Home > Being There > There : Camp, Condiments, The Beach and Questions

There : Camp, Condiments, The Beach and Questions

Middle School Camp

After the conclusion of the college age English camp at Sunlin, we immediately started planning for the Middle School English Camp. The camp runs from this Monday to this Friday, making it a third the length of the College camp, and about three times more effort. It has taken every spare minute (well, at least every spare half hour) of my time since Saturday. I even missed church for planning and setup, which I hate to do.

There are 40 middle school children and around 9 college age helpers. The prior camp was a 15 to 4 ratio. The middle schoolers, of course, need more managing. That’s to be expected. They are more well-behaved, in general, than American kids of the same age. But there are still plenty of problems with whining, fighting, not listening, not caring and general bickering. That, also, is to be expected.

Some of the children have great language skills, which rival or surpass the language skills of some of the college kids from the prior camp. Very few of them, though, use those skills productively. It is also a lot harder for me to form relationships with them. I think that’s another obvious statement. On the whole, though, they’re a lot of fun.

The camp is much more tightly controlled, which can be great, or frustrating, depending on what is required of me. It’s great because there is always a plan. It’s frustrating, because those plans take meeting time, which is shoe horned into any given free time, which is itself rare. The teachers are great. Jared makes a return, and this is my first time working with Vincent, who is absolutely great with kids. A teacher named Scott joined us, as well, but I haven’t had much time to work with him. I did get to sit in on one of his writing classes, and I think I learned a lot.

The councilors are also great. They have very well developed English skills and fun personalities. Additionally, many seem to have a lot of experience with this kind of thing, which was intimidating at first. But they are all great people. In fact, that extends to the Sunlin staff members who help us out, too. The people at the college have been a joy.

Pickles and Mustard

We had sandwiches tonight. I was again reminded of how I don’t totally get Korean food, even though I like to think I do. The ham sandwiches had jam on them. That’s not THAT weird, but it’s weird enough. The mustard was sweet. That’s not uncommon, but it reminded me of the pickles, which are always sweet. I can’t get spicy pickles here, cucumber or otherwise. Even pickled radish is sweet. And mustard, maybe my 2nd favorite condiment, which I feel should always be spicy and vinegary, is always sweet, with the exception of “Chinese Mustard” which isn’t mustard, but is spicy and yellow.

So why all these “weak” condiments from a culture that likes such spicy food? It’s like their pizza. Even when it’s “American” style (and I don’t pretend to know what traditional Italian Style is like) it’s go sweet potatoes on it, the sauce is weak, it’s got corn and other things that don’t have a lot of taste. Pepperoni and other stronger flavors are used sparingly. This may not be true for the American branches here in Korea (Like Domino’s or Pizza Hut), but for the companies that sell pizza, and are Korean, it seems to be true. And that pizza is served with sweet pickles and garlic sauce. And maybe a little parmesan cheese.

The Beach

We went to the beach today, as a class. It was Korean Independence Day, where they declared independence from Japan. Many people went to the beach, just like America on the 4th. It wasn’t that crowded, though. The water was really really cold and salty. It was saltier than I expected, even though it’s called salt water. The sand was fine (as in, not coarse), and not too hot.

We set everything up at around noon, while the kids were in class, so we had our space reserved when it was time for everyone to come. We started by burying the councilors. I wasn’t one that got buried, so I helped sculpt the sand body of another councilor. She took it pretty well. They all took it well. Then we buried Vincent, forcibly. Then we forcibly buried Mr. Ha, who is the link between the administration of the college and the camp itself. He took it really well.

Then we started throwing people in the ocean. It’s hard to describe how cold the water was, because in Kansas, we wouldn’t get in if it were that cold. And it would definitely not be that cold at this time of year. It was like ice water. It was shockingly, consistently cold. We had a great time dunking and being dunked, staff, councilors, the nurse, Mr. Ha and the students. Everyone took it really well, and after a while, the bitter cold water felt fine. I was impressed by how little real complaining or whining there was, even with a vast range of age and status, people were still fine playing around with each other. And I think that is the way it should be, whenever it can be.

What was weirdest was, there were a lot of people there, but almost no swim suits. I wasn’t looking for Bikinis. I mean that no one was wearing 1-piece swimming suits. Some wore shorts and T-shirts, one little boy was naked, but most people had lots on. A man in a 3 piece suit would not be over dressed for a Korean beach. There was also a massive preoccupation with getting sunburnt (well, avoiding being sunburnt), which made many wear long sleeved shirts and pants. This might be genetic and very real, but it just seems so odd. Especially after watching the guys do all sorts of things half naked in the dorm. They don’t seem like a shy people at all.

Speaking of which, and as a minor side story, Korean guys act oddly when a girl enters the room and the guys are only wearing underwear. First off, almost universally, the guys wore boxer shorts. This might have a bit to do it. But a girl would walk in or by the dorm room, and they would run to put on shirts, not pants. They’d then walk around free and easy in underwear and a T-shirt. In America, I’m fairly certain guys would reach for pants and be happy to walk around shirtless, especially if they were in shape like many of the guys here are.


You can ask different questions in Korea. When you first meet someone, you can ask their age. It makes sense, because you address them differently if they’re older. You can also ask their job, if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and many other “personal” questions up front. This makes things a lot easier. I’ve always maintained that people should have some kind of magical floating profile that says these kinds of things. Well, this is the closest natural thing to that. I support it 100%.

Categories: Being There
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