So today I attended our high school’s senior graduation. The last one I was on vacation and I’d just assumed it was right after school let out for winter break. But no, that would make sense…Instead, Korean students take their college entrance exams and cease to be studious. Their last month of school is spent goofing off, enabled by their teachers who show movies and let them do whatever they want, because they are “unteachable.” These seniors even have to go to night classes. Then, after winter break they come back for a week and again do nothing! Man, set them free and don’t drag out the babysitting, for God’s sake…
None of the students today wore uniforms and we all assembled in the new auditorium, the students filling only the front half of it (it seemed like half the students were missing?) the parents and family filling the back, and on the stage a dozen city and county officials, a couple of teachers and the principal all dressed in suits. I was dressed like a total scrub, and felt horribly conspicuous so under-dressed while sporting the “Congratulations on your graduation” ribbon all the teachers were given to wear.
Then, we were all lead in singing the national anthem. Once again, it always surprises me because everyone in Korea only sings the first stanza and once again, I somehow know the second stanza from having to sing it in Heritage camp once when I was a kid and I remembered my Korean tutor asking me to sing it and how shocked she was because, as she told me, even most Koreans don’t know the second stanza. I had one of those adoptee moments because it really feels weird to put your hand over your heart saluting the flag and singing the national anthem while bitter thoughts of being thrown away by your country crosses your mind.
Thank God we have a small school because they then hand out tons and tons of little awards. There were a few whoops and hollers, but really tame in comparison to a U.S. graduation, and none of those Euro-centric academia gowns and mortar-board hats with tassels. The principal and two other officials gave speeches and I was totally appalled to barely be able to hear him because parents and students were having loud conversations all around me. Surprisingly, afterward everyone sings “Auld Lang Zine” in Korean.
The whole school left before lunch, so I went looking for a restaurant, but the whole town was eating out after graduation. It seems they must have graduations for middle school students as well. I stopped at the Goat and Duck place and there are only two items offered for single servings: both soup. Since I’d had the Goat before, I ordered the other soup, assuming it was duck. Wrong. Nae Jang Guk. Which turned out to be intestines, which I fished out as I couldn’t even fathom biting through…
I stopped at the Alpha office supplies afterward to look for canvas-surfaced paper to try painting on. They didn’t have any oil paint or canvas or stretchers or anything – just acryllics and watercolor. Fortunately I had a small set of acrylics I bought but didn’t use for the puppet play that never transpired last year. I did buy some gel medium because I read that acrylics dry too fast to push around for long, and I can’t imagine not being able to do that, and I’ve never used acrylics before. Well, we’ll see.
Yesterday one of my students from last year brought me a hand-made Christmas card and a present, as we didn’t have an opportunity to connect before the break. There’s something really all-American about this girl. Something about her motivations, which are thoughtful and self-exploratory without being overly concerned about what her peers think.
The place is getting more comfortable, and at the same time not wanting to be included in society is really nice. I’m just about business, but of course trying to provide value while here. It’s going to be a good year.