Friday, May 14, 2004

Partying, Painting, and Syllabification

You may remember the Orphanage Christmas Party I wrote about back in December 2003. Well, Spring has sprung and so we decided to have a spring party, too. Again it was a great event. While the younger kids played a bevy of games, the older ones were taken on a tour of the JSA and introduced to North Korea. After their tour they went over to the Engagement Simulation Trainer (EST). This is basically a huge video game that utilizes real weapons hooked up to a big computer and projector. All kinds of scenarios are available, ranging from rescuing hostages in an urban environment to an all out gun fight in the desert. The weapons even "kick" using compressed air so it's extremely realistic. The kids loved it (as did the soldiers). As was the case in December we had dinner with them followed by a fabulous show consisting of various speeches and traditional dances by the kids. One young lady bears mention. She is about 6 or 7 years old and her name is Yi, Chi Soo. She speaks no English and since I don't speak Hangul we spent the day not talking together and entirely enjoying each other. Well, we each understand at least one thing the other was saying...our names. I would say, "Yi, Chi Soo" over emphasizing each syllable. She would reciprocate with "Moke Sah Neem" (Hangul for pastor or chaplain) also over emphasizing each syllable. We probably said that to each other a million times during the day. Eventually it became a game. She would disappear for a minute or two and then from about a hundred yards away I'd hear a faint "Moke Sah Neem". I, of course, would reply, "Yi, Chi Soo". And so it continued until they left (and she shouted it once out the window of the bus, just for good measure I suppose).

This party, however, unlike the Christmas party was a two part event. Part one was the party itself. Part two was strategically scheduled less than a week after the first so as to capitalize on the sympathy factor. Part two was a clean up day at the Orphanage. We took nearly 40 soldiers to the Pyong Hwa Orphanage to pick up old stuff, fix broken stuff, and paint ugly stuff. It was great. However, the Korean culture doesn't really have an equivalent for "don't look a gift horse in the mouth". So after my soldiers had painted a swing set a lovely orange, we were informed that orange is not a playground color and we would therefore have to repaint it a more appropriate red. Well, unshaken and enjoying a good bit of American sarcasm in English, the soldiers filled the rest of the day with warnings about playground versus indoor colors. We also removed 2 truck loads of old junk, broken appliances, and trash. Not your standard Toyota half ton pick up loads. Rather these loads were 2 entirely full military 2 1/2 ton trucks. If you can't picture it, just let me say, that's a bunch of junk.

At lunchtime, we barbecued burgers and hot dogs and enjoyed a refreshing beverage. Now, if you've ever been responsible for planning an event such as this you know that there are millions of details. Most of them were seen to. However, in the shuffle I forgot condiments and ice. So lunch was meat and bread washed down with warm soda. Yummy! This whole event took place while the children were at school so as to minimize the amount of paint on things and people it wasn't intended to be on. In the middle of the afternoon the kids started trickling in, enjoying the look of their freshly painted, tidied-up, orange-free playground. And as we were cleaning up our brushes and rollers preparing to depart, I heard from the far end of the compound, "Moke Sah Neem"! She ran and jumped into my arms and gave me a huge Yi, Chi Soo hug and with the exuberance of a 6 year old she proceeded to tell me about her day. I was glad to listen.

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