their relay races which made it super fun! This was such a big even that it was big enough for other principals from other schools to come and see our athletic day and just watch the games and the city officials to come as well. They were treated as our special guests and during lunch time, all the moms made us such special lunches. The teachers and the “officials” all got seated in the school cafeteria where there was fruit, appetizers, beer, chocolates and snacks of all kind. The lunch was super good and they even gave larger portions. I found it quite amusing that they kept serving beer during lunch, of course I didn’t have any of it but all the “officials” kept drinking. Haha I personally felt that they were really only there for the free food and booze cause soon after lunch, they had all left. The last event they had which was the principal’s idea, was very interesting. (FYI Karen if you’re reading this, you’re not going to like it!) They had all the students gather around and sit in circles and brought out all these balloons, one for each child. When I saw this happening, it reminded so much of the movie UP. My mentor teach was telling me during this process that when the principal wanted this last event, she explained that lots of teachers were not happy about this cause it is harmful to the environment but I guess the principal didn’t care… then again, I don’t think any of the teachers are too fond of our new principal.. Anyways, so the principal told all the children to make a wish and then let go of the balloon at the same time so all the children made a wish and then let go of all the balloons at the same time. I must admit it was kinda pretty cool looking but then again all i could keep thinking was like… this is absolutely horrible for the environment! But yes, that was pretty much the gist of athletic day.
I was super lucky this week, the week after Chuseok. I only had to teach 3 days since we had athletic day and the school field trip. I was so excited for this field trip. As Elly described it to me, we’d be going on a field trip with the younger grades (k-3). It was considered as their school picnic and we’d have it in Daegu at something that was like the zoo but not the zoo… It was considered a park she said When she said that, I was pretty confused cause all I could imagine was a zoo when she said that there were animals. So I arrived early in the morning at school and they had all these very nice charter buses lined up and I hadn’t realized that the whole school was going on a field trip somewhere. The 4th graders when to Andong for the mask dance festival and the 5th and 6th graders went to another city to go check out a very big science museum. Anyways, once again, all the kids were super shocked to see me going on the field trip with them but again very excited.
Upon arrival, we get to this beautiful park and its so large. At first it just looked to me like a really nice, well kept park (kind of like central park) but when we started walking to the right of it, on the outskirts of the park you see this huge caged field and in the field there is randomly reindeers, mooses, llamas, alpacas, ostriches, zebras, (all the horse looking animals!) It was seriously one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. Haha I think I was definitely much more excited than the children to see so many random animals placed in one area. and then you keep walking and there are just all these random exhibits of all these other things such as: wolves, owls, eagles, vultures, chimpanzees, cranes, chickens, peacocks, lions, bears, elephants, monkeys… even GUINEA PIGS!! (that one made me laugh) it was all so well hidden too that from looking at the park, you would have never thought that there’d be animals there. This was all free too, open to the public and I kept thinking to myself that it was pretty much like a zoo and back in America, you’d definitely have to pay money to see something such as this. Not only was this place a park and a zoo but it also had a historical museum and hiking trails because the whole park was on top of old castle ruins so it was quite the impressive park to me! I loved it though walking through the park with Elly and my health teacher. They have definitely become like my Korean mommies here, always taking care of me and looking after me. We even discussed of plastic surgery plans for the scars on my face.
We had a picnic as well and it was funny cause it was interesting to see the difference in how our schools have picnics and how Koreans have picnics. since it was mostly dirt grounds, all the mothers packed for their children these mats that they fold up and open up and put on the ground then the children take off their shoes and sit on the mats and eat together. they all had their lunch boxes all packed nice and cute filled with kimbab (like sushi rolls) and would share their food like potluck style. Comparing their lunches to one another, seeing whose mother was greater. Then for us teachers, it was so sweet. the moms of the trip apparently always pack lunches for the teachers and they packed it all sooo nicely, like they had ordered it but the moms all made it freshly for us. There was many delicious things and though of everything, packed newspaper for us so that we could lie it on the picnic table and benches so we didn’t actually have to sit or eat off the table. Haha I told Elly how it was funny cause they yelled at me when I tried to sit down without the newspaper on the bench and that we didn’t understand what each other were trying to do.
After the park we drove and stopped at a very cool war memorial site and it was nice to see all the beautiful things they did for the memorial. ON the bus ride back, the teachers handed out snacks to the children. These were LEGIT snacks too. fresh pastry from the bakery, cans of gatorade, juices, cookies, crackers. oh gosh it was all so yummy- another cultural difference I noticed, one that I really like! All the korean teachers here are also basically like Korean mommies here too to all the children. its funny because the relationship between the teacher and student is also very much like mother and child! They take care of everything for the children and basically talk to them and kinda treat them like their own children to but the children here are still very independent… I can’t really describe it..
Andong mask festival: (just fyi, at this point haha its taken me about 2 days to write this much so far..)
