Monday, 27 December 2010

My 5 minutes of (semi) fame

My school has a rather nice TV and audio broadcasting suite that I get to use every week and that hosts a student radio broadcasting club so I'm told. Usually, on Thursday and Fridays mornings, I have to come into school early to do an English audio broadcast to the whole school called "Morning Class" which is a kind of annoying as I hate getting up any earlier than normal. Also, there always seems to be some kind of problem with it - either the sound doesn't work or the video we have to show to the students doesn't work - always something and everyone in the whole school gets to hear it when it goes wrong and presumably they connect the screw ups with me, the token English teacher. Oh well, what can you do. I have no control over the technical aspects of the broadcast, I'm just there to provide a native speaker voice so I've learnt to just accept the farcical screw ups that happen every week and try to see the funny side.

I'd never even realised that it was possible to do TV broadcasts too until, in my last week of normal classes before school broke up for the winter vacation, I found out that I had to host a short morning program on my school's internal TV channel. I have to admit that I wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of being on TV at 8.30am with the prospect of having to overcome all kinds of technical hitches but I suppose that's the price you pay for fame. The program was a chance to showcase some of the best performances from the previous week's English Storytelling and Pop Song Contest. The contest was pretty entertaining. I was one of the three English teachers (the other two were Korean English teachers) who acted as the judging panel. We had to mark each team's performance on fluency, pronunciation and showmanship. We were showered with handfuls of chocolates by kids competing in the contest in an attempt to bribe us which was quite funny. There were about 10 teams who entered from the 1st and 2nd grades and some performed English pop songs while others told stories in English. Most of the students gave really impressive performances with good pronunciation and excellent fluency. Some of them had even made props for their performances which was a nice touch. We even had a seasonal Christmas pop song from one team which was kind of nice considering Christmas isn't really a big deal over here though as I had to listen to it repeatedly the day before at rehearsals I was a bit sick of it by the time of the actual contest. I started thinking to myself that all I really wanted for Christmas was to never hear that bloody Mariah Carey song ever again. Bah humbug!

This girl was the overall winner of the competition. She did an excellent recital of one of Aesop's fables, "The gold ax and the silver ax", complete with handmade props, fake mustaches and different voices!

One of my favourite performances though was one of the worst. Two 2nd grade girls gave a spirited performance, singing some American pop song, but their English was terrible, they were pretty badly out of tune and they didn't seem to know any of the words except for the chorus but they gave it their all and really got into it. One of the girls was even doing some air guitar! However, one of the Korean English teachers wrote on the comments section of her score sheet "They seem to be enjoying themselves" - ouch! That really cracked me up - I must be an evil person!

The winning teams all got cash prizes of varying sizes, 40,000 won for 1st place I think (abut 25 quid), and we thought that was the end of it. But no, next week it turned out that three of the best teams would have to perform on school TV so all their peers could watch them - a terrifying prospect for young teenagers I'm sure. Unsurprisingly, it was difficult to get any volunteers for the TV program as apparently many of the winners were worried that they would get laughed at by their peers for speaking English well. One of my co-teacher told me this bullying of kids with good English skills is quite a big problem in Korean schools but I suppose the same could be said for kids with good French in British schools - I'm sure they would get laughed at or seen as a teacher's pet too. Luckily, one of my colleagues had the stellar idea of persuading the students into doing it by telling them that they would have to give their prizes back if they didn't. This had the desired effect and on a chilly Thursday morning three of the teams gathered in the broadcasting studio and sat around looking fairly petrified while I tried to cheer them up with a bit of clowning around. I was pretty nervous too to be honest but it all went well, no technical hitches for once, and the kids did a great job.

She was really nervous but did a great job singing "Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson - a horrible song in my opinion but, luckily for the competing teams, I wasn't allowed to judge based on whether I liked their song or not!

These three girls did a really nice performance of the fable "The town mouse and the country mouse" and they'd drawn these scenes themselves to illustrate different parts of the story.

The girls standing in front of the camera with the Korean flag just behind them and off to the side a little. The two girls on the sides look pretty nervous but they were fine once they were talking.

Me playing the role of host and trying not to look as foolish as I felt - and failing miserably!

Our cheerful and very professional camera crew! I think they were drawn from the school's broadcasting club.

