The countryside has shed the brown monotony of winter to burst forth in green and waves of colour: first with the soft pink of cherry trees blooming along the footpaths, and then after that had finished, the brilliant yellow of the sansuyu flowers in full blossom, and finally the pinks, reds, whites and purples of the azaleas covering the mountains. Namwon, and indeed Korea, is full of life, and it certainly keeps each day interesting.
But first, to give you a brief catch-up on winter happenings since my last post.
The rush back to school from my UK trip in January was nothing to worry about. I was supposed to teach two weeks of winter camp for students wanting to study English over the break. For the middle school camp, however, only one student braved the snow and the cold to come to class. I wasn't surprised, the middle school being as tiny as it as, and, well, middle school students will be middle school students, as they say (right?). But we had a great week. The student who came is special needs, so the time we spent learning that week was really valuable. My second week with the high school students focussed a lot on pronunciation and heaps of hands-on activities, so that was fun.
After the calm of the winter break, the previous year's students all came back to school for a week for the graduation ceremonies of the 6th grade elementary students, the 3rd grade middle school students and the 3rd grade high school students. While the 6th grade students have just moved up to the middle school, and the middle 3 students have just moved to the high school, it was sad to see the high 3 students leaving.
Following the 'graduation week,' we had another few weeks of holiday. I'd already taken my 10-day vacation allowance, so I had to be at school for that time, but I didn't mind that.
After that, the 'back to school rush' felt like a totally new adventure. Even though I'd already been here for a year, I've come so far as a person and as a teacher, that I felt like I was starting afresh; a new chapter, not so much a continuation of the last.
This year, I'm much busier, which forces me to be more productive, and more 'on the ball.' There's not much down-time this year, but it's been a really enjoyable, rewarding challenge so far. The main adjustment was the education office giving me an additional school to teach at. I can proudly say that I'm the foreign teacher at Beonam (pronounced like 'bon-arm') Elementary School. The school is even smaller than Sanseo, and my classes average 7 to 8 fantastically enthusiastic kids. It's right out in the wops, and I can't get a bus from Sanseo, so I take the whole of Thursday off and go out there to teach.
Beonam has a branch school, Donghwa, which only has 11 students (and 11 teachers - in the whole school!). Near the beginning of Spring, we went for a walk together with the students from Donghwa and some students from other elementary schools in the county. During the walk, we were followed by a TV crew from the provincial news station. You can check out my five seconds of fame right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvvcmZqCLag&feature=youtu.be&t=738. The students at the very beginning are my fifth graders.
More recently, at Beonam, we had a soccer game with the 6th graders and the wee 2nd graders, which was heaps of fun. At one stage, I had a clear shot at the goal, and sent the ball flying through pint-sized 2nd-graders only to be stopped by one of their classmates, standing square in the centre of the goal; a very determined wee girl of about seven. I played netball with my high schoolers the other week, so that will be the next game on the agenda at Beonam!
I could waffle on about all my adventures with students, teachers and friends over the past few months, but I'll let the photos tell the stories.
Oh - one more link. I went to my friends' place one evening for a concert. Pierce (an Irishman) and his girlfriend Soyi (a local) run Mua guesthouse, the coolest guesthouse anywhere, hands down. They knew I play the organ, so once the (professional!) musos had finished their jaw-dropping stuff, they asked my to play - quite out of the blue. Anyway, some music (and beer) was procured, and you can watch and listen here: http://blog.naver.com/mua_house_1970/220979622232.
I'm writing this on Sunday evening, at the end of a VERY long weekend. Wednesday was Buddha's birthday, Friday was Children's Day, and Thursday was and in-between day off. I was very kindly invited by the music and English teacher at Beonam to join her, her husband and two daughters on a trip to the mountainous area of Hoengseong (pronounced 'hweng-song'). We stayed in a large resort at the bottom of a (snowless) ski field (must go back in winter), ate lots of good food, visited a ceramics festival, a traditional Korean village, and did some walking. But the best memories are the card games we played in the evening, the games we played in the car, and just the time we spent talking over food, laughing at bad jokes, and enjoying the time off.
So life is good!
Thinking of you all.
Ta for reading.
|Leaving my apartment on my way to school during winter camp.|
|Lots of preparation - for one student! But it was worth it.|
|Snowy Namwon #1|
|Snowy Namwon #2|
|I ♥ bibimbap.|
|Catching up with teachers from school in Jeonju's Hanok Village.|
|Cake making during the high school winter camp.|
|A casual run from school during the winter vacation time.|
|Another run from school. Different mountain this time.|
|Weekend trip to Busan.|
|The NZ section of the UN cemetery in Busan. The graves are for Kiwis killed during the Korean War.|
|NZ memorial at the UN cemetery in Busan.|
|During a weekend trip to Seoul with Kiwi friends from Gwanju, we visited this board game cafe. (Later, we ordered HEAPS of food at a New Zealand restaurant...pies, kiwiburgers, monteiths...)|
|Kiwis doing Kiwi things...sniffing for bugs??|
|Putting up flags for March 1st Independence Movement Day - a very important holiday in Korea.|
|A visit, with teachers from school, to 'ㄱ' (giyeok) church near Jeonju. It was constructed so that men and women could sit in different parts of the church and not be able to see each other, while both could see the minister preaching!|
|A visit to Sansuyu village, in Gurye county near Namwon.|
|Sansuyu flowers. They also make a delicious tea.|
|Donghwa Elementary School.|
|Walking with students.|
|Playing soccer at Beonam.|
|Last Wednesday at the Chunhyang festival. I think I mentioned this festival in a previous blog post. The whole city turns out for it. This was a Pansori performace (Korean opera) of the Chunhyang story.|
|The resort we stayed in at Hoengseong.|