I’ve enjoyed a few lazy days in the last few weeks. Each year group at my school has had a field trip and the 6th graders were fortunate enough to go on a three-day field trip to Seoul, museums and theme parks. It seems to be a right of passage for 6th grade students throughout the land to make a pilgrimage to Everland, Korea’s foremost amusement park. I’m assuming Everland is the largest theme park in the world as every single school appears to send their students away in the same week. The knock-on effect for me has been various days of no lessons and a bit of desk-warming, youtube watching and winter camp preparation.
When the first, third and fifth grade students had their field trips a few weeks back I was coerced into joining the third grade field trip. I was supposed to have sixth grade class but Olivia, the head of English department, bullied me in a friendly way into going. I guess it was a good idea and would be great to experience a field trip with a Korean school. However, I was only just back to school from my tonsillitis enforced sabbatical and a straightforward day at work had been strongly appealing to me. Anyway, I lost the battle and before I knew it I was heading off to the queue of coaches outside the school.
I joined one of the classes that Jeong-Eun my co-teacher had suggested was stocked with amicable and well-behaved students. I was pleased to see plenty of familiar faces from my third grade story time class (I don’t teach English to the third grade normally) and was quite glad the euphoria of going on a field trip had distracted the students from their regular, intense curiousity about me.
Our itinerary for the day was a trip to Bokcheon Museum in the morning, a picnic and finally a trip to the Fisheries Science Museum. I was not overly enamoured and had secretly been hoping for a day at a theme park. My cultural thirst being significantly low recently. The students seemed well-behaved on the journey to Bokcheon Museum, I can only say this as they failed to wake me from the sleep I fell into as soon as my ass hit the seat and my head hit the coach window. Bokcheon Museum is based on a site that holds ancient tombs from the Gaya Kingdom. There are plenty of archaeological relics to look at and it is quite interesting to learn about ancient Korea and how they lived and buried their dead. In many ways they had very similar attitudes to the Egyptians, burying the rich deceased with live servants in large tombs. The kids went mental on a grassy knoll. A hundred plus kids running amok much to the anger of a security guard who ran over from the main building to shout at the students, and quite possibly the teachers that had let them on the grass, to get off. Ancient culture absorbed we headed to the coaches to head to the north of Busan.
We had our picnic near the Fisheries Science Museum. The kids sat down on their picnic mats, ate food and generally behaved. All the teachers shared a massive and rather luxurious picnic that the third grade parents had laid on. I was amazed the parents had gone to so much trouble and it shows the respect the parents have for the teachers in Korea. As usual I dodged the plethora of seafood and munched down on the tasty meaty bits and vegetable based dishes. Incidentally, it was Pepero Day so I enjoyed an all afternoon dessert of chocolate biscuit sticks that students kept offering me.
The Fisheries Science Museum was a mish-mash of historical fishing practices, information on the ocean ecology that surrounds Korea, stuffed fish and an aquarium. The kids followed the route round, gathering pace in the learning areas and slowing down to gawp at funny looking stuffed fish and the aquarium section. I can see the benefit of learning about one of the main industries in Busan and I guess it was important for the students. If I wasn’t being constantly dragged around by some of the girls in the class to comment on each odd fish I would have struggled to keep interest. I generally enjoyed myself and it was good fun to meet some of the students I don’t normally see. The journey home ended similarly to the journey away from school with a small streak of sleep drool added to the coach window.
Two weeks later and only two days ago it was the teachers turn for a field trip! On a Wednesday afternoon, inconveniently when the temperature decided to drop to near 2 degrees celsius, all the teachers embarked on a trip to Gadeok Island. Gadeok Island is a twenty-minute drive from school and is famous for witnessing an intense naval battle in the 16th Century. (The Battle of Chilcheollyang). At Gadeok Island we climbed the mountain at the centre of the island. I was pleased to not encounter any poisonous snakes this time (unlike the two I nearly stood on near Beomosa temple during Chuseok). The hike was cold but invigorating. Afterwards we headed to the harbour area. I witnessed some odd fishing techniques at the small harbour, the island has its own unique technique for catching gray-mullet, codfishes and herring. We then headed off to eat some fish and I sat down to a liquid dinner of soju and beer. (Still being a commited non-fish eater). Dinner concluded with a teachers lottery. We were all given a lottery ticket. I was number 27. First number out….27! Feeling rather excited and anticipating a car, new TV or something of this ilk I was disappointed to receive a three-pack of wet wipes. My disappointment was soothed however when cosmetic and cleaning materials turned out to make up all the prizes. Each teacher went up to claim their prize, ironically feigning happiness and playing on the fun of the lottery when they received a carton of fabric softener, four-pack of kitchen roll or a new pair of barbecue tongs. It turned out the most sought after prize was a pack of six instant noodles. Derisory moans released into the porta-kabin restaurants eaves when a teachers number was called and the instant noodles disappeared. It was a fun afternoon and I always enjoy getting to know a few of the other teachers who I don’t often spend time with.
So that concludes my recent adventures. You may go back to work.
Oh…..WAIT! Exciting news….I will be in England from the 14th of January to the 26th of January. It would be great to see some friends who have been absent from my life so get in touch! I will also be in Finland from the 26th of January to the 30th of January… you know…. just in case….by coincidence!