This is a much belated update, for which I apologize, but that’s because I have been rather busy for the past many weeks since I last updated. This will be the first of two posts (I’ll get around to the second one soon, I promise) talking about everything I’ve been up to.
Recently I found that CFLEC hosts a yearly English drama competition for many of the schools in the Cheonan area. It is a rather large to-do, with lots of schools and important people from the Office of Education attending. It was quite entertaining as the Korean elementary and middle schoolers did an excellent job of performing their skits and in some cases performing some surprisingly good coreography. One of the many things that we are expected to provide is intermission entertainment. So, as a word of warning for this next picture, I was Cinderella, and I’m quite the fetching blonde. (Taken with a cell phone camera by a friend)
I also had the good fortune to attend the Baekche festival with some friends in the Korean city of Gongju (also spelled Kongju). The Baekche (also spelled Paekche) kingdom was one of the three kingdoms during the Three Kingdoms Period and lasted from 18 BCE-660 CE. It’s capital was moved to Gongju in 475 CE. There were lots of very interesting floats (literally) on the river and some excellent hiking around the hilltop fortress in the city. Korean festivals are a lot of fun and have a lot of different games and other forms of entertainment (such as fireworks, archery, and a performance by Girls Day, a famous K-pop band).
Now for the meat of this post: the Cheonan International Dance Festival. When I first saw the banners advertising this, I figured it wouldn’t be very large and that “International” meant a bunch of Koreans imitating foreign forms of dance. To give some context, Cheonan is a city of about 500,000 people in a nation the size of Indiana that has multiple cities with populations numbering into the millions (Seoul 10.5 million, Busan 3.5 million, Daejeon 1.5 million, Suwon 1 million), so I figured that any truly international dance festival would be held in one of those cities. The last “International” festival that I had attended (the International Health and Well-Being Food Expo) was largely just Korean food being sold with a few interestingly grown vegetables being displayed and a small foreigner food area, and I figured it would be a similar thing. To my delight, I was incredibly wrong. I first heard from another teacher (who has been here for several years) that this dance festival is the party of the year and has crazy parades and people from all over. At this point I was pretty excited but still thinking it wouldn’t be much to look at. Then the festival came and Cheonan was packed. I was hearing about all of these different dance groups from so many different countries and I was get excited about the parade. Finally, the parade came and it was wonderful.
There were dance teams from all over the world. Europe, South America, Asia Minor, India, and much of Southeast Asia were all in attendance. These people had flown for thousands of miles and practiced for hours just to perform at this festival, and it was glorious. The parade happened on two separate nights, and the day following the first parade had the competitions between the different dance teams. Furthermore, at the end of the parade, there was a massive dance party and everyone (the crowd, the dancers, the city officials in charge of the event) danced and made a conga line and just went crazy.
Then the night of the second parade was when the magic happened. At the end of the parade route the dancers from all of the different countries kept dancing and started taking pictures with one another and making friends and playing music and just continuing to have a great time. If you aren’t aware, many of these different nations don’t have a very good history with one another (for example, there were two Japanese dance teams at a South Korean festival and competition and the Koreans are still very sore about the things that happened during the several decades of Japanese occupation) and in spite of all of the historic bad blood between many of the nations represented, these people were dancing together, laughing, playing music, and celebrating life. Getting to see this was like seeing a piece of the Kingdom of God unfold right in front of my eyes. In spite of years of conflict and bloodshed and hatred, these people forgot all of that and began to not only not be at conflict, but began to do something that resembled the presence of right relationship. There were Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians, Malaysians, people from Bali, Singapore, and so many other places, all dancing together. The conga lines from the previous night sprang back to life with renewed vigor, and laughter was the universal language as they danced. It was an absolute treat to see (I only have video of the dancing parts, and unfortunately I don’t have video upload capability on this blog unless I pay money, so I’ll see what I can do about that).
This was the party of the year and I’m really looking forward to next year when this happens again. That’s all I have for this post, so I leave y’all with this:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9