White Day and the First “Drill”

(Written on Friday) – Exactly a month after Valentines Day is “White Day” here. It’s a chance for the men to repay romantic gifts received on Valentines day. Lavish chocolates and gifts have been available to buy pretty much everywhere since we got here – they just leave the Valentines Day Display up – some have even said “Valentines and White Day.” In fact, the chocolates we bought for our vice principals were technically for Valentines/White day – fortunately they didn’t have hearts or something all over them.

I knew it was White Day when I woke up but forgot that kids in school take holidays more seriously. A nice coworker in our office gave everyone in the room a couple toffee candies. Later another teacher gave all of us a small bag of various candies. The parents of the students on our floor (so all the 3rd grade parents) pitched in to buy us 3 pizzas and 2 large cokes. Just for our staff room of 10 people.

Almost every student had a Chupa Chup lolly pop. A few were passed around to the teachers. After school a few girls shouted at me that I needed to give them candy – which of course I didn’t have. Maybe next week, we’re going to do some St. Patricks Day stuff with the 1st graders.

The only other interesting thing was the first drill. Korea holds nation-wide drills with air raid sirens and military testing (planes flying overhead, etc). Korea is supposed to hold drills on the 15th of every month except January, February, July and December. So this is the first drill of the year and the first drill we’ve ever seen.

Sometime in the middle of class while I was yelling about “how are you doing!!? I’m fine!!” the sirens began. I knew of the drills but that didn’t stop 45 13-year-old boys from screaming bloody murder to see if they could trick me into thinking it was real. I looked extra bored while my co-teacher yelled at them in Korean.

She had me wait for a bit – the air raid sirens were sounding both outside and over the intercom. Then a really old recording of a voice came on over the school intercom- basically saying this is only a drill, if this was a real emergency you would do the following. It lasted 10+ minutes so eventually I had no choice but to yell over 45 boys, an air raid siren and booming Korean “this is a drill!”

I guess in Seoul they had a full on drill – a proper drill where people went underground. In school, we just sat in the classroom. A head boy kept checking on our room to make sure we were there and not evacuating. Chris’s school took the drill even less serious and they didn’t even have intercom announcements of “this is a drill.” On occasion we might actually leave the building and actually drill, but for now, thats about as serious as the North Korean threat is.

As I write this, North Korea is on the news because they have been recycling their old passenger jets to be military jets. They have been shoddily painting over the old logo and not changing anything else. The announcers are smiling and chuckling while they explain it all.

I was only recently informed that North Korea shot a couple missiles at the sea on the 4th. I didn’t even know about that, thats how little everyone cares about it here.

South Korea doesn’t care – but they are ready. Seoul had drills that included evacuating into the subway shelters and practicing CPR. When we were in the subways in Seoul we saw all the emergency preparedness laying around including flashlights, gas masks and full biological hazard suits.

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While no one really took the drills seriously it’s safe to say that everyone in Korea is conditioned for any emergency.

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