Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sports day and the Fire Flower Festival

A little while ago our schools held a Sports Day for all of the branches. We now have 15 branches across Busan and Changwon cities, and all staff and teachers were invited. This was the first time we'd done such a thing.

It started at 9:30am on a Sunday morning, and waking up on time was arguably the first (and most difficult) event. But a respectable number of us showed up on time and began milling around the soccer field of Yeonsan Middle School, where the event was held.

Here's Jeff and Anthony waiting for the day's events to begin. Anthony has since been promoted to Head Instructor of the branch that I worked at during my first year here.

The CEO Mr Kang, addressing all of the teachers in Korean. We've gotten used to not understanding any of his speeches. He sure sounds friendly though.

Amanda was fairly tipsy for the whole day. In Korea, it's more acceptable to be slightly intoxicated during the day.

Here's Heather and me, happy as usual.

For lunch we had roast pig and donkasu (schnitzel type things). The food was good, but I can't help comparing any roast pig to the New Year's Pig back in Australia that Hong's dad always cooks. Nothing ever comes close to that.

There were a number of competitions during the day, which included foot-baseball and dodgeball. In this event, everyone had to hold the material firmly while the smallest person in the group ran across the top of it. Because we weren't strong enough, it was more of a crawling/tumbling than running.

The object of this game was to blow up as many balloons as you could. Then there was a competition to pop them all. Kind of fun, but could have been better organised.

For this event, we had to race in teams around the witches hat, while locked together in a long hoop. One person got to run on the outside and push. It wasn't long before we realised that different people have different sized legs and different speeds at which they run. This made the task considerably more difficult than first imagined.


The object of this game was to bounce the ball as many times as possible. I think we got to 17 or so.

We split the entire group into two teams and had a massive tug-o-war. Our team won both times, possibly because we had more of the bigger guys on our team. I pulled a muscle in my leg during this, which I referred to thereafter as a battle wound.

In wars (and tug-o-wars) there will always be casualties, I guess.

Mr Hong and Conan were the two final contenders of the relay race. It was a heated rivalry between the Gwangan and Changwon branches, but Mr Hong won the day by diving (or falling) at the end. He actually broke his kneecap here, which he discovered the next day. He had surgery soon after and now hobbles around headquarters, defiant and proud.

Daniel recently bought a motorbike. It's a Honda CD-R and is pretty fast. I sold my scooter ages ago partly because it was a little dangerous.

Jef and Amanda were up late drinking the night before. When they arrived at Sports Day, it wasn't long before the ever-resourceful Amanda located the beer stash. The last event of the day was karaoke and I'm sure you can put two-and-two together by yourselves.

They sang 'It's Raining Men', a song that has since become somewhat of an anthem for us here in Korea.

And the audience cheered. All in all, it was a good day out and more fun than I had anticipated. It's rare that we get to see all of our school staff together at the same time.

Recently the annual Fire Flower Festival was held at Gwangali beach. This is always a massive occasion with around one million people observing the event. I headed down to Anthony's place early in the afternoon. Luckily he landed his new apartment at the beachfront a couple of weeks before the event. Fireworks were launched from the bridge and the boats you can see there.

As time ticked by, the crowd below began to accumulate. Soon it became a patchwork quilt of picnic rugs. We had stocked Anthony's apartment with plenty of food and beverages hours beforehand and enjoyed the scenery below.

As always there were friendly policemen around in their preferred teams of 30 or so.

But actually, at large events like this in Korea, there's usually very little trouble.

We briefly went down below to have a look around and saw this line up for a convenience store. When there are too many people, an assistant at the door will get everyone in a queue and you have to wait until other people have left. Otherwise it just becomes silly inside and you could be pressed up against a Coke refrigerator and unable to move when the fireworks start.

At least you'd have plenty to drink.

We sat around in the apartment and had some pre-fireworks drinks as more of our friends showed up. Bunny-earing in the middle of this photo is Hyo-ju, Anthony's good friend from Cheonju. She once brought us a big bucket of gamjatang (pork and potato stew) from her hometown, which is famous for it.

By this time, any poor commuter attempting to traverse from one end of the road to the other would soon find themselves gridlocked in people-traffic. I spared a few thoughts for such people in the thronging mess below as I comfortably sipped my beer at the window. Contemplation is always much easier when you're in a nice apartment.

Then the show started. There were some impressive new lighting effects from the bridge as well as remote controlled aeroplanes that were involved in the show. To give you an idea of scale, that bridge is around 7.5 km long in its entirety.

The show was choreographed to various theme songs, including 'Allegria' by Cirque du Soleil, which was a classy pick. As the 'fire flowers' lit up the night sky, the crowds below increased their thronging to a dull raw.

These was also a new addition - little floating fireworks that were released by a boat and gently bobbed up and down on the water.

The show lasted a little over half an hour and the view this year was much better than last. If you flick back in this blog to the same festival last year, you'll see that back then we were reduced to waiting in a stairwell for the show to begin. We were also about a kilometre further away.

That's why it's good to have friends like Ants-on-me (Anthony).


Here's a video of the show toward the end.

As the crowds started clearing out, large amounts of street rubbish became visible from our vantage point. I took this long-exposure shot with my trusty and compact (yet no-frills) Sony DSC. If only those pesky people didn't move, it would have looked much clearer. The next time you're walking on a recently crowded street at night, consider pausing every once in a while, lest some poor blogger be attempting a long exposure shot of your surrounds.

After this, Heather and I went down to ground zero for a closer inspection of the debris. Not long after this, teams of council workers set about cleaning up the mess. In the morning it was all cleared away.

After that we meandered around the streets for a while, which were busy until the wee hours of the morning. This photo was taken outside Thursday Party, which is now only a minute away from Anthony's apartment. It was a fun night out and I hope to be able to make it down for the same event next year.

Look out for the next post, because Heather and I have a rather special announcement to make.

See you soon!

5 comments:

CuriousGeorge's girlfriend said...

Wow...that was amazing. You are quite the writer. Great Penmanship. Hoping to make it out to Korea soon, so I can meet everyone. Wow. Love the games...Sounds like soooo much fun! I'm thinking I want to do a obstacle course/ all these fun games for my daughters bday next year. TONES, think you can bring that big ball home??? and the huge hula hoop? HA HA. In my dreams.

Again, love seeing pictures of my brother. Its like he's famous or something...and then I think...HE'S MY BROTHER! He's a great guy...and i'm glad you are lucky to be his friend...or maybe he's lucky in life to have you as a friend...

GW said...

great shots man. i'm moving to busan and have been trolling through the blogs to get a sense of what i can expect. your's is really top notch ^_^

Lee Farrand said...

Thanks for the comments.

Yes Anthony is somewhat of a celebrity here. He likes to say MUP DIT a lot...

Head Instructor said...

tru dat sister...Lee is the man!!!

MUP DIT!!!!

and she will come to korea one day...and the kim-chee will flow from her ears!!!!!

Sherin said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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