The middle week in February (for Mokpo schools and I'm guessing everywhere else in Korea) is Graduation Week. And the pinnacle of that week is Graduation Day and the pinnacle of that day is the Graduation Ceremony, celebrating the 3 years that students have spent in high school. It's also the last requirement in my 4 days of work in February. I won't be back online until March 3rd.
I brought my little point and shoot video camera with me to document what turned out to be no more than an hour of high school pageantry. Here's what I learned:
The ceremony took place during the day, around mid-morning in the gymnasium, a fairly recent building with no heating. The floor was covered in tarp and the Grade 3 students were given the seat of honors on the main floor while the school band played the equivalent to pomp and circumstance. Grade 1 and Grade 2 students sitting in the bleachers were forced to attend, although their numbers were suspiciously low. And in select areas portable heaters were trotted out, giving places for the standing parents (and teachers) to congregate in the back of the gym. Everybody was cold.
Flowers are apparently mandatory gifts during graduation. Flowers are suitable for both boys and girls (and even teachers) but must be as Koreanly ornate as possible. Bouquets stylized along the lines of Disney Princess Prom are perfectly acceptable for all genders and ages. I couldn't figure if there's some timing involved with the presenting of flowers, some students seem to have them right from the start whereas other produced them after returning from the back of the gym and taking the snapshots of parents, students and smiling diplomas. By the end of the ceremony everybody seemed to had flowers and were proudly displaying them in the numerous camera friendship photos.
Hair is the big thing for the graduating student. Like flowers, hair is another area of great cross-gender investment. Some girls had gone the extra pretty distance, but for the guys, perm, waves, coloring, etc was all the norm and done according the current Korean trends, something I am utterly clueless about. One of my favorite students became the poster child for Korean Perm today. I'm going to make a English-Korean dictionary and put his photo under the word awesome. Okay?
The ceremony itself is what you expect: classes come up on stage, get their piece of paper, and go back to their chairs. But the way that they did it is completely different from North American. I guess ceremoniously is an adjective that does not translate well from English to Korean:
And it's easy to see that same je ne sais quoi here, during the principal's speech:
Flour and Eggs
Unfortunately I missed the flour and eggs:
What was comical however was the Korean tradition (from what has been explained to me) of what the students do once they've graduated. Because theirs no offical ceremony of passing the certificate to the students, the students just show up in their uniforms....and at this point, they're "itching" to rip it off for good. So after all of the formalities are over, and the parents have gone back to the work, the students whip out......flour and eggs; Lots and LOTS of eggs. What happens next is hard to witness, as the flour somewhat blocks a clear view. However, when the "dust" settles, what you have are students covered head to toe in egg yolk, shells, and tonnes of flour everywhere - most importantly, all over their uniform.It was only when I was in the car heading to the retiring teacher's farewell lunch that I saw the students walking along the streets with flour all over their uniform. I guess they're done with the uniforms too.