Saturday April 10th, Andrew and I went with a church group to Busan. We spent part of the day at the Famous Busan Fish Market and the other half at an orphanage. The experience at the fish market was interesting. It was basically a bunch of people selling all types of fish. It smelled disgusting and I wasn't particularly excited to see people beheading and gutting the fish in front of me. It was an experience and maybe if I actually liked eating fish I could have appreciated it more. I was glad I witnessed it but I don't think I need to go back.
The next part of the day was an experience I will never forget. I have never been to an orphanage before and the closest thing I can relate it to it the movie Annie. I'm thinking mistreated dirty children cleaning floors with toothbrushes while Ms. Hannigan yells at them to clean faster. This was not the case at all. It was a very nice home that housed about 60 kids ranging from 4 to 14. When we arrived, we were greeted by a few of the children, while the others looked on from their windows. The 12 volunteers broke up into activity groups and the kids joined whichever one they found an interest in. Andrew went and played soccer while I took charge of the crafts. As soon as we brought out the chalk, the kids decided to join. We covered the driveway with drawings or flowers, hopscotch and Spongebob. However, the drawing soon turned into the kids chasing the volunteers and wiping chalk on our faces. But it was still fun; after all, we were there to have fun.
When the drawing got boring, we ventured into the kids school room where we began to just draw pictures and hang out. Park Hae Min is an 8 year old girl who was always by my side. She wanted to draw chalk with me and took pride in the fact that she was the one who managed to get blue chalk on my face. She drew a picture of me, and asked if I would draw one of her. This adorable picture was the result. The rest of the afternoon involved playing some games roughly discussing their favorite Korean Pop singers and trying to communicate. Overall it was an awesome day and the church plans to go back in May. Andrew and I do too.
Saturday April 17th, Andrew and I ventured to Gyeongju, a city about 45 min from Ulsan. Since winter has lasted longer this year than normal, the cherry blossoms bloomed a little later. We wanted to see them in their prime state, and we were told to go to Gyeongju. After a mix up when we got off the bus (of course), we managed to find a beautiful canopy of trees. I felt like I was in a movie as we walked the path beneath them. They were just beautiful. It was a perfect spring day and the flowers were so full, it looked like the trees were covered in snow. It's sad that they don't stay in bloom very long. Most of the trees in Ulsan have lost their flowers and their beautiful scent. But I am glad we had a chance to see them!
Friday April 23rd, my school had their annual class picnic day. Every grade goes to a different destination and participates in an activity. I got to tag along with the 5th grade. We rode in a coach bus for about an hour. The bus ride was great and we were entertained by a flat screen tv playing Korean pop music videos...it was just hilarious.
When we arrived at our destination I got a little concerned. We were in a rural area in the mountains and there were about 25 buses already parked. We were not the only school there. The first thing I noticed were two baby goats tied to totum polls. The area was basically a mud pit and a few tents and some playground equipment. I had no idea what was going on because Johnson had a meeting as wasn't there...I was just following the crowd at this point.
After what I assume were instructions by some of the staff members, the class I was with, were handed blue plastic bags. What I understood from one of the students was that we were to go into the muddy field and pick weeds. In my head I thought, this was some picnic. Let's go do some yard work as a field trip. Later I found out that we were using the weeds we just picked to make into rice cakes. I heard the staff member over the loudspeaker so we grab as many weeds as we could and went on our way. The next step was a tent. The kids got the chance to beat the weeds into the rice cake with a massive wooden hammer. I later found out that this was the traditional way rice cakes were made. After everyone got to hit it, we were given samples. It wasn't too bad considering I was eating rice and weeds.
Next the kids were given free time to run around, do some archery, slide, and jump on the trampoline. As our luck would have it, it began to rain and the mud just got worse. Picture 100's of kids running around a field of mud while it's raining, basically unsupervised. Chaos. The most entertaining part for me was witnessing the trampoline. If you have ever seen Four Christmas' and remember the scene when the kids were in the "jump jump" it was much like that. Way to many kids trying to jump. They were screaming, trying to climb out, slipping and falling. The best part was when they managed to get out. The kids had brought snacks in with them and food was everywhere. Remember it is still raining at this point. So kids were falling and rolling in mud and snacks. Food was stuck in their hair, on their faces, on their clothing...ah, it was so funny to watch. The kids kept saying, "Sarah Teacher come jump, come jump!!" I was like no way, I will participate in most of the activities...but not this one :)
Next was a very unsafe tractor ride at a speed way to fast for the amount of kids in the back trailer and the rough terrain. I was waiting for a broken neck...but to my surprise everyone seemed to make it out unharmed. It was the most hilarious field trip/picnic I have ever experienced.
Sunday April 25th was one of my favorite days since being in Korea. Andrew and I got involved with an organization called THOPE (Teachers Helping Other People Everywhere) and went to an orphanage in Ulsan. It took us about an hour to get there and the facilities were amazing! There are about 110 kids that call this place home. They range in age from babies to high school. They have their own gym, sauna, pool, playground, and really nice rooms. When it came time to divide the volunteers I jumped at the chance of working in the nursery while Andrew played sports.
I can't even express to you how adorable these kids are. I was in a room with two other volunteers and we were in charge of watching and playing with seven, two and three year-olds. (I would have taken pictures but we were under the impression that you aren't allowed. When we left, I found out it was ok. We are going again on May 9th, so I'll take some then.) It was such a fun afternoon just reading and playing. It just melted my heart when they would hold their hands up so you would pick them up, or when they would fight to sit in your lap. They were all such sweet, sweet babies. We were told that not all the children in the orphanage are up for adoption. A small percentage of them are in there because their families have found themselves in financial trouble and can no longer support the child. When they get back on their feet, they go and pick them up. But again, it's a small percentage.
I am so grateful to have found THOPE and that I am able to volunteer my time every other Sunday to visit these kids. It was hard to leave but very excited to go back.