Today, the kids from the orphanage went to an amusement park. Not just the kids I work with, but I think that every orphanage in Seoul was invited. It is a yearly event, and really quite a big ordeal. I got to tag along today.
The first thing on the schedule was drawing. It looked like Hyundai (not the car division, but the department store division) was sponsoring it this year. They had an army of people in pink shirts handing out stuff and organizing some activities. Perhaps they also judge the pictures…I don’t know. The whole morning is devoted to drawing pictures. Really – like 4 hours or so. It was really testing my patience, especially considering that from my perspective there seemed to be so little organization. But that is not the first time I’ve felt like that in Korea.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, and that brought the crowds out. The orphanages didn’t have the park to themselves, but instead shared it with what truly felt like a million people. We had staked ourselves out in front of the giraffe pen for the morning. Yes, there is a zoo at this amusement park. I didn’t explore much of the zoo, we only saw a few giraffes, some kudu, and a few spring bucks. I have no comment on the zoo.
Many hours later we were ready to hit the “rides.” I was under to expectation to be blown away by the roller coasters in Korea. In fact, I didn’t even get to ride anything. By the time we cleared out after lunch and finally made it to the amusement park, it was almost 3:30. Each kid had a ticket good for 5 rides, or events in the park. We split up into small groups each with an adult and a handful of kids. Only one of those adults is Korean, and she works in the orphanage. Now, I’ve taken small groups of kids around amusements parks before. In principle, this isn’t such a big deal. My Korean is decent enough to communicate about what they want to do first, and where they want to go, etc, but being able to talk about it, and being able to get the kids to agree with me is a different matter. I had 4 boys with me. After getting through the gate I was all ready to try and manage our afternoon, and try to get as much done as possible. Kids need that direction. An amusement park is really stimulating, especially if you only get to go once a year, and never really experience similar things in your regular life….
I asked them where they wanted to go, and there seemed to be a consensus, but they tried to tell me that it wasn’t on the map, and one boy was sure he knew how to get there. Well, he didn’t quite know. We walked halfway around the park before finding the “Tilt House.” It’s sort of like a fun house. There were some mirror mazes, and some optical illusion style rooms… but it was really lame. One down, five to go. Next, we came to the “Action Zone.” A nightmare of a place if you’re watching any group of kids, even if you can communicate with them. The Action Zone has slides, ball pits, rope ladders, and trampolines, spread out over a huge area. Once we got inside, all 4 boys just tore off. Just about all of the other boys were at the Action Zone too, which made me feel better since now we were a little bit more concentrated and could watch out for all the boys. But I would rater have been toting just my group of 4 around. In the Action Zone, they just went nuts and spread out all over the place. This is where my Korean failed me. I couldn’t tell them that they had to tell me where they were, and not to leave the Action Zone (which two of them did)…This only really bothers the foreigners among us. The Korean workers don’t seem to be worried about such things. I imagine that without us there to help with the kids, they would really have just turned all 30 kids loose, and said “Be back in 2 hours!”
All my worrying turned out to be for nothing, we didn’t loose any kids, and the 2 that walked out on me, showed up just as we were leaving the Action Zone….
However, it was an exhausting day.