Thursday, May 24, 2007
Several weeks ago (May 4th to be exact) was our school's Sports Day. It took weeks--and many missed classes--of preparation (the Provincial Board of Education came to watch, and our principal and vice-principal wanted ours to be the best Sports Day in the province), but it was all worth it. Everyone got outfits...cute little uniforms for the students and oversized blue polo shirts for the teachers, and we covered the school in flags and banners. The Day is nominally a contest between the arbitrarily assigned Red and Blue teams. The kindergarteners wore special yellow outfits to signify that their games were not a part of the competition, and the first graders wore either red or blue so they could remember which team they belonged to.
The day started with the national anthem, the other song we sing at every school assembly, and some whole-school aerobics. The little boy in the middle of the picture on the left is one of my funniest second graders. He may be only 6 years old, but he's already made important progress along the path to becoming a k-pop superstar. His little mullet is always perfectly coiffed--and sometimes even curled--and he never goes outside without visor, shades, gloves, and knee socks to protect him from the sun. Eunji (the girl to the right) is totally smitten.
I was actually surprised by how well-run everything was. Large games between grades took place in the middle of our "field" (can a dust/sandlot qualify as a field?), while races ran constantly around the outside. Each grade split into its red and blue components and played really creative and adorable relay-type games, and every single student participated in the races (a special volunteer was brought in to push one of our fourth graders, who uses a wheelchair). Points from all the games and races were tallied on a big scoreboard (I believe the Blue team scored almost 300 points to win, but I could be wrong about that). The transitions were pretty seamless, and they managed to run all the races without any problems. In the picture, it looks like Kiyeong is winning his race, but he was actually second. Kibeom did win his...a fact that he's still lording over his brother.
Tug-of-war was one of the most anticipated events. The vice principal made me fire the starting gun for the girls' tug-of-war (thus no pics), which was very stressful. Fortunately, I managed to avoid hurting anyone or making a huge fool of myself.
In addition to the obviously sporty events (races, tug-of-war, active games), Sports Day included several activities that required a more creative interpretation of the word "sport." These included traditional Korean things like a fan dance, baton twirling, and drumming performances, as well as the somewhat less traditional 1st grade sparkly matador outfit dance, other song and dance routines, and super fun English quiz--the grand prize of which was a gigantic package of toilet paper.
Sports Day also had events for the greater school community. There was a big mom tug-of-war competition...the moms got so into it that they went 2 extra rounds. In the final round, a group of boys (wanting to help their moms who had just lost twice) surreptitiously grabbed the very end of the rope and pulled their moms to victory. The picture on the right shows one of my absolute favorite parts of the day--the grandparents' relay. Two teams of grandparents faced off, each team with a fishing pole. At the gun, they shuffled over to the middle of the "field" and cast into a giant bucket "ocean", where two 3rd graders crouched in wait (you can see a little hand reaching for the fishing line in the picture). They tied a prize to the end of the fishing line--mostly bags of shrimp chips and tubes of pine-flavored toothpaste--and the grandparents shuffled back to hand off the pole. It was almost too cute to watch.
The picture on the right shows the most annoying part of Sports Day (as does the sparkly matador picture). During every single performance and game, parents had no qualms about walking right into the ranks of kids to take a picture of their child. In some of the performances with choreographed movements, photo-snapping parents bumped into kids trying to make fan formations or hold hands in a dance, and I saw one mother telling her son to stop baton-twirling and pose for her picture (peace sign! cutie!).