We went on a field trip yesterday – a Korean-language one this time, so I don’t know exactly what it was about! But it seemed to be educating the youngsters about forests and conservation and that sort of thing. It was a very small museum-type place with various tree-related displays and posters, and friendly ‘guides’ dressed in outdoorsy ranger uniforms, showing the children videos about forest fires and giving them lots of information. They seemed to enjoy it, whatever it was.
At the end, however, we were led to a long table laden with all kinds of tree parts – thinly sliced twigs, berries, evergreen leaves, sticks, etc. – along with a circular wooden disk and some glue. Teacher can come, too! said the guide in Korean, ushering me kindly to a chair in the midst of the children. She was very sweet, including me in the class and making sure I understood all her instructions, although really, it wasn’t too hard to figure out that I was supposed to make a pendant using the tree-related materials and glue in front of me. It was great fun. Here’s my finished piece of jewellery:
When we were just getting started, an elderly man sat down next to me – possibly the owner of the centre. He, too, spoke no English, but we introduced ourselves politely and had as much of a conversation as I could manage in Korean. He told me that his granddaughter, currently an English teacher at a school similar to ours, was born in America. I think he was telling me that I reminded him of her (I’m very distinctly Korean-looking, you know!) – either that, or maybe he just has a soft spot for foreigners who come here to teach English. I don’t know. Anyway, we had reached the end of my Korean conversational abilities, so he began work on something of his own while I turned back to my necklace and assisted glue-covered infants with theirs.
He watched me intently as I helped the children with their artwork, and he spoke at length to my Korean colleague about me, but she doesn’t speak enough English to translate. I began to feel a little paranoid! But I needn’t have worried. When he finished his necklace, he turned back in my direction and held it out to me, telling me that he’d made it as a present for me.
Slightly surprised, I accepted it with both hands and gave a polite little bow of gratitude, to which he said something in Korean and clasped my hands in his for a few seconds before walking away. I didn’t understand most of what he said, but I got a few words. Teacher. Children. Happy. Love. Thank you very much.
That was enough for me.
*After I wrote this post, my director mentioned the necklace to me. Apparently the old man told her that it’s a crane, and symbolises a long and happy life, which is what he wishes for me. :) I love little moments like these!