Seollal: The Lunar New Year

Okay, okay… I know Seollal was 2 weekends ago. That’s how behind I am in my posts. Shame! I really do apologize for not keeping up with my blog the past week and a half, but I truly have been extremely busy. Let me start with the weekend of Seollal.

By the way, in case you haven’t already figured it out, Seollal is the Lunar New Year. It’s what we would call “the Chinese New Year” back home. Except that it’s celebrated across Asia, and in Korea, it’s called ‘Seollal’ (pronounced “So-LAHL,” more or less). It was Sunday, February 3rd.

The Saturday before the holiday, I went to Seoul with 3 of my co-workers from EV. One is my friend, Ellie, who is in ODP (One Day Program) and who has been in Korea for over a year. The other 2 girls are new to EV and so Ellie and I decided to invite them to Seoul with us. There is a place called Namsan Hanok Village, which is more or less a park and a traditional Korean home/palace that you can tour. Every year, they have a Korean cultural festival during the Seollal holiday. So, the 4 of us girls hopped on the bus and arrived in Seoul around lunch time, so we decided to eat first. Ellie used to live in Seoul and knows of a bunch of places to get good food. She took us to a Hawaiian restaurant, where we all ordered the “Aloha burger,” which you will see pictures of in my photo gallery: lettuce, hamburger, tomato, onion, cheese, pineapple, more lettuce, and avocado. They were huge and I had to eat from top to bottom because I couldn’t fit the whole thing in my mouth for a bite. However, they were heavenly and we all devoured them before setting off to find Namsan Hanok Village. After getting out at the right subway station, we ended up at Korea House, a smaller traditionally built Korean home for people to tour. We knew, though, that we were in the wrong place and had to ask someone where to go.

We finally found our way, and it turned out to be quite a festival (see pictures). There were several traditional Korean games to try out, one of them being something that I liken to the hackey-sack. It’s a sort of plastic pom-pom attached to a flat piece of plastic, and you stand in a circle and kick it to each other. We were terrible at it, and even the guys working there who joined in were terrible at it, but we had a lot of fun trying to kick it around to each other. After that, that was the only game we tried. We walked around to some of the other stations, which included kite-making, mask-making, touring the traditional Korean home/palace, and writing your new year’s wish on a piece of paper which then gets tied to a clothesline. There are pictures of all of this, which you can view on my Photos 2013 page.

We spent quite a while there, and afterwards, we walked around town for a bit and I left around dinner time to go back to Paju. The other girls stayed and hung out there for the evening. I came back to EV because Glenn and I had planned to do dinner together. The next day, on Seollal, I stayed home all day and graded essays for the pre-MBA students while Glenn hung out with a few of his buddies.

Because of Seollal, we got Monday off. Woohoo! We spent the day relaxing and then went to a potluck that was organized by one of our good friends here at EV. Most people (those in OWP) had the week off, and were off in Thailand, the Philippines, and other warm, tropical places. However, a few of us remained and so we decided that a potluck dinner would be a fun occasion to get together and do something on a day off. (Remember, this is a rare occurrence since people work different days and have different schedules.) The potluck was a huge success! It started out with some of us preparing food in the cooking room, which you will see pictures of, and then we used a classroom downstairs for the actual potluck. A lot of people came, including my friends, Steve and Asrune, who work in Paju at public schools (Steve is my childhood friend from my hometown, you may recall). There was an unbelievable amount of food: 2 tables for entrees and another for dessert. It was all so delicious and we all agreed that it was nice to have some home-cooked food. Not a bad way to celebrate the Lunar New Year!

And that brings us to last week. Well, what can I say? It was busy. Allow me to walk you through a typical day with the pre-MBA program: 9am-10am is small group tutoring (3 students per teacher) in which students discuss the articles they were to read for homework. 10am-11am is some kind of warm-up activity or game, and 11am-12pm is usually another game or fun activity. 12pm-1:30pm is lunch time (for some reason, the MBA program had asked that the students get an hour and a half for lunch). 1:30-2:30pm is time when students work with their groups on preparing for the weekly presentation, with teachers’ assistance. 2:30-3:30 and 3:30-4:30pm are language lessons. 4:30-6:00pm is private tutoring, where each of the 3 students assigned to a tutor gets a half hour of one-on-one help. The day is finished after that, except on Tuesdays when we get an hour for dinner and then have a group activity from 7:00-9:00pm. Other than lunch, the only breaks we get during the day are an hour or 2 for devo, except that we often have trainings during devo time or spend the entire hour working on preparing lessons and materials.

That is what every day has been like for us, and not just 5 days a week, but Monday-Friday as well as Saturday morning. On Saturday morning, the students presented their project of the week (marketing strategies for the business plans they created the week prior), and the teachers got to judge them. We each took a group because the week before we judged them all, then had to discuss our comments and decide on a score together. This time, we made it easier on ourselves and just did one group each. All of the presentations were fantastic and the commercials they made Friday afternoon were hilarious (they had to make a commercial and show it as part of their presentation). As you can see, the program is quite intense and it’s a lot less laid back for the teachers compared to when I taught cooking in OWP.

Last week, I had stuff going on every day after work. At this point, I can’t remember what all I did in the evenings last week, but I know I came home exhausted every night and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Same with Glenn. Because we were so exhausted by the end of the week, we decided to make no plans for last weekend and spent the whole time indoors, being lazy for the most part. I cleaned really well and spent another half day grading essays, but at least I was home, warm, and in my pajamas.

This week, all of us – teachers and students – are a little worn out from having such a tight schedule. However, we’re all making the best of it and trying to maintain the energy to get through the week. Just 2 more days and 1 more Saturday presentation. Luckily, there are no programs scheduled for the next 2 weeks, which means 2 straight weeks of devo! I gladly welcome the break from teaching.

Phew! I think that’s all for now. After this pre-MBA program is over, I’ll do a better job of blogging more frequently.

In the meantime, check out my pictures! View Photo Gallery

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