I picked up my fuzzy soju head this morning and headed off to Daejeon’s Expo Park with the kindergarten kiddies.
We’ve been there before – several times, in fact – but it’s so big and has so many different kinds of attractions that you can spend several days there without doing the same activity twice. There’s a theme park, a winter sports area, an open air water park, multiple playgrounds, museums, 3D movie theatres, picnic areas, and vast numbers of educational centres on various subjects (you know, the “let’s make learning about boring stuff fun by letting you walk through oversized models of the human ear” kind of thing).
We were supposed to be having the annual swimming pool day, but as it has been grey, cloudy, and raining cats and dogs (or “raining ropes” as I learned to say in French at the weekend) for an entire week, the pool idea was abandoned. So obviously today the temperatures soared again, and the sun was splitting the skies, and we were traipsing around with a hundred sweaty children all day. They enjoyed themselves all the same, but enjoyment turned to pure delight when we let them loose in a big playground at the end and they discovered a set of those fountain things that suddenly shoot up out of the ground and then disappear just as rapidly. With shrieking and squealing and screaming, the children ran – fully clothed – straight into their midst, getting soaked within seconds.
There’s something about seeing children in these moments of sheer happiness that is just plain good for the soul. They were so excited and delighted every time the fountains shot up around them that they laughed hysterically, often jumping up and down and clapping their hands just to let a bit more of their joy show. You can’t help but be happy in the presence of such undiluted pleasure. And of course, one of the best things about being a kindergarten teacher is that you’ve got an excuse to abandon your inhibitions and act like a child yourself. One by one, groups of excited children mobbed their teachers and dragged us, shrieking, into the fountains. Admittedly, I didn’t need much dragging – cool fountains on a scorching day, yes please! By the end, the teachers were mock-wrestling each other in the jets of water with just as much abandon as the infants, until at last we squelched, dripping and refreshed, back out to get the bus home.
Much as I suffer in the heat (and am of course as sunburnt as usual), I have to admit that summer in Korea can be a lot of fun. Smiling faces, sunshine, laughter, and ice cream… no matter how hard you’re working in between these moments, it does leave you with a feeling of being on a permanent holiday in the sun!