Sunday, May 26, 2013

체욕대회 ~~ Sports Day

May might be my new favorite month of the year, after my mom's visit, teachers day, and the soccer competition, last Friday brought with it even more fun, this time in the form of more sports and lots of goofy outfits.  After the bundle of fun last year  I knew what I was in for, but this time around I was even more excited as I was asked to join class 2-1 and be part of their team.  This meant I got to play the games AND wear the ridiculous outfits - what more could you ask for!? 

**Caution - this is a novel, but don't say I didn't warn you, but it's worth every second so please, read on**

I guess I was late to the games last year  because I didn't realize that each class performed a brief dance as they entered the sports grounds. Thankfully, this time around I arrived on time and was able to witness all the creative talent that exists at my school.  There was the obvious and expected Gentleman dance, a throwback to the Macarena, and all other kinds of entertainment.  

Gentleman including teacher involvement! 
STAFF for the days events 
Once everyone finished their performance everyone completed the "traditional korean stretching" honestly I didn't know that was a thing but it was choreographed to music and pretty similar to what I've seen at many of my races so yeah, I guess it's a thing.  Once the stretching commenced everyone too their seats and it was time for the games to begin.  The first event of they day was round 1 for the 800m relay, I was impressed with how fast some of these kids could go, especially considering the fact they were on dirt/gravel and some choosing to go shoeless. 

Class 2-2 boys: 민수, 지수, 종인 and behind them 성현, 승학 and 대한
엄형성 with his homeroom teacher 서헤진
this kid - he kills me
Anna and I, never looked better

Class 2-1 for the win! 
Up next was the semi-finals for the tug-of-war competition which unfortunately, my class was not a contender for.  The past two weeks at school have consisted of lots of practice time and first round matches.  Every lunch and dinner period was used for soccer and dodge ball matches, while class periods consisted of students begging to be let outside to prepare for the big day.  I, of course, gave in to these requests - let's be honest, i'd rather go play outside too (i'm still a kid).  Anyway, my team didn't fare too well in the first round matches leaving us as spectators for 줄다리기 [tug-of-war], 축구 [soccer] and 피구 [dodge ball] matches.  Not to worry though, I still had a good time observing, and it let me cheer for some of my other students.  

As the sun rose higher in the sky so did the temperatures, and before long it was time for my first event 3인 4각 달리기 [4 legged race]. Similar to the event many of you are probably familiar with, but Korea takes it one step further; instead of having two participants with one leg bound there are three, good luck to the person in the middle. For the event I was paired with 의찬 and 동현 and after a few practice rounds the days before the event I was confident in our team.

4 legged race teammates 
One of my best friend's 한솔 
류현정 - currently pregnant so I took her place for the day
I believe we made it look easy - came in 2nd overall.
After we finished our race it was time for me to take a break (although that really just consisted of more cheering and picture taking) during the next event.  This one, I was told, is a traditional Korean game called 놋다리 밟기, basically the entire class lines up in a row while one student runs across their backs, continuing like this for about 100m before turning and making their way back to the start. Last year I took part in the fun but this year they didn't ask and frankly I didn't feel much like volunteering. The first grade class was over and done within minutes and up next was my team, who unfortunately didn't fare too well.

organized chaos 
By this point the crowd was beginning to thin as some students wandered off in search of food, others were busy taking pictures and the rest either watching events or trying to catch a patch of shade.  For those interested the focus turned to the corner of the playground where the final 씨름 [traditional wresting] matches were taking place, yes you read that right, wrestling.  Some of the match-ups were tough, nearly ending in draws, while others were over in the blink of an eye.

Finally have a co-worker close to my age! 주연 and I 
I was invited by a few other teachers to join them for makgeolli (Korean rice wine) but politely declined as I opted to go sit in the sun and watch the finals soccer match.  I think some of the teachers find it odd how interested I am in the students, nearly every day at lunch i'm outside watching soccer, basketball or just talking with them, after all they are my friends at school, and to be honest, usually more fun than the teachers.  The game was a tough match-up between classes 2-6 and 2-7 both of which have some of my favorite boys, so it was hard to pick a team to cheer for.  The game was close until, with only about 2 minutes left, 대식 pulled out a goal earning class 2-6 the victory.

석호 taking a penalty kick 
After the game it was finally time for lunch but as I made my way towards the cafeteria I was intercepted by a few teachers who insist I first have some makgeolli.  I guess it's of note, as it's extremely different from the US culture, that most of the staff sat and ate/drank while the festivities went on.  The teachers table was a full spread of snacks, makgeolli, beer and even some soju; if you though people drink a lot in Wisconsin you should really come see what Korea's all about.  I didn't really want to make the random Anju my lunch, so I made my way into the cafeteria and boy am I glad I did.  On the menu was a delicious bibimbap and roasted chicken - quite possibly my favorite lunch at school.  I must have been hungry because i'm pretty sure I demolished my lunch in about 10 minutes; with lots of time to kill before the afternoon games began I made my way back outside.  I soon found myself on the soccer field with a few of my boys and was soon joined  by the principal who insisted I take some shots on him in the goal. 

