Chillin’ for Chuseok in Suji
Today, Koreans are sitting down with their families and giving thanks. It is Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving. We have a five day weekend this week, and though I could have taken the opportunity to go somewhere and do something, I’m delighting in being able to sit back and feel Autumn settle in. I have blogs to write, applications to fill out, books to read, and a coffee shop I’ll be frequenting over the next couple of days to get it all done. Just imagine me with my favorite cinnamon hot chocolate at Ediya all day long with a computer in front of me and papers and books by my side. Heaven. A wonderful way to recharge my batteries.
At school on Friday, we had a Chuseok celebration with our IP kiddos. I was so excited for the day, and it really made my week. All my little monsters were in their traditional hanboks, and they were just like little jumping beans of vibrant colors and smiles. Meagan and I were chosen to wear the school’s women’s hanboks, and it was such a wonderful cultural experience for me. The day before, I had one of my students offer me her hanbok to wear, and when I mentioned it might not fit, she readily offered her mother’s. It was very touching to have my students want me to be a part of their cultural traditions, even when they don’t really understand the finer points of culture, or for that matter, the actual definition.
Meagan and I wore the traditional women’s set of “chima jeogori”, consisting of a full, wrap-around skirt and small jacket. As soon as we walked out of the office, our kids devolved into shouts of glee and astonishment. Their energy was contagious. My Nuzzler, who is a complete tomboy, showed up to school wearing her own chima jeogori. Not only that, but it was hot pink! My heart nearly died at seeing her! I could not believe my little bug had the ability to be even cuter than she already is. Meagan and I both had our jaws hitting the floor when we saw her. Yoo-an loved it and never fussed about a thing the entire day. I’m pretty sure the majority of my pictures that day had her as the main subject because I just wanted to permanently capture this one special day where my tomboy wore a pink dress. (To give you an idea, when Jess was playing with Yoo-an and asked if she was a baby, Yoo-an responded, “I’m not a baby. I’m a boy!”) Oh, my heart!
We started our morning off with making songpyeon, or rice cakes. Our manager, Jason, kindly provided us with a print out explaining how to make them. Each class had one of the helper teachers do what they do best, so I am incredibly thankful they were there. The kids were the ones teaching me this time, showing me how to take the balls of rice and flatten them between my fingers, add the different beans, and mash the rice dough back together. You can eat them raw, but they are usually steamed over a bed of pine needles. My taste for rice cakes is rather finicky, so I didn’t bother having any this time around. We loved helping each other as a group for this activity, and it was a great deal of fun.
The kids had some time to color while waiting to participate in other activities. Over the course of the morning, they were able to play Tuho. The basic premise is you throw sticks into a designated container, whoever gets the most sticks in the bucket wins. After that, the kids had a chance to practice playing jegichagi, which you might want to think of as the Korean version of hacky sack. I say practice, because later all the classes came together to see who was the best player. Of course all of the kids could hit the jegi once. Some could do it twice. A couple could do it three times. And one of my Bear kids could do it four times, but didn’t want to show his skills. Jason and I decided to showcase our talents, but they were sadly lacking in front of an eager audience.
To wrap everything up before lunch, we gathered in the gym for a grand finale. The students flowed into the gym like a massive pink and blue wave, excited to find out what would happen next. We stood in the largest, not quite circular circle we could manage. Then we danced the Ganggangsullae, a Korean circle dance. The kids loved it and we worked up quite a sweat. After two rounds of the dance, all the kids fell to the foam floor to catch their breath.
It was a great experience, and one I know I’m going to miss not being able to witness and participate in every year. I will be uploading a video compilation at a later time so you can get a better idea of what we did during our day. I just want to say again what an honor it was to partake in this tradition with the little loves of my Korean life.