The best thing of all though, was that this ended up being my last morning broadcast of the year as we didn't have to do one on Friday as that was the last day of term. Hurray - no more rushing to school for Morning Class at least another 3 months!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Free Korean class and Gyeongbokgung Palace

Weekends have been a little different round our way recently. Back in October, our British neighbours downstairs finished their contract and went back home and they were replaced by a nice Canadian couple. Our new neighbours wanted to learn some Korean and were going to free morning classes on Saturdays in Seoul so we ended up going along too. I have to admit at this point that we stopped going to our Korean Hagwon (private academy) after 2 months as we were fed up with having to make the long journey to Bundang twice a week through heavy traffic and we weren't really enjoying the course. So this free class seemed like an ideal alternative.

The free Korean classes are apparently run by volunteers, young guys and gals who want to get some teaching experience on their resumes. They do a great job, really focussing on getting the pronunciation correct and going at a steady pace so that you have time to really absorb what is being taught. Despite the fact that we've already been learning Korean we went with our neighbours to the super beginners class just to really reinforce what we already know. Our new favourite Korean word is 고구마 (goguma) meaning sweet potato just because it sounds funny if you say it in a silly voice! We get a short talk on some aspect of Korean culture at each class too which is interesting. We found out the other day that kimchi (Korean spicy fermented cabbage) might be able to cure cancer which was a bit of a revelation! I think we have finished the super beginners class now and should hopefully be starting the beginners class in the new year. Our Korean is still shockingly poor but I think we're at the stage now where we understand what people are saying when they're speaking to small children or their dogs so it's a start at any rate! The only drawback is that the free classes are at 10am to 12pm on Saturday mornings and are in Gangnam in Seoul which is an early start for the weekend but they are completely free. The classes we were taking at the Korean Hagwon were pretty expensive which is another reason why we quit them. Finishing at midday is a good excuse to go to Dos Tacos for some tasty burritos too, which is never a bad thing! Also, having a reason to get up early (we have to leave our apartment at 8am) and get into Seoul gives us the impetus to actually start exploring our new capital city, something we have done shockingly little of so far.

On a very cold, windy Saturday afternoon in late November we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace in Northern Seoul after our Dos Tacos lunch. Gyeongbokgung translates into English as the "Palace of Shining Happiness" and it was first built way back in the 14th century and was the largest palace in Seoul. Unfortunately, as with many of the great cultural buildings in Korea, it was nearly destroyed by the Japanese government during the Japanese occupation of Korea. According to Wikipedia "From 1911, the Japanese government systemically demolished all but 10 buildings during the Japanese occupation of Korea and ultimately constructed the Japanese General Government Building for the Governor-General of Korea in front of the throne hall." Since the late 1980s, the Korean Government have been restoring the palace and there's now about 40% of the original buildings standing again. It is still a pretty big palace complex so it must have been huge back before the occupation.

Inside the Gyeongbok Palace complex. The building in the centre is Geunjeongjeon Hall, the Throne Hall, where the King would greet foreign envoys and ambassadors.

Close up of Geunjeongjeon Hall (Throne Hall). Apparently this building is Korea's National Treasure No. 223. I don't know why but the National Treasure numbering system here really tickles me!

We witnessed the changing of the guards while we were visiting the Palace. It was a very colourful ceremony, with a band of musicians in bright period costumes playing traditional instruments accompanying the guards with their beautiful banners.

Guards at the entrance to the Palace. Note the nicely painted ceiling of the gate and the Throne Hall in the background.

If you looked back out of the main entrance gate you got an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new with the towering buildings and heavy traffic outside.

An ornate drum just inside the Palace complex, near the gate.

The beginning of the changing of the guard ceremony. The guards' costume included long bird feathers in their caps which I thought made them look a bit like owls.

Some of the beautiful banners being carried by the guards.

Guards marching out into the courtyard.

All the guards formed up into ranks in the main courtyard. It was a pretty incredible sight with the mountains rising up behind them.

The band of musicians formed up and ready to march. The music sounded very strange to my Western ears but I liked it. It sounded extremely "Eastern" (to me anyway) with lots of rhythmic percussion and an odd, thin, reedy sounding wind section.

The wind section, replete with my favourite instrument of the lot, the giant conch shell!

The percussion section, including the bizarre looking instrument on the right.

Cymbal bashing.

