Tuesday May 3rd was Sports Day at my Osan Elementary School. What a production. I was trying to think if there is something comparable to this at home but haven't been able to come up with anything yet. It is a mixture between a talent show/picnic/family day and track & field event, all mixed into one. At the entrance to our school were little stalls set up selling toys and huge ballons and cotton candy, so this lent a very festival-esque feeling to the grounds.
The event was well under way by about 9am with all the students and their families pouring in. Each grade had an allotted time for the performance they had been practicing for the past few weeks. The performance was like a dance routine, incorporating ribbons, or symbols and other bells and whistles. Intermittently throughout the day were also relay races with hula hoops, skipping ropes, limbo sticks, and somersault mats. All the students took part in the races and there were even a few for the parents and a teachers race. There was an event to cater to every age group. The best event of the day in my opinion was for the ajummas and ajoshis. Theirs was a fishing event, where they hooked their rods into a goody bag filled with snacks and soju! From afar it looked like they were dipping their rods into a big bin and every cast pulled in a catch. But on closer inspection, at the bottom of the barrel was a little grade 6 boy hooking on their goodie bags, so everyone was a winner. Too sweet.
Another great activity was the warm up. I had a sneak peak at this during practice last week but it was still amazing to see. Our entire school lined up (over a thousand students) in rows. The national warm up song came on, and off they went. There is a 5 minute stretching/warm up routine, taught all through Korea, that everyone knows. It’s some lunges and some bendy things and then some squats. Then it’s a few more stretchy parts, twists and turns, a few jumps and it’s done. So great. And everyone knows it, even the teachers all know it from when they were in school. It was so entertaining to watch.
The weather was great and pretty much everyone at school had a smile from ear to ear. At noon, there was an hour break where all the students huddled up with their families on blankets and mats for a picnic. They took over every square inch of space and nestled in. This is one of the things Koreans do best. When a picnic is in the works, they pull out all the stops. The only limitation was no open flame burners (which is usually pretty standard). Out came jars and bottles and boxes of every food imaginable. Western style picnics are usually compact tote-able style foods, but in Korea, if you eat it at home in the kitchen, you can pack it up for a picnic. It was so lovely to wander around the school and watch all the kids with their families really enjoying the day.
After the lunch break, there were a few more events and some speeches from the principal and other key figures from the community. Eventually it started to wind down. You could see the day was taking its toll and it was almost home time. Again, this is another Korean specialty. Before everyone made a break for it, they all came together to disassemble and clean and put things back in order for the next day of school. All the tents were down, the garbage cleaned up and sorted and the picnics packed up in record time, without a trace of the days activities. Overall it was a great success! The teachers were happy, the parents were happy and as far as I could tell all the students had a amazing day!
(Mrs.Kim, my most wonderful coteacher, and I)