Sunday, February 26, 2006


The last weekend of February was a strange and busy one, and March promises to be busier still. Saturday, February 25 was basically given over to the preschool graduation. I love how the time commitment miraculously expanded. When I originally heard about preschool graduation a couple of months ago, I asked what time on that Saturday it would be. They looked at me like I'd asked them to take me to the moon in a taxi. I assured them that on the contrary it was a reasonable question. Well, they said, "evening." I was thinking, 'Why? Why do we keep these poor kids up?' So many of our students, including even some of the preschoolers are already filled with activities that keep them going and studying and academy-ing 'til all hours.

I spent the next month or so asking for a specific time. I originally wanted to know because I'd thought I might be going to Seoul afterward and would have needed to make the last train time, but even after that plan was cancelled it became a matter of principle: it's really not that odd of a question. In each weekly foreign teachers' meeting when they said, "Any questions?" I would ask, "What time is preschool graduation?" Finally, they told me, "4 p.m. to 8 p.m."

One teacher I know from another school has now said they probably gave me an answer just to shut me up, and the evidence is on his side. After the last month of having 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in my head, and written on my little calendar, and making plans for the afternoon before the event as well as that night...suddenly a few days ago in our meeting they said, "OK, be here at 2 on Saturday." Two? What happened to four? Guess I'll cancel my plans for the early afternoon! Shortly after that, they came back and said oh, and we're having a staff dinner afterward. Argh! I mean, on the one hand, it is nice that they took us out to dinner after all the graduation festival madness, but it was just so typically hilariously Korean that no one else seemed remotely fazed by the fact that they all implied I was the crazy one for asking what time and asking were they sure. Of course I'd known they weren't sure! But in the end, from 2 p.m. on my soul was Ding Ding Dang's.

Rant aside, however, the festival went fine. The kids had been put through the paces rehearsing and it's actually pretty amazing all that they memorized. Some classes did better than others. My kids did their speeches all right, but they clammed up on ALL the songs. Something about being onstage under the bright lights with a crowd of real faces staring back unnerved them, I guess. Their restless, bratty, bold rehearsal behavior was out the window (if only that stuffy theater had any windows) and they froze. Each song was accompanied by a tape of the music, including vocals, but that's all you could hear was the voice on the tape. You could barely see anyone's mouths moving, even.

Backstage it was a marathon of getting each class in and out of each costume for their next play, song, or poem. The kids were pretty well behaved. I think they were wiped out. Sometimes we English Native Teachers helped with the costume changes, and sometimes we stayed out of the way watching the show in the auditorium and taking pictures. Or laughing amongst ourselves. I must tell you, even though it was just a silly little (or not so little) preschool graduation event, it was fun to be involved in a theatrical spectacle, as always, and I was excited for my kids to be involved in a production, complete with lights, curtains, makeup, dressing room, costume changes, scripts, and so on; I hope a love for theater has been born in one or two of them.

And for those of you on the edge of your seats, The Enormous Turnip went fine. The turnip that the Korean teacher made looked more like a leek, according to my Brit co-workers, so they were joking I'd have to change the script at the last minute. It was all pretty anti-climactic. That play came just past the halfway point of the show, so restlessness and fanning oneself with the program were at an all-time high.

At the end of the evening, they handed out diplomas, many pictures were taken, and then it was finished.

Dinner afterward wasn't bad. We went to a traditional Korean sitting-on-the-floor style restaurant for galbi beef and pork that's barbecued there at your table. So I just partook of salad and tofu and any vegetarian side dishes I could find and beer. A couple of the teachers were cool about trying to send more of the tofu toward our end of the table and procuring me some rice, so that was nice.

The kicker was that the beer and soju were freely flowing and people were getting completely liquored up! Not me, as I am so not fond of the soju, but some of the teachers including my favorite cool assistant director and a few others were definitely feeling no pain. So THEN a bunch of us went to the noraebang (karaoke room) and the director even went! and paid for a couple hours of singing and dancing and shaking and bouncing and slapping the tambourine. There was even some dancing on the tabletops. Again, not by me. I was just coolly coasting on my frosty beers and being entirely amused by the spectacle of my co-workers cutting so loose. GOOD times.

It was really, really nice to hang out with them as real people. Not everybody went. The two Brits and I went; the Canadian marrieds went home, as did some of the other Korean teachers. But lately I've been becoming more friend-like with some of the nicer KTs so it was good to have fun bonding times with them. Crazy fun.

Sunday was decidedly more mellow and included productivity and one of the most interesting conversations I've had in Korea. I'll try to get on the stick and write about it tomorrow...

1 comment:

Catherine_G said...

Hee. The Enormous Turnip could be retitled The Enormous Leek when it hits the British shores. ;)

And I am terribly disappointed to hear that you did not partake in any tabletop dancing. So sad, so very sad.