There seemed to be a few ceremonies being staged for the tourists at the Palace that day. I think another one was a recreation of members of the Joseon Dynasty era (1392–1897) Royal Family going out on a trip accompanied by their guards, musicians and other servants. That was very colourful too and had everyone snapping away like mad on their cameras and with this being Korea, home to a population seemingly obsessed by taking pictures of everything (most people here seem to have digital slrs rather than the standard compact point and shoot cameras), it was a hell of a snap fest so to speak!

A recreation of the Royal court preparing to depart on a trip (I think!).

We had arrived a bit too late for the English speaking tour of the Palace complex so we just wandered around on our own armed with a map. I don't think we really did justice to the Palace and all the other royal buildings as it was so cold that day we rushed round it rather quickly. I think if we had visited on a slightly more pleasant day it would have been a really nice place to stroll around as there were pretty extensive grounds including a lake stretching out behind the main palace buildings and it's surrounded by craggy hills (or mountains - not sure if they're too big to be hills) that rise suddenly up from the ground as hills often do here. We did look around the main sights though and we used the toilets in the National Folk Museum (located in the Palace grounds) though I don't think that counts as properly looking around it! Maybe we can try again in Spring!

A traditional bowl shaped sun dial in the Palace complex.

A Korean tour guide armed with a novelty stick topped with a white foam hand commands the attention of her audience.

Gyeonghoeru, the Royal Banquet Hall, was used to hold important state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty era.

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, was a small, two-story hexagonal pavilion built in 1873 with a little bridge leading out to it.

Part of the roof of the National Folk Museum of Korea.

An ornate building (perhaps a well or a bell pavilion) located just outside the Palace that has become a sort of traffic island. I liked the way it was oddly juxtaposed with the new skyscrapers.

One of the only pieces of graffiti we've seen in Korea was just outside the Palace complex.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Thank you for your listening

Recently I spent a fortnight conducting speaking tests at my school, I originally thought great, a whole two weeks when I won't have to do any thing except sit back and listen to the kids speaking. Of course it turned out not to be as easy or fun as that! Within a few hours I was bored stiff of hearing the same stilited answers over and over again or of trying to drag any kind of English at all from a depressingly high number of students.

I'd first done some speaking tests a week or two after we arrived in Korea. I was told there were a few students who had been absent during the previous tests just before I arrived. I was just told to ask them a few questions and then give them a grade from their answers. Having only been teaching for just over a week and not having any idea what they had been asked in the previous test or how they had been marked I was more than a little apprehensive about the whole thing. Luckily the two students I had to test were pretty easy to grade and I gave them both a B.

When it came to organising my own speaking tests 6 months later I got little more guidance in how to arrange the test. I was just asked to put together some questions about the last few chapters and ask each student a selection of three or four of them. I created an unecessarily complex grading system which awarded marks for vocabualry, fluency, grammar and listening then combined them into a A-E grade. In common with most Korean testing the system was heavily weighted towards the top marks and the only way it was possible to score E was not to speak any English at all.

The tests were filled with highs and lows from the depressing moments when I got blank looks to such taxing questions as "How are you?" or "What is your name?" to the highs where I started to get invovled in deep discussions with the more able students. The best fun moments of the tests though were the unintentionally funny answers, a couple of which I had to try hard not to laugh at. Some of the best included: "What is your dream job?" "Chicken" and my personal favorite "What are the paralympic games" "Starcraft?" (A very popular computer game in Korea).

Overall the answers seemed to be a mix between the depressingly bad and impressively good, not many seemed to fall in the middle ground.

Sophie also did speaking tests at her school recently although hers were set up differently to mine. The kids at her school had to prepare a short speech about what they wanted to do on their winter vacation and give 3 reasons (often pronounced "lesions") why they want to do that. And they always, always had to finish it with "Thank you for your listening". That's what they've been instructed to say by their Korean English teachers - head-smackingly frustrating but what can you do. Apparently, it's a bit of a memory test really and in common with my tests it's impossible for the kids to fail. The lowest mark they could get was 16 out of 40 and they only got that if they didn't speak any English at all. Of course most of the kids just stumbled through a short speech about how they wanted to visit their grandmother's house for winter vacation because "grandmother is funny", "I can play computer games" and "grandmother gives me many money'. Failing that, their reasons might be "my grandparents have more TVs than in my house" or on a nicer note "I want to see my cousins and play snowball fight with them". So most of the answers were pretty basic and places they wanted to go varied from grandmother's house to Everland (a big Korean theme park near to where we live) to going abroad so that they could experience flying on a plane for the first time.

