I passed out pen pal Christmas letters to the 300+ students in the program… I had a 30 minute block of time after lunch when everyone would be free. I had their letters alphabetized and arranged by classes in my big pen pal double cabinets. I made the girls line up, and one by one I passed out letters… The line was all the way out the door, down the whole hallway- so crazy! The image I will never forget, however, was this: the bell rings. Sarah Kim (Superstar Sarah, if you remember) bursts out of her classroom, and begins a full-on sprint towards my room. We’re talking arms pumping, face of determination— I don’t think I’ve ever seen Olympic sprinters more focused. When I passed her her letter from Taylor, she screamed like a banshee and ran off, skipping down the hallway. Hilarious.
After my next class, I had to run out to meet Sunny and Lauren to go to the bank to try to transfer money to America. However, swarms of students who hadn’t yet received their letters were heading towards my classroom. I keep yelling “I’m going to the bank! Back in one hour!” to the masses, and then- so so funny- my coteacher started acting as my bodyguard. She parted the sea of students, yelling “She’s going to the bank!” and moving students to the left and right so that I could escape… I so, so wish someone had it on video. It was the funniest image ever, I’m sure.
I had my last class for the semester with one of my absolute favorite classes. So we took a picture together to commemerate the occasion:
Love them so much!
This picture is strange but I love it:
By the way, I’ve mentioned Alphabet a few times before. She’s definitely one of my favs, and is in this class. Here’s a picture!
After school, we had 30 minutes to curl my host sister’s hair, stop Inseo and his fellow 12 year old friend from punching each other long enough to load them into the car (boys are strange- later in the car ride they were flicking each other on the forehead), and gather all the flutes and music sheets to head to the piano recital.
We had to arrive one hour early to practice, get settled, etc. When we got there…. I got the giggles. The auditorium was filled with little pianists all under 4 feet tall. Apparently, in Korea, piano recitals mean dress up time, too. The piano company has an assortment of princess dresses for the girls and little suits for the boys… It was the CUTEST thing EVER. Thank the good Lord they did not make me wear one- the three older girls (middle school and high school) were allowed to wear their school uniforms, so I wore a plaid skirt to go with the theme… When I entered, the little ones starting yelling, “WOAH! Waygook!” (foreigner). They were so cute and curious. I sat down to wait my turn to practice, and the giggles continued. This was who I was up against:
Please note that her feet don’t even reach the pedals. She was playing something incredibly impressive.
When it was my turn, the little ones hushed for the first time that night, eager to see what the big waygook was going to play… So up to the stage I go (one of my students and my host sister cheering— thanks for the love), bow, and sit down. And then I awe the crowd with the a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells…” HA! (Dun dun dun… dun dun dunn.. dun dun dun dun dunnnn…) So funny. The whole situation.
My piano teacher came up to me a little later to say hello (she’s 28 years old and the cutest thing ever), and pointed to a man on the stage. “He’s my boyfriend! Handsome guy!” she told me. Adorable. Her boyfriend said “Hi Elizabeth!” from the stage with the microphone, to which point all the little ones turned in their seat and started waving.
Anyways, the evening was quite fun. I did not blank and forget the entire song (my one fear), the little ones and I became friends backstage (they all kept saying “Hello!” and the little girls grabbed my hands), and the kids were as cute as can be. Oh- I forgot to mention. After my 20 second song, I walked offstage, and the MC (my piano teacher’s boyfriend) encouraged the audience to start chanting “encore! encore!”… To which my host sister So Yeong and I walked onto the stage for a surprise duet. Ahahahaha.
Question. Is there anything cuter than these little kids below?
Answer: No. No there is not.
However, my favorite part of the whole evening was what happened next. After all the little ones gathered for a finale song (uber cute), they cleared the stage. My piano teacher and her boyfriend were on stage, ready to bid the audience farewell… when…. The lights changed to a spotlight. My piano teacher’s boyfriend sat down at the piano and asked her to stand next to him. And then he began singing a song to her while playing the piano. And what followed was the best proposal I’ve yet to see in person.
He begins singing this adorable song to her and she has no idea what is happening. She’s super embarassed, and the crowd is whipping out their cellphones to video tape it. AND THEN MY CAMERA DIES.
Here’s the only picture I was able to snag before my battery died:
Then one of her friends takes over on the piano so that he can stand and sing to her… And then, AND THEN!!, at the climax of the song, two confetti cannons shoot out swirling ribbons of confetti and two huge banners confessing his love drop down on the stage simultaneously (if you look to the left of my teacher in the picture- you can see one of the cannons sticking out of the curtains). He gets down on one knee with flowers and a ring… says something that I’m sure was super cute but all I could catch was “I love you”… and then! After the ring is on her finger (he’s still singing… so cute), he begins running down the aisle with a second boquet of flowers, spotlight following him, and gets down on one knee in front of my piano teacher’s mother! He says something to her, gives her the flowers, and runs back on stage.
Oh my word I was dying. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen. In true Korean fashion, however, they didn’t even hug. The audience had to chant to even get them to give a little peck to each other. They stood side by side and bowed to the crowd. hahah, I loved it.
Afterwards there was ddok (rice cake), fried chicken, and tangerines for the audience to snack on. As we were leaving, the piano teacher’s boyfrien— er, fiance— said “Bye Elizabeth!” And I said “Bye!! Great job!” and gave him the thumbs up.
Haha! It was a fun night. We didn’t get home until around 10:30, but I highly enjoyed the evening. :)
This weekend I went to Gumi for a Christmas party at an orphanage. KKOOM, which in Korean means “Dream,” stands for Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission, and is a nonprofit that cares for orphans throughout South Korea.
