Field trip to Seoul
So I’m finally getting around to blogging about my school field trip from a few weeks ago. I’ve been a bit caught up with my observation class, which thankfully just ended. Also, I’ve been a bit caught up with being a terrible procrastinator. I’ve been meaning to read a book about how to break the habit, but…whatever.
Click below to read about 200+ 8th graders running rampant through Seoul.
We loaded onto the bus early Monday morning for the five hour bus ride from Daegu to Seoul. It was one homeroom per bus, so it was just my co-teacher and I with about 40 kids. Having to make the five hour drive from Miami to Gainesville countless times while in college, I wasn’t too worried about the trip. I said hello to the kiddies, sat at the front of the bus and settled in with my book as we got going.
Ten minutes later, we were at a rest stop. I asked what was going on and they responded, “we’re stopping to use the bathroom and buy some snacks,” with a baffled look as if I had just asked the dumbest question imaginable. “But…we just left,” I added. “Yeah..” I explained that on American field trips and road trips in general, we lived by the “go before we leave the house because we’re not stopping ’til we get there” type of philosophy. Obviously, for them it was more about the journey than the destination because we lollygagged at the reststop for about 20 minutes.
Eventually we got to Seoul and our first stop, the Gyeongbok Palace. The palace used to be the residence of Korean kings and lies within a huge walled off complex of buildings and gardens near the center of the city. While trying to find our way around, our bus driver hung a few illegal u-turns and was flagged down by some guy in a suit. Their discussion turned into a bit of a heated argument that abruptly ended with the bus driver seemingly apologizing profusely. My coteacher explained that we were right next to the Blue Roof House, the president’s home, and the man in the suit was a secret service agent who had just threatened to take the bus driver in. I looked around and saw that we were in fact at the front gate of the presidential residence.
We spent the afternoon wandering the palace grounds with what looked like 30 other schools. The buildings were nice, but the main palace grounds were dirt and gravel, so the combination of the heat and the dust being kicked up by thousands of kids wasn’t too pleasant. I managed to work my way to the back of the compound and away from the crowds where there were beautiful gardens, ponds, pagodas and unobstructed mountain views.
The hotel we were staying at was some isolated place up in the mountains that had a serious ‘The Shining’ type of vibe to it. It seemed to specialize in summer retreats for corporations and large groups, but had apparently been out of use for some time. There’s something very unsettling about a dry kiddie pool, with slides and characters being overrun by weeds.
They gave us one entire hallway of the hotel, which quickly turned into a madhouse. We had suite-style rooms, with about 10 kids packed into each one. The stomping down the hallway, yelling, and door slamming went on until the wee hours of the morning. I was very surprised that rather than telling everyone to get in their rooms and shut the hell up, the teachers just set up chairs at the ends of the hallway and kept watch pretty much all night. I told them they should just duct-tape the outside of their doors and be done with it.
The next morning we set off for Everland, where Gina went on her field trip. But we were met with rainy and dreary weather, so we went to Lotte World instead. Lotte is a huge department store that built an indoor theme park modeled after Disney World. And by ‘modeled after’ I mean blatantly stolen. Check out the Flickr page for all the pictures, but here’s a brief list of all the reasons why these people desperately need to get sued: the castle, the logo, the LW font, the Pirates of the Caribbean knock-off (which was Sinbad themed, but even had the dog holding keys in its mouth), Jungle Cruise (which had French Legionnaires and dinosaurs for some reason), the Tree of Life from Animal Kingdom, the Indiana Jones ride from Disneyland, Mickey and Minnie (which were badgers or something), the Atlantis water coaster (which is actually from Sea World), churros, Hawaiian Ice, and the stage show I dubbed “We’ve Stolen Every Copyrighted Character Ever Ever But This is Korea So We Do Whatever the Hell We Want Jamboree.”
That night everybody was completely exhausted, so I expected to get to bed (or floor, rather) early. Silly me and my individualist American thinking. Once we got in, it was party time for teachers. We crowded around in the female teachers’ room to enjoy beer, oranges and dried octopus. Yum. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their level of camaraderie and their efforts to bring me into the group, but I suppose as westerners we need some sort of “me time” to feel sane. Especially at the end of a very long day. Korea however, is a collectivist society (this topic will eventually get its own post) so there is not much “me time” only “we time” I guess you could call it. The drinking, munching and conversation (100% in Korean) went on well past 1am despite the 6am wake-up time. Aside from the exhaustion, there’s something about the murmuring of a completely unknown foreign language that has the ability to put you right to sleep. As I fought to stay awake, they would ask me what’s wrong as if wondering why I wasn’t participating, to which I would respond that I was fine. In my head I was thinking, “I don’t f***ing speak Korean! What would you like me to do?” The collectivism issue would resurface on the last day when we arrived back at school. We gathered our things and I said goodbye, looking forward to my own shower and bed, when they invited me to dinner with the whole staff. “Really?” At this point we had seen each others’ faces for about 3 days straight, not to mention the hundreds of screaming teenagers – can’t we just call it a day? Fortunately my co-teacher noticed my lack of enthusiasm and told me it wasn’t mandatory, so I said no thanks and went home.
So those were essentially the highlights of the trip. Check out the Flickr page for more pics, including the Korean independence memorial and some other cool stuff.