There were a few funny and more detailed answers though including the girl who wanted to go to France to see all the handsome French boys and to eat lots of brad and the boy who said he wanted to go to Afghanistan for his winter vacation so he could "join the Taliban, help Afghan children and shoot the gun". The most disturbing answer that Sophie got for her speaking tests was the boy who said that he wanted to visit a "war place" for his winter vacation because:
  1. I want to die, because I wouldn't live in this world.
  2. I want to kill people because I'm stressful about person.
  3. I want to shoot the gun to people, I'm good at it!
Unsurprisingly, Sophie was a bit worried by this and spoke to the boy's co-teacher about it though apparently she did given him a good mark as she doesn't want to be a target when he goes on his murderous rampage. Sophie also had one opinionated answer in a speaking test - a rare thing in Korea! The boy said his 3 reasons for wanting to visit Sapporro, Japan were:
  1. The snow in Sapporro is beautiful.
  2. There's a snow festival in Sapporro
  3. Japan attacked Korea many times in the past so many Koreans hate Japan. But this is the 21st century and Japan and Korea must help each other so he wants to visit Japan to find out more.
It's nice to hear someone in Korea being positive about Japan. There is a long history of conflict between the two countries and many people in Korea are understandably upset with Japan's conduct during the years when they occupied Korea but clearly the times are a-changing.

Sophie did a full round of speaking tests back in the summer too that were set up the same as the winter ones. For the summer tests, her students had to talk about their dream job and give 3 reasons for why they wanted to do it. The most popular jobs included doctor, dentist, teacher and cook. There were a few more interesting occupations cited though including baker, geneticist, political journalist, interpreter and a couple of kids who wanted to be diplomats. Sophie said it was a shame she couldn't give the students extra points for originality.

Most of the students said they wanted their dream job because they wanted to make a lot of money or because they wanted to help sick people or support their parents or more amusingly because their parents wanted them to do it. One kid said he anted to be a doctor so he could help poor people and by helping them he may allow them to know the love of Jesus! Another girl said she wanted to be "a good mom" when she grew up so she could "make babies and babies have to obey me"! She had her priorities sorted out by the sounds of it!

Thank you for your reading!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Namhansanseong Take 2: Living on the edge

Back in early November, we met up with some of the other Gwangju foreigners with the intention of hiking around the Namhansanseong (an old mountain fortress just outside Gwangju - the name literally means "south of the Han (river) mountain fortress") and admiring the Autumn leaves before it got too late in the year. Unfortunately, one of our number (he shall remain nameless) was late so we didn't get going until mid afternoon which meant we only had an hour or two explore the Namhansanseong before it got dark but we still tried to make the best of it. We all jumped in a couple of taxis and made the slightly longer than expected journey up to the old wall and fortress. Rowan and I have been there before, back in September I think, when the sun was still shining and it was warm enough to go out in t-shirts (see

Our intrepid group finally reaches the tourist village just next to the Namhansanseong after a lot of waiting around.

Beautiful Autumn colours on the walk to the Namhansanseong walls.

More Autumn colours, this time in red. Yes, Korea really does have it all.

The entry gate to the path along the fortress walls. Little did I know that this would be the entrance into my own personal hiking hell.

We had hoped to walk along the whole length of the fortress wall this time but as we'd made a late start we ended up covering pretty much the same ground as we had done the first time. However, this time we covered it in a much more exciting (read terrifying) way. Instead of walking along the broad paths and up the many steps that make up that path, our group decided it was a better idea to walk on the other side of the old wall on a narrow trail. This was fine at first but as we walked further the path got narrower and the drop from the side of the trail got steeper as the hill (mountain?) fell away to a hollow far below not to mention the fact that the earth was very crumbly in places. Being a complete wimp when it comes to climbing on mountains, I could feel my panic rising. What if I fall? What if it gets dark and we can't get off the trail? What if we run out of beer? Questions, questions. The problem was that we were walking on the other side of the big, old wall and there didn't appear to be any way back through it unless we walked to the next gate and we had no idea how far it was to the next one. The wall there is really high and wide and I didn't really fancy having to scale it, especially with a fairly steep drop behind me. I hasten to add that no-one else seemed anywhere near as bothered by all this as I was. I suppose it's just my Norfolk blood - we don't have hills in Norfolk, well we do but there are so few of them they have their own individual names and were probably worshipped as gods back in the Stone Age by the local lowland tribes.