It was founded by a 2004 ETA. Her story is really insipiring- besides this incredible non-profit that she’s created, she came to Korea knowing no Korean, and now is completely fluent and sounds inredible! I was awe-struck. haha
Anyways, about 25 ETA volunteers went to Gumi to help with the orphanage’s annual Christmas party. The orphanage in Gumi has children from 9 months old to a 22 year old in college.
The party was a blast! It was also fun to see friends. Lucy brought some special holiday cheer:
For the first three hours, the kids rotated through different fun activities. I was in the snacks and arts and craft room. I made friends with a little girl named Yoo Bin after I showed her how to make a paper snowflake. In return, she asked how to write my name and dedicated her paper ornament to me:
The kids LOVED the face painting. These two are such cuties:
I sat down at the face painting booth to take pictures, but soon got sucked into facepainting by the poor unfortuate souls who unknowingly sat down for their turn, thinking I was a competent artist. Oops. But it’s okay- I got a Korean boyfriend out of it. This one 16 year old kid (sorry to say I forgot his name…oops) came back seven different times to me to have something new painted on him, each time getting bolder and bolder. By the end of the day, he had “Happy New Year!” written across his arm, a heart on his shoulder, the apple logo on his face (except that I tried twice and it looked horrible so he washed it off..haha!) a heart on his forehead, my nick name on his neck (eh..that sounds sketchy), and a ring on his finger. The two requests I turned down were a heart on his chest (to which I replied, “Ahhh, chincha..” which rougly translates to “Ah, really…”— he apologized) and “couples rings” (to match the ring I was wearing).
Here’s the charmer, getting his heart on his forehead:
Later that night, I saw him talking to another girl in the orphanage, and he was rubbing the “couple’s ring” off his finger. How rude!! That was the last straw for me, so I broke it off with him. ;)
Other highlights: Yoo Bin came back and painted a cat on my hand, and a matching one on hers. We took many pictures that night with our matching hands. My cat’s name was Elizabeth, and hers was Yoo Bin. Clever, right??
These two little goobers found the ice cream sundae table first. I can’t get over how cute they are:
After the rotations and a spaghetti dinner, it was time for the party itself to begin. ETAs were split into pairs and sent off to a different “house.” Ooh, side note: the kids at this orphanage live in different “houses.” This means that they live with about 8-10 other kids and one “omma” (mom), who is a woman that has given her life to the orphanage (meaning she will not marry and lives to be a mother to these kids). I think this is an incredible way to do it- the kids are tighter than most families I’ve met, and the atmosphere is totally one of family and support.
So Lisa and I were sent to a girl’s house, where the girls had a little less than an hour to decorate Lisa as a Christmas character, using only tape, aluminum foil, and toilet paper. The girls decided on an angel, so the madness began:
While Lisa got wrapped and taped, I just took pictures of and with the kids. Such cuties.
The little girl with the pink headband walked past me three or four times with her mouth agape in awe, staring at my eyes. At one point, I asked her, “Eyes?” and she nodded, silently, so I opened my eyes even bigger for her to look at the color and she shrieked “WOAH!” … Later in the evening, she came up to me and pressed my nose to see what it felt like. Hahah!
Although we did not win the decorating contest, I think the girls did a great job!
After the competition, some of the girls put on a show to T-ara’s “Roly Poly”, and added a special interest by wearing belly dance shawl belts. Next, most of the kids (the older ones, at least) serenaded us with ocarinas. It was awesome.
To finish the evening, each child was called on stage and given their present (the ones we prepared in advance) to open. It was a fun time, and allowed you to visually stalk the child you bought presents for in order to watch their reactions to your gift. They seemed particularly excited about the jelly beans I gave them. haha
Overall, a fabulous weekend. I’m so glad I went. There are two KKOOM orphanages in Gyeongju, so next semester I’m going to try to start volunteering there. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than hanging out with some of the cutest kids on earth.
Some of my students rushed into my classroom during their break, pen pal letter in hand.
"TEACHER!" they said, freaking out. "My pen pal!!!"
"What? What??" I asked, concerned.
"Does he…??" - they started to put their feet together, counting one, two, three, four feet.
"Huh?" I said.
They thrust the letter their American pen pal had written and pointed to a line in his letter.
Garrett had written: “I am four feet and six inches tall.”
I started laughing. “Does he have four feet?” I asked them.
They all nodded eagerly, anxious for the answer.
Although tempted to tell them that yes, Garrett has four feet (like how I told Song I that Tom was indeed pregnant ((his letter wrote “I am the baby of the family”))), I resisted the temptation and explained it all.
Today, Lisa, Lauren, and I went shopping around downtown for Christmas presents. Next weekend, the three of us plus around 20 other volunteers are going to Gumi for a Christmas party at an orphanage (more details on that later), and we were all given three children who we need to shop for.
It was a great day spent shopping for others and buying cute, girly things. I have a 7 year old, 13 year old, and 15 year old, and I sure hope they like Hello Kitty and pink because that’s what they’re gettin! :)
In other news, Lisa and I bought some matching Christmas leggings because we’ve really wanted couples tshirts since forever, and this seemed like a natural alternative. However… when we actually tried them on (post-purchase- you don’t really try on stuff in Korea), we realized that they have no stretch at all. WAY too small for me and barely fit Lisa (which if you know Lisa… is saying something.) SO, the question arose: re-gift and find somebody with zero body fat and/or a newborn child, orrrrrrrrrrr find some other use for it.
May I present to you…Elizabeth’s new holiday scarf??
Hey. I think it totally works.
Also.. I’m really looking forward to the moment when I wear this in public and then find myself having to take it off for some reason. (Oh, don’t mind me as I unwrap the long underwear from my neck…)