Thursday, July 17, 2014

지리산에 비가 오는 날 - Rainy Day at Jirisan

Ghosts hiking Jirisan...
Jirisan (지리산/智異山(1)) is one of South Korea's most famous mountain ranges. It spans three provinces in the south of the peninsula and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. About one hundred of these visitors are students from my school! The second-years have an annual trip to Jirisan, and this time, I went along.

The plan was to walk part of the way up to the mountain -- the peak, being 1915 meters/6283 feet, was definitely not doable -- and visit a temple famous for its 비구니, or Buddhist nuns, a nature/culture educational park, and a museum dedicated to a 16th-century Confucian scholar named 남명 who apparently built a school on the mountain.

Unfortunately, the weather was pretty awful all day. It rained on and off, and everyone was given thin rain coats to wear during the hike. It was like wearing a garbage bag, actually. I got wet from the rain and from the sweat produced because the plastic poncho wasn't breathable. Despite this, I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my students. During the nature walk, I chatted with them and mostly ignored the tour guide, admitting to my students that although I can understand some Korean, a full-on lecture was beyond me. But he talked about some of the special flora and fauna of the mountain, including Korean kiwis and some kind of tiger, and also showed us a mud house that was built decades ago when people still lived deep in the forest.

After the hike and a lunch of mountain herbs bibimbap, a bunch of students jumped into the river and had a massive water fight -- in the rain, no less! That was a lot of fun to watch; I would have joined in, too, but I hadn't brought a change of clothes...
Water fight!
The museum was boring, not gonna lie. And after that, we visited Jirisan High School, Korea's only completely free private school, for a short (and somewhat awkward) educational exchange. Their school is very interesting: it's extremely small, with a student body of about 50, and their educational focus is on service and building citizenship. The students are extremely well-mannered! I'll admit it: when they did their 인사, or bowing greeting, in perfect unison, our students seemed pretty 촌스럽다(2) in comparison... On the other hand, this school's shoestring budget is funded only by monthly private donations and receives very little support from the Gyeongnam Provincial Office of Education, whereas CSHS is like this giant magnet for scholarships and corporate sponsorship and all that. I felt awkward when I watched our school's introduction video because it flaunted just how well-funded we are and made Jirisan High School look, well, pretty 촌스럽다 in comparison.

And that was that! I had a good day, despite not being able to see the full beauty of Jirisan and not really learning too much from what was supposed to be an educational field trip. The good thing was that I got some photos with my students. I'll try to take more tomorrow, which is the last day of school!
Me with one of the second-year classes. They are all 찝찝해(3) and kind of miserable, but somehow look somewhat happy!
- - -
(1) 지리산 means something along the lines of "Mountain of Strange/Secret/Alternative Wisdom". The vice principal tried to explain to me exactly what it meant, but I never really understand what he is saying to me. I figured out, though, that the students go on this trip annually so that they can find some sort of wisdom and build character. Haha.
(2) 촌스럽다 describes things that are humble and perhaps uncivilized because they're out in the countryside; rustic, unsophisticated, provincial.
(3) 찝찝해 -- I don't know if I spelled that right -- means drenched or uncomfortably wet.

P.S. Today was my last day of taekgyeon training... I think 사범님 was actually tearing up as we finished. I kept thinking, "This is the last time I'll do X," X being whatever stretching, kicking, or sparring skill we went through. And when we ended with 명상, or meditation, I let my mind wander back to the very first day of taekgyeon, sixteen months ago... And the very last day will be tomorrow, when instead of training, we're just going out for drinks and stuff.

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