At this point the trail was still quite wide and it was easy going.

Fighting our way through the 'beautiful' undergrowth as the trail becomes more difficult. Note the height of the wall by this point.

Taking a break from the hiking. Rowan appears to be holding a bottle of soju in his hand - how very Korean of him (Koreans seem to associate hiking with drinking booze and you'll often see people selling Makgeolli, Korean rice wine, at the top of a mountain, presumably to help you roll down it again without breaking too many bones.)

This is one of the last pictures I took when the trail was still not too difficult. After this point, my hands became too slippery with cold panic sweat to operate the camera. I remember looking at those cheerful idiots on the other side of the wall with huge envy shortly after taking this photo.

I could feel the panic getting worse and we had fallen behind the others thanks to my nervously slow pace so we tried asking some passing Koreans where the next entrance through the wall was and how long it would take us to get there. They were proper Korean hiking types, fully decked out in hiking boots, bright coloured hiking jackets, hats and gloves and carrying hiking poles - in other words the standard uniform of Korea's army of hikers. I think there must have been a bit of a communication breakdown though as they told us that the next gate was very, very far away (in Korean) and advised us to turn back to use the gate we'd originally come through. There was no way we would be able to that before it got dark so in the end Rowan and I decided to leg it over the monstrously high wall. Rowan, gentleman that he is, went first and worked out how to get over the damn thing. I think he was pleasantly surprised at how well I managed the climb given my terror on the hike so far. Actually it wasn't too bad and we both rolled over the top of the wall without too much hassle. We were enjoying a well earnt swig of beer when we suddenly heard one of the other guys from our group calling to us. He was on the right side of the wall just like us! In fact, so was everybody else from the group and no, they hadn't all scaled the fortress wall. They had used the hidden passage that went under the wall and we could have used it too if we had carried on just a little further. I was cursing those Korean hikers for their lies! They probably thought we were looking for the next gate though rather than any entrance that would get us on the right side of the wall - communication breakdown. Oh well, at least the others got a good laugh from the mental picture of us scrambling over the wall.

Rowan stands, beer bottle in hand having just thrown himself over the wall, wondering who's calling out to us.

Despite the fear and communication problems it was a good hike. The scenery was beautiful and the Autumn leaves were turning gorgeous colours. It was a really misty day which lent the Namhansanseong an air of eerie mystery (and dampness). Will I go again? Definitely. Will I walk on the wrong side of the wall? Maybe not.

Beautiful red leaved trees shrouded in the mist at the side of the trail.

It started to get really misty by the time we had made it back to the right side of the wall.

Another beautiful Autumnal view over the mountains. The Namhansanseong wall is just visible in the distance.

For a more amusing take on the Namhansanseong with some bizarre Korean musical accompaniment check out this video- It even has pictures of the temples that are apparently contained somewhere within the walls. We've never made it to see them as we always end up getting there too late to go very far. It's mainly the music that I love this video for though - I think it might be an example of Korean Trot music, a type of old school pop music beloved by Korean grandmas (ajummas) with a pounding disco beat and wailing Korean vocals. Might have to write a post about it someday. Watch this space.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

School Festival 2010

The second of the two days of fun (and no work!) at my school was the School Festival. This was even more exciting than the sports day which had been day one of my school's extravaganza. It was a day of singing, dancing, silly games and even a Chinese acrobatic show that showcased the talents of our school's students and some of the teachers too. The festival opened with a performance of traditional Korean samul nori drumming by some of the students followed by the usual round of speeches by the Principal and other school worthies.

Students giving a samul nori performance at the opening of the school festival.

The school principal addresses the crowd.

With the opening niceties dispensed with, we moved onto the first entertainment of the day - the O and X game. This was basically an elimination game that was played outside on the school playing field and involved the competing students being asked true or false questions. They had to decide if they thought it was true (O) or false (X) and move to the appropriate side of the field for their answer. The last person left after the various rounds won some kind of prize. I actually had a part in this competition as on e of the rounds was a special English quiz. I has to get up on stage and ask them 3 true or false questions though I don't think they were hard enough as everyone went the right way for all 3! Oh well, never mind, perhaps being a quizmaster isn't my calling in life after all.

