This morning, I was the Irish representative in the English School.
As I mentioned before, I feel grateful but guilty when receiving gift after gift from the generous people of Korea, so St. Patrick’s Day was my chance to give back a little. For all the school staff, I made cards (involving lots of glitter!), to which I stuck a few shells and pebbles from Irish beaches. You can’t say I’m not original. :) I put the cards in little green shamrock gift bags with a green lollipop and a few sweets in green, white, and gold wrappers.
Of course, it wouldn’t do to show up in the classrooms with gifts for the teachers and not for the children. Fortunately eBay came to my rescue with someone selling bags of small badges especially for St. Patrick’s Day. As I write this, there are approximately 100 small children running around a school in Korea, proudly showing off badges that say things like “Happy St. Pat’s!”, “Irish for the day”, and “Eat, drink, and be Irish”. I popped a badge into each of the teachers’ gift bags, too, and am quite amused to see them wearing them almost as excitedly as the children, without understanding what they say.
One homeroom teacher tried her best to understand my halting, uncertain, Korean explanation of why I was giving out these things, and then explained to the children for me. I was horrified to catch the word “yong-guk” (England) in her explanation – see earlier post – and hastily interrupted. I can just about ignore them calling me English on any other day, but not on St. Paddy’s.
Yong-guk annio, annio! (England, no, no!) EYE-UH-LEN-DUH! (IRELAND!), I said anxiously, shaking my head dramatically. Eye-uh-len-duh saram ee-ay-yo! (I am Irish!)
Fortunately Kay entered the classroom at that point, and upon seeing my distressed expression, explained the Ireland and England being different countries thing for me. And as I visited all the classrooms and spent my morning sitting on the floor pinning St. Patrick’s Day badges on to crowds of excited children, and watched teachers walking around discussing their cards and wearing their badges, I felt something akin to patriotism. This may be the first time that this has ever happened to me. It felt good to be teaching people about my home country, and making a whole school full of children and teachers aware that today is a special day they’d never heard of, just as they did for me at Seollal.
And tonight, I party with the Daejeon Irish population (and friends). Is it a little strange that I don’t ever remember celebrating this holiday in Ireland, but I’m throwing myself into the festivities in Asia?! It feels kind of surreal.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day from me – and from the world’s cutest leprechauns:
*’leprechaun’, in case you’re as confused as I initially was.