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.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

School Sports Day

Feverish excitement gripped my school during October in the build up to 2 of the most important days in the school calendar: the school's sports day and the school festival. I don't remember anyone getting particularly excited about school sports day back in England when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure we didn't have a school festival day either so I was curious to say the least about what it would be like.

At break time, classrooms and corridors were filled with the sound of cheerleading as students prepared their chants ready to support their teams on sports day. They even made banners and cards to hold up when their classmates were competing in the different events, sometimes trying to do this surreptitiously during my English lessons in the mistaken belief that I - a) wouldn't notice and b) wouldn't mind - how wrong they were. Yes, this was a long way from the egg and spoon races that I remember from my childhood. It was more like the preparations for a major international sporting event (at least the kids seemed to hold it in a similar regard when I threatened to confiscate their banners if they kept messing around in my class). The build up to the school festival was even more impressive. One of the main components of the day was a pop song contest that was scheduled to make up the afternoon entertainment so for weeks the school rang with the sound of singing, dancing students getting ready for their moment of glory. There were even auditions being held for the honour of being able to perform at the festival which led to some of my students having to leave my class to attend their audition - it must have been a heartbreaking situation for them, having to choose between my English class and following their musical dreams! Unfortunately, in common with the UK, awful, wailing pop ballads are very much in favour here in South Korea, especially among students, so the singing in the corridors was of the ululating, throat vibrating variety which was pretty annoying. On the plus side, most Koreans seem to have really good singing voices - maybe it's all that karaoke they do! Another bonus of all this madness was that classes were cancelled for two whole days at my school - never a bad thing!

The students were all made to line up in the school playing field at the start of the day and salute the Korean flag as the Korean national anthem played on tinny speakers.

The first day was the school sports day. Unfortunately, this was the week when the weather suddenly turned really cold so I, like most of the teachers, spent a lot of time hiding in the library which was the only room that had any heating on at this point. I did manage to catch some of the "soccer" (football to us Brits) matches and a few of the races though. The supporters were out en masse. From what I could work out, each class from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades fielded teams and competitors for the different events and the groups of supporters were made up of the rest of the class. It was an interesting sight, as each class had their own specific costume, worn by supporters and competitors alike. Some of the best ones were the class that dressed up in witches hats and cloaks (it was close to Halloween time) and the class that all wore baggy leopard (cheetah?) print leggings with tails coming out the back of them.

The sports day kicked off (sorry) with a few football matches.

Loyal supporters braved the cold with the aid of blankets and banged their baseball “thunder sticks” (inflatable cheering balloons that get their name from the loud noise they make when you beat them together).

My school had it's very own MC for both the sports day and the school festival. The colourful 3rd grade English teacher sported a wacky bandanna and a mic and provided a running commentary for both days.

Competitors line up on their marks ready for a relay race. Note that one of the runners is wearing his class costume of leopard print leggings as are some of the supporters standing at the back.

Most of the kids really went for it in the relay races. There were some funny moments when runners crashed into each other at the changeover point of the race and it ended in a bit pile up of sprawling students and scattered batons.

I think this was class 1-10, clad in their Halloween supporters costumes, giving it their all in support of their relay team.

A photo finish for one of the 2nd grade boys. Note the leopard print leggings worn by supporters in the right hand corner of the picture.

I'm not sure who won the different categories but it was a pretty fun day. The next day was the School Festival, which was even more exciting, but I will write about that in another entry to save this one from getting too massive.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Daejeon Rock Festival

A few weeks back some friends we'd met and the GEPIK orientation told us about the Daejeon rock festival, apparently it would be a one night mini rock festival with 14 bands from around Korea, international food and beer and free entry! Having missed our usual summer dose of festival action in the UK (we normal work as festival stewards through the summer in the UK) we were very keen to go and check it out. So we hopped on the express bus from Gwangju to Daejeon its was a pretty quick journey at about 1 hour 40 minutes and we arrived at Daejeon bus terminal around 4:30pm looking forward to checking out the music and also the international beers.

We booked into a cheap motel near the bus terminal, one of the cheapest we've experienced;yet at only 20 000 won a night but it was nice enough, we've certainly stayed in worse places for 2 or 3 times the price.

Sophie checking out the facilities in our luxury 20 000 won room.

After dropping off our stuff we took a stroll into town just looking around and trying to work out where the festival was, after a little while of not seeing much but big roads and realising we had no idea at all which way it was to the festival we hailed a taxi to take us there.

We arrived at the festival site some time just before dark and found it was right next the the Daejeon balloon festival which was going on in the daytime, unfortunately we missed the balloons but there were still lots of airborne antics going on including a crane based hanglider wizzing round, a remote control blimp flying around and people flying past on fan powered parachute things.

The hot air balloons were on the ground by the time we arrived but the burners were still putting on a fiery display from the ground.

You can't see it very clearly from the photo but these were guys in parachutes with flares on their legs.

They came flying over the hot air balloon burners at a perilously low high, I'm surprised they didn't burn their toes.

There was a beautiful firework display over the river at the end of the show.

The fireworks were beautiful, unfortunately I had the camera on the wrong settings so they came out very blurred, still some of them created some interesting effects.

One of the main reasons we were interested in the Daejeon rock festival was because of the promise of international beer and food. The website promised 300 vendors selling international food beer and wines, so we rocked up eager to taste the foreign beer, unfortunately as often seems to be the case in Korea the enthusiasm of the advertising was not lived up to by the reality. Instead of the promised 300 stalls, there was one beer stall selling mostly a Korean domestic beer, they also had a choice of Hoegaarden, San Miguel, Heinekken or Guiness for about £5 a bottle, not quite the international quality beer selection we were hoping for!

While the beer and food selection wasn't great, there was a Chinese lamb kebab stall which was bloody delicious, so delicious we went there three times in the night.

The food and drink situation might not have been all we'd hoped but the bands were pretty cool, a good mix of styles and all with plenty of energy. Although I was a bit confused by on band whose drummer took a call on his mobile and dashed off stage mid-song!

The crowd and the main stage.

Our favourite band of the night had to be Ska Sucks! a Korean ska band with brilliant energy and stage presence. It was great hearing Koreans doing something other than K-pop.

The festival had been planned to run unitl 5am but around midnight, the police decided that it was too loud or didn't have the right permits or something like that and it had to be closed down. The shut down was a bit chaotic, we couldn't hear the annoucement from the stage but through word of mouth travelling through the crowd it seemed that they had been told they had to stop and the music would continue at local bars, but no one knew which ones. So went it all when quiet we ended up getting talking to a group of locals who were going to a bar called Yellow taxi. We followed them there and drank some more, once we were so drunk I could hardly see properly we decided it was about time to get some sleep so we eventually managed to direct a taxi back to our motel and passed out for the night. We had the mother of all hangovers the next day but luckily it was a short stumble across the road to the bus terminal on back onto  the bus to Gwangju. All in all it was a good night out and we had fun, they could do with sorting out some more internetional beer for next year though.