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Archive for the 'Austin’s Orphanage' Category

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The Month of May in Korea is often called Family Month. There’s Children’s Day, Parent’s Day, and Teacher’s Day. Korea takes Mother’s Day to a whole different level! On these days you give your Children, Parents and Teachers gifts to show them how much you appreciate them. Children often benefit the most with candy and money being popular gifts. Teachers get quite a lot of gifts as well as they have many students and parents to receive gifts from. And that’s why the month of May is called Family month in Korea!

Well… did you learn something new about Korea?

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At the lake

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I’ve been a bit of a lousy orphanage volunteer these days. I am taking a class 3 nights a week, and buy with some other appointments on 2 days, so I haven’t been spending the kind of time I used to at the orphanage.

In a way, that’s OK since I will be leaving in August, and to kind of gradually make my exit it probably the healthiest and safest thing for those kids. But on the other hand, I’ve really missed them!

During a recent long weekend, I planned to spend the whole day with the orphans. They were going to some nearby beach. However, my friend Josh and I had to leave separately, and subsequently got stuck in a enormous traffic jam. Because of the holidays that week, the roads were absolutely jammed. We left the center of 서울 at around 8:30, and by 11:30, had barely made it out of the city limits into neighboring , 경기도. We did have 2 kids with us in Josh’s car, but all 80+ other kids were on a bus. They managed to get out ahead of the traffic, but we were NOT so lucky.

We decided to give up on the beach that day, and instead took the 2 kids we had to a lake. We had some lunch and rented rowboats. It was certainly fun, and a great chance to spend time with those 2 guys, but I am a little sad that I missed all the others ㅠ.ㅠ

My class will be over in a few weeks, and I can once again reclaim my schedule. I hope to tell a few more stories about those kids before the summer is out.

Some days are more frustrating than others pt. 2

Last week I wrote about one particular day.  Here is what happened after dinner.

As it turned out there really was no one working in the elementary boys side that night. After dinner is usually shower time, and even with an 엄마 it can be hectic (it depends on which 엄마 is there)!

The kids don’t really wash every day. Often they do little more than splash some water around their waists.  Shower time is not managed well.  Granted, it is a big undertaking. Some parents struggle with just a few of their own kids, but 20+ kids is a whole different battle.  And only the oldest kids really do it themselves. 1st-3rd and sometimes 4th graders are washed by an adult. It struck me as odd when I first saw it happen, but it is indicative of an aspect of Korean culture, and perhaps living in an orphanage. Since no staff was around the fell falls to me. Of course, kids are also supposed to be doing some homework, but that definitely didn’t happen.

After cleaning up from dinner, Josh (my friend who also volunteers there) and I announce that it time to wash . Starting with 1st graders. One of them is obedient and goes right in, but the other tries to object saying he washed two days ago, so he doesn’t need to tonight. After much cajoling (forcing) he surrendered. It was slow going all the way up the line.
In the middle of all this one of the staff members finally appears with all of the pre-school kids in tow. Apparently there was a staffing shortage that night, and he would have to watch all of the kids for a time. So he brought the little ones over to the elementary boys house with a movie to pacify everyone. But his movie choice … Die Hard 4 is probably not one that I would show kids.

I don’t mind being a firm figure in their lives, they certainly need it, but I cannot do that for them 24-7.  Often I feel like I don’t have any solutions either, and staff shortages are a real problem! That day gave a bigger picture for the magnitude of their circumstances. There is nothing easy about their life. I can intersect it from time to time, but they need positive input on a daily and sustained basis!

Some days are more frustrating than others pt. 1

I arrived shortly before dinnertime, which is pretty normal when I go during the week. The boys were playing around, and some were even studying! But I couldn’t find any of the regular adult staff. It seemed like the boys were fending for themselves again. At dinnertime, someone (presumably an 엄마 from a different section made some announcement about dinner: “얘둘아..밥 먹으러 가!” (Kids, go and eat!) Most of the kids headed out for dinner, but a few were being stubborn. They claimed they weren’t hungry and they didn’t want to go to dinner. That really doesn’t matter, they are still supposed to eat at every meal, and they really should. Sometimes I think they try to skip dinner so they can whine later. Then they might get to pig out on some snacks….anyway I tried to round up the stragglers and send them off. Most of the conversations went something like this:

(Coincidentally, two days later, the lesson at KClass was about something I said. I also used another phrase from a few months ago. Both are linked in the dialog.)

Austin: 식당으로 가…밥 먹어라!
Go down to the cafeteria and eat dinner!
Bratty kid: 싫어 배 불러!
I don’t want to, I’m full!
Austin: 상관 없어. 엄마가 밥 먹으러 가래
I don’t care. The 엄마 said to go get dinner.
Bratty kid: 아니 안 그랬잖아 엄아 없어!
No she didn’t, there isn’t an 엄마.
Austin: 있잖아.. 빨리 가야 돼!
Yes there is! You need to go now!

–At this point they might run away…. to another room, so I chase after them, capture them, and carry them to the door while they scream–

Bratty kid: 아 찐자…먹기 싫다고!
Ah, really! I said I don’t want to eat!

Austin: 너 빨리 안가? 오늘 왜 그래? 니가 청개구리 같아! 신발 신어!
Get moving! What’s with you today? You’re being a real brat! Put your shoes on!

Bratty kid: 신발 없거든!
I don’t have any shoes!
Austin: 거짓말! 오늘 학교 안 갔어? 학교 갈때는 신발 안 신았어?
That’s a lie. Didn’t you go to school today? Weren’t you wearing shoes then?
Bratty kid: 신았는데 지금 어딘지 몰라!
I wore them, but I don’t know where they are now!

–Of course all the shoes are right by the door. Lousy excuse–

Austin: 너 빨리 신발 신고 식당으로 가. 내 말 안 들려?!
Put your shoes on and go to the cafeteria. Do you hear me?!
Bratty kid: 알았어…..
Alright, fine.

You get the message. Some kids took longer to convince than others. All the while laughing at their disobedience and my increasing frustration! And even so, some of my efforts may have been in vain as kids came back too quickly to have really eaten. But I considered it a small victory that they finally obeyed and at least WENT to the 식당.

Part 2, which chronicles the second half of the evening will be posted next week!

외식 (Eating out)

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Last week all of the kids and staff went out for dinner. Hence “외식.” 외 literally means “outside” like in 의국인 “foreigner” or literally “outside-country-person.” 식 means food, or a meal. You may remember a culture class from a few months ago where the KClass crew showed us what a typical “희식” looked like. 희 in that case means company, so 희식 is a meal with your co-workers.

The orphanage does this at least once a year, and by good fortune I happened to be there this year again. It’s really just a fun time with the kids, and I get to seem them in a different setting. I think it’s a pretty good day for them, and one they really enjoy. It is one of the rare occasions when they really get to do something special with themselves that doesn’t come from some outside organization.

I made this video so you can see some of the kids. This isn’t everyone. They split all the various sections up among several different restaurants since more than 100 people would completely overwhelm any restaurant! The meal was 삼겹살. And it was more than I really should have eaten…but the mean kept coming! And since kids have small bellies… well, I got to eat an awful lot!