My 5 mins of infamy. I was actually quite nervous, worried perhaps that they wouldn't understand a word I said and I would look like a total fool.

Students playing the O and X game on the dirt playing field in front of the school. Teachers held up ropes after a set amount of time and if you were in the wrong box you were out.

These were the prizes on offer to the winners of the pop song contest and the other competitive events at the festival.

After I had done my 5 mins of work for the day I went for a wander around the school playing field to have a look at the stalls that had been set up all round the edges. Some stalls were being run by parents but most were run by students. A few of them were selling food and drinks whilst the majority were game stalls reminiscent of the kind of thing you might see at a village fête but with a distinctly Korean twist. You were supposed to buy tokens to play the games but I didn't realise and didn't have any money on me. Luckily, the novelty of having a Foreign English teacher play your games seemed to be enough for me to get quite a few freebies!

This was a hot food stall run by parents. It was selling curled fish paste on sticks (not my favourite!), Korean "pizza" (pancakes) and tteokbokki (spicy rice cake stew). They gave me some for free which was great as I was freezing and it was tasty and hot!

A student run food stall selling weird but strangely delicious rectangular shaped hot dog sausages.

These girls had made a lucky wheel game for their stall and they let me have a free go. I won a pair of small pink socks which was cool!

One stall I visited was selling anything - they just wanted you to try their "special" biscuits. The biscuits had wasabi as well as custard cream in the middle and were pretty damn hot but as I love wasabi I happily munched my way through a couple, all the while exclaiming about how delicious they were much to the disbelief of the students!

A student run face painting stall. Their face painting skills were a little hit and miss but that just added to the fun.

This lad wasn't selling anything. All he wanted was a hug! That's what he charged me for this photo - 1 hug! I'm sure teachers would never be able to that in the UK.

They're playing Chinese chess? This seemed to be a popular spectator sport too which isn't surprising given that there appears to be a whole TV channel dedicated to the board game Go on Korean TV.

This was by far my favourite game stall at the festival. It's basically a human sized version of the whack a mole game with students instead of moles and inflatable rubber rings instead of holes. Genius!

This game was so funny I had to stick an extra picture on here of it. This is a closer view of the hammer action. Th students were really going for it with the mallets but the "moles" weren't put off, and kept sticking their heads up through the rings for my punishment.

At this stall you got to throw water balloons at a few brave (and very cold) students. Note the towels stuffed under their chins in an attempt to stop them getting too wet.

This was probably the most dangerous stall at the festival. The object of the game was to burst the balloon in the open locker. Players were offered the choice of using sharp stones, scissors or screwdrivers which they then had to throw at the lockers in the hope of popping that balloon. Ricochets were scarily common!

A student takes aim with a pair of scissors. There are small sharp stones and other scary implements on the chair in front of him in case he finds that the scissors aren't cutting it.

Inside the school, there was a big display of the student's craft and artwork including a few posters warning of the dangrs of smoking and drink driving.

Yep, smokers really are a pain the neck, aren't they?

The stalls were all cleared away at the end of the morning and the afternoon was given over to the song contest. I must admit that I missed a lot of it as I hid inside where it was warm but I did catch a few bits, including a storming performance by an all teacher rock super-group, a few songs performed by students replete with full on K-Pop style dance moves and the only rap performance of the festival by a couple of students who rapped such charming English lyrics as "I'm a fucking soldier" and "Motherfuckers come on" whilst the Principal watched, nodding his head appreciatively (presumably with no idea what the words meant). The festival closed with a special performance by a Chinese acrobatic troupe who did some amazing tricks.

Some of the students show off their moves in the pop song contest.

Our resident rappers - they're "fuckin' soldiers" apparently - well I'm sure they will be in a few years when they have do to their national service!

The Chinese acrobats were amazing.

This female acrobat could even spring down flights of stairs slinky style without losing her composure thanks to her steel hula hoops.

Mind-bendingly flexible female acrobats.

The acrobat show finale.

It was a really fun couple of days and I was pretty sad when they were over, especially as I had to go back to doing some real work.