Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sports Day in Korea

A candid shot taken by one of my kids

Today we'll be covering what Sports Day in Korea is like (similar to Field Day where i grew up).  We will tell this story through pictures.  Enjoy.

Decorated and ready to go

Prizes for the day

When I came to school I found this in the normally clear field in front of the school.  They had food trucks, new bikes as prizes and tents for parents and visiting officials everywhere.

  Now it's time for the actual sports day to start.  So our first sport is .... playing traditional korean percussion while marching in taekwondo uniforms??  Ok.  Why not!  It makes a good show for the parents.  Note that by now parents for nearly every child in the school were here along with the Vice Principals of every school in the area and half the nearby village.  This was becoming a serious event.



 For a while i just watched with the other English teacher at my school, Duncan (pictured in red).  Then we were called into action to ... catch shoes that where being kicked at us by our students?? Sure.  What the heck!

 Can you spot the foreigner among the parents?

And heave.  Can you guess which team won? (hint: look at everyone else on my team in the previous picture)


A few rounds of tug of war later (both parents vs parents and kids vs kids),  and a game of pass the giant ball up and down lines.  It was time for the main events the first of which was .... synchronized dancing??  Ok, a school full of kids dancing in front of the whole town it is!

Y .. M .. C .. A  (not really but wouldn't it be awesome if it was)

After the dancing, lunch and a round of karyoke concluded (yes even singing is a part of sports day here) it was time for the relay race.  First they had a parent race.  When the moms ran, it was cute.  When the dads ran, it was much more serious (and much funnier).  Then it was time for the main event.  A school wide relay race.  Everyone in the whole school participated.  Including me.

And I do mean everyone!  Look at how cute the kindergartners are!

Here Duncan and I are having a laugh before the race.

Standing side by side, awaiting our turn to run.

 And away he goes.  Note the feet.  It was slick and i was able to run better this way.

 After the race (which my team won!), it was time for the closing ceremony (where a random raffle gave presents to nearly every child there, including 8 brand new bikes) and then cleanup.  Being the big, strong guys that we are, Duncan and I were asked to do most of the heavily lifting.  We were happy to oblige.   We actually left school at the normal time.  But as you can see, this day was anything but normal :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Snorkeling on the south side of Jeju

This last saturday was wonderfully sunny and pretty hot.  For Jason, Tom, Jeb and I it was the perfect day to go snorkeling.  We hopped on a bus in the early afternoon and headed for Wehdlgay on the south side of the island.  When we arrived, we were delighted to find it even hotter and sunnier there.

From the left:  Jeb, Tom, Jason, island

We started by checking out the area from the rocks.  From there we decided to do some low level cliff jumping to enter the water.  Naturally we took pictures while doing this.  First i took shots as the other guys jumped in.  Mine looked like this.

Pretty cool right?

Then i gave the camera to Tom to take a picture of me while i jumped in.  His looked like this.

Try #1: ok that's a failure but at least it's close.  Surely he'll get it right on the next one.

Try #2:  And fail again!  But just look at that butt haha

He sort of got it on try number 3 but i'll spare you any more pictures like the last two for now.  After that we snorkeled around in the pool for a bit before moving out into the more open ocean.  The waves were choppy enough and the water murky enough that we didn't see all that much but it was still a great time.  Got a few more great pictures while sitting on the rocks, waiting for the sun to dry us off.

Jeb and Tom enjoying the view

Tom and Jason shortly after arrival

Chuckling about something

Being guys we then rounded out the day with pizza and a couple hours of basketball down at the public courts.  And we're considering doing it again this weekend and starting early.  Cause 3 hours of snorkeling and 2 more of basketball clearly is not active enough a day!

To that end, tomorrow at my school is Sports Day.  Much like field day where i grew up, sports day is filled with races, tug of war and other fun games.  I'm even being asked to participate in the relay race.  Unlike my field day though, sports day includes marching drum performances and entire school dance numbers.  Only in Korea :)

The view from our drying off seats

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chuseok: Korea's Thanksgiving

Ran out of new pics so I'm going to use a few old ones you haven't seen.

This week we celebrated Chusoek in Korea.  It is very much like the American Thanksgiving.  The celebration occurs over 3 days, with the middle one being the main day.  It is a time for getting together with family and friends for dinner.  The main difference is that watching football is replaced with drinking massive quantities of Soju (Korean liquor).  For me it meant a 4 day weekend :)

With just over a month left, my students continue to do a wonderful job amusing me.  Thursday, some of the 6th graders and I were playing games between classes when one of them punched my stomach.  Didn't hurt of course but the follow up comment almost did.  He got this surprised look, started poking my stomach and said "Oh Teacher, chocolate belly?"  For a moment I was almost offended, thinking to myself "I've been in the gym 3 times a week every week for the past few months and I do tons of walking.  I do not have a fat stomach!".  Seeing my confused expression another student translated.

Chocolate belly refers to the way a chocolate bar is divided.  Koreans use it to mean 6-pack.  Only in Korea would "chocolate belly" be a compliment!

Here is Hamdeok beach at night from the restaurant overlooking it 

 And a random flower picture for Mom and Granny

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer break flies by for teachers too

Jungmun Beach on a beautifully clear day.  Note the wave just breaking over the sand

As the title here implies, summer vacation is over for Korean schools and i'm back to full time teaching.  It feels like the summer has blown by in one pleasant whirlwind of beaches, gyms and friends.  It seems I have a talent for choose countries with great summers (and crappy winters).

King Sejong the Great, the ruler of Korea's ancient golden age in front of his main palace, Gyeongbokgung.  

And now i look up to find I have a month left.  Naturally this is bittersweet.  I'm definitely going to miss my kids and my friends here.  But the thought of another dull winter plus all the great things about travel and home definitely have me excited.  For the rest of the year i'll enjoy living in the moment.

King Sejong the Great is considered the best of Korea's kings and is viewed in much the same way as King Wenceslas is in the Czech Republic or King Arthur in Britain.

As an added bonus, this weekend is a 4 day weekend thanks to Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving.  Can't say I have any big plans for it but long weekends are always welcome.  And since pretty much every Korean who can find an open flight comes down to Jeju for Chuseok anyway, i'd say i'm in the right place.  Beaches, snorkeling and hiking are all possibly on the agenda.  For now enjoy these shots of the picturesque Jungmun and my recent trip to Seoul.

Admiral Yi Sun-Shin.  During the reign of King Sejong he defeated a Japanese naval force that outnumbered him 333 to 13 (yes you read those numbers correctly), thus saving Seoul from conquest.

As a final note, we have another weekly winner of the "I have no idea what my shirt means" contest.  This time it was one of my 2nd grade girls who's shirt read "Girl friends are fun.  Men friends are funner."  I swear someone has to making these things on purpose to amuse themselves.

Because of this tremendous accomplishment and other brilliant victories that led to the Japanese being expelled, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin now has a statue in the plaza with King Sejong leading to Gyeongbokgung. (you can see both the palace the golden statue in the background)