Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy birthday!

My school celebrated its 60th birthday this past week.  It was a BIG deal.  In Korea, 1st birthdays and 60th birthdays are a pretty big celebration.  Classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday for the festivities.  This celebration has been my absolute favorite part about Korea so far.  It made me truly see my school as the special and unique school that it is, and it truly made me glad that I was able to be a part of it.

On Tuesday, the celebration kicked off with a big ceremony.  The auditorium/gym was decorated.  Big wigs came and gave speeches.  The only parts I understood were, "Annyeong haseyo", which means "hello" and when everyone clapped, I clapped.  Other than that, I had no earthly idea what they were saying.

After 30 minutes of speeches, it was time for the music.  If you know anything about me, I love music.  I have played the piano since I was 6 years old and the flute since 6th grade.  I was also in choir growing up and even in college.  I love playing, singing, and listening to music.  So this was my favorite part.  I got chills in most of the songs...they were that good.

The first song was a drum performance by the middle and high school students at my school.  They are all completely blind or have low vision.  About half of the performers are my students, which made it even more special.  I had been hearing them practice for several weeks now, but their actual performance blew me away.  I have only had them as my students for a couple of weeks, but I was so proud of them.  Aren't they incredible?

The next performance was also performed by students at my school.  Several of them are my students, including the boy in the wheelchair.

The next performance is just a clip of their performance.  I was holding up my iPod throughout all of these songs, and my arm was really getting tired.

This next performance was incredible.  I was in band for years and never heard an oboe sound quite like this. I thought he was an extraordinary musician.

Oh, and this next song brought tears to my eyes.  Literally.  They are not students at my school.  I was told that they go to a high school near by, but I would go to any performance or concert that they put on.  I was in awe of them.  They do not sound like a high school choir at all.

Here are some other pictures from the music performances.  Many of the performers were completely blind.

After the ceremony, we had a cooking competition.  Students and teachers were split up into groups.  I was group 5, and our group made chicken curry.  I really just sat there and talked to one of my student friends, who often visits me to practice his English.
Each group had their own tent 
My group.  Getting the gas ready for the burner.
Seongkim, my high school friend who visits me to practice his English

As I was sitting there, a man walks straight towards me with something in his hand.  He holds it out to me, smiles, and waits for me to eat it.  So I ate it.  I had NO idea what in the world I was eating.  It looked like a root, it tasted like a root that was lightly fried, and it was a root I later found out from my high school friend.  It's called insam, and it's a medical flower/root.  I had one bite and then spit out the rest into a tissue after the man left.  It was awful.

After the gross root thing, I got up and walked around to visit the different food stations.  I loved it when I heard, "Oh Angela.  Here, try this."  It was like the Taste of Addison, where you walked around and tried all these different foods.  With the exception of the root thing, everything was excellent.  It was all pretty spicy though which stunk because I had nothing to drink.  There was nothing to drink anywhere.  I didn't even think to bring my water bottle.
Yummo rice dish!
Some kind of spicy dish that was really good
Our chicken curry
Other people would bring us their food, and we would just put it on top of our food.  Here is a dumpling from another group.  The dumpling was really good.  I could easily eaten another one.

An accordion band was playing during our cooking competition, and some students and adults got up to dance.  I was having a great time capturing it all with my camera.

With Eunji, one of my students
Such a ham.  He would keep walking by me so I would take a photo of him. 

After the cooking competition, we had Open House.  Now, I've been to countless Open House nights throughout my years of being a student and then teaching.  This was like no other Open House I've ever been to.  In fact, it was THE best Open House I've ever been to.  At my school, a good number of students live in the dormitories at the school.  The girls live on the 1st floor, and the boys live on the 2nd floor.  Students from 11 years old all the way up to adults who are going to school for their massage license live in the dorm rooms.  Each dorm room has 2-3 students who live there, and each room decorates their room or does something to entice you to come in.  There were people who dressed up in costumes, girls who gave a free manicure, massage students who gave free chair massages (I went to three rooms and got three massages), and every room had some kind of snack for you.  Each person was given three stickers to give to their three favorite rooms.  It was a huge contest.  "Teacher, do you have a sticker?"

Here are some pictures from Open House:

Each dorm room had the bookshelves and desks like the picture above, a little table, and that was it.  No beds.  All their bedding was stored in the cabinets.  They sleep in true Korean style, which is mattress pads on the floor.  It sure made the rooms look clean!

In this boy's room, they had a game for me to play which determined which snack I got to choose.  
He's pouring me orange juice.  They were all so sweet and cute, generously preparing my snack in every room.

Massage room first massage of the night 
Massage room second massage of the night.  The man on the right was my massager.  Wow, did he have strong hands.
Massage room 3rd and final massage.  My massager was the gentleman in red, and boy oh boy....he needs to teach the massage therapists in the states a thing or two.  I've had several massages in my life, and this guy blew them all away, and it was only for 10 minutes!  He found every single sore spot and kneaded it until it wasn't sore anymore.  I don't know if blindness helps one to be more aware, but I do believe it myself.  I keep offering my services to my co-teacher if they need someone to practice on!
Sweet students walking down the hall.  In Korea, everyone holds hands...especially people of the same gender.  Boys are very affectionate with each other.  My students lay their heads on each others' shoulders, give hugs, and hold hands.  I actually enjoy seeing it. 
The manicure room.  She felt bad about taking off my polish, but I didn't mind! 
My manicure.  It turned out a little fuzzy....
Look at all the snacks to choose from!  She even had toaster sandwiches of some kind.  I got hot chocolate, which was fabulous.  I liked their room.  They had a Minnie Mouse mat down on the floor, and they were so sweet to talk to. 

She loved to feel the stickers over and over to see how many her room had.  Like I said, it's a big deal to win!
The "Christmas" room 

You had to take your shoes off to enter each room
One of the boys' rooms....look at the all the snacks they bought!  Yes, they bought them themselves.
My guide for the evening.  "Angela Teacher, come here" as he drags me down the hall.

I was hanging out with all the boys in this room.  I was the only female.  The man in white is so sweet.  He teaches twin boys at the school who are blind and intellectually disabled.  He speaks great English as well.
He and I got a big kick out of his "hot chocolate".  We could not stop laughing.  
I ordered peach tea, and here is one of students pouring it for me.  It was actually quite good.  It was just water with one of those little mix-ins, like a Crystal Lite.  I'm glad I didn't order the hot chocolate!

After Open House, we had recreation in the gym.  Imagine middle and high school students at night in the gym.  You would picture total chaos, right?  That's what I would picture.  The students at my school are pretty good kids and well-behaved.  It was neat to watch them play games.  I was even dragged into playing one of the games.  There were 2 teams, with one team forming a square on the outside and one team on the inside.  The outside team throws balls to the inside team, trying to tag them.  Most of the players are completely blind or visually impaired so they can't see where they are throwing the ball, and the players inside can't see if a ball is coming to them.  I was one of the last 2 players on the inside team.  I'm so not good at sports at home, so this is a new feeling.

Here are a couple of photos from recreation.  It was about 9:00pm at this time.

The principal dancing and singing with the students

The birthday celebration continued the next day with PE games.  That's for another post.

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