Thursday, September 15, 2011


          These past couple of days have been the Korean holiday called Chuseok, similar to American Thanksgiving. According to Wikipedia, Chuseok is: “a major harvest festival and three-day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar…As a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional food such as songpyeon and rice wines.”
          Songpyeon is a Korean rice-cake, different from the American version of rice-cake. The outside reminds me of the mochi ice-cream balls that are sold at Trader Joe’s. Again from Wikipedia, songpyeon “is a traditional Korean food made of glutinous rice…They have become a popular symbol of traditional Korean culture. Songpyeon are half-moon-shaped rice cakes that contain different kinds of sweet or semi-sweet fillings, such as sesame seeds and honey, sweet red bean paste, and chestnut paste steamed over a layer of pine needles, which gives them the fragrant smell of fresh pine trees. They were made into various shapes with the participation of family members and were often exchanged between neighbors.”


          On the Thursday morning of the week beforehand, we had a special Chuseok-day with all of the kindergarteners. The Korean teachers and students all came dressed in hanboks (traditional Korean clothing), and EOS provided the native teachers with hanboks to wear as well. The female hanbok is a bit like a brightly colored tent, or at least the ones that we were given, and not the most flattering. The kiddies looked really cute in theirs though, and some of them had really nice ones that were intricately made and beautiful. Some of the little boys wore puffy pink pants that were tight around the ankles, which I thought was precious.

Native teachers in their hanboks (courtesy of Amanda Teacher)

Instead of teaching classes, each teacher was assigned a traditional Korean game to play with the children. The games written on the schedule were “tal mask dance” (led by Gym Teacher), “too-ho play” (you try to throw an arrow in a cup of sorts, led by Jessica Teacher), “hoop play” (you try to roll a metal hoop with a stick, led by Anna Teacher), “neolttwigi jaegichaga” (kind of like teeter-totter, led by Amanda Teacher), “targeting stones” (you put a bean-bag on your head or shoulder and walk across the room with it, then lean over so that it knocks over a block, led by Hillary Teacher), and Ttakji game (led by Austin Teacher).
In my opinion, my game was the least fun. You basically took a folded up piece of magazine paper and threw it on another folded up piece of magazine paper, trying to throw hard enough so the paper on the ground would flip over. As far as I saw, none of the children were able to do this, and neither was I. I offered a lot of encouraging “almost!” and “nice try!”s. At least I got to help out with targeting stones, which was much more exciting. Here I am teaching the kiddies the game, photo credit to Hillary Teacher:

"Take one, please"

The Angelfish girls were having a hard time with this game.

          We got Monday and Tuesday off of work, which was great since I had been feeling sick, my immune system must be adjusting to being around so many kids. On Monday, Amanda Teacher and I went to Namsangol Hanok Village. This is a folk village in Seoul, which contains five restored traditional Korean houses, a pavilion, a pond, and a time capsule. The time capsule was buried in 1994, to celebrate Seoul’s 600-year anniversary, and is scheduled to be reopened in 2394.
          The village was hosting a special celebration for Chuseok. There were a bunch of people, mostly Korean of course but there were also a fair amount of foreigners. There were traditional games being played, and I recognized some from the games we played at school. One could also partake in traditional craft making. There was fan painting, mask painting, songpyeon-making, etc. There was also a performance area. We saw some live music, acrobatics, and a tightrope walker. Here are some photos:

Traditional Korean house

Arrow game

Time capsul

Tight-rope walker

All in all, Chuseok was a nice introduction into traditional Korean culture. Koreans seem to be very in-touch with and proud of their roots. The have a very rich culture and history indeed. Here is a little background info from one of my guidebooks: The traditional religions are Shamanism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, all which have shaped Korea’s sociocultural development. Christianity has also developed a very large following. South Korea has faced invasions from both Japan and North Korea and, lived under colonial rule by the Japanese for 35 years.
Fun fact: The national flower of Korea is the mugunghwa, or the Rose of Sharon, which (according to my guidebook) “is remarkably tenacious and able to withstand both blight and insects. The flower’s symbolic significance stems from the Korean word mugung (immortality). This word accurately reflects the enduring nature of Korean culture along with the perseverance of the Korean people.”