Over the river and through the woods....

Trip Start Aug 18, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Gangwon,
Monday, October 10, 2011

After 3 frantic phone calls from a confusing, strange lady who requested my assistance, I signed myself up to be an English camp counselor at an Outdoor Summer Camp this August.  I didn't know any details, but couldn't refuse to say no to this desperate sounding woman.  Camp started the day after I returned from my USA trip, which made me a bit nervous considering the jetlag I was going to face, while working 8 + hour days, and having no idea what I was to be doing.  

I was picked up bright and early by a woman who spoke no English and we were off to the mysterious Jamgok Outdoor English Camp.  Where was this?  I had no idea!  What was I going to do there?  Once again, not a clue.  I think I am starting to enjoy the Korean style spontaneity! Forty minutes pass and we are winding through forested valleys, crossing bridges with crystal green rivers below.  Over the river and through the woods, we finally came to a small "town" with a small building with a small banner that read "Nue Town English Camp"(But in Korean haha)  A friend and foreign teacher from the town next to mine, Esther, was there too, which made for more fun.  I went into a small room, where they served me breakfast of kimchi and rice and went to meet the children where they immediately smothered me in hugs and tugs.  Some had no English at all and some more fluent than me!  God had set this up for me and I was thankful that I had the courage to go with the flow!  At this moment, I sighed with relief and let my anxiety fly away, as I knew I had fallen into something special.  

After breakfast, we geared up to go on a small hiking trip to a beautiful reservoir.  Every minute I turned around, I had a 10 year old, cute, chubby, boy hanging on my side, just staring at me.  I soon found out his name was Soo Yun, who I then called "my little buddy."  Since day 1 of camp, guided me around, tapping my shoulder to get my attention and asking me questions with his 5 words he knew in English, snuck me chocolatey snacks, and made sure that I was okay (every second).  If you have ever seen the movie "Up," he resembled the character Russel, the cute, plump, boy scout who accompanies the old man, Mr. Fredrickson, in his adventure to South America, and at times got on the old man's nerves. But, in any event, my little buddy was a great friend and tour guide to me.  In the afternoon, Esther and I were given scripts and told to do a short musical from Sound of Music, "Do a deer" with the students. We split into two groups and were given only an hour to memorize and perform a dance.  This was once of those "winging it" activities that teachers must be competent in!  It turned out great and the rest of the afternoon, we relaxed and just had fun with the kids. We ate dinner together, which was when I got to know the confusing, strange lady on the phone who recruited me for the camp.  I discovered she went to University of Georgia and loved living in the USA and speaking English, which inspired her to open up her own private English school. This was no regular 'hagwon' but she wanted to involve mothers of the students learning English as well.  Some children go home with so much knowledge in the English language and can never use it, so involving the whole family is extremely beneficial.  Joon Hee told me stories of her college life in the States and of her years being a film producer in Seoul, making big bucks, until she couldn't stand the lifestyle anymore and moved to the mountains, away from it all.  She holds a very interesting life story and was intrigued while getting to know her.

The next morning, I felt a bit more confident in where I was going and what I was going to do.  We started off the morning with breakfast and Esther and I were given the morning to go off and explore. My little buddy was begging to come with me, but he had activities to do, so I set off to take some pictures of the lake.  They even gave me a bed and pillow and my own room to read and rest, since they knew the jetlag might be catching up with me.  After lunch, we were escorted to a bus to where we were told we would be either rafting or paint balling in the near town of Goesukjung. My little buddy kept me company on the bus, pointing out things he saw in Korean, making me translate them in English. I was signed up to go rafting. I had to pretend to be overly excited, although was not, since this would be the 4th time rafting down this river.  It gets a bit old after the 2nd time!  But, I was thrilled to share the experience with the kids, my little buddy, who sat right next to me, making sure I wasn't scared, and also, our handsome, fit, rafting guide who spoke English :)  We ate dinner, play some English games and got some rest before the final day of camp.

Friday morning, we set off to a local goat farm, which the kids were not too excited about.  We each got to taste some of the fresh, expensive goat milk that they bottle up and serve all over Gangwon-do province.  In the afternoon, Esther and I hosted 3 hours of English games and fun with the students. They were fully engaged in all the games, unlike some of my Sincheorwon students, and the older boys showed off their English skills, winning every single game.  

It was time for the closing ceremony, in which each child was given a box of locally grown vegetables and a workbook including pictures and journal entries from their experience at English sleep away camp!  We were introduced to the mothers and fathers of the children, and wiped the tears away from some of their children, who were upset to leave camp, holding tight to Esther and I while hugging us (especially my little buddy), so sad to go home and leave camp. All in all, it was a wonderful experience to be in nature, away from all the hussle and bussle of daily life, relaxing and spending one on one time with the children.

**Joon Hee's hagwon will be opening up next month, starring Nina Malanga (my friend who moved to Cheorwon from Seoul) as the native English teacher!  I was happy to recently introduce Joon Hee and Nina and hopefully they will kick off the grand opening of her school with great attendance and response from the community!**


Check out Jamgok!

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