Celebrating Buddha’s birthday

I’ve never been one to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Until, this week, I didn’t even know when it was. But Korea changes things.

In Korea, Buddha’s birthday is a national holiday. School’s and businesses close, and everyone celebrates, some with thousands of lotus lanterns.

My school made me work.

They had me come in at 10:00 to prep for an event they had planned for all their students. We set up activity stations in the different classrooms where teachers would play games for the kids to try to win points. Then we set up a room in the middle, which we called “the Market,” where the students could redeem their points for prizes.

I worked as a greeter, since I’m the only American there, and in the market. And I had a blast.

My job was basically to round up the kids outside, get them excited, and then bring them to the various activity stations inside. After that, my job was to sell prizes. How fun is that?

The kids poured in in waves. The first bunch weren’t particularly interested in my chips and juice, but later in the day, everyone got hungry. Plus, my stuff was cheap, so the older kids who came later realized they could get more for their points if they spent it on my food.

The students walked into the room surprised and walked out smiling and laughing.

After the event, which we were able to finish and clean up by about 5:00, the school director took all the teachers and staff out to dinner. We sat on the ground and ate Korean style barbecue, gogi gui. Not only was the meat ridiculously delicious but so was every, single side dish. And, like the rest of the day, I was able to interact with the other teachers and get to know them more.

Overall, it was the best day I’ve had as a teacher so far, and I didn’t even teach. Korea keeps getting better.