It's been a while
The afternoon games were underway and before long it was time for my next event  - 단체출넘기 [team jump rope].  As our team gathered the rest of the class stood around to cheer us on, wishing us luck and many "화이팅!!!" chants. Before we started 류현정 told me, "Stephanie you can do it ~ get 50", umm good luck - while practicing I think we were lucky to hit 20!  Well, as I jumped and jumped and jumped some more my hope grew for our team; although I wasn't sure how the other teams were doing (my focus was solely on not #@$%ing up) I had a feeling we may come in first place, and I was right.  Just as she had requested/urged us to do, our team finished with 50 jumps and the first place position! 

All star jump-ropers 
The day finished with a few more tug-of-war battles, the finals for the 800m relay and last of all the staff/student/parent competition, for which I was lucky enough to be paired with the principal.  No one fully explained to me what we would be doing, only that it was a relay race and that there would be swimming fins involved, ummm sure. I soon came to find out 12 teams would run the relay, each wearing one fin on their foot, as we reached the turning point we'd have to eat candy from a powder covered plate, without using our hands of course, before returning to the finish. Basically it was just an opportunity to make us all look like idiots, but a lot of fun never the less.

This is the best picture of the day, hands down. I honestly can't even look at it without grinning, 
대식 seemed to be flying through the air 
After the rediculousness commenced it was time for the awards ceremony.  The top three teams for grade 1 and 2 were both awarded their prizes along with some awards for the most spirited teams.  A quick clean up effort and just like that the day came to an end (or so I thought).

One last picture with 의찬 
Some students quickly made their way home while others lingered for more picture taking and even some more basketball and soccer, as if they didn't have enough activity for one day.  I collapsed into my desk chair for a bit before making my way back out to talk with some of the kids that stuck around and was soon reminded by 민수 about the 삼겹살 (meat) party I was supposed to attend with his class.  Although I was exhausted and the idea of a cold shower and my bed sounded idea I instead changed my clothes, packed up my things and made my way upstairs to join them. 

민수 and I, such a good guy 
종인 another character from class 2-2
Minsu asked me "Teacher do you like man that can cook very well?"
So with samgyepsal you take the chunks of meat and wrap it up in a leaf of lettuce with various other fillings (garlic, mushrooms, onions, peppers, rice, etc) and then stuff it all in your mouth. I guess the students all wanted to help me out because I was literally being hand fed enormous amounts of food.  This was happening all over the room and soon turned into a game of "Who can trick someone into eating an extremely spicy, hot pepper filled, lettuce wrap".  After watching many students doubled over in pain and crying from the spice I remembered just how fun High School could be, I wanted to ask "Why do you keep eating them" but at the same time had flashbacks to HS and knew we would've done the same.  Soon everyone was full so it was decided that we should "walk it off" by played a round of running man (cops and robbers).  I kind of wanted to just fall to the floor and take a nap but that didn't  seem to be an option so around the school I went, in search of the bad guys. This continued for about an hours before we returned to the home ec room where the kids proceed to fire up the stoves and make more food, this time around it was ramen which was soon followed by pineapple for dessert. One thing I learned from the day - I miss having the metabolism of a high school student.

대한 'teacher let's take picture self camera'.
Impressed that I pulled of looking fresh (as Loudine told me)
considering I felt like I could fall asleep standing up at this point.
So if you're living in Korea and you think you're night is about to come to an end, guess again.  After a quick round of hallway soccer with some of my boys it was time for everyone's favorite part of the night, yep you guessed it, noraebang!  I seriously considered bailing and making my way home but soon realized that wasn't really an option.  After all, the students were all aware that I had just went to the noraebang with the principal the week before so it wouldn't really be fair if I didn't go with them as well.  They knew I was tired so put on the fake "it's okay if you don't come face" but when I yelled "ooookay 같치 가요 [let's go together] the excitement was evident. 

이충호 teacher kicked off the singing 
Of course no noraebang experience would be complete if the foreign teacher didn't sing so I was quickly given the task of picking my favorite pop song.  Honestly, I don't really have a favorite pop song, or my brain was too dead to think of one, so instead I opted for something I knew they could sing along to and before long I was singing (and dancing) to moves like jagger by Maroon 5.  The kids were clearly having a blast and I must admit, despite my tiredness, i'm glad I went.  My eyes were heavy, legs tired and head starting to pound (maybe too much sun that day) but I was falling, once again, in love with Korea. Just as I was getting ready to give up and call it a night Minsu told me "teacher last song" and of course we ended the night with one last "Gentleman" dance.  As we exited the noraebang the students repeatedly thanked me for joining them for the night, as did their homeroom teacher, saying "they would never forget these memories" which I of course echoed right back.  I started on my way home (in the opposite direction of everyone else) but was soon told to wait, as five of my boys ran to catch up, insisting that we go together - Buksam is a pretty scary place after all. 

Watch out for the scary, flower ajumma pants wearing Buksam gang, I hear they're pretty vicious. 
When I woke up at 6:15 that morning and started my day with some yoga I had no idea what was in store for me the rest of the day. I knew it'd be filled with lots of fun and laughter but the events that occurred blew my expectations out of the water.  Looking back on the day, both through pictures and memories I can easily say this is going to go down in the books as one of the best days i've spent in Korea so far.  As I often have pity for my students when I see them leaving school at 10pm, falling asleep in class due to pure exhaustion, trekking to hagwons on the weekend, and almost always in their uniforms, I'm glad I can also see them experience great amounts of joy on days like these.  Not only do these days give the students time to relax and unwind, it also gives me a day to connect with them, break down the student/teacher barrier and build some friendships, and for that I am grateful. 

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