Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kindergarten Festival

I'm sleepy today - partly as a result of wet weather, and partly as a result of a challenging morning with two of my three grade 6 classes - more on that later.

While yesterday was a rainy day mostly at home, Saturday was a chance to head to Bundang (southern attached suburb of Seoul) and see what the younger crowd is up to. The younger crowd in this case being my nephew, Jun-hyeok, and his kindergarten pals as they participated in a sports day event.

We were very fortunate with the weather - sunny and dry - and it was a chance for me to hang-out with family. I have to say, I was impressed with the level of organization that went into the events that day. An outside event planning group came in and delivered a two and a half hour session of non-stop fun for approximately 100 kindergarten students and their parents. There were no breaks - just constant joy in the form of mucking-about with foamies, plastic ball-pit balls, parachutes, and the like.

My three favourite activities were:

1) Red & Blue Foam Squares

- There were about 200 double-sided foam squares (1' x 1') with one side red and the other blue. They are spread all higgledy-piggledy about an open field and the two teams of tots ("Read Team" and "Blue Team") run at once into the breech and attempt to turn as many of the squares as they can to have their team's colour facing up. Chaos ensues. Of course, as one happy red team member is all satisfied from turning a set of two blue squares into red ones, along comes a blue team member to erase his or her effort. The most entertaining duels involved a red team child facing a blue team child for the entire one minute duration of the game. They would patiently take turns turning a group of four or five squares, then wait for the opposing child to turn them again, and then repeat ad nauseam. The whistle would blow, and then it would be a contest to see who could remain behind to turn the squares one more time on the way off the field. The squares are then collected by colour and the highest pile wins the event.

2) Tunnel-Ball!

- Parents and children form a line facing each other about 5 feet apart, then every second child crosses to the other side to ensure that there is even distribution of parent and child on each side. A long piece of cloth (about 40 meters long and 2 meters wide) is held between the sides - creating a "road" the length of the team and about 3-4 feet off the ground. A giant inflatable ball needs to be passed down to the far end of the road and back again by working as a team to raise and lower the "road" like a caterpillar. The other team is working nearby to accomplish the same in a race format. The real fun, however, starts with the second round where the ball reaches the end of the high road and then has to pass underneath on the way back through a raised tunnel of cloth, arms, and hysterically kicking legs. Parents and children both need to work in unison to kick the ball through the tunnel to the end. Inevitably, one overly zealous child would break free from his or her parents' arms and attack the ball with a great ferocity - beating the hell out of it and stopping it dead in its tracks with a flurry of punches and kicks while neighbouring parents looked on in consternation. Fun for the kid, bad for the team, and entertaining as all heck for bystanders like me.

3) Joust!

- Seemingly inspired by the 1982 video game with the same name, this game involved wee tots astride their parental steeds. Wearing "tails" in the form of mini pool noodles, the tots have to roam about the field and attempt to steel the tails from other tots while defending their own. Because Jun-hyeok's dad was tired from the previous event, I was lucky enough to act as ostrich for my nephew for this one. As I was approximately a foot taller than most of the dads on the field, we had a distinct advantage. We survived our tourney unscathed and made-off with a tail from the opposing team. Nice work, Jun-hyeok! We high-fived a few times that day, and while he thinks nothing of having a way-gook saram (foreigner) as an uncle, to his on-looking friends, I may as well have been a pet dinosaur. Apparently, before he went to bed that night, Jun-hyeok told his mom that his friends were sad because they didn't have a tall uncle Dave to ride in the game. Finally, my height is good for something in this country other than smashing into the top of inter-car subway doors.

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