Monday, November 24, 2014

About the Feast on Thursday...

On Thursday, we are doing Thanksgiving in the UK this year. I haven't done it for a while and hadn't planned to do it this year. Instead I thought I would attend the Restoration Dinner at church on Saturday. They have what practically amounts to a traditional American Thanksgiving day menu and it would be fun, I thought.

But my son and his girlfriend announced with great excitement that she had managed to get the day off work so that she could celebrate Thanksgiving with us! It would have been churlish to say 'no', wouldn't it?  So I've been digging out favourite recipes and deciding who to invite to join us for the occasion. It is now all in hand -- the turkey is de-frosting in the kitchen and the pies are ready to be baked.

In the past, before retirement, we would celebrate on the Saturday following the actually holiday -- which is always the 4th Thursday in November. Now we are free to celebrate on the day and for me I much prefer this. Robert's girlfriend, Cat will be arriving Wednesday night so it will be nice to have company and help during the day. Thanksgiving is a holiday that it is difficult to imagine if you are not American. Many of my British friends have likened it to the way the British celebrate Christmas. But, in fact, it really is not like Christmas at all -- even if the food is similar.

First of all, Thanksgiving is all about the food and friends and family. My tradition is that of  New England -- the weather is always frosty and the sky almost always leaden. The sound in the morning is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and later American football. My mother usually served dinner at 2,00 p.m. Dress was very casual. Guests always brought a dish of some speciality of their own. Besides Turkey and stuffing, there would mashed potato, sweet potato with marshmallows (big yuck from me!), cranberry sauce (two kinds) cranberry relish, creamed onions, and various other vegetables which changed from year to year. My mother always made four pies: pumpkin, apple, apple crumb, and mince. No one ever went home hungry or without 'care' bags of makings for turkey sandwiches made with stuffing and cranberry sauce!

Meanwhile at about 7.00 pm family members could be seen around the bird's carcass going for the makings of their own sandwiches -- and which I enjoyed more than the actual dinner itself! The next day was Black Friday, which in my day was just the Friday after Thanksgiving, and preparations for Christmas would begin. Thanksgiving weekend was the worst weekend for traffic jams. From the air the jam on Wednesday evening could be seen from Washington, D.C., where I lived, to New York City. The New Jersey Turnpike was unbelievable. Sunday night trying to get back to Washington was equally abominable. The last time I was in Connecticut for Thanksgiving I flew in from the UK a week earlier and left a week after. I did not venture out for Black Friday. Most sane individuals say well clear now as it's more of a shopping nightmare...

I see that Britain is advertising Black Friday sales. Somehow, I don't think it will ever be the same -- at least I hope not -- though I wouldn't mind if they adopted the Traditional American Thanksgiving Holiday every year on the 4th Thursday in November!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Freaking Out!

Christmas is Everywhere ... !

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Golf, Gardening, and Entertainment -- Just Another Day in School!

Well, I've been back in the UK since late last Wednesday, the 5th. All in all it was a very satisfying trip, with lots to take in and think about. I would have liked to have stayed a few weeks longer, so probably I left South Korea at the right time!

The last few days were particularly memorable and enjoyable. Chris and Heejung, left the children behind and we enjoyed the few days without having to give the attention that they, quite fairly, demand! We did, however, go to see the younger boys' school and that turned out to be a very enjoyable and surprising occasion.

We walked around the grounds and Chris pointed out to me the golf driving range in the corner of the playground. In the far distance we could see a large area for the children to plant vegetable and flower gardens.

Driving range target. Golf balls are caught in the net!

The school's garden has both vegetables and flowers...

As we went to venture toward the rear of the school we met the principal, a very welcoming woman. The state run school is a very special place with no more than 10 to 12 students in a class. The principal asked if we would like to visit the boys' classes and, of course, we said 'yes'!

In a few days time, the children were to have an open  house and they had been rehearsing a program to present to parents and visitors. Because I would not be able to attend the children in Louis' class gave us a preview! Louis is the child in front on the far right.


Unfortunately, South Korea has many problems after the children attend primary school. It leads the world in the adolescent suicide rate -- many if not most children attend school from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and then attend another school for private lessons, not getting home until 10.00 or 11.00 p.m. My son teaches in one of those schools which specializes in English. 

Teachers in Korea do not stay with any school more than two years. After that time they will be assigned to another school -- by the education department. While I can see the disadvantage to the individual teachers and also the headmasters/mistresses or principals -- it does seem a way of ensuring that the quality of education throughout the country is equalized. Somehow, it seems entirely unlikely that this is a policy that would or could be adopted in the West!