Thursday, September 27, 2007


Girls in hanboks watching top spinning.

Beyond the joy of five days in a row of no work, Chuseok is fun because at my school, the kindie kids had Chuseok Day. I so wish I hadn't been more sick and had enjoyed it more. For the non-Korea savvy readers, Chuseok is a thanksgiving holiday, where people visit their hometowns/grandparents' houses to honour their ancestors. Basically, it's a time for family. In China, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated at the same time. For teachers, it's travel time; or in my case, time to have a visitor.

Boys waiting in a line: Joy, John, June, Eric.

First off, little kids in hanboks (Korean traditional dress) are just so cute! Much cuter than in their rather drab Poly uniforms. And they are so serious about showing them off too.

Teacher explaining jaegi jaegi technique.

Then there were the events. Jaegi Jaegi, which is basically a traditional form of hackeysacking. Top spinning. Traditional bowing. Wrestling. It was fun.

The boys teach Dave how to bow properly.

And the mooncake making. I coughed all over the ingredients. I am not kidding. All. Over. Thank god bronchitis isn't contagious. (And this is where some medically minded reader tells me it is, and my entire homeroom class ends up out sick for a week and I feel very, very guilty.) Anyway, what can you do? The assistant director knew just how sick I was (or he's having some eye and ear troubles of his own). He came in to do the talking portion, as my voice wasn't particularly in commission until the afternoon, thanks to something the doctor had me inhale and a contraption that sucked the snot out of my nose.

Dduk. Rice cakes. I don't like them.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Mooncakes: "Songpyeon is a traditional Korean food made from glutinous rice. It is a variety of tteok, consisting of small rice cakes traditionally eaten during the Korean autumn festival, Chuseok. They have become a popular symbol of traditional Korean culture. Songpyeon are half-moon-shaped rice cakes filled with sesame seeds or chestnut paste steamed over a layer of pine needles, which gives them the fragrant smell of fresh pine trees. They used to be made into various shapes with the participation of family members and were often exchanged between neighbors. They are eaten on Chuseok and other festive days.

Tigers class, ready to get down and dirty with some gelatinous rice.

Unlike China's moon cake, which is round and also eaten on Chuseok in China, Korean people made songpyeon in the half-moon shape because they regarded the half moon as a symbol of expansion and development, while the full moon no longer expands, but has to wane. The earliest records of songpyeon date from the Goryeo period."

Anika was a blur of motion.

Only one of my students made anything resembling a half moon. Anika was a star who had obviously done this before. Since I spent most of my time trying to get the gelatinous rice mixture to stop sticking to my hands, I referred my students to her fine example. And coughed. On things the students took home and possibly ate. Most of them kept getting the beans stuck to the outside of the moon cakes. And then, naturally, we were only provided 6 plastic bags for a class of 12. Thank maude they hadn't used their plastic gloves to stay clean, because that's what the rice treats went home in.

What I got.

We also got some gifts from the kids in honour of the holiday. I was the recipient of some rice cakes (Unfortunate, as I can't stand them. I have tried really, really hard to like them, but I just can't wrap my mind around a treat that is so lacking in sweetness. In general, I feel that Asian cuisine falls down over the issue of dessert.) I also ended up with a pair of socks, a bookmark, some whitening cream (!!!), some heathful tea & candies (timely), a bottle of wine from the lovely Jenn, and some Krispy Kremes to share with all the teachers. Why, oh why, do the students point out my lack of skinniness and then constantly bring me doughnuts???

Girls lined up in the playroom, ready to crawl through the tunnel.

The fun and excitment for my afternoon students? Tests to study for immediately after the holiday and a monthly writing topic making them describe Chuseok (lower grades) or compare and contrast it with another holiday (upper level). It obviously doesn't pay to leave kindergarten. Unless you go on to teach it!

Top spinning!

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