Andong, hmm well this was lots of fun as well! We got to meet up wtih soem good friends that we haven’t seen awhile and by we ( i mean my friends julie, katie, marshall, olivia, lauren and sarah) and we stayed with our good friend Savannah. It was so nice to see another city and the differences between the city. It was kinda like Gumi.. but smellier… haha that was definitely one of the first things I noticed about Andong, not the nicest smelling of places. So the festival started off with not too bad of weather. We got to go and enjoy most of the festival without rain. There was just streets lined up full of vendors and all sorts of different things such as games, clothing, food, household needs, dollar items and of course masks. To my surprise though, there was not as much “mask” stuff as I thought that there would be. We got to make some masks with this fun balls of stuff which kinda acted like play doh but was not as nasty as play doh. Anyways yes, you buy this kit and it seriously, sadly actually took us over an hour to make the mask but the end result was nice. Then Julie Katie and I roamed around a little more and earlier I was able to go with Lauren and Sarah and try Andong’s infamous soju. Apparently their soju content is much higher than regular soju. So we gave it a free sample. Tasted like rubbing alcohol… so I bought a bottle. haha I figured it’d be a good present. I also bought these cute and yummy chocolates that were in the shape of the andong masks. Katie got her face painted with these cute and pretty cherry blossoms and it was fun to watch her get it done. Later on while it started raining, we met up with John and Marshall and go to tour the rest of the festival. It was fun because we did get to witness a few of the shows and see some mask dances! Later on, we met up with everybody else to go and eat Andong’s famous dalk (chicken) it was spicy but super yummy!! A big huge pot and all this delicious food cooked together. It was a fun experience because there was about 10 of us that go to sit and eat dinner together. Then we got to meet up with even more people from the program later where we all went out for drinks. It was nice to see some good old friendly faces, we were like a mob of people, there was about 30 or more of us. Overall, very good and happy times spent in Andong :)
This was also a very fun trip- I got to see an old friend since middle school, Curt, who also now lives here in Korea and is teaching here. I think its so bizarre how life turns out- where you run into people you have known for some time and end up with bizarre situations! Anyways, it is sooo beautiful there! Katie, Julie and I went and checked out Jagalchi seafood market and it is loads and loads of seafood. It is unlimited and it is sooo cheap here compared to back in the States. It was so nice because we were right by the harbor so it was nice to see the ships come in and bring the fresh catches of the day. We were able to enjoy a nice and tasty meal at a nearby local korean restaurant where we had a big pot of spicy hot seafood with all sorts of seafood imaginable! Then later on we went and met up with Curt and his friend Romy. This happened to be the Busan International Film Festival week and they were playing all these movies that you could go and buy a ticket for and they were aired in public places. There were just massive crowds of people everywhere! It was so exciting to meet up with Curt and Romy and they took us to beautiful Haeundae beach where the sand is sooo beautiful its like soft smooth pebbles, doesn’t hurt your feet and the beach is so clean and clear. It was just absolutely magnificent. The weather was perfect and we arrived just around sunset so the horizon was gorgeous. There were beautiful sand carvings of famous Korean celebrities and people lined up to see the beach and all the different tents of events. As we walked on, we were able to see the different things at the tents. Some had free beer and makgoli (like their rice beer basically) that they were giving away which was pretty cool. Then when Curt and I went to look for Romy and their friend Brett we spotted them at something what we thought looked like an interview. I wasn’t paying close attention and curt grabbed my arm and goes, “Oh my gosh! Debbie that’s William Dafoe” haha and since Andy knows how big of a movie buff I am, of course I thought to myself- cool, that’s William Dafoe, I have no clue who that is. Haha and then Curt goes, “the green goblin from Spiderman!” haha so then of course I really did freak out and I was like OH MY GOSH! That’s William Dafoe! So then we all ran down and watched William Dafoe and some European actress in a Korean interview. Apparently the woman actress was the lady who played Satan in the passion of Christ. Which I found to be quite ironic because the new movie they were making together is called the Antichrist. haha EITHER WAY, it was actually quite painful and shameful as an American to watch Dafoe through the interview.
The interview went along the lines like this:
Korean interviewee to Dafoe: “what are some of the Korean or Asian movies that you have seen? What are some of the cultural differences you see in the different roles that are played?”
Dafoe: “well, I haven’t seen very many Korean movies but I have seen a few.”
Interviewee: “What are some of the names of the movies you have seen?”
Dafoe: “well I can’t remember the names of them, but Anita (don’t know the actress’ real name so that’s my pseudonym for her) here has seen quite a few and I’m sure she could tell you some.
…. haha like what the freak. You’d think you’d study a bit about the country’s movies or stuff before you come for an interview and even if you didn’t… you’d of course pin it at your co-worker…. anyways, it was definitely a bit embarrassing. So after that we went back to Curt’s place where he lives inside the haegwan (like private schools) that he teaches in with his friend Brett. It was definitely interesting and cool to actually see inside one of the Haegwans. At night we were able to go up to the rooftop and look over the city since he lived on top of a mountain and it overlooked the city. It was just so beautiful at nice to see all the lights and the city down below. The next day we took a trip to Shinsagae which is apparently the world’s largest department store. It was soooo big. It had 14 floors I believe, and its own ice rink. We were able to just browse through the store and skate on their rink for 2 hrs. It was a crazy experience since we had to go through so much just to ice skate there. It turned out to be quite pricey in my opinion because not only did you have to pay for entrance fee and rentals and such but you also had to purchase gloves if you did not have any (they were mandatory on ice) and also socks (which Julie unfortunately didn’t- also mandatory, but totally glad it is..) and then you also had to wear a helmet. You were not allowed on ice without either of those items no matter your skill level. I thought it was super interesting and funny but we all dressed up and look like goons but it was a lot of fun! It also amuses me that here in Korea to go swimming you must wear a cap, have goggles and even wear like pretty much all clothing. People cover up a lot here, not too much skin! Overall, it was a very good weekend in Busan. Loved the city and definitely woudln’t mind going back :)