Sunday, July 12, 2009

Korea trip – Day 12: Middle school days

After the tiring events of yesterday, we could have used a later start to today. It wasn’t to be, as we had an 8:30 meeting with all the other families on the trip. We all had a chance to talk about what our best day on the trip has been. For us, I think it was the visits to the sites in Busan and Miryang City on Day 10. For me, seeing those places and people who were important to the kids early lives was incredibly meaningful.

After the meeting, we headed to the Seoul National University Middle School for Girls. After an introduction by the school principal and members of the student council, we were shown a Powerpoint presentation on the school. I was personally hoping I could get through my vacation without seeing a Powerpoint presentation, but this one was actually pretty informative and gave us a nice overview on the school.

Next we were treated to a couple of performances by the school’s students. First was a performance by several students on the Gayageum, a traditional Korean instrument with 12 strings. Think a really long guitar that rests on the floor when you play. Next the student chorus sang “Dancing Chunhyang”, a song based on a traditional Korean legend. Both performances were very nice, and the girls were very talented.

We then went to the art room, where each of the kids was paired with a student and made a saucer using Korean Hanji paper. The kids had a lot of fun making them and interacting with the students. I’ll post a picture on the Flickr site.

One thing that was amazing was the amount of news coverage. There was a TV crew there and photographers from several newspapers. Between parents and reporters, I don’t think I have ever seen so many people snapping pictures.

When we walked out onto the courtyard, there was lots of waving and giggling from the students, proving that middle school girls in Korea aren’t much different from those in the United States. A group of them gathered around J. for pictures. I keep telling him that’s he’s “popular with the ladies,” which he finds very funny.

We had lunch in the school cafeteria. The food (rice, kim-chi, kim-chi soup, and roasted chicken) was a lot better than what I remember getting in the school cafeteria. After that, we had a tour of the school and then it was time to head back to the hotel.

We had a few hours off until the next event, so we rested a bit and took a cab over to a local bookstore. J. has become very interested in learning Korean, and has actually taught himself much of the Hangul alphabet on the Internet. We bought him a couple of Korean Manga books, and were able to find R. a copy of a book she had lost on the train yesterday.

Once we got back to the hotel, we got ready for our host family visit. This was arranged by Holt with a volunteer family who would take us to their home and feed us dinner, then take us back to the hotel. We had been a bit nervous about doing this, and had actually considered not doing it at all at one point. However, we decided that it would be fun and educational to go into a real Korean family’s home.

We ended up in the apartment of a very lovely family in Seoul. The father is an engineer with Hyundai, the mother stays home and they have a nine-year-old son. Both parents spoke good English, although the boy didn’t speak more than a few words. It didn’t really matter though, as the kids got along really well, playing games that didn’t really require verbal communication.

They had a nice apartment, and I got an opportunity to see a real kim-chi refrigerator. This is a refrigerator tuned to keep kim-chi fresh longer. It was a lot bigger than I expected – it was roughly the size of a stand-alone freezer.

Dinner was delicious. They kept it simple in deference to our American palates, which was greatly appreciated by us. We chatted while the kids played and had a really wonderful time with these folks. The evening was one of the high points of the trip and I’m very glad we decided to go ahead with it. I hope we’ll see them again if they ever travel to the U.S. or when we return to Korea.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Korea before flying home on Friday. More later!


At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was really interesting reading about your trip. Thanks for sharing some details. Wondering if the people in your group were people you knew, or people from all over the country. Are there any Korean language schools near where you live? Do you make any Korean dishes at home? It's great that you waited until the children were old enough to appreciate the trip and also to remember it later in life.


Ruth and Harry


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