I thought that the schools teacher sports day activity, (which seems to be less of a ‘day’ and more of a bi-weekly occurrence) was fishing. I was told that we’d be going to Hwacheon to an island famous for its fish. I was excited. I haven’t been fishing since I lived on Cape Cod back in 2009. I was wrong. We weren’t fishing at all.
We loaded out of the school into some of the teachers cars at 14:00. It seems that when its teacher’s sports day everybody forgets that they have a responsibility to the education of the kids at the school and instead just kick back and have fun, abandoning the school and leaving it to its own devices. It’s way over my head.
The drive to Hwacheon from Damok was shorter than I remembered; I rode with the maintenance man who is one of my favourite co-workers. Outside of the English that I have personally taught him he doesn’t speak a lick of my lingo but we get along really well. He has a great taste in music, we listened to some Spanish guitar music which sounded like Rodrigo y Gabriela but probably wasn’t. From what I’ve experienced in my time here (this is just an observation and isn’t grounded in any fact) it’s rare to find a Korean who listens to classy world music that isn’t pop. Cheesy pop.
We arrived in Hwacheon and parked up by the giant lake which soars out in front of the town of Hwacheon. It appeared that we weren’t fishing but that we were cycling. Mr. Chen (who is actually called Mr. Chae but I think Chen sounds better) was pulling bicycles out of a shed next to the tourist information office. “That’s better than fishing,” I thought.
We all sat on our bicycles and started riding down a very flat well constructed bicycle trail which was reminiscent of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a place where I used to cycle for miles on a daily basis. The trail was divided into two sections, one for one direction and one for the opposite direction and it went on for about 5 miles. That’s a guess. Most of the teachers seemed to lag behind but my sport obsessed vice principal cycled up next to me at a pretty high speed, I turned to look at him and jokingly put on an “I’m going to race you” face and I started peddling harder. To my shock and surprise my vice principal loved this and we sped off down the trail. We ended up riding the whole trail together (the only two out of the whole school to actually do it). It is a beautiful bike trail and it reminded me of how much I enjoy riding, the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and the wheels on the ground. It's peaceful. There were statues of the famous otters, some nice wooden bridges and there was plenty of wildlife.
At the end of the trail we both stopped and took some photographs, I never spend any time with my vicey-p and I’m glad we had this opportunity to bond. He speaks better English than he lets on and we had a great time together. We arrived back to the bicycle shed with applause; somehow they must have known we cycled the whole trail. No idea how. When I don’t have anything to get home too I really enjoy going out with my school.
Then, we went for dinner, and to my surprise only two bottles of soju were consumed by the entire school. I guess a lot of people were driving. We had some great food; my co-teacher told me what it was called. It was something ‘galbi: ribs’ but I’ve completely forgotten what. I got the bus back from Hwacheon and listened to some old pop-punk music that reminded me of my own school days. Watching the hills rolling by my window I thought about what the people I went to school with are doing now. Time distorts everything.
Time is however, moving quickly. There’s another teacher outing next week as it is Teacher’s Day here in Korea on the 15th. This may sound odd but it appears that the UK is one of the only countries in the whole world that doesn’t have a teacher’s day. I’m not sure what we’re doing or what to expect. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m off to the hospital this weekend to get vaccinations for the big trip. Always remember the only thing better than a cow is